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Use public transportation or day trip from Ljubljana? How to find less expensive lodging

Hello, I am struggling with finding information on trains and buses for getting around Slovenia and whether this is really a viable option. There are 3-4 of us traveling together for 4 days in Slovenia in September. We plan on visiting Ljubljana, Lake Bled and possibly Lake Bohinj, would like to go across the Vrsic Pass and possibly see the Skojcan Caves and maybe a coastal town (recommendation?) . We can drop the coast and Skojcan Caves if it is too much.

Is it possible to travel to these places by train or bus without it being an extremely long trip due to transfers, wait time, etc? I checked the Slovene Railway site and it appears that there are limited routes. Is there a website for buses and are they dependable? I have traveled through many countries using public transportation which is generally cheaper than renting a car, plus, after a busy day it is nice to relax and let someone else drive.

Is the best option renting a car and making a loop? Is this too much driving in only 4 days? We don't want to be in the car most of the time but out and exploring. Would day trips from Ljubljana be better and possible?

I have checked Booking.com, Airbnb, and Expedia and it appears lodging is less expensive and more selection in Ljubljana than Bled or Bohinj. Can you recommend how to find less expensive lodging for 3 o-4 people? Many prices are well over $100 per night for 2 people which is more than I expected from comments about how affordable Slovenia is. But I am retired and traveling on a budget.

Thank you

Posted by
3551 posts

Many hostels now are more friendly to seniors and families with pvt rooms and even bathrooms. They are well regulated withpleny of oversiht including tripavisor.
Since I saw Solvenia wth a tour group i cannot offer anyone in particular.

Posted by
4700 posts

Ljubljana has always been expensive in my experience - since my first visit in 2009, anyway. Other towns tend to be cheaper in my experience, but as always it depends when you visit, how booked up a town may be on a particular day for some local event or something. Last May, I stayed at a place called B&B Sincere which isn't really a "B&B" - just a very modest set of private rooms run by the nearby H2O hostel. No idea what the rates might be when you visit, but I paid only 40 Euros/night, in a private room/private bathroom very close to the Dragon Bridge. (The rooms weren't especially nice, but it was a great deal and a superb location in my view.) I booked directly with them, by emailing them (they didn't require a credit card for deposit - many places in Slovenia don't actually believe it or not). I use Booking.com also for many bookings but obviously if I don't need to use them and can get the same rate direct, I will.

I loved Ljubljana - a great place to base in my experience. It's a charming town. Bled is a practical, convenient place to base to explore that area (and Bohinj) but it's not nearly as charming or interesting as Ljubljana in my view, with fewer restaurant options at night etc. But there's nothing wrong with staying in Bled. Bohinj is more laid back, less developed, more "back to nature" compared to Bled. You could also stay in the cute little town of Radovljica near Bled.

I've done buses and trains AND rented cars to explore Slovenia. Driving there is pretty easy at least for me, an American. Last May, for example, on one rainy day I took the train to Radovljica, a bus on to Bled (where I had visited before) and then took the train back to Ljubljana in the evening. The next day (less rainy) I rented a car for just the day from Avantcar right in Ljubljana and drove to Skofja Loka, up to Jamnik (beautiful scenic drive, a detour on the way to bled through the mountains), to Kranj and then to Kamnik. I could have visited all of these places by bus or train but probably not all on the same day, and I wouldn't have had the flexibility to stop here and there or enjoy some of the same beautiful scenery. And I doubt you'd be able to fit all of what you wish to do into the time you have without renting a car.

Here's some bus/train info for you:

http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passenger-transport (Trains - you probably saw this site)
https://www.ap-ljubljana.si/en/ (flaky bus website)
https://www.alpetour.si/en/public-transport/bus-schedule-browser/ (better site for Alpetour buses e.g. to Bled)

One option to relax after a long day of driving is the auto train ("Motorail") between Most na Soči and Bohinj, if that happens to fit into your plans. Never taken this car train but sounds fun. It goes through the mountains and saves a lot of twisty driving I guess:

http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passenger-transport/timetable/motorail

Posted by
19427 posts

I managed Bled, Bohinj, Vintgar Gorge, and the Skocjan Caves via bus and an occasional taxi, but the taxis were to save time, not strictly necessary. Things may have changed since 2015, but as of that time, strategic use of taxis was often an economical option. Since there will be 3 or 4 of you, keep an open mind.

This seems to be the website of the main bus station in Ljubljana. Select "Ljubljana Avtobusna Postaja" from the pull-down list as your origin or destination. When you head to places like Bled and Bohinj, you're on a rural bus route, and the bus may not always be exactly on schedule.

The tourist office in Ljubljana can help with schedule information, but the definitive information is at the bus station itself. As of 2015 the person at the information/ticket window was young enough that he spoke very good English. I am guessing that's a job requirement at that station. It's helpful to have an electronic map loaded on a tablet or smartphone so you can follow your progress (via little blue dot) as you approach your destination. There can be confusion about which stop you want within a town, though I recall that the drivers (not necessarily English-speakers) were good about trying to help foreign tourists figure out the situation in Bled.

