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Getting from Split to Plitvice

My daughter and I have just started planning a two week trip to Croatia and Slovenia, which we will take next July. We're starting in
Dubrovnik and working our way north to Ljublijana, so we can get the bus to Venice and spend a few days there before flying home. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must see for us, but I'm wondering about the most efficient way to get there from Split. We plan on renting a car toward the end of the trip so we can drive through the Julian Alps and Istria, but we'll likely pick up and drop off in Slovenia because of the extra cost of picking up and dropping off in different countries. I've always rented and driven within a single country so I'm not sure how steep this fee is. While cost is a concern, so is our time. I don't want to feel like I'm spending a lot of extra time in transit just to save a few dollars, especially with only two weeks. So, I'm looking for a balance. Should we take public transit from Split to Plitvice and then into Slovenia where we'll rent a car, or rent a car in Split, drive to the national park and then continue with the car on our Slovenian leg? I'd really appreciate any advice from travellers who have done a trip to this area.

Thanks!
Kerri

Posted by
4700 posts

A third option of course is just to rent a car for a short time between Split and either Zagreb or Rijeka (to drop the car) and take a train on to Ljubljana, stopping in Plitvice for a night on the way. That may still incur a small one-way drop fee, but I'd guess it would be less than the one-way drop fee to drop the Croatian car in Slovenia.

It's probably too early to check now for next July - but you can get cost estimates by checking say this September. Check say the Sixt website both ways - the cost of one rental vs. too. Summer rental rates may be higher than in September, however, but at least you can see what the drop fees might be next year.

The other downside of a single rental is that if you will spend a night or two in Ljubljana, you'll need to park the car there, which will be an extra cost and slight hassle too. You won't want/need a car in Ljubljana itself except for day trips out of the city if you plan to make any.

If you want to see what the bus schedules are like for this July, check www.getbybus.com .

Posted by
5083 posts

If your time is tight (and it sounds like it is) trying to do Plitvice by public transportation won't be efficient. IMHO it's best by rental car.

When we did our Solvenia/Croatia trip, I found the one-way drop-off fee prohibitive (IIRC, like 600 Euro), but that was several years ago and things are always changing, so you need to do your homework on that - without having an actual/current number, it's impossible to compare options.

We were going north-to-south, but we did two cars. We did the crossing along the coast, dropped our Slovenia car in Piran/Portoroz (closest place with a rental car agency I could find), then took a bus a Rovinj. After a couple days in Rovinj, we picked up our Croatia car and moved on. It worked out OK but we did have to burn a few hours with the logistics of the car handoffs and the bus connection. At the time I deemed it worthwhile to avoid the huge fee and give us the freedom of having a car in each country. But it really depends on the specifics of your plans.

We loved the freedom of having a car all through these places. We wandered around Istria a bit (Rovinj, Pula, Motovun), then headed for Plitvice. We arrived there in the afternoon, did a few hours in the park, stayed overnight in the park, got up and did a few more hours in the morning before moving on, and that was perfect. From there we went to Rab (island) which we loved, then back on the mainland headed for Split, stopping at Zadar, Sibenik, Trogir and several other places. There are plenty of interesting places along this coast, which we would have missed without a car.

You don't mention what you're planning between Split and Plitvice, and (perhaps more importantly) between Plitvice and Ljubljana.

We skipped Zagreb but many people give it good reviews. It's also well connected to Ljubljana by public transport. If Zagreb is on your agenda, consider renting a car in Split, heading up towards Plitvice, then after PLitvice head for Zagreb. Drop the car there and take public transit to Ljubljana (or do what we did - do the car handoff/pickup between Rovinj and Piran/Portoroz).

Bottom line: there's no always-right answer. You need to look at your priorities and get actual costs (in money and time) then compare the tradeoffs. Personally, I think having a car (or cars) in this region is ideal (except for the times you are in the middle of old cities, but you just park on the outside and walk in). But it usually boils down to a question of time or money. Which commodity is most constrained for you? For me the answer is easy: I figure I can generally find a little more money, but it's harder to find more days - but everyone's constraints are different. IMHO having a car sometimes can "buy you" extra days (or give you the flexibility to pack in extra places in the same number of days). Again, tastes, experiences, preferences vary.

