European travels,  My Travels

Lessons while traveling: Getting from Croatia to Ancona and back

Traveling always starts with the best of intentions. I try to meticulously plan every detail to avoid any unnecessary hiccups, and yet sometimes things can still go sideways. Despite the obstacles, there’s always lessons to learn.

To read about these lessons so you can maybe avoid them yourself, scroll on down.

Otherwise, settle in. A rant is on the way.

When I first settled down to write this post, I had just finished a 16-hour journey which included a rerouted ferry, four uber rides, one mis-marked bus, too little change, and lots and lots of rude people. 

This journey officially began on a Thursday afternoon. My husband and I were caught off guard to see the ferry ticket office in Split slammed with angry customers demanding information about a canceled Snav ferry to Ancona. Their tanned Italian faces swarming towards the sportello windows.

If you’ve ever had to wait “in line” for something in Italy, or in this case waiting with Italians, you’ll quickly find there is hardly ever any semblance of a queue. 

We were thankfully spared from waiting in the crowd. We had bought tickets from another ferry line, so we boarded our Italy-bound boat and waited for those rerouted customers to board. 

My worries began because the broken Snav ferry in question was supposed to be my return ride back to Croatia. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Saturday, the day of my return, I get a message saying my ferry was canceled. Great.

Thankfully, thanks to a good Italian friend, the process to reroute was simpler than expected. Rather than go to Split, I was going to Zadar, a seaside town about a 2-hour bus ride from my original destination. 

However, the Italian ticket office I had to visit for my return journey was still a mess. I don’t blame the ticket office employees, they try their best. But the current system of ferries is terrible and screws everyone. 

On the journey back to Croatia, I was rebooked in the lounge area of the ferry – along with probably every single person who was also supposed to be on the aforementioned broken down ferry. Loud families all jostling for a seat on the overbooked ferry meant I had less than restful night’s sleep. 

Getting off the ferry, passengers were herded from a common waiting area through a tiny door which led downstairs to the exits.

I’m 5 feet. I’m tiny. I don’t stand a chance in a crowd of taller, bigger men who all feel the need to push and shove to and through the exit all in an effort to be first. 

Once I was finally off the ferry, I headed toward the customs office and jumped in an Uber to go to the bus station where I planned to take my bus back to Split. 

Now here comes the number one reason for this rant!

For someone like me, with a small bladder, that also needs to be constantly drinking water, the lack of free public bathrooms while traveling, or the need to provide an exact amount of small change in order to use public bathrooms is maddening. 

It was early Sunday morning, most places where I could use the restroom were closed. The bathroom I did find, required change. I went eagerly into a bar, a newsstand and an exchange office looking to get change for 10Kuna = 1.43 Euro so that I would have 3 Kuna, equivalent to about 50 cents. Nope, useless. Everyone refused to give change and machines were out of service. 

TRUE TALK: What are your solutions to dealing with those moments when nature calls?

Finding no nearby solutions, I decided to Uber it to the old town center in Zadar where I eventually found a bar to use the bathroom and have a coffee. 

With an empty bladder, I toured some attractions solo. I topped off my short visit to Zadar with a small breakfast of eggs and juice. The food was more than okay and the fresh-squeezed juice was the highlight, but the service was quite poor. Servers’ attitudes in Croatia, particularly in the big tourist spots, are more often than not very unwelcoming and off-putting. That being said, I did enjoy the beauty of the town. 

I Ubered back to the bus station to wait for my bus.

As the bus departure time approached, I became a bit nervous if the bus would arrive on time. A bus from the same bus line arrived at the terminal. I waited to ask the drivers for some information and to confirm whether or not it was the correct bus. I was promptly served an attitude. 

I did finally find my bus; at the opposite end of the station and not at all marked correctly. Thankfully, these guys were a lot less rude and confirmed it was the right bus. Thank God I asked, otherwise it would’ve been another delay. 

All in all, this whole commute was spent desperately looking for bathrooms and spare change, and having to deal with lots of bad attitudes. Ugh.

Traveling lessons learned:

  1. Always carry spare change. Keep the small Kuna (1, 2 and 5) in a travel piggy bank. You’re going to need them in Croatia, whether it be at the grocery store, caffe or bathroom. 
  2. Give yourself plenty of time wiggle room. I know so many people who try to fit a month-long European vacation with multiple country stops into two weeks or less. I’m shocked. Not only do you not get to savor the real beauty of these places, you can’t appreciate them. You’re spending most of your time in transit. Worse, if you are always traveling on a tight schedule with close connections, missing one can cause a major domino effect that could ruin that hard earned vacation time. I knew the ferry could get canceled, but there was thankfully a viable alternative for me, can’t say the same for all the others. Once I had the new ferry, I booked my bus travel hours after my ferry arrival. Shit happens. Stay clean. 
  3. Be friendly and learn some of the language. I know you’ve probably heard or read it before, I know I have, making attempts to learn a few phrases in the native language of the country you’re in is very often appreciated. In my experience here in Croatia and in France, people always seem either kindly amused, curious, friendlier and more open when I try to speak their language. It doesn’t work with everyone, but some of my best human connections during that trip were with friendly locals who got a kick out of me speaking Croatian. Oh, and about rude people, I find it best to ignore them, although I found it hard to follow my own advice. I try to say to myself: “Maybe, they’re having a bad day.”
  4. Talk to your (Uber) drivers. I can’t speak for some of the taxi drivers in Zadar specifically, of whom I was warned were a bit aggressive and to ignore them, but, most of my Uber drivers of late are quite nice and chatty. I like picking their brains and finding out the best spots to eat, the best beaches, the best wines and where to get homemade Croatian olive oil. These (mostly) local guys know their stuff. Worth a conversation. 
  5. Finally, don’t assume! Ask questions even if you think they’re stupid. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a travel pickle all because you didn’t take the time to ask and confirm.

The takeaway from this post should be that there’s always lessons to be learned from every experience. Sometimes, you have to learn those lessons the hard way. The benefit of my not so little detour was that I got to visit a new town: Zadar. That was totally unexpected. So this is me, a bit calmer from my rant to tell you, try and look at the bright side. 

Now here are some pictures from Zadar. Enjoy. 🙂 

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