Two thousand three-hundred eighty-five. The amount of photos I took on my iPhone SE and sadly, the only camera I own. Most of those photos are literally of the same thing five times, hoping I wouldn't miss anything in my second time in Europe. But for this post, I've dwindled it down to an increasingly less size so it doesn't take forever to scroll, just a ton of words you might want to read. Here I will log what I did to prepare for my trip, how much money I spent and some tips and advice when traveling around Eastern Europe.
It was an exciting time, traveling to Budapest and Croatia with your best friends. I haven't traveled out of the country in awhile, granted I did go to Mexico and Montreal in the past year but it's so close to the States I feel like it doesn't really matter. But to do a ten day trip with your close friends, and one of them you haven't seen in forever, I knew it was going to be one hell of a trip.
One of the perks of living in New York is that you're near Europe that flight prices aren't that bad. Nina who is one of my close friends and I met here in New York City, and I bought tickets three months in advance and we both spent close to $800 to Budapest round-trip. I then saved up around $2,000 but budgeted for less. If you don't know anything about Budapest know this, it's ridiculously cheap and your dollar goes a long way. We be livin' like queens y'all!
Before landing in Budapest, there was a lot of planning to do in order to get shit done. My other friend traveling with Nina and I, Tyler and her friend Stephanie, were meeting us at the Budapest airport from Los Angeles, CA. We wanted to fly into Budapest because of widely known music festival called Sziget that has more than just music but art and crazy activities. The main reason why we went was because our girl Rihanna was performing so we, like, HAD to go. This festival had 90,000 people attending and was two weeks long, we said fuck that and bought a day ticket for about $40 just to see Rihanna perform.
After planning to go to Sziget, we wanted to travel to Croatia and the only reason why I wanted to go so badly was because I saw beautiful photos while I was scrolling through Instagram a year ago and thought what the hell, it seems absolutely incredible. I've been wanting a clear blue water experience, I just imagined myself on a huge yacht and posing on the edge of it double fisting champagne filled glasses. As I researched this magical place, Croatia is known for their insanely mystical waterfalls located in their national parks that you can swim in and hike around. Croatia is not as cheap as Budapest but all you have to do is Google search the conversation rate and you're still not breaking your bank.
After deciding on where to go, Nina and I did some research on the public transportation in Croatia and noticed it isn't that reliable, thus we decided to rent a car. We went for a small four door Suzuki with great gas mileage, automatic and had a USB/Aux situation for our necessary road trip music. We then planned out our road trip from Budapest to Croatia, it was easy to plan because Croatia has many cities that you can drive to that are under four to three hours of traveling time including traffic. We booked hostels on Hostelworld.com and from there we were all finished with planning, all of this was of course done over a group chat between the four of us which was annoying but necessary.
After our day at the festival in Budapest, we picked up our car and our first stop was to Zagreb, a popular city to visit in Croatia and known for its crazy bar scene. We booked a hostel right in the city where there are a lot of shops, bars and restaurants. There was this cute flea market that we ran into that was set up with vendors selling beautiful flowers and a variety of lavender filled pouches. Once we arrived at our hostel, which was pretty hard to find, we met loads of people and danced the night away.
The hostel we booked was called Chill Out Hostel and it was in fact, chill. There was a bar and restaurant in the lobby, our room was small but that was expected by looking at the photos before booking it and the showers and bathroom area were clean. I had a good experience and the guys that work there were fun to talk to and not bad to look at either.
After a night of bar hopping in Zagreb, we were back on the road by 10am the next morning to leave for the island of Novalja. This was almost a death ride into the abyss, it involved a steep mountain with tight turns, I was extremely nervous my palms were dripping with sweat and I couldn't relax because I was just watching Nina drive the route very carefully. The upside to it was the breathtaking scenic oceanic views. Before getting to the island, we had to drive through this crazy mountain and head to the ferry, we then had to pay for the number of people in the car and the car itself to board. Once the ferry dropped us off the island, which took about 20 minutes, we had to drive an extra hour to get to the town and into our hostel.
Check out the route on the map below of how windy it was!
