Driving on ‘The wrong side’ of the road has never really phased me however, it’s fair to say that I can be choosy about where I trust my skills. I’ve driven around France, Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as Florida. You’ll notice my European destinations have not included Italy. I haven’t yet discovered the nack of programming a GPS device with two hands whilst veering across three lanes of a motorway steering with my forearms, which seems perfectly normal to the Italians as our courtesy driver from the airport into Rome proved last year. I’ll avoid venturing onto Italian roads as my thinking is clearly vastly different. Croatia was by comparison, a pleasure. On the whole the drivers were fairly mild mannered although occassionaly a little impatient on the D8 coastal road around Dubrovnik. You get the odd lunatic but you get that anywhere.
The normal insurance came with my vehicle rental which was offered at a very good price through Travel Republic. I elected not to worry about additional cover at about £5 per day as my philosophy dictates that somewhere along the line I’m going to have to take a risk in life. We did plan to cross borders and so I purchased when collecting the car, a green travel permit that allowed us through border crossings.
When driving in Europe, if you plan to drive into another country as a day trip, allow plenty of time for queues at the crossing points. I had underestimated just how long this would take. We based ourselves on the Babin Kuk peninsular in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik. Our first excursion away from Dubrovnik took us down to Kotor in Montenegro. This was about two and three quarter hours each way taking into account the crossings. All material I had read prior to the trip had suggested to allow an hour and a half to drive to Kotor but beware, this is the actual driving time and does not account for lengthy waits at the crossings, not forgetting the return drive.
Our trip to Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina was the same distance but proved more difficult. The map given to me at the car rental pickup proved useless and so I relied on studying Google Maps of the route beforehand to give me an idea, and the GPS in the car. All was good and we set off in the direction I knew to be correct. I realisied we needed to turn right off the coastal road at some point but the quickest way across to head north east I was unsure of – fatal error. This is where local knowledge is useful. I followed the GPS and although it stated 1 hour 30 mins to Mostar which sounded OK, the road soon became a narrow twisty, windy track into the mountains, culminating in a building site for a new mountain border crossing beyond which we couldn’t pass. This wasn’t looking good. A policeman emerged from a portacabin and promptly removed our passports for twenty minutes. After a while he finally returned and informed us we were free to turn around and continue the journey from the way we had come via the longer coastal route and adding another two border crossings. We eventually arrived at the final crossing whereby we waited – and waited – for 3 hours. The final drive time to Mostar an 80 mile journey was six and a half hours! Beware, this is not a easy day trip from Dubrovnik. We arrived so late, we decided to eat dinner in Mostar and drive back in the dark, hoping to avoid the dreadful multiple border crossings. Leaving at about 7.00pm it was dark by the time we hit the mountains, trying to take a different route back. This worked okay although not great for passengers of a nervoous disposition such as my wife, and we completed the return trip in two and a half hours only crossing the border once.
I mentioned at the start the extra insurance cover and the following day discovered why it’s worth considering. When arriving at the border building site the previous day, I had unkowingly picked up a massive screw in the corner of the sidewall of the offside front tyre. It let us know in a big way when driving the short distance the following day, down into Lapad in Dubrovnik. On the narrow harbour road it decided to let go. In 35c of swealtering heat and thirty minutes later, we had a new (luckily full speed) tyre on the car. When returning the car at the end of the holiday, we were charged over £100 for a replacement tyre. With an excess of £560 and without the additional cover, I was out of pocket with the cost of the replacement but in the scheme of things, only by about £55.
Lessons to be learned in summary – consider all insurance options when hiring a vehicle. Purchase any potentail border crossing documents beforehand when travelling across different countries. They can be purchased at the border but this wastes more time and can be more expensive. Use maps in conjunction with GPS but never just rely purely on GPS and seek good local knowledge about roads and restrictions if you intend to travel any distance.
To see a gallery of my images including spectacular night shots of Dubrovnik taken at 4.00 AM, click here
Posted on: Tuesday, 11th August 2015