2.5 Weeks Europe Itinerary: Travel around the Balkans by Bus

2.5 Weeks Europe Itinerary- Travel around the Balkans by Bus FEATURED

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Last year around late summer and early autumn, I decided last minute to travel around the Balkans for two weeks on my own. This trip was the first time I traveled all on my own! My previous trips are often accompanied by friends, family, or my partner – prior to this trip, I never traveled to new places just by myself, and I was thrilled.

In these two weeks, Europe itinerary, I will breakdown for you in detail what shenanigans I’ve done and might as well give you an overview of what to expect if you decided to visit Europe on your own!

Of course, you don’t have to follow my itinerary in detail (there is plenty of amazing Balkan travel guide out there!), but it is often helpful to use it as a guideline while you’re planning your trip.

Also, mind that this Europe itinerary is based according to my preference and my personality, and since I’m traveling on my own, I had all the luxury in the world to do whatever I want whenever I want. Ah, such bliss to go solo!

That said, I wouldn’t worry too much about planning because where’s the fun in that? But if you’re the kind who likes to plan every detail, no judgment. That’s fine too but don’t forget to have fun! I just want to tell you now, though, that plans change along the way, and if you haven’t been to the countries you’re planning to visit, there’s no other way to figure things out but face the challenges of finding everything when you’re actually in that country. That’s the real excitement about traveling!

Also, backpacking Europe is indeed a must experience at least once in your life! This Europe trip is my second backpacking experience, and I just can’t get enough of it that I’m already planning my route for this year.

Backpacking is not for everyone, certainly not, but it doesn’t mean you can’t travel around Europe and the Balkans like how I did it! Lugging a suitcase with you most likely won’t ideal in the long run, but for two weeks, it is alright.

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EUROPE ITINERARY IN THE BALKANS

travel around the Balkans

2.5 weeks Europe itinerary breakdown in days

Hows the transportation around the Balkans by bus?

Traveling around the Balkan area is surprisingly easy, and the buses are quite efficient. The distances are quite long, but the journey itself is doable and the best part, night buses are running between the main cities! Such a bliss. Night buses are perfect if you want to save up on accommodation and save time! Read more below how I found my way to each city.

interesting things to do in sarajevo

How to get to Zagreb from Sarajevo by bus?

  • Purchase a ticket via Bus Croatia to reserve a seat in the bus
  • From Sarajevo city center, locate tram stop called Marijin dvor and jump on tram 1that heads away from town
  • It takes about 4 minutes ride and two stops
  • The tram stop you should go down is calledŽeljeznička stanica
  • Locate a street name called out života and just follow it till you hit the Sarajevo bus station on your right
  • It takes about 8 hours of travel time between Sarajevo and Zagreb
  • From the Zagreb bus station, you can catch trams 2 or 6, and both will take you to the city center of Zagreb!

On my way to Zagreb from Sarajevo, I took the overnight bus which leaves from Sarajevo at 10.00 p.m and arrived in Zagreb at 06.00 a.m, and the whole journey took about 8 hours which was not so bad because I slept like a baby and there is wifi on the bus to keep you busy.

FRIENDLY FELLOW TRAVELER TIPS

  • Bring spare cash with you because if you need the toilet at one point, you’ll thank me
  • Might as well bring some snacks because eight hours on your ass surprisingly makes you hungry
  • There’s border control, so stay alerted and keep your belongings close to you

Zagreb and Slovenia

How to get to Slovenia from Zagreb?

Zagreb and Slovenia are well connected by bus and is an easy commute, it takes roughly about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and the bus ride will cost you 14€ for a one-way ticket and 22€ for return. This is, however, between two capital cities, Zagreb and Ljubljana.

  • Purchase a ticket via Bus Croatia to reserve a seat in the bus
  • From Downtown of Zagreb, in front of Ban Josip Jelačić, tram stop name is Trg J. Jelačićatram six will take you to the Bus station (Autobusni Kolodvor)
  • It takes about 9 minutes and three stops
  • Tram stop name nearest to the bus station is called Autobusni Kol.
  • It takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes bus ride from Zagreb to Ljubljana

DISCLAIMER: The lovely staff over at BIG BERRY picked me up from Zagreb bus station and drove me over to Bela Krajina so I can attend the awesome press trip they invited me to. I can’t say much based on personal experience, but I did a little research before, and the details I wrote down will be at your discretion if you choose to follow it.

