If you are planning a road trip to the Balkans, then you are in the right place. When I started planning, I had a lot of questions and no definite answers. Keeping that in mind, I put together this post so that you get some benefit out of my own experience and plan your trip accordingly.

I love driving, so for me, the 18 days driving trip through 7 countries in the Balkan Peninsula was exciting and fun. Driving in those countries is not as smooth as in the USA or Western Europe, and that is acceptable but definitely not as hard as people may say.

I began my road trip from Sofia, Bulgaria to Greece – Albania – Macedonia – Montenegro – Croatia – Montenegro – Albania – Kosovo – Macedonia – Bulgaria – Romania and finally departed from Sofia, Bulgaria. I know it sounds crazy but believe me, it was adventurous and once in a lifetime experience for me.

The route map of my trip through the Balkans

Here is the Itinerary for my 18 days trip

Day 1 – Arrival in Sofia, Bulgaria

1st day of my long road trip through the Balkans, with all the excitement I landed at Sofia airport around noon. The immigration and customs were smooth. I had a prior rental reservation so getting a nice car was not an issue but since I was driving through 7 different countries so the paperwork took a while.

Driving to Hotel From The Airport

Picked up the car from the airport but there was no GPS available also SIM card was not available at the airport so I had to drive to a close-by mall to get a SIM card so that I could access Google map for direction. Once I was all set with my smartphone getting to the Hotel was not difficult.

The car I drove was kind of big

Check in to Sofia Hotel

BW Premier Collection City Hotel

This hotel is located only miles from the airport so took me no longer than 20 minutes to get here. I loved the hotel location at 6 Stara Planina Str., only 5 – 7 minutes from the top attractions in Sofia such as Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, St. Sofia Church, the parliament of Sofia and more. There are also a few great restaurants around the hotel, and public transportation is right around the corner. Hotel has private parking at the costs EUR 10 per day and its very safe.

BW Premier Collection City Hotel

Late Afternoon Sightseeing in Sofia

1st Stop at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is only 5 minutes walk from the hotel I was staying. It was great to visit this gigantic Orthodox cathedral a symbol of Sofia and one of the most favored sites among the tourists. The beautiful early 20th-century gold-domed cathedral is about 45 m high with the bell tower reaching as high as 51m can be seen from a far distance and represents the pride of Sofia.

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

St. Sofia Church, the 2nd. Oldest Church in Bulgaria

My next stop is to see the church of St. Sofia God’s Wisdom), the second oldest church in Sofia. Located in the city center very close to the iconic Alexander Nevski cathedral.

The historical 6th-century church was built during the time of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Currently, the temple is considered one of the symbols of Sofia. You can visit this church and see the remains of tombs and building foundation goes back about 1500 years.

St. Sofia Church
St. Sofia Church

The Church of St George

The Church of St George among ruins of ancient Roman city Serdica stands a 4th-century church known to be the oldest church in Sofia. The beautiful early Christian red brick rotunda with a coned roof is magnificent to look at and surrounded by the residency building. 

Church of St. George
Church of St. George

Explore Vitosha Boulevard

Vitosha is one of the main commercial streets in the city center extends from the St Nedelya Square to the Southern Park with plenty of elegant stores, restaurants, and bars. It is a semi-pedestrianized area definitely worth checking it out even I had no plan to buy anything.

Vitosha Boulevard, sofia
Vitosha Boulevard the main commercial street

1st Dinner in Sofia at Staria Chinar Restaurant

Nice place to have your candlelight dinner, located very close to St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Price was reasonable and service will surely make you impressed. The food was so delicious that I wanted to go back to try something similar. If you plan a visit then definitely need to try Lamb meat, roasted after an old traditional Bulgarian recipe. And don’t miss the Bulgarian local drink Rakia for a kick, I tried the one made from plum and grape.

Helpful Information

Best Time To Visit

I have visited the Balkans Peninsula between late May and early June. The weather was fantastic, the mountains were lush green, and I was able to see a few snow cap mountains in a few of the countries I have passed through.

Therefore based on my experience the best time is spring and autumn to be more specific, be there between early May and the end of June for gorgeous weather while dodging the summer crowds. Not to mention that Hotels are going to be still a bargain.

Getting There

I have started my road trip from Sofia Bulgaria. There are a lot of airlines fly there on a daily basis. I found it cheaper to fly there from the USA and then pick up the rental car from the airport was no hassle.

The closest airport from Kotor is Tivat Airport (TIV), There are multiple airlines fly there on a regular basis. It is only about 8 km away from Kotor and will cost you approx 20 Euro by taxi (negotiation needed).

Taxi is the most convenient way to get to Kotor or get a pre-arranged private transfer, you can also rent a car but need to book it in advance. It is important to know that there is no public bus or airport shuttle available in Tivat airport.

Renting A Car

If you are renting a car in Balkans here is the information you need to know:

  • Cars are much smaller and you may end up getting a stick shift car unless you specifically requested an automatic car.
  • If you are planning to drive out of the country then you need to inform them during reservation. It will cost you extra also you need to buy a car green card (insurance) for this.
  • Not all countries are covered under this green card. In my case, I had to buy an additional 15 days of insurance (minimum) at the Kosovo border (15 Euro).
  • Road signs are not so great so you need to have GPS, or/and if you have a smartphone then you should be good as long as you have data service or using an offline map app for backup.
  • Make sure to examine all dents when picking up the car and also take pictures before drop off to be on the safe side.

How Many Days Needed for The Trip

Driving through the Balkans is exciting and there are so many things to do and if you really want to seriously explore then definitely it may take 4 to 6 weeks. But I was there only for 3 weeks but was able to accomplish a lot and see remote places thanks to my proper planning. Besides driving allowed me to make my own schedule or start my day very early in the morning and end late in the evening.  

Anyway, it’s hard to tell how many days you really need to cover Balkans. It completely depends on your interest. But make no mistake regardless of how long you spend there at the end of the trip you would definitely like to go back there again.

How Safe It Is To Drive

I agree driving in the Balkans is a little chaotic, but not as dangerous as you may have heard. Most parts of the Balkans roads and highways are nice and in good conditions. It is safe to drive in Eastern Europe but driving defensive will go an extra mile. I recommend not to speed as there are speed cameras hidden in many places along the highway and also cops are more than happy to stop you if they see an opportunity. Overtaking in a no-overtaking zone is also need to be strictly obeyed. Depending on country of your origin you may need not carry an international driving license. 

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Hasan Mahmud

Traveler, Blogger, and Travel Photographer!

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