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Croatia/Slovenia itinerary?

Feedback appreciated, I may tweak my daily activities but I need to establish my base cities so I can book hotels.

Fly into Ljubljana, 3 nights, day trip to Bled, arrive late first night

Bus to Plitvice, one night

Bus to Split, 3 nights, day trip to Hvar, arrive late first night

Bus to Dubrovnik, 3 nights, day trip to Mostar/Sarajevo?

Fly out of Dubrovnik

Posted by Suki
New York
2422 posts

Looks good. I would also stay on an island, Hvar or Korculâ.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
2890 posts

Looks hurried to me, but if that's how much time you have, then so be it. Couple things...

Check bus connections/timing both to and from Plitvice to ensure you get adequate time in the park. Try to stay at the hotel in the park if you can - it'll allow you to be there until closing time and right when they open (which are the best times to be there, minimizing crowds).

Also consider Kotor as another option for your day trip from Dubrovnik.

Good luck!

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2968 posts

You're going to to have to take a train or bus to Zagreb and then pick up a bus to Plitvice, FYI. If taking the bus, I highly recommend one of the park hotels - overpriced but very convenient for a bus traveler.

A day trip to Sarajevo from Split would be a very long day and not worth it in my view - you'll spend half of your day on a bus, and you'll barely have time to see much. Mostar makes more sense. You might consider doing Mostar as an overnight instead of a day trip, because Mostar can get very crowded during the day with tour groups. It's much quieter at night. Mostar's old town isn't that big so it really doesn't require a lot of time, so you could arrive one afternoon and depart the next morning for Dubrovnik.

You should at least consider renting a car in Croatia. It would make things easier on a quick trip. Driving in Croatia outside of the major cities is pretty easy.

Posted by mmatloff OP
19 posts

Take a day trip from Dubrovnik to Mostar and potentially Sarajevo. Since I’m traveling on my own, the bus seems to be best option. Yes, I checked bus schedules from Ljubljana to Lake Plitvice. 2 hour stop in Zagreb, 2 separate tickets/buses, arrive at 4:00pm. The train is 5x the cost. I’m definitely getting a hotel in the park.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2968 posts

The train from Ljubljana to Zagreb costs only 9 euros, but I think you have to buy it the day before (at the station) to get that price:

http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passenger-transport/travelling-abroad/croatia/zagreb

If you are seeing a price 5X higher than that, you are probably using a site like Rail Europe that has huge surcharges, which is why people discourage its use.

I'd take the train over the bus almost every time (I have taken this train and it is a pretty ride) because I dislike long bus rides. But, the train station in Zagreb is not adjacent to the bus station; so in your case, a bus from Ljubljana does have an advantage. (though there is a tram line connecting the bus and train stations in Zagreb, which aren't far apart.)

I've driven solo in Slovenia and Croatia a couple of times. Car rental really doesn't cost that much and has always seemed worth it for the extra flexibility it adds, to me. (Some people just don't want drive, PERIOD, I know! But don't not rent a car out of "fear of driving in a foreign country.") However, one can't rent a car in Slovenia and return it in Croatia without paying a one-way drop fee (usually pretty expensive), so I would rent the car in Zagreb. Actually, I think the car rental in Slovenia was even more worthwhile. The drive between Ljubljana and Bled through Skofja Loka and especially from there through the mountains (Jamnik, Kropa) is incredibly scenic - one of the highlights of my visits to Slovenia. Otherwise, it's easy to get just to Bled from Ljubljana by bus, but you miss most of the gorgeous scenery (and you miss Skofja Loka, which is a lovely little town).

Posted by mmatloff OP
19 posts

Is there any time savings taking the train vs bus to Zagreb. I don’t mind taking the tram/taxi from the train station to bus station. I may rent a car for a day or two while in county. I prefer not to be bogged down with the hassle. I had a bad experience last year in Ireland. Yes, I know that you drive on right side of the road in Croatia which will make it easier but it was challenging with 3 of us trying to navigate with GPS. I don’t think that I can enjoy the scenery and trying navigate at the same time since I’m solo on this trip. Similar to other trips, I plan to take tours for my day trips (Bled) which I know are more expensive but efficient with limited time.

I booked my hotel for Platvice, in the Park. Do any other cities require pre-booking this far out or can I book a few weeks out? Early September

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2968 posts

Is there any time savings taking the train vs bus to Zagreb.

Usually I would say yes, but it also depends on the schedule (obviously if the train arrives 20 minutes before the bus leaves for Plitvice, that would be cutting it too close). When I took the train years ago, at the border agents got on the train and checked our passports as it kept moving. Buses have to stop at the border, and sometimes there might be a wait at border control (maybe not very long, but who knows?)

But I read of a recent experience of someone taking the train from Zagreb to Ljubljana where at the border they had to get off the train, get shuttled by bus to another train, and continue. No idea if this was a one-off thing or some ongoing construction or something. All kinds of things could happen. On the bus from Ljubljana to Trieste last year, even though there's no border control between Slovenia and Italy (cars drive right through), our bus was stopped at the border, and our passports taken off the bus and checked while we waited 20 minutes. So unpredictable things can happen on any mode of transportation.

Both trains and buses can be late. Some bus companies like FlixBus have handy apps that will let them notify you of delays. Last year our FlixBus to Trieste was 45+ minutes late arriving at Ljubljana, and there was really no way at the station for them to notify is (is this bus really coming???), but they did let us know twice by app that the bus was delayed but still on its way!

I don’t think that I can enjoy the scenery and trying navigate at the same time since I’m solo on this trip.

FYI, for much of the way in Croatia, you are on the A1 expressway which is inland so not a whole lot of scenery to enjoy. The best scenery is along the coast, but even then the A1 is inland til about an hour north of Dubrovnik (when it ends) and you do get some great coastal scenery. The drive to Mostar isn't scenic either. Between Mostar and Sarajevo is along the river and very beautiful, however. I drove this and was able to stop a few times for pictures. Otherwise, I would love to have taken the well-regarded train ride between Mostar and Sarajevo. But clearly you won't have the time.

Similar to other trips, I plan to take tours for my day trips (Bled) which I know are more expensive but efficient with limited time.

A tour to Bled that includes a Vingtar Gorge hike might be worth doing. If not, otherwise there are frequent buses between Ljubljana and Bled, and the lake is pretty much self-guided, so I'm not sure what a tour really adds to the experience.

I booked my hotel for Platvice, in the Park. Do any other cities require pre-booking this far out or can I book a few weeks out? Early September

I would book ahead using Booking.com to get reservations that can still be changed/canceled up to a few days before arrival (read the policies carefully, they vary by property) - nothing to lose booking ahead that way, as long as you don't forget about your reservations and either keep or cancel them later, and you can change your plans if need be. I would think early September is still a fairly busy time in Croatia even if not high season anymore, so personally I would book some places ahead.