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.

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. 

Planning a Trip?

Here are few affiliates link that may help planning a perfect trip while staying within budget

Hasan Mahmud

Traveler, Blogger, and Travel Photographer!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Vanessa

    Hi Hasan, What an incredible trip! Thank you so much for detailing all the adventures and highlights for us internet visitors and aspiring travellers. My family are planning to do largely the same thing next month and we are just putting together our rental car itinerary. We are also travelling into and out of Sofia, Bulgaria, and going largely the same route as you, except not Croatia on this trip, so six countries rather than your seven. However, one car rental company, AVIS, forbids car rentals to go into Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro from Bulgaria, which is surprisingly and downright insane, so I wanted to know which car hire company you used at Sofia Airport so we can use the same and book in advance. Thank you so much for all your help in advance! Vanessa

    1. Hasan Mahmud

      Hi Vanessa, thank you for your comment. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I am so glad I did it. From Sofia airport, I rented a car from Sixt Car Rental. Still, I would highly recommend sending them an email for confirmation as the rental company may change their policy or may have additional requirements for cross-border driving.

  2. Vanessa

    Dear Hasan, Thank you so so much for your swift response to my urgent query. In the meantime, whilst waiting for your reply, I used the link on your blog to http://www.rentalcars.com to find a hire car that would allow us to go to almost all the countries you visit, as I assumed that’s what you used too, so I’m glad I checked (for us it’s all the countries you visited, except Croatia). We came up with a decent car by Top Rent A Car, which is actually Bulgaria’s number one rental service via the rentalcars.com portal and we imagined they would be willing to entertain all countries on your list, but it transpires that they do not allow their cars to go into Albania and Kosovo, which is very strange. Thanks to you, I shall now proceed and check with Sixt. Thank you so much! 🙏🏻⭐️😇

  3. Vanessa

    Dear Hasan, We have approached Sixt’s branch at Sofia Airport and this is what they had to say when we said we wanted to arrange prior approvals for multi-country car rental like your good self:

    “We reviewed one more time the information which Mr. Mahmud posted. In comments, he wrote that the car is taken from Sixt, but unfortunately he made a mistake. Based on the picture of the vehicle, which is posted in the website it is visible that the plate number of the vehicle starts with letter “A” . In Bulgaria, /and most of the countries/
    the first letter of the plate number represent the City. All of our plate numbers starts with “CB” /which is Sofia/
    letter “A” is for Bourgas./another city in Bulgaria/. Also it is visible that the car Is Hyundai, which
    unfortunately is another proof that this is not our car, because we don’t have this type of car brand.” I am not sure what to say in response to them, but perhaps you used another car rental company at Sofia Airport?

    1. Hasan Mahmud

      Hi Vanessa,
      Thank you for reaching out to me again. I misplaced my original car rental document, so I could not help you much earlier. I have just found the old rental document from 2019, but unfortunately don’t see any email. Please find their phone and website details below. I rented from them in 2019, so not sure if they still have the same international rental policy, but you may try. Good Luck

      EasyRent Bulgaria
      Tel: +359 899 999 179
      Tel: +359 893 359 183
      Or check out their website: https://easyrent.bg/en
      or Old Site: https://www.easycarsbg.com

  4. Vanessa

    Dear Hasan, Omg you are so so kind to go to all this trouble for me! My family and I really appreciate it! Further to your details above, we have contacted your rental company, Easy Rent Bulgaria and they have been fantastic and we are just in the processes of finalising our booking including all five cross border countries we have organised on our itinerary. I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for coming to our aid and saving us from multiple rental nightmares or, at worst, completely changing our roadtrip route at the eleventh hour. We are so excited to be following some of your roadtrip footsteps from the end of this month onwards! Once again, thank you so much for all your help. You are a complete superstar! Vanessa and family. 🙏🏻⭐️😇🤗🤩

Leave a Reply