My friend and I will be traveling to Hungary and Croatia in late April and early May. I am just beginning the research stage and plan to get the appropriate RS books (I promise!) but for now had a couple of questions. I will also post my Hungary-specific questions on the Hungary board.
The plan is roughly as follows:
4/23 - arrive in Budapest, stay at least 3 nights, maybe 4. We're traveling from the US West Coast so it's about a 17 hour trip.
4/23-4/26 - 3 full days in Budapest
4/27 - we want to go to Croatia. However, we know that train service is very limited and there are no non-stop flights from Budapest to either Split or Zagreb (we don't plan to go as far south as Dubrovnik). I am thinking of renting a car, either in Budapest or taking the train to Pecs and renting from there if that would be easier and driving to Croatia. We would need a car when we got to Croatia anyway as we want to go to Plitvice as well as Split and explore around both areas. I know we could take a train or bus from Budapest to Zagreb, then rent a car there and just do all our driving in Croatia, but it seems like it would be more efficient to go straight from Hungary to Plitvice. Does this make sense? Is it difficult to find a company which will rent a car in 1 country and allow me to drive it to another? Is it difficult to cross the border from Hungary to Croatia?
We've taken the train almost exclusively in several prior Europe trips though I did drive from Florence to the Bolzano area once (white-knuckling the mountainous area on the freeway) so I feel I can drive when necessary.
4/27-5/02 - 6 nights in Croatia. How to divide them? If we leave Budapest the morning of 4/27 and it's about a 5 hour drive to Plitvice (the minimum time it should take), I don't know that we'd get to Plitvice in time to get into the park in late afternoon as recommended on these boards and then go back the following morning. The spring hours for the park are 8-5 so I assume we'd need to be out of the park by 5. So we might just stay the night nearby, go to Plitvice first thing in the morning on 4/28, and stay for 3-4 hours before leaving. Or we could get to Plitvice area the night of 4/27, explore other areas nearby the morning of 4/28, go to Plitvice the afternoon of 4/28, stay a second night, go to Plitvice the morning of 4/29, and then leave for Split. So we'd do 1-2 nights near Plitvice, no more than 2.
Then - either 2 nights in Split and 2 nights somewhere else, or 4 nights in Split and day trip via ferry to an island or two (I've read great things on here about Vis). I'm leaning towards 4 nights in Split as we've found we like to do a minimum of 3 nights in most destinations. It also seems like Split is a good location to explore that city, day-trip to an island, and explore other towns near Split.
Leave Croatia to return to Hungary on 5/03.
I wonder about late April/early May being a little too "off-season" in Split for housing, restaurants and attractions, as well as the weather being colder than we'd like for spending time at the beach/on the islands. Any thoughts on our timing? We can probably push it 2-3 weeks later, but probably no later than that (so our latest time in Croatia would be around 5/19-5/24). Of course I know there's no guarantee on weather, it could be unseasonably cool or warm no matter what time we go.
Thanks for any suggestions.