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Croatia to Venice or Vice Versa

We are going on a bike tour in Croatia with some friends in May. My husband and I were thinking it might be easy enough to add on a couple of days in Venice, either before or after. We will be flying into Frankfurt and could either go to Venice from there and on to Zagreb (where the tour starts) or when the tour ends in Dubrovnik then head to Venice from there and then on back to Frankfurt. Is this a reasonable thing to consider? What is the best way to travel? Or..... should we add on something else, like Slovenia?? Macedonia?? We have not seen much of Europe other than France and Switzerland.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

Look to see if there are any direct flights from Dubrovnik to Venice on days/at times that work for you. More budget flights seem to exist now than did a few years ago. I think you'll have better luck with Dubrovnik to Venice by air vs. Venice to Zagreb by air, but you can certainly check both.

Slovenia is wonderful - can't recommend it enough, really. Compared to Venice (which is amazing) Slovenia is very untouristy. Lots of charm and beautiful architecture in Ljubljana, lots of natural beauty and some cute small towns nearby. For what it's worth, Dubrovnik is very touristy too (especially in the daytime), so as much as Venice is worth visiting for sure, you might be going from one touristy place to an even more touristy spot if you head to Venice from there.

Either way, it's your choice! For what it's worth, I suspect if you tell people you've been to Slovenia afterward, few people will have been there, and some will not even know where the country is. No one will really ask you where Venice is - in case you want a less common experience. (Then again, a bike trip from Zagreb to Dubrovnik isn't your typical experience - should be great!)

Posted by Peggy OP
West Linn, OR, USA
68 posts

Thanks so much. I was really on the fence about Slovenia but might choose that as our "before" the bike tour stop. I need to get the R.S book and read more! The bike folks recommend staying an extra night in Dubrovnik but if it is touristy, not sure I will. (We had that experience - needing an extra day in Zurich before flying home and it was nice, but we were all anxious to leave by then. I am trying to make this work with Condor Air (since you are from PDX!) and they only fly on Tuesdays and Saturdays so we always end up with extra days on either end. Do you have any other airline suggestions for getting to Croatia from PDX?

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

I've yet to fly Condor out of PDX, but I've flown the Delta direct flight to AMS a few times - awesome flight, always my first preference. I think it goes every day by May - but maybe you've already booked your tickets? Could be Condor is quite a bit cheaper? Otherwise, what has worked for me a few times to get to Slovenia is to fly directly to Venice to start and shuttle directly to Ljubljana from there, without even visiting Venice proper (though of course you were considering a visit to Venice anyway).

There may also be separate direct flights from AMS to Ljubljana with timing that works. (Or from FRA if you go Condor?)

Same thing if you want to start in Zagreb: see if you can book separate flights on to Zagreb from AMS or FRA, even if not on the same ticket. Yes, it's a bit of a risk that you'll be super late into Europe from the US and miss the connecting flight you booked on your own - but I greatly prefer skipping a US connection when flying to Europe and fly directly to AMS (or FRA or perhaps London now). Some travel insurance plans may cover a delay if booking separate tickets on your own. I've done these "separate connections" a number of times and have been lucky never to have had a problem. AMS is a very efficient airport and I feel comfortable connecting there with a 2-3 hour layover, but that sort of risk tolerance is a personal thing. (Always have a backup plan if you miss a connection - know what the penalty would be to book a new flight on your own, on a later flight, or whether travel insurance would cover, etc.)

If you don't mind the Alaska puddle jumper to SEA, you can get more Delta direct flights into Europe e.g. to Paris - that US connection seems less risky in SEA than one in DEN or Chicago, etc. There are lots of short flights from PDX to SEA.

From Dubrovnik home? You might need to stage a night somewhere else in Europe. On my first trip to Croatia, I found a direct flight from Split to Paris at the end and spent a few days in Paris before flying home. Croatia Airlines might have direct flights to the European capitals a few days a week, even if those flights aren't cheap. This is a case where flying back to Venice at the end, if you can find a good cheap flight, might be more practical than starting in Slovenia, because you can probably find a decent flight connection back to PDX from Venice.

Posted by Peggy OP
West Linn, OR, USA
68 posts

Thank you - good advice and I will look at Delta for at least one of the flights perhaps. The Condor flight from PDX to FRA was great when we did it 2 yrs ago and much cheaper but I might be able to use Alaska miles on Delta. As I read the R.S. book on Slovenia, it looks great and less crowed than Venice. Might do that at the beginning and then go from Dubrovnik to Venice for a day or two and then on to FRA and home or Delta to AMS and home. Would you say an extra night in Dubrovnik is worth doing? (i.e., 2 nights instead of one at the end of the bike tour?)

