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1
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« Last post by warlord on February 07, 2018, 05:17:35 pm »
I've been on a trip this past week so haven't been able to respond.  I always book my hotels in advance as I like to research them and stuff before hand.  I'm not as much of a nomad as I once was (growing up sucks), so that just gives me less to worry about and less time to try and find a place.  But I have enough information then that I can easily do either of the 3 trips this year and then have the information for the next few years too :).  ..
2
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« Last post by tUt on February 07, 2018, 02:37:59 am »
This way if said buses aren't running or don't have enough people, I still will have my hotel there and can just do other trips as I see when I'm there or whatever.  Seems a lot less stressful with these Albanian buses.
Reasonable ;) Imho, it will just make sense to "feel the local spirit" ))) And then decide on whether (and where) to go on a day trip
Then I can just go back to Corfu, stay a night or two and then either fly or take a bus to Thessaloniki via Green Buses or fly back to Athens.  Both options are in my price range and flights are only about 50€-65€ and the Green Buses is only around 40€.
Well, with the overland option it might be possible to fit Ioannina as well or make a small cruise => go back to Athens via Patras/Peloponnese region. Anyhow, it's already more like secondary question that can be solved based on the deal you get on the overseas flight

Just seems a lot less stress free and less chances of being stranded with hotel bookings if a bus doesn't run, etc, plus is more straight forward that I'm not dealing with many connections transiting and spending a night here or there just to take another bus the next day for a connection.
Maybe it's a bit easier when travelling out of EU, but usually in such cases I just go with the option of reserving without paying. It might be slightly more expensive compared to the deals where guest needs to pay the full booking right away, but at the same time it gives certain flexibility (cancel/change without losing money). If it's not a high season, it's usually possible to book a decent room even a day or two in advance, so "sold out" isn't an issue either.

So I think I'll take your suggestion and just stick to Greece and Albania then this time.  You're a great help as usual (7 years in a row, minus the one year I went to Korea and China and wasn't on here)...
Thanks :) Maybe not always reply right away, but always try to suggest something to consider & think about )))
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Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« Last post by warlord on January 31, 2018, 05:20:01 pm »
You know, I just checked another option actually which will allow me to split up this entire trip idea into 2 separate trips (the other for next year).  Based on your experience and such and checked the prices and it's very doable.
 
  So I would be flying into Athens and staying a few days of course, taking Aegean Airlines to Corfu, then the ferry to Saranda which then will avoid all the confusing buses with lacks of schedules in Tirana (and many have contacted me saying in May if they don't get enough people, they won't run, etc).  This way I can base Albania in Saranda and take day trips to Ksamil, Gjirokaster and even possibly Berat (though that might be a little far on bus for a day trip, though maybe it's doable.  This way if said buses aren't running or don't have enough people, I still will have my hotel there and can just do other trips as I see when I'm there or whatever.  Seems a lot less stressful with these Albanian buses.

  Then I can just go back to Corfu, stay a night or two and then either fly or take a bus to Thessaloniki via Green Buses or fly back to Athens.  Both options are in my price range and flights are only about 50€-65€ and the Green Buses is only around 40€. 

  This way I can do Albania/Greece in one trip and Macedonia and Kosovo in the other (maybe people have said that Bitola is also worth a visit there).

  Just seems a lot less stress free and less chances of being stranded with hotel bookings if a bus doesn't run, etc, plus is more straight forward that I'm not dealing with many connections transiting and spending a night here or there just to take another bus the next day for a connection.

  So I think I'll take your suggestion and just stick to Greece and Albania then this time.  You're a great help as usual (7 years in a row, minus the one year I went to Korea and China and wasn't on here)...
4
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« Last post by tUt on January 31, 2018, 02:14:03 am »
The other issue is that the buses from Skopje to Prizen (all 2 of them) both get there in the afternoon or evening, so that really doesn't make it possible for a day trip and I would end up having to spend the night.  Prizen to Tirana looks like they have direct buses though, but that would mean skipping Ohrid for Prizen. The only other option would be to just take a day trip to Pristina as they have many buses throughout the day or do the thing I hate the most and take an organized tour which does both cities from Skopje.
What about option Skopje-Pristina-Prizren with the early morning bus from Skopje? Making change in Pristina isn't super convenient, but it will still give you a decent half a day in Prizren. Another approach here is to get off the same Skopje-Pristina bus in Kacanik or Ferizaj (Uroshevac) and change there, meaning don't do the unnecessary deroute to Pristina at all. However here it makes sense to research local Kacanik/Ferizaj connections to Prizren.
Would be nice to get flights out near Sarande, but looking like Skopje & Tirana are the only cheap options that I'm seeing.
Hmm... did you consider option of simply flying out directly from Corfu with some low-cost airline? With something like Ryanair you should be able to catch Corfu-major mainland airport flight for the price of the ferry & domestic Albanian bus to Tirana. Meaning you just get your flight back with the start in Budapest, Rome, Frankfurt, etc. instead of Skopje or Tirana.

