Planning an International Bus Trip by Trial and Error

Bus 1

Early next week we’re traveling by bus to Mostar, Bosnia, and because it’s in a different country, it takes a little planning. And as you might expect, we have some experience with this sort of thing, so we usually know how to proceed.

This little tale is about our misadventures planning the trip to Bosnia.

First stop: The US State Department website to check on the necessary visas. No visa necessary, passports stamped at the border…awesome.

Bus tickets: This step is multi-stage as it requires beaucoup unknown information. First, we have to take a local bus to the Main Bus Station to buy an international ticket. Therefore, we must find the Main Bus Station, and figure out which local bus will take us there. I will shorten the story by saying that after mucho internet research, and a couple of trips to the Tourist Info Center (Bless their hearts, they spoke some English!), we sorted all this out.

Trip to buy the bus tickets: This is where the misadventure begins. We know that bus 1A or 1B will take us to the main bus station. We’re waiting patiently at the bus stop, up rolls the 1A, we wave, and the bus blows right by. Awww man, we’re at the wrong bus stop. We move, wait 20 minutes, and bus 1B breezes right by us. Rat Bastard! Finally, we figure out that our bus stop is across the street. I’m not sure what your experience is, but everywhere I’ve been, you wait at the bus stop on the side of the street that is the direction that you want to travel. Apparently, this isn’t the case for Dubrovnik. After another 20 minutes we discover that the 1A/1B pick up point is across the street, and the bus makes a massive U turn to head the other direction.

Bus 2

On the bus to the station to buy bus tickets: We are on the right bus and we’re golden. Now which is the correct stop? Since I only have a dinky tourist map,  I say to Terri, “Surely we’ll recognize the main bus station.”

“Well, there’s a sign that says Autobus,” Terri responds hopefully.

“That can’t be the main bus station – there’s only one bus!” I retort.

Big mistake.

Bridge by Will Bakker

On the bus going to the burbs: After missing our stop, we had a nice 45-minute cruise to the far reaches of Dubrovnik. Luckily, we knew that the bus would eventually come back to town and the main bus station. When we arrive at the end of the line, and the bus is empty except for us, the driver looks back in his mirror wondering, no doubt, where we’re going. I take my little map up, and using the international sign for “I missed my damned stop,” I point to the bus station. He looks at the map, looks at me, and shrugs as if to say, “I couldn’t care less.” The good news is that in 15 minutes we roll out back toward town.

At the main bus station: Buying the tickets was easy once we found the bus station. Tickets in hand, we strolled back to the bus stop to get back into town. And just so you know, we have some experience with this sort of thing, and usually know how to proceed.

Happy Trails,

Bus Map
Photo Credit:
2. Will Bakker via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

33 thoughts

    1. Thanks Pippa. Croatia by bike sounds like great fun. The coast road was particularly scenic. I’ve done some bike touring myself, and navigation mistakes while cycling can be a real pain. The grim reality that “Oh no, I’m on the wrong road, and have to retrace my steps!” Hopefully, this hasn’t happened to you. ~James

    1. Too right Andrew. I’m sure that you have some good tales as well. And as you know, in Europe, these mistakes are easy to correct, but in many parts of the world, it can be a real problem. ~James

  1. At each bus stop is a posted timetable for all buses. Just below that is the numbers of the buses which pick up at that stop. It took me several months to figure that out.

    1. Carol, I wish that you had been with us when we were watching the buses zoom by. The bus making the U turn really confused us. But actually, missing the bus station turned out to be fun. We rode around a beautiful inlet and got to see some of the countryside. It also helped knowing that the bus would eventually go back to town. ~James

  2. Really love this story! It’s good to know that even the most accomplished travelers have such adventures. We had a similar thing on a train in France last year. It’s why we travel. And, I guess, why some people don’t.

    1. Thanks Louise. You guys are just beginning your trip, and I’m sure you’ll have similar tales. Just remember, when it happens, you can make a blog post out of the experience.

      1. When I first arrived here I would take each bus on one round trip, it was fun to see where they went and the sites were always amazing.

    1. Hey Jo. Transit tales and mistakes are one thing that ALL travelers have in common. And for me, the worst time is when I realize “This isn’t right” and the mini-panic starts. It always works out, but at the time, it’s not fun. ~James

    1. Thanks Kaz. In this case, it was a fun detour. The bus left town and drove around a beautiful inlet into the hills surrounding Dubrovnik. And luckily, the bus driver didn’t kick us off the bus. ~James

      1. That sounds beautiful! Does that mean that the bus fare is not charged based on distance/destination but a standard fare?

    1. Thanks Rusha. You’re right, these misadventures can certainly put some excitement in a travel day. When it comes to buses and trains in non-English speaking countries, I’m happy if I just end up in the correct country. This sounds strange, but sometimes it’s an easy mistake to make. ~James

  3. All of our most memorable vacations stories involve “getting lost” and meeting new folks along the way. Like the 1 hour hike on the Cinque Tera which turned into 4 and us getting water at a monastery. Thank you nuns! How about the hotel we booked in Venice being actually about 20K away in a agricultural town. The 1950’s era train with manual transmission problems was just the beginning of that adventure. So many fun memories of our “mistakes.”

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Some years ago we were in Italy and also planned on the Cinque Terre hike. Upon arrival at the beginning of the trail, a tall wire fence and “closed for maintenance” sign greeted us. Not to be deterred, we climbed the fence, and did the hike anyway. It turned out just fine, but looking back, that probably wasn’t the wisest decision. Now it’s just a “Remember that time …” story. ~James

    1. Cathy, I’m sure that you and most other serious travelers have had lots of strange transit experiences. Terri and I were traveling by train in Italy, and we had an intermediate stop in Rome. I got off to get some snacks, and when I returned, the train was gone! Terri was on the train (and had my passport). Luckily, the train was just changing platforms, and it returned, but there were a few tense minutes. As I stood there on the platform trying to decide what to do next, that was like the Twilight Zone. ~James

    1. Thanks Ruth. Every traveler I’ve encountered has some good travel tales. I hope that most of yours are of the funny variety. We’ve had lots of wacky experiences, and strangely, most of them are related to transport and food. On our recent trip to Lithuania, we bought a small box of what we thought was cream for our coffee. After a sip of the strange tasting coffee the next morning, we discovered it was alfredo sauce! ~James

  4. This sounds familiar; in fact, we encountered the very same thing with the counterintuitive bus route in Dubrovnik. On a side note, our little guest house was just a few buildings away from that very bus stop, on the left. Small world. 🙂

    1. Tricia, I’m never surprised when I make a mistake like this while traveling, but it helps a bit to know that I’m not the only one. I remember the bus stop area well, and I’m sure it was a convenient location for your apartment. Our apartment was inside the walls, on one of the alleyways off the main street in the historic area. It was kind of funky with lots of “old world charm.” LOL ~James

  5. I took the city local bus down from Split to Makarska loved it there. The bus was very comfortable with curtains, high backs, air conditioning and I really liked the loud local radio station the driver was listening too. I enjoy taking the local buses on my travels. I don’t own a car and go everywhere by bike or bus. Trial and error is part of the adventure

    1. Planes are a necessity, but they strip the interest, joy, and spontaneity from travel. Train and bus travel always have the potential for the “free radical” parts of life that keep things interesting. We took a couple of bus rides in Croatia, and both were good fun. There were a few points when I had no idea what was happening, but that’s what travel is all about. ~James

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