Nevertheless, I decided to write this route down anyway because it is what I originally planned on taking before I decided with the BIG BERRY staff what would be best to do. Originally, I meant to visit Ljubljana first and have them pick me up from there, but it is farther compare to Zagreb, which is only about an hour away from Bela Krajina.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

How to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park from Zagreb?

There are several ways to get to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb, here’re few alternatives:

  • Go by bus (details below)
  • Go by an arranged day tour from Zagreb – I recommend Zagreb Tours
  • Rent a car and drive yourself from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes National Park

Depending on what you prefer, Plitvice Lakes National Park is only about an hour away from Zagreb; thus, it is readily available for a day tour out of the capital city of Croatia. I went there for the purpose of hiking and witnessing parts of its natural beauty that are known worldwide, plus hiking and experiencing Plitvice Lakes National Park was one of the best decisions I’ve done in my life!

How to go on a day tour from Plitvice Lakes National Park from Zagreb by bus:

  • Purchase a ticket via Bus Croatia to reserve a seat in the bus or buy a ticket from the terminal
  • From Autobusni Kolodvor (Zagreb bus station), there are several bus options you can choose from to get to Plitvice Lakes National Park just be confident of their time schedules
  • It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes travel time between Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes National Park
  • From Plitvice Lakes National Park bus station, there are few entry points you can enter the protected area which you can plan ahead if you wish

Travelers tip: If you’re coming from Split, you can also take a day trip from there to Plitvice. It takes roughly about the same time.

Budapest from Zagreb

How to get to Budapest from Zagreb?

  • Purchase a ticket via Bus Croatia to reserve a seat in the bus
  • From Downtown of Zagreb, in front of Ban Josip Jelačić, tram stop name is Trg J. Jelačićatram 6 will take you to the Bus station (Autobusni Kolodvor)
  • It takes about 9 minutes and three stops
  • Tram stop name nearest to the bus station is called Autobusni Kol.
  • It takes about 5-6 hours of travel time between Zagreb and Budapest
  • From Budapest bus station, you can take the metro to the city center to reach the destination you opt of going

FRIENDLY FELLOW TRAVELER TIPS

Bring snacks and entertainment There’s border control, so stay alerted and keep your belongings close to you

Balkan destination

A brief overview of what I did on each Balkan destination

I spent 3-4 nights each destination except for Plitvice Lakes National Park since I went there for a day trip from Zagreb. It is enough time, in my opinion, to see the highlights of each city, but if I would be completely honest, it is not enough to go in-depth, and I like detailed shenanigans.

I love history tours, national museums, churches (I didn’t burn inside. I promise), architectural design and knowing the artist, going to art galleries, and I can go on and on about what I would want to see in a city or new place. If you only have 3-4 days in a new location, it is never enough, but you have to deal with what you have. Thus I did.

By highlights, I meant going to the famous, touristic areas of the new place. As a travel blogger, of course, this is a challenge because you want to see something “new,” which other bloggers have not covered yet (if there’s such thing).

But then again, each their own when it comes to delivering experiences, and that’s what makes recycled articles unique even though the same topic has been dotted down thousands of times, like this article, for instance.

I’m not telling you to follow my destination tips in detail, I say explore on your will – with my destination tips as a guideline, that way you get to see what I saw but at the same time discover something else for yourself.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina

You can check what I wrote about the things you can do in Sarajevo but here’s the highlight of my whole stay:

  • Walking tour of Sarajevo and its history
  • Galerija 11/07/95
  • Sarajevo tunnels and Bobsled sites
  • Rakija – it is a strong alcohol
  • Trying out local restaurants such as Aščinica Hadžibajrić F. Namika

Bela Krajina, Slovenia

I was in Slovenia for a press trip to cover BIG BERRY, a new concept luxury resort, so my stay was all planned out. But here are some of the many things we did while I was there:

  • Visit local farmers and small businesses
  • Check out the local wineries (my fave)
  • We visited the best sites in the area
  • Enjoyed the vicinity of living in a BIG BERRY house with jacuzzi (it was awesome)
  • Tried out some of the best restaurants in the area

Again, my whole stay was sponsored, but it doesn’t mean I’m promoting it just for that – I had a fantastic time, and I would go back again, that’s for sure!

Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes National Park

I was in Zagreb for only two full days since I dedicated one day to Plitvice Lakes National Park. However, it doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything while in there! Although I had the flu during my stay, it didn’t stop me from checking out what the city has to offer. Here are some of the things I did while in Zagreb:

  • I joined a walking tour around Zagreb
  • Ate a lot of Croatian delicacies and went to restaurants
  • Drank loads of Croatian wine (it was okay)
  • Roamed around Zagreb’s Downtown and Uppertown, just for the fun of it
  • Day-tour to Plitvice Lakes National Park – perhaps the highlight of this 2.5 weeks Europe itinerary in the Balkans.

Not so much, as you can see! The hostel I was staying at was a bit far off from the town, and it was the low season, so there weren’t so many travelers to hang out with. I mostly rested since I was feeling a bit off, and I sure needed that because my excursions to Budapest needed so much energy from me!

Budapest, Hungary

The last leg of my trip and by far the best one during this whole 2.5 weeks shenanigans around the Balkans! I was in Budapest just for four days, but I did so much than I thought I would. I wrote a list of things to do in Budapest, which you should check out because all of what I mentioned there are enough for a long weekend of fun. Here’s the highlight:

  • Walking tour with Insight Cities
  • Food and wine tour with Taste Hungary
  • Ate lots of Lángos (totally worth it)
  • Fell in love with Hungarian paprika
  • Visited the House of Terror
  • Went to ruin pubs
  • Ate with the locals
  • Had a lovely fine dining experience at a local Hungarian restaurant
  • Admired St. Stephen’s Basilica from Aria Hotel‘s rooftop (I was sponsored by them for one night!)

I also met with my favorite couple in the world, my old friends from a long time ago! We went for wines and had a lovely stroll around Budapest just before I left to head back home.

I did quite a bit more than what I wrote and as well met tons of amazing people during my stay! I am so glad to be able to enjoy such a trip on my own and be friends with strangers you just met. Amazing. Traveling is amazing!

Visit the Balkans

Is 2.5 weeks in Europe enough to visit the Balkans?

I would say it is sufficient to see a few of the main highlights of the main cities. If I had added one more city in my itinerary, it certainly would not be enough! I think visiting four countries, three capital cities, one national park, and one countryside in two and a half weeks was more than enough.

I would not recommend stuffing your itinerary. Otherwise, you’ll feel so rushed, and it can lead to stress. I mean, for me, the point of traveling is to leave the stressful reality behind, so why bother if you’re going to be the same during what is supposed to be, a relaxing getaway? Don’t overdo your itinerary with tons of things to do.

europe itinerary

Tips on how to save time while traveling

There are several tips to save time while traveling that are well tackled by tons of great bloggers out there, but I’ll share some anyway because you know, why not.

  • If the travel time between the two cities is over 6 hours, consider taking a night bus if it is available! Not only you get to save money, but also time.
  • Wake up early enough to start your day, tackle the informative things in the morning, and all the fun stuff during afternoons and at night – if you start your day fun, you never go away from it!
  • Book ahead of time if you wish to join tours or other excursions, that way you don’t have to look for them if you’re in the city.
  • Prioritize what you want to do and see. This way, you can adjust your days around these priorities, and if you have extra time – you can utilize it by checking out other things!

trip to the Balkans

Tips on how to pack light so you can travel effortlessly

I was traveling with my 50L backpack during my trip to the Balkans, and it was a bit big for my needs. I once went with my 35L for three months and tackled two seasons, that was challenging.

However, this trip is less challenging since I pretty much only brought enough clothes that last five days, and then I washed them twice during the whole trip!

Travel around the Balkans

Here’re the clothing items I brought with me:

  • 10 pieces of knickers
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 3 pieces of bra’s
  • 1 piece of sports bra
  • 5 pairs of t-shirts
  • Loose black pants
  • Black leggings
  • Jean shorts
  • Hiking pants
  • Sneakers
  • Dressy Toms shoes – read our comfy travel shoe reviews here
  • Flip flops

Here’re the other necessities I brought with me:

  • A quick-dry towel
  • Few bits of makeup (concealer, eyebrow pencil, blush, and mascara) nicely organized in a travel makeup bag
  • Argan oil
  • Shampoo + conditioner
  • Toothbrush + Toothpaste

Pro tip: To keep your backpack organized, make sure to invest in good packing cubes and travel toiletry bag

Here’re the electronics I brought with me:

  • My MacBook Pro (because I need to work and travel at the same time)
  • iPhone 6s
  • Canon G7x camera plus the camera bag
  • GoPro Hero 4

I kept all of my electronics organized using an electronics organizer. Doing this, I had a ridiculous amount of space in my bag, which I had difficulties filling up, but it was better like that than having no space at all! 

traveling the Balkans

How much did I spend for 2.5 weeks traveling the Balkans?