After three and half hours of eternal driving we found our modest cozy hostel for the night. The hostess who greeted us was extremely helpful and told us about the Code of Conduct in Novalja. This island recently rolled out rules because this place is also known to be a crazy and wild party island especially since Zrce beach is 10 minutes away. Zrce beach is a rocky non-sandy lagoon with a bar and dance scene, some people might compare it to Miami beach but I've never been so I can't say for sure. All four of us arrived there around 7, giving us just enough time to get ready for the night, eat dinner and catch a glimpse of the insanely gorgeous sunset. We all decided against Zrce beach for the night and stayed around our area. We bought a bottle of not-so-good red wine, walked along the water, checked out the many vendors selling ice cream and souvenirs and met some travelers too.
Check out the sunset photos below.
The next morning we woke up bright and early to get back on the road, we didn't want to waist another minute. We headed to Zrce beach to see what all the fuss was about, how beautiful it is, and then onward to our next two stops that day, Krka waterfalls and Split.
Below are photos of Zrce beach.
Afterwards, we headed to Krka Waterfalls! The drive there was not as bad, about an hour and a half, we didn't have to go through a crazy mountain or anything. Our trip to Krka was just going to be a short stop before we headed to our next destination. We heard and seen so many beautiful photos about Croatia's national parks that we had to make a stop at one of the most popular spots. Before going to the national park, you take a stroll through the small town and walk through restaurants and souvenir shops, the ground is cobble stone and you're surrounded by decrepit old buildings. Once you get through the town you can see the docks.
We had to take a boat to the park and it was a beautiful and relaxing 10 min trip. Once we entered the park its a short walk to the amazing waterfall, now there are three waterfalls I believe but it was hard to tell where to go to see them because the maps and the tour itself was confusing. So we only got to see one of them, I suggest that you should definitely look for the other three.
Once you walk to the waterfall, everyone has their towels and things lain out on the ground, people are relaxing in the shade and tanning in the sun. It was like a big secret oasis that everyone knew about. We immediately went in to take a dip, but here is a helpful tip that I wish I had known about before going: Bring swimming shoes. Dead serious! All my friends and I brought stupid sandals and we wore them in the water because there are a bunch of sharp and slimy rocks at the bottom. We were struggling to just climb in; we were slipping and sliding and jumping and shouting, everything hurt. But the water felt fantastic, so refreshing and inviting.
There is no limit to how long you need to stay at the waterfall because you can hop on any boat that takes you back to the town but there's lots to do at the park. There were food vendors selling sandwiches, local vendors selling nuts and oils, and there's a couple of hiking trials you can explore and different areas to swim in. Everyone there was enjoying the day as if we were at the beach, go ahead and book your trip to Krka Waterfalls, do it girl, do it.
Photos of town before the Krka and of the waterfall.
Split was the last destination for Tyler and Steph, my other two friends if you haven't been following. We stayed at this famous hostel called Split Guesthouse that was quaint, known to be family orientated because the owner of the hostel is so nice. This hostel wasn't even the nicest in terms of aesthetic and space, it was because the guy was so helpful and friendly. Once you walk in there are hand written testimonies covering the walls in colorful words praising the owners and what a great time they had. That night it was one of the guests birthday and the owner (I forgot his name) bought an ice cream cake and surprised everyone with a magician to perform for the birthday girl.
In Split, we just kept things super low-key because Nina and I were going to head to a new destination that wasn't pre-planned. We quickly decided on Zadar, which was on the way up towards Budapest so we could return the rental car in the next couple of days.
Download Airbnb, it is a life saver for last minute reservations.
Airbnb is the greatest app in the world, we used it throughout our last couple of days in Europe and it helped us book a place in less than 24 hour notice. So after parting ways with the squad (Tyler and Steph headed to Rome), Nina and I spent time at Kasjuni Beach in Split and then drove to Zadar where we booked the cutest beach house that was right near the water.
Images of Split, Kasjuni Beach and our hostel in Zadar.
After a night in Zadar, we went to the old town that was 10 minute drive away and drank wine and wandered, it was fun there were lots to see and enjoyed the 2nd natural organ sea in the whole world. We then had to head up to Budapest the next morning and the rest is history.
Traveling is fun but you learn a lot about yourself and the people you're with; so here are a couple of things I've learned while traveling:
1) Travel with like-minded people.
2) Enjoy every moment, positive vibes only!
3) Save more money than you should so you don't come back broke af.
4) Pay for data outside of the country before leaving, makes your life a lot easier.
5) Go out and have fun; you're traveling not at home!
Thanks for reading