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  #1  
Old 16 Feb 2005
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Croatia/Bosnia/Serbia-Montenegro/Bulgaria - motorbike safety

Hello,

We are planning a three week trip through Eastern Europe in 2005 . We are based in Belgium and would like to avoid the first 1000km on motorways and therefore consider to put our bikes on the train in Düsseldorf, Germany and start our journey in Villach, Austria, close to the Slovenian border.

I am enclosing the itinerary hereafter, which I hope may facilitate your responses. Our plan is to travel through the Julian Alps in Slovenia, then move on the Plitvice park in Croatia and make our way down to Dubrovnik (overnight stay). From then on, follow the Trebisnjica river to Mostar and move on to Sarajevo (visit). Then move on to Nis in Serbia-Montenegro to the Rila and Pirin mountains in Bulgaria where we will drive around for a couple of days. Next is a visit to Plovdiv and a couple of relaxing days at the Black Sea, returning via Veliko Tarnovo and Kopvristica heading for Belgrad (overnight stay) and Zagreb (overnight stay) back to Villach in Austria.

We have travelled to all sorts of countries, challenging and not so challenging. However, we have not taken the bikes outside Western Europe and we have heard quite a bit of stories on foreign vehicle theft in some of the countries that we would like to visit.

We are driving two Honda VFR800, dating from 2001 and 1999, and although they are not brand new, I can imagine they still could attract the wrong type of attention. Anybody with experience in these countries, would you recommend that we always try to find lodging with a garage/parking ? I can imagine that in cities, that represents a challenge, especially if we still want accommodation to be affordable ? One bike may fit in a small courtyard or garden but two seem more difficult to store ? Any thoughts on this please ?

Second question is related to road conditions. Our road bikes are not ideal for off-road trips so my question if we can still get a good view of the Rila, Pirin and Rhodope mountains on sealed roads ? In this area, we’d like to work on a trip roughly passing by Bansko, Velingrad, Batak, Dospat, Goce Delcev and Smolyan.

My last question is related to travel time. September seems to be more quiet but the mountains may get quite chilly already. My thought is to leave around mid to end August and come back mid-September. Will this typically mean large crowds in Croatia during the last week of August ?

I am new to this forum and read carefully through the posts to avoid I am asking duplicate questions. If I do, please don’t hesitate to refer me to the topic that covers my questions. Otherwise, I am most grateful for your time !

A&P
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  #2  
Old 17 Feb 2005
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All these countries are safe for bike travelling. If you have time go to Romania too.(Transilvania, Transfagarasan highway...)
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  #3  
Old 18 Feb 2005
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I'm in Italian working in Sarajevo for an international organization.
I rode my bright red BMW R 1100 GS all around Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro without any problem, and I plan to do the same again next summer. In 1999 I rode through Romania and Bulgaria, again without any major problem.
I also drove my car to Belgrade very easily.
The only think you have to take care of, is the police, as they have radar guns and they try to stop as much foreigners as they can, to obtain payment of small bribes (around 10 euros) to avoid more expensive tickets.
It's also better to avoid Kossovo, as the situation there is still pretty unstable.
That's all...
Enjoy the trip, as the Balkans, and Bosnia Erzegovina and Montenegro in particolar (I strongly advise you to go there), are wonderful countries.
Let me know if you need additional info. BTW, I presently run the community of Sarajevo
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  #4  
Old 21 Feb 2005
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Im living in Zagreb. There is no cheap place to sleep. Zagreb is safe city but last summer I meet two bikers and show them to a hostel. The next they I was calling the reception to show them around and the receptionist sad to ma that they was rob.
So if you dont have 80€ per person avoid Zagreb
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  #5  
Old 22 Feb 2005
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You can be robbed in every town of Europe.
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  #6  
Old 22 Feb 2005
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If you're brave enough to go to Paris, Milano, Napoli, Rome, Madrid, Frankfurt, you'll find the Balcan a cosy safe place.
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  #7  
Old 22 Feb 2005
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Thank you for your responses and posts. We are very much looking forward to our trip. Our trip is planned for August-September so I'd be happy to share experiences afterwards with other forum members.
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  #8  
Old 6 Mar 2005
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Hi i went to Slovenia, croatia, Bosnia and Serbia last year, but by car. I wont repeat what has been said here already other than to repeat the warning about the police. they even set up false roadworks with speed reductions thats are only possible if you are a F1 dirver in a F1 car. My wife was accused of doing 2x the speed limit, which if you knew my wife would make you laugh out loud!
The other thing is that the road surface does not (in general) have much grip, ride smooth and beware sharp bends on roads that are clearly not of recent construction.

all in all a wonderful place.

