This post's overview:
- 1 Balkans travel itinerary for 1 week: from Greece to Serbia by bus & train
- 2 1 week itinerary for the Balkans: from Athens to Belgrade on a budget
- 2.1 7 days in the Balkans: 2 days in Athens on a budget. Backpacking Athens
- 2.2 Our Balkans itinerary: getting from Athens to Thessaloniki. 1 day in Thessaloniki on a budget
- 2.3 North Macedonia: Bitola and Lake Ohrid
- 2.4 Next stop of our Balkans travel itinerary: backpacking in Tirana, Albania
- 2.5 Getting from Tirana to Budva & Kotor, Montenegro
- 2.6 Exploring Dubrovnik on a budget | Backpacking Dubrovnik
- 2.7 Dubrovnik to Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Balkan trip itinerary
- 2.8 Sarajevo. Sarajevo to Belgrade by bus
- 2.9 Last stop of our Balkans itinerary: Belgrade, Serbia
- 3 The summary of our itinerary for 7 days in the Balkans on a budget: from Athens to Belgrade
- 4 Some of the other posts you might like:
Planning to travel around Balkans? In this post, you can find the complete Balkans travel itinerary for 1 week, from Greece to Serbia, from Athens to Belgrade, visiting 6 amazing countries.
Hi there, welcome to Tripsget! It seems like you’re interested in travelling to the Balkans. That’s amazing news! This post is actually the second part of our Balkans travel guide. The first post is all about travelling the Balkans by bus and train and the transport guide to the Balkans. If you need information on trip planning, transport & the bus and train schedules, head to the first part (you can see the link above). This post was originally written in 2016, but it was MASSIVELY updated in February 2020.
This post is dedicated to our itinerary for the Balkans. Even though we’ve this is the travel itinerary for Balkans for 1 week, you can easily stretch this itinerary for 2 weeks in the Balkans. This itinerary is really jam-packed is pretty tiring, so if you can spend 2 weeks in the Balkans, why not, just stretch this itinerary or add some other amazing spots to this Balkan trip itinerary.
You can see the topics covered below. If you want to skip some topics, simply click on the ones you’re interested in and go straight to these topics.
Balkans travel itinerary for 1 week: from Greece to Serbia by bus & train
As you can probably see from the name of this post, our trip took 7 days (well, 8 days, to be precise). You can easily stretch this itinerary to 10 days in the Balkans or even 2 weeks in the Balkans.
In the first part of the Balkan travel guide, I mentioned, that we were considering a Balkan road trip.
The road trip around Balkans wasn’t an option because of scarce car rental opportunities (and it was way too expensive as well), so we went for the buses and trains instead.
This way, it was possible to travel Balkans and immerse in the life of the region: for example, in Serbia, we took a very narrow local road through many villages and saw how the people live there. Same happened in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We learned a lot from this weeklong trip to the Balkans, as it was an amazing experience. I hope you enjoy it, too!
So here’s our itinerary for 7 days in the Balkans (or 10 days if you wish to take it slowly):
Athens – Thesalloniki – Ohrid – Tirana – Kotor – Dubrovnik – Mostar – Sarajevo – Belgrade
A day-by-day itinerary for our weeklong trip to the Balkans (you can stretch it to 2 weeks in the Balkans or 10 days instead)
Day 1: Athens (Greece). Staying at the hotel Epidavros
Day 2: Athens, Greece, flying to Thessaloniki (Greece) in the afternoon. Staying at the Olympia Hotel
Day 3: Lake Ohrid (North Macedonia or FYROM). Staying at the Jovanovic guesthouse
Day 4: Tirana (Albania). Staying at the hotel Idea
Day 5: Kotor (Montenegro). Travelling to Dubrovnik in the evening. Night at the Hostel Angelina
Day 6: Dubrovnik (Croatia). Going to Mostar at night. Staying at the Elite Guesthouse.
Day 7: Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina) + Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina). Staying at the hostel Franz Ferdinand.
Day 8: Belgrade (Serbia). Staying at the hostel Home Sweet Home.
Let’s start with Greece.
