AARoads Forum

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  

News:

New rules for political content in signatures and user profiles. See this thread for details.

Author Topic: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016  (Read 2672 times)

corco

  • *
  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 4950
  • Just Livin' the Dream

  • Age: 31
  • Location: Boise, Idaho
  • Last Login: Today at 12:12:31 AM
    • Corcohighways.org
Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« on: November 07, 2015, 12:06:05 PM »

So, I've committed, gotten the time off, and made reservations for what is absolutely the most ambitious roadtrip I've ever taken. In late April next year, I'm flying to Sarajevo and spending three weeks on the road throughout the southern portion of eastern Europe.

I'm flying into Sarajevo because for whatever reason the geographic restrictions on rental cars are the broadest I've seen anywhere. Sixt and Hertz of Sarajevo are the only rental agencies I can find that would allow one to drive up the eastern Adriatic coast. Zagreb is fairly lenient too, but disallows taking a rental car through Albania.

I'm planning on renting through Sixt - I've called and confirmed that what they say they allow on their website is indeed accurate, so I can take a single rental car to:

"Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy (mainland), Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Albania, Belgium, France, Greece (mainland), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia."

I won't be visiting all those countries, of course- that's way too much to do in three weeks. I'll be focusing more in the Balkans/Romania/Bulgaria.

My plan as of now is:
Day 1 - Fly to Sarajevo BA
Day 2- Arrive Sarajevo BA, Drive to Mostar BA
Day 3- Drive to Split HR
Day 4 - Drive to Trieste, IT
Day 5 - Drive to Banja Luka, BA
Day 6 - Drive to Novi Sad, SB
Day 7 - Drive to Satu Mare, RO
Day 8 - Drive to Breb, RO
Day 9 - Drive to Sighisoara, RO
Day 10 - Drive to Sibiu, RO
Day 11 - Drive to Bucharest, RO
Day 12 - Stay in Bucharest
Day 13- Drive to Sofia, BG
Day 14 - Stay in Sofia
Day 15 - Drive to Bitola, MK
Day 16 - Drive to Ioannina, GR
Day 17 - Drive to Tirana, AB
Day 18 - Stay in Tirana
Day 19 - Drive to Dubrovnik, HR
Day 20 - Drive to Sarajevo, BA
Day 21- Return to USA

For those keeping score at home, that involves visits to Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Albania, and Montenegro.

For those that like maps:
Days 1-7 https://goo.gl/maps/rbxCL7DRLz92
Days 8-12 https://goo.gl/maps/2WkpF1hJ1R52
Days 13-21 https://goo.gl/maps/E92MsMDZRpK2

So...fairly grueling, but I'm okay with that. Looking at an average of a couple hundred km a day - the two longest days will be Split-Trieste at 509 km or so and Novi Sad-Satu Mare at 435 km or so. I'm comfortable with the idea that I probably, especially on those two days, won't have time to see 100% of everything I'd ever want to see. The idea would be to avoid motorways as much as possible, not that there's even that much of a choice through those areas.

My main sort of objectives are-
1. Explore Romania
2. Drive up the Adriatic Coast
3. Educational things - obviously going to stop at pretty much every UNESCO site along the way and visit whatever obvious fortresses/museums/other interesting things are along routes-  I'm slowly building a list of secondary museums/

I'd love to hear some general travel/routing advice. A few specific questions:

1. I'm almost certainly not going to have a GPS with me, and though I'm going to write directions down in detail, I'd feel much more comfortable with a good road atlas. Any recommendations for a good road atlas/set of maps for that part of Europe?

2. Parking. I realize that taking a trip like this by car is unconventional (as evidenced by how few car hires will even allow such a thing!), but I really want to have greater control as I navigate the countryside and not be 100% beholden to a bus schedule/etc. I'm comfortable with my ability to drive in ridiculous situations, drive a manual in the States already, and I'm good at squeezing cars into pretty small spaces. I'm not overly worried about smaller communities, but am wondering about trying to find good overnight parking in Sofia, Bucharest, and Tirane. In an effort to minimize costs, I'm trying to stay in hostels/b&bs, where I'd typically be relying on street parking/other options. Hotels with private parking aren't all that expensive in Sofia/Bucharest/Tirane - figure $50/night, so I could spring for those if need be, but if anybody has less expensive ideas on how to find generally safe parking in a random downtown eastern european city, I'm interested.