I’m going, to be honest with you straight up; almost half of this trip was for this blog, meaning it was work. I did it during my summer holiday, but at the same time, I also wanted to start working with brands and companies through this website.

That said, I did work with two hostels, three tour companies, one luxury resort, and one luxury hotel during my trip – all-expense paid.

Apparently, I also spent on some parts of this trip from my pocket like the transportations, food, and other activities I did on my own. However, if I would add it all up, I would have spent an easy 1000€ in two weeks.

traveling the Balkans

HERE’S THE BREAKDOWN:

  • 200€ – return flights from Helsinki
  • Hotel in Sarajevo (sponsored)
  • 60€ – food and beers in Sarajevo
  • 23€ –Sarajevo to Zagreb one way ticket
  • 40€ – hotel in Zagreb
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park Tour (sponsored)
  • 50€ – food, wine, and beers in Zagreb
  • 13€ –Zagreb to Budapest one way ticket
  • Hotel in Budapest (sponsored)
  • Stay at Aria Hotel Budapest (sponsored)
  • Taste of Hungary Tour (sponsored)
  • Insight Cities Tour (sponsored)
  • 30€ – fancy dinner
  • 60€ – food, beers, and wine in Budapest
  • TOTAL OF 476€

I wasn’t planning to be cheap, but the Balkan’s perfect for budget travelers, and even I was surprised at how low the food and alcohol prices are. Of course, if some parts of my trip were not sponsored, I would have spent about 800€ in total, which is not a lot for 2.5 weeks, not a budgeted trip! I normally don’t do budget traveling because I often want to occasionally splurge on things I like, but I do set a daily spending limit just so my bank account won’t hate me when I get back to Finland.

That said, on my future trip back to the Balkans, I’ll surely go on a budget-friendly trip so I can share with you guys some great tips on how to travel Europe on a budget!

Travel around the Balkans

My thoughts after the trip?

I had the best time of my life! Well, quite. Remember, this was also my first trip as a solo traveler, and it is only for 2.5 weeks, which is not much in comparison to other kickass female solo travelers out there, but for me, it was a good start. I would do it again, and in fact, I’m planning to go back to the Balkans this summer!

My plan, however, does not include the same countries, but instead, I thought of starting my travel on the way down from Tallinn and through some Eastern European countries till I hit the Balkans and visit the countries and places I didn’t have the chance to visit last year.

I’m quite excited about this idea! I’m already saving up because this time I’m planning to go for five whooping weeks – perhaps on my own or with a travel buddy but who knows. I enjoyed my trip to the Balkans, and I’m quite happy with my last-minute decision about visiting. I would certainly do an updated Europe itinerary after this!

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12 thoughts on “2.5 Weeks Europe Itinerary: Travel around the Balkans by Bus

  1. Lissy P. says:

    Wow! I love your itinerary. I wasn’t able to visit Zagreb and Plitvice Lakes :((( i’m so sad! I love your photos and your detailed itinerary! I went to the Balkans last May as well. Stayed there for 20 days. I cried in Dubrovnik and Slovenia. I’m not ashamed to admit it haha. The view is so beautiful that it made me cry.

    • Evan Kristine says:

      Hi Lissy! Thanks for dropping by and sharing your awesome itinerary. The Balkans’ indeed a beautiful place and I totally understand why you cried, Dubrovnik and Slovenia are so beautiful!

  2. Nate says:

    Saved for later this year! Thanks for all the information! I am very sure that I will need it in summer, because I have around 3 months to spend and I thought about going East this time.

  3. Jessica says:

    Wow this post is super informative and amazing. I would love to travel around Europe by bus or train. This guide really has all the info your could possibly need. The photos really do it justice as well. Thanks for sharing!

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