To get up into the Alps (which I was sorry to miss, but I had no one to split the rental-car cost with, and I cannot drive a manual-transmission car), I think your options are rental car or tour, and with a a group of 3 or 4, the car will clearly be much cheaper.

Piran is considered the most attractive coastal town in Slovenia, I believe. It does have bus service from Ljubljana, but I'm not sure how fast it is. I don't know precisely how much time you have, but I think that would be a big push if your time is limited to around 4 days.

Posted by
4404 posts

Renting a car will be cheaper and more efficient. We always rent a car when we go to Slovenia. We also always rent Airbnb’s.

Posted by
50 posts

Best to rent a car in Slovenia. Much faster and easier to explore, distances are short. Bled is expensive and very easy to do day trip from Ljubljana. Base yourself in Ljubljana, do day trips to Bled, Bohinj, some caves and Piran. All short drive away, only Piran will take more than one hour.
Vrsic Pass you can do a loop from Ljubljana, Kranjska Gora, Vrsic Pass, Soca Valley, Mangart Road, Most na Soci, take Car Train to Bohinj and back to Ljubljana. It will take all day with exploring many beautiful places on the way.

Posted by
18 posts

I can't thank everyone enough for your comments! I have read over your suggestions and shared them with my friends to see if they had more questions which is why I did not respond immediately. At this point, I am considering basing in Ljubljana and taking day trips and take advantage of possibly better pricing with Airbnb. Renting a car to drive the loop through and around the Julian Alps sounds very interesting with the car train back to Ljubljana. I need to check prices on that and how early to make reservations.

I appreciate the links to the public transportation sites. These are helping me to better understand costs and times. Now I am mapping out several itineraries to see what fits. Slovenia certainly sounds like a country where I could easily spend more time and explore more of the country.

Thank you!!

Posted by
4700 posts

You can go ahead and make a car reservation today if you want, if you have a pretty good idea when and where you would rent. There are several sites that offer no-commitment reservations like Sixt and Avantcar (both of which I have used). The prices only go up if you wait. (Don't make a reservation unless there's a reasonable chance you'll rent it, obviously - that wouldn't be fair.) Of course, you might get a better price booking with someone like EconomyCarRentals or Auto Europe, but you have to give a credit card for those and have to cancel 48 hours prior to pick up to get a refund or change it.

I rented just for the day with Avantcar last May - another option, instead of parking the car overnight at your expense. You could just rent a different car every day as desired. (I dropped my car after the office was closed and left keys at the adjacent hotel front desk.)

Posted by
18 posts

Andrew, in checking distances and estimated fees (tolls, tax, gas) with viamichelin.com I see Slovenia charges approximately 15.00 Euro on the highways. Would you know if this is based on distance or each time getting on the highway?

Do Sixt and Avantcar have locations in the city? I would like to avoid the airport tax which can increase the cost of car rental.

Thank you

Posted by
4700 posts

Andrew, in checking distances and estimated fees (tolls, tax, gas) with viamichelin.com I see Slovenia charges approximately 15.00 Euro on the highways. Would you know if this is based on distance or each time getting on the highway?

Slovenia (like Austria, unlike Croatia) doesn't charge tolls on their highways. Instead, they use a driving pass called a vignette that must be attached to the windshield of the car - otherwise, you risk a steep fine. (Not worth the risk not to have it.) But the rental car will most likely come with a vignette if you rent the car in Slovenia - mine always have. You're paying for it with the rental, so don't worry about it.

One other cost to consider is an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your home driver's license. It's debatable whether one needs an IDP to drive in Slovenia, but I always lean on the safe side and get one anyway. They are about $20 USD at AAA in the US and good for one year.

Do Sixt and Avantcar have locations in the city? I would like to avoid the airport tax which can increase the cost of car rental.

Yes, no need to go to the airport. Ljubljana is small in the center, so it's easy to walk to the car rental places. There are big pedestrian-only areas, though, which makes parking one - probably in a lot - an extra expense and inconvenience.

Sixt has a location at the train station. Avantcar has two locations in town I think but the one you probably want is at Trdinova ulica 9 (next to the Central Hotel, at Miklošičeva cesta (a main drag in the north part of the center). This it the Avantcar location I used. I would not stick to just these two companies, either - you can check around. Look at EconomyCarRentals and Auto Europe too (you don't learn the name of the company with them until you book with a credit card, but you can cancel for a refund).

Consider the cost of insurance too. Rental cars come with liability insurance included but usually not collision/comprehensive to coverage damages to the car. There are various ways to handle this; the easiest is just to pay for the rental company's extra insurance. If you use a broker like EconomyCarRentals, they may offer it too. Some people use their credit card's rental car coverage benefit, but after a bad experience with Amex "Premium Rental Car Insurance" a few years ago in Croatia (never got paid for a valid claim), I don't trust them anymore or not so easily. (Long story.) In any case, know up front any extra cost of the insurance - don't feel put-on-the-spot when you show up to pick up the car, know ahead of time how you will handle the insurance.

Posted by
489 posts

Look into VRBO, too. I found great variety in Portugal, Spain and France.
We loved Slovenia and check into the various caves... there are 2 and we loved the one we went to visit.. sorry can't remember the name, but you needed to walk thru it... not the one with the train.