How can I get From Venice to Dubrovnik to Athens?
September 25, 2008 1:58 PM   Subscribe

How can I get from Venice to Dubrovnik to Athens on a backpacker budget?

I'll be in Venice soon and want to go from there to Dubrovnik/Split and thence to Athens (if I can go via Ljubljana I'll be a happy camper too). Staring at budget airline webpages and train timetables is less illuminating than I'd hoped. Any tips?

I'd like to spend about ten days on the way from Venice to Athens.
posted by the duck by the oboe to Travel & Transportation around Venice, Italy (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have not taken this journey, but a glance at Google Maps suggests a long trace all the way down the Adriatic might be cool. Budget airlines in the area connect it to northern/western Europe more than provide regional links.

If you went overland (trains/buses) on a Venice-Ljubljana-Split/Dubrovnik-Kotor, Montenegro-Tirana, Albania route, you could do the last leg on an Olympic Airways, Albanian Airlines or Aegean Airlines flight from Tirana to Athens, and you'd get to check out some of the least-explored corners of Europe for Western tourists.

You could also skip the coast, but go through various interesting/unexplored inland Balkan cities and northern Greece en route to Athens on trains: check out Seat 61's Serbia/Macedonia/Montenegro and Slovenia/Croatia/Bosnia pages for info on connections (there are many, including Belgrade-Thessaloniki and Zagreb-Split night trains).

For pretty much every corner of central and eastern Europe, the In Your Pocket guides - all available as free PDFs and updated a lot more frequently than most guidebooks - are your best bets for local info.

To find out who flies where, check the Wikipedia pages for all the respective airports in the region. Here's Athens and Venice.

Finally, check that you don't need any visas that you'd have to obtain in advance. Wikipedia has an individual page for many passports, explaining which countries apply visa conditions to holders of that passport; here's the US passport page.
posted by mdonley at 2:39 PM on September 25, 2008

Hey, cool. I (sorta) made this trip. Here's what you need to do.

You can catch a train out of Venice. I was going to Hungary, but it went through Ljubljana and Zagreb (Croatia) on the way. You'll take this exact same line, but get off in Zagreb to switch to a train to Split.

There is no train from Split to Dubrovnik, so you'll have to take a bus or a ferry.

Here's where it gets tricky. From Dubrovnik, traveling over land to Greece, you'll have to take a bunch of busses and/or trains. Unfortunately no airline flies from there to anywhere in Greece (according to WhichBuddget).

I've never actually taken this route, so I'll point you instead to this forum where people who have are talking about it. Do-able, but not as easy as the other steps.
posted by nitsuj at 2:44 PM on September 25, 2008

Another way to go from Dubrovnik to Greece would be by ferry, but it isn't direct.

You'd have to go from Dubrovnik to Bari, Italy, and then from there to over to Greece. This might not be the absolute cheapest, but I bet it'll be quicker than going overland.
posted by nitsuj at 2:54 PM on September 25, 2008

(Oh, and if you already have a Eurail pass, these ferries might be free/significantly cheaper. FWIW.)
posted by nitsuj at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2008

Another idea: Adria Airways can fly you from Ljubljana to Podgorica, Montenegro, from which you could check out Kotor and head up to Dubrovnik, then ferry over to Bari and then fly to Athens on MyAir, an Italian low-cost airline. Not sure how the times/prices would work out, but you'd possibly have more time in the places you want to see rather than overlanding across the southern Balkans.
posted by mdonley at 3:10 PM on September 25, 2008

Oh, one last thing - I looked on the MyAir site and found a 25-euros-with-taxes fare from Venice to Athens for a random date in late November, should all these other overland-through-the-Balkans things not work out.
posted by mdonley at 3:14 PM on September 25, 2008

Thanks folks, so far the Zagreb-Split-Dubrovnik thing looks alright. For some reason I thought Split would be harder to get to from Ljubljana.

I'll check out the ferries to Bari too, that looks like it opens up a few options.

