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Travel to Slovenia

Thanks to Rick Steves excellent show on Slovenia my wife and I are planning a trip this Fall. We are interested in also visiting a couple of the neighboring countries that are close to the Slovenian border. We are planning on spending 10-14 days for this trip. The questions I have for anyone who has traveled this particular part of Europe are is it best to fly to Ljubliana or perhaps Zagreb in Croatia, spend a couple of days there and take a train to Ljubliana. Lake Bled is one of the places we want to visit and its geographical location is so close to Southern Austria and Northern Italy that we would like to take a short trip to those countries along with part of the Croatian Coast. We are planning on renting a car and would like a suggestion on a location or locations to pick up and drop off the car. I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions about this potential plan before I start making travel arrangements. You were a big help on a recent trip to the UK and would greatly appreciate your suggestions on this future trip.

Thanks,

John

Milwaukee, WI

Posted by
1426 posts

John, a lot would depend, in my opinion, on whether it's 10 or 14 days. That's a big difference, and how much distance you can cover is dependent on figuring that out.

I'd suggest pulling up Google maps and picking your top choices around Slovenia. Then decide how many nights you want to sleep in each location. If Ljubljana, Bled, and the Croatian coast are must sees, that's all you're going to fit into 10 days. If you stretch it to 14, you can visit Austria or Italy as well, or spend some time in Zagreb.

Be aware that train or bus travel is not as convenient in Slovenia and Croatia as it is in other countries in Europe. And also consider that you do not want to drop off a rental car in a different country from where you picked it up.

In addition to Ljubljana and Bled, make sure you also visit the Soca Valley and do Rick's recommended drive through the Julian Alps. You could easily spend 5 or 6 days just in Slovenia.

Posted by
4700 posts

With 10-14 days, I probably would not spend much time in Croatia (except for the amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park, an easy two hour drive from Zagreb and far from Slovenia.) There is a lot to see in Croatia, too, probably too much to fit in if you also want to see parts of Austria and Italy. Slovenia is a small country so it is possible to see the highlights in that amount of time. You really need to pick and choose what you want to see and, unfortunately, leave some things out. I know, it can be hard to narrow down.

Ljubljana's small airport may not be that convenient to fly into directly from the US. It may require two connections from Milwaukee. Another option to consider is flying into Venice and taking a direct bus or shuttle to Ljubljana. There are direct buses directly from the Venice airports but not always the same time every day, from a company called DRD. There's also a shuttle service called GoOpti you can try: you tell them a window of time in which you can be picked up and they give you a price. Sometimes the Venice option is cheaper and more convenient; sometimes the bus complicates things and doesn't really save you much time or money. It depends on what flights you wind up getting from your origin.

So you might consider renting a car in Slovenia, seeing some Slovenian highlights (Bled, Ljubljana, Piran, Soca Valley for example), maybe a detour into Croatia to Plitvice Lakes, and see how much time is left to see other things. (Or skip Plitvice if it doesn't appeal, but I highly recommend it. Google for pictures.) One-way rentals within Slovenia can be economical but as noted by the other respondee, dropping the car in a different country can be very expensive.

Posted by
37 posts

I would disagree w/Andrew. I think 14 days is plenty of time to do some things in Croatia and feel like you've seen quite a lot of Slovenia. I would stick to the north and pick two (or three if you're ambitious) from Zagreb, Plitvice, and Istria.. As for flying in, I have found that flights in to Zagreb can be inexpensive. You could fly in and out of there if the train back is not too much of a hassle, or do open jaws with Zabreb/Ljubljana.

As for rental cars, Sixt is quite cheap, and they have a rental location at the Ljubljana train station. If you pick it up and drop it off in the same place the cost will be very low.

Have fun!

edit: totally agree w/Lane about the difference b/w 10 or 14 days. I would say 14 would make some of Austria and Italy doable, but with 10 I'd focus on just northern Croatia and Slovenia.

Posted by
208 posts

We travelled as a couple through Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia last summer.

One thing to think about is your travelling style. Are you going to be on the move every night, or every other night? Or are you going to slow down and get to know the (fewer) places you visit better? Having done both, I find myself leaning more and more to the latter option.

Lake Bled is beautiful, and worth a full day. Flying in to Ljubljana, taking a taxi there (our flight was late and we missed the bus. But the taxi, though more expensive, was not catastrophically so), spending an entire day exploring/visiting the castle/walking around the lake/taking the boat to the island worked well for us.

We rented a car, and planned to take the Vrsic pass down into Kobarid. But we went in early May, and were warned at the start of the pass that it wasn't safe for our little rental car. We wound up detouring through Italy. Seeing the rusted, abandoned border checkpoints as you crossed the border and back was interesting.

