Getting Around the Balkans

Travel around EuropePrior to last summer’s Eastern Europe trip I started doing my normal research on how to get from city to city. Are the buses non-smoking? Can I book a train online? Do things run on time? Is JAT Airlines shady? Much to my dismay, I did not find many answers to these questions about the Balkans. So fellow travelers listen up, the Balkans transportation system is a bit different from the Western European countries. Here is my rundown on my Balkan travels.

You can’t fully relay on trains in the Balkans. The train from Sarajevo to Belgrade (or vice versa) does NOT exist despite what you find on websites. This elusive train was once in existence, but seems to have disappeared into the Balkan air. My local friends aren’t even sure what happened to the train. They speculate that it closed due to lack of customers. Needless to say, the Sarajevo-Belgrade train doesn’t run and you need to find ulterior methods of transportation. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving an automatic car on the poorly marked quasi curvy roads. There are only two options besides renting a car: 8-9 Hour Bus Ride OR 30 minute flight with JAT Airlines.

I choose the flight.  Duh.

JAT AirlinesJAT Airlines aren’t half bad. The planes have a decent amount of leg room compared to US flights (see spacious photo) and there is a party happening when you get on the plane with the music playing. The seats weren’t the cleanest thing I’ve ever seen, but they weren’t the worst either. I can handle a few crumbs for a quick 30 minute flight to Belgrade. JAT Airlines also isn’t a discount airline like RyanAir or EasyJet which means the flights are a little more expensive (closer to $150) but it also means you can check a bag for FREE! No more stressing over you bag fitting into those horribly small carry-on boxes.

Getting from Zagreb, Croatia to Sarajevo, Bosnia is a whole other ball game, or bus game that is. There is a bus that travels straight from Zagreb to Sarajevo. We hopped on the bus at Slavanski Brod enroute. The bus runs twice a day and stops at Slanski Brod at 5:30am and 7:10pm with the later bus arriving in Sarajevo at 11pm-ish. The bus was relatively clean with air conditioning (for the win). And it has a major stop in Bosnia for a restaurant-shop-toilet break.  The restaurant bathroom wasn’t the cleanest, but it was an actual US style toilet and not the feared hole-in-the-ground.  Whew.  In fact, I didn’t encounter any of the hole toilets anywhere on the trip around the Balkans.  Overall, the bus allowed us to view the devastation from the Bosnian War which gave us a better perspective of their history, especially in comparison to the Croatian countryside. (More on the history of Bosnia is found in my post on Sarajevo)

I would recommend either of these methods of transportation to get around Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia.  More to come on a mode of transportation that I wouldn’t recommend in a future post…

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