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

Dubrovnik is fairly small and really doesn't need much time to appreciate, and the crowds during the day from cruise ships can wear you down. It's much more peaceful at night. I wouldn't necessarily want/need two full days in Dubrovnik proper, but if you have to fly out early after the last night, two nights might mean only one full day, really.

Posted by Peggy OP
West Linn, OR, USA
68 posts

Andrew, have you ever combined something like Venice with Croatia? Since Condor flies into FRA on a Saturday and the biking trip from Zagreb starts the following Thursday, we have 4-5 days to do something else. We could fly in on the Tuesday before we start riding (on Thursday) but I am thinking we might need more time to get over jet lag. So I am looking for a nice city where we can sleep well and just walk around as awakening zombies for a few days ;)

Posted by Peggy OP
West Linn, OR, USA
68 posts

And thanks for advice on Dubrovnik. The bike tour folks say and extra day there is worth it but I don't want to spend any more time than that (2 nights, one day) so am thinking of going to Venice from there before ending up in FRA to fly home.

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
913 posts

Peggy, my wife and i are planning a 15-16 day trip to Slovenia/Croatia this May/June. We are flying in/out of PDX on Condor Premium Class, and ending our trip in Dubrovnik. We usually fly Delta Economy comfort direct to AMS or to London, but the $$$$ and ability to fly in and out of our choices were just too good to pass up. We are doing an open-jaw trip into Ljubljana and out of Dubrovnik.

We are looking at at LEAST 4/5 days in Dubrovnik. Read Rick's book. And go on the web and do some research also; there iare so many awesome day trips from Dubrovnik, and lots of options to NOT stay in the town proper, but in some lovely surrounding areas, easily accessible by public trans.

This was an interesting trip report: https://www.smartertravel.com/2017/06/19/touring-beautiful-croatia-slovenia-montenegro

We originally considering flying open-jar into Venice,(we have been there before) and then out of Dubrovnik. We were going to use a search engine like Skyscanner/Kayak to get a short flight into Slovenia, but when we talked to friends who lived in Italy and Germany they told us that we could go back to Venice some other time. They said to follow the advice that we had read; spend our time in Slovenia and Croatia; they just too awesome to pass up!

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

Peggy, I combined Venice with my first trip to Croatia, but I started in Milan, then Venice, then Ljubljana, Zagreb, (rent car), Plitvice, Mostar, Dubrovnik (drop car), Korcula, and Split. I flew back to Paris from Split and home from Paris a few days later. Not saying I recommend this as an itinerary, but that's what I did. I move pretty fast. This itinerary worked fine for me, though I'd probably modify it a little if doing it again.

Ljubljana is one of my favorite cities in Europe - charming, pretty architecture, but small and manageable. Not overwhelmed with tourists. A great walking town. I can't not recommend it. ;-) But it's not filled with world-class museums or anything. Ljubljana itself can easily be seen with one or two nights, but there are easy day trips like Lake Bled, so you could spend more time. I would rent a car in Ljubljana for a day (or more) and drive to the town of Skofja Loka for a few hours, then take the scenic detour through the mountains, through Jamnik and Kropa, to Bled. You can also visit Lake Bohinj (much less developed and natural than Bled - and a bigger lake). And there are other sleepy towns like Kamnik you could easily visit by train or bus. (You can get to Bled from Ljubljana easily by bus, but you'd miss the scenic drive and the stop in Skofja Loka).

You could certainly spend time in Zagreb, too given that you will start your bike tour there. Some people really like the city, but it wasn't a favorite of mine. It's worth visiting for sure but I didn't feel the same charming vibe there that has called me back to Ljubljana several times.

As far as jet lag: we all have different strategies for dealing with it. I personally don't need "recovery time" - I hit the ground running when I fly into Europe. The first day is usually a blur so I try not to plan a complicated day, but the next day I plan for a "normal" day. Still, Ljubljana isn't a bad place to get over jet lag, if you need to. I'd fly into Venice and take a shuttle to Ljubljana directly from the airport to start out - that's what I've done a few times.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

Steve, some people do like to "base in one place" for several days and do day trips, but 5-6 nights in Dubrovnik is probably longer than most people would want to spend there. It's a nice town, but it's pretty small and usually mobbed in the daytime with tour groups. It's lovely at night when much quieter.