[vc_message]Don’t forget to pack these European travel essentials! The necessary plugs: US-Europe plug or UK-Europe plug (or better buy this adaptor suitable for pretty much all the countries around the world); European sim card with data, an anti-theft backpack (just in case, as touristy places are full of pick-pocketers) and a discrete travel pouch to keep your wallet & documents safe. Better safe than sorry![/vc_message]
1 week itinerary for the Balkans: from Athens to Belgrade on a budget
7 days in the Balkans: 2 days in Athens on a budget. Backpacking Athens
We started our 7 days in Balkans with Athens, the capital of Greece. Athens welcomed us with long queues at the passport control and amazing weather for October – around 25 degrees Celcius.Since I travelled to Athens from the city where it was already winter, I felt like I was back in summer. What a nice feeling!
Getting from Athens airport to the city centre (Omonia Square) on a budget was a challenge. There was an express bus, which would take us to Piraeus, but walking for 50 minutes with a small but heavy backpack when it was pretty hot outside wasn’t really appealing to us. The bus we needed had just departed, so we had to wait for at least a couple of hours. Instead of waiting, we took a train to Syntagma square for 9 euros per person and arrived at the city centre in less than one hour (that was expensive for us since we only had a budget of £60 for both of us per day and still needed to eat, do sightseeing and pay for transport. Luckily, we have prepaid all the hotels, so we didn’t have to stretch the budget for that).
I think I mentioned it before, but we travelled the Balkans on a budget and this was almost a backpacking trip. We never stayed in any shared rooms though.
The train from Athens airport to the city centre goes via the M3 line every 30 minutes and it takes around 46 minutes (to get to Syntagma). The metro of Athens is full of people asking for money and sometimes they can be a bit aggressive, especially towards the tourists. I always advise against giving money to beggars. If you want to help, donate to a local charity instead. Moreover, you never know if people asking for money really need it or they are part of a begging Roma/ gipsy mafia that exploits people with visible disabilities and drug babies. You can read more about these scams here. Unfortunately, it’s also very common in London and other European cities.
Areas to avoid in Athens:
From Syntagma, we walked to our hotel, Epidavros, located close to the Omonia square. The hotel was one of the cheap hotels in Athens (our backpacking budget for Balkans was really low) and we paid it entirely with airline miles. Back in the days, we were really creative when it came to saving money for travelling.
The location was really good in terms of closeness to Acropolis and bad in terms of the district itself. There was a problem with trash everywhere and overall, the whole area looked pretty dodgy, sketchy and not great. Abandoned shops, graffiti everywhere and a lot of trash on the streets. If I were there alone, I wouldn’t dare to walk to the hotel in the evening. I was wearing long trousers and a T-shirt and I wanted to cover myself even more, not exactly what you’d expect in Greece. However, luckily, nothing happened to us and we made sure to avoid using shortcuts and Google maps suggestions and only walked big avenues since then.
Our advice: don’t walk from Omonia to Acropolis using the Medandrou street as it’s one of the areas to avoid in Athens.
Free or cheap things to do in Athens
Acropolis of Athens is quite expensive to visit: the ticket costs 20 euros and if you want a combo ticket which allows you to visit more spots, it would cost you 30 euros. If you’re staying in Athens for a bit longer, I would recommend buying a tourist pass (it would save you money if you want to do a lot of sightseeing).
The best view of Parthenon you won’t find inside the Acropolis, though – you need to go to the Acropolis museum. Also, the Parthenon is visible from Mount Lycabettus. You can find an incredible panorama of the entire city from there. You can walk up the mountain for free, or take a funicular for 5 euros each way.
Prices in Athens: is Athens cheap?
The prices in Athens are okay, but it’s better to stay outside the most touristic places. For example, a gyros on the way to Acropolis would cost you 9 euros, but the same gyros you can eat in Omonia for 3.90 euros. And in some districts (like the one next to our hotel), it was even cheaper – 2.5 euros. A day menu including a salad, main dish, dessert and a glass of wine would cost you from 11 to 17 euros in a restaurant in the city centre and way less outside the city centre.
Our Balkans itinerary: getting from Athens to Thessaloniki. 1 day in Thessaloniki on a budget
The next stop in our Balkans trip itinerary was Thessaloniki. There was a very fast and cheap flight from Athens to Thessaloniki and besides, we used the rest of our travel miles to pay for the ticket, so we actually got it for free.
In Thessaloniki, we took a public bus to the city centre (Bus 1B) (unlike in Athens, this bus was very cheap – around 2 euros).
