October 9, 2019 - How to travel between the Slovenian and Croatian capitals? All you ever needed to know about travelling from Ljubljana to Zagreb and vice versa.
Both the Slovenian and Croatian capitals are growing in popularity, and the good news is that there are many options to get from one to the other. An overview of options:
Many people travel between the two capitals by car, and the direct motorway route is simple enough, a distance of about 140 km. The border crossing is at Bregana. Actual driving time is about 1 hour 45, but you advised to allow extra time for the border crossing, especially in season. There are webcams at many border crossings (see below) so you can see what awaits. Be aware that if you travel on a Slovenian motorway, you MUST purchase a vignette, available from petrol stations and locations. The minimum cost is 15 euro for a 7-day vignette. And if you think that is expensive, try not buying one and you will find fines in the region of 300 euro. There is also a small toll to pay on the Croatian motorways (under 2 euro). It should be noted that Croatia is not yet in the Euro zone, and Croatian kuna is the local currency, although you can pay by card or in euro at the toll.
And if you do buy the vignette, you might want to check out one of my favourite niche articles, which has proved surprisingly popular - How to Remove a Slovenian Vignette from Your Windscreen.
You can track the latest traffic and border news in English here.
But if you want to save those precious 15 euro, you can...
Here’s a story about driving in Slovenia without a vignette. You can use Google Maps (route options) to choose a route without highways and tolls (but note catching tourists without a vignette who take a wrong turn is a sport for police near the border).
Learn more in How to Drive Across Slovenia Without Buying a Vignette.
Car rental options
There are many international car rental companies, as you would expect. As both countries are now in the EU, there are no particular complications, and one-way drive is a common practice.
While both Slovenia and Croatia are in the EU and so there are no customs issue, they are separated by a manned border, at least for now. This is because Croatia is not yet in the Schengen zone (at time of writing - end of 2019), although its entry is getting closer. The latest estimates put entry date at 2021.
While the Schengen border is a pain for now and brings additional travel time, it is also an important way of life for many non-EU travellers who are on a 90-day Schengen visa. Lots of them come to Croatia and stay until they can go back, and there are frequent forum posts asking whether or not the passport gets stamped at the Croatian - Slovenian border. The answer is almost always at the main crossings, such as Bregana, not always at smaller crossings (unless you request it).
With no customs checks, the process of changing countries should be fairly quick, but the external Schengen border slows things down (this border should disappear once Croatia joins the zone). But expect delays in season, for this is a VERY popular route to the Adriatic coast, and you can find yourself stuck for an hour or two in queues if you don't plan ahead.
In order to make things easier if you want to plan ahead, we have prepared a map of all the border crossings, details of webcams and lots of insider tips in our special guide to crossing the border from Slovenia to Croatia.
Nothing quite beats the experience of having someone else worry about all the driving while you relax and enjoy the view, and if you are looking for a private transfer, look no further than Octopus Transfers, whose rapidly expanding regional network is known for its great service, modern fleet and professionalism.
There are four direct trains a day, five in the summer and winter seasons. It takes a little under 2.5 hours. The timetable is here.
There are almost 30 buses, including night buses, all of which go from the bus terminal in front of the train station. The prices are around 10 euros, and they run from 03:45 to 23:45 (LJ to ZG). Travel time is from 1.5 hours to 3hr 15min, with the average being 2.5 hrs. The website has a warning on delays at the border.
Timetable from Ljubljana to Zagreb is here.
Timetable from Zagreb to Ljubljana is here.
There are no flights between the two cities - the distance is too short.
Many tourists use Ljubljana Airport as an access point to Zagreb, and the quickest and easiest way from the Slovenian airport to the Croatian capital is by private transfer.
For those on a budget, however, a trip into Ljubljana is required. Here is all you need to know about getting into town.
Similarly, from Zagreb Airport, our Total Croatia Zagreb Airport guide can help you into town and then onwards to Ljubljana.
And now that you have arrived at your destination, what to do next?
Here are 25 things to know about Ljubljana.
And the Total Croatia Zagreb in a Page guide.
Forbes is the latest publication to turn it’s attention to Slovenia as a tourist destination, with a short article from Amber Gibson, an international travel writer rather than a local specialist.
Titled “Five Reasons to Visit Slovenia”, it’s the kind of thing that anyone who knows the country will try and write in their head before reading. Bled, surely, will make the list, and likely Ana Ros and Hiša Franko. Ljubljana too, of course, but what will be highlighted in the city, and will there be anything that falls under the category of hidden gem? (A term that, we’re glad to report, isn’t used once in the story.)
