Into the Balkans

Into the Balkans

This is a travel itinerary of 10 days into the Balkans where we visited the entire coast of Montenegro, areas around Dubrovnik and the highlights of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because of bad flight connections from Romania, we traveled by our own car for a total of approx. 2000 kilometers. Our budget was only EUR 500 for transportation, accommodation and pocket money. In order to save some money, we spend our nights in camp sites and hostels.

It’s well-known that traveling by your own car implies risks that can affect your journey. But we were lucky. Nothing bad happened to the car, but we were denied to cross the border to Serbia, due to the fact that we couldn’t find our registration certificate. After a one-hour intensive search in every single place of the car, we finally found it. Of course, we were looking like we stole the car, but we couldn’t care less. We cross the border to Serbia and that was the only thing that mattered!

Tips


follow only the main national roads; avoid the roads through the mountains even though they look like a tempting shortcut;
– check for the places where we parked our car, so you don’t need to pay parking fees;
– make sure you got some extra cash on you; most places in Bosnia and Herzegovina don’t accept card payments;
– don’t leave without trying Plejkavica, Ćevapi or Bosnian coffee.

road-to-montenegro

Day 1 | Romania – Coast of Montenegro

In order to reach Montenegro, we had to cross Serbia entirely. Speed limit on national roads is 80 km/h and you don’t need vignette. You just need to pay tolls when you access the highway. It was hard to travel on the national roads, because there were a lot of ascents and the roads were bumpy. So, you can expect a significant increase in your fuel consumption and a driving through rain and fog.

Since most of the cars in this country are from early 90’s including antique models like Yugo or Zastava, the traffic was really slow and had increased significantly our travel time to the destination. We were lucky enough to witness a serious accident of a truck, which blocked both ways on the road. It wasn’t accessible anymore for a couple of hours. They deviated us to a narrow non-paved road through the woods. It looked like our car almost changed its original color, from dark black to light grey.

zastava in balkans

We were informed that it would be a good idea to avoid Kosovo, due to political disputes there, so from Nis we followed the way to Novi Pazar and we were waiting to reach the border with Montenegro. After a 30-minute waiting to cross the mountainous border we entered on Montenegrin territory. We recommend to have a passport with you, because the entry stamp is useful at some of the accommodations.

At first sight, Montenegro looks more developed than Serbia and the roads were significantly better. Of course mountains were present there as well and the lack of highways made us travel in the same manner, slowly. Similar to Serbia, the speed limit was 80 km/h on national roads and you don’t need vignette. After we passed Podgorica on the transit route we needed to pay the fee of EUR 2.50 for the tunnel that bypasses the mountain in order to reach the Montenegrin coast.

Unfortunately after all day of slowly driving with a lot of ascents we were unable to reach our camp site at Bartula – My Olive Garden Camp, where we planned to camp there for two nights. Being almost 23:00 o’clock, the best way to spend the night was to sleep into the car. We needed to find a place next to the sea, to have a stunning view in the morning.

morning-view
Montenegrin-coast

Day 2 | Ulcinj & Olive Garden Camp Site

We were so tired, that the car-sleeping really didn’t bother us at all. After a breakfast with a sea view at 8:00 we were heading to Ulcinj for sightseeing and bath into the sea.

Ulcinj is a famous destination for tourists with a population of approx. 10.000, the majority being Albanians and the largest spoken language is Albanian. Most of the Albanians are muslims and that is the reason why we saw several mosques in the city. To keep the beauty of the city, I think there is a rule in constructing a building, with white walls and a brick-red roof. Together with the narrow medieval streets, this pattern gives a nice image of this city.

ulcinj

The free parking offered us no concerns about our car and we could have a nice morning-walk in the city. We visited the Ulcinj old town and we went up to the castle as well. When the sun decided to make its appearance, guess what we had seen from the castle? Exactly. The beach!

When we went back to our car to take our beach towels and the other stuff, we realized that everybody was looking strange at it. First, we thought that is because of the foreign number plates, but they were barely visible because the car was extremely dirty.

On the beach, we spent a couple of hours relaxing and we actually got a nice tan. The water was crystal-clear, very clean but it was a bit cold.

Being almost the midday, we needed to get to a car wash, so it won’t be the dirtiest from every parking we park.  We found a local car wash next to Bar, where they charge EUR 3 for an exterior wash. After they made fun about our car because it was the dirtiest of the week and they asked us where we came from with all the pine needles below it, we were amused to see that they are still washing the cars in an old way, with a bucket and a sponge full of soap. As it’s harder to wash it in this way and not with a water-broom, it was needed two people to wash it. That dirty it was!