I really prefer to stay in the "town proper" (the old town) in Dubrovnik because of its evening charm when so quiet. Taking a bus into the old town probably means being there in the daytime and fighting the crowds. Some people do like to base in Cavtat which I hear is a nice town (haven't been), Having a car is probably easier in Cavtat than trying to park one near the old town of Dubrovnik (limited parking - you'll probably be parking in a big garage). I'd prefer to do side trips to say Mostar and Kotor while you still have the car then drop the car in Dubrovnik and stay in or just outside the old town so it's walkable vs. dealing with parking a car in Dubrovnik.

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
913 posts

Peggy, got to agree with Andrew. If you have not seen Venice, this is a good opportunity, and I would go there before I spent more time in Croatia. Condor has great flights out of Portland DIRECTLY to the EU, and you could book an open-jaw flight with them into Venice, and out of Dubrovnik, or..... Delta has super direct flights either to London, or Amsterdam. We have done both, and then used the inter EU airlines to book flights to our final destinations. Another semi-direct airline is Icelandic Air. They have great prices, and offer a "free" stopover in Reykjavik.

Andrew, we just booked our flights into Ljubljana and out of Dubrovnik. These are one stop frights, PDX to Frankfurt, and then on. The price for these Condor flights was less than a Delta flight to Amsterdam, or London,, and on from there....

Tkx for the tip about Cavtat. When we plan vacas in the EU, and elsewhere we like to base ourselves in a location for 3-5 days at a time, and do day trips from that location. We generally rent apartments, and eat our breakfast and dinners there. (no problem sampling lots of local wines when you do it at "home"!). We do not spend much time in the city where our rental is located, but still like to have easy access to everything. We will have a rental car for our two weeks exploring Slovenia and Croatia, and access for the car is important. Since there is so much to see around Dubrovnik we think that area will be a great base for 4-5 days. I am going to look at possibly 5 stops for our 16 nites: ;3 nites in Bled, 4 at Opatija, 2 in Split, 2 in Hvar, and 5 in the Dubrovnik area. Any advice would be appreciated!

Posted by Peggy OP
West Linn, OR, USA
68 posts

Thank you both - Steve and Andrew. I have booked the Condor flight into FRA and then on to Slovenia. We'll be there for 3 days then take the train to Zagreb where our bike tour starts. The tour ends in Dubrovnik and I am trying to book one extra night so we will have a full day to explore the city. We have a room at Hotel Adria, if anyone is familiar with it? But we may need to book a different hotel for that last night if they are full. Any suggestions? Then we fly to Venice and for some reason I couldn't figure out how to do this on the Croatia Air site since first of all, the prices were either in HRKs or Euros and second, because it wanted my address but then wouldn't let me type it in! I tried to call but can't figure out what I am doing wrong there either - couldn't connect from USA to Croatia?? I will figure it out but if anything here seems obvious, I appreciate the advice!

One other dumb question: What is an "open jaw" flight?

Thanks and Andrew, maybe we'll bump into you over there in May! Look for bunch of Oregonians on bikes - ha ha.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

Peggy, an "open jaw" flight is a flight into one city, out of another back home - a "multi-city" itinerary all on one ticket, vs booking two separate one-way flights usually at much higher expense than an open jaw.

If you book on the Croatia Airlines site, note that you will be charged a currency conversion fee depending on which credit card you use (e.g. about 3%, maybe 0% if you use the right credit card). Also, your financial institution may block foreign transactions like this at first. But worth a try! (If it fails, try a different credit card.) Don't let prices in HRK throw you - just google for the exchange rate, and you can type in the number of HRK and get the equivalent of USD.

If you can't type in an address on the Croatia Airlines site, and you're using a desktop/laptop computer, try a different browser (if you were using Chrome, try Firefox; if you were using Firefox, try Chrome, etc.).

I don't know the Hotel Adria in Dubrovnik, but googling its location, it seems pretty far out from the old town - not where I'd want to stay if I didn't have a car. On my first stay, I stayed right outside the Pile Gate, across the street from the Hilton Imperial, in what Croatians refer to as a soba (private room - with private bathroom in my case too). This is a common form of lodging in Croatia and the Balkans in general. There aren't a lot of proper hotels right in the old town in Dubrovnik but lots of sobe and apartments. You should find a lot of them on sites like Booking.com , a site I have used a lot.