Gibson’s guide in the county was Vesna Jona, who notes that Slovenia is less Balkan than the other ex-Yugoslavian states, saying “We work hard like Germans, but we like to eat and drink like Italians”.
We’ll leave you to click through and see the full details of the tourist offer that’s being presented to Forbes’ readers, under the headings of Outdoor Adventure, Castles, Caves, Fine Dining, and Food & Wine, but see if you can guess what you’ll find there.
Slovenia doesn’t have much of a coastline, just a small section between Italy and Croatia, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go scuba diving in the country. To learn more we got in touch with Matjaž Repnik, President of Diving Society Kisik - Oxygen (Društva Kisik – Oxygen), a PADI IDCs instructor and DDI instructor (for people with a disability), and part of the team behind watersports.si.
How did you get into diving?
My first step into diving start in 2010. It was simple – I just want to see bubbles underwater. Funny actually. Later after I finished my open water course diving become like an addiction. From that time I was driven to discover more and more and more. Over the last year I’ve been focusing on cave diving here in Slovenia.
What do you offer at Bled?
At Lake Bled we can take certified divers to a few interesting places. The lake itself in summer is lovely for scuba diving, since the water is 24°C and a 5mm wet suit is all you need for one-hour dives. Until recently Lake Bled was not on the world map of diving location, but since we’ve been offering trips there it’s become more famous, and now we get people from all over.
When you’re underwater in Bled there’s lots of catfish, pike and carp swimming around you. We have special place for diving there, very hidden, and it’s only used by divers who come with us. So far no one has been disappointed, and we get a lot of positive reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook. Night dives are also incredible there. Many small crabs are moving around, and of course big fish are much easier to see compared to diving in the day.
Some of what you can see in Lake Bled.
What if someone isn’t a certified diver?
For those we offer almost everything you need to get started. The first would be the Discover Scuba Diving program, which is actually most popular thing we offer at Bled. People visit the lake and of course they want to see what’s underwater. This program takes two to three hours, and you don’t need any previous knowledge of diving. We come with all the equipment, give a briefing, and by the end we make people wet and happy.
After that many people continue to the next level, the Open Water Diver course. Once you pass this you can become a PADI Open Water Certified Diver. This is a two or three day course, and after that you can go diving all over the world to a depth of 18m with another diver, and it’s easy to do, plus all courses are conducted by very experienced instructors. We also offer many special courses, which you can learn more about by talking to us, or telling us what you want, including technical programs for the most advanced divers.
How long have you been offering this at Lake Bled?
I was first one who start commercial operations in 2012. The idea actually came up a year earlier, at the local diving club, but no one was offering something for tourists. It’s still early days at Bled for diving, but the place has a lot of potential – it just needs the local community to realize that diving can become part of the tourist offer.
What do people need to bring?
Just a smile, water, a towel and a swim suit, the rest we can provide. Of course, if someone has their own equipment and they want to use it then that’s no problem, they just need to bring it.
What else can people do on the water at Bled?
Well, I should say that we don’t support fishing there, since there it kills too many fish, even catch and release. Sorry, in my opinion fish are nice to see, not to hunt. Swimming is possible all around the lake, and there are public beaches. You can also rent a boat or just take a ride on a pletna, the traditional Bled boat. Many people also explore the world underwater with a simple mask, snorkel and fins, but away from the shore you should always have a support boat.
How has Bled changed since you’ve been working there?
A lot, and the roads, especially in August, just can’t handle the traffic. Every year there are more tourists, and although that doesn’t disturb me it’s not so good for the people who live there. One problem, one of many, with mass tourism at Bled is it affects the water quality, as more people swimming there means more pollution, more suncream in the lake and so on, and this year there’s been a problem with green algae. There is an idea to try and develop a higher quality of tourism at Bled, not just mass tourism, but for that the area needs to offer more, and that’s something that diving can be a part of.
When is the diving season?
Business usually starts in June, and the busiest time is in August, when sometimes we just can’t serve all the people we’d like to. The traffic can be terrible then, if you come by car and not by train, so the best time to come is in the morning, for an 8am dive. For me the best time to visit for diving is in September, there are fewer people and the water is warm. People also come in the winter, when we do some dry suit specialty, TEC courses, and if there’s ice then we do ice diving and courses.