Happy that we finally have a clean car, it was the time to go to Bartula – My Olive Garden Camp and install our tent there. Sleeping at this camp site proved to be a great choice. It was surrounded by green trees, mostly olive and cherry trees. There exists an easy hiking trail through the woods that offers stunning views over the city of Stari Bar and coast.  The entire place was surrounded by olive trees, this being the main family business there. These trees grow only until 800 meters altitude where the Mediterranean climate can reach.

view-over-stari-bar
olive-garden-camp
breakfast-in-camp

Day 3 | Budva & Sveti Stefan

After a lovely breakfast between the olive trees, we packed our tent and were heading to Budva. Six kilometers before reaching Budva, you can find Sveti Stefan which is a small islet and a 5 star hotel with private beaches. We weren’t allowed to enter in the building, not even to cross the first gate of the bridge actually. But no worries. You can hang out into the complex on the mainland where you can obtain great pictures of the island. If you come by car, don’t go further down to the hotel parking lot, because it’s not free. Park it 100 meters before the main gate and it will be free of use.

sveti-stefan

In Budva, a well-known destination over the Balkans, we stayed at a hostel right in the old town, called Freedom Hostel. Montenegrins are really friendly and hospitable, welcoming us with shots of rakija made of apples, specific for the Balkans. In this city, we were lucky that we could park our car wherever wasn’t marked and it didn’t block any entry. Even though the parking spots are limited, we found a couple of spots on Dositejeva street, which is located 15 minutes from the old town.

The Old Town of Budva is situated on a rocky peninsula and is encircled with defensive stone walls with 3 gates. The fortifications of Budva are typical of the Medieval walled cities of the Adriatic, complete with towers, embrasures, fortified city gates and a citadel, where you need to pay EUR 2.50 to get access to it. Inside of the citadel, there is a restaurant, a museum and the top walls of the old town where you can admire the old town from above. Besides this, we got a nice view of the wild island of Sveti Nikola and the coast with the two separated beaches. It was nice spending the evening inside the walls.

sveti-nikola-island
view-of-citadel
inside-the-walls

Day 4 | Budva

After checking the car in the morning we decided to spend the day on the beach nearby. There are two beaches where you can choose either to stay on the sunbeds for EUR 15 for two persons or to stay for free on the beach towel. The water is very clear and clean, but the stones were removed only where the sunbeds were. If you want a nice experience, you can do cliff jumping at the end of the beach as well as taking great photos of the old town.

If you are staying more than two days in Budva, take a short trip to Sveti Nikola island, which is a popular excursion site in this area. You won’t find any stores or bars there, but make sure you get a nice tan on the sandy beaches, accessible only by taxi boats.

After getting a nice tan on the beach, we spend our evening eating the specialties of Balkans like Ćevapi, which is a grilled dish of minced meat, as a type of skinless sausage. Similar to this is Pljeskavica, which contains spiced meat patty mixture of pork, beef and lamb. Just 3 minutes away from the old town, there are lots of souvenir shops and restaurants where you can have dinner with the local singers. The atmosphere is really nice and lively and you can have a romantic walk on the beach as well.

view-over-budva
budva-port
cevapi

Day 5 | Kotor

Kotor has no beaches, but on the way from Budva lies the Jaz Beach with lots of sunbeds and camping places. All the way to Kotor, we drove along the coast and we passed lots of tunnels.

Kotor is the most popular city in Montenegro and is full of groups of tourists and solo travelers. Hotel Fjord, which was abandoned for a couple of years offers a big parking place, free of charge.

Kotor has one of the best preserved medieval old towns in the Balkans and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is home to numerous sights, such as the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon and the ancient walls which stretch above the city. If you are looking for a great dish or a nice souvenir, be sure that you have a lot of choices for the restaurants and the souvenir shops. All the buildings kept their old architecture and they offer a nice medieval atmosphere. Even the hostel we were staying at, Old Town Hostel, had a medieval architecture and we were feeling like in an ancient museum.

If you feel yourself in a good shape and you are up for a small hike, for EUR 3 you can climb up on the walls that lead to the Kotor Fortress. You can easily spend up to 3 hours there if you climb to the top. But if you get tired, like us, it’s enough to reach the monastery at the half of the way to obtain stunning views of the Bay of Kotor.

bay-of-kotor
kotor-old-town
cathedral-kotor

Day 6 | Perast & camping in Croatia

Let’s see, where do you like most to drive your car along? After driving along the Bay of Kotor, which is basically a fjord, this is definitely my pick!

Another attraction in the Bay of Kotor is the ancient village of Perast, accessible by car only for the locals. As tourists, we needed to leave your car at the main gate. Parking is EUR 0.50 for an hour and EUR 2 for the whole day.  Perast is rich in Venice-like architecture, including 16 Baroque palaces and 17 Catholic churches. Besides the attractions, there are several restaurants and bars right on the shore, where you can eat your breakfast, have a coffee or have a drink with your friends. All of this got better with a splendid view over the bay and the two nearby islets of St. George and Our Lady on the Rocks. On each of them there is a picturesque chapel, accessible only by taxi boats.