Thessaloniki was really a surprise for us. Nowhere on the Internet (back in 2016), it was described as a beautiful city worth visiting, but we actually liked it a lot. Maybe there isn’t as much to see in the city as in Athens, except for the fortress and the tower on the promenade, but the main square was impressive. We also liked the overall feel and the atmosphere in the city. In some parts, Thessaloniki really resembled Nice in France.
Our experience backpacking Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is a really walkable city that is full of nice cafes and restaurants facing the sea. All the bars were really full at night because Greeks LOVE going out for a coffee and enjoy the evening chatting with friends while sitting in a place with a view (who would object, it’s a great way to spend time).
Also, Thessaloniki is a city of bakeries: there was a bakery literally every 10 meters: the Greeks really take bakeries seriously. Moreover, the Greek sweets looked extremely delicious! We bought a cake and it was marvellous.
We stayed at the Olympia Hotel Thessaloniki and enjoyed our stay. Again, it was free for us (this time, we paid with BA Avios) and everything was great there. The next morning we were leaving the hotel very early, so they prepared a nice breakfast box for us.
Since we spent just a few hours of daylight in Thessaloniki, we couldn’t see much except for the promenade and the tower. However, as I mentioned before, we enjoyed the atmosphere of the city and the relaxed feel. Thessaloniki is significantly cheaper than Athens, so staying there during backpacking in Balkans and Greece was a good choice.
North Macedonia: Bitola and Lake Ohrid
In the first part of this post, I’ve already explained why we didn’t choose the easier option of getting to Ohrid from Thessaloniki through Skopje – we simply didn’t have time for that! So we bought a ticket to Florina (a city on the border with North Macedonia) and took a taxi from there to Bitola. That was probably the most expensive journey in our entire trip and we paid something like 40 euros! But we had to, as there was no other option for us.
Crossing the Greece – North Macedonia border
Crossing the Greek – North Macedonia border in a taxi was really fun, besides, the border officer spoke in Russian to me – I was really surprised that he knew it!
Our taxi driver referred us to the other driver he knew who would take us to Ohrid for as low as 10-15 euros. That was ridiculously cheap for a drive of over than 1 hour. We went to walk around Bitola for an hour or so: the city was tiny and nice and very authentic. We were the only tourists in the city, so the locals were looking at us even asking where are we from. In a very friendly way, of course. Macedonians were incredibly friendly and welcoming people.
However, even in Bitola, the waiters in this cafes spoke English, and that surprised us a lot!
Macedonia also surprised us with the diversity of the population: there are Christians and Muslims living happily together and there are orthodox churches standing next to mosques. Actually, the same thing happened also in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as we found out later.
Getting to lake Ohrid (from Greece)
When we got to Ohrid, we were really surprised by the beauty of the place and how few tourists it had!
Maybe it was the low season or the difficulty to get there. Even though Ohrid has an international airport, planes don’t fly to many destinations from there. Otherwise, you need to travel from Skopje (the Capital of North Macedonia) or buy a tour. Only if you really want to get there, you’ll do something like we did. But I can assure you that it was worth it, as lake Ohrid is a must!
We stayed in a very special and authentic Jovanovic Guesthouse and the hosts were really kind and sweet! And the location of the guesthouse was great, too. If you’re planning to spend 2 weeks in the Balkans, Ohrid is a place to spend a couple of days. There are plenty of nice walking and hiking routes around and the lake is beautiful!
In Ohrid town, you can visit the famous Sveta Sofia church (we had a view over this church from the apartment) and another church, which appears on all the photos of Ohrid.
It can be followed by a really nice walk through the forest in order to get to the Ohrid Fortress. There is not much to do in Ohrid town in terms of sightseeing, but during the high season, you can just relax and swim in the lake. The weather in Ohrid in October was around 18 degrees, still warm but not warm enough for swimming. That’s why we only stayed for a day there. The prices in Ohrid are really low compared to Greece: we had lunch in a very centric restaurant with two bowls of soup, a salad, and a huge main plus two beers for less than 11 euros in total.
Next stop of our Balkans travel itinerary: backpacking in Tirana, Albania
Next destination of our Balkans travel itinerary was the capital of Albania – Tirana. It wasn’t possible for us to get from Ohrid to Tirana directly, so we had to go to Struga, a town nearby, and take a regular bus from there.
