One of the biggest perks of traveling around Europe is the vast amount of options you have to pick from. You can rent a car, as we did in Reykjavik, or take a train or a “puddle jumper” from one country to the next, you can even hitchhike in some countries in Eastern Europe, or you can take a bus. Let me just preface this post by saying that I am not a diva when I travel. I fly coach, I take the bus on a long ride because it is cheaper; I don’t need to be comfortable if it is going to save me a substantial amount of money. I rode a nine hour over-night bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani and took a catamaran just after sunrise to Kho Tao because it was a third of the price of flying, though I must say to fly didn’t appeal all that much to me considering it was on a ten passenger water plane and I was a little nervous about crashing into the Andaman (look up to verify) Sea. I’ve ridden on the back of a motorcycle and a scooter that I questioned whether it was even street legal. With all that being said, I will never, repeat, NEVER, ride on a Croatian bus ever again!
In May of 2016 my friend Jay and I decided we were going to take a three-week European trip starting in Reykjavik and stretching through London, Paris, three cities along the Croatian coast, and Stockholm. We landed in Zadar, Croatia at about 10:30 pm and had the entire next day and a half to explore. Zadar was the smallest of the three cities we visited, but still beautiful and worth a visit to see some astounding national parks and The Sea Organ.
We decided to take the bus from Zadar to Split and then Split to Dubrovnik because it was a total of $20 each to book both bus tickets. The ride from Zadar to Split wasn’t really all that bad except that it made about thirty stops along the way and caused us to arrive at the station in Split an hour and a half later than I had expected, causing our AirBnB host who was meeting us there, to wait for much longer than she was anticipating. She happily waited and escorted us to our apartment in Diocletian’s Palace and stocked our mini fridge with water and juices. She was wonderful and I would highly recommend her to anyone interested in booking accommodations in Split. Anyone who is interested in this means of travel should know that there is another options for traveling via bus from Zadar to Split and this coach is an express bus that costs a little more, but only makes about four stops along the way. This was not an option I recall seeing on the website, but was asked by the attendant when we purchased our tickets on the day of our departure.
The real problem came when we were leaving Split to travel to Dubrovnik two days later. We had pre bought our tickets the day before leaving to avoid any last minute hassles. As Jay was loading our backpacks under the bus I found our seats, which were numbered on the ticket and on the aisle above the rows of seats just the same as an airplane. For some reason, which I still to this day cannot figure out why, this confused people immensely. I’m not referring to people who were elderly or neither spoke Croatian or English; I’m talking about a woman from New Jersey and a couple from England. I started to question whether I had messed up and was in the wrong seat because I hadn’t found the process of finding my seat number and then sitting in said seat to be all that complicated. This chaos lasted for longer than ten minutes and prevented people from boarding the bus simply because these few confused souls would not sit in their assigned seats. By the time Jay boarded the bus I had migrated from being perplexed to annoyed to down right angry that I was going to have to share the same oxygen with these idiots for the next four hours.
After the seating debacle we finally left the bus station and had made it about five miles into the city when our bus driver pulled over so he could get out and make a call. I wasn’t really bothered by this; I mean we live in the digital age and people use their phones to call or text frequently. I’ve certainly spent time on my phone while at work. As soon as the driver boarded the bus and pulled out of the parking lot a man in the front row of seats began yelling, “Put down the phone! You are going to kill us all!” then turned to the rest of us on the bus and continued yelling, “He is texting the entire time! He is going to kill us all!” This continued for the next twenty minutes until finally the driver put down his phone and the man in the front row stopped yelling threats of calling the police and how we were all going to die. At this point I turned to Jay and said, “If this bus stops again I’m getting off and renting a car.” He agreed.
The remaining four hours of the bus ride was fairly uneventful in comparison to the start of the trip, although I did feel like our driver was taking the winding coastal roads too fast and taking turns rather sharply. Trying not to think that this was how I was going to die, on an out of control bus in Croatia because my driver was texting, I just held onto the handle on the back of the seat in front of me so tight so that my knuckles turned white and tried not to vomit. I’ve never had issues with carsickness or motion sickness of any kind before then. Since that trip I immediately feel nauseous when I sit in the back seat of a car now. When I told this to Jay recently he said that he has experienced the same thing. It’s like some kind of weird, PTSD motion sickness that has yet to go away. Because I was filled with anxiety and nausea the entire ride I didn’t pay attention to the scenery around me. What should have been a beautiful tour of the Croatian coast quickly became a nightmare that also took away from the entire experience of traveling by road. Had we rented a car we could have enjoyed the winding roads that stretched along the cliffs overlooking the beautiful small towns and ports all drenched in turquoise water.