European Vacation Shenanigans Part 1 – Intrepid

Before taking my first solo adventure to Europe, I spent hours online reading reviews of all the options and felt torn on whether to go it alone or go with a tour company.  I ended up deciding on Intrepid and was so pleased, as you’ll see below.  A great option in Europe or any other part of the world you’re visiting.

2014 – Solo trip to the Balkans – 15 days  
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Start: Budapest, Hungary

Finish: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Countries: Bosnia and HerzegovinaCroatiaHungaryMontenegroSerbia

  • Our group was a fun mix of Australians, Brits, an Indian, an American, and our Croatian guide, Filip.
  • Intrepid kicks off your adventure with a meet and greet and gift of a reusable Intrepid shopping bag because one of their big emphases is on sustainability and respect of local cultures, which I loved.
  • We traveled with the locals as much as possible, so we got to ride on trains as well as buses and go shopping in local markets, allowing for plenty of interaction with locals and not much with tourists (yay).
  • Accommodations were a mix of small hotels and pensions which were a step above hostels, but still budget friendly.  At the pension in Sarajevo we enjoyed learning how to cook a traditional Bosnian meal with the owner!
  • Each day consisted of a structured activity along with other optional activities, along with free time.  We would all have breakfast and dinner together most days, but lunches could be on your own.
  • Filip showed us the points of interest like his hometown of Osijek and the lovely Maksimilian and in other cities we met up with local guides.  One of the best was Muhamed with Sarajevo Urban Adventures.  Energetic and hilarious, he also taught us so much as he was just a child when the wars were going on in Bosnia and gave us a first-hand account of what it was like.
  • All of Intrepid’s tours are purposely kept small so they don’t have a “touristy” feel and you’re able to have plenty of interaction both with your guides and your fellow travelers.  We were all good friends by the end of the trip and we’re sad to say goodbye.
  • The age range for their tours tends to be in the 30’s and up, and with it being an Australian based company, you’ll be sure to have fun without having an overt party vibe.
  • The Balkans are vastly underrated and should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Not only are the cities affordable (minus Dubrovnik), there is so much history and beauty in the region.  If I had to pick some highlights: the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro was breathtaking.  Swimming in the water is almost like being in the Dead Sea – so salty that you float!  Scenery there was also amazing.  Same could be said for Budapest, Osijek, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Dubrovnik and Mostar!  Budapest had the cleanest and nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in: Maverick City Lodge.
  • As I mentioned above, Intrepid also has an offshoot called Urban Adventures which operates shorter day tours.  I’ve done their food tours in Budapest and Morocco and both were wonderful!  To me, they are a good option if you want to plan the majority of your trip yourself but want a few activities that are guided while in a certain city.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where you’ll hear about my adventure with Contiki Tours in Western Europe, and Part 3 where I’ll talk about my most recent trip where we solely used Airbnb’s and no tour.

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