Itinerary Help - Dubrovnik / Bosnia / Slovenia

A friend are planning a two week trip to Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia. We'll be arriving in Dubrovnik early morning via the Bari/DBV ferry and are planning to spend three nights in DBV, two in Bosnia and three in LBJ. I've been reading the posts, and it seems like there is SO much to see in each of these regions, I am wishing we had more time! We were planning to rent a car in DBV and drop it off in Slovenia, but the car rental agency will not permit us to take the car into Bosnia. Wondering how others have handled the situation? Also, my friend is more interested in spending the night in Mostar, and I in Medugorje. We calculated the towns as about 3 km apart. Is this accurate? Any suggestions on which town to stay in would be appreciated. A couple of other questions: - Bosnia sounds beautiful. It is worth spending a couple of extra nights to explore the surrounding areas and if so, is it easy to rent a car in Mostar or Medugorjoe without advance reservations? - Any other recommendations for sites to see along the route from DBV to Slovenia would also be welcomed. Our flights depart from Milan. We are planning to take a bus from LBJ to Venice, and then hop a train to Milan, where we will spend the night before heading home the next day.

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

I can't help you with the rental car problem or offer alternatives as I had my own car when I traveled through that area last year, but I can say do not miss Bosnia, especially Mostar and Sarajevo. The road between those two towns is especially scenic. Also, there is a little town an hour across the border called Pocitelj which is worth spending an hour or two wandering in. Unfortunately I didn't go to Medugorje so can't comment on that vs Mostar. In fact, depending on the type of traveler you are I would shorten the Dubrovnik portion of this - Dubrovnik is beautiful in a special way, but also in the way the worst parts of way Florence or Prague are - a bunch of beautiful old buildings just flooded by tourists and the businesses that cater to them - just feels a tad bit soulless to me. Some people don't mind that, and others would disagree with me, so take that with a grain of salt.

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

Yes, you are right that there is SO much to see in these areas! Here are a few random thoughts I have regarding some of your questions: - Have you checked with more than one car rental agency about taking a car into BiH? If you can't find one, there is a daily bus service between Dubrovnik and Mostar that we found efficient (I think it also stops in Medjugorje). Additionally, something to be aware of is that if you pick up a rental car in Croatia and drop it in Slovenia there is usually an often hefty inter-country drop fee. - The distance between Mostar and Medjugorje is more like 15 miles, give or take a couple. - We loved Bosnia (although I may be a little biased, as we were engaged there) and I'm always a proponent for spending more time there. - Assuming you are a US citizen, you do not need additional papers beyond a passport to travel to Bosnia (including Sarajevo). Speaking of Sarajevo, if you have the time then I would highly recommend a visit. You can even day-trip it from Mostar. (continued...)

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

- As for Mostar vs. Medjugorje, I can't offer any advice except to say I believe Mostar is significantly larger and will have many more restaurant/lodging options. - We did a day trip to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro and did it by renting a car for a day from Dubrovnik. It was easy and great for us (and I'm glad we did it), although there are also a couple of tour companies that will take you down there from Dubrovnik on a day tour (check with Atlas and Elite, if I'm not mistaken). You definitely don't need a car in Dubrovnik, so I'm throwing this out there if you didn't want to do a separate one-day rental. - As for adding more destinations, I'd be hesitant to do that. If I am reading this correctly, you only have 8 nights and already an interest in 3 countries (4 if you count Montenegro). I don't think you have enough time as it is! (or is it a two-week trip but you only have 8 nights spoken for already?)

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Thank you! curious to know how many days you would advise in Bosnia? Also, I've heard Montenegro is beautiful. In your opinion, is it worth a day trip? (Thinking we could use our third day in Dubrovnik for the side-trip.) Lastly, (well, almost!) do you think having a car the entire time is advised? I think it would give us greater flexibility, but don't know what we would do with it should we decide to go to one of the islands for a day or so. Now lastly! - I am assuming we would need another set of papers to cross the border into Sarajevo. Do you know if that's true? Thanks again for your help!