It's a great area, you'll have fun.

Posted by
88 posts

Thank you David and Andrew. Both good options I hadn't considered.

Posted by
61 posts

Although it’s the reverse to what you plan, we rented a car in Split and drove to Korenica where we stayed overnight before spending the following day at Plitvice. We then drove to Ljubljana where we returned our car. It was expensive to drop off in a different country, but there were 5 of us and the public transport options did not fit in with our plans.

Posted by
12 posts

Hi Kerri,
My husband and I just came back from our Croatia/Slovenia trip and had a wonderful time. We did what you are planning, started south in 1. Dubrovnik (3 nights) bus to town from airport (super easy), airbnb 5-10 min walk from Pile Gate; 2. Korcula (2 nights) by ferry (quick city bus to ferry dock in Dubrovnik), airbnb 10 min walk from old town; 3. Split (2 nights) by ferry from Korcula (we had to take the 6:30 am ferry to Split but if you go in July there will be more options, but also more crowds), airbnb 5 min. walk from Diocletian Palace; 4. bus to Split airport and picked up rental car (used Active Co.) - cost $329.00 (8 day rental) for a nice manual VW Golf. We decided that time was more important then spending the extra money for drop off fee in Slovenia (at Ljubliana airport). We were told the extra fee would be $250.00 and have not been charged yet because our departing flight was early and our instructions were to leave car in an Avis marked parking spot and drop keys/paperwork in drop box. I will send you an addendum after the charge posts to our account. We headed for 5. Plitvice National Park with the car and spent one night at Sedra Inn/restaurant (great local trout dish). Easy driving and used our phone google maps for navigation. 6. Drove to Rovinj with a stop in the hill town Motovan for lunch (initial road out of Plitvice area was winding and narrow, but beautiful); 2 nights in Rovinj airbnb 2 minutes walk from old town and parked at our hosts grandmother's house a 10 min. walk away for free; 7. Drove across Slovenian border (30 min back up for passport check) to Skocjan Caves then on to Ljubliana for 2 nights. You must purchase the Vignette sticker at a gas station for your car before you enter Slovenia (read about in guidebook). Entering Ljubliana was a bit stressful with the car, but we managed to find our airbnb host standing outside her apartment waiting to let us in to her parking lot with key fob. We also parked for free and did not use our car until we left the city 2 days later, driving just 45 minutes away to Lake Bled, our final destination for 3 nights. We used the car extensively in the alps. The Ljubliana airport is between Bled and Ljubliana so it didn't matter where we ended the trip. Also, if driving from Bled to the airport you don't have to worry about commuter traffic like you might from Ljubliana. Recommend saving all addresses on Google maps and download to offline map function. Google maps will navigate without using data. We did get the AAA international driver's license. Hope this helps. BTW my son lives in Victoria.

Kathy B.

Posted by
88 posts

Wow! Great advice from the travel forum, as usual. Lots of new things to think about. Thanks!

Posted by
88 posts

Kathy,

Since you're son is living in Victoria, am I right to assume that the car rental cost was in Canadian dollars?

Posted by
5083 posts

Also - Kerri: note that this is posted in the Slovenia forum, while both places you're asking about (Split, Plitvice) are in Croatia. I do understand that they're related, since you're trying to put them together with Slovenia. BUt if you are looking for more details specifically on connecting Split and Plitvice, you'll probably get yet more advice (if you don't have enough already) if posted in the Croatia forum. :)

Posted by
1 posts

We just did this itinerary and it worked well for us to rent 2 cars. We started in Dubrovnik (without a car), took the ferry to Hvar and then to Split, then rented a car in Split to drive to the Plitvice Lakes and then Zagreb. We dropped the car in Zagreb and took the train to Ljublijana, where we rented another car. If you do a similar route, check into options to pick up and drop off the cars in town (ferry/bus station in Split, train stations in Zagreb and Ljublijana) to avoid wasting time going back and forth to the airport. We rented through Sixt and got competitive rates. We spent a little less than 24 hours in Zagreb and would happily have spent more time there - there are some interesting museums and architecture.

Enjoy your trip! We fell in love with both countries!