So here’s a fun fact. Where in Europe do you think they get the most rain? London? Dublin? Brussels? Nope actually it’s the little section of the Adriatic coast by Croatia and Montenegro. Who would have thought it? I did see plenty of the wet stuff during my two weeks in the region; out of fourteen days four or five were completely washed out.
I selected the Balkans for my little two-week break because it consistently ranked as one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. This might be true of Serbia, Kosovo or Bosnia, however Croatia is anything but cheap these days and Montenegro is catching up fast. If saving money is your main motivation you are probably best to stay away from the coast.
I made my way around by bus quite easily, however if you hire a car you could get to see so much more. The countryside between Sarajevo and Montenegro looked particularly stunning and it would have been nice to have had a car and been able to break up the journey a bit somewhere en route.
Day 1: Dubrovnik, Croatia
I started in Dubrovnik because I managed to find a cheap flight from London. I only stayed one night (and another night at the end before my flight back). Partly this is because I have been before, but also because it is expensive by Balkan standards.
It is also, these days, a victim of its own success; the day I spent there three cruise ships were in port. You can’t even begin to imagine how busy that made the little city.
Days 2-5: Mostar
From Dubrovnik I got the bus to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Crossing the border by bus is relatively easy and we didn’t even have to get out of the bus. The driver’s assistant collects up all our passports/IDs and disappears off with them. The whole process took around fifteen minutes, although sometimes the buses can get backed up a bit if they hit a busy time.
Days 6 – 10: Sarajevo
After four nights in Mostar (ample time to explore the city and surrounding area) I took the bus to Sarajevo. This was a relatively short journey (2 or 3 hours). I love Sarajevo and it was very much my highlight of the trip. I spent five nights there.
Days 11-13: Kotor, Montenegro
From Sarajevo I caught the bus back down to Kotor in Montenegro. This was a far longer trip, around seven hours by bus. I spent three nights in Kotor.
Kotor is a very beautiful city, but they are now experiencing the same problems with overcrowding as neighbouring Croatia.
Prices have also risen sharply. There was a time, actually just 2 or 3 years ago, when you could find a basic room with bathroom for around ten euros here. Now you will pay more like 25 euros for the same room; day trippers from Croatia have shown them how much people are willing to pay and little Montenegro is no longer the budget destination it once was. It is, however, still good value compared to many other places in Europe.
The cruise ships are also overcrowding the little place. I arrived on a Sunday night to find the ATM machines completely depleted of money and the old walled city bursting with people.
I actually got quite fed up with Kotor. Oh don’t get me wrong, the bay and neighbouring towns are truly beautiful. However the cruise ships are depositing so many people at once that everything is just stretched to breaking point. There isn’t room to move in the walled city for crowds of people charging after their tour guide. The ‘cute nearby fishing villages’ have become blocked with tour buses all trying to drop/pick up their people.
If I were to come back I would pick an off-the-beaten-track destination away from the melee of tour buses and cruise ships, and stay there.
I have slowed down a lot with my travel these days, eased the pressure on myself to race through so much every day. However if you are more inclined to fit more in you could shave nights off of Mostar and Sarajevo and use them to either venture into Serbia or Northern Bosnia (which is beautiful btw). Or you could use them to see more of Croatia (Split is a cool place to hang out), however then you would need to allow for more expense.
My reason for taking this trip, like I said, was because it was a cheap option. I only had two weeks so it wasn’t worth flying a huge distance. I could have stayed in London for the two weeks, however without access to my home (oh don’t get me started on that) it would have cost me around £520 for a room for the two weeks (sharing bathroom no kitchen access) in zone 2 or 3.
I paid 410 euros on accommodation over this trip, mostly staying in small apartments but always with my own bathroom, usually a kitchen as well. The flight cost me £120 (including luggage and seat selection) and I spent a further 80 euros on buses and taxis.
By European standards that’s not too bad.