Whilst backpacking Europe last Summer, I wanted to do something special for Niamh’s Birthday. I knew we’d be in Split, Croatia at the time and she’d been banging on about visiting some waterfalls in Bosnia: Kravice Falls. It seemed perfect to visit for the day.
However, to access Bosnia by train, you have to go north and enter through a different border than the one near Split. I had a look but this was going to take 40 hours of travel or something ridiculous. I thought a bus might be a good option as it’s only about two hours between the two. Though the only bus routes from Split went to Bosnia’s Capital, Mostar – an hours drive past the waterfalls. Car hire seemed to be the only viable option.
After not driving a car at all for over a year and then driving in a foreign country on the wrong side of the road – in hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had. Oh well, ya live and ya learn I guess.
I highly recommend Indigo Car Hire if you’re under 25 and wanting to drive abroad. Go through the normal search on their website, choose any car and then change your age at the correct point. This should then update the prices to reflect the added young driver fees. There are no hidden fees and I’ve had two great experiences with their service – in the UK and in Croatia/Bosnia.
Before I move onto how we were stranded, let me share my biggest car hire tip:
Always pay the damage waiver fee!
This means if someone even scratches the car slightly or you get a chip in the windscreen – you’ll pay nada. Though if you decide you don’t need it and accidentally damage the car in any way, the rental company can charge you upwards of hundreds for the privilege. It’s just not worth the risk.
The car rental company we hired from in Croatia gave us a free upgrade. God knows why. I’d picked the cheapest manual option, but they gave us an automatic Mercedes A Class. So on top of not driving for over a year and having to deal with the wrong side of the road in Croatia/Bosnia, I now had to deal with driving an automatic. I had to go back inside and ask the guy how to start the damn car. A great start.
Me and Niamh have never argued so much as when we were in that car. It took us three times the amount it should have to just exit the city and we were both constantly on edge. The views were stunning, but people around us were driving like they wanted to die.
After crossing the border into Bosnia, the wide smooth Croatian highways quickly turned into bumpy winding roads. We were 8 minutes from our destination when Google Maps took us down a rocky winding hill to the falls. This ‘road’ was a few inches wider than the car and I was scared shitless another car could be coming towards us at any point. I looked to the right and could see a sheer drop; no barriers or even a kerb to stop us plummeting to our deaths. Reaching the bottom, the relief that we hadn’t died was unreal. It was just a short walk along a path to the falls and oh my god they were beautiful.
Across the water we could see a cafe, chairs and people meandering down a path from a concrete car park. We were the wrong fucking side with no way to cross but to swim with all our stuff. After having another argument, we decided (Niamh told me) to drive to the other car park.
The first and only obstacle we encountered getting to that car park was driving back up the death trap ‘road’. About three quarters of the way up, a warning light flashed up on the dashboard with a symbol of a tyre deflating. Excellent. I upped our speed (much to Niamh’s protest) – I was not being stranded on a hill and also blocking the entire road in the process. Luckily, we got to the top and pulled over out of the way to assess the situation….
All we could see from where we were broken down was the highway in the distance and a petrol station about a quarter of a mile away. The woman at the car hire place was very helpful, but said it would be approx. 6 hours before anyone could get to us, purely because we’d crossed the border and they had to source someone from Mostar. We were only 30 mins over the border! We thought we’d walk to the petrol station and see if anyone there could assist with the tyre, but no. It was completely fenced off apart from one entrance… which was on the highway.
With a wait time of 6 hours, half a bottle of water left and nowhere to go, we did what any good human would do. Netflix. Hallelujah we’d paid extra for WiFi to use Google Maps.
As the 6 hours was nearing an end, we got a call asking us to describe where we were. They’d never heard of the waterfalls (or we were pronouncing them so wrong they hadn’t a clue what we were saying). “We’re 30 mins into Bosnia near a highway” – yeah that wasn’t gunna work. Screenshots of Google Maps to the rescue.
By the time our tyre had been replaced, the sun was beginning to set. No waterfalls for us, just the two hour drive back. And as for Niamh’s Birthday Dinner… lots of petrol station snacks. The views driving back were kinda worth it though…