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Public Transportation in the Balkans

Millstone, New...
Level Contributor
42 posts
194 reviews
Public Transportation in the Balkans

Hey,

A few years ago, I spent a couple of months backpacking around the Balkans through Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania. It was the most amazing experience, but I remember a consistent part of the trip was the relatively unreliable public transportation (bus, train) schedules. I learned to enjoy the unpredictability as part of the trip so it wasn't necessarily a huge source of annoyance or anything like that, but I wonder if there is a solution to making it a little easier or more convenient.

Flash forward to now - I'm a Master's student thinking about this experience and how we might be able to improve it. I don't have any ideas yet, and at this point, I was just wondering if anyone had similar experiences - i.e. how did you prepare for the trip (what sorts of guides or resources, if any), what was it like on the trip itself, what advice would you give to others traveling through the area, etc. Thanks! :)

4 replies to this topic
Sydney
Destination Expert
for Croatia
Level Contributor
17,816 posts
170 reviews
1. Re: Public Transportation in the Balkans

You need to decide which countries you want to visit and for how long. Then you need to post in forums of those countries. You need to include as much information as you can about your interest current style of travel. Only then, can we try to help. As it is now, we would be making a stab in the dark and most likely wasting our time and yours.

Millstone, New...
Level Contributor
42 posts
194 reviews
2. Re: Public Transportation in the Balkans

Apologies. I should have been more clear. I traveled through the region and am not planning to return for some time unless my schedule allows, but I was more reaching out to hear others' stories or experiences. I am more curious about how others have navigated the public transportation system - for example, I read dozens of blogs, forums, travel guides beforehand - and was still stranded in Osijek overnight waiting for a nonexistent bus line, then waited 4 hours for a train in Bosnia another day. All of those were part of the experience, but it was something that did require a lot of rescheduling and flexibility. So I am just trying to get a feel for what it's been like for others, how they felt, etc. Thanks!

Como, Australia
Level Contributor
124 posts
3. Re: Public Transportation in the Balkans

I found public transport to be relatively reliable when I travelled around the area. This refers to formal transport with published schedules that is available to anybody.

Sometimes it was hard to find information but it's mostly meant to cater for locals, tourists are a lower priority.

If a bus or train doesn't come then not a lot you can do except have a plan B.

Someone could make a website where people can report on the reliability but that would tend to overstate problems and not get input when things are running smoothly.

Otherwise the operators can put live updates on their website and get a social media team which responds to questions in real time. Vehicles can be installed with GPS so you can track them and know whether they are coming. All this requires a lot of money and it will probably happen eventually, but then that makes it boring.

IMO the website of buses in Sofia is one of the best in the world (as long as you can read Cyrillic) along with stops.lt (not in the Balkans, I know), certainly better than any of the clunky script-heavy ones you get in English-speaking countries where they try to hide information because they think passengers are stupid.

Millstone, New...
Level Contributor
42 posts
194 reviews
4. Re: Public Transportation in the Balkans

Hey John,

Your response was so thorough and very insightful! I might have hit an unlucky streak with those few instances since the rest of the travel went pretty smoothly, once I learned to expect 20-40 mins delays. I really appreciate you taking the time to write out what it's been like for you and how technology will eventually be brought onto the scene. Thanks again, and happy travels!

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