We were always planning on driving for our tour of the Balkans so we chose to rent a car. Other options like using local buses and carpooling services like BlaBlaCar are available. The freedom that came with being able to get on the move when we wanted rather than travelling to a set schedule was too strong to resist.
There are a couple of decisions we had to take into consideration:
This option would mean we could start our journey somewhere and drop the rental car off in another country. As a result, we would not need to do a loop which was great. On the flip side, there was a significant amount of costs and very little options available.
This was the option we went for in the end. It did mean we had to plan our route as a loop however we would save on the additional fees. In this case too we would only have to book our return flight to same location
It’s now ok to drive into Albania which was a bonus as car rental companies did not allow this in the past. Driving from Kosovo into Serbia is not allowed. You would need to go through Montenegro.
How we found our car
We decided to pick up our rental car at the airport in Podgorica, Montenegro and this was also going to be our drop off point. The plan was to do a loop through the Balkans and end the trip the same place we started.
Rentalcars App is our go-to app when looking to rent a car and this time was no exception. We chose to go with Greenmotion as they are a known company in Europe and we had previously used them in the UK.
Calling the rental company beforehand to make sure it was ok to travel across borders and also to check what restrictions were in place, if any, was essential for our peace of mind. It turns out that the restriction to travel into Albania had been lifted and all we required was a green card for the car which came in at an additional cost of €40 euros.
Choosing the right car
In our case, the small-mid option was a brand new 1.2 Ford Fiesta. As always, we remembered to check the car thoroughly, taking pictures of every bump and scratch. Remember to do this every time you rent a car.
The only issues we had were, the original car we were given did not start and the replacement one had a low tire pressure warning. This went away after we topped up with some free air.
Fuel economy and an inconspicuous look were also high on the list. Reading stories online of cars on foreign license plates being vandalized got us thinking we didn’t want to stand out even more.
A 1.2 petrol engine was just about the right size for this trip as it was only the two of us with a couple of small suitcases. Smaller engines may struggle going up the mountainous roads and not be as much fun to drive. Our Ford did struggle uphill sometimes, however, having a small car was great for driving through the cities and narrow streets.
Driving in the Balkans
Motorways/highways in the Balkans are surprisingly good and are well maintained. There are, however, patches where we encountered some ongoing roadworks. Mountain roads were a bit tricky in places and some even scary during the night time. Our driving was limited to 2-3hrs a day and mostly during the evening times.
Some things to bear in mind:
- Drivers do tend to speed a lot and there’s a lot of overtaking.
- Getting stuck behind a truck could mean a long, slow journey in some places.
- Very little fuel station accepts card payment so cash is king here.
- There’s an additional insurance charge of €15 euros paid at the border when driving into Kosovo.
- There’s also a 1 euro environmental tax when driving out of Serbia.
- Google Maps does not give verbal directions in Kosovo but you can still use for reference
Fuel prices are very reasonable in the Balkans and driving, in general, is safe. The trickiest conditions were in Albania. Here people only started driving in the early 90s with most probably not owning a drivers license.
The curious thing is that Google Maps does show you all the roads in Kosovo but it would not give you verbal directions and you cannot set the driving mode to a route.
Tolls, payments, and costs
At the time of writing this post, a new tollway being installed in Kosovo and the highways are brand new and we did not have to pay for the roads. Parking was affordable even in the cities city. Dubrovnik has very little parking available in the city center and when you do find on can be very expensive.
Below we’ve set out our cost of the car rental for our 10 Day Road Trip:
- Ford Focus Car hire from Green Motion – £185/€214/$240 includes full cover insurance using Rentalcars App.
- Green Card purchased at pick up – £34/€40/$44
- Kosovo Border Insurance – €15 Euros
- Bosnia & Herzegovina border tax – €1 Euro
- Petrol – about €185 Euros
If you have any questions on how to rent a car in the Balkans, please do feel free to reach out to us and we would try our best to answer you.