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Croatia Refugee Crisis

Hello. I have two months to spend in europe this summer so decided to tour Greece. I am wanting to go to Albania and Croatia by train after the tour is over and eventually Rome by train. The refugee crisis is all over the news so wondering if anyone out there can tell me if taking such a train trip is wise at this time?

I saw on the television the miles of garbage left by the refugees and have remorse for those picking up after them. I have no doubt this is not what I would like to see during my travels. Can anyone help me with information about taking the train from Athens to Rome via Croatia? Or is it going to be a waste of time? Thank you.-Loren G.

Posted by
4637 posts

I hope that by next summer refugee problem will be solved. You can do only parts of your journey by train; I assume that the rest would be doable by bus. That could be very interesting journey and I would not consider it a waste of time.

Posted by
6752 posts

There is no train service in Croatia south of Split, so I'm not sure how you're planning on linking up with Athens. Seems like a ferry from Dubrovnik to Bari is a more straightforward way to get to Italy, but Bari in nowhere near Rome.

Posted by
1814 posts

The train trip you describe is not exactly a waste of time ... it's an impossibility. And that has nothing to do with refugees.

Last time I checked, there were no international rail links into or out of either Greece or Albania. There are trains within those countries, but they don't leave the borders. So traveling on land between Greece and Croatia requires an adventurous spirit and mainly buses, some with very loose schedules. You will likely cross through Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro along the way. If you want to attempt this, go to the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree board for the latest information. We have done it but it takes time and creativity.

If your goal is just to get from Athens to Rome, obviously you should fly. If you want to see Albania and Croatia along the way, your best bet would be a mix of transportation. One option: fly from Athens to Tirana, Albania (inexpensive, frequent flights). Using buses, make your way to Montenegro and up to Dubrovnik. Then either fly to Rome, or take a ferry to Bari, Italy, and a train to Rome. This would take a couple of days but if you have the time, it's a fascinating journey. And I doubt if you would see any refugees on this route ... this is not a common path for them.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks to everyone for information. I will have plenty of time for traveling. I read twice the recommendation of ferry from Croatia to Bari, Italy. I will consider option but am wanting to see Slovania. Possibly visit Slovania after reaching Italy by backtracking? Any more recommendations please?

Posted by
1814 posts

Loren, have you ever used Rome2Rio? It's a great website (or app) that shows you how to get from one place to another, giving approximate prices and times.

Plug in Dubrovnik and Ljubljana, and you will see your multiple options of getting to Slovenia. From Slovenia, you're very close to Venice, and from there to Rome.

Using Rome2Rio is an easy way to visualize the trip from Athens to Dubrovnik, too. If you have time and like an adventure, I recommend the trip through Albania and Montenegro to Croatia. You will see some amazing sights. Montenegro is especially beautiful. Have fun planning!

Posted by
17 posts

Good website Charlene. Thank you very much.

Athens to Tirana = 9hours,
Spend night(s).
Tirana to Dubrovnik=9 hours,
Spend night(s).
Dubrovnik to Split =5 hours,
Spend night(s).
Split to Ljubljana = 10 hours,
Spend night(s).

Off to Italy...........But what about the refugees in Croatia and Slovenia? Maybe I'll try another mode of transportation? Thanks again.-Loren G.

Posted by
4637 posts

About refugees: situation will certainly be different by summer 2016.

Posted by
17 posts

I sure hope so. I am worried about room available for transportation and lines at border crossings.

Posted by
17 posts

Another idea might be to start in Slovania and go to Athens from there since most refugees are heading north. At any rate, thanks again.

Posted by
1814 posts

Loren, whichever direction you go, I don't think you'll encounter refugees on this trip. I think your biggest challenge will be figuring out your transportation through Albania. Be sure to visit the Albania forum on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, and also look at the online Balkanology guide.

(edited to add links)

Posted by
12400 posts

"...to get from Athens to Rome...." Other than flying, and depending on your time constraint, you do have another option if you want to avoid flying. . Take the train from Athens, connect to the ferry from Greece to Brindisi, Italy, then the trains to Rome. Weigh the options.

Posted by
51 posts

Looks like you've already gotten some good responses. I especially agree with Charlene's input and would also add that a good website to check flights is www.skyscanner.com. And, if you're not sure of exactly where you want to fly to, you could enter, for example, that you are flying from "Athens" to "Albania"--as Skyscanner allows you to not only search flights from city to city, but it also gives the option to check what flights are going into or out of a particular country, which can be very helpful if you're not exactly sure of your itinerary.

Regarding refugees, I encourage you to read the recent blog entries by Cameran Hewitt, co-author of Rick's Eastern Europe guidebooks: http://blog.ricksteves.com/cameron/page/2/.

Also, Rick himself weighed in on the refugee situation here: http://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/thoughts-on-the-refugee-situation-in-europe/.

Posted by
31303 posts

Loren,

You've received some great information regarding the transportation options. You may find that using a budget flight on some routes is the best option.

In terms of the refugee situation, there's no way to predict what that will be like in the summer of 2016, so you'll need to assess that closer to your travel dates.