We stayed a night in a small tourist farm way up in the hills outside of Kobarid. Very memorable. Kobarid has a great World War I museum that's definitely worth a morning, and there are forts, caves and other leftovers from the WWI front all over the area.

We stayed in Piran. (Warning, if traveling there, avoid staying at Max's, as he might decide to shut his place down and leave you abandoned without notice). Piran is a very enjoyable town, worth staying a full day, or maybe even two.

We visited one of the caves on the way back to Ljubljana. Worth doing, especially if you have never seen a large cave before. Dropped the rental car in Ljubljana.

Then spent a couple days in Ljubljana. Rented a student's flat in the old center. Ljubljana is a very enjoyable city. Interesting things to do and see. Very pedestrian friendly. I wished we had had significantly more time to spend there.

We enjoyed Croatia as well, and found Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia fascinating. But if you have never been, the nearby place I think I would add to your visit is Venice. Venice is unique.

So far we have travelled to Italy twice, Britain, Scotland, France (both Paris and south France), Portugal, Prague, and most recently Slovenia--Croatia--Bosnia. Some trips as a couple, some bringing a number of teenage girls.

Of all these places, I would say Slovenia was the easiest place to visit. Very clean, very cultured, everyone speaks English, everyone quite friendly, great food, inexpensive, great and varied scenery.

If I were to live in Europe, I think I would choose Slovenia.

Now to figure out the next trip. Denmark, perhaps?

Posted by
20 posts

Hello,

I would like to thank all the travelers who have given me some very good suggestions and tips concerning our future trip to Slovenia. They have been very helpful and have given me a template on which to plan our actual trip. Slovenia seems to be a real favorite of the European travelers who have responded to my request. Rick Steves mentioned on his show that this is a jewel of a place to visit. The bulk of our trip will be spent in Slovenia with some time in Croatia and perhaps brief stops along the border in Austria and Italy. Counting the two days of flight travel it seems wise to go for the 14 days rather than 10 days. i did forget to mention that we will be traveling in the Fall, some time around mid September to the to the first part of October. If this warrants further comments I would welcome them.

Thanks again,

John

Milwaukee, WI

Posted by
4700 posts

Sounds like a good plan, John. Slovenia is wonderful, and one of my favorite things about it is that it still seems largely undiscovered by American tourists (vs, say, Italy, which is overrun with them). That makes it feel more exotic to me. There are still plenty of tourists, but they aren't speaking English so much...

September should be a great time to go. If you do anything coastal (like Piran or anything in coastal Croatia), try to do that earlier in your trip if possible. In my experience, by mid-October the coastal towns start to close down for the season, at least the ones that cater to tourists.

Posted by
20 posts

Hello Neza,

Thanks you for your excellent suggestion. It is very nice to get a travel tip from someone who lives in Slovenia.

Regards,

John

Posted by
4 posts

No problem. It´s nice to see, that so many people are interested for Slovenia. If you will need some informations for Logarska valley, Solčavsko, I can help you. I live in this area.

Regards from Slovenia!

Neža

Posted by
8 posts

Great thread and great responses, all.

I too am planning a trip to Slovenia (~10-12 days all in Slovenia) and in looking for flights, I see that they are much more reasonable both in connections/price to fly into Zagreb and/or neighboring countries. It appears there are ~7 trains from Zagreb to Ljubljana per day, so I may try to coordinate that directly from the airport to get more time in Slovenia. My question is, how straightforward is it to do so (i.e., land at Zagreb airport, get town, get to train station, take train to ljubliana)? As I'll be solo, I'll probably look to public transport when possible. If it's not super straight forward, I may spend a day in Zagreb.

Also, in considering an open jaw, what other airports are recommended to use (something in Italy, like Trieste, something in Austria, etc.)?

Thanks again! I've been wanting to travel to Slovenia for years. Looking forward to it! :)

Posted by
11275 posts

vitadolce: I have never been to Slovenia, but I have looked at Rick's book. He explains that flights to Ljubljana are often expensive, and recommends looking into Klagenfurt, Austria as one alternative.

Posted by
4700 posts

vitadolce, the bus and train stations in Zagreb are not directly adjacent. They are connected by tram, so getting between them is not really that hard, but you might not find the connection from airport to bus station to train station to Ljubljana "straightforward" when flying in after a long flight. There are also direct buses from Zagreb to Ljubljana. Although I almost always prefer the train to the bus, that might make your connection easier, especially if the timing of the departing bus works out for you.