What other places do you dive?
Besides Bled we offer also diving nearby Lake Bohinj. There’s one unique and very beautiful diving place for advanced divers, in it’s a green area with lots of water and a slight current. We love it., although the lake itself is nothing special for diving, so we don’t do diving in there.
Any list of Europe’s most beautiful places that wants some geographic variety is almost certain to include somewhere from Slovenia, and nine times out of ten that place will be Lake Bled. To its credit, CNN Travel has chosen to highlight another of the country’s increasingly less hidden gems, Lake Bohinji, although can’t resist a passing mention of the home of kremšnita:
Lake Bohinj is often disregarded in favor of the more popular Lake Bled.
But Slovenia's largest lake, set within the majestic Triglav National Park, is arguably just as spectacular.
Visitors can hire a bike or walk along the trails running around the lake to the impressive Savica waterfall or charming village Stara Fuzina.
Meanwhile, mountaineers have the option to strike out for the summit of Triglav if the weather is good.
Other places on the list include the Lofoten Islands (Norway), Shetland Isles (Scotland), Yorkshire Dales (England), Loire Valley (France), the Bavarian Forest National Park (Germany) and Barmouth (Wales).
While a number of airlines have announced new or increased services to fill the gaps created by the collapse of Adria Airways, no company has yet stepped in to serve the Ljubljana to Vienna route, with Austrian Airlines announcing that it has no intentions to do so, only serving the Slovene market via Klagenfurt. In an official statement, the company said: “Austrian Airlines will offer its passengers up to three daily connections from Vienna to Klagenfurt as an alternative to the termination of Adria Airways flight operations to Ljubljana.”
All our stories on Adria are here
Ana Monro, the highly acclaimed street theatre group that as founded in 1981 and is behind such annual events as Ana Desetnica, Ana Mraz, and Ana Plamenita, will putting on its last performance of its interactive street theatre show Ljubljana Stories this Friday, 4 October (2019) at 19:00. The experience will take you through the Old Town, and specifically the street that runs through it, aka Gornji trg. The show is being promoted as follows:
Guaranteeing a different experience of Ljubljana, Ljubljana Stories is an unforgettable journey, a funny and educational interactive walk through more than 500 years of the Gornji trg’s rich history, an exclusive tour of the parts of the old town that are usually neglected by tour guides, and a unique experience of theatre art in the public space.
Ljubljana Stories will take you for an interactive walk – not your ordinary walk, mind you. The show is based on real places and the history of the city while presenting a brand new view of the past. Are you interest in what it was like to live in fascist-occupied Ljubljana or the Illyrian Provinces? Would you like to experience a fatal earthquake, what it’s like to be a beggar, get to know and feel the modern spirit of the city, fall in love, and/or dance with the Water Man? If so – welcome to our street theatre time-travel adventure!
In town and want to see what' on in Ljubljana this week? Check here
Yesterday it was Brussels Airlines and Wizz Air, and today four other carriers have announced moves to fill the gaps in the market created by Adria Airways' bankruptcy, Lufthansa CityLine, Swiss International Air Lines, Aire Servia and Montenegro Airlines.
Lufthansa plans to run two flights a day from Frankfurt to Ljubljana starting 27 October, with more details here, while the carrier will launch a new daily service from Munich on November 1, with more information here. Swiss International Air Lines will begin a five flights a week service between Zurich and Ljubljana on October 16, becoming daily on October 27, with details here.
Air Serbia is adding a a new - and third - daily flight between Ljublajan and Belgrade for the winter schedule, with the service enabling connection with the carriers flights from belgrade to Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Rome, Mila, Prage, Podgorica, Stuttgart, Vienna and Zurich.
Finally, Montenegro Airlines is now offering discount fares to Adria Airways ticketholders for selected flights, with €60 getting you a one-way flight from Ljubljana to Podgorica, or from Ljubljana to Belgrade via Podgorica. The price includes 23kg of checked-in luggage, and the offer also extends to other destination the airline covers, although the cost for these routes is €90.
All our stories on Adria are here
Updated: 18:45 1 Oct. 2019
STA, 1 October 2019 - The Belgian air carrier Brussels Airlines, part of Lufthansa Group, announced it would restore its Brussels-Ljubljana route a day after Slovenian carrier Adria Airways filed for receivership. Travel agency Nomago also decided to organise several charter flights to mitigate the effects of Adria collapse on conference tourism.
