I am planning a trip for next Sep. I am arriving in Munich then to Salzburg where I pick up a car to drive to Slovenia and Croatia. I am definitely doing the peninsula, but was not sure I wanted to spend the time to go all the way down to Dubrovnik since I plan to get to Krakow and debating Budapest. We are not big on just beach watching so I was not sure skipping Dubrovnik was all that bad. Also, we have been to Prague and are definitely going to Krakow, is Budapest a must see?
I can't answer your Croatia questions, as I've never been (although Dubrovnik is certainly more than a "beach town"). But "we have been to Prague and are definitely going to Krakow, is Budapest a must see?" I can help with. Having seen Prague in 2007 and Budapest in 2008, and having just been in Krakow a few weeks ago, I can say that Old Town Krakow is similar in feeling to Prague. But Budapest is VERY different from either one. Whether it's a "must see" is something you will only know once you've seen it (I liked all three cities, but not everyone does). But you certainly won't feel you've "duplicated" your sightseeing by going there. It's double the population of Prague, for one thing, and built on a much bigger and grander scale. And it's much less of a "pretty" or "jewelbox" place and much more of a lived-in city. I have always said that Prague, Budapest, and Vienna are apples, oranges, and bananas. I now say that Prague and the Old Town of Krakow are apples and pears, or oranges and limes - not the same, but clearly similar. I also say that it's important not to expect Budapest to be like other central European cities, or you will be disappointed (as my sister was, having loved Prague, and my friends were, having loved Vienna).
Just returned from a trip to Croatia, part of it on tour and part independently. Dubrovnik is worth seeing, but perhaps doesn't merit a long stay, because it doesn't have the variety of sights that large cities do. You might also consider Split and even some of the small towns on the Istrian peninsula, using Opatija or Ryecka as a base and driving to Porec Pula and some of the walled towns. It's a beautiful country, with lots of English spoken, and relatively inexpensive.
You should not visit the Croatia Adriatic coast without spending some time on the islands. Ferries make it easy even with a car.
Thanks for the advice. I think we will make Dubrovnik, Split and the peninsula towns after hearing from everyone. It is unfortunate that the transportation is so difficult in that area and Dubrovnik is such a long way down the coast. I am trying to rent a car in Dubrovnik and drive up the coast to the peninsula and drop it in Zagreb before training to Budapest. Avis web does not allow dropoff from Dubrovnik. I will try calling. Anyone else had this experience or done this before?
We're on the Dalmatian Coast right now. Gemut arranged our car, with a pick-up in Dubrovnik and drop off in Zagreb. The actual rental company is Fleet. We got an almost new VW Golf diesel, with automatic, even though we didn't ask for it. I think we paid around $550 for two weeks. Also, we liked Dubrovnik even though we aren't beach people. With hindsight, we should have stayed overnight on the Pelejasic peninsula. We thought we might get out to Korcula, but didn't even make it to Orebic. You can pm me if you have more questions.
It is unfortunate that the transportation is so difficult in that area I honestly didn't find it difficult between Split and Dubrovnik. There are frequent and inexpensive buses that run up and down the coast daily. You'll have the same views as renting a car. A car is useful for the real out-of-the way spots, but it's not clear which you want to see and whether you can't get to them without a car.
You have a pretty busy itiniery. How many days are you planning to stay? You have already mentioned Dubrovnik, Salzburg, Munich, Prague, Krakow, and possibly Budapest. If you are staying for 30 or more days, I might do this much but if for under 2 weeks, you must be realistic. What is your current idea of an itiniery? Every stop will require 1/2 day to pack up, move to new location, and unpack. With 6 stops, that is 3 days simply on the necessary parts. Then there is travel time. Salzburg to Dubrovnik is about 7-8 hours in a car. You probably should stop making big plans and concentrate on the actual stops. How many days in each town (3 is what I think is a minimum number). 1 day for travel. THat is about 2 towns per week, and that is not a really relaxing pace. Fewer nights will result in a rushed trip that simply will not be enjoyable.
We just left Croatia after doing two weeks there with a rental car. We flew into Dubrovnik,stayed for four days (maybe two days is enough but we took a tour to Montenegro one day). We picked up the car in Dubrovnik. We rented it from economycarrentals.com which gave us a better rate than I could find dealing directly with actual rental companies. We picked the car up from Sixt (at the Hilton, near the Pile Gate) and for two weeks it was under 340 Euros. Be aware that gas (or diesel) isn't cheap and you will pay some tolls. Also, if you are driving in Slovenia as you mentioned you'll need a vignette. Buy it near the border and stick it on your windshield or you can be nailed with a 150 Euro fine. We took an unscheduled side trip to Italy, came back through Austria, and got nailed ourselves. Twenty minutes in Austria cost us 120 Euro. We knew about Slovenia - didn't know about Austria. An expensive oops. You will want to check to see if any other countries you may be driving in have similar requirements. Driving in Croatia was generally easy, but we did have a problem, in one or two places, finding our sobe. The streets are often one-way, narrow, and winding and we didn't have GPS (although I'm told you can't count on most of them to get the fine details right). Get a good map and be prepared to ask for directions.
I have refined my plans to delete Austria. We will fly into Dubrovnik, spend a couple days, rent the car and head north stopping overnight in Split before getting to Pula/Motovun/Rovinj for a few days. Then drive into Ljub (Slovenia) for a few days onto Zagreb to dump the car with an overnight stay before the morning train to Budapest for three nights and Krakow before flying back. I know it is a little tight with only 16 days on the ground, but we will revisit once retired and time is not an issue. Thanks for everyone's help. This is our eastern expansion onto Europe.
Casey, if you have any time extra at all, try to check out Trogir by Split. Lovely diversion. If you like overlooks and a little hiking, hike up Marjan Hill in Split too - it will be a beautiful view and nice walk along pine forest.
Sounds much more relaxed and do-able. When you are going from Split to Ljubljana, you need to find a way to stop through Plitvice Lakes. If you enjoy natural wonders, this is one of the great natural wonders in Europe. Also the site of the first death in the Balkan War of 1995. It is only a small divergence from Split to Ljubljana, but you will not regret it. It will be a full day. From Split to PL, 5-6 hours by car. If you stay overnight near the park (google "sobe near plitvice" and you will find many places), you can get up early, do the park in 6-7 hours of leisurely hiking, and you are 3 hours from Ljub.
I would spend only 1 night in Ljubljana. We arrived late afternoon and left the next morning. We found we had plenty of time to fit everything in.
On your way from Plitvice (must see) you could stop at Skocjan caves. The caves are amazing and the tour is fast moving and interesting. It is a 3 1/2 hr. drive from Plitvice, a 1 1/2 hr tour with less than a 1 hr. drive to Ljubljana. The countryside in Slovenia is gorgeous and the people are very friendly and helpful.