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Solo Woman Traveler from Dubrovnik to Zadar to Zagreb via Public Bus

Greetings fellow travelers!

I would like to know how easy/hard it is for a solo woman traveler to utilize public buses from Dubrovnik (4d/3n) to Zadar (3d/2n) to Zagreb (3d/2n). I’m trying to make an itinerary following my small-group tour in 6 Balkan countries. I have RS books on Eastern Europe, Croatia, & Dubrovnik as references but your recommendations on restaurants, accommodations, places to see/do would be greatly appreciated. I travel with a carryon and like to be a “temporary local.”
Thanks in advance:)

Posted by
135 posts

I don't think you will have any problem as a solo woman bus traveler.

I have a friend who traveled solo using public transport to the places you list several summers ago and enjoyed it so much that she rented a place on the coast and traveled more the following summer. I traveled by bus from Zagreb to Bled Slovenia a few years ago, also as a solo woman traveler. It was very easy. The few quirks or tips I remember about the Zagreb bus station are that there were slow lines at some counters, so I was very glad that I had bought my ticket in advance, and that there was a separate small charge paid in cash/coin to the driver for checking my carry on roller bag. I found one full day/2 nights quite adequate for Zagreb. I diid a self-guided walking tour and visited several museums. I visited Dubrovnik too many years ago to be of any help.

Posted by
18701 posts

I spent a lot of time bouncing around the Balkans in 2015 as a solo, 63-year-old, female traveler. It was my third trip to Croatia/Yugoslavia, and it was much easier in 2015 than in the 1970s/1980s. A lot of people in the tourist sector, as well as younger people in general, speak English, though that's not likely to be the case with older bus drivers. It may occasionally feel just a bit adventurous, but I don't think you'll have significant challenges.

I found the buses generally reliable, but I was very diligent about getting schedule information. There's more available online now, I think, but even so, I always checked at the bus station. On occasion I stopped at the local tourist office to ask about buses, and I noticed that for long-distance buses they picked up the phone and called the departure bus station rather than turning to the internet. I figured that meant they were a bit uncertain about the reliability of the online info.

If your tour doesn't cover it, I'd super-highly recommend a visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park. You'd need to spend the night in or near the park, though, to avoid being caught in the scrum of daytrippers. It's super-important to be positioned to enter the park when it opens in the morning, though I've read here that conditions are not usually not too crowded really late in the afternoon, either. I think the park sells a two-day ticket, and in the past the hotels (rather expensive) inside the park would validate a one-day ticket for use the next morning. You might find some less expensive options right outside the park on booking.com. Perhaps some of them are willing to shuttle visitors to the park.

The one bus challenge I faced was at Plitvice; I wasn't sure where to wait for the bus to Zagreb. In the end I found a bus shelter that even had a schedule posted. However, the bus I took to Zagreb arrived at an unexpected time, indicating the schedule information available in Zagreb was at best incomplete. It definitely wouldn't be prudent to plan on taking the last bus of the day in that sort of situation.

As of 2015 there was a modest charge (roughly the equivalent of $1) to place luggage in the hold of the bus. If you have a small carry-on bag, that may not be an issue for you.

Bus tickets are likely to have seat numbers on them. They are often ignored by both passengers and drivers, but not always. One driver insisted that we play musical chairs so everyone's location matched his ticket.

My lodging choices were made not long before arrival, based on price. They ended up being not typical of my usual budget hotels. On my first pass through Zagreb I got a really good deal (it was probably over a weekend) at a Best Western between the train and bus stations and the historic center. It was air conditioned (essential) and quite comfortable. It was a bit of a walk from the oldest part of town but close to some of the large museums, so it worked find for me. My second stay in Zagreb and my overnight stay in Zadar were both in Airbnb-type locations, though I found them on booking.com. Croatia has a long history of private room (soba) rentals, though perhaps less in Zagreb than in smaller, touristy places. If you run into a problem and are in a bind, go to a local travel agency. They usually have a book of private rooms for rent. Be aware, though, that if you're in someone's home, you are not guaranteed of a smoke-free environment.

I basically ate where I was when I got hungry, so I have no particular recommendations on that score.

In Zagreb I recommend both the Museum of Broken Relationships and the small but excellent naive art museum. As of 2015 they were both located in the historic center--I believe on the upper level. Zagreb has many, many other museums. The tourist office, which at least used to have a branch upstairs at the very busy bus station, was able to give me an English-language pamphlet describing all the museums.

Posted by
933 posts

You will need to catch the bus from the Cibaca Dubac station in Dubrovnik and transfer in Tisno to get to Zadar taking a total of 5h 15m.
Fortunately, there is a direct bus from Zadar to Zagreb (3h 30m).

Posted by
2129 posts

Wife and I took the Zagreb-Zadar bus - Flixbus. Very comfortable. No WC on bus, but there is a potty-break on the trip - drivers need that smoke. Not expensive, never felt at all concerned about the situation.

Posted by
1026 posts

In 2018 I traveled as a solo woman traveler throughout Croatia, B&H, and Slovenia. I took the public bus between Split and Dubrovnik. A few tips from that trip: There are some bus schedules online that I first referenced from home, but I did not count on those. Once in Split, I went to the bus station on the day before I wanted to travel, and purchased my ticket. I had "Split [arrow] Dubrovnik," "one person" - [in Croatian] written out and showed it to the ticket seller. Good thing I did so as she did not seem to know much English. At each bus station, the buses line up at bays, and they are well marked. If your bus's bay is not clear, just ask around and folks will point to you where to go. I got there plenty early. Also, people line up/crowd around the bus driver when he arrives and gets out of the bus, in order to check their luggage. You will need to pay him approx. 1 euro (don't remember exact amount) when you hand him your bag. Then, you can get on the bus. I was a bit out of order, because I REALLY wanted a window on the right side (for coast views) so I first went onto the bus and put my hat and shawl on a seat, and then went out and checked my luggage. Also, once in Dubrovnik, I took a public bus from the bus terminal into Dubrovnik. I had done previous research (RS's Croatia book may be of help) re. which local Dubrovnik bus would take me to the main gate. Actually, during much of the day public buses (at least in 2018) are not allowed on the street in front of the main gate. He dropped me at the top of a VERY long staircase that I walked down in order to enter the walled city. I found the Split-Dubrovnik bus to be clean and comfortable. It stopped mid-way for a 20 minute comfort break at a rest stop/cafe.

Posted by
2018 posts

The buses are fine around croatia. They are the main transport for most people as the trains are few and only up north. Pula has a train station but the train makes many stops and is a loong ride. We sometimes take the bus places, sometimes we rent a car. Depends on our mood. But don’t worry, you’ll be safe.