Tips for cycling the Trans Dinarica: language, currency, alcohol, wild camping …

Traveling through the Balkans, especially off-the-beaten-path areas like the Trans Dinarica cycling route, offers a wild and unparalleled bike tour experience.

While these Balkan countries might seem daunting for solo travelers, the locals, in our experience, are incredibly welcoming and always ready to assist. Even if they don’t speak your language.

To give you a glimpse of what awaits, we’ve prepared some essential tips for those eager to ride this beautiful journey.


A cyclist meeting a local shepherd on the Trans Dinarica cycle route.


1. Languages

In most of the Trans Dinarica countries, the language comes from Slavic roots (the exceptions are Albania and Kosovo). Knowing Croatian allows you to communicate in Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia. However, it is important to note that Macedonian is slightly different from the other ex-Yugoslavian languages.


Some useful words:

Hvala = Thank you
Dobar dan = Hello / Good day
Doviđenja = Goodbye
Molim = Please
Oprostite = Sorry / Excuse me
Voda = Water
Pivo = Beer
Vino = Wine
Hrana = Food


The good thing about traveling the Western Balkans is that almost all young people speak English, especially in the cities. In more remote villages, gestures might be your best friend, but modern tools like Google Translate can bridge any communication gaps.


2. Currencies

Money is quite varied in the area. Slovenia and Croatia use euros because they are in the European Union (EU). Montenegro and Kosovo are not members of EU, but you can still use euros there. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, you will need to provide convertible marks (many times it is also possible to pay with euros (1 EUR is 1.95 KM), in Serbia Serbian dinars, in Macedonia Macedonian denar, and in Albania Albanian lek.


Don’t count on being able to pay with credit cards everywhere (especially not in bars, restaurants, small hotels/accommodations). When withdrawing cash, stick to ATMs of verified banks and avoid ‘tourist ATMs’ like Euronet (bad exchange rates, high fees, high pre-set withdrawal amounts.)


In general, it is recommended that you choose to charge in local currency at ATMs, which means that the conversion will be done by the bank that issued your card.


3. Meeting farmers, shepherds

If you come across a shepherd with a herd of sheep or cows, stop and if necessary, get off your bike and, at least with a facial expression, ask if you can continue. Bicycles are not as big as cars, and not as loud as motorcycles, but still: let the locals know that you respect their animals, their work, and their way of life.


In the end, this kindness may lead you to an interesting conversation, coffee, rakija, or maybe even an unplanned overnight stay. If shepherd dogs are guarding the herd, do not try to pet them – these are not pets, but guardians (also from wolves and bears).


This rule applies when traveling in any part of the world, but such interactions will be slightly more common in the Western Balkans.


The cyclist got off his bike to wait for the flock of sheep to cross the road.


4. Bicycle services, parts

Except in larger cities (Sarajevo, Podgorica, Split, …) do not expect specialized shops for bicycles and sports equipment. That’s why it’s important to always have the essentials – basic tools, air pump, set for patching tires, spare tubes, and at least one tire – with you on your bike.

People in the Western Balkans are masters of improvisation, but your gravel bike probably won’t fit a tractor tube.


5. Theft

The advice to take care of your belongings is the same as anywhere else in the world. The good thing about bicycles is that you can always put them in a garage, stairwell or woodshed overnight. Lock the bikes and take the bags with you to the room.

You know the saying: Opportunity makes a thief.


6. Alcohol

In some Muslim-majority regions, you won’t get alcohol in restaurants. Don’t be surprised if you must drink yogurt or Coca-Cola with your burek (by the way, the ‘Yugoslav Coca-Cola’ is called Cockta – it’s caffeine-free but tastes great).



7. Wild camping

The Trans Dinarica cycling route spans diverse territories, each with its own camping regulations, so we won’t speculate on what is right and what is not.

But we will note two things:



The prices for overnight stays/camps are moderate, sometimes even ridiculously cheap on most of the Trans Dinarica.



If you are already thinking of spreading the sleeping bag somewhere in the bush, first try to find the owner and ask him. Maybe he will allow you (or maybe he won’t), maybe he will even invite you to his house to stay warm.


Local accomodation on the Trans Dinarica.


8. Garbage

Certainly, the blackest stain along the Trans Dinarica is litter. Some people simply have not yet accepted that this is not right and that it is ugly and inappropriate to Mother Nature.

This should not surprise a traveler, and even less should it be the reason that we litter ourselves! If we see you throw away a piece of chocolate paper into nature, we’ll puncture your tires with our own hands.


For now, that wraps up our tips for navigating the Trans Dinarica bike tour. We will be happy if you contact us with additional questions so that we can complete this article.

How hospitable are the locals in the Balkans? THIS much! (Description of three events in a single day)

Traveling through the country is always multifaceted; we experience it ourselves, and we are surrounded by nature, settlements, locals, animals … After our last experience in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, we believe that meeting people – locals who have been cultivating the Balkan soil for decades, is a more important component than in the case of traveling through more touristic countries. Using the example of one day, we will describe why we think so.

“Whenever you want! If it’s at 7:00 a.m., let it be at 7:00 a.m.,” answered the owner of a house in Sjenica, in which she rents out a few rooms from this year, when asked when we can have breakfast. When I went to prepare the bikes for the next trip in the morning, at 6:40 she was already walking from one kitchen to another (outside) kitchen. Inside she was putting different kinds of cheeses and pickled vegetables on plates, outside she was frying ‘uštipci’ (a kind of fried bread) and fresh green peppers, and under the tablecloth, freshly baked homemade bread was cooling. At 6:58, the table was so full that we couldn’t finish it. But she wrapped up some uštipci, cheese and some dried meat for us to go on our way. Here, we had lunch.

Early in the afternoon, there were signs of a storm coming from the west. We were late with the day’s plan, a little earlier we found ourselves on a path we wouldn’t have liked to see under a five-and-a-half-meter van. Slowly, it worked. But the scene before the rain is fantastic; we are on a high plateau, the Albanian and Montenegrin mountains can be seen in the distance, covered with snow, and we are in the screaming green mountains, overgrown with juniper and pine and spruce. We MUST take some photos and videos here! We stop near a lonely house, prepare the camera and walkie-talkie and start working. If I wasn’t really in a hurry because of the coming rain, I would first go and ask if I could park at the house, but … A minute later, when the cyclists were already moving away, a lady greets me from the porch and asks if we want coffee. Oh, please, thank you!

By the time the shots are finished and the bikes are stowed back in the van, the house already smells of strong coffee, and there is sparkling water, some candy, and slices of dried beef on the table. We talked about life in these remote places, about where the five daughters moved to, how they are waiting for a better road and how many cyclists pass by here. They refused to accept the payment.

In the evening, just a few kilometers before our last checkpoint of the day, we wanted to see the possibility of accommodation in a small village. An elderly man was outside making rakija and called his son from the house to ask for information about rooms. After a short conversation right through the windows of the van, we decided to stay right here, in the village. And here – again, in a few minutes, in addition to the promised clean beds, the table was full of homemade goodies, bread, meat, and fresh vegetables. And of course, glasses for rakija as we finished driving for the day.

You guys are just great. We will be back!

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