Traveling Solo Through Croatia and Slovenia

This is the story of how I ended up traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia. You might think that this was my plan all along but it was not. Let me explain…

One of the countries I had wanted to visit for a while was Croatia. Every time I started planning, I would get overwhelmed and end up going somewhere else. When a friend mentioned to me that we should travel together this fall, I immediately said “yes.” After some debate, we settled on visiting Croatia (other options included Portugal and Switzerland).

Instead of trying to plan it on our own, we decided to go with a tour. If you know me, you know that planning a trip is my favorite part of traveling. I love doing the research and the bookings and then executing my plan. Going with a tour was a change for me but I knew it would be best for this trip because we were booking pretty last minute (we booked in mid-July for a trip in September).

I reviewed the itineraries for a bunch of different companies and we ended up settling on Trafalgar and their “Best of Croatia and Slovenia” tour. I have seen Trafalgar tours during my previous visits to Europe and knew they were a reputable company. Trafalgar has been around for over 70 years and is a sister company to Contiki, which is the under 35 tour I traveled with on my first trip to Europe in 2011.

This is where the story should continue with how we successfully booked the trip, packed our bags and had a great time. But things don’t always work out as planned.

We both booked the tour separately and requested to share rooms. It turns out, there was only ONE spot left on the tour. We didn’t find this out until AFTER I paid my deposit for the trip. Ugh!

So where to go from there?! I ended up canceling my registration. The deposit was only $100 so it wasn’t a huge deal to lose it. My friend and I discussed other locations for a few days and then she decided that she really wanted to go to Italy. She found a tour she wanted to go on and asked me to join her.

It was a tough decision because I wanted to travel with her but I have been to Italy twice already and may go back for a third time at some point with family. I didn’t want to go this year when there are so many other places in the world I want to explore. In the end, I politely declined but I told her to go ahead! I knew that’s where she really wanted to go and I was more than fine with her doing that.

After thinking about my options for a couple of days, I decided to email Trafalgar and see if that one spot on the Best of Croatia and Slovenia tour was still available. It was and they were willing to re-book my registration and apply my previously paid deposit to the new booking.

That is how I ended up traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia. Well, sort of solo at least. I was with a tour that included 46 other people but I wasn’t traveling with anyone I knew. So I guess I traveled solo-light. Ha!

The trip was a great success and I had a nice time. I am so glad I decided to go even though my friend wasn’t able to go with me. As I write this post, I’ve been back from the trip a few days. I will publish some detailed posts about the various places we visited in the coming weeks but I have a few initial thoughts/fun tidbits that I thought I would share here.

Skip the cruise

Skip the cruise (or at least the big cruise ship)! Traveling through Croatia via a land tour or small ship that can navigate the rivers is the way to go. Croatia and Slovenia are both beautiful counties. I got to see so much more of both countries than I would have on a cruise. Plus, we could plan our sight seeing and excursions to avoid the deluge of cruise passengers that arrive in cities like Dubrovnik each day.

Traveling Solo

I never felt unsafe when I was on my own in either country. While I was often with my tourmates, I ate meals alone several times. I would also often set out on my own to explore during our free times. People were always very kind and almost everyone spoke great English. The food, particularly the seafood, was fresh and tasty. I never felt on guard and may have felt safer on my own during this trip than I have in any other foreign country I have visited. I highly recommend traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia (and with Trafalgar) if you are looking for a good solo travel destination.

Slovenia, Croatia & the European Union

The members of the European Union recognized Slovenia as an independent state in January 1992. The United Nations accepted it as a member in May of 1992. Slovenia joined the EU on May 1, 2004. It uses the Euro for currency.

Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003. The European Commission recommended making it an official candidate in 2004. Croatia officially joined the European Union as its 28th member on July 1, 2013. While it is part of the EU now, it still does not use the Euro.

Speaking of Croatia and Its Currency

While switching to the Euro is likely inevitable for Croatia, they currently use a currency called the kuna. The kuna is a weasel-like animal common in the region. In midieval times, the pelts from kunas were used by the Croats as payment for goods and services. When Croatia became an independent state in the 1994, they adopted their own currency and named it the kuna after this old payment practice.

Yugoslavia and the war

One of the things I liked best about touring Slovenia and Croatia as part of a land tour is the opportunity it gave me to learn about the history of the region. I knew that Slovenia and Croatia were both formerly a part of Yugoslavia but didn’t really know much about the region’s past and what caused Yugoslavia to split into the countries it currently is today (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo (which is still being disputed)). While most of the areas are safe and peaceful today and travel is encouraged throughout, we were advised to avoid Kosovo.

Some tension do remain among the countries. This became evident on the second day of our tour. It took us three hours to get through the Croatian/Slovenian border. While very inconvenient, particularly for our coach driver and tour director, it gave me lots of time to nap and try to fight off the jet lag.

A Bit Different Than What I’m Used To

I currently live in Chicago, a city full of people with different skin colors, religions, languages, traditions and beliefs. I thrive on this diversity and love learning new things, meeting new people and observing how different people live. One thing that struck me over and over about Slovenia and Croatia was how non-diverse the countries were. About 85% of Croatians are Catholic. Using my observations as a gauge, I’d guess about 99% of them are white. It was so different than what I’m used to.