[This message has been edited by Spanish Bob (edited 06 March 2005).]
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  #9  
Old 7 Mar 2005
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You must say in which country you had problems with police.
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  #10  
Old 7 Mar 2005
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I can only comment on Croatia, which I have visited for the past 3 summers in a row, riding my Honda ST1100. It is a delightful country, for the most part, the roads are very good, and the country compares to Southern Austria or Italy so far as development is concerned. In other words, really no concerns at all about travel throughout Croatia.

I was stopped once by the police in Croatia for speeding (I WAS speeding - about 130 in an 80), and they were very nice, saw my Canadian plates and told me to slow down because sometimes there was dirt on the roads and they did not want me to dump the bike and ruin my trip, they did not give me a ticket or a fine.
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  #11  
Old 17 Mar 2005
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Your itinerary is quite OK. Near Niš, try to stay at Niška Banja - hotels allow you to keep bikes in the lobby. In Bulgaria there is always a garage, garden or even a swimming pool area where your hosts will gladly arrange safe keeps of your bikes. Around Sofia is a higher risk level, but the safest place to stay (and leave your VFRs) is VIKING TIR PARK/MOTEL - armed guards, cheap transfer to city (10km) and good food.
Also some nice bike meetings over there.
In Veliko Tarnovo we had no problems, but still we lock the bikes, keep them in open where there may be cameras or within a fence - garden, pool, whatever.
Gas and roads are OK. Three weeks will be just enough. And, yes, do visit Constanca, Romania at least.
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  #12  
Old 17 Mar 2005
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Belgrade : in the very center there is an affordable hotel Excelsior, car parking 50m away, bring four s. Nice folks will keep your bikes under control.
Mail for details, if you need more....
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  #13  
Old 14 Apr 2005
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Hi.

I did Batics-Balcan on a 1150 last year and I only have good things to say about the Balcans. Croatia is a wonderful safe country with lovely people. Fairly cheap as well. Bosnia is a good aswell. If you go to Sarajevo which I recommend, stay at Halvat Guest House.
http://www.halvat.com.ba/english.htm
I can really recommend it. They have a safe garage for the bike free of charge. Sarajevo can be a little dodgy during the night time. If they are full I can recommend Hollywood hotel 15 minutes outside Sarajevo. All NGO:s have their staff there. Safe and cheap. But stay out of Kosovo.

Have fun.
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  #14  
Old 14 Apr 2005
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Hi
I noticed your itinery includes Nis in Serbia. I came through there 14 days ago and stayed at Hotel Nais about 10KM north of Nis on the highway from Szeged (Hungary). I arrived in the middle of a huge electrical storm and the hotel staff indicated that I should park the bike on the raised entrance to the building. When I got my big lock and chain out they said no need as the night staff would keep an eye on it.
With regards to police radar traps, I passed many of them in Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria without being stopped for speeding (but I did stick to the speed limits and usually travelled at least 5KM to 10KM slower than the limit). I was pulled over by police in Bulgaria on the Sofia ring road but all they wanted to do was have a look at my bike, check my green card and then waved me on after a 5 minute chat and an exchange of cigarettes! The lesson here is if you want to avoid paying speeding fines, always stick to the limits.

Have a great trip.

Tony (In Istanbul for one more day)
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  #15  
Old 20 May 2005
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hey,

we visited the balcans last year on a bmw r80gs and a dr650se (italy-greece-macedonia-albania-montengro-serbia-bosnia-croatia and up again), but you'll be fine on your bikes; most roads are paved and in a relatively good condition. signalisation however is often optional; take a detailed map if you want to leave the main roads.

as for the-police-and-fines-question, be carefull; in croatia, bosnia and serbia police are indeed very 'present.' speedguns are one thing, but there's another problem: if you're overtaking slow traffic or jams (which you will, because the croatian coastroad is FULL in summer) you will get fined (frankly, there's a policeman at every white line). fines get lower if you 'don't need a ticket.'

traffic is ok, but we felt that montenegrins drive like maniacs. always and everywhere. so better be careful.

don't worry too much about safety; you can very often park your bike inside the hotel fence, or someone will keep an eye on it.

try to include macedonia in your trip; it's a very nice country (we stayed in bitola, and took some long drives through the country). and it's on thhe way to bulgary anyway...

we visited sarajevo, no worries there either, but didn't sleep there... we drove up and down from mostar, which is a very nice place to stay.

if you need any more details on our route or have other questions, just ask...

good luck and enjoy
g&t

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