We are going to be in Vienna in May & were wondering what are the best places to see between Vienna & Dubrovnik. Should we rent a car to make our way down to Dubrovnik or train it? We have limited time, but don't want to go home without seeing at least some of Slovenia, Croatia & Dubrovnik. Any advice?
There is no train service to Dubrovnik. What do you mean by limited time? You'd need at least a week of one-nighters to see the half of the highlights.
I don't need to see all the highlights. Just want a couple of recommendations for Slovenia & Croatia that have interesting original old town centers & pretty architecture. We have about a week & a half. Thanks.
Is Dubrovnik a must? There and back to Vienna will take 20 hours without stops. If it is a must, and you decide to rent a car, remember that you need insurance cover, a Green card, to cross the small piece of Bosnia at Neum, one hour north of Dubrovnik.
With only 10 days, I would limit myself to Istria in Croatia, visiting places like Pula, Porec and Rovinj, which you could combine with Bled and Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Dropping a rental car in a different country can add several hundred dollars to the price. I would take a train from Vienna to Ljubljana; the 7:55 a.m. departure is direct and takes 6 hours. Or other trains usually connect at Villach (still on the Austrian side of the border), and you could check rates to pick up a car there for use around Slovenia and northern/Istrian Croatia.
If you're in a rental car, crossing through the little arm of Bosnia that reaches the Dalmatian Coast should not be an issue at all. No green card needed when we did it, just a "happy travels!" and a wave.
If you pick up a car just across the border in Slovenia, you could visit all the afore mentioned places (let me add the highly-recommended Plitvice Lakes) in ten days, finish by dropping the car off in Pirano (Slovenia's, Bosnia-like arm of Istria) and take a ferry into Italy as you make your way home.
Another option is to fly to Dubrovnik, pick up the car after a couple days there, see all those sights in a counterclockwise loop with no backtracking, and drop off the car in Porec before doing the ferry thing.
A non Bosnian car needs a Green Card for Bosnia, including the small slice at Neum. When people say that you don't need one for Neum, they are talking about enforcement, not the law, and whether you can get away without having one. If you have an accident or are stopped in a spot check, you will be in trouble if you don't have the right documents.
We have a house in Croatia near the border at Neum so we use the crossing there a lot. One thing that seems to make a difference to insurance checks is the cars number plate. Some of the time I am there in my own British car, others in a Croatian hire car. From what I can remember it has only been when I have been in my own car that I have been asked for my Green Card. I think it is assumed that if you are in a Croatian hire car, then your paperwork will be in order. Indeed whenever I have hired a car in Croatia it has come with a Green Card for Bosnia. I would expect an Austrian car to be treated like a British rather than a Croatian car, and be more likely to be checked.
If you can't get a Green Card for Bosnia, I would recommend you use the ferry from Ploce to Trpanj. The ferry connects the mainland with the Peljesac peninsular, and bypasses Neum. It runs six times a day, taking about an hour and is not expensive.