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Slovenia-Croatia-Bosnia Itinerary Help

I am having a terrible time making itinerary decision about a two-week trip to these areas September 5-20. We are flying in and out of Venice - not an ideal gateway city but found a flight deal that I couldn't pass up. Here's my current plan:
Venice shuttle to Ljubliana (2 nights)
Fly to Sarajevo (2 nights)
Bus or car hire to Mostar (1 night)
Bus or car hire to Dubrovnik area (4 nights with one day to Montenegro)
Drive to Plitvice (1 night)
Drive to Istria (3 nights)
Shuttle back to Venice.
We really want to get a taste of Bosnia for something very different, but it feels like I'm not giving Sarajevo or Mostar enough time. Should we just do one? My other source of angst is that I really want to see Dubrovnik and Kotor area but really hate crowds. Please lend me your expertise and critique! Thanks in advance.

Posted by
86 posts

If you're going to pick one city in Bosnia pick Mostar. It's beautiful and closer. While I love Sarajevo it's big and a bit cumbersome to get around in. Trams are OK and cabs are usually trying to cheat tourists. If you do go, the old town is interesting enough for an afternoon and standing where Franz Ferdinand was shot was a very surreal experience. I might consider flying to Dubrovnik from Venice and heading north vs. Making a loop. Or go to Ljiblijana and make your way south and fly back from Dubrovnik to Venice? This might save time or else you might be spending a lot of time on busses.

Dubrovnik is crowded in the day with cruise ship people. Night is magical. I avoided the tour groups by going to places they don't in the day like swimming at the Buza Bar or going to War Photo ltd. The old town isn't too big, so it's not hard to get a flavour for it.

Posted by
47 posts

Sarah - thanks for the insights! I am seriously considering dropping Sarajevo for all the reasons you gave - although I have always wanted to go there since the Olympics many moons ago! Connecting flights from Venice are almost non-existent. Still plugging combinations into google flights but it makes sense to fly south first... These are first world problems!

Posted by
4700 posts

Here's an alternate itinerary if you want to drive much of the way. This would save you some ground time I think. It would also let you see more of Bosnia (drive between Plitvice and Sarajevo has some neat towns and some beautiful mountain scenery.) You could fly from Split to Venice at the end instead of flying Ljubljana to Sarajevo.

Fly to Venice 9/5
Arrive 9/6
Shuttle to Ljubljana
Ljubljana (2 nights)
Bus or shuttle to Istria 9/8
Rent a car
(or take a train from Ljubljana to Rijeka, rent car, drive an hour to Istrian town e.g. Rovinj)
Istria (3 nights)
Drive to Plitvice 9/11
Plitvice (1 night)
Drive to Sarajevo 9/12 Stop in Jajce or Travnik
Sarajevo (2 nights)
Drive to Mostar 9/14
Mostar (1 night)
Drive to Montenegro (e.g. Kotor) 9/15
Kotor (1 night)
Drive to Dubrovnik 9/16
Drop car
Dubrovnik (3 nights)
Bus to Split 9/19 (about 4.5 hours)
Fly Split-VCE 9/19 Volotea 5:05p-6:10p
Venice (1 night)
9/20 Fly home from Venice

You could do two nights in Dubrovnik (the night in Kotor added prior), keep the car (expensive to park in lots near the old town - you could stay elsewhere) and drive to Split late the last day, then spend your last day in Split. That avoids the long bus ride and makes your final day easier - and lets you spend a few hours in Split. Dubrovnik is great, but it's not big, and two nights there is probably enough if you aren't doing day trips.

If you were going to move a day around anywhere, I might pick Istria. Depends what you really want to see there.

I found driving in Bosnia and Croatia very easy, and there shouldn't be tons of traffic by mid-September on the coastal roads.

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks for the very well thought out alternative! Two follow up questions. 1) I have read very mixed - leaning toward horrible - reviews of Volotea. Have you flown them? 2) Do you have a recommendation for an affordable car rental that allows passage into Bosnia? The three to four nights in Dubrovnik include day trips to Kotor and maybe an island. I want to see Dubrovnik but don't anticipate hanging out there for terribly long. Thanks again!

Posted by
4700 posts

Blaze, I honestly don't know anything about Volotea. I just browsed the Trip Advisor reviews - which are mixed but with some good ones too. They sound like one of those budget carriers like Ryan Air or easyJet that makes their money on fees: fees for check-in, luggage, etc. I'd read their rules and regulations carefully. The price was already cheap enough that if I had to pay some fees, I'd probably be OK with that - as long as they got me to Venice safely and on time. Just understand what it will really cost total for your short flight. I'd probably confirm my reservation a few days ahead of time too - and book directly with the airline, not through a third party in case there's some problem.