Getting from Ohrid to Tirana isn’t so easy. In Struga, there were only two regular buses from Struga (Ohrid) to Tirana: at 9:30 am and at 12 pm. We took the earlier one since the indicated duration of the ride was 1.5 times less – just 4.5 hours. The landscapes of Albania were really beautiful – Albania surprised us a lot. I expected something poor and not much developed (as Media often portrays it), but even the countryside of Albania looked nice.
The capital of Albania, Tirana, is really a quiet and a very green city. The facade of the city is nice, but if you take any turn left or right from a big avenue, you’ll see that half of the city is in ruins. The small streets in Tirana are really not very glamorous.
Exploring Tirana on a budget | Backpacking in the Balkans in October
We stayed in the hotel Idea and the location of it was perfect (few meters away from the bus stop, from where the international buses depart and where they arrive, too). Apart from that, the room was more or less okay, though it smelt like smoke all the time. It wasn’t very cheap, but we didn’t want to stretch it too much in Albania as we didn’t know if it was very safe or not.
Also, walking in Tirana in the evening felt more or less safe, so we didn’t worry too much. However, as foreigners and backpackers, we did stand out and people approached us for money a couple of times. Even though we explained that we were really on a tight budget, it didn’t have any effect.
The main square of Tirana, Skanderbeg Square, was under reconstruction, so it wasn’t possible to take some nice shots of it. Another landmark is the Pyramid of Tirana, which, however, isn’t open to visitors and is in a really bad condition. Finally, there’s a nice park in the heart of Tirana with a huge lake in the middle of it. We visited this park in the evening and it was really crowded, looked like all the Tirana came there to run. There are more things to do outside of Tirana, so if you’re willing to stretch your Balkans itinerary to 2 weeks or at least 10 days, you can take advantage of the nature around Tirana.
Eating out in Tirana on a budget | Backpacking Tirana
In Tirana, there are only a few of international food/clothing chains present in the city (like KFC or Adidas) and most of the shops and restaurants are local. We had lunch in a great pizzeria called Era, which serves Albanian specialities as well as some dishes from Italian cuisine. The prices were very friendly and the food was tasty and well presented, so well, in case you’re choosing where to eat in Tirana, head to Era.
Summary of backpacking in Tirana. Scams to avoid
To summarize, Albania left a good impression on us. Seems like this country is developing very fast and well, in some years it could become a very nice travel destination.
Tirana, however, won’t be a touristic place anytime soon, since there’s not that much to do if you come for a weekend break. It is an interesting spot to visit on a longer trip around the Balkans.
There are many beggars on the streets of Tirana and these beggars are very different from the beggars in any European city: we had a well-dressed man coming to us and asking us in English about where are we from, offering us a tour in the closed Pyramid of Tirana and when we said no, asked us for money to feed his family. Later, a boy approached us in a cafe and he started begging for money on his knees. This way of asking was very unusual for me and of course, we helped him. That happened despite the fact we had backpacks, were dressed in very cheap clothes and didn’t look like people who you’d ask money from (like a typical backpackers).
There are, however, a few scams to avoid in Tirana. You can read a bit more about them here.
Getting from Tirana to Budva & Kotor, Montenegro
Our backpacking bus trip through the Balkans continued in Kotor. We booked a trip to Kotor from the Kotor – Tirana bus service. The trip took a bit more than 6 hours but the route was stunning, so we didn’t complain. The bus goes through Shkodër in Albania (with a 40-minute stop, so you can see the city a little bit), Podgorica, Budva and finishes the journey in Kotor.
The part of the route from Podgorica to Budva is especially beautiful: from the window of your bus, you can observe amazing mountains and then, after 2 hours of driving, the sea is finally visible. Choosing between Budva and Kotor as our next stop was hard, but in the end, we didn’t regret choosing Kotor. Budva might be a better option in summer, and for a much longer time, but we only had 4 hours and wanted to see something special. Again, if you’re planning to spend at least 10 days in the Balkans, you can stay longer in Kotor or Budva. If we had 2 weeks in the Balkans, we would have stayed at least 2 nights in Montenegro and also spent a bit more time in Croatia. Although, Croatia definitely deserves a separate 2-week journey.
