IS IT SAFE TO VISIT BALKAN COUNTRIES? (Q&A)

For all you regular Indie Voyager visitors who are in the middle of planning your summer 2020 adventures, here is one useful article that might answer some of your questions regarding some festival, adventure destinations that you can find on the website, and some useful tips for traveling across South-East Europe (aka Balkan peninsula) where this website originates from.


Is it safe to visit Balkan countries?

The question I get asked every now and then. Very safe, I’d say. People are generally very friendly and prices are incredible for anyone coming from Western Europe. (minus Greece, coastal Croatia – but not everywhere and Slovenia). When it comes to scams, just skip taking taxis in big cities, especially the ones that you’ll find right in front of bus, train station, or google which taxis are recommended on official website pages of the city you’re traveling to. Otherwise, prepare yourself getting really overpriced bill that something goes 5-10 times up the normal price these guys charge locals.

Local public transportation options are affordable and pretty much amazing.

And skip talking about politics. I mean, you can, but there’s so many better topics to cover instead of politics. The incredible summer weather in the region, for example.

Disclaimer:

*Balkans – geographically speaking, not politically!

The Balkan Peninsula is bounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea (including the Ionian and Aegean seas) and the Marmara Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the east. Its northern boundary is often given as the Danube, Sava and Kupa Rivers. The Balkan Peninsula has a combined area of about 470,000 km2 (181,000 sq mi) (slightly smaller than Spain). It is more or less identical to the region known as Southeast Europe. (wikipedia)


Things to keep an eye on when visiting some amazing festival/hippie venues across the region?

Yes. There are a few, especially for the ones we visited over the course of last several years.

  • In Polkovnik Serafimovo, Bulgaria (Meadows in The Mountains) days can get really rainy since the venue is at almost 1000m above sea level. And pretty huge temperature fluctuations happen from early morning to noon for the same reason. Be prepared for these things when packing.
  • In Tarej, Island of Cres in Croatia (FreeMental), the venue is this amazing coastal area, and the camping site in the forest. Now, many trees are really dry and I’ve personally experienced a horrifying scenario: this huge, probably 4m tree fell down some two meters from my tent…. So, find a good spot for camping, under the healthy trees.
  • If you’re taking hiking routes in Velebit area (Mystic Mountain), just be aware that the mountain is also home to venomous snakes, so don’t put your hand on every stone/rock there is to support yourself while hiking up. I completely forgot about it, and I wanna thank the girl behind me who reminded me of that. hehe
  • In Samothraki Island, Greece, the cheapest option to get by, especially if you’re staying for the longer period of time, is to buy your groceries in the local and only shop in Terma. It can cut your expenses significantly, and this village is awesome place to be your base on the island (one set of waterfalls is really close to it). We camped in (that year) free camp, a few km away from the village, but there were people camping all around the village, in the forest. It’s not legal, and I’m not saying you should do this.
  • Those who want to experience the amazingly beautiful crystal clear waters of Parisena beach in Greece, and if you’re going with your own car, consider taking local bus from the city of Volos, cause the road that will take you to Chorefto (Parisena is very close to Chorefto) is insane. I mean, it’s narrow, sometimes too narrow for two cars to get by in some places. But it’s also really spectacular at times, especially when you reach the highest point road takes over the Pelion mountain.
  • In Crete, Greece, when some locals advice you not to sleep on the beach cause it’s full of scorpions, listen to them. lol

If happens you have some other question regarding this topic, feel free to ask on Indie Voyager’s FB page here.


I have a limited budget. Which destinations in the region are really budget-friendly and offer great value for the money?

There are a lot of them. Really a lot.

It all comes down to what you want to visit – some big city or nature area and what you want to do there – go partying or camping or something else. If you’re into partying, and city vibes – you should probably go for Belgrade. Or for a unique budget experience – Skopje, capital of North Macedonia, with its crazy number of (…) monuments that you’ll find in every direction your eyes reach.

If you’re into spectacular beaches and chill vibes – Greece and Croatia are definitely the best options. Now, in both countries you should of course avoid famous regions and destinations to get by cheap. Forget about Dubrovnik or Santorini or Zakynthos. There are some cool guides you can find here on Indie Voyager, and if you stick to buying food in big chain markets, you’ll end up okay.

Our experience is as follows: 10 (up to 15 days if the place is cheaper) on each destination costs something like 300 euros for everything, including getting there, food etc. (This also includes making stops in big cities on our way – for example, when going to Rhodope mountains and Meadows in The Mountains Festival, we spent one or two nights in Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria). So after making probably a few thousand km and visiting a few  destinations and countries (last year something like 10 destinations in 3 countries in total) over the course of two-three months period – our expenses usually round up at approximately 1000 euros – everything included.


The cheapest options for accommodation and transportation?

We usually part of the routes hitchhike, or pay some cheap rates for local trains. We also use BlaBlaCar regularly and Couchsurfing (which doesn’t work that well in more famous tourist destinations). You can find really cheap hostels along the way. And when I say really cheap, the cheapest option we came across was a hostel in Sofia, Bulgaria for 7 euros/night, if I remember it correctly (breakfast included, located in city center). Crazy, I know! Hehehe And this wasn’t booked like a week ahead. We never do this. This was a day head, or that morning.


So, this rounds up this first travel tips article for this summer season… Another one with more – coming soon! Stay tuned!