Some years ago I booked a direct Croatia Airlines flight from Split to Paris, in the afternoon. I picked this flight to avoid a crack-of-dawn flight - but a few days before departure, they canceled the flight! Because I'd booked through a third party, I never got notified. I'm glad I confirmed my reservation a few days before! They put me on that 6AM flight I had been dreading with a connection in Zagreb. Kind of a PITA, but it all worked out.

Posted by
4700 posts

As for the rental cars: I've rented cars twice in Croatia and driven into Bosnia. Once with Sixt, once with Oryx. Both will charge extra fees to drive into Bosnia, I think. Oryx did in 2015: 40 Euros flat fee including VAT, which I considered a good deal for the two week rental that I thought was cheap. I booked using EconomyCarRentals, and they reserved my car with Oryx. Each car company has different cross-border policies and fees - some charge a few Euros per day with a maximum (capped) fee per rental. You do need to request this ahead of time to make sure you get a "green card" (insurance card) to allow your car to cross borders. Check the individual rental car website (or email them) to find out what their cross-border fee is. But you might reserve with someone like EconomyCarRentals or Kemwel, etc.

Sixt was good too but that was way back in 2009 - I don't think they even charged me a cross-border fee then but I'm pretty sure they do now. I expect they are a little more expensive than their competitors, but you can at least book ahead with them without an obligation, whereas the others make you pre-reserve with a credit card and give you 48 or 72 hours before you pick up the car to cancel for a refund.

Posted by
1426 posts

Blaze, I could not disagree more with the previous advice about dropping Sarajevo. When I did a three-week trip to the same three countries, I spent 4 nights in Sarajevo, and it was the highlight of my entire trip.

It's true that it's not the most tourist-friendly city, but the longer you stay there, the more it will grow on you. I had the benefit of hiring an outstanding private guide for a one-day walking tour, so I got some context for what I was seeing, and a first-hand account of what it was like during the siege.

Bosnia is probably one of the most misunderstood countries in Europe for Americans. While Mostar is lovely (and, by the way, the drive from Sarajevo to Mostar goes through stunning scenery), and it was an epicenter for fighting during the breakup of Yugoslavia, it's more tourist-friendly, so you have to dig deeper to find an authentic connection to life in Bosnia.

Before you go, read up on the Dayton Accords, and consider reading The Bosnia List by Kenan Trebincevic for some powerful insights. It's not set in Sarajevo or in Mostar, but it will give you a lot of insight regarding the war in the 1990s.

I would recommend subtracting a day from Dubrovnik to add to Sarajevo.

Posted by
4700 posts

The book I enjoyed about Sarajevo was "The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War" by Tim Butcher. The author (near the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I) re-traced the steps of the assassin Gavrilo Princip who famously killed Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, an event that is considered to be the "trigger" for the catastrophic war. Butcher takes us through this obscure young man's life in Bosnia and later Serbia and explains the actual assassination in detail. I read that part a few times, to the point where I could stand at the corner of the Latin Bridge near where it happened and imagine exactly what had happened right in front of me. Butcher also gives commentary on modern Bosnia and Herzegovina, having been a war reporter during the Bosnian war. Great book.

I also watched a good number of videos about the Bosnian War on YouTube. Some of it is footage of Mostar during the war - scary battle scenes. There are also hours-long BBC documentaries explaining the war in detail, if you really want to get into it. There's also an old documentary there called "Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo" (shown on PBS's Frontline) that talks about a Muslim woman and a Serbian man in Sarajevo - a young couple - both famously killed during the war. It's surreal to walk those same streets today in peace after seeing all of that horrific video footage from just twenty-some years ago.

Posted by
2145 posts

Another movie about the war is "The land of blood and honey". Produced by Angelina Jolie, it is a movie that explores the many terrible things of the war. A book that is interesting is Scott Simon's "Pretty Birds", about girl snipers. Both have unsettling twists at the end that remind us that in real life and real war, things happen that are bad. Both are very good, despite the endings.

Posted by
47 posts

Andrew - I just found by total chance your trip report from 2015. I was on the Montenegro forum and started clicking. Super informative and appreciated all the insights and observations - although I'm concerned about how much pizza you eat :-)

Posted by
4700 posts

Thanks! Funny, I thought about posting a link to my trip report - but RS admin warned me not to post links to my own stuff anymore. My 2015 trip is roughly similar to what you plan to do. I did a ton of driving on that trip over a relatively short period but it wasn't bad, and I got to see a lot. There's more to Bosnia and Herzegovina than just Mostar and Sarajevo.

I do like my pizza - but my doctor is very happy with my general health, so as long as that holds, I have no plans to change my diet. But I thank you for your concern. ;-)