Balkans trip – our statistic Our first long-term trip lasted 150 days – it’s five months.
Traveling by your own car – is the best and most convenient way for us. The car is brand-new, so we didn’t have to worry about some technical problems. We’ve traveled 11,500 km during five months. It was absolutely comfortable, without haste. After all, we aimed to explore the countries, and we crossed the distance of no more than 200-250 km in a day between the cities.
We intended to travel 10,000 kilometers before we get back home and at that time the meter would have to show 15,000 km and one year, when it would be necessary to change the oil. But we reached 10,000 km faster and while staying in Belgrade we took advantage of Volkswagen car service, which was located just a few steps from our flat. So after we handed over our car, we got it back as good as new in 2 hours)
What’s more, we left Ukraine on winter tires. They became of no use to us in two weeks as we made for warmer countries. However, we used them for a month and a half more, and then began settling the issue of selling the old and buying the new ones in Montenegro. Nobody wanted to buy the old tires, so we started thinking how to deliver them to Ukraine (as we didn’t want to throw them away at all) – but it turned out to be even more expensive than the very wheels. Then we came up with an idea to leave them in Kotor in the house of landlords, where we lived. They had plenty of space in the pantry, so we agreed to come back in two months.
There’s a nice app for iphone called Withings, which counts how many steps the phone owner does every day and translates them into kilometers. So, you can watch yourself and reach the goal. Thus we know how many steps we did exactly with our feet) However, we installed this app not from the very beginning of the trip, but about in a month, so it turned out to be even more than 400 km in five months.
During our long trip throughout Balkans, we had different experience with an overnight stay. It appeared in total 34 paid accommodations. Accidental couchsurfing twice. And 14 nights in sleeping bags in the car. Now briefly about each case.
We wrote about the rent of apartments in tips #1 and #2. In almost all cases, we booked via airbnb. In low season, for example, in Split we found the owner through this site and agreed about the meeting, and then personally decided on the issue of discount, as we wanted to live for a longer time.
The same things in Budva and Kotor, there are rental announcements on almost every house. We have tried our luck with several and called our price. There were many proud in Kotor) – even in April their price was 40 euros, but we looked around for a while and found nice owners, who rented out a house nearby and agreed for our price of 20 euros. So, if possible (if you’re not ashamed or afraid to look for owners, as well as given the low tourist season), we recommend looking for housing by yourself.
If there are no free apartments on airbnb, then we are looking for private room on the same site. Alternatively, if the city is not popular and people don’t know that you can rent out your apartments via this site, then we are looking at booking, at least hotels or motels must be in the city. If you search on booking by specifying: apartments – it’s 97% these wouldn’t be fully-featured apartments anyway: for instance, without a stove (with a microwave at best). In our case, these conditions don’t fit, except for one night. After all, we are cooking by ourselves; we need to boil something for sure.
As we arrived to the city of Bar, Montenegro, we had no accommodation booked. As we drove along a narrow street, we met a couple from Belorus when we tried to cross each other’s cars. They were glad to talk to us and offered to stay overnight. They have a great experience of receiving guests from different countries and like to communicate. They own a house and have 5 children. That’s how we happened to try couchsurfing by chance. And another time we planned it, we asked to stay overnight in Krakow, at the very beginning of our trip, with our brides, whose wedding we shot 🙂
Throughout the journey, we have always had a good and fast internet. We are looking for it in conditions of the apartments, and check on arrival. We had an amusing incident in Saranda – resort in Albania. The owners told us: “We have the Internet, but now the wind is strong from Corfu island (Greece), which is visible from our terrace), and the signal is low.” Therefore, we had to keep the system unit on the terrace and cover it from rain 🙂 And only in one spot we could receive wifi, while there was no signal on the phone and laptop. We lived like that for a week)
Another experience that we’ve planned in advance and arranged for ourselves – was staying for a night in the car. There’s enough room in it and quite comfortable, and we’ve managed to do maximum for ourselves – 14 nights. With breaks, of course. We would not survive more; perhaps, we’ll try it again during the next trip. How can you sleep in the car?
We bought good warm sleeping bags in Ukraine. As it turned out it was a very successful investment, due to which (and not only) we have never fallen sick. We slept in sleeping bags even in the apartments, as in the countries where we lived at the beginning there was no heating in the cold season in homes, there are only air-conditioners 🙂 And we are used to hothouse conditions, maintained about 22 °C at home in Lviv. We spent great spring cold nights in sleeping bags (1.5 months).
What’s more, our sleeping bags can be joined together and form one large sleeping bag for two 🙂 We slept in the car for a reason. In some cases, there were no buildings nearby in fact. For instance, Porto Katsiki beach or Mount Olympus. In other cases, we counter-balanced some expenses in the equivalent of housing rental. Spending nights in the car in the wild: on the beach of the sea, in the mountains, left us special memories in general. We fell asleep with sunset and woke up at dawn, and then were looking for a facility to have our breakfast and internet. Quite a different perception opens.
It’s so great to live by the sea and be on the coasts during the seasons other than summer. Of course, the water can be cold and, finally, the air outside can also be cool and winds strong. However, the feelings are completely different, interesting and pleasant. Thus, in February, we started to be acquainted with the beaches of Croatia. And then moved to Budva and Kotor Bay in Montenegro. When we arrived to Albania in April – it was warm already, but still we didn’t dare swimming. We opened the season of sunbathing and swimming in Greece, and it was May. It was in Greece, when we visited one of the coolest beaches – Porto Katsiki. Then we went to Turkey and Bulgaria, but we never went to beaches in those countries. Next, we came back to Albania and had a week’s holiday on the beach in Himare.
Out of 12 countries we have visited about 110 different and interesting locations. If you quickly ask: What is the most memorable? – The answer is: Kotor Bay, Meteora, Albanian Riviera, promenade in Thessaloniki, city of Split, island of Pag, Istanbul, Skopje, Mostar, facilities in Belgrade and the recent most astonishing places were in Romania – Transfăgărășan road with Vidraru Dam, Brasov and Sibiu.
The islands – are something magical. Our first island was
Canary in Spain – Tenerife a few years ago. While during the trip around the Balkans, we were on two in Croatia – Brac and Pag. In Greece, we went along the isthmus to the island of Lefkada. In Turkey, we sailed to the Prince Islands.
Here’s a trip with memories and photographs, which we recorded in this blog. We hope to pass on our inspiration to other travelers and show life in other countries. See you the next trip!
With love, RH.
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