Maybe you and Steve will run into each other in May. I will probably be in Bulgaria in late April/early May.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

Steve, I'm glad the Condor flights worked out for you. I have used Alaska Airlines miles the last few times I booked the Delta flight to AMS - sad that Delta is no longer partners with Alaska. Alaska is partners with Condor but the mileage requirements are much higher with Condor than the 30K miles each way for the Delta flight. For my flight into Bulgaria in May, I'm using Alaska miles to stop on the east coast of the US for a few days first, then fly direct to Paris and connect on my own to Sofia....then fly home via Paris at the end from Bucharest. To/from Paris only 40K miles including the stop-over. If I were buying the tickets, I'd go with whatever the best flight options were, Delta or Condor.

It sounds like your travel style is different from mine. There's nothing wrong with three nights in Bled, but because I love Ljubljana so much and didn't really care for the town of Bled, I'd greatly prefer basing in Ljubljana instead of Bled. Some people are the opposite. Others prefer less developed Lake Bohinj (a bit "back to nature) vs. developed tourist resort Lake Bled. If you want a charming little town near Bled, consider Radovljica.

Opatija would make an OK base for exploring Kvarner Gulf area and perhaps Istria, but I didn't care much for Opatija - felt like Beverly Hills with all of the glitzy cars and huge swanky villas. Just not my style. I stayed instead in Rovinj in Istria - a charming little Venetian town, just delightful even if a bit touristy in season.

Posted by Peggy OP
West Linn, OR, USA
68 posts

Thank you, Andrew. I am kicking myself now for making two separate flights instead the "multi-city" or open jaw option. Oh well, live and learn. I will try the Croatia Air flight site again for that leg tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder about credit card conversion fees. Maybe it is time for me to stop in to AAA and use their travel agent! The Adria hotel is where our bike tour has put us. Do you think we could take a bus or walk to the old city from there?

This has all been very helpful - thanks! Have a great time in Bulgaria!

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
913 posts

Peggy, when we are looking for a hotel, etc., we always use the user reviews on Tripadvisor to get some opinions, and lots of info, on the hotel. (it is very important to read the good, and the bad reviews! And to note that the Europeans generally post glowing reviews, while others may be more "all-encompassing" in their reviews.)

I did a quick look at the TA reviews on the Hotel Adria, and there is lots of good info about its location, access, etc.

Andrew, thanks so much for your ideas! I think I'll look for an apartment, etc., in Ljubljana, and use it as a base to explore the local areas in a Slovenian rental car. (If you have any lodging recs please let me know.) Since we fly in there, and it has good connections to Croatia, it makes an obvious choice.

Next we need to figure out how to get to Croatia, and pick up a rental car there for that part of our trip. Is Rijeka a good choice for easy access and rental car pick-up? Pula? or?

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2776 posts

I am a long-time user of booking.com for hotels - they also included apartments and sobe in Croatia. The map feature is great - you can see where a place is and the price. There are short user reviews on booking.com as well. Trip Advisor reviews are useful as well and usually much longer, but I try to read them with a grain of salt: some of them are useless (people complain about something irrelevant or have unrealistic expectations), but others provide helpful information.

You might look for reviews of the Adria on TA and see if people mention getting into town by bus. You might also be able to email the hotel and ask that way, if they have a website with contact info - chances are someone can respond in basic English if not fluently, so pose your question in simple sentences. You could change lodgings that final night to stay close to or in the old town, just to experience it at night when not crowded. Or make sure there's a late bus back to the Adria from the old town. Don't miss visiting the old town of Dubrovnik at night at least once!

I guess some people still prefer to use a travel agent but I don't really see the point in 2018. If you have questions about things like open jaw flights, just post/ask here - someone will answer! No question is too dumb. We were all novice travelers once. I remember going to the AAA travel agent downtown before my first trip to Europe when the internet was still in its infancy, but today it's so easy to do these things online by yourself, once you learn the ins and outs, that I'm not sure it's worth it anymore.

Posted by Peggy OP
West Linn, OR, USA
68 posts

Thank you both. I definitely agree and use TripAdvisor for reviews but often find the negatives seem to be from very picky people who have some unusual complaint. So since there are no stupid questions.... I tried to call the number listed for Hotel Adria yesterday and kept getting rejected. I tried dialing a "1" first and even tried dialing a "+" before the "1" and then just tried the area code and number - nothing seemed to work! What am I doing wrong?

I am thinking if I can get an extra night there, we will find our way via some sort of transport to Dubrovnik on that last day and stay there looking around all day. (I admit I am a Game of Thrones fan!) We'd have to get ourselves from Adria to the old town anyway if we booked our last night there. So will see if we can stay in Hotel Adria one more night.

Last question: Can we pay for things in Slovenia and Croatia with euros or do we need HRKs?

Thanks you guys - this is really helpful.