We did not have a lot of preparation in terms of completing the luggage. We replaced our mattresses on more solid ones; we bought IDP and stock up with currency. Apart from that we had our luggage completed; we had to only pack it in to the trunks. We changed the way of packing the tent on the motorbike, and we gained more space in the top case, so we had no problems with packing.
Here is the list of our equipment:
- tent, sleeping bags, air beds x3
- towels, clothes, toiletries
- documents: passports, European Health Insurance Card, travel insurance, vehicle papers, IDP – International Driving Permit
- money: currency
- First Aid Kit – fortunately not needed
- small pillow
- gas bottle, stove, lighter
- kettle, 2 metal mugs, cutlery
- small tent lamp
- mobile phone + charger
- additional shoes – sandals
- head scarf, hat (for sun protection)
- few extra motorcycle things (tyre sealant, chain spray)
- notebook and pen
- washing line
- camera + spare batteries + additional memory card
- electric shaver + charger
- spare motorcycle keys
- lock for attaching helmets to motorcycle
- motorcycle lock
- sugar + salt
Our accommodation, in the first place was, is and will be a tent. Therefore we prepared ourselves for staying at campsites. Unfortunately not always we were able to find them when needed. So we happened to stay in hotels, motels or other similar institutions. We did not complain though, even for a moment because on the Balkans they proved to be cheap and of very good standard.
On the Balkans you can meet lot of people offering private rooms, which are often cheaper than hotels and the prices can be negotiated. You have to look for people standing on the roadside with the offer written on a piece of cardboard or paper.
Western countries, what we had the chance to see on our previous trip have very well developed network of campsites. On the other hand, the Balkan countries and Eastern Europe still have a lot catching up to do in this area, but definitely you can see the progress.
For one night, two people and a motorbike we paid between 8€ and 26€. Twice we paid 40€, but it was a hotel in the city, which for us was not at all excessive. The cheapest accommodation proved to be in Romania.
For the first time we planned the route before we left. That was for several reasons: on our way there were many countries and places to see and the time as usual was limited. Therefore we marked on the general map places we would like to see in each country, roads we wanted to travel, and then we connected all that creating the most optimal route. It was actually the outline of the route, because we knew that we will change it on the fly, depending on the road conditions and time.
As it turned out later on, our route contained whole range of different types and standard of roads.
FRANCE, SWITZERLAND, BELGIUM, GERMANY, ITALY, CZECH REPUBLIC: here we knew what to expect, roads in good condition, well-marked
SLOVENIA, SLOVAKIA, CROATIA, HUNGARY: the quality of roads is worse than in western countries, but the main roads are well maintained and generally the drive was comfortable
GREECE: a mixture of good quality and nightmarish roads
BALKAN COUNTRIES AND ROMANIA: worse with every country visited, but probably Serbia turned to be the worst, it was almost impossible to drive there (patch on the patch, holes, cracks, bumps); these countries definitely are not suitable for sport motorcycle. You can also see a huge difference in the culture of driving (local drivers do nothing about the road rules, overtaking where not allowed, not adjusting to speed limits, ignoring red lights at road works), which adding to the state of the roads creates dangerous situations. We have to admit that in that respect we left those countries with a little bit of relief.
IDP – International Driving Permit, we read that they may require this. They haven’t asked us for it anywhere, but basically better to have it than don’t, especially as the cost of it is small.
Green Card – liability insurance for drivers traveling outside of the European Union countries. Not every insurance company provide the Green Card, so before you leave make sure which countries your insurance is valid for. For countries not covered by your insurance you must purchase the Green Card either from the insurer that provides it or at the border, where you have to expect higher prices.
(More on that: see the Balkan Cheat Sheet)
Basically the weather was nice to us. Apart from some fleeting rains, we happened to have only half a day of rainy weather. We did not take our rain suites on this journey and it turned out they would have been completely needless. Our motorcycle suites are not really waterproof, but they are water resistant, which was more than enough.
What you have to consider when going to the south of Europe in the summer is of course the heat. Our bodies needed a few days to get used to the heat, but after that it was fine. Of course we always made sure we had a supply of water with us and we stayed sufficiently hydrated. There were times when because of the heat the drive was really difficult as there was nothing to breathe, the air was heated, the sun was burning and there was nowhere to hide.
Tips / Comments
- we did not expect to see picnic sites, but sometimes we found one by chance
- near the tourist attractions it is much more expensive in general, for example on the Croatian coast we paid for the dinner almost three times more than inland
- the Balkans are a mixture of countries, people and languages, so communication can cause problems
- we first tried to communicate in English, if that did not work we then used hand and a mix of words from Polish and Russian
- near the tourist attractions, use of the English language is basically a standard
- we met only friendly people, they often asked us first if we needed any help, seeing us with an open map on the side of the road
- in general people in the Balkans are open to foreigners and treat tourists as guests
- despite the fact that the armed conflict in the Balkans ended some time ago, the remains of this period are still present, they are unexploded ordnance, which still constitute a real danger. You need to be aware of this and do not enter the areas marked as mined, or do not stray too far from roads or marked routes
- even though we had some concerns before entering the Balkan countries, we did not have any unpleasant situation, to be honest we felt a little uncomfortable because we definitely stood out against the background of the local landscape
- of course different things can happen, and during the journey you can’t predict everything. However using your common sense you can avoid dangerous and unpleasant situations
- as in some parts of the Balkans riots still happen, it is worth before leaving to familiarize yourself with notices from the Foreign Ministry about the possible risks and adjust your itinerary skipping these dangerous places
- as the majority of the Balkan countries do not belong to the European Union, border controls are common and you must take into account that it might take some time
- traveling on a motorbike has some advantages when it comes to the border crossings, after all you can check in at the pedestrian crossing not having to wait in the queue with all cars
- (More on that: see the Balkan Cheat Sheet)
- even though the Euro currency in tourism is gaining popularity, almost every Balkan country uses different currency and cash transactions are still most popular there
- you can either take Euro with you and exchange it locally or you can withdraw cash at ATMs
- we took some Euros with us and used it everywhere we could. If we knew we would spend more than one day in given country we withdrew the local currency from ATM and used that for the time of our stay in that country. We just made sure that we used it all before we left the country (usually on the last petrol station before we crossed the border)
- (More on that: see the Balkan Cheat Sheet)