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Hi Angela, Thanks so much for your replies. We have 14 days total - as of now, we are planning to spend 3 nights in DBV, 3 in Slovenia, and 2 in Bosnia, although we may increase our time in Bosnia as it sounds like there is much to do and see there. That gives us 7 free days (we were originally planning only one night in Bosnia). I am craving the sea, so would like to go to one of the islands for a night. I know nothing about them, so will have to investigate which - right now it seems like a choice between Hvar and Kurcula. Does it make sense to go from DBV to one of these two islands, then pick up a car in Split and drive to Bosnia? Then up to Slovenia from there? Maybe we are trying to do too much in too short a period fo time. I've read the distance between the DBV and Ljubljana is 300 km - but then someone else said it was more like 700 km if we drive along the coast. I can't get an accurate read on google, so not sure. We fly home out of Milan on 29 August, so will leave Slovenia on 28 August and spend our last night in Milano. As of now, our only reservations are in DBV and Milan. We would like to keep our schedule flexible, but as we will be traveling in August, I'm wondering how easy it will be to find a place without pre-booking. Appreciate any thoughts. Thanks much.

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

Hi Teri, We were there in a March, when tourist traffic was at a minimum, and we didn't make it to any of the islands due to weather concerns (and time restrictions). So I'll leave the advised routing to someone with more experience. Our route took us from Dubrovnik to Mostar via bus (with side trip to Sarajevo), then bus from Mostar to Split, where we rented a car for the rest of the trip. Ok, I said I'd leave routing to other, more experienced hands, but if you can't find a car to take into BiH, maybe do a similar route as us but from Split go to Hvar (or Brac?) and back and then rent a car for the rest? For distances and directions you may want to use http://www.viamichelin.com. According to that site, DBV to Ljubljana is 403 miles (649 km). I recall the main motorways being in excellent condition, having been mostly rebuilt following the war in the 1990s. As for lodging, again, we were there in early shoulder season and you'd have no troubles finding rooms then. But, being August, you may want to consider booking ahead. Croatia and Slovenia are summer hotspots, especially among other European travelers. Lastly, if you haven't seen this website already, you may find it useful when planning: http://www.croatiatraveller.com Hope at least some of this helps and happy planning!

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Thanks Angela, The information is a great help! Take good care,
Teri

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Teri, in May we spent about 2 1/2 weeks in Croatia (mostly) and (some) Slovenia, with a day trip to Kotor, Monetenegro. Your plans seem inefficient, and perhaps somewhat unrealistic to me. If you want to go to these countries, you should not be flying into or out of Italy - you're throwing away a full day (or more) on either end - with a trip so short, you can't afford to waste those days. We did not go Bosnia so can't offer any opinions there. We loved our day trip to Kotor from Dubrovnik (rented a car for the day). I think you need to take a hard look at your plan - Bosnia & Slovenia are countries, not cities - where exactly do you plan to spend time in them? Your plan looks like it involves a lot of driving around and not a lot of time being anyplace (other than Dubrovnik). I agree that you should take a look at viamichelin.com - but ignore the distances, and focus on the driving times (then add a bit for getting lost, wandering, stopping to take pictures, etc.). It's true, there is so much to see in this area, and it appears you would be zooming past all of it. You might consider cutting down the scope of your trip (significantly) and trying to see the places you might otherwise drive by. Also - check into the stunningly high "drop off fee" you will pay to rent a car in one country and drop it in another. Hope some of that helps.

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Hi David, Thanks for your reply. I am already in Italy. Have been here for several months, and will be heading south to Puglia shortly, so taking the ferry over to DBV seems to make the most sense. My friend has already made travel arrangements and will be meeting me in Lecce. IF I had to do it over again, perhaps skipping Puglia would have been a better option, but as it stands now, that's the plan. I am starting to feel the same way - like we need to slow down a bit. I've heard two or three days in DBV is enough, so the ride to Montenegro might be nice for Day 3. Re the car rental, I called Kemwel (a car rental agency) and they estimated the drop off fee in Slovenia at 125 Euro; if it's accurate, that's not bad. Curious to know your experience? And did you rent the car for your day trip to Kotor directly from an agency in DBV or set it up beforehand? Thanks again!

