Saturday, June 21, 2014

Autobusni in Croatia - A Guide to Getting Around

We recently traveled to Croatia and prior to our trip, we found it difficult to find good information about the bus service, which is the primary means of transportation for most of the country. Train service is centered mostly around Zagreb with connections to other European cities, so if you are planning on traveling in other areas, namely along the Istrian or Dalmatian coasts, you will likely encounter a bus.

In general we found the bus service to be extremely well organized, on time, and affordable. We were traveling in May, which is just before tourist season (June-August), so our observations may not be true for high season.

Schedules
Generally there are plenty of buses between major cities, even on the weekends. There is sometimes a lull between 12pm and 2pm when people take a siesta (especially true for buses between smaller towns). The most reliable and up-to-date information about departure times can be found on timetables at the station, which are usually posted outside with destinations and arrivals to various cities, or by asking at the ticket window. Every station we visited had a ticket seller who spoke English so it was easy to get information. At least along the coast, all the buses took the small coastal roads rather than the large interior highways which made for longer trips, but much better views. There didn't seem to be any difference in the quality or price of service among different bus companies. We used Brioni, Autotrans and ńĆazmatrans simply because they left at times we wanted.

Time and Price Estimates
  • Trieste (Italy) to Rovinj: 14.60 Euro, 3 hrs
  • Rovinj to Pula: 64 kuna, 45 minutes
  • Rovinj to Rijeka (via Pula): ~140 kuna, 3 hrs
  • Rijeka to Zadar: ~200 kuna, 5 hrs
  • Zadar to Split: 127 kuna, 3.5 hrs
  • Split to Dubrovnik: 130 kuna, 4.5 hrs

  • Buying Tickets
    Tickets can be purchased online for some bus companies, although we did not attempt to do this since we were not sure of the legitimacy of the websites and many were not in English. Tickets can be purchased at bus stations in all major cities which are generally open 8 to 5, although many take pausas (breaks) at odd hours like 9-10 or 12-2. All the bus stations we saw just had one ticket window for all the bus companies. Even if it looked like it was for just one company, they could sell you tickets for other companies as well. At the station it was possible to pay with debit card or cash and you can buy tickets in advance.

    You can also purchase tickets on the bus from the assistant if you are late or get on in a small city without a station. These tickets are about $1 cheaper because you don't pay a reservation fee. On the bus you must pay with cash. After you board and are seated, the assistant will come to you with a ticket machine and print you a receipt after you pay.

    If you buy a round trip ticket, you receive a discount of 30%, make sure you ask about it. We heard that you could by an open ended return ticket, but we never tried this. There are also discounts available for students with an ISIC card (possibly 10% although this is not verified).

    Your ticket will have the name of the bus company, the origin and destination of the bus as well as your origin and destination, times of departure and arrival, and price. For example, you might be traveling from Zadar to Split on a bus that goes from Rijeka to Dubrovnik, so both routes are listed on your ticket. Make sure you check this information before boarding so you know which bus to look for. Tickets will come with a detachable bottom part that the bus assistant rips off when you are on the bus so be sure not to lose or detach the bottom part.

    It was not necessary to buy tickets in advance for any route. Most buses were only about 1/4 to 1/3 full upon departure, although many did fill up along the route. We did purchase tickets 1-3 days in advance, mostly for the convenience of not having to do it later.

    On The Bus
    In smaller stations (like Rovinj) buses just pull up in front of the ticket office for boarding. In larger stations, there will be numbered slots that buses pull into. Ask at the ticket window to determine which numbered slot your bus will be at. Buses will have signs in the front window with the origin and destination so you should check this or ask the driver/assistant before boarding to make sure you are on the right bus – especially in busy stations. Most buses will not arrive at the station until 15 minutes before departure and you can board immediately when they arrive. Tickets are checked once the bus departs, not as you get on the bus.

    Most buses have limited luggage storage in the seating area (tiny overhead racks that fit a small shopping bag or purse.) If you have a carry-on size bag or anything larger, it will have to go under the bus. Many people will be lined up outside the bus to put their bags on and the assistant will ask what city you are going to since depending on your destination they may place your bag on one side or the other. Each bag placed under the bus costs 8 kuna, payable in cash to the assistant when you load it. Small bills or exact change are ideal. They will give you a receipt.

    Brioni Bus - Trieste to Rovinj/Pula

    Tickets technically have seat assignments, however no one adheres to them so feel free to sit where you want. Since my husband and I were traveling together, we would typically split up so I would get on to get us a good seat and he would wait to pay for and load the luggage. This worked well! There are no working bathrooms on the bus, however the buses make stops approximately every 1.5 to 2 hours where you can use restrooms (usually free). The driver will announce these as pausas (breaks) for 10-15 minutes. This is also when most people take a smoking break.

    If you are traveling down the coast from north to south, we highly recommend sitting on the right side of the bus to take in the magnificent coastal views. Every bus we took traveled on the small roads right along the water so we had the best views.

    Buses are comfortable and have air conditioning which is often chilly so a light sweater or scarf is recommended. Windows either have pull down shades or curtains if you want to avoid sunlight. You can bring food and drinks on the bus, there are trash cans. It seemed like buses could and would make stops in every tiny town we passed and even along the highway where there were turnoffs to other towns (at designated stops). Just make sure to indicate to the driver where and when you want to get off well in advance of the stop.

    Bus Stations
    Bus stations usually have paid toilets which range from 2 to 5 kuna and generally only accept exact change in coins. They also almost always have garderoba (luggage storage) which can cost up to 5 kuna/hour. Most also have some type of food vendor in or near the station which usually have wi-fi if you buy something.

    Rovinj: Bus station is right at the edge of old town peninsula. Easy walk into old town or nearby suburbs where many room rentals are. Next door is a bakery/cafe and a tour operator. 5 kuna restroom.
    Pula: Bus station is about a 5-10 minute walk to the amphitheater and then another 5 minutes to the old town. Cafe in the station.
    Zadar: Bus station is on a main road about a 20-30 minute walk to the old town along a pleasant and safe road. Across the street from a super Mercator grocery store. 2 kuna restroom.
    Split: Bus station is in the harbor area next to the ferry terminal and just 3-5 minutes from the old town. Ferry terminal building has a grocery store. Also many shops and cafes next to the bus ticket office.
    Dubrovnik: Bus station is next to the ferry/ship terminal. It is a 15-20 minute taxi ride from old town. It is not recommended to walk to town since it is far and uphill. Local buses are also available. 5 kuna restroom. Cafe at the station and across the street.

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