We have put this bit in as everyone seems either a bit vague about driving here or plain scared by the experience. So here is our story:
SOME GENERAL INFORMATION ON VARIOUS ROUTES THROUGH EUROPE
Bad weather, a big wash day, security issues or simply being unable to find a bush site will push us into a campsite. Here are some we know or have used:
FRANCE: campsite beside river in Nevers. New toilet block and short walk into town. €12
SLOVENIA: Kamp Vili near Tolmin. Riverside setting in lovely valley. Basic but clean. €14
SWITZERLAND: Grindelwald. Site at bottom of village with views of the Eiger. 25 CHF
AUSTRIA: Natterer See. Huge caravan site but with gorgeous views. €25!
TURKEY: this is a top 5 list of all sites in turkey. However, we have never used them so don’t know how accurate the statement is.
Kusadasi: Onder ( this one we did use and it was ok but why you would want to visit the area is beyond us)
Gokova: gokova orman.
Marmaris: inbuku orman.
Bolu: yedigoller milli parki.
Rize: canciotel bahcesi.
Olu Deniz: kelebekler.
CROATIA: camp kozarica in Pakostane. Pitch numbers 100 to 124 are best, right on water front. 124 kuna
Turist camp Vrsar: beach front site that was immaculate.€16
Camp solitudo :Dubrovnik. Huge site with a beach front and handy for old town. 142 kuna
MONTENEGRO: the weather was SO BAD when we were here that we booked into a hotel. We did spot a campsite that was right on a gorgeous beach just north of BUDVA. Don’t know how good it is.
ITALY: Valle verde campsite. Predazzo. Superb site, very clean and new with restaurant and bar plus fab views. €17
GREECE: we had bush camping galore here although it is illegal– so be discrete!
The only sites we used were in Athens: camp Kifissia, nice and quiet. €20
And Kamali site near Igoumenitsa, really nice site with beach area.€13
GREAT BUSH CAMP SPOTS
Greece wins for bush camping. The only problem is that it is illegal so you have to be subtle. We didn’t take GPS coordinates at the time which was a great pity, so the only places we can tell you about are the really easy ones to find on the map.
A fabulous bay that’s 23 miles south of Leonidio. There are no signs posts and we think it is called Fugianous but that may be the wrong spelling. You will have the place to yourselves with only the odd yacht sailing by and an elderly couple that live there.
Any where along the 40km strip of golden sand that lies to the north of Kalo Nero. Pick a place under the pines get your kit off and chill. Fab. Police visit once a week in the summer to move you on, no hassle, just don’t pitch near the top end where all the motor homes go and there is a free water supply .
We crossed the border on the 17th September 2006.
Getting in was a breeze, the border crossing staff were the friendliest that we have met anywhere. You are charged €10 each for your visa and given a piece of paper for your vehicle insurance. When you drive out of the country you hand the piece of paper over, they check the date on it and you are charged the grand sum of €1 for each day you have spent in Albania. EASY PEASY. The guards on our exit crossing were again the nicest, happiest blokes we have ever met.
HOWEVER. There is no mistaking that the country has a high crime rate, terrible poverty and some pretty awful roads. Most of the men look well dodgy and yes- they all do drive Mercedes?!
Some of the scenery is lovely, the people appear to be hospitable and like most countries it has great potential.
There are police everywhere along the road sides doing vehicle checks but they are not interested in you they only pull over the locals. As soon as they spot you are a tourist they wave you on or plain ignore you, we found that by slowing down to just under the speed limit and letting them see you seemed to work.
Bush camping would be a seriously silly thing to do and never ever leave your vehicle alone.
We have read that the average Albanian has only been driving for 10 years. This would make sense as their driving is not too bad except when they want to join a carriageway, they just pull out and don’t seem to have any concept of other road users. Driving in a straight line is no problem and they are starting to learn young, it’s not unusual to see a 12 year old driving alone in daddy’s car. MAD.
That said, it is not the scariest driving we have seen and we found the whole experience not bad at all, but the towns and villages can be poorly sign posted making it hard to know exactly where you are.
We spotted a good hotel to stay at en-route: It was just on the right of the Durres/ Tirane junction and had a security guard for your vehicle and an underground car park.
The road from Bozaj ( Montenegro) to Shkoder was pretty bad, we struggled to get over 30mph on the un-surfaced bumps and at one point were down to 5mph to get through some huge water filled pot holes that lasted for a mile just before Shkoder.
From Shkoder to Fier the road was brilliant, well surfaced and smooth most of the way. But at this point or somewhere near here we went wrong, if we did get to Vlore, then we took the wrong road and ended driving down a secondary road past Gjirokaster and onto Kakavi ( the Greek border).
We followed the signs for Saranda, which should have taken us down a main coastal road toward Greece but somewhere between Fier and Vlore we ended up on this other road? We even asked a local if the signs were right and then faithfully followed them. If you look at your map, you will see why we are scratching our heads , as there is no way the road we were on should have be sign posted for Saranda. We suspect the coastal road would have been better as the one we were on was marked “ under construction” for the whole route and they weren’t joking. It was slightly better than the road to Shkoder but we still struggled to find tarmac and to get over 40mph. We completed the 410km route with detours, in 6 hours.
NESSIE GETTING A HOSE DOWN AFTER THE ALBANIAN ROADS.
WHICH ROUTE TO TAKE TO TURKEY?
Having driven the shortest route via eastern Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria we would recommend the Albanian route as the most scenic and cheapest way to go. We were charged €103 euros to drive through Serbia which, considering we only spent 8 hours in the country, was a bit expensive plus we had a toll charge of €8.The Serbian roads were superb.
For Bulgaria we were charged €40 for our green card (valid for 10 days) and €4 for our road tax (valid for 7 days).
The Bulgarian roads were terrible and the police were hungry for fines.
The Bulgarian/ Turkish border is very busy and can take hours to get through whereas the Greek/ Turkish border seems far quieter.
For Turkey we were charged 66ytl (40 euros) for our insurance which is valid for 3 months.
We would definitely go via Albania again especially as the roads are actively being upgraded and if you have time you should tour mainland Greece and the Peloponnese.
Be sure to top up in Croatia as the fuel in Montenegro and Albania is expensive.
We have also sailed with Minoan Lines from Iguomenitsa in Greece to Venice in Italy. It was fantastic. It takes 30 hours in total with you sailing at 8am and arriving the next morning, with time differences. You can camp on deck, height is not a problem and they have showers and toilets for you to use as well as electric if you have a connection point. You are not allowed to use your gas stove for safety reasons but the food on board is good, if a little expensive, and you sail past St Marks Square with a tannoy sightseeing rundown being given. $150 one way.
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