Spending half a day in Kotor | 7 days in the Balkans itinerary
The old town of Kotor is just incredible. It’s small but really remarkable. There are plenty of hotels and shops inside the city walls, but there are also locals living there and that’s really unique. However, eating in the middle of the Old Town of Kotor is a bit pricey, so we walked outside, passed a tiny shopping mall and headed to the beach, where the rest of the restaurants are located. There we found a really nice place with affordable prices: a grilled fish was just 8 euros and it was delicious and huge! I sadly don’t remember the name of that restaurant, but I swear that it’s easy to find! It’s really right next to the coast.
Kotor is great for walking: there is a very nice embankment near the sea, where everybody is walking and chilling but apart from that and the Old Town there is nothing to do in October. If we stayed for more time, we would have gone hiking or went to Budva, but doing that within just 4 hours was impossible. In summer, there is so much more to do there, as summer is a high season in Montenegro.
Exploring Dubrovnik on a budget | Backpacking Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik was the next stop of travel Balkans trip and it was the reason why we only had 4 hours in Kotor: we wanted to see Dubrovnik at night so badly! And when we saw it, we didn’t regret: Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen (and we’ve seen many).
It was already 9 pm when we got to the international bus station. From where we had to take a bus to the Old Town. The bus ticket price is 12 Kuna which makes 2 bus tickets already very close to the Uber price of 5 euros. Nonetheless, we took a bus and went to our hostel in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. The hostel’s name was Hostel Angelina Old Town and it’s located literally on the top of the city, meaning you either have to enter the city from the Northern Gate and climb up using the local highway or climb a lot of stairs in the middle of the Old Town. We didn’t have any heavy suitcases (only two backpacks), so we decided to climb up, which nevertheless was quite tough.
Cheap hostel in Dubrovnik
Hostel Angelina was literally one of the cheapest accommodations with private rooms in Dubrovnik (we wanted a private room, as I can’t fall asleep in a dorm). However, we did have a few issues there and as a result, hostel Angelina appeared on our post of nightmare hostels in Europe.
Weather in Dubrovnik in October
Dubrovnik is wonderful. Despite the fact that it’s expensive and crowded, it’s a must. Even in October, visiting Dubrovnik was enjoyable. The temperature in Dubrovnik in October was 19 degrees, so I was wearing a long dress with a light jacket. I had a very nice medieval (Game of Thrones-inspired) photo session in mind and we managed to take some really nice shots.
However, the weather in Dubrovnik in October is really unpredictable and it rained 3 or 4 times, and by ‘rained’ I mean showers. All the people who were on top of the Dubrovnik wall (just like us) were literally trapped and had to run to some constructions, which would cover them from the rain. Some just left the wall and went to some restaurants.
How to visit Dubrovnik on a budget? Mission impossible.
The tickets to the city wall of Dubrovnik are quite expensive: 120 Kuna, which is 15 euros, but they also include the entry to a couple of Cathedrals and to the Fort. Our budget of £60 per day was shrinking minute by minute.
In case you’re buying that ticket, I would recommend you to visit the fort, since the views from there to the Old Town of Dubrovnik are really remarkable.
If you’re staying in Dubrovnik for longer than 2 days, it makes sense to buy a Dubrovnik Card: it costs 170 HRK for a day or 225 HRK for 3 days. There’s also an option to buy a card for a week, which costs 350 HRK. The card includes the most historical landmarks like Dubrovnik City Walls, Franciscan Monastery Museum, many museums and the public transport and also some discounts for many of the restaurants & travel agencies.
Food in Dubrovnik was also very pricey, so we overspent our budget by a whopping £50. Backpacking in Dubrovnik is very hard, as you can see!
We really wanted to visit more places in Croatia, but unfortunately, we didn’t have time. Next time the Plitvice lakes will be on our itinerary. In case you’re going to the Plitvice lakes anytime soon, check this article: Hiking in Plitvice lakes.
Dubrovnik to Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Balkan trip itinerary
From Dubrovnik to Mostar, the next destination of our Balkan road trip, we took a bus, which we booked at croatiabus.com. We arrived in Mostar already in the evening (around 8 pm) and headed directly to the Elite Guesthouse. The host, Meša was really kind: he gave us an amazing private room with jacuzzi and some treats like croissants and cookies.