After a nice morning walk we have decided to head to our camping Pod Maslinom in Orasac, Croatia. We were going to spend there 3 nights, so we skipped Dubrovnik in this day. We spent the rest of the day on the downside beach, 5 minutes away from our camping.

perast
perast
perast

Day 7 | Dubrovnik, pearl of the Balkans

Yep! Today is the day we visit the Croatian pearl of the Balkans with a rich history, Dubrovnik. But first, remember that the Croatian currency is kuna. We recommend to exchange your money in order to pay the right price for what you want to buy. Because it’s well-known worldwide, it gives you tons of reasons to visit the old town and its sights. Guess what happens in the peak season? Expect to see there thousands of tourists and a lot of guides who approach you for a tour.

If you travel by car and you don’t like to climb your car up on the hills, prepare yourself to pay quite a fortune for an hour of parking (KN 40) next to the city walls. To avoid paying that much, go with your car in the upper part of the city. There is an solitary street on Ul Bruna Busica, where the parking is free.

As it is quite easy to walk in and around the old town we took a tour on our own. We entered through the Pile Gate and right in front is Stradun, where the paving stones lie since 1468. At the end of the street, hard to miss is the Onofrio Fountain. It was partially destroyed by an earthquake and during the war, but it was rapidly restored.

For a better experience, we were enthusiastic to see that we can climb up on the city walls. There you could easily walk, as they are 3 meters thick. Our enthusiasm disappeared quite fast as well. We were disappointed to see the walls were overcrowded of tourists and the price was exaggerated: KN 160 per person. So it was EUR 21 just to be 5 meters higher and see basically the same thing. Oh, and consider yourself lucky if you could find a place where to take a nice picture from.

Expect to pay high prices for everything in Dubrovnik. That’s mainly why we camped 10 kilometers away. We took into consideration to take the cable car on the top of the hill for an entire view of Dubrovnik. The price was KN 130 per person. Hmmm… we really thought to go for it, but we remembered something: when we entered in Dubrovnik from the main road, we saw it very well from above. So, what if the exit road offers a great view of Dubrovnik as well? The picture that we had taken speaks for itself! It greatly saved us from spending EUR 35 for the cable car, offering almost the same thing.

dubrovnik-3
dubrovnik-2
dubrovnik

Day 8 | Rest day

The day before, we visited Dubrovnik at its best which occupied us the entire day, so we could spend the time in camping to relax. And this was exactly what we did! We played different games, got to know amazing people and we cooled down in the cold water of the Adriatic.

We recommend to have such a day during your trips. You can view the pictures from your trip and you can already plan your next one!



Day 9 | Kravica Waterfalls & Mostar

At first sight, Bosnia and Herzegovina looks really great. Keep in mind that you can both pay in EUR and in BAM everywhere. It’s possible to do so, because the conversion is really simple: 2 BAM = 1 EUR. Take some money in cash on you, as the places with a pOS are to find. Take also into consideration to make a fuel tank for the fact that a liter of diesel is approx. EUR 0.85.

Our first stop in Bosnia was at Kravica waterfalls. This proved to be a popular swimming and picnic area where you can have a coffee or take a boat trip. We followed the signs through the woods to Mala Kravica, to see a shorter waterfall as well. To benefit of all the above mentioned, expect to pay BAM 5 per person at the entrance, including parking.

kravica-falls
way-to-mala-kravica
mala-kravica

Our next stop was the iconic city of Mostar, where we spent only one night. One of the country’s most recognizable landmark is the Old Bridge. destroyed and reconstructed afterwards. During the afternoon, it’s no way you will get a photo without a tourist in it. There we found a lot of tourists till 20:00 and we had decided to do some end-of-trip shopping. There is a Shopping Center located 2 kilometers away from the city center with lots of stores.

We came back at the bridge around 20:30. Almost all one-day-tour-in-Mostar tourists had disappeared. We couldn’t be happier that we had taken a nice photo. Tip! For obtaining a great photo with the bridge in the background, go down next to the river on the steps. You will not regret it!

Get some money in cash with you! There is literally no place where you can pay by credit card, but there are some ATMs as well. Be careful with Raiffeisen Bank ATMs, because they take a BAM 8 commission for every withdrawal you make. The local banks take no commission! At least this happened in our case.

mostar-bridge
mostar-bridge-2

Day 10 | Sarajevo & our way home

The way back home announced to be quite long and challenging. We had in plan to visit on our way Sarajevo and around 9:00 we were already there.

Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and it’s famous for its cultural and religious diversity, such as Islam, Ortodox, Judaism and Catholicism. Because of the short time, we only took a short walk through the old town. There are several places where you can get a Bosnian coffee as well as buy traditional hand-made goods. Besides the lively walking streets you can find Sebij, which is one of the symbols of Sarajevo.

sarajevo
bosnian-coffee
sarajevo

After walking around for 2 hours we finally headed home. The border crossing to Serbia was quite fast and expect to pay EUR 1 for Serbian eco-tax. We just followed the main national roads and in 10 hours we were home with no incidents.

This experience offered us a great overview over the 3 countries from the Balkans we had visited. It definitely served as a nice getaway which could be made with a low budget. We found all the Montenegrins, Croatians and Bosnians very hospitable and we felt like it was the right choice for a 10 days vacation. We skipped Serbia for the moment, but it’s on our list for the next trip to the Balkans.

Go to top