3. Languages. I'm feeling like if I'm driving overland, especially alone, it may behoove me to not entirely rely on English. I've been dabbling a bit with Romanian - my Spanish is okay and I took Latin many years ago, so it's coming pretty naturally. I'm thinking I probably also want to learn a bit of Serbian and be able to at least read the Cyrillic alphabet, if not understand it. I'm curious on thoughts there - with the idea that I don't have the capacity to learn 8 different languages in the next five months, are Romanian and Serbian probably the two that would provide the best bang for the buck given that itinerary?
 
4. Driving speed - I've generally been assuming about 55 km/h as an average driving speed in rural areas, trying to be conservative. I'm comfortable with a grueling pace, but I don't want to fall behind. Is 50-60 km/h a safe, conservative bet, or is that too high? Maybe I'll feel differently when I get into my rental 75 hp Dacia, but I'm comfortable driving/passing reasonably aggressively within the bounds of the law.

5. Vignettes - I see I'll definitely need to buy one in Romania and Bulgaria. If I avoid motorways, is it safe to get by without one in Slovenia? I think those are the only three countries with a vignette regime.

6. Borders - Assuming I have all paperwork in order (passport, car hire contract, whatever insurance proof), are those borders that are outside of the Schengen Area usually pretty much just stamp and wave through? Or is it more stressful, like the US-Canada border? Excluding airports, I think I'm going to be crossing through a controlled border 13 times.

7. Police - If I drive legally, will I likely get pulled over? Do I need to approach like Mexico and keep a very small amount of local currency on my person with the rest of cash stored somewhere else to, uh, take care of any issues?

Thanks for any advice!
« Last Edit: November 07, 2015, 12:32:51 PM by corco »
Logged

US 41

  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 23
  • Location: Terre Haute, IN
  • Last Login: September 15, 2019, 10:04:19 PM
Re: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2015, 12:25:21 PM »

Quote
"Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy (mainland), Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Albania, Belgium, France, Greece (mainland), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia."

You may run across some border and internal checkpoints in some of the countries affected by the European Migrant Crisis.

Around 50% of the population within the EU can speak some English. Some of the countries in the Balkan areas use (or roughly related to) Greek or Russian lettering rather than western letters (english, spanish, french, etc).

I'm guessing the borders at this time will be something more like a US-Mexico (coming back into the US) experience due to the migrant issues.

I believe the border between Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia was closed due to the crisis. You might want to see if those borders are open before you go.
Logged
Places I've drove in North America

USA (38)= AL, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WV, WI
Canada (5)= NB, NS, ON, PE, QC
Mexico (6)= CH, CO, DG, NL, SI, TM

english si

  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 3512
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Buckinghamshire, England
  • Last Login: Today at 03:28:15 AM
Re: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2015, 01:16:30 PM »

Around 50% of the population within the EU can speak some English.
Though only Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece off that list are EU. And they aren't that good for English speaking:
(Croatia weren't in it when this map was made).

German would work in Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia if English doesn't. Albania is pretty Anglophonic, but Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro aren't.
Quote
Some of the countries in the Balkan areas use (or roughly related to) Greek or Russian lettering rather than western letters (english, spanish, french, etc).
Serbia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. All the signs have Latin alphabet on.
Quote
I believe the border between Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia was closed due to the crisis. You might want to see if those borders are open before you go.
People said 'closed', but it was really 'not open, save the official checkpoints'. Hungary and Romania opened a cross-border motorway in the area and time period that Hungary were fencing off the border to stop illegal entry to Schengen.
Logged

english si

  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 3512
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Buckinghamshire, England
  • Last Login: Today at 03:28:15 AM
Re: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2015, 01:57:19 PM »