Moreover, he gave us a brief overview of the Herzegovina region and Mostar, drew on a map all the places we have to visit and even recommended a nice restaurant. No wonder his place has a rating of 9.3!
Mostar at night was magical. Especially the famous bridge of Mostar. At night, it wasn’t crowded at all (on the way back from the restaurant, it was completely empty) and as during the day it’s full of tourists, who tend to overflow the bridge, so you can’t even squeeze through. Most of the people come for a couple of hours on a day trip to Mostar from either Dubrovnik or Sarajevo.
Eating our in Mostar: how much is it?
The restaurants in Mostar were nice. For the Balkan price standards, It wasn’t cheap, but compared to Dubrovnik, it was almost nothing. For two main courses and two glasses of wine, we paid around 26 Bosnian marks, which equals roughly 13 euros. Just to compare, a small breakfast in Dubrovnik (in a very budget place) was 18 euros. So backpacking in Mostar was definitely more feasible than in Croatia.
Things to do in Mostar. Mostar to Sarajevo by bus
Just as we have imagined, during the day, Mostar was really crowded. However, it was way livelier than at night, since all the empty stalls transformed into souvenir shops or restaurants. Souvenirs in Mostar are really nice and affordable but most importantly, they are unique. Last time I’ve seen something similar to the souvenirs in Mostar was in Turkey.
We went to see the bridge from the best spot recommended by our host and had to wait there for a while because the spot seemed to be famous. From where you can see the locals jump from the bridge to water for some money collected from tourists. These jumps are very impressive, but if you want to take a photo, you need to pay, because the people collecting money can be quite insisting. It’s their only occupation, after all.
Later on, we discovered another spot great for photos and stayed there for a while. Apart from the bridge and a couple of museums, there is not much to do in Mostar. The modern part of the city isn’t impressive, so walking there doesn’t make any sense.
The beauty of Bosnia & Herzegovina
However, if you’re staying in Mostar for a couple of days during your Balkan trip, you have a chance to discover the nature and architecture of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not far from Mostar, maybe 1 hour away, there are some really impressive landscapes, so I would recommend going there. Again, we had just a few hours in Mostar on the next day and had to take a bus to Sarajevo at 3pm.
Surprisingly, this was the only bus during our travel Balkans trip, which was really full, so full that some people were standing, so it makes sense coming to the bus stop in advance and queue, so you can get a seat in the Mostar to Sarajevo bus.
Sarajevo. Sarajevo to Belgrade by bus
Next stop of our Balkan travel itinerary was Sarajevo. When we arrived in Sarajevo, it was already getting dark. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the city during daylight, so it’s the reason to return to Sarajevo for a weekend or so.
We bought our bus tickets from Sarajevo to Belgrade in the ticket office and went to the tram stop to catch a train to the old town. The tram arrived only in 40 minutes (it was probably faster to walk), so when we got to our hostel, it was already very dark. Nonetheless, we still went out to walk around the city and have something for dinner.
Staying in Sarajevo on a budget
Our hostel Franz Ferdinand was located in a very centric place. The room looked new and huge and was really nice. So the hotel experience was very nice. Unfortunately, when we left the hotel, it started raining very heavily, and the rain didn’t stop even after dinner. We were trying to walk around and go to one of the bars, but not only they were extremely crowded (well, I guess because of the weather and the fact that it was Friday night), but also it’s permitted to smoke in bars/restaurants in Sarajevo, so it wasn’t possible to breathe.
It’s been a while since I saw a country where it would be permitted to smoke inside the restaurants. I’m allergic to the smell, so going out clearly wasn’t an option for me. If you’re fine with it, you might enjoy going out in Sarajevo.
Since we had a bus to Belgrade at 6 am, we went to the hostel quite early in the evening and took a taxi in the morning. The bus ride from Sarajevo to Belgrade took more than 8 hours and was really tiring.
Last stop of our Balkans itinerary: Belgrade, Serbia
Finally, the last stop of our Balkans itinerary was Belgrade. We arrived in Belgrade at around 2 pm and immediately went to our hostel to get changed.
Our hostel in Belgrade
The hostel, where we stayed is located just 10 minutes walk from the city centre. I wouldn’t say that it’s in a nice area, but it didn’t seem sketchy or dangerous, and that was already enough for us.