Posted by
17 posts

I appreciate the wonderful information. I have traveled since a young age and it never gets old meeting new people and seeing new places. One can plan for eventualities but part of the greatness of travel is the unexpected. I never consider unexpected situations while traveling as failures but always as part of the adventure. I usually mix my excursions with 50% group travel with 50% independent travel. I always have a good time because if one is a bust the other pans out for me. I am sure good times are coming our way and in the words of an author I met once "keep on traveling."

Posted by
17 posts

Most helpful, thank you. Going from North to South not bad idea unless between now & this summer refugees are turned around and return home. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. I am looking forward to the journey and weighing in on all options but flying. Can not see much from 30,000 feet and I have quite a bit of time for eventualities.

I once took the train in autumn from Belgrade to Istanbul so wondering how close the views will resemble those I saw before with the added benefit of the ocean. Nobody knows what the future has in store for us. Thanks again for your help and information.-Loren G.

Posted by
17 posts

Very interesting, thank you. The train ride in Bulgaria itself was interesting in that chains were wrapped around the handles of the train cars making movement between cars impassable. One was able to get out of the compartment but not out of the train car while we were in transit. It was not bad, just different.

One of the benefits of independent travel is the flexibility to change directions on a whim. I like flexibility while traveling. Independent travel gives a lot of flexibility. Another benefit are the pros and cons of each option/sight. For every option or sight one takes in another option is eliminated because there are far too many interesting places to see in just one visit, on my resources anyway. One has to decide what is most important and what is do-able and the amount of available resources. Some respects group tours can pack in a lot of adventure but one gives up the flexibility to change directions on a whim.

I have written down the names of the towns you suggested and will add to my bucket list with a meaningful intent to return to Bulgaria to have another look. Right now I am looking forward to the rugged coast of Albania. Thanks again I am learning much.

Posted by
17 posts

Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha. My most memorable travel experiences were traveling alone. It seems traveling in a group one tends to meet a lot of tourists while independent travel forces one to interface with locals to find the bus stop. A lot of women like the group tours because of the safety factor and it makes sense in some parts of the world.

I met some really, really interesting people at bus stations, train stations, cafes. Once a guy who worked with the KGB. Another time a person who taught at a University during the Russian Days giving their perspective of the "new" Russia and its educational system. I think some locals tend to disappear when the bus load of tourists walk in and in some respects I don't blame them.

The good part about the group tours is the easiness of finding accommodations. I have had to stay in a few hostels because of lack of accommodations but I have never slept in one. Ha ha ha. ha ha.

Posted by
157 posts

As noted by others, next summer is a long time away to predict refugee issues. Here is my recent experience returning from Croatia to Germany and then the UK last week. Long-distance trains are NOT crossing either the Austrian-German border or the Croatian-Slovenian border at present, as rail companies cannot cope with lengthy security delays. I switched to a IC Bus (connected to DB/Deutsche Bahn) from Zagreb to Munich, booked easily online, printing off an online ticket, via Ljubljana, Slovenia, direct. It was held up for the routine passport control into Slovenia/EU in the foggy early morning, then stuck at the sunny Austro-German border for about 1.5 hours as the Germans improvised inspections of all road vehicles. We were stopped in a hotel/rest-stop for an hour plus, then inched to another spot where police inspected our passports and the luggage hold. Nice young guys, no real problem, soon off to Munich. IC Bus seems like a cheap and comfortable bus route to use out of Zagreb and even on through Europe. Indirect bus routes like this are not used by refugees, who are now bused directly by each country to specific crossings and transit camps. The scale of this movement is hard to convey. I would not want to use any train or bus out of Athens right now, instead I would fly to Zagreb or Dubrovnik from Athens, to get off the refugee route. Albania is not a place I would even visit at present during this crisis personally, unless I had to. Croatia is as gorgeous as ever, and many of its long distance bus lines go via Slovenia to N.Italy and beyond, Autotrans. hr the major bus company, has a good website. There are other bus lines: Crna Tours, etc. Flying across to Ancona by Twin Otter floatplane from Split may be possible next summer - see European Coastal Airlines website. As for the garbage left by people told to drop everything and catch the only bus that just pulled up - a problem of aid agency/government coordination, not the people themselves- it is just on the limited routes used. You will not see refugees on the road in other parts of coastal Croatia. But the train route enjoyed by me and others in the past from Athens via Skopje, etc is not how I would choose to travel in the Balkans this year. Cheap flights across Europe are easy to book in advance and save a lot of travel headaches. But expect increased security across Europe after latest attacks. It is going to get harder on everyone, including Syrian refugees sleeping in the open under winter skies. But travel in Europe is still a great opportunity, any way you choose to do it. Just avoid bottlenecks.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you Vivaldi and Welcome Home. I am really looking forward to dealing with TSA and border guards this summer. My first trip to Europe was in the late 1970's when one could fly round trip to Madrid for $500. Flying and getting there was part of the vacation. Although not like that any more things are as they are and will not keep me from traveling.

I am assimilating all this information and putting together a summer travel plan. I really need to get from Athens to Albania.

I do not want to fly. It sounds like a bus will work. If the governments are bussing refugees independently there will not be any worries. I will probably use Tirana as a base for seeing Yugoslavia and work north from there, working my way back around to Italy, flying back to USA from Roma.