1. I'm almost certainly not going to have a GPS with me, and though I'm going to write directions down in detail, I'd feel much more comfortable with a good road atlas. Any recommendations for a good road atlas/set of maps for that part of Europe?
When I get time, I'll look at the Slovenia-Croatia-Bosnia map I have. It's fold-up, but the cartography is good, the brand is local, and maybe they have an atlas.
Quote
2. Parking. I realize that taking a trip like this by car is unconventional (as evidenced by how few car hires will even allow such a thing!), but I really want to have greater control as I navigate the countryside and not be 100% beholden to a bus schedule/etc. I'm comfortable with my ability to drive in ridiculous situations, drive a manual in the States already, and I'm good at squeezing cars into pretty small spaces. I'm not overly worried about smaller communities, but am wondering about trying to find good overnight parking in Sofia, Bucharest, and Tirane. In an effort to minimize costs, I'm trying to stay in hostels/b&bs, where I'd typically be relying on street parking/other options. Hotels with private parking aren't all that expensive in Sofia/Bucharest/Tirane - figure $50/night, so I could spring for those if need be, but if anybody has less expensive ideas on how to find generally safe parking in a random downtown eastern european city, I'm interested.
Train stations? Airports might also be a good bet, and then get the bus into town.

A bit of research ought to be helpful here - Google is your friend.
Quote
3. Languages. I'm feeling like if I'm driving overland, especially alone, it may behoove me to not entirely rely on English. I've been dabbling a bit with Romanian - my Spanish is okay and I took Latin many years ago, so it's coming pretty naturally. I'm thinking I probably also want to learn a bit of Serbian and be able to at least read the Cyrillic alphabet, if not understand it. I'm curious on thoughts there - with the idea that I don't have the capacity to learn 8 different languages in the next five months, are Romanian and Serbian probably the two that would provide the best bang for the buck given that itinerary?
8 languages? BCSM, Slovene, Italian, Romanian, Bulgarian/Macedonian, Greek, Albanian is 7. Are you splitting BCSM by alphabet, or considering Macedonian and Bulgarian as different languages, rather than dialects of the same language?

Serbian gives you the less familiar Cyrillic spellings and, given you'll transliterate back to Latin in your head, you'll be almost as good at Croatian and Bosnian. Montenegrin, is Serbian with some minor twists. Bulgarian and Macedonian aren't too dissimilar to BCSM, though you will have some issues. You will, however, be able to read a word out loud, which is a useful thing.

Serbian and Romanian seem the right choices, given English/Spanish speaking abilities of various countries and your routings.

Cyrillic, from my CHM experiences, isn't that bad, nor is Greek (and, while different, is similar). There's a few letters which look like Latin ones, but are different (Er (Cyrillic), Rho (Greek) and P (Latin) being the obvious one), and Cyrillic has a couple of letters that are very similar to each other in looks, but make different noises.
Quote
4. Driving speed - I've generally been assuming about 55 km/h as an average driving speed in rural areas, trying to be conservative. I'm comfortable with a grueling pace, but I don't want to fall behind. Is 50-60 km/h a safe, conservative bet, or is that too high? Maybe I'll feel differently when I get into my rental 75 hp Dacia, but I'm comfortable driving/passing reasonably aggressively within the bounds of the law.
It depends on hills, amount of villages traversed, and road quality.
Quote
6. Borders - Assuming I have all paperwork in order (passport, car hire contract, whatever insurance proof), are those borders that are outside of the Schengen Area usually pretty much just stamp and wave through? Or is it more stressful, like the US-Canada border? Excluding airports, I think I'm going to be crossing through a controlled border 13 times.
You'll have some issues that I wouldn't have (as I'm an EU-citizen, as much as I hate being so).
Quote
7. Police - If I drive legally, will I likely get pulled over? Do I need to approach like Mexico and keep a very small amount of local currency on my person with the rest of cash stored somewhere else to, uh, take care of any issues?
Bosnian plates might cause issues, but not really - especially when you open you mouth and show your US passport (though parts of Serbia near Kosovo wouldn't be happy to see that), and more in the countries (Croatia and Slovenia) where bribes will be seen as more offensive than placatory.
Logged

