A visa-free Balkan tour by car is one of the most enjoyable travel activities. It is a wonderful feeling to have a road trip, to stop wherever you want, and to do it in visa-free countries in Europe. In this article, I tried to explain the experiences we had on our 10-day Balkan tour, the things you should pay attention to, and the roads of the Balkan countries. Here is a visa-free Balkan tour guide.
First of all, what we mean is not to go abroad from Turkey by car, but to go to the Balkans by plane and visit the Balkan countries by renting a car in the Balkans. The countries and the route we traveled on the Balkan tour by car were as follows: If you wish, you can also access the detail pages by clicking on the links.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo, Konice, Mostar, Stolac)
- Montenegro / Montenegro (Budva, Kotor)
- Albania (Durres, Shkodra, Tirana)
- North Macedonia (Ohrid, Struga, Skopje)
- Serbia (Belgrade, Nis)
It is an itinerary prepared with the intention of seeing 5 countries of the Balkans and most of the places worth seeing. Even though it is a full itinerary, I think we would not be able to finish a geography as beautiful as the Balkans if we traveled there for months. We chose Sarajevo as a starting point. It is also possible to plan through other central cities such as Skopje, Tirana or Belgrade where there are direct flights from Istanbul.
We rented our car from a car rental center in Serbia. Since we rented it 8 months in advance, it was very affordable. We started our journey by renting a car from the airport, circled around the countries mentioned above and returned to the country we started from.
Like other countries we visited in Europe, you don’t need to buy a vignette and stick it on the windshield of your car. You have to pay the highway tolls on the roads. But in the Balkans, we didn’t have any highway tolls that made us say “boo”, they were usually low tolls.
Here is the information that made us suddenly make a plan B. While renting our car at the airport, we shared our itinerary with the employee and asked if there were any problems in these countries. And Kosovo was actually among our plans. However, we learned that due to diplomatic problems and international disputes between Kosovo and other Balkan countries, rented vehicles cannot enter Kosovo. If we had not told the employee about our plan, we would have learned this at the Kosovo border gate and this could have been very troublesome. We immediately revised the plan and solved the issue with a new accommodation. The bottom line is, ask if there are any political tensions between countries where you rent a car.
Accommodation in the Balkans
Accommodation in the Balkans is also important. Before you go to the Balkans, make reservations for your accommodation in advance. You don’t necessarily have to stay in hotels, you can also stay in hostels as the Balkans are cheap. If you are traveling with two or three people, you can stay in private rooms for 10€ per person per day. If you don’t mind sharing a room with others, you can stay much cheaper. You can also book Balkan hostels through booking.com or other hostel websites. Choose the ones with high ratings, check the reviews, distance to the city and decide accordingly.
Visa and Border Crossings in the Balkans
Balkan tours are generally preferred because they are visa-free. The countries I mentioned above do not require a visa, so you can easily enter these countries with a passport. Make sure you have your flight tickets, accommodation documents and printouts about your route in case of any inquiries that may be made in the country you land in. You may need to show the documents about where and how many days you will stay. We had no problems when we landed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While traveling around the Balkans by car, we did not encounter any extra problems at the border gates. The process at the border gates is as follows: First you exit the country you are in, the exit procedures are completed and a little further on, the entry procedures for the other country are carried out. Without ever getting out of the car, you can take care of the procedures by giving your passports and car license. Try to behave normally, some officials may ask simple questions or try to speak Turkish.
Border crossings in the Balkans may vary depending on the period you are traveling. For example, if you go during a holiday, you may experience a rush if you are on the route of people from countries such as Germany and France who want to go to Turkey or the regions close to Turkey. Considering that you will have to spend your time at unexpectedly busy border crossings, plan by taking into account your travel plans in the country you will cross and the check-in times at the hotel where you will stay.
Parking is also very strict in the Balkans. Do not park in random places, you will be fined. There is always a parking attendant or a parking vending machine around you. Pay the fee and stick the receipt on the window or enter a parking lot. When you look at the price, it usually amounts to 1-2 dollars per hour or 5-10 dollars per day in more touristic places. It is not worth paying a fine for this. Some cities also have parking lines in colors like yellow or blue. You need to ask and learn what these mean. Some can only be parked at night, some can be parked for free during the day. They don’t tow the wrongly parked cars, they put a clamp on the wheels that prevents them from moving forward. In one country, when we woke up in the morning and got in the car, they were about to put one on us because we parked in the wrong place, but we arrived before they did and apologized and left. You should avoid parking fees and avoid both fines and wasting time.
Make sure you choose the hotels with parking lots. You don’t have to think about the car in the hustle and bustle and pay parking fees all day long. For example, many times we left the car in the parking lot of the hostel and went to visit the city that way. Since our accommodation areas were close to the city centers, we did not have any problems.
Roads and Traffic in the Balkans
The Balkans is a region where you can see nature at its greenest and where there are plenty of forests. You will feel a lot of Black Sea vibes during the trip. Mountains are abundant, roads are winding and mostly round-trip, separated by straight lines. This creates the possibility of long queues behind the trucks. Know in advance that you will be left behind many trucks on mountain roads that cannot be overtaken. The vehicle you rent should be powerful enough to adapt to the bumpy mountain roads, do not spoil your vacation by renting a car with a 1.2 engine, and if possible, it should have automatic transmission for your comfort.
In Balkan countries, navigation is a must. In case you have difficulties in unfamiliar places, either rent a navigator or download maps from Google Maps or Maps.me on your phone in advance. You will travel more easily with the navigation applications you download to your phone.
Traffic rules are of course important. For the most part, they are followed, but don’t let yourself get too loose while driving, considering that people who don’t know the rules can be anywhere, or that there are people who come here to travel from countries where there are no rules. Albania has the rudest drivers among the Balkan countries. They are rude and careless. Be especially careful in Albania, it is like the wild west.
Money Matters in Balkan
When traveling in the Balkan countries, you need to make sure that you have the currency of the Balkan countries with you. You need to convert the considerable amount of euro money you have with you into local currency as much as you will spend in the country you are entering. It is really important to determine your needs and plan accordingly when entering the cities. It is necessary to use the exchange offices in the city centers as much as you can to change the money more conveniently. If you think that you can give Euros and get local change, you will lose a lot of money. Since Balkan countries are generally poor countries, they do not prefer to use credit cards, so focus on solving most things with local money, otherwise you may find yourself in the basket of cheated tourists. Of course, it makes sense to buy groceries with a credit card. In Serbia, we went to a gas station to fill up the tank before delivering the car. Although there was a credit card sticker on the door, there was no credit card device inside, so we had to pay in euros and made a loss.
Since local currency calculations can create confusion during a Balkan tour, download a Currency Converter app on your phone in advance and add the currencies you will use to your list in advance.