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

I am starting to work on a more specific itinerary. This is a work in progress, but curious to get your feedback on my thoughts, thus far. - 3 days in DBV (including one day trip to Montenegro - can look into car rental for the day or take a tour) - 1 or 2 nights in Hvar and/or Korcula - Pick up a rental car in Split. Drive to Mostar. Spend 2 -4 nights in Mostar with a couple of day trips. (I want enough time to spend at least a 1/2 day in Medugorje.) - Start working our way up north - perhaps a stop at Plitvice Lakes Nat'l Park, and a couple of days in Zagreb - Our last 3 nights in or around Ljubljana. I want to be close to the water. My friend wants the city. As we leave out of of Ljubljana the morning of August 28, we'll spend at least our last night there. (Thoughts on how to get both of our needs met around this would be great.) Is this still too much? Again - so appreciate the help with planning! I want to return home feeling like we really enjoyed ourselves, rather than feeling tired and burned out.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Yes, I agree that 3 days in DBV (with one of those days being spent as a side trip to Kotor) is enough. Actually, I'd say a day-and-a-half in DBV is probably plenty - in case you can manage to head out to your next destination in the afternoon of day 3. We were quoted (IIRC) about 600 euro for a dropoff fee. So we rented one car for Slovenia, another for Croatia, and managed to get across the border by bus (which was fairly tricky). I'd look carefully at the total cost for your car rental - if the rate is high, then the relatively low dropoff fee may not be such a bargain (and I'd agree that 125 euro is not bad). We arranged our cars through gemut.com and got what seemed to be a good price. Yes, for the day trip to Kotor, we arranged the car rental locally, the day before, through our sobe. Worked out great. We spent 1/2 a day in Hvar and were ready to move on, it felt kind of pretentious to us - I'm sure others love it. We greatly preferred Korcula (spent 2 nights there which was plenty, but it was relaxing). Plitvice is definitely worth a stop - 1/2 day is plenty, you can walk both lakes in about 4 hours. It's a bit out of the way, though. We didn't go to Zagreb so cant help you there. Does your friend require salt water or would a pretty alpine lake do the trick? If so the obvious answer is a day or so at Lake Bled, close to Ljubljana (in fact, about equidistant from LJU airport). Hope that helps. It's a great area, I'm sure you'll like it.

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Gosh, thanks David. Your feedback is fantastic. The rental fee Kemwel quoted was $885 (US) for a 13 day rental, plus the 125 E drop off fee for. Curious to know how that compared with the rental agency you used?

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

PS: I'm the one with the craving for water and MUCH need the sea / ocean as opposed to a lake. Can't tell you how helpful everyone's feedback has been.
Tremendous!

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

This is just a thought based purely on personal opinion, but instead of spending a couple days in Zagreb have you considered a few days in a seaside town on the Istrian Peninsula? This way you would get your sea fix and after that you could head to Ljubljana to satisfy your friend's wants of being in a city. We spent our last night in Zagreb and granted, probably didn't give it enough time, but after spending a couple weeks tooling around with gorgeous scenery, Zagreb was a lowlight for us. I also agree with David that 1 1/2 days for Dubrovnik is enough, so if you were there 3 nights (2 days) and spent one of those days in Montenegro that would be great.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

IIRC our two rentals combined were about US$600 for 2 weeks (1 week in Slovenia, 1 week in Croatia - two different cars, one per country, so zero dropoff fee). It appears you're looking at over $1000 US, so maybe that's not such a smokin' deal. FWIW I've always had great luck with gemut.com (they arranged our rentals) and think they're worth a shot - they'll typically match or beat any other quote, are a pleasure to work with, and can act as your advocate if anything goes sideways with the rental. I'd give them a call and see what they can come up with. Ultimately, the dropoff fee may be the thing that dings you (whether its hidden elsewhere in the rates or not). Avoiding a dropoff fee can be complicated; we managed to do that but required careful planning and some hoop-jumping. Angela has a good suggestion: I can't vouch for how worthy Zagreb is relative to other stops (I didn't go there) but if the sea is calling - and you don't get your fix from the southern Dalmatian coast (after all, Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korcula and Split are all on the seacoast), then Rovinj is the obvious last call for you as you head north. A very pretty town, it feels like an old Italian hilltown that was plopped on the Adriatic (or, a bit like a tiny Venice turned inside out). It feels very Italian, and is quite charming. Don't entirely discount Lake Bled, though. It may not be the ocean, but it's "Hello Kitty cute" (if you pardon the expression). Reminded me a lot of Halstatt and the Austrian Salzkammergut. Not the ocean, but really worthwhile.

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Ok, one more question here: We are thinking of spending two - three days in Bosnia. Possible itinerary: Day one in Mostar, Day two half-day in Medjugorje with a ride to Sarajevo in the afternoon of the 2nd day. (because of the beautiful drive!) Is this too much to fit into two days? Thanks much!

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

I personally think the Day 2 is too much to try to fit in with Medjugorje and Sarajevo. Assuming you'd like to visit Medjugorje for religious reasons, there is no telling how much time you'll want to spend and you likely don't want to feel rushed. Compounding that is the fact Sarajevo is a city with a ton of things to see, and I would strongly advocate spending a full day there. If you are roughly sticking to the itinerary you posted above, I would suggest that you pick up your rental car in Split in the morning and stop in Medjugorje on your way to Mostar. ViaMichelin.com says it will take a couple hours to drive, but remember you'll have to stop at border control and that could take a varying amount of time depending on traffic. Spend time in Medjugorje before heading off to Mostar and don't worry about feeling rushed because you have two more days - one to spend in Mostar and one to spend in Sarajevo. By the way, if you didn't want to drive from Mostar to Sarajevo there is regular bus service and a limited train service (unless the train has added more routes). They more or less follow the same route along the river valley and the scenery is beautiful, probably exactly what you would see if you drove yourselves but this way you could spend more time looking out the window. Oh, and in case you haven't seen this, In Your Pocket makes a great little free guide you can download for Sarajevo: http://www.inyourpocket.com/bosnia-herzegovina/Sarajevo (free download along the left hand column)

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Thanks Angela, That's really helpful feedback. It felt rushed, but also didn't want to spend a half-day on something that might not be as interesting as I think it might. I am not religious - but spiritual and have just felt moved to visit the Medugorje while in the area. So, three days is Bosnia it is. We haven't yet decided on the car rental, but we're still thinking of renting in DBV and driving from there, including taking the car onto Korcula. I may have misunderstood, but I was under the impression we could drive onto the island - like maybe there was a bridge we could go over. Just looking to make things easy and with transportation that gives us lots of flexibility.

Posted by Angela
Chicago/Rural WI
809 posts

Three days in Bosnia would be great, but if you only had two full days (3 nights) then one of those full days could be spent on a split between Mostar and Medjugorje (with the other full day devoted to Sarajevo). The Old Town of Mostar is small, and if you were basing yourselves there you'll likely have enough time to see all that you are interested in. This is something to keep in mind in case you didn't want to stop in Medjugorje on your way from Split. Otherwise, three full days (4 nights) would be great so maybe you could see a bit more of the area. I sure wish we had devoted more time there and would like to go back for a more in-depth visit someday. I am pretty sure there is no bridge to Korcula, I believe the only way to get there is via ferry (of which I think they have passenger and car ferries). Hopefully David or someone else will chime in with their experiences and pros and cons of getting a car to the island considering the costs and other factors. In the meantime, check out the Croatia Traveller link (above) and there should be all sorts of information about getting around the islands. Good luck!

Posted by Oliver
Athens
5 posts

Hi Teri. I think Mostar is much more worthwhile than Medugorje for staying in. You can easily do a day trip from Mostar, and the area is very nice, but unless you want to pray all the time, stay in Mostar. Sarajevo is a must. And the road between Sarajevo and Mostar is spectacular (In my opinion). Here's something about Sarajevo; Your text to link here...

Posted by Oliver
Athens
5 posts

Something else interesting about Bosnia; Your text to link here... The previous one should have been; Your text to link here... Enjoy Bosnia.

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

There's no bridge to Korcula that I know of. There are several different ferries, and possibly a little water taxi. Don't know the details about getting a car onto the island - be sure to check schedules carefully. I can't imagine a good reason to take a care there - do you really need one? Consider leaving your car on the mainland and just walking on a ferry.

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Hi.Thanks again for all the help and suggestions. I got back from my trip about 6 weeks ago. Croatia is absolutely beautiful. We did take our car onto Korcula Island and so glad we did. It gave us complete flexibility and allowed us to find a lovely beach (sorry - can't think of the name of it at the moment) that we would have never have gotten to without it. Parking was easy (though likely not for everyone!). We were fortunate. The drive to Slovenia was far, but the Croatian coastline is stunningly beautiful and am glad we drove it. We spent two nights in Sarajevo, as opposed to Mostar. It was a lovely drive, though a bit far to travel for a side trip, considering the amount of time we were spending in the car, and for some reason, it took us 4.5 hours - much longer than anticipated. I loved Mostar, though only had time for a quick stopover. I also loved Medugorje. Not everyone's cup of tea, but the spiritual energy and dedication that people have to their healing process was touching to witness. Blessings to all,
Theresa

Posted by Marcia
Spokane, WA, USA
8 posts

We took a bus between Dubrovnik & Mostar. It was an OK ride (kind of warm one day when the AC was weak and it was 100+ outside). Bus leaving Mostar was late, so don't cut yourself too short on time for onward travel. We stayed 2 nights in Mostar and loved it. It's a fascinating place and I would highly recommend. The nearby town of Pocitelj is very interesting too (old stone town built up a hill with defensive walls around itvery few tourists when we were there.) We hired a taxi to drive us from Mostar to Pocitej (30 min). He waited 90 min for us while we looked around and drove us back for 30 euros total. Well worth it! I'm not sure, but I think Medugorje is more than 3 km from Mostar. We stayed at Pansion Cardak in Mostar(not in Rick's book). It was very nice, good AC, well-located near the bridge, and the hostess was so nice! She helped us with the taxi ride and took us to/from bus station. I would agree with an earlier post about DBV. It is definitely someplace to visit and the wall is neat, but it was my least favorite place in Croatia. Very touristy, too many people, and I felt like the restaurants, etc were only interested in our money. 2 nights were plenty for us. Have you checked into the drop fee for the car in another country? Sometimes that is super expensive. We loved Istria! Bale, near Rovinj, is a great backdoor town. (small medieval town with very few tourists but good base to visit Rovinj & Pula) Have fun!

Posted by Kay
Minneapolis, Mn, USA
37 posts

We were in Croatia last week. We spent 2 nights in Dubrovnik and that was plenty. The wall walk is great and not crowded. A few churches, which we like very much. We hired a private tour guide who drove us to Ston, a walled city, then Mostar, and Medjagorie and then on to Split. A wonderful day! We were picked up at 8 and arrived in Split at 5.

Posted by Teri
Brooklyn, New York, USA
40 posts

Hi Marcia, We have already come and gone from Croatia and have been back in the US for a couple of months now. Re the car, we picked it up in DBV and dropped it off in Slovenia. The drop fee as somewhere around $100 - not bad at all. The ride from Mostar to Medugorje is more like 30 km, if I remember correctly. Glad you enjoyed your time in Mostar. As I said, I loved it, but only had a couple of hours there. Such a shame. On to the next journey! Happy trails to all!