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Roadtrip Suggestion: Bosnia & Herzegovina (plus Off-peak Croatia and Montenegro)

Bay of KotorTwo reasons you should take my advise and do this trip:

1) Our short visit to Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina were some of my favorite travels. Highly under-rated travel destinations!

2) The car rental starting in Croatia was a heck of a deal! And one ways are the same price.

Bosnia & Herzegovina is unique and culturally rich, I think, above and beyond the rest of eastern Europe (with the exception of Bulgaria). It’s at the intersection of great empires, making it both multi-cultural and unfortunately the center of conflict in the 90s.

And while it’s obviously a great place to visit now, it still doesn’t have anywhere near the level of tourists you’ll see all over Croatia.

When you can do a oneway car rental for under $10 a day and visit so many different cultures so close together… It’s a no brainer vacation, no matter your interests.

Yes. This is very similar to my trip reports on our road trip through Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia from two years ago… But it’s just such a great deal and trip.

And this is a trip I wish we did. We just sort of wandered around the area because it was last minute and unplanned. This post is about what I wish we had done.

 

Car Rental Suggestions

I simply searched on Kayak and found a car rental.

I notice when I’m not searching at peak times (mostly summer) car rentals are super cheap – like under $10 a day.

Even when searching one-ways, the prices were usually the same.

Here are some examples of rentals I’d recommend (we’ll talk about routes in a minute):

  • Roundtrip starting and ending in Dubrovnik
  • Dubrovnik to/from Split
  • Dubrovnik to/from Zagreb

Sometimes a roundtrip out of Dubrovnik is cheaper, but it could be better one way. If you only have a week, you can see the most sites in an hour or two of Dubrovnik.

 

Destinations of focus:

  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
  • Trebinje, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Kravice Falls, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina (adds two hours)
  • Jajce, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Split, Croatia

 

Kotor, Montenegro:

Trebinje, Bosnia & Herzegovina:

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina:

 

Alternative Suggestions:

  • Krka National Park is a Croatian alternative to Kravice Falls, and it would add an hour if you’re going from Banja Luka to Split. But if you’re going from Split to northern Croatia (like Zagreb), then it is pretty much on the way. Either way could be a good alternative.
    • National Park Una is way more out of the way (closer to Plitvice Lakes)… but it looks amazing. Plitvice was cool but it was $40/pp and you couldn’t swim!
  • As mentioned Sarajevo adds two hours… two hours of Bosnia & Herzegovina driving.
  • Lots of small stops in Bosnia you can add:
    • Počitelj, Bosnia & Herzegovina (near Kravice Falls)
    • Konjic, Bosnia & Herzegovina (going NW of Mostar)
    • Travnik, Bosnia & Herzegovina (east of Jajce)
  • Montenegro
    • Sveti Stefan
    • Budva
    • Northwest side of Skadar Lake looked awesome.
      • Rijeka Crnojevića area.  (picture here)
    • Ostrog?
  • Fantastic mountains in Montenegro, and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
    • The problem is that the mountains take up disproportionately more time, and take more driving time than what Google tells you.
    • Suggestions:
      (Note that I haven’t really been in the mountains here. Been to Theth in Albania, which shares a hiking trail with NE Montenegro).

      • Durmitor National Park
      • Nacionalni Park Prokletije

Bosnia & Herzegovina has beautiful rivers flowing right through many of their towns. You’d see lots of places to stop on your way anywhere.

 

Miles & Points

Points Hotels:

  • New SPG (Four Points) hotel in Kolasin, Montenegro = 10,000 SPG points
  • Sheraton Dubrovnik = 7,000 SPG points
  • Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik = 70,000 Hilton HHonors points
  • Courtyard Sarajevo = 20,000 Marriott points
  • Residence Inn in Sarajevo = 20,000 Marriott points
  • Le Méridien Lav, Split = 10,000 SPG points
  • Radisson Blu Resort, Split = 50,000 Club Carlson points
  • Ramada in Podgorica. Don’t know if it’s worth going to. Probably not worth the points.
    • Also a hilton which I can only find for 26,000 HH points. Seems BRGable though, and cheap enough with cash.
  • Airbnb is currently giving $40 for signing up now! Here’s my $40 referral link.