You can also fly into Venice if that works for you. There are no direct trains from Venice to Ljubljana, but there are shuttle services. There's a well-regarded service called GoOpti you can try to schedule a pick-up. There's also a "bus service" called DRD that I have used a few times (as recently as a month ago), but they are not a conventional bus service - you need to contact them in advance to arrange reliable pick-up in Italy.

The Slovenian national airline, Adria Airways, also connects European capitols to Ljubljana, though the flights aren't always cheap and not always daily (depends on the city). But, you might find a direct from from your city into say Amsterdam or Paris and then connect on your own directly to Ljubljana.

I've never understood Rick's recommendation of Klagenfurt as an alternative to flying into Ljubljana - I've rarely found Klagenfurt to have any sort of helpful connections when I've considered a trip to Slovenia. Usually flying into Zagreb or Venice offers the most economical and practical connections from the US. If the timing is right, I'd probably go with an Adria flight from Paris or Amsterdam.

Posted by
198 posts

I am heading to Slovenia and Croatia this September. I found the best options for our flights was flying into Venice and flying home from Graz, Austria. We are also using our frequent flyer points for this trip and it was a lot less points flying in and out of Italy and Austria than it was into Slovenia or Croatia. We are going to stay the first night in Venice and then take the afternoon ferry to Istria the next day.

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Kathy,

My wife and I are planning the same trip in September to both Slovenia and Croatia. How long would it take you to go from Venice to Slovenia or Croatia and then on the return from the same countries to Austria. It sounds like a unique way to do the trip. How many days will you be in both countries?My wife and I are planning on a total of 14 days and two of them will be travel. It seems like the most difficult thing is just getting there. Once you are there the area to cover by car or other transport does not sound that difficult since the distances are not that great. Any hints on a good website to use for the airlines? I see that you are probably leaving from TO, Ontario we live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and will probably fly out of Chicago.

Thanks,

John

Posted by
4700 posts

I use Kayak to check airfares and prices. But I prefer to book my actual tickets directly on the airline's own websites, if possible. If you are checking for an easyJet flight, check easyJet's own website too for alternate days.

I also found it convenient to fly into Venice on my recent trip to get into Slovenia - then, after 2+ weeks in a rental car, out of Zagreb back to Amsterdam (where I spent a night then a direct flight home the next day). From Venice Marco Polo airport, it takes about 2.5 hours to get to Ljubljana via shuttle service if they don't stop on the way. (I didn't stop in Venice like Kathy is planning to - I have been to Venice before.) You may, as I did, find it easier to stay the final night in some other city like Amsterdam or Paris before flying home - and consider it a bonus to return for a short visit if you've been there before.

After a few trips to Slovenia and Croatia now, I think with only 14 days if I wanted to see both Slovenia and Croatia, I'd probably stick to northern Croatia - Istria, Kvarner Gulf, Plitvice Lakes, maybe Zagreb - and then Slovenia. On my first trip, I saw only Ljubljana then did a whirlwind trip from Zagreb down to Dubrovnik, and I missed a lot of things I had to go back and see again. Split, Dubrovnik, various islands, and parts of Bosnia and Montenegro would make a nice separate trip, especially if you hope to swing up to Austria at the end. You could probably rent a car in Ljubljana, see parts of Slovenia, drive into Croatia, return it in say Maribor, Slovenia, then train from there up to Graz (quick train ride). I wound up flying into Munich to start one of my trips - stopped in Salzburg and Graz via train before starting my trip in Maribor - but that adds a few extra days...

Posted by
3181 posts

We're just back from Slovenia and Zagreb, and we spent 2 weeks in Croatia on another trip. In structuring our most recent trip, I found fares to or from Zagreb to be a couple hundred dollars cheaper than Ljubljana. Also, the Ljubljana airport is very far from the city. We spent 50 euros for a taxi, and it took the better part of an hour. 10:30 p.m. we weren't going to try for a shuttle bus, though I think there may be one. We flew Zagreb to Frankfurt to SFO on our return. We took a train from Ljubljana to Zagreb for a quite low price, and it took 2.5 hours. Also, our car rental in Slovenia for 3 days was under $60. Europcar through Kemwel.
I thought 1 full day (2 nights) was sufficient for Ljubljana. We used the car to get to Bled one day - - try to hike the Vintgar Gorge while there. Another day, we drove to the Postojna Caves and visited the Predjama Castle. My recommendation is that you stay in Ljubljana and do day trips to the other sites. Both are pretty easy drives.

Zagreb is a very pleasant city, worth a couple of days. While there, you could visit Plitvice. We were able to hike the entire trail system in about 6 hours.
Istria seems a natural destination add-on for you. Rovinj and Porec are very attractive. We also made an overnight stop in Lovran on our way between Rovinj and Zagreb and liked that a lot, too. The people in both Slovenia and Croatia were wonderfully friendly and hepful. V irtually everyone speaks English. One woman told us that they now start learning it in kindergarten. Makes travel there very easy for us Anglophones.