Brussels Airlines, which had flown to Ljubljana a decade ago, announced six flights a week on its website today. Tickets should be available for sale as of Wednesday, while the first flights are scheduled for 4 November.
Brussels Airlines is to connect the Slovenian capital with Brussels every day a week except Saturday. Flights from Brussels are scheduled for 3:30pm and return flights for 5:55pm.
The Belgian air carrier is the first to introduce new flights to Ljubljana airport after Adria's collapse.
Adria's routes will also be partly covered by the Hungarian low-budget carrier WizzAir, which cancelled its Ljubljana-Brussels link for the 2019/2020 winter season but will restore it as of 31 March 2020.
Meanwhile, Nomago said today it was in contact with Ljubljana hotels, and all major tourism organisations and institutions hosting international events. It assured them it can expand its operations to provide for the transport of passengers through its InterCity bus service but also with additional charter flights.
According to Nomago executive director for tourism and mobility services Marjan Beltram, the network of the Nomago IntercIty services may be expanded within a month or two if necessary.
Nomago, which has the largest market share in plane ticket sales in Slovenia, has already arranged alternative connections from near-by airports for its passengers.
The receivership of Adria, which used to transport about half of all Ljubljana airport passengers, opens opportunities for other air carriers as well.
The most attractive appear to be the routes to Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and Vienna. Two other Lufthansa subsidiaries, Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Airlines, are said to be interested in them as well.
Ljubljana airport operator Fraport Slovenija is in intensive talks with other air carriers as well and is hoping to replace the key connections soon. A comparable network of flights is to be set up in a year and a half, Fraport Slovenija said today.
Out of the 27 regular flights, 11 have been lost with the grounding of Adria's planes, of which five are crucial for Slovenia's connectivity with the world, said Janez Krašnja, the head of airline services.
According to Fraport Slovenija COO Zmago Skobir, these are connections with Brussels, Frankfurt, Vienna, Munich and Zurich. He expects them to be restored by the end of the year.
Asked whether founding a new national carrier would make sense in the current situation, Skobir said he could not comment. "I can only say that there is demand for the destinations that have been cancelled and that we have first signals that they will be replaced," he said.
Several companies already flying to Ljubljana are also increasing the number of flights to the Slovenian capital to make out for the fallout from Adria cancellations. Air France increased them from six to 13 a week, and will be using a larger aircraft to adjust to the number of passengers.
LOT Polish Airlines has raised the number of its flights from seven to eight a week and has recently been flying to Ljubljana with a larger plane, Boeing B737.
Air Serbia added Niš to the list of its routes in the summer, and adjusted to the number of passengers on the Ljubljana-Belgrade route with larger planes.
Montenegro Airlines will increase the number of its flights from four to five a week, while Russia's
Aeroflot has been using larger planes.
Turkish Airlines has made no changes yet but said it would secure larger aircraft if necessary.
A solution has however not been found yet for lights to Balkan cities. Fraport Slovenije is particularly working on setting up a connection with Skopje, which is an important business destination.
Fraport expects the airport to see 100,000-200,000 fewer passengers this year because of Adria's collapse, expecting the annual figure to stand between 1.5 and 1.7 million. But the airport still expects to end the year in the black.
Fraport Slovenija has more than EUR 4 million in claims to Adria, a part of which has been secured.
The Slovenian national postal operator Pošta Slovenije said today it had switched from Adria to other air lines and partly to Zagreb airport, while the mail for neighbouring countries and Germany was being transported by road.
Adria's collapse will be discussed by the coalition later this afternoon. Officials are expected to talk about potential steps the state can take in the aftermath of Adria's receivership.
One option is for the state to subsidise new routes and the other is to set up a new air carrier. Parties are divided as to what the best solution would be.
All our stories on Adria are here
STA, 26 September 2019 - The Slovenian tourism sector is scrambling to find alternatives after Adria Airways suspended operations, leading to hundreds of immediate cancellations and raising the prospect of significant long-term damage.
A meeting was held in Ljubljana Wednesday featuring hoteliers, shuttle operators, major convention venues, the Slovenian Tourist Board and the Economy Ministry.
"The goal was to find solutions in the given situation, with drastically reduced air access putting guest arrivals at risk and jeopardising even finalised business events," said Visit Ljubljana, the capital's tourism office.
Media reports suggest there have been dozens of cancellations daily in Ljubljana hotels since Adria grounded its flights on Tuesday.