The Best Time to Visit Croatia

You probably don’t want to hear this but I think the best time to visit Croatia was probably 3-5 years ago. The word is out and the crowds have arrived en mass. Not only are the inland towns being inundated with land tours, cruise ships are now docking and dropping off thousands of additional tourists every day. I found the crowds in Plitvice Lakes National Park and Dubrovnik to be especially overwhelming. My advice is to go during the shoulder seasons (April/May/September/October). If you go during the summer, plan to explore early in the mornings before most of the crowds are up and moving about. You will have a much more relaxing, enjoyable time.

Croatia and Its Outdoor Cafes (with a Catch)

Croatia has one of the most vibrant cafe cultures I’ve ever seen. Everyone sits outside in cafes to enjoy their coffee and people watch. I love outdoor cafes and I could get used to that lifestyle very easily. The unfortunate thing is that most people in Croatia smoke cigarettes, which was a major annoyance for me. Every time I would sit down to enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of tea, someone would sit next to me and instantly light a cigarette. It was the most annoying thing about this trip for me and it happened EVERY SINGLE TIME I sat down! I would quickly finish, pay and then move on.

The Necktie

Croatia has given the world many things but no Croatian invention is as internationally renowned as the necktie. The history of the necktie can be traced back to Paris in 1630. King Louis XIII was inspecting a line-up of Croatian mercenaries in traditional costume when his eye was taken by pieces of fabric that the soldiers were wearing around their necks. The material ranged from tatty cloths for the soldiers to fine silks for the officers, but the stylishness was ubiquitous. King Louis was impressed by this modern fashion. He recommended it be adopted by the people of France and soon, the necktie became the hottest fashion accessory on the streets of Paris.

Those are my initial thoughts along with a summary of how I ended up traveling solo through Croatia and Slovenia. I will post more soon but in the meantime, check out a few photos from the trip below and a post listing Four Benefits of Traveling Solo here.

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Traveling Solo Through Croatia and Slovenia

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Our home away from home for the duration of our trip – the Trafalgar coach. Yes, it even had Wifi.
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Tour life. We would get off the bus and go to our rooms and then the hotel staff would deliver our bags to our rooms.
Neckties and Croatia
Pretty Croatian neckties
Cats in Dubrovnik
There were a lot of cute, healthy cats in Dubrovnik and Split. Don’t worry, I didn’t touch them so my allergies weren’t impacted. I admired them from afar. 🙂
Postcard in Dubrovnik
Writing postcards to Iowa with a glass of rose at an outdoor cafe in Dubrovnik. I’ve turned my 9 year old nephew into a postcard monster with all of my travels. He he always reminds me to send him postcards whenever he knows I am about to leave for a trip.
Flat Stanley in Croatia
My constant companion throughout this trip was this dude – Flat Stanley. He was cut out and colored by my 9 year old niece. Here he is in Plitvice Lakes National Park. Look at the color of that water! Stanley was kicking his feet up in excitement because he loved it so much! 🙂
Flat Stanley in Croatia
Stanley wanted to drive the coach…but I told him “no.”

 

Four Benefits of Traveling Solo

Most people I interact with regularly know I travel quite a bit by now. The first thing I often get asked is “Where is your next trip?” This usually followed by “Are you going by yourself?”

I will admit that it took me a while to be comfortable answering “yes” to the second question. I used to feel like people were judging me for traveling alone. After doing it for a while now, I have stopped worrying about it though. I am not sure if they stopped judging or if I just don’t care anymore (probably more the latter).

I like to travel solo. I have lived alone for years so why should traveling solo bother me? Of course, there is a limit to that, at least there has been so far. There are some places I have not found the courage to go to alone. Maybe someday though.

After traveling solo on and off since 2011, I have found that there are advantages to traveling solo. In my opinion, here are four benefits of traveling solo.

Four Benefits of Traveling Solo

Benefit 1

I do not have to worry about anyone else. I can sleep in if I want to. I can plan activities or choose to wing it. I do not have to consider anyone else’s preferences or needs.

Benefit 2

I meet so many more people when I travel solo. Even though I am comfortable being alone, I still need interaction with other people, especially during longer trips. In order to make that happen, I have to have courage to walk up to people and introduce myself and start up a conversation. Sometimes this is easy, especially when I am traveling in areas with lots of solo travelers, such as Australia. Other times, this is difficult, such as in Hawaii, when most people are not solo.

Benefit 3

When there are cancellations or changes, it is easier to get a seat on another plane, train or ferry when there is only one person to re-book. I encountered this benefit on the way home from Hawaii last winter, We were late getting into San Francisco and the next flight to Chicago only had one seat available. Because I was solo, I got it.

Benefit 4

It is a confidence booster. It is satisfying for me to plan a trip and then execute it by myself. I have become pretty good at problem solving and troubleshooting issues on my own when traveling. I can usually make decent decisions even when I am in unfamiliar places with people I do not know. I am proud of that ability.

So those are four of the benefits to traveling that I see. If you travel solo, what are the benefits you see to going solo? What do you enjoy most about it? What had been your favorite solo travel experience? I would love to hear the answer to all of these question in the comments below.

If you are ready to book but are not sure where to start, check out 10 Amazing Destinations for Solo Travelers here.

 

Alaska
Alaska – solo 2016
Australia Solo
Australia – solo 2017
Greece
Greece – solo 2014
Hawaii
Maui – solo 2013

 

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