Travel Writer Amelia Bell gives her account of the must-see sights in the Balkans
This summer, I explored the Balkans, a great area for a student-friendly budget. To kick things off, I used Skyscanner to locate reasonably priced flights. I didn’t have a starting point in mind, rather looked for somewhere affordable with convenient connections to neighbouring countries.
I began my trip with a one-way, £86 flight to Rijeka, Croatia. My partner and I payed £15 each for an Airbnb, allowing the possibility to cook and save money on eating out. I had few expectations of Rijeka, however it was beautiful and incredibly affordable, unlike its more well-known Croatian counterparts: Split and Dubrovnik. Rijeka is situated along the coast and offers a wealth of beautiful swimming spots and cultural attractions such as Trsat Castle, one of the oldest fortifications on the Croatian coast. Once you reach the top, amazing views accompany a lovely bar where you can enjoy an Aperol spritz for only 4 euros. Eating out is very affordable, costing around a maximum of 15-20 euros including an alcoholic drink.
From Rijeka, I took a FlixBus to Zagreb, Croatia for only £6.99. UNiDAYS offer an ideal 11% discount on bookings made with FlixBus. Zagreb was an inspiring city with beautiful architecture and efficient infrastructure. You have to try the traditional Croatian dish Strukli, which is similar to a strudel and can be either sweet or savoury. I went for a Truffle Strukli (learning that truffles can be readily found in Croatia) and my partner tried the roasted red pepper. I believe Zagreb would be an ideal location for a digital nomad job due to the beauty of the city and the friendliness of the people. For breakfast I would buy Burek, an Eastern European pastry with a variety of fillings and costing no more than £1. Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships was engaging, offering a new experience and the ability to read bitter and chaotic endings to relationships. They accept student cards for a discount, which works out at around £5 per person.
Spontaneously, I booked another FlixBus from Zagreb to Belgrade, Serbia which was £26.69 with UNiDAYS discount. The coach to Serbia was a longer due to border-crossing, but was worth it. Serbia is an ideal budget location as food and drinks are extremely cheap. You can purchase a beer from the supermarket for 40p, while a pint out is around £1.50. Typically, dinner for two with drinks wouldn’t be more than £20. Bars are incredibly affordable and the city is lively with options to club. There are many museums and attractions to visit; I recommend the Church of Saint Sava, the second-biggest Orthodox church in the world, which showcases a dominating dome resembling that of the Hagia Sophia. The Belgrade Fortress is free to wander around and has lovely views of the city, overlooking the Danube River.
Lastly, I travelled to Sarajevo, Bosnia, again by FlixBus. This was the longest journey yet, consisting of a nine hour overnight coach. You must have cash in order to pay a small fee to enter the coach station in Belgrade, so save Serbian currency! Arriving across the border, the sun began to rise and the views out of the window were unforgettable, with picturesque landscapes of pristine natural beauty. Bosnia is home to a variety of religious architecture including Mosques, Churches and Synagogues. This diversity and open-mindedness adds to the beauty of the city. Due to the atrocities that occurred in Bosnia in the 1990s, people are eager to share their past experiences. Our Airbnb host was incredible with sharing tips, while the spacious apartment itself only cost us around £14 a night, each. An unmissable place to visit is the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide, which was heart-wrenching, but pertinent in understanding what occurred in Bosnia only 20 years ago. One of my tips is to get cash out, as often they do not accept cards. The people of Bosnia are keen for tourists and it felt unique to other parts of Europe, making it a bucket-list destination.
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