I'm on an Australian passport, FWIW. I know I'm alright for Croatia, not so sure about Montenegro etc. Will look into it.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2008

Here's the Australian passport Wikipedia page. Looks like you're good for all countries concerned, but note that Albania charges €10 at the border for a stamp, though, so save a tenner for this!
posted by mdonley at 3:38 PM on September 25, 2008

Another option for Venice-Dubrovnik is taking a bus down the Croatian coast, which has stunning scenery. I did it in the other direction from Dubrovnik several years ago on a backpacker budget. You could take a train or bus to Rijeka, and from there there should be frequent buses to Split and Dubrovnik. Bus schedules tend not to be online as much, so tourist offices may be your best bet.
posted by komilnefopa at 5:23 PM on September 25, 2008

Yeah, this is a journey that has to be done a bit piecemeal. There isn't a fluid way to get down the Dalmatian littoral. From Zagreb to Split can be done by bus: it's a long journey but relatively scenic in the middle bit. The real pain is that there is no ferry service that hugs to coast: as others have said, you have to cross to Italy from Croatia, and then back from Italy to Greece. If you're stuck with a choice of connecting port, between Bari and Brindisi, then I'd perhaps opt for the latter: it's a bit less frantic and a lot more pretty. The ferries I have taken from Puglia call in at Corfu town, and then Igoumenitsa (or vice versa). If you're absolutely desperate to see Albania at all, I'd probably skip the north, get a ferry from Bari/Brindisi to Durres, and then a bus to Ioanina via Gjirokaster. That's not a journey I've done on public transport, but I know people who have. It can get a bit shouty at the border, I hear.
posted by hydatius at 2:15 AM on September 26, 2008

Hitchhike from Ljubljana to Athens. The Balkans are great for hitchhiking (except Croatia, where finding a ride takes a bit longer); I haven't been to an area with friendlier and more spontaneous people. Albania in particular is spectacular and very easy to get through. Cheap local transport in the form of shared buses that leave each town in every direction early in the morning is also available at least in Albania, but I had so much success hitchhiking everywhere else that I never looked for buses.

Haven't hitchhiked in Greece but friends have with no trouble; I wouldn't do it in Italy, though.
posted by xanthippe at 2:42 AM on September 26, 2008

Having planned my share of piecemeal budget eurotravel, I'll say the most useful site I ever discovered was More usable than

I'll also strongly second the suggestion of the Montenegro-into-Serbia detour. Especially the beautiful, friendly north of Serbia (everything north of Belgrade), a.k.a. the Vojvodina region. Novi Sad is one of my favorite cities anywhere in the world so far.
posted by kalapierson at 6:52 AM on September 26, 2008

Hey, Duck dude. Let us know how it went, yo.
posted by hydatius at 3:30 PM on September 29, 2008

Yeah, thanks all. I would have updated sooner but I've been a bit distracted moving out of my place in Edinburgh- this trip is on my way home to Australia.

I've decided on a going Venice-Ljubljana-Zagreb-Split-Dubrovnik-Bari-Athens, which covers the ground I most wanted to see. Aside from an overnight ferry it should all be fairly painless, I think.

I get to Venice tomorrow. W00t!
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:25 PM on September 30, 2008

Okay, week one update, just for fun.

Milan: went there on the way to Venice to meet a friend. Can't say it did a lot for me.

Venice: tourist hell around the Rialto, San Marco areas but it's easy enough to avoid the crowds. A grand place to get thoroughly lost in. It looks like the paintings! More cities need canals.

Venetian dogs are happy dogs.

Ljubljana: very pretty, everything compliments everything else around the river. Creditably small. Autumn colours are starting to take hold. Seems quite prosperous. Very clean. No pigeons!

Bled: suspiciously beautiful.

Zagreb tomorrow.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:06 PM on October 5, 2008

Week 2 update, in case anyone reads this down the line.

Zagreb: Two hours on the train from Ljubjlana. Quite a nice place, very lively. Nice parks. Good food!

Split: 6 easy hours on the train to get there. The first place I stayed, the Silver Gate Hostel, had an impressively large number of bedbugs. The Split Hostel was much better. The city itself is fun, the old Roman stuff is very cool. Buffet Fife is an excellent place for a feed!

Dubrovnik: 4 hours on a non-airconditioned bus to get there but pretty painless. The old town is great, the location is spectacular. It's not so fun when the giant cruiseships disgorge massed hordes of confused shufflers on the place. Did side trips from here to Mostar and Kotor and Budva, both excellent.

On the ferry to Bari now, wondering where the wifi is coming from and how long it'll hold out...
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:23 PM on October 14, 2008

Sounds like an excellent trip. Glad it all went so well!
posted by hydatius at 4:59 AM on October 30, 2008

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