The hostel’s name was Home Sweet Home and it was quite odd: it was a huge flat with multiple rooms and 2 bathrooms. There was also a massive living room, which was always full of people and in the evening there were kids running around in that flat. It felt like a giant family home full of random people. It wasn’t the best experience, but it was affordable. Who can complain when paying 25 euros for a private room?
Exploring Belgrade on a budget
We had low expectations for Belgrade, but it turned out to be a really nice city, somewhat resembling Vienna in its city centre. Belgrade is not such a very touristy place because there are not so many famous landmarks. It’s not a common destination to visit even on Balkan trips, as it’s quite far and in most cases, you need to fly there. Reaching Belgrade by bus can take many hours (remember our 8+ hour bus ride). However, Belgrade is a wonderful backpacking destination. Backpacking in Belgrade was easy because of low food prices and cheap hostels.
Things to do in Belgrade on a budget
In the middle of Belgrade, there’s a beautiful fortress, where lots of people gather in the evening to just walk and socialize and watch a beautiful sunset, I guess. The sunset was really impressive, so we enjoyed that too.
On the main walking street of Belgrade, there are many nice shops and souvenir stalls. You might be surprised to see so many T-shirts featuring Vladimir Putin (the President of Russia, in case you don’t know).
After watching the sunset, we walked all the way to the Sava Temple – the most impressive church of Belgrade. Unfortunately, inside it was under reconstruction.
After walking around the city for a bit of time and enjoying the atmosphere of Belgrade, it was time for us to go back to sleep.
Getting to the airport in Belgrade
We had our return flight on Sunday around noon, so we decided to take a bus shuttle to the airport. The closest stop was just 10 minutes walking away, in front of the Belgrade Railway station. We checked the schedule and the bus was about to arrive, but we were approached by a taxi driver, offering to bring us to the airport for 800 dinars (the bus tickets would have been 600). In the end, we managed to negotiate the price to 600 and the taxi driver found another person to fill the taxi, so we went to the airport with comfort (such a nice end to our Balkans adventure). In case you’re wondering how to get to the airport, you can do the same: wait for the bus and if there are taxis willing to bring you to the airport for almost the same price, you could take them.
The summary of our itinerary for 7 days in the Balkans on a budget: from Athens to Belgrade
To summarise, we spent 8 days in the Balkans and were pretty happy out our Balkans travel itinerary has turned out. In case you don’t have much time or many holidays (just like us), but you want to see as much as possible (just like we want), you can take this itinerary as a sample Balkan trip itinerary.
If you have 2 weeks to spend in the Balkans, you can easily stay longer in some places or add some other destinations to the itinerary. If you have a month in the Balkans, you can definitely head further north to Slovenia and the rest of Croatia and you can also add Bulgaria and Romania to the trip. The reason why we didn’t visit Bulgaria or Romania on this trip is that we’ve been in both a couple of times.
Also, our Balkan travel itinerary was just fine in October, because in some places like Greece and Albania it was still very warm, however, for Sarajevo and Belgrade we needed proper autumn clothes like trench coats or rain jackets. It wasn’t difficult to travel Balkans by buses and trains. It was actually way easier than we thought it would be.
Some other things you might need to know:
We didn’t encounter any traffic on the way from Albania to Montenegro and from Kotor to Dubrovnik, but usually, this road is packed with cars in summer. I would recommend you checking these routes very carefully. Make sure to allocate a bit more time for these routes or pick off-peak travelling times. Otherwise, these legs of your Balkan trip could cause a delay in your Balkan travel itinerary.
Our budget for the weeklong trip to the Balkans
As for the budget, we had around £60 per day for our weeklong trip to the Balkans (it was 8 full days, to be precise). For accommodation, we never paid more than £40 (that was the most expensive hotel of all, in the heart of Tirana), however, the majority of hotels were around £20-35 per night. While some destinations were really affordable, some others were a bit hard (e.g. Athens and Dubrovnik), so make sure to allocate a bigger budget for these destinations. Buses weren’t that expensive either.
We also have spent all the travel miles and credit card rewards that we had and that paid our internal flight in Greece and two nights at the hotels in Greece.
Overall, for 8 days in the Balkans, we must have spent around £700-750 for both of us excluding the flights, which, I think, is a good number for such a jam-packed itinerary for the Balkans, from Greece to Serbia.