Am traveling to Italy and Western Balkans for a total of 5 weeks. Will fly into and out of Rome, arriving April 2 . Plan to travel directly to Florence for several days (4), then on to Venice for 3 days. Will then take train or bus around the top of the Agean to Zagreb, where we will get an overnight train to Split. Not staying in northern Croatia. We had planned to spend about 3 days in Split, then travel south to islands via ferry, overnighting on about 3 islands, one night each, ending in Dubrovnik (not staying there at the beginning) and take bus to Mostar and Modjugorge. If time, we would like to continue on to Sarajevo and then return to Montenegro and Bay of Motar and back to Dubrovnik for a few nights before getting ferry to Bari and returning to Italy for a few days before coming home. We thought we would find places to stay as we go along. I have made reservations in Italy for both ends of the trip, but wanted to use public transportation in Croatia and find places as we go along. I am hesitant to make reservations there because I do not know travel times. We are very flexible and have 3 weeks to make the journey from Venice to Dubrovnik. Would have preferred to ferry to Split, but it is not running yet. Have checked the ferries from Dubrovnik and they are running. Will reserve one when we get to Croatia. Can anyone see problems with this itinerary? Any advice?
The first problem that sticks out at me is your intention of "overnighting on about 3 islands, one night each." That's probably not practical, especially in April-May and going by public transportation. The ferries and catamarans may not run more than once a day to some islands and perhaps not when you want them to, and you're going to spend so much time packing, moving around, finding your new place, and then leaving in maybe 12 hours that you're not going to have time to see or do much of anything, and you'll be exhausted.
I'd probably stick to two islands and do maybe two nights on each. Remember, you may arrive late the first night and leave early the last, so that isn't necessarily a lot of time.
Hvar and Korcula are the two islands that may be the easiest to do together: catamaran from Split to Hvar, catamaran from Hvar to Korcula, then take a bus from Korcula to Dubrovnik.
Perhaps there is a bus from Korcula to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina or even on to Sarajevo, but it may not run every day. If you can get to Mostar, there are buses and even trains on to Sarajevo. I'm not sure how you'd get to Montenegro from Sarajevo - maybe another bus or a series of them. Check the sites www.buscroatia.com and www.balkanviator.com for bus schedules. Also check the site www.Rome2Rio.com to get some rough idea how to get between any two cities. (Note that Rome2Rio may give you solutions that don't go every day - use it as a starting point and verify its suggestions for the days you would want to travel.)
Getting from Venice to Split via Zagreb, wouldn't be my choice if you are not interested in Zagreb itself. What I would do is train to Ancona, and overnight ferry to Split.
Sorry for being picky, but it's the Adriatic sea between Italy and Croatia, not the Aegean and I think you mean Bay of Kotor not Motar.
From what I can see, the overnight train from Zagreb to Split does not start running until 29 May.
The tourist season on the islands does not start until into May - before this date, there is a much reduced ferry service (e.g. Split to Hvar island will run 3 times a day vs 7 during June) and many of the restaurants are closed. You cannot prebook the ferries, but this is off-season so should not be a problem. The Split ferry to Hvar will drop you in Stari Grad port, 30 minutes from Hvar town. There will certainly be accommodation available, but some places may be closed in April.
The sea will be too cold to swim in at this time of year. Average high air temps for April are 64 degrees and there is a 39% chance of rain, so the stats say.
Check out the ferry timetables - can you get from one island to the next? With only one night on each island, you risk spending most of the time travelling and no time to see anything.
Walking round old Split is worthwhile as is a trip to nearby Trogir.
You may want to rethink your itinerary and stick to destinations that are less reliant on summer visitors.
Thank you all for the input. It is really appreciated (even the geographic corrections! - yes, I knew it was Adriatic and also the Bay of Kotar). May re-think trip in the next week before I leave and consider renting a car for the Balkan portion of trip. There is definitely an advantage to the independence it gives you. Want to get to at least a couple of the islands and do have the time to linger longer than a day. Like I said, we are flexible. I appreciate the advice.
Thank you all for the input. It is really appreciated (even the geographic corrections! - yes, I knew it was Adriatic and also the Bay of Kotar). May re-think trip in the next week before I leave and consider renting a car for the Balkan portion of trip. There is definitely an advantage to the independence it gives you. Want to get to at least a couple of the islands and do have the time to linger longer than a day. Like I said, we are flexible. The bus website is especially helpful. Can take a train from Venice to Trieste, local transport across the border and then get a bus to Split from there. I appreciate the advice. I looked at flying from Venice to Split, but expensive. I also looked at train to Ancona and then ferry across Adriatic, but time schedule is wrong for us. Again, thanks so much. Still would appreciate any more advice! Thanks for all!
As far as booking rooms, we have had no trouble booking via booking.com on the day or day before for the night we need. In April you should have no trouble. But makes sense to have a room at the beginning and end of the trip. If you do decide to rent a car, we have had good luck renting via autoeurope.com, which compares companies and rates. You can book through them and if necessary cancel the rental (for a refund) up until 3 days before you pickup the car. They often don't have drop fees if you rent for 3 or more days and pickup and drop off in the same country. But I would call them to be sure. We've learned that different rental companies gave different policies.
Thanks Becky. I appreciate that info. I was also wondering about safety and driving in Croatia and Bosnia and Montenegro. Are they easy places to drive? How are other drivers? How are the roads? Any answers would be appreciated!
One more thing, Becky in Seattle - are you friends with Andy in Phoenix? Just wondering!
In April and May the roads will be quiet. With the exception of the motorways, most roads are single carraigeway and on the major routes of a good standard. Even as a Brit, more used to driving on the left than the right, I am perfectly comfortable driving in Croatia and Bosnia.
One thing you may need to remember is that in Europe most rental cars are manual, but as an American you may be more used to an automatic. Automatics are normally available for an additional fee, which is probably worth it. Not being 100% confident with the car, together with new surroundings, is not a happy combination.
Thank you, Richard. I appreciate the information about driving in Balkans. I am very comfortable with a manual transmission, as I have spent my entire life driving with one. I just bought my first automatic (age 66) transmission and truthfully, I wish I had not done that. I spent a month in Ireland last year driving with a manual and drove the entire perimeter of Ireland. Quite a few cliffs there. My friend I am traveling with seems more worried about driving than I am. The more I read, the more I think a car rental would be the best option. Thanks!
Hope you're having a great weekend!
Croatia is a beautiful country. Not only does it have one of the best coastlines in the world, there's lots of see and do in other parts of the country, too! This company offers guided tours of Zagreb and Northern Croatia: tourcroatia.co.uk/package/za...
Even if you don't want to buy their service, their itinerary might give you some ideas of what to see and do. I have been to northern Croatia myself, and I really enjoyed my time there.
Hope you have a good trip!