Balkans with ZagrebTours

By Kitty Chen Dean
This item appears on page 26 of the July 2019 issue.

My husband, Richard, and I wanted to see several countries in Eastern Europe on a private tour by car. (Negotiating trains and long-distance buses proved an impossibility, and a cruise would hit only coastal towns.)

My husband searched the Internet with these criteria in mind, wrote inquiries and chose ZagrebTours (Lopasiceva 12a, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia; phone +385 99 4825 035,

They put together a trip that would start in Zagreb, Croatia, and that met our specifications: several countries, major cities, Old Towns, countryside, mid-level hotels, traditional restaurants and NO shopping. Davor Miškić, owner of Zagreb Tours, recommended our guide and driver, Tomislav “Thomas” Rajtarić (; phone +385 91 1904 707).

After the tour, we wanted to spend an extra week on our own in Budapest (we had enjoyed it on a previous visit), so flying New York-Budapest round trip was easier and cheaper for us.

When ZagrebTours heard we would be arriving in Budapest, they offered to pick us up at the airport and drive us back at the end of the tour, despite our tour’s beginning in Zagreb and ending in Sibiu, Romania. Thomas even took us for a visit to Lake Balaton, Hungary, on our way to Zagreb.

Thomas was very knowledgeable and, using excellent English, guided us personably through Zagreb (his hometown), Plitvice Lakes and several cities in Croatia, then through Montenegro and for a day-long boat trip on Lake Koman in Albania.

In Tirana (Albania), Skopje (Macedonia), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Bucharest (Romania), he hired local guides but stayed with us to add information. He talked about the flora and fauna in every country. One huge service he performed was negotiating the various intricacies of exits and entrances at borders, the tolls, money exchanges and the car permit stickers for seven countries.

Thomas always knew restaurants we would enjoy. Not only did he point out the local specialties, he usually ate them with us. When his chosen restaurant in Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria) happened to have a noisy wedding party, he knew of another restaurant that was equally charming. Our restaurants always had a local clientele. We chose our own dishes, also having wine and/or beer.

All of the hotels seemed above our specified “mid-level” in comfort and amenities, were located in town centers and had large breakfast buffets. Only in Dubrovnik did we have to be farther out of town, but the hotel had five swimming pools, and we had a deluxe spa suite plus champagne for breakfast!

We were in the Balkans Sept. 14-28, 2018, during a shoulder season, and our arrangements cost $11,794 for the two of us, including hotels, most meals, car expenses, border fees and entry fees. Our other expenses were tips, additional meals and round-trip airfare from New York to Budapest on LOT Polish Airlines, which was very satisfactory.

We highly recommend Zagreb Tours and our guide, Thomas.

New York, NY