In 2013 I missed out on a holiday due to work, so I vowed 2014 wouldn’t be the same. Summer 2014 was also a time of transition from university student to full time employee. I wanted to ensure the summer off wasn’t wasted, so I decided to finally go on a holiday!
My friends were busy with their own lives, so I decided to go by myself. I had seen pictures of Plitviče Lakes National Park in Croatia and Lake Bled in Slovenia and fallen in love with both, so the trip I went on had to at least encompass the two.
This six part series will take you from the initial decision making process of choosing how to see my chosen destinations, through a city by city review of each destination I visited, finishing with a total spend and a review of the whole adventure.
A few weeks ago I wrote Five Steps to Choose Your Next Holiday Destination, and I followed the same process in 2014 when I was deciding where to go. The year before there was a possibility I would go interrailing so I had been making notes of where I might like to go. One such place was Plitviče Lakes National Park, and another was Lake Bled, so I focused on trips that visited both of these places.
I was off work so trip duration wasn’t a real issue, but as this was the first solo trip I had taken I didn’t want it to be too long in case I hated it! I also wasn’t too concerned about the price; I was happy to pay a bit more to ensure I visited the places I wanted to see, and do it as part of a group with its added security.
To decide which trip met these criteria I visited TourRadar, a site that allows you to input destinations and locations and give you a range of options from a number of tour operators. I put in my requirements and found my tour – Balkans Highlights with Tucan Travel.
Tucan Travel was founded in 1987 as one of the first South American adventure tour companies. Over the years it has expanded to worldwide destinations including Eastern Europe. Whilst in some countries it makes use of yellow overland buses, in Europe the travel is primarily by public transport, with each group contained to a maximum of 16.
As a travel rookie the small group size was really important to me. I had seen other companies like Contiki or Topdeck (who I have since travelled with) with large group sizes and they really intimidated me! Although they are more targeted for my age group (I was 23 when I went), I’m someone who wants to actually see the places I’m visiting, as well as someone who enjoys sleep! I also liked the travel method that Tucan Travel offered; I would never have travelled by myself, but this trip was like travelling by myself, with ready made friends to travel with me and ensure I stayed safe.
The other thing I liked about Tucan Travel was the ‘free time’ it offered. The tour was there to facilitate the holiday – to get you from A to B to C. It wasn’t there to hold your hand the whole time. As an introvert I need my own time to recharge and do my own thing, whilst also be surrounded by people who will drag me out to see different things, and this was really easy to achieve with the trip.
All the Tucan Travel trips are modular, so depending on the amount of time / money you have can determine how big or small your trip is. The map below shows the entire European route offered by Tucan Travel in 2017 (there have been some changes since 2014 but it is roughly the same).
I did only a small portion of the Europe trip; from Dubrovnik to Budapest. In 2014 the route was slightly different as it went from Dubrovnik to Hvar via Korcula (Bosnia was included in the Budapest to Dubrovnik half of the journey).
Transport methods varied throughout the trip, but we primarily used public transport including boats, buses and trains. Looking back, the trip would be fairly easy to replicate yourself, but the benefit of travelling with Tucan Travel is all the organising is done by someone else; you just have to turn up! When things go wrong, there are other people there to spend time with and also keep you sane!
The trip included one night in Dubrovnik to start, then one night in Korcula before two nights to enjoy Hvar. One night in Split and Plitvice each were followed by two in Zagreb, two in Ljubljana (to give time on the middle day to go to Lake Bled) and finally one night in Budapest. I added an extra night to the start and end to ensure I would have time to see Dubrovnik and Budapest.
In part two I will cover how I got to my starting city, Dubrovnik, and then travel up the coast of Croatia to Hvar.
Have any of you travelled with Tucan Travel? Or have you visited similar places in a different way? I would love to hear from you via the comments below.