Foreign guests account for over 95% of all hotel nights in Ljubljana, with roughly two-thirds coming to the city by air, according to Visit Ljubljana figures.
While many do come through airports in neighbouring countries, Ljubljana is the main entry point and Adria accounted for about half of all passengers there.
Ljubljana is also a major convention tourism destination and the lack of direct air links could hurt the sector. "In the first half of 2020 alone this could have a negative impact on three major international conventions with over a thousand participants each," Visit Ljubljana said.
Adria's woes could prove to be a boon for nearby airports in neighbouring countries, which expect passenger numbers to rise.
Zagreb Airport told the STA it expected the number of business guests to increase, while Trieste Airport said it had seen an uptick in the number of guests flying to Munich and Frankfurt.
Munich and Frankfurt were two of the most lucrative destinations for Adria.
Adria's grounding left roughly 3,700 passengers stranded on Tuesday and Wednesday, when 158 flights were cancelled.
Today and tomorrow almost 200 flights have been cancelled, affecting about 10,000 passengers.
All out stories in Adria are here
STA, 24 September 2019 - The 25th City of Women (Mesto Žensk), an international festival of contemporary arts, will kick off in Ljubljana on 1 October; however a series of events will take place as a prelude to the festival's opening, starting tonight (Monday, 24 September) with an exhibition Cheers to Women - 25 Years of Film and Video.
The exhibition launch will be held at Alkatraz Gallery in the Metelkova Mesto alternative arts centre, with the display focusing on creative endeavours of female film makers and video artists in Slovenia.
The feminist festival, running until 13 October, will be held under the slogan #HerStory, a pun referring to female, often forgotten or erased, history as well as female stories.
The events will take place at 18 venues and will include 160 participants, said the festival's programme director Teja Reba at today's press conference, highlighting that this year the festival will spread to Maribor and Zagreb as well.
"We're not talking about a special part of history which would only apply to women, but about a part of general history which is missing since mostly men's events were valued in the past," said Reba.
According to her, the time has come for "some feminist revisionism - a feminist re-interpretation of facts, events and traditions". The festival thus aims "to make visible all that has been overlooked, silenced and repressed".
The programme reminisces about the festival's past achievements, but also looks to the future by promoting up-and-coming female artists and art collectives as well as questions the existing forms of artistic expressions nowadays, said the organisers.
Highlights include a film marathon of Slovenian female film makers and video artists at the Slovenian Cinematheque as well as the opening performance of famous German theatre collective She She Pop, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary as well, at the Ljubljana Mladinsko Theatre (SMG).
The legendary duo, a recipient of this year's Theaterpreis Berlin, a prestigious German theatre prize, will put on Drawers, a performance about the German reunification process retold through the eyes of women from West and East Berlin.
Eva D. Bahovec, the festival's honorary president and professor at the Faculty of Arts, said that the University of Ljubljana, marking its centenary this year, and City of Women will hold a regional symposium on Simone de Beauvoir celebrating the 70th anniversary of her influential work The Second Sex.
The artist-in-residence of this year's festival is Alicja Rogalska, a Polish-British artist who has dedicated herself to exploring the issue of erased people, left without citizenship after Slovenia declared independence in 1991.
Her exhibition Kinds of Pressure at the Škuc Gallery will analyse the global labour conditions under capitalism and its dehumanising effect, but a discussion with the artist at the exhibition opening will also touch upon her research on the erased and how to talk about an identity that was taken away.
This year, City of Women was awarded the European Cultural Foundation's annual Princess Margriet Award for Culture. The prize, honouring the festival's achievement in supporting women in culture and its intersectional feminist approach, will be presented in Amsterdam on 2 October.
It’s always fun to read travel guides to places you know, to see what’s being sold as the real thing and how it compares to your experience. We thus turned with interest to the UK Independent’s recent article, “Maribor Guide: Where To Eat, Drink, Shop And Stay In Slovenia’s Second City”, by Pavlo Fedykovych.
The author touches on the inevitable (the World’s Oldest Vine and the Old Town), gives a very brief look at some cultural options, and then explores what to do in the surrounding environment. The bridge across the Drava is noted as architectural highlight. Turning to Maribor’s restaurant and bar scene, the newspaper presents Mak restaurant and Malca Minogrede among the former, and Piranha Cocktail Bureau and LUFT 360 among the latter.
You can see the full article, and other suggestions for how spend your time in Maribor, here.