You can look up flights to Croatia.

 

Miles/Flights

  • Miles from a OneWorld airline:
    • Dubrovnik: BA (watch the fuel surcharges), Finnair, Niki, and Iberia (requires calling when using AA Miles).
    • Split: BA, Finnair, and Iberia.
    • Zagreb: BA, Iberia (requires calling for AA miles).
    • Sarajevo: n/a
  • Miles from a Star Alliance airline:
    • Dubrovnik: Tons of options! Just search United.
    • Split: Tons of options!
    • Zagreb: Tons and tons of options!
    • Sarajevo: Lots of options.
  • SkyTeam
    • Dubrovnik: n/a
    • Split: Italia, and KLM, 
    • Zagreb: KLM, and AirFrance
    • Sarajevo: n/a

Also, if need be, check Skyscanner.com for discount airline flights.

 

Route Suggestions

All are possible routes pricing car rentals on Kayak. All routes, including all the oneway routes, can be near $10 a day. All you have to do is book your tickets into one city and out of the other (if doing a oneway).

Luckily, most all miles program make oneway tickets half price, or allow open-jaws.

Also, if I start in Dubrovnik and end in Zagreb, as an example, the example could just as easily be start in Zagreb and end in Dubrovnik. It likely won’t matter but if some flight or hotel availability is better the other way it’s the same / same.

 

4 suggestions

The first two routes I’ll share are perhaps better for longer trips since they cover more ground. The first would be my favorite option… Followed by number 3, if you have less time.

Remember to see my detour suggestions

 

1) Dubrovnik to Split

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 6.03.55 PM

  • Link to map
  • Route: Dubrovnik – Kotor – Trebinje – Kravica Falls – Mostar –  Sarajevo – Jajce – Bajna Luka – Split
  • 15.5 hours of driving

 

2) Dubrovnik to Zagreb

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 6.07.35 PM

Same as # 1, just returning in Zagreb.

  • Link to map
  • Route: Dubrovnik – Kotor – Trebinje – Kravica – Mostar –  Sarajevo – Jajce – Bajna Luka – Zagreb
  • 14 hours of driving

 

3) Dubrovnik to Sarajevo

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 5.08.13 PM

Oddly enough returning the car in Sarajevo still has the cheap car rental price on most weeks. However, flight availability may or may not be harder to find for Sarajevo rather than Dubrovnik.

  • Link to map
  • Route: Dubrovnik – Kotor – Trebinje – Kravica – Mostar – Sarajevo
  • 7.5 hours of driving

 

4) Start and End in Dubrovnik

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 5.43.27 PM

Same as above just returning to Dubrovnik.

  • Link to map
  • Route: Dubrovnik – Kotor – Trebinje – Kravica – Mostar – Dubrovnik
  • 8 hours of driving

 

Conclusion

To sum up:

  1. Bosnia & Herzegovina (and Montenegro) is an amazing place to visit.
  2. Cheap car rental (even on a oneway). Cheap food. Cheap everything. 
  3. Easy country to travel in (although, drive slow…)

If the pictures of crystal clear rivers flowing through old-towns and greenery doesn’t convince you… I don’t know what will. 

 

Related Posts:

16 Comments

  1. Thank you for this detailed advice on why and how to travel to Bosnia&Herzegovina. I bet that now this country will have to receive more tourists than ever :)!

    Reply
  2. The Avis people at Dub airport seemed to be playing a game with me last month. I had a super cheap rate for a week, but when they tried to use my Shaphire Pref (with primary rental car insurance) to hold a couple thousand deposit since I declined their insurance, it didn’t go through twice. I called Chase to ensure I had enough credit for the deposit. When I was ready to walk away and just use a taxi to get to our hotel, the manager came over and was able to get the deposit to go thru. Also, they wanted to charge a rediculous per day fee for the green card to be able to cross borders, so we ended up not going to Montenegro. It left a slightly bad taste in my mouth.

    Reply
  3. We did a very similar route to this trip per your suggestions last summer. It was amazing! So many people just go to Croatia now and miss out on Bosnia and Montenegro. Those two countries made our trip!! If I returned I would definitely spend more time in those countries.

    Reply
  4. A very timely post. I’m working on planning out Croatia, Slovenia with side trips to Montenegro (Kotor), and then figuring out how far to go into B&H, at least Mostar, perhaps Sarajevo and trying to figure out if it’s worthwhile to visit a destination in Republic of Srpska for TCC purposes.

    Reply
  5. I think I read your blog about this road trip before and it helped us make the decisions. To take this road trip. We were in Croatia and Montenegro a couple weeks ago, and we are now in Bosnia and Hertzegovina. It’s an amazing place and very inexpensive. We came for the history and the natural beauty in lakes, waterfalls and villages have been a very nice unexpected plus.

    Reply
  6. We’ve been eyeballing this area for years, ever since we made friends with a family originally from the area.
    This blog/post is fabulous. I can’t stand to read about Singapore airlines suites or the Park Hyatt Vendome again.
    Thank you for such wonderful advice.

    Reply
  7. Kolasin? 10000SPG???? OMG – hilarious overpricing. You can get a private place for probably 20 euro!

    Reply
  8. I went to Bosnia last year with my boyfriend(we are openly gay), and we were robbed of everything we had in Kotor. To make matters worse we were ridiculed from the locals for being gay. Never again. We did not have any issues in Croatia or Bulgaria but I would stay away from Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and all of the other lowlife Balkan countries.

    Reply
    • Your comment towards these people reveals you as the very same lowlife as the ones who robbed you. Shame on you and your xenophobia.

      Reply
  9. I did a similar trip 2 years ago, including traveling the full length of Croatia by rental car then continuing on by bus and here are some data points to add:
    1. Leaving the vehicle in Montenegro or Albania or Greece at that time was not cost effective.
    2. More than 50% of Restaurants and accommodations in Dubrovnik were closed in January for their own vacation, so don’t pull into town in Jan with 3 selections on places to stay presuming one will be available as we did.
    3. We were able to stay at the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik in Jan for $100 per night, perhaps a better value than 70,000 Hilton points. This was our biggest splurge stay, but service, decor etc was really 5 star. Service was perhaps 5 star plus.

    4. We took the bus from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Podgorica, Montenegro. The drive was amongst the most beautiful in my life, but the bus driver’s safety scared me half to death. I would advise hiring a taxi or taking your own rental if you can sort out how to make that work. Taxis in Montenegro and Albania were really cheap- aka not much more than the bus for 3 people. Also Taxi ride Podgorica to Ulcinj was very very gorgeous with some interesting geology feeling to me like I was driving through a magical elvin world.

    5. Stayed at Ramada Podgorica and it was 3 star fine, neither ethnic nor 4/5 star beautiful. Town did not feel worth visiting, some communist era dead feeling was there, though downtown was cute and my son loved all the 20 feet tall “transformer” looking art pieces around town. Finally finding the market was great, and it is cheap and interesting like all big markets in Montenegro and Albania. The vibe may have been just because it was Jan.

    6. Ulcinj on the coast looked delightful, we just passed through but regretted not staying.

    7. Adding a loop through Albania is a lot of extra time but definitely worth it if you have the time.

    8. P.S. Roads in Croatia are on the edge of very steep slopes and are often built on bridges built out from the hillside instead of cutting the road into the hillside. If you have the slightest fear of heights, consider this, as for me it created a fear/panic I did not expect, esp around Dubrovnik and just S of Rijeka.

    Fantastic area overall, definitely worth visiting!

    Reply
    • This is interesting to me as I am VERY FREAKED OUT over heights – especially in re: driving roads with steep drop offs. Are there alternatives, or is that just how it is on most roads there? That could really be a dealbreaker for me … TIA!

      Reply
  10. Awesome roadtrip! Just visited Kotor myself this weekend. Rental cars WITHIN Montenegro are much more expensive–about $75/day when rented in Podgorica. Seems like a much better idea to rent from elsewhere.

    Reply
  11. If this doesn’t motivate people to visit this part of Europe then not much will.

    Has anybody spent much time in Brazil?

    Reply
  12. best kept secret in europe – Montenegro and bosnia

    Reply
  13. Thank you for this detail information(and others too like in Africa).

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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