BALKANS: 9 driving tips in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia

The idyllic town of Rovinj

We rented a car in Croatia which we used throughout Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia. The road trip was fabulous, so we thought we would share some tips for those who are planning to do so too.

There are common ones already listed on many sites; left-hand drive (uh-huh), use of seat belts (always important), drink-driving (duh!), usage ban of mobile phones while driving (concentration, people), scams on the road (thank God we didn’t encounter any), etc. Here goes ours…

1. Paved Roads

When driving, stay on paved roads to avoid encountering unmarked mines left over from the 1990s war. If you want to park at an unpaved shoulder to enjoy a view, look for tracks made by earlier vehicles.

2. Mountain Roads

Always buffer after calculating your travelling time using Google or GPS because as decent as these countries’ infrastructure is, there are still many areas not linked by expressways or flat roads. There are lots of mountain roads and you, like us, may not be as experienced at driving on them so you may drive slower than the speed used for calculation on Google or GPS.

3. Mountain Wind

When driving on mountains, there are areas known for strong wind. You can feel your steering wheel moving on its own, so you need to have a constant strong grip of it. Do note the reduced speed limit that is displayed along with the wind sock symbol. There may be cars that speed past you when you reduce speed; be safe and ignore them because you may not be as experienced as them when handling mountain wind.

There was once when the wind was so strong that trucks parked at a petrol station for safety and while we soldiered on, we realised the wind was pushing waves away from the shore. When we emerged from the car to take a video of the waves, Marshmallow had to squat down as she felt like she was going to be knocked over by the wind.

4. Fog

Fog does not occur just during winter. It may occur in the wee hours, at night or in zones that are fog-prone such as forested and mountainous areas. Fog can get really bad that your visibility becomes only 50 meters. Make sure your headlights are switched on when there is fog, and maintain visibility of the rear car lights of the car in front of you. It is safer to drive with a view of the car in front of you than to not drive with one.

5. Immigration

Always keep your passport at hand because you may encounter many immigration checkpoints in quick succession. Croatia’s cities and villages are not all linked; Dubrovnik is separated from the other Croatian cities by Bosnia & Herzegovina.

6. Green Card

A Green Card is a document that allows motorists to drive across international borders of most countries in and around Europe, and proves that the visiting motorist has at least the minimum compulsory insurance required by the countries visited.

To simplify cross-border traffic, vehicles with plate registration from countries that are members of European Economic Area (EEA) do not need to present a Green Card as the vehicles are assumed to have the required insurance.

Although Bosnia & Herzegovina belongs to the Green Card System just like Croatia and Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina is not part of EEA as of 1 June 2017. If you are planning to drive through it, you need to inform the car rental company so that you can get a Green Card at an additional cost.

For more information, you can visit the website of Council of Bureaux, the Managing Organisation of the Green Card System and the Motor Insurance Directives.

7. Vignette

When driving on Slovenian expressways, you have to buy a Vignette which is a toll sticker you have to display on your windscreen. With a Vignette, you are paying based on a period of time instead of road tolls that are based on distance travelled. You can buy it at petrol stations and as of 31 January 2017, a weekly Vignette costs €15.

8. Driving Licence

When renting your vehicle, the car rental company may state that international driving licence is not necessary; they only need a driving licence that is in English. Always make sure you email to ask so you have their confirmation in black and white that your home country’s driving licence will suffice.

9. Parking

If you visit Lake Bled in Slovenia, do not park by the lake because you will be fined €50, excluding a small admin fee. If you took a chance and still received a fine, you can pay the fine at the post office next to Hotel Lovec, which is also open on Saturday mornings.

As for Ljubljana, there was free parking at Ljubljana Castle when we visited on a Saturday, so if the castle is already on your to-visit list, why not park there and take the funicular to the city centre where all attractions are walkable distance from one another?

When you are in Croatia, there are different parking zones with varying cost and certain free-parking days. It is advisable to check with the locals.

By: Chocolate and Marshmallow

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