I just looked this all over again and found maybe this trip might be a little jammed with trying to do Kosovo as well.  Flights into Pristina are good and maybe it might be better to just do my 2 weeks in Kosovo (Pristina, Prizen), Macedonia (Skopje so I can do some hiking and any other day trips, Ohrid, Bitol maybe or somewhere else in the country) and then flying out of Thessaloniki, Greece instead (found a great airfare)?
Well, to me Albania seem to be more worthy than Macedonia, so I would probably do it like Kosovo-Albania-maybe quick trip to Ohrid from Albania and then finish with Corfu and mainland Greece

Any other suggestions in Macedonia for towns/cities I should stay or see if I do that?
To be honest, didn't travel much in Macedonia (only Skopje, Ohrid, Kicevo and the whole route along the Vardar river to Greece), never went to Bitola, Prilep or western part of the country. Just decided to spend more time in Albania & Greece instead, maybe it was a mistake, but at least then search for places to visit in Macedonia wasn't very impressive.
5
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« Last post by warlord on January 30, 2018, 05:12:01 pm »
Thanks for the comments.  I did some more research and yes there isn't any direct buses from Prizen to Ohrid and the only thing I saw was transferring in Tetovo.  The other issue is that the buses from Skopje to Prizen (all 2 of them) both get there in the afternoon or evening, so that really doesn't make it possible for a day trip and I would end up having to spend the night.  Prizen to Tirana looks like they have direct buses though, but that would mean skipping Ohrid for Prizen. 

  The only other option would be to just take a day trip to Pristina as they have many buses throughout the day or do the thing I hate the most and take an organized tour which does both cities from Skopje.

  And thanks for clarifying SAS being the Skopje bus station and not an individual bus service.

  Ioannina would be good and I looked into actually flying out of there, but without any luck.  I think adding that might be too much as it's a few hours bus ride each way, so I'll probably just have to stick to Corfu for the day and leave it like that. 

  Would be nice to get flights out near Sarande, but looking like Skopje & Tirana are the only cheap options that I'm seeing.

  And yes, Galeb was referring to Ohrid to Tirana bus route that is only in the summer, not Skopje to Ohrid which is every day they said all year round.


  Update:
  I just looked this all over again and found maybe this trip might be a little jammed with trying to do Kosovo as well.  Flights into Pristina are good and maybe it might be better to just do my 2 weeks in Kosovo (Pristina, Prizen), Macedonia (Skopje so I can do some hiking and any other day trips, Ohrid, Bitol maybe or somewhere else in the country) and then flying out of Thessaloniki, Greece instead (found a great airfare)?

  That would leave me with another trip next year to do Montenegro/Albania and Greece or Serbia/Montenegro to make it less hectic and letting me stay in hotels longer rather than bounce around so much with all that I was thinking I could accomplish this time.

  Any other suggestions in Macedonia for towns/cities I should stay or see if I do that?

6
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« Last post by tUt on January 29, 2018, 07:18:07 pm »
Sorry for delay with the reply, it's not always easy to do so on the road :)

Fly into Skopje - for a few days
Macedonia is a nice country, however Skopje aren't it's most interesting place, thus my advice - don't plan more than 2 days for it. It's convenient as transport hub, but one day should be totally enough to see everything around, imho.
Day trip to Prizen via SAS (www.sas.com.mk)
SAS is just an abbreviation of Skopje bus station, while the actual carriers are various bus companies (e.g. Galeb as one of the biggest players on the market)
(using SAS again I hope, or Galeb if they are operating there in May)
Skopje-Ohrid is one of the popular domestic routes, so you wouldn't have to wait for more than an hour for the next bus, Galeb buses will definitely be there, but you can just take the nearest one and don't wait for this specific company ;) Also pay attention to the fact that in Macedonia r/t bus tickets are considerably cheaper than two one-way tickets. With Skopje-Ohrid it won't matter, since you will be going one-way only, but for Skoje-Prizren-Skopje it can save you a bit
I would consider actually staying over night in Prizen and then taking a bus to Ohrid as well if it's possible
Hmm... Kosovo is a bit black forest in terms of transport info, Tetovo & Gostivar areas are very Albanian populated, so one would expect some international connection there from Prizren, but haven't found any direct one to Ohrid. Maybe it can be Prizren-Tetovo and then Tetovo-Ohrid, though not necessarily it will be cheaper/faster then going via Skopje

Getting a taxi from the hotel to Struga (since it's easier to get the hotel to order a taxi so I don't get ripped off)
Good idea, but still check rough prices beforehand, since there is no guarantees that hotel desk don't have their own "pocket" overpriced taxis
Saranda - 4 or more nights
 - Ferry to Corfu for the day
 - Bus or Furgon to Ksamil for the day
 - Maybe Gjirokaster for the day
Good choice, plus flexibility of "4 or more nights" gives you an opportunity to change the plans a bit in case you get bored (adding some nearby destination) or not feeling like going anywhere
Back to Tirana
 - Probably using the Ioannina to Tirana bus (or the same one I came on)
You want to visit the mainland Greece (Ioannina) as well?