Posted by
198 posts

We have a direct flight with Air Canada from Toronto to Venice landing around 11am. I always book my flights directly with the airline although as mentioned before, this time we are using our points for the trip. There is a ferry from Venice that goes to 3 locations in Istria leaving at 5:15 pm so we could actually take it the same day as we land, but it would be such a long day. We have been to Venice before and love it there, so we decided we would just relax wandering around in Venice the rest of the day and leave on the ferry the next afternoon. The 5:15 ferry gets into Rovinj at 9:00 pm. where we will then stay 3 nights. We have a total of 18 nights for our holidays. We will get down as far as Dubrovnik. We've got a car rented from Rovinj to Split and after a couple nights there we then are taking the faster ferry stopping over for a night in Korcula and ferry down to Dubrovnik the next day. We have a car rental coming back up but many people prefer to take a flight to Zagreb before heading into Slovenia. We end with 4 nights in Ljubljana but haven't decided whether we will use the last night instead staying in Maribor or Graz or not. Luckily our flight out doesn't leave until 1:30 pm so we could drive from Ljubljana directly to Graz the morning of our flight.

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Andrew,

Thanks again for your insightful tips on our upcoming trip to Slovenia and Croatia. You and others have given my wife and I some great ideas on how to plan our trip. It just seems like everyone has a difference of opinion on how to get there and what airport to use.

Thanks,

John

Milwaukee, WI

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Kathy,

Thank you for your note detailing how you planned your trip to Croatia/Slovenia. It was great to read how you and others have planned their trips. It must be nice having a direct flight from TO to Venice. I don't know if I have had anyone say that they are flying into Ljubljana. everyone seems to have their special route.

Thanks and go Canada,

John

Milwaukee, WI

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Rosalyn,

Thanks again for your suggestions. My wife has a friend from Croatia and when he visits either Slovenia or Croatia he will fly into Zagreb. Everyone who replied to my latest note has had some great suggestions as to where to travel within the two countries. I really appreciate it. Time to buy the tickets.

Thanks again,

John

Milwaukee, WI

Posted by
16 posts

Hi John:
My husband and I just got back two nights ago from the trip that you are talking about and IT WAS AMAZING. We flew into Zagreb, spent a day and half (we suggest the bike tour to see the city), took the train to Ljubljana (a beautiful 2 hour train ride through the country side) and were there for two days (I suggest the free walking tour of the city and pre-registering for the bike use around the city ahead of time) and then we picked up the car right in the center of town and drove to Bled and then through the Julian Alps, down through wine country to the coast, Piran. We used Piran as our home base and drove to Trieste, Italy one day and to Rovinj, Croatia and Pula Croatia another day. We then drove back, spent the night at the cutest B&B 5 minutes from the Ljubljana airport and flew out from there. It was a fantastic trip. There are few sites we came across not in Rick Steve's book which were A MUST, if you are interested I will be happy to share them with you.

You will have a blast.
Niloofar

Posted by
4700 posts

John, it's not just an opinion of the best way to fly into Croatia/Slovenia - it also depends largely where you start from and what time the flights arrive and personal preference.. I flew into Venice this last trip because I arrived in Amsterdam from the US at 8:50, and there was a cheap flight on KLM into Venice at 11:20 (and a return flight from Zagreb to Amsterdam a few weeks later on the same ticket). But there was a direct Adria flight from Amsterdam to Ljubljana leaving at 10:15 the same day. Had I arrived earlier in Amsterdam or had that Adria flight left an hour or two later, I probably would have taken that direct flight to Ljubljana - sure would have been easier than flying to Venice and taking a shuttle.

The KLM flight to Zagreb that same day instead would have meant a 6+ hour layover in Amsterdam. So flying to Venice, at a cheap price, was the most practical choice for me.

Some people fear connections like mine where they are on different plane tickets; if I had arrived late into Amsterdam and missed the flight to Venice, KLM had no obligation to put me automatically on the next flight - I was taking a risk that either they might or that I'd have to pay extra. Some people simply make it easier by flying their first day or two in a city like Amsterdam or Paris to shake off the jet lag, then fly directly on to their destination city in a few days: no stress about missing connections, shorter travel days, etc.

