tl;dr

In a spectacular feat of learning absolutely nothing from my recent three-consecutive-nights-on-buses excursion, I have now booked an upcoming trip involving two night ferries and a night bus (and two day buses).

I was tryna do it in three ferries and one bus, but the Bari-Dubrovnik line is apparently ~seasonal~ and not running in January how selfish.

tl

For anyone interested in further details of my folly, my goal was to get from Malta to Sarajevo in the first week of January without flying. During high season it is possible to go in basically a straight line. After I found out (thanks to an unexpectedly fast and helpful email response from Jadrolinja) about the Bari-Dubrovnik line not running however I had to work out a more indirect route.

The ferry from Malta to Catania (Sicily) is a given. It's 9 hours overnight, and a steep 60EUR. But no way around it. (Tirrenia ferries.)

The next most obvious option was to bus from Catania to Ancona, and take the Jadrolinja ferry from there to Split (Croatia). Split to Sarajevo is easy. To my surprise, there's a direct bus from Catania to Ancona; 15 hours and 80EUR. But I've done the Ancona to Split ferry twice before. There's nothing wrong with it, but I'm seeking new experiences. It's about 50EUR, and 12 hours. OH and one other thing. It only runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. The earliest I can leave Malta on a Thursday night and there is just no way I can make it to Ancona by Friday evening, so started planning to spend 4 days in Catania, because it would be cool to climb Mt Etna and more interesting than waiting around in Ancona for the next available ferry. I found accommodation for about 40EUR for the whole time. In total, this would get me back to Sarajevo on the 10th of January, and cost about 190EUR in transport and accommodation.

If I take entirely buses though, I can shave off three days and 60EUR, but I also sacrifice an extra vacation in Sicily. I could do this with a bus from Catania to Venice (80EUR, 14 hours), Venice to Ljubljana (3.5h, 15EUR but only an hour to transfer), an afternoon in Ljubljana (+10 points) and a nightbus to Sarajevo (11h, 33EUR). Down to less than 130EUR. Time in Ljubljana would be cool, but it'll still be cold and I'll only have like 4 hours of daylight, and the bus to Sarajevo is not until after 1am. And I want more ferries.

What else have we got? *rhiaro peers furiously at maps of Italy*

A ferry from Catania to Napoli you say?! Don't mind if I do. It's 45EUR and 12 hours overnight. (TTTLines via Caronte Touriste.) That gives me a full day in Catania (enough for a half day jaunt to a volcano perhaps..) and no accommodation costs. Compared to costs of other transport options in Italy this felt like a real bargain.

Napoli to Ljubljana was kind of awkward, timing-wise, for the connection to Sarajevo. But Napoli to Zagreb with Flixbus was a euro cheaper anyway for some reason even though it's the same line, and there are more connections to Sarajevo from Zagreb. There's a change in Rome; I shaved off 2EUR (and added an hour to transfer time) by booking Napoli-Rome and Rome-Zagreb separately. I already know that Rome Tiburtina bus station has a small cafe with vegan cake options, so if the bus does arrive on time it's a fine place to wait a couple of hours. I'll be there early evening, a hospitible hour.

From Zagreb I have a three hour wait before the trusty Centrotrans 12.30 connection to Sarajevo (25EUR). This whole option is 121EUR, adds 8 hours on compared to the all-bus route, but I get to keep a ferry, have more time in Catania, and can still make it to work on Monday.

I have spent several days over the past month intermittently researching the options and waiting for various January ferry schedules to emerge. Totally worth it.

🏷 ferry bus travel italy transport Sarajevo, Bosnia