So does that look like a doable trip then with transit.
Yep, looks very reasonable and totally doable ;) 
That's my biggest thing is getting the right buses as Galeb contacted me saying they didn't operate any buses to a lot of places until the summer.  Just wanted to avoid using furgons for the longer trips.
Weird, maybe there was some misunderstanding. Just checking the bus station website for tomorrow and it clearly shows plenty of buses almost every hour -

For the FYR context Ohrid is a pretty big place, so shortage of bus connection with the capital is very unlikely. Maybe Galeb ment summer time international routes, but not year round domestic? Been there twice during the off-season and never had any trouble catching nearest bus
7
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Albania - Macedonia - Greece
« Last post by warlord on January 26, 2018, 05:34:57 pm »
Here is my projected itinerary for Mid May.  Does it seem ok, since you are familiar with a lot of this route?


Fly into Skopje - for a few days
 - Day trip to Prizen via SAS (www.sas.com.mk)
 - See either Matka Gorge, Vodno climb or Kamnik winery


Take a bus to Ohrid - 2 or so days
(using SAS again I hope, or Galeb if they are operating there in May)
 - I would consider actually staying over night in Prizen and then taking a bus to Ohrid as well if it's possible


Ohrid to Tirana - 1 night if even that
Getting a taxi from the hotel to Struga (since it's easier to get the hotel to order a taxi so I don't get ripped off)
 - Taking Drumo Tours Bus to Tirana (which I think drops me off at Zogu i Zi roundabout) - They told me they operate all year
 - Getting a ticket at TISA Tours near Sheshi Shqiponja for Saranda and take the bus (may have to be the next morning)  to Saranda (not sure if using Albatrans or Gjirafa is better though)


Saranda - 4 or more nights
 - Ferry to Corfu for the day
 - Bus or Furgon to Ksamil for the day
 - Maybe Gjirokaster for the day


Back to Tirana
 - Probably using the Ioannina to Tirana bus (or the same one I came on)

Then in Tirana I can go to Durres for a day and then fly out a few days later.

 
  So does that look like a doable trip then with transit.  That's my biggest thing is getting the right buses as Galeb contacted me saying they didn't operate any buses to a lot of places until the summer.  Just wanted to avoid using furgons for the longer trips.  Any other suggestions or corrections with this?






8
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Belgrade to Podgorica or Zagreb Question
« Last post by warlord on January 26, 2018, 05:21:20 pm »
Ok thanks for the information.  I may end up doing this trip still, but looking more like I'll be doing Macedonia and Albania instead.

Yes in Budva I will definitely be going to Kotor and also Sveti Stefan since I'd be staying in Budva for a few days.

I'll have a backpack with locks on it so hopefully that will be fine.  Just figured since I'd bring wine on the train, I may have to leave the compartment often to go to the bathroom, so that's why I was curious about that.  And thanks for mentioning the trains are all compartments and not just seats then.  A long train ride, but as you said and as I've read elsewhere, the best route to probably take in all of Europe so I wouldn't want to miss out on doing this...
9
Wow, very cool video! Especially since it's a totally different region of the world. Thankx for sharing :)
10
Travel plans, routes and timetables / Re: Belgrade to Podgorica or Zagreb Question
« Last post by tUt on January 26, 2018, 01:39:05 am »
I would probably be going from Belgrade to Ulcinj  then to Budva and flying out of Podgorcia (skipping Bar).
Bar is for sure not the most interesting place out there (unless you want to see major port and some military ships). Budva is for the beach, right? Then would suggest to spare half a day for a side trip to Kotor (it's only 20 km away) + there is always mentioned earlier Sveti Stefan, which is even closer. So in case you get bored at the beach, just hop on the bus and make a couple hour trip.
So with what you stated about really nothing big in between, I'd probably just opt for the day train if possible.
Well, it's not really nothing, but perhaps more suitable for second-third visit to the region.
How safe is it to leave your bag while you go to the toilet?  I've never gone on a train more than a few hours so I've never had to carry luggage that long of a distance before.
In case of backpack or some small bag with the most valuable belongings (passport, wallet, cellphone, etc.) you definitely need to carry it with you, while with the suitcases and other big luggage you can just put it on the baggage shelf above the seats and most likely there will be somebody else (e.g. other tourists) in your compartment, so it will kind of ensure that nobody from outside will mess with your luggage.
What about eating/drinking cars, what does one do with their luggage so that it's safe on the train? 
It's kind of the same story as with the toilet, at least never seen anybody take the big luggage with them when going to eat. Imho, just see what kind of neighbors you have and then decide on whether to ask them to watch your things while you're gone or better not to risk it. Plus, I wouldn't be 100% sure that there will be a dining car on the train. It suppose to be present, but it's Serbia, thus you can't be totally certain, so anyway it's better to have some snack & water with you (just in case).

I think I've just heard the usual horror stories and wasn't quite sure how this would be for a long train trip?
Yep, but nowadays one should be careful pretty much anywhere, even in presumably safe Western Europe, so general precautions are the best choice here.
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