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Slovenia and Northern Croatia

This is a follow up to an earlier post about Slovenia and northern Croatia itinerary in early-mid may. Tentative 10 night itinerary would be fly into Ljubljana and fly out of Zagreb and spend three nights in Ljubljana, one night in Lake Bled, 3 nights in Istria (base to be determined) and 3 nights in Zagreb. It seems the best way to get from Lake Bled to Istria would be to drive, but then we’d be renting a car in Slovenia and returning it in Croatia. Is there a practical way to go about this without incurring fee for picking up and dropping off in different countries? Also, any suggestions or thoughts on overall itinerary are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by
1371 posts

I flew round trip to Zagreb and rented a car there, which I drove through Slovenia and northern Croatia.

But when I've checked drop off fees between the 2 countries, some combinations of pickup and dropoff did not charge a fee, others did but it wasn't very high. So check different city combinations.

Posted by
4684 posts

Three nights in Zagreb? Some people do like it that much, but I wasn't one of them. With such limited time, I'd add a night somewhere else myself.

I would probably also not choose one night in Lake Bled - I'd do it as a day trip from Ljubljana. In that way, you might be able to rent a car just for the day from Ljubljana (which is what I did last time I was there). If you think you have more to see than what you can see in one day with a car, then maybe you need more than one night in Lake Bled.

Have you checked the Sixt website for the cost of renting a car with them in Slovenia and returning in Zagreb? As I recall, it wasn't a horrendous drop fee. I'd check it out - might be cheap enough that it's worth paying vs. the extra hassle of not paying it.

An alternative would be to return the Slovenian car in Slovenia, of course. You could return the first car in Slovenian Istria in Koper or Portoroz or something, then take a bus or shuttle (e.g. GoOpti) on to Istria and pick up a Croatian car there. (Or take GoOpti, a Slovenian shuttle company, from Ljubljana to Rovinj directly.) What I did was to take the train from Ljubljana to Rijeka, then rent the my Croatian car there and drive an hour to Rovinj. But, part of the reason I did that was that I love trains and wanted to take the train to Rijeka, anyway. It worked out well for me.

I loved the Slovenian seaside town of Piran, though it is a bit similar to Rovinj. But I'm a sucker for Venetian towns.

Posted by
568 posts

I notice that you don’t have Plitvice Lakes National Park on your itinerary. I highly recommend adding Plitvice to your itinerary. It is a very beautiful and awesome park with many, many small waterfalls and some big ones, pristine lakes, and boardwalks. You should spend one night here; visit the park in the afternoon after most day trippers have left, and then see the rest of the park the next morning.

We really enjoyed Zagreb, but unless you want to visit all of its museums, then I think 2 nights will be sufficient. So you could take one night from Zagreb and add it to Plitvice.

Posted by
4062 posts

It is a 45 minute drive from Ljubljana to Lake Bled. Just make it a day trip. I'd also suggest visiting one of the cave systems on your way to Istria. As others have said, remove some days from Zagreb.

I also think that the drop off fees are as much as you think they are. We always rent with Sixt.

Posted by
350 posts

We arrived by train in Ljubljana and at the end of our stay there, we rented a car in Ljubljana and drove to Lake Bled and Kobarid, spending 2 nights in Kobarid. We returned the car to Ljubljana and took the train, same day, to Rijeka. We rented a car in Rijeka and used it in Istria, and all over Croatia, plus Montenegro and Bosnia, returning it in Dubrovnik. We based our stay for visiting Istria in Rovinj and loved it there. We skipped Zagreb on that trip.

Posted by
16581 posts

As of 2015 [edited to correct date] there was bus service from Ljubljana to Rovinj in Croatian Istria. It was fine. However, I don't know that there are many car-rental options in Rovinj compared to what you'd find in Rijeka.

Posted by
4684 posts

As of 2015 [edited to correct date] there was bus service from Ljubljana to Rovinj in Croatian Istria. It was fine. However, I don't know that there are many car-rental options in Rovinj compared to what you'd find in Rijeka.

Sure, there was and probably still is bus service from Ljubljana to Rovinj, but as I recall, it's a long ride because it goes through Trieste, Italy. Taking a GoOpti shuttle would probably cost more but would surely save hours of time.

Posted by
16581 posts

GoOpti would be faster (scheduled at 2:45. vs. 4:30 or 4:50 for a bus), and it appears GoOpti may run more frequently--though I'm suspicious of those hourly departures. But GoOpti costs about $85 US, and a bus ticket bought today would cost from $12 to $18. Fares are from the BusCroatia website, which lists both buses and GoOpti shuttles.

Posted by
4684 posts

GoOpti would be faster (scheduled at 2:45. vs. 4:30 or 4:50 for a bus), and it appears GoOpti may run more frequently--though I'm suspicious of those hourly departures. But GoOpti costs about $85 US, and a bus ticket bought today would cost from $12 to $18. Fares are from the BusCroatia website, which lists both buses and GoOpti shuttles.

GoOpti does not operate scheduled service - there are no hourly departures. They operate on demand with pricing based on availability. You enter the date you want to travel, from point A to point B, and they offer pricing options. The further in advance you book, the cheaper it is, generally.

They also offer a range of options from a shared shuttle service to a private transfer. And, they charge less if you can accept a bigger window of pick-up.

For example, I randomly picked a date of February 19 for a quote on a trip from Ljubljana to Rovinj. They offer options from 47 Euros for a transfer that picks me up between 8am-11am (they tel me the specific time the day before) to 85 Euros for a specific at precisely 8am. Or 171 Euros for a private transfer.

Booking even further in advance, I can book a transfer on April 22 for 18 Euros per person, for that three hour window 8am-11am. So...it can be very affordable if you can book ahead of time and lock yourself in. A bus might still be a little cheaper, but it would seem well worth paying more to save a few hours of travel time.

Posted by
221 posts

Thank you all. A lot of good information we will have to consider and sort through. Will address a couple of things. 3 nights in Zagreb because the last one will be out last night of trip. So maybe we get two, maybe two and a half days in Zagreb. Thank you for GoOpti info. Will look into that. Took a quick look today at Sixt, and drop off fee is close to one third of total estimate, but overall price not terrible. Maybe day trip to Lake Bled I'd best. Plitvice is still on table. All responses have been very helpful. Much appreciated.

Posted by
16581 posts

Andrew, I knew folks had said GoOpti offered on-demand service, but BusCroatia shows hourly departures. I guess that's the way GoOpti has the data set up to indicate that it can respond to customer's needs. I agree that the cost for flexible departure times with early booking is very reasonable, but that 3-hour window... If you're hoping to get an early start but cannot, the shuttle could effectively cost you more usable time than the bus.

Posted by
147 posts

The details that Andrew gives are correct, I use GoOpti quite often and they offer a great service. Recently I booked a two hour window with them from Trieste to Pula and they were waiting for me when I arrived.

Posted by
1893 posts

You are renting a car in Slovenia and returning it in Croatia. You fly into one city and out the other.

There are costs to the "open-jaw" approach. There are costs to the car return across borders.

Ljubljana is about 2-3 hours from Zagreb. Why not drive back to Ljubljana, return the car, and fly out of there? I bet you would save $500-600 by this simple thing. It's one thing if the cities are far apart. Yours are close.

Posted by
221 posts

Paul, After looking at the flight possibilities, the open jaw flights are actually most practical for us, including price when also considering flight times and duration. Thanks.