There is no right answer here that works for everyone. Most of this comes down to personal travel preferences, travel schedule based on available frights from your city of origin, etc. What worked for me may not work for you. Try to understand why people have their own opinion about the best way to fly in, then decide what works best for you.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks again for all the helpful info! For some reason I am only seeing them all now, but this is great! :)

I'm attempting to do this on airline miles, so the availability is a little trickier. I can for sure get a leg into or out of Zagreb, but with my limited miles, I am still searching for the other leg. I may take an idea to fly into/out of another city and easyjet it over to Slovenia. Will see what I can find. Fingers crossed!

Posted by
20 posts

Hello Slovenia and Croatia travelers,

Thanks to the many great travel tips I have received from you my wife and I are getting much accomplished in planning our Fall trip to the two countries. We are flying into Zagreb, spending a couple of days and taking the train to Ljubliana. We will spend two night there before renting a car and traveling to Lake Bled and back down into Croatia, Do you have any recommendations on where to rent the car in Ljubliana or any other suggestions on renting the car, agency etc. A person we know suggested if we travel quite a lot to get into a Trusted Traveler program. I know that there are several of these available and have looked at a couple. My question is are these worth it for international travel? We take one major trip a year and I do some air travel in the states on business.

Thank you all in advance.

John

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Posted by
1426 posts

I don't know about specific car rental companies, but are you sure it wouldn't be a lot cheaper to rent the car in Zagreb? Since you're ending your trip in Croatia, it's usually a lot less expensive to pick up and drop off your car in the same country. The drive from Zagreb to Ljubljana is just 2 or 3 hours (depending on how long it takes to cross the border) and it's a pretty easy drive on major highways.

Posted by
1120 posts

John- We just returned from 14 days in Croatia and Slovenia. We rented our car in Zagreb because we returned in Dubrovnik so we did not have any country to country drop off costs. We rented for 12 days - we dropped the car in Dubrovnik when we arrived because we had already driven into Mostar and Kotor and we were ready to stay in Dubrovnik - you don't need a car there.

We rented with Sixt and paid $455 for the 12 days, including the green card for travel into the neighboring countries of Bosnia and Montenegro. We did not have to pay extra to take the car ferry from Split to Hvar. We bought a toll sticker at the FIRST gas/convenience stop after we crossed the border into Slovenia. It was $15 and we never had to pay tolls throughout Slovenia. We did not rent the smallest vehicle because we were two couples, so the $455 would be less if you chose a smaller car.

Plan your itinerary and then rent AND drop the car in the same country.

Posted by
20 posts

Hi Carla,

Thank you very much for the information you sent to me. It was just what I was looking for in regard to renting a car. It does make sense for me to rent it in Zagreb. At first I thought that renting it in a smaller city it might be easier to get accustomed to the roads etc. I did not know anything about the tolls and some other things you mentioned so that is also a great help. We will be there for the same amount of time as you were so it all makes sense to me. If you think of anything else please send me another message.

Thanks again,

John

Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee WI

Posted by
1120 posts

No problem !

We had an incredible experience and you will too !

Posted by
2 posts

John-
As far as vehicles go and if you stay around 21 days or more, I love the Peugeot lease program. The rates for cars are a fair bit better than rentals. The major inclusion is they have full comprehensive insurances with the car. I use www.drivetravel.com but there are many. All cars are new. I would suggest something like a Peugeot 308 or 3008 with grip control as you will hit some weather in the mountains. Milan would be closest pick up point. Check prices compared to renting and don't forget to calculate your comprehensive insurance costs on a rental. The lease is a winner. Renault and Citroen do it as well.

The area between Klagenfurt and Villach is known as the lakes area. In summer it's a big destination for the Viennese and some southern Germans. Klagenfurt and Villach are a distinct Austrian style especially in their cooking. You will find some good city centre restaurants and cafes. A serving of Käsenudlen or cheese noodles are a must have. They are a bit like extra large ravioli but only have butter as a sauce. Goulash is a good fall and winter food as well. Wolfgang Puck was born and raised in this area, St Veit. This time of year however will not be hustle bustle like in summer. Drives around Wörtersee will be worth while. It's a pristine lake. Maria Wörth church is beautifully located on the lake. The southern part of Klagenfurt toward Slovenia is spectacular in the mountains. If you are into hand made watches, there is a world class watchmaker Habring2 in Völkermarkt. As good as anything from Geneva. Further up the road in Gmund is the original location of Porsche and its museum. Southern Austria is a beautiful area and travelling here from Slovenia is a natural progression. Trieste would be a nice place to go as well, but of course that's Italy. In fact I am not really sure why Rick is not a fan of Carinthia and in my opinion he should have easily included this area into his Slovenia segments. I would be happy to show him some great spots. The two areas are very connected historically and economical. Very much worth a visit.
Frank, Brisbane Ausrtalia