J N Winkler

  • *
  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 6348
  • Location: Wichita, Kansas/Oxford, Great Britain
  • Last Login: September 17, 2019, 11:09:50 PM
Re: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2015, 04:10:18 PM »

It sounds like an interesting and fascinating trip.  A few observations:

*  To get an impression of road quality and thus a suitable average rate for point-to-point travel, I'd use StreetView (which is available for at least some of these countries) to collect visual samples for each rung of the road classification hierarchy in each country.  My general impression, based on a driving tour I took of Ireland in 1999 when it had far fewer motorways than it does now, is that 50 km/h is a reasonable average.  But many things can cause delay in rural areas:  sheep on the road, etc.

*  All of these countries are emerging tourist destinations, so I would expect that to be factored in if you are stopped by the police.  I have Swiss cousins who sail who called at the port of Bodrum in Turkey decades ago as part of an Ionian Sea trip.  The Turkish port officials were very suspicious of them and initially wanted to subject them to a full-cavity search, but when my cousins asked them if they would like them to return to Switzerland and tell their friends all about this form of Turkish hospitality, they decided that part of the inspection would not be necessary.

*  The troubles you are likely to encounter on a US passport are mostly of the "soak the rich American" variety:  e.g., Turkey used to charge US passport holders $45 for a visa on arrival, while UK passport holders got the same visa for 10 (about a third of the cost for Americans, depending on exchange rate).  (The Turkish visas were to be paid in the arriving traveler's home currency, regardless of country left immediately before arrival in Turkey.  Since I was travelling from Britain, I actually had to get US dollars for the visa fee from a bureau de change prior to departure.  You might want to check and see whether you would fall into a similar situation when crossing into a country that is not part of the Schengen zone.)

*  For my own travels in Europe, I have found the red-jacketed Baedeker guides to be useful, because they focus almost exclusively on describing sightseeing opportunities and have a star-based rating system that functions as a convenient means of separating high-value attractions from low-value ones.  This is traditionally a weak point of guidebook series like Lonely Planet and Let's Go, and also online travel resources like WikiTravel.  Unfortunately, I have never seen Baedeker guides in English for the majority of the countries you will be passing through (I do have ones for Italy and Greece on my shelf).  Most major museums, UNESCO sites, etc. will have their own Wikipedia pages by now, and I increasingly find myself looking them up to decide whether the reward/effort ratio makes sense for me.  (Not all UNESCO sites are created equal.  As an example, Yellowstone National Park in the US and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Canada are both UNESCO sites, but no one would seriously argue that they are in the same class in terms of the opportunities they afford the visitor.)
Logged
"It is necessary to spend a hundred lire now to save a thousand lire later."--Piero Puricelli, explaining the need for a first-class road system to Benito Mussolini

corco

  • *
  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 4950
  • Just Livin' the Dream

  • Age: 31
  • Location: Boise, Idaho
  • Last Login: Today at 12:12:31 AM
    • Corcohighways.org
Re: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2015, 12:39:01 AM »

Thanks for the tips. I'm not overly concerned with the migrant crisis - I'll be an American in an empty rental car, so don't suspect I'll have added issues at borders. I don't really fit the profile of somebody involved in that. My two driving entries into Schengen will be at the Croatia/Slovenia border along the beach (a tourist path), and then from Macedonia into Greece, which should be off the migrant path (especially headed southbound). In fact, I think the way I have the trip laid out I won't be ever in an area that migrants are while traveling in the same direction as them. As planned now, I'll be crossing from Bosnia into Serbia and won't be entering Hungary, so that should be fine. That's obviously subject to change though as I refine the trip over the next few months.

\When I get time, I'll look at the Slovenia-Croatia-Bosnia map I have. It's fold-up, but the cartography is good, the brand is local, and maybe they have an atlas.

