Sailing Around Croatia with Busabout

By Nomadic Matt | Published August 30th, 2012

jumping off the busabout boat in croatiaFor years, I’ve been hearing about the tour company Busabout. They offer hop-on, hop–off-again bus tours throughout Europe, similar to the Kiwi and Oz Experience. Basically, they have set routes through Europe and along that route, you can leave the bus and rejoin when you want. I’ve never used them before as I’ve always just taken trains around Europe. (Though I have nothing against that way of travel – I loved my time on the Kiwi Experience!)

In addition to their bus trips, Busabout offers sailing tours around Croatia. I continuously met travelers in Europe who rave about this trip so this year I decided to experience it for myself.

I took the Split to Split sailing tour, which was a seven day cruise around the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. My boat, the Plomin, had 33 passengers (of which I was the only one not from Australia or New Zealand), our guide (also Australian), and 5 crew members.

From a business point of view, I was impressed with their product. The trip was well organized, the boat was nice, the itinerary was well put together, and there were a few on-shore activities included. Additionally, the guide knew what he was talking about and gave excellent advice, and everything ran like clockwork. Organizationally, I was impressed.

How Did I Spend My Week?

Day 1 – Hvar
We left Split around 2pm and after taking a brief swim, arrived at the island of Hvar around 6. After dinner, we had some drinks and went out to the bars, where the crowded atmosphere was a little much to handle. I don’t like being constantly bumped into while I’m trying to have a beer. If you are into drinking, Hvar is the spot to enjoy crazy night life.

Day 2 – Mljet
Mljet is home to a big national park with an island in the middle of the lake. There’s hiking, camping, and other fun activities that would have been nice if we had more than a few hours to enjoy them. There’s not much on this island and we just spent the night hanging out on the boat, getting to know the other people on the tour.

the beautiful cobblestone streets in DubrovnikDay 3 – Dubrovnik
We arrived here mid-day, which was disappointing because I had hoped to spend more time here in one of the biggest destinations in Croatia. Dubrovnik was beautiful and I’ll be coming back here for a longer stay. After wandering the city streets for a while, our group went out for dinner — where I had the best calamari I’ve had in recent memory — before heading to the club in a fortress called “Revelin.”

Day 4 – Korcula
Korcula is famous for being the alleged birthplace of Marco Polo. The town is a beautiful medieval walled city that I enjoyed walking around. There wasn’t much going on in the city and since my group was still tired from Dubrovnik, I spent the evening on the ship, watching a movie and getting some rest.

Day 5 – Markaska
Makarska is a huge spot for beachgoers and there are a lot of water sports here. I wasn’t a big fan of this place; the beaches were overflowing with people and I felt more like I was in Bangkok during rush hour than on a beach. I walked the boardwalk, had an ice cream, and went to dinner. The highlight of my time here? Partying in a cave. Yes, that was as cool as it sounds. Outside of that though, I’ll skip Markaska in the future. There are too many people on too small of a beach.

Day 6 – Omis
Our last night before returning to Split was spent in the tiny town of Omis. There is a place to swim, a place to eat, and one main bar. After frying in the sun the whole morning, I dipped into a café and relaxed. That night was the Captain’s dinner and the famous pirate party. On all the cruises, Busabout groups have a dress up party on their last night. All boats are in Omis that night so you end up in town with people from multiple boats. Everyone heads to the one bar and it looks like a scene out of Pirates of the Caribbean. It was quite fun and many (many) pirate jokes were had.

Day 7 – Split
Back in Split, we were left to our own devices for the day before returning to the boat for one last night out.

A few notes on the tour:
In between all of our destinations there was a mid-day swim stop. Lunch was served on boat every day; beer and alcohol were also served but cost extra. Water also cost extra, which was an unfortunate surprise. I also found the added costs of the BBQ and Captain’s dinner huge wastes of money and would recommend simply heading into the villages for better and cheaper food.

How much does it cost?

jumping off the busabout boat in croatia
These tours cost upwards of $1,400 USD in peak season, and when coupled with the other incidental expenses of the trip, people usually end up averaging about $250 per day. That’s a lot of money! I could enjoy a five star holiday in Paris for that amount! However, when compared with the other operators such as Fanatics, Contiki, or Sail Croatia, Busabout the cheapest option for an organized sail Croatia boat trip.

However, I would consider taking these tours during the shoulder season of early May and September when prices are about 50-60% cheaper, it’s easier to find deals, and the crowds in each port are smaller. At that lower price level, these tours become a much better value.

Would I recommend this tour?

jumping off the busabout boat in croatia
Going into this tour, I knew only two things: it would be mostly Aussies (Busabout is very popular with Australian backpackers) and there would be a lot of drinking.

In the end, I had a really good time and walked away having met a few people I’ll stay in touch with in the future. However, I don’t think I would take one of these tours again. There’s not enough time spent in each destination and I’m well over the “travel to party” mode that most of the other people on the boat were in. The boat was fun, the people nice, and the weather perfect — but I’d rather watch a movie and go to bed than stay out drinking until dawn.

But just because I wouldn’t do it again doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. I think if you are a solo traveler, a couple, or a pair of friends looking to meet other travelers and party, Busabout would be fantastic for you. It offers the same benefit as the hop-on, hop-off buses that I think are wonderful for travelers. (Sadly, there is no hop-on, hop-off boat which would be AWESOME but I think that option is just called a ferry.)

I always ask people on trips like these “would you recommend it to friends and did you have fun?” and while many people on my boat wished there was some free water (come on, can’t you even give us one bottle when we get on!!!) and better value with the BBQ and Captain’s dinner, not one person I asked said they didn’t enjoy themselves. In heartbeat they said they would all do it again. In fact for some, this was there second or third Busabout tour.

And I think that says a lot about how good the company and experience is.

My Busabout Croatia sailing trip turning out to be a good deal of fun, more than I thought it would be. These tours aren’t my cup of a tea anymore, but if you’re looking for a party, want to hang out with a bunch of other young (and old – there were two 40-year-old women on my boat) travelers, this boat could be for you.

After all, how many companies organize massive pirate-themed parties!?

Editor’s Note: Busabout provided the tour for free. Flights, drinks, off-ship meals, and other incidentals were paid for by me.

comments 45 Comments

I did the same cruise two years ago and loved it. I also found that the captain’s dinner wasn’t what I expected, but since everyone on the boat was paying for it, I figured I should. After reading your account as well as those of Adventurous Kate and C’est Christine, the tour seems to have gotten significantly better in the last few years with added excursions to wineries and such.

I was thinking of doing this if I visit Croatia in April but I’m not sure if I’d like it/like it enough to spend that much, so thanks for the insight. I wish they had a hop-on-hop-off option too, that would be perfect for the Croatian coast. It does sound like fun, though.

NomadicMatt

Croatia is stunning. Visit there!

Great info Matt! I leave for a Sail Croatia excursion next week, I’ve heard alot about just going to shore and finding your own cafes and resturants instead of the “ship dinners”. Thanks for sharing!

Do you remember where it was you had the calamari? I’m headed to Dubrovnik in three weeks and I’m scouting out restaurants, cafