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Nearly impossible to visit Croatia/Slovenia?

O.k. I realize that is a provacative subject header, but really - these countries seem like extremely difficult desitinations. Flights are crazy expensive, public transportation difficult. Ferry across the Adriatic, according to Rick forget about it. A cheap flight from within Europe in or out forget it, $340 from Split to Rome. Want to go to nearby Greece before or after - no way, too difficult. Thought about flying into Venice but train connections are not great to Ljubjana from there. Does anyone have any tips on how to make this manageable. I know money solves all problems with regard to travel but still.. I do have Rick's Eastern Europe book (though not yet the Slovenia/Croatia book) are not finding a lot of answers there.

Posted by
1878 posts

Thanks for your reply, James. I do think a car might be necessary for some parts for example for Plitvice National Park, and Dubrovnik (unless willing to deal with a very long bus ride from Split). However I would also want to visit some of the bigger cities where a car would be, as Rick likes to say a "worthless headache." Re: Ryanair, the number of European cities they fly into Croatia from seem to be very limited. If we are willing to bite the bullet on the 5.5 hours train ride from Venice to Ljubljana (with a change in Austria),we could go: Venice Ljubjlana Lake Bled Zagreb pick up car at airport Plitvice Lakes National Park Dubrovnik - drop car Ferries to one or more islands: Korkula, Hvar Ferry to Split
Train to Zagreb > fly home This might require two separate stays in Ljubjlana and/or Zagreb, but it it feasible I think.

Posted by
188 posts

It is possible, just may take a different method than usual European planning. From the west coast of Canada we found flying into London and then taking another flight the next day to Dubrovnik worked for us. (One way fare was $160 for 2 people on Thomson Air). We did have to plan all the pieces in advance (maybe 6 months). You seem to want to connect Italy with Croatia and Slovenia which would make sense because of the proximity. However, if transportation is not working out, maybe think about other entry points like Austria and then Ljubljana (or Germany as James has suggested). You are right about public transportation not being as straight forward as in western Europe. But buses are AC and comfortablemore than the trains we took. When are you planning on travelling?

Posted by
1 posts

EasyJet offers inexpensive flights from Rome. I booked my ticket (Rome to Dubrovnik)a few weeks ago and found a fare for 49 euros. You may want to check out this website (www.flycheapo.com). It lists all the "low-cost" carriers that fly into a particular city/country in Europe and it has been very useful for me when planning trips involving several destinations. I always double check the route w/ kayak or orbitz because other carriers might match fares. Good luck w/ your trip!!

Posted by
1437 posts

I disagree with RS - we took the overnight ferry from Italy and were happy with the experience - it's no cruise ship tho, LOL! Here's how we did it: Flight to Venice (few days) Train to Ravenna (couple of days) Train to Ancona train station + taxi to ferry Blueline overnight ferry to Split (inside cabin, booked directly online) Arrived in Split at 7am, walked across the street to the train station, left luggage in a locker 'til noon, then boarded a boat for a 7-nights roundtrip cruise to the islands (inc. Hvar, Korçula, Mljet, etc.) and Dubrovnik. We did the KL2 itinerary from Katarina Lines. Rented a car in Split at the end of the cruise. Shuttle from the boat dock to the airport to pick up the car from Sixt (on our way out of Split). Few days in Trogir (day trips to Split again, the Roman ruins of Salona, Sibenik, Zadar & Nin) Overnight at Plitvice National Park (stayed in a RS rec guesthouse). Few days in Rovinj (explored the Istrian peninsula, inc. Porec & Pula). We left Rovinj for Slovenia and spent the travel day visiting the horse farm in Lipica, Postojna Cave & Predjama Castle. Overnight enroute to Lake Bled, with stops the next morning in Škofja Loka and Radovljica.
Overnight in Bled. We then looped into southern Austria for a few days (Wörthersee, Klagenfurt, Hochosterwitz Castle, Graz & the Sudsteirische Weinstrade wine route). Back into Slovenia and bopped around Maribor, Ptuj, and the Jeruzalem wine route for a few days. We decided to return the car in Opatija in Croatia, an easy highway drive from Ptuj. A pleasant overnight in Opatija. We then took the daily direct train from Opatija to Ljubljana, where we spent a couple of days, before taking again a direct train to Salzburg.

Posted by
1437 posts

We achieved a few cost-cutting measures with this itinerary: - We flew into Venice and out of Vienna - much lower airfare. - Train fares in 2nd class Venice-Ravenna, Ravenna-Ancona + Opatija-Ljubljana, Ljubljana-Salzburg - Inside cabin on the ferry to Split, with sink & toilet - "A" class boat for the KL2 cruise (I wouldn't recommend going lower...) - We picked up & dropped off the car in Croatia
- We stayed in self-catering apartments (the 3-nights minimum usually worked cheaper than 2 nights elsewhere...) and guesthouses. Instead of Opatija, you can drop the car off in Zagreb and take the multiple daily trains to Ljubljana. Ljubljana is easiest without a car... Instead of taking a train from Ljubljana to Salzburg, you can take a direct train to Graz or Vienna. The return airfare from Austria is much, much cheaper and worth the detour. Just remember that distances are not great, especially in Slovenia. This was a trip in the Fall, when prices are much cheaper. I would never consider doing this trip in the summer months.

Posted by
129 posts

I totally understand where you are coming from. I just returned from a 3 week trip to Slovenia and Croatia, (6 weeks total including Portugal, Germany, Austria, and Holland). These countries are not nearly as accessible as France and Italy. However, I like it. I would recommend renting a car for the two countries, especially Croatia as it is such a long country and there are several great parts throughout the country. Bus/train service is limited. I've had great luck in flights in/out Croatia, though. Flew easyjet from Split-Amsterdam to catch our US-bound flight at the end. Last year, flew easyjet from Dubrovnik to Milan. If it is too difficult, you could also take a RS tour and let them take care of the transportation. I flew Dublin-Dubrovnik last year on Aer Lingus from west coast US which was cheap $1000. All depends on time of year. You can try US Airways to Vienna or Prague and catch a train to Ljubljana.

Posted by
5011 posts

Heh. Using frequent flyer miles, I just booked two tickets from Seattle to Ljubljana (Seattle to Frankfurt nonstop on Lufthansa, connecting to Ljubljana on Adria Airways). Returning from Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik to Frankfurt on Croatia Airlines, Frankfurt to Seattle nonstop on Lufthansa) for next May. My cost was about a hundred bucks per person plus the miles. So it can be done on the cheap. Just takes some extra planning.

Posted by
1878 posts

Lots of good ideas here. Coming in from Austria is a good one, though it adds a few days. If you want to go to Salzburg and Munich or Vienna as well, that works. (I would have a hard time going to Austria without a stop at Halstatt where we were for one night in 2006). Frequent flier miles United has this catch where the mile are only good on United flights.. not the connections that are d by partners like Lufthansa. Doh!... all my miles are on United which pretty much limits you to London or Frankfurt from SFO. It just goes to show you, we have to be more wily that ever to travel these days. Keep the good ideas coming, online travel friends!

Posted by
5011 posts

VS, some data points/observations/opinions:
1. Many agents you speak with at United (or any airline) are poorly informed, lazy, or otherwise unable or unwilling to give you answers that are truthful and complete - especially when it comes to award travel. The fact is, you need to be the better informed member of the conversation. 2. There are no "special circumstances". 3. There are, however, "capacity controls" - which dictate how many seats on any given flight are available for award tickets. That number is usually very, very small. So to ensure greater chances of success, you must get there first, before someone else grabs the seats you want. The competition for award seats on high-demand flights (say, a non-stop to Paris in the summer) is fierce. 4. The entire process is generally shrouded in mystery and complex rules - deliberately. The exact availability of award seats is one of the hardest things to determine, and (I know this sounds crazy but it's true) the information you are given by the airline's agents is often completely wrong (sometimes intentionally). 5. All of the murkiness and complexity multiples when you are trying to use miles from one airline's program on flights from another airline. 6. Remember that it is in the interest of the airline to make it so difficult/inconvenient/expensive/annoying to use your miles that you end up just saying to heck with it and buying a ticket. The next best thing for them is to get you to use more miles than you need to (effectively paying double) and/or take a less desirable flight and/or keep you on their own flights rather then have you use a partner's flights. It's in your best interest to not do any of those things. It's also possible to get around every limitation they throw at you. It just takes some knowledge and determination.

Posted by
5011 posts

If they told you that you couldn't go from point A to point B on a particular flight on a particular date on airline X, they probably didn't say it could not be done (although you may have interpreted their answer to mean that). It just means that you couldn't do it with that particular set of parameters. Somebody else probably grabbed the seats you wanted, that's all. The keys to getting what you want are: 1. Know the system. Be better informed than the agent you're talking to and know all your options.
2. Be as flexible as you can (travel dates, destination, routes, airlines, flights, program rules). If you're fully informed before you begin the conversation (see #1 above), you may not need to be very flexible. If you're trying to do this at the 11th hour, you'll need to be very flexible (and probably lucky, too). 3. Start very early. If you can start making your plans over a year in advance, that will help a lot. Flights are (usually) bookable about 11 months in advance. Start trying for your award travel seats as soon as they're bookable. I know this sounds crazy to some folks, but if you could save many thousands of bucks, might it be worth it to you? 4. Things change. What was true last month (or an hour ago) may no longer be true right now. The thing that changes the most is award seat availability. Usually that does not improve with the passage of time, but seats do sometimes open up. If you get a "no", try again for a yes later. See #1 above. Finally - Rick's website is an awesome source of info on European travel, but it's not a particularly useful source of info on playing the frequent flyer game successfully. Look elsewhere for that education. Google "FlyerTalk". And now, back to our thread about Croatia and Slovenia. Sorry for the little cul-de-sac.

Posted by
5011 posts

VS, you need to learn more about frequent flyer miles. Your statement "Frequent flier miles United has this catch where the mile are only good on United flights" is utterly and completely wrong, and wildly self-limiting. I used United miles for the trip described above (flying non-stop from Seattle to Frankfurt on Lufthansa). I won't be setting foot on any United planes for this trip. FWIW I've flown all over the world using "United" miles on dozens of airlines. Go to United's website and search for "Star Alliance" to see a (partial) list of the many, many airlines you can use those miles on. If you don't want to waste your FF miles (and most people do), you need to get educated about how the game works. The airlines don't make that easy (they count on the vast majority of people to not understand the rules of the game) but it's an incredibly valuable way to travel on the cheap. Learn how it really works and you can do a lot more traveling using those miles. To really get good value out of your FF miles you will need to invest some time to learn the finer points, but it's well worth it.

Posted by
100 posts

Hi Paul from Palo Alto, i am Kiley from San Carlos. Our family of 4 just got back from Venice, Slovenia and Croatia last week. We had a great time, one of your better vacations. Here was our transportation itinerary: (3 weeks)
Flew into Zurich, then Zurich to Venice Took a bus from Venice to Villach, Austria and a short train ride to Lake Bled Train from Lake Bled to Ljubljana Picked up a rental car in Ljubljana and drove to Plitvice, then down to Split Dropped off the rental car at the airport near Split Ferry to Korcula The day we left, Korcula ferries weren't going to Dubrovnik, so we took a shuttle bus to Dubrovnik (which worked out fine, in fact, i think the shuttle bus was faster than the ferry-Korkyra tours) We flew from Dubrovnik to Zurich, then to SFO. Please let me know if you have more questions, karin

Posted by
1878 posts

Last time I tried to fly with miles, United told me I could only use them for the leg from SFO to Frankfurt, and that I would have to pay $600 for the legs from FRA to BUD, and back from PRG to FRA which were on Lufthansa. Maybe for some reason that was a special case, but it certainly is not the case that all partner flights are covered. Unless the United rep was just wrong about their own program.

Posted by
1878 posts

I checked with United again and they said sure enough, you can use miles all the way to fly into Ljbujlana and out of Dubrovnik. They could not explain why we were not allowed to use miles to book the entire trip from SFO to Budapest and from Prague back to SFO, just a few months ago. That does not solve the really inconvenient flight schedules, but it does make things cheaper since I have a lot of miles. Actually the more I think about it, the idea of starting in Italy or Austria really is a good option. And we could do a loop from Split down to Dubrovnik, back up through the islands back to Split and then back to Zagreb to fly home from where the flights are a lot more convenient. Your itineraries are really helpful, thanks again to all!

Posted by
2140 posts

We just went in June to Vienna- Budapest- Plitvice- Split-Ljubljana- Vienna. It was ridiculously easy. We had a car. When in Budapest, we simply didn't use the car - we parked it for several days. No problem. Fly to Budapest or Vienna. Rent a car. Problem solved.

Posted by
3696 posts

I rented a car in Venice and drove to Croatia... really beautiful drive and easy. Can't remember if I dropped the car in Venice or Rome, but in Italy there was not extra drop fee.
Also, with frequent flyer miles whenever I don't get the answer I want I simply thank them, hang up and call again. They only have just so much patience to help you so if I have worn them out with checking a variety of dates and locations I start over with someone new. Many times when I have been told there is nothing I have gotten something, but I am flexible, I just want to use miles when I can and not pay for a ticket (and the minimum number of miles... not the premium)