That would be awesome, let me know. I'm fine buying a collection of fold up maps - don't care if its an atlas or not, just need something by which to navigate.

Quote
Are you splitting BCSM by alphabet, or considering Macedonian and Bulgarian as different languages, rather than dialects of the same language?

Yes, was considering Macedonian and Bulgarian to be two different things.

Quote
*  The troubles you are likely to encounter on a US passport are mostly of the "soak the rich American" variety:  e.g., Turkey used to charge US passport holders $45 for a visa on arrival, while UK passport holders got the same visa for 10 (about a third of the cost for Americans, depending on exchange rate).  (The Turkish visas were to be paid in the arriving traveler's home currency, regardless of country left immediately before arrival in Turkey.  Since I was travelling from Britain, I actually had to get US dollars for the visa fee from a bureau de change prior to departure.  You might want to check and see whether you would fall into a similar situation when crossing into a country that is not part of the Schengen zone.)

It looks like these are all visa free, so that is good. Many of these countries do require an international driving permit, which I find surprising, but I can get one of those. But yeah...I'll be honest, my big fear on this is some hassle with the rental car - either arriving in Sarajevo and them saying "wait, no, you can't take our car to these places, and it's not a matter of waiving the policy, we simply don't have the insurance to cover it" - all I can do is take them at their word that it's fine, and I called Bosnia to get that confirmation. Assuming that's not a problem...yeah, hoping I don't have border guards or whatever try to hoodwink me into buying insurance/paying other random fees. I'll be researching in detail before leaving.

Quote
For my own travels in Europe, I have found the red-jacketed Baedeker guides to be useful, because they focus almost exclusively on describing sightseeing opportunities and have a star-based rating system that functions as a convenient means of separating high-value attractions from low-value ones.  This is traditionally a weak point of guidebook series like Lonely Planet and Let's Go, and also online travel resources like WikiTravel.  Unfortunately, I have never seen Baedeker guides in English for the majority of the countries you will be passing through (I do have ones for Italy and Greece on my shelf).  Most major museums, UNESCO sites, etc. will have their own Wikipedia pages by now, and I increasingly find myself looking them up to decide whether the reward/effort ratio makes sense for me.  (Not all UNESCO sites are created equal.  As an example, Yellowstone National Park in the US and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Canada are both UNESCO sites, but no one would seriously argue that they are in the same class in terms of the opportunities they afford the visitor.)

I'll take a look at those guides. The internet just doesn't have a lot of English language resources on some of these areas. I'm hoping that as I improve my Serbian/Romanian in the next months, I'll discover corners of the internet that have lots more useful information, or I won't and this will be even more of an adventure! I'm very much one of those people that like to plan things down to the minute in advance, so that I can use my time there as efficiently as possible and not use my time in Europe figuring out what to do in Europe, but I am seeing that some of that will be inevitable, and I am trying to allow for enough time for some level of spontaneity, but we'll see.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2015, 12:50:48 AM by corco »
Logged

US 41

  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 23
  • Location: Terre Haute, IN
  • Last Login: September 15, 2019, 10:04:19 PM
Re: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2015, 10:09:42 AM »

I have a friend from Macedonia and he said Albanian is the most common language spoken in Macedonia.

I'm sure you know this already, but most rental cars in Europe are manuals. If you want an automatic it usually costs twice as much.
Logged
Places I've drove in North America

USA (38)= AL, AZ, AR, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MS, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WV, WI
Canada (5)= NB, NS, ON, PE, QC
Mexico (6)= CH, CO, DG, NL, SI, TM

corco

  • *
  • *
  • Offline Offline

  • Posts: 4950
  • Just Livin' the Dream

  • Age: 31
  • Location: Boise, Idaho
  • Last Login: Today at 12:12:31 AM
    • Corcohighways.org
Re: Eastern Europe Roadtrip 2016
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2015, 10:43:52 AM »

Yep, I drive a manual normally so not worried about it.

 


Opinions expressed here on belong solely to the poster and do not represent or reflect the opinions or beliefs of AARoads, its creators and/or associates.