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Is it possible(going solo) to see the Balkins using public transportation.

We may be doing a cruise of Greece. Afterwards, I would like to tour the Balkins using trains etc.
I have experience traveling solo in Western Europe staying in hostels etc. I am guessing the Bulkins would be more difficult in terms of language and currancy.
How difficult would this be to see the Balkins staying in hostels etc?
Any countries you would advise to see.?
Thanks

Posted by
811 posts

Hi Stew,

Are there any specific Balkan countries you are interested in? I know countries like Croatia and at least parts of Bosnia (among others) have seen big upswings in foreign visitors in recent years and their tourist infrastructures are developing rapidly.

Personally, my husband and I traveled through Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia last year and found it relatively easy to get around via a combination of train, bus, and rental car. Currency was easy to acquire through ATMs and we didn't really experience any language issues, as we found a lot of people speak at least some English. I can heartily recommend any of the above countries to visit (and hope to be back in the area soon to see more of the area!).

Posted by
1369 posts

Yours is a very broad question - if you can give us more specifics we may be able to provide a better answer.

In general travel is straightforward if you have done your homework. Travel information can be hard to come by especially in Southern Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. Food and currency shouldn't present any problems as ATMs are easily available. Language can be a problem in those places that use the Cyrillic alphabet such as Albania and Serbia..

As noted before, the train network in the Balkans is limited - if you are traveling extensively you will need to rely more on buses or furgons, etc.

Posted by
19 posts

Albania uses the Roman alphabet. There are several good travel agencies in Tirana that will help you enjoy Albania.

Posted by
238 posts

It looks like the Balkins will be more challanging than Germany or France in terms of getting around.

I was just thinking of going form Greece by train all the way up to Hungary. Maybe Amstedam to fly home.
I guess I would have to buy train tickets as I needed them? Rather than advance.

Posted by
1369 posts

Donna: thanks for the clarification that Albania doesn't use the cyrillic alphabet. However, I have found that even the travel agencies in some of these places (esp S. Montenegro) couldn't help me find where the buses to Albania left from.

Stew - if you are just planning on traversing the Balkans without stopping, you should definitely look at flying if you can get a cheap ticket. If not, the train on the route you are looking at should not be a problem. I'm guessing you will be able to get a train from Athens to Belgrade and from Belgrade there are a few trains daily to Budapest.

Almost all of the countries have something to see. Lake Ohrid in Macedonia is lovely as is Montenegro. Belgrade is lower on the sightseeing scale than Budapest or Dubrovnik. Southern Hungary also has some nice places to stop in - I was quite impressed with Szeged. Albania is more of the beaten path but safe and cheap.

Overall, if you want to travel through the Balkans, it is easily doable provided you have done your homework and know what route you are taking. In places like Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia you will not always get accurate or reliable information if you try winging it.

In all of these countries there is almost no need to book the trains and buses ahead of time - a day before should be ample time.

Posted by
1158 posts

You can try tripadvisor.com to find out about the buses from Albania. There are many locals on that site that might be able to help you.
many people in balcans speak English. What's the difficulty regarding currencies?

Good luck

Posted by
238 posts

Thanks for all the information Arnold and for the others who have helped.
I guess you realy have to research the Balkins.
I have solo traveled Western Europe many times and found it fairly easy.
I expect the Balkins will be different. I like solo traveling after I have done it but at the times it can be scarry or lonely. Probably a car would be better to use but I do like to mix with the locals on their transportation systems.
But a car would get you to some of the interesting places.
I know if you pre book trains in France you can get some good deals.
Would the trains system in the Balkns work the same way?

Posted by
238 posts

Can someone suggest an ittinery for the Balkins leaving from Greece?
I am thinking 14 days.
I could fly into Athens and leave home from another city so I don't have to back track.
I am cheap so I usually stay in hostels.

Posted by
1369 posts

Stew:

Couple of options depending if you want to spend most of your days in the Balkans or just traverse through it.

Start in Athens (2-3 days depending on jet lag), another day or two seeing Delphi & Meteora and then onto Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. After a couple of days, bus/train to Belgrade (via Skopje - though don't stop in Skopje as there isn't much in it). From Belgrade you can make your way towards Budapest stopping in some of the Southern Hungarian towns.

Variation on the above - from Lake Ohrid, make your way to Tirana Albania for a couple of days and then onto Kotor (Montenegro) from where Dubrovnik is easy to get to. You can decide how much time to spend in each place. You can also hit lots of other towns in Montenegro and Croatia on this route.

One route I am thinking of taking is from Athens heading through central Greece to Corfu and from there catching a short ferry to Albania and then traversing Albania.

Do plan well - there are transport links in almost all the areas. One thing to check on is if traveling to Kosovo you may have issues entering Serbia directly.

You will get plenty of good info on Balkanology.com (as mentioned previously), the lonely planet forum (thorntree) and the free guides from inyourpocket.com.

Posted by
16 posts

Travel in the Balkens is pretty good. I am currently living in Bulgaria. Bulgaria has a great train system, and bus system. Travel in the country is a breeze. From Sofia you can go to Istanbul, Bucharest, Belgrade, and Skopje, and Athens is very easy.

Posted by
162 posts

I just returned from a trip to the Balkans and Central Europe. I took the overnight train from Budapest to Belgrade, bus to Sarajevo, bus to Mostar and stayed in a bombed & partially repaired house, bus to Dubrovnik, ferry to Split, train to Zagreb and train to Ljubljana. I much prefer trains even though they are more expensive than buses, but when I took the bus it was my only choice of transport.

There were no language problems, but I stayed in the tourist areas, where everyone speaks English. Currency is no more of a problem than anywhere else that doesn't use the Euro. ATM's are everywhere. The only difficulty I had was exchanging my left over Serbian dinars in Bosnia or Croatia or Slovenia. They didn't want dinars, so I had to wait until I returned to Austria.

In Belgrade I stayed in a hotel because it's relatively cheap. In Sarajevo I stayed in the expensive Holiday Inn simply because it was the famous last refuge of the western journalists in the 1990's war. In Mostar, Dubrovnik and Split I stayed in Sobe. In Zagreb and Ljubljana I stayed in hostels.

I highly recommend Sarajevo, such a pleasant surprise. Mostar is beautiful.