I love road trips. Plain and simple, they’re a great way to move around, you can change plans at the drop of a hat, stay longer in places you like, skip other things, and usually – you find things along the road you would have otherwise missed. I highly recommend a road trip in The Balkans. Here’s what you need to know:
- You may need an IDP (international driving permit) in conjunction with a valid U.S. driver’s license.
- Finding cars is cheap and easy on DiscoverCars.com (My husband and I ALWAYS rent a car for our road trips).
- Border checks will vary upon the border (EU, EEA, and Non-member states)
- Getting off the beaten path is a great way to see a new country!
This blog article is going to cover exactly what you need in order to road trip through The Balkans. There are just a few things to plan for ahead of time, and other’s that you can manage while you’re in-country. This post will walk you through everything you need and a timeline for getting them ahead of your trip.
organizing a road trip is not complicated, and in my opinion, is a great way to see what these countries have to offer! Much like the Pacific Coast Highway which spans Washington, Oregon, and California, you have the ability to drive down almost the entire Adriatic coastal region from Croatia to the southernmost part of Albania.
If you think a road trip in the Balkans is right for you…keep reading!
How to Drive in a Foreign Country:
You do NOT need an international driver’s license in Croatia. A valid U.S. driver’s license allows you to drive for three months upon entry. You WILL need an IDP (international driving permit) in Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Greece requires an international driving license, as well as Slovenia.
I think it’s easiest to get an IDP no matter what while traveling in Europe. The Balkans tend to be a tricky region because there are EU member states, European Economic Area members, and nonmembers all within the region. There’s nothing to worry about, it just means that you’re going to be stopped at almost every border. They will likely ask for all documents related to the car, including your IDP and valid U.S. driver’s license. Lucky for you, this means MORE stamps on your passports!
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1-2 Months Before Departure Date: Get Your IDP
AAA is the ONLY issuing institution for a valid IDP in the United States. If you don’t have a branch near you, you may mail in the forms. Visit this site: https://driving-tests.org/beginner-drivers/international-drivers-license/ for a step-by-step to getting your IDP.
Once you have your IDP it is valid for one year. I suggest doing this way ahead of time because the IDP lasts so long. This is essential for your road trip in The Balkans!
This is also a great time to check in with your auto insurance and see what their policy is for you while you’re overseas. If they don’t have something to include you, most rental companies will provide you with insurance at an additional charge. It’s usually around $27-45 per day. This can really add up! When booking travel insurance find one that includes rental car insurance.
3-4 Weeks Before Your Departure Date: Book Your Rental Car
I like to use DiscoverCars.com to book all my rentals in Europe. If you want to book a car for just a couple of days like I suggested while staying in Budva, Montenegro using a local car company is just as easy.
You will probably notice people standing on the side of the road advertising rentals in The Balkans. If you are only seeking a car for a couple of days, this will be the cheapest and most convenient option. They aren’t trying to scam you. Most tourists to the coastal cities are other people from Balkan Countries, and this is how they book/find things to do. If you go this route, be sure that your travel insurance or car insurance back home will cover you.
When looking for a type of car to rent, make sure you find the type of car you know you can drive. Europeans usually drive manuals. This is no exception for rental car options. BE SURE to find an automatic if you can only drive an automatic! I have made this mistake before and ended up being charged an extra $100 because I booked a manual.
Departure Date: Triple-Check That You Have ALL Your Documents
This is pretty self-explanatory, but don’t leave anything at home! Additionally, if you want more than one person to drive the car, you will have to get one IDP per person. If multiple people are driving ensure that everyone has the IDP with them. It folds up into something about the size of a regular license but is a bit bulkier.
Woohoo! So now you’re ready to road-trip through The Balkans. You’ve made an excellent choice. There is so much to see and do. In just a few weeks I will be posting some itineraries for those traveling by car.
- Traveling in the tourist high season will make parking very difficult to find. I suggest renting a car in late April-May or mid-September to October.
- NEVER leave your valuables visible in your car. This is pretty much a universal parking rule, but getting your things stolen on vacation is H O R R I B L E.
- Visit some National Parks – taking your own car ensures that you can move around the park at your own pace.
- Car camping is illegal, you will need to find official accommodation for the night.
- If you can’t find parking in bigger cities – try the hotel hack. If you can find a hotel chain that you have a card to, for example, Marriot…if you ask them nicely and show/tell them that you have a rewards card they may let you park in hotel parking for free or cheaper. (It worked in Dubrovnik for me)
- Be conscious of the time your flights land – some car rental places close early.
Recommended Coastal Routes:
- Split to Budva
- Budva to Krka (Skradin)
- Zagreb to Dubrovnik
- I will post more routes as I take them this summer 🙂
Happy travels! If you have any questions leave me a comment below or write me an email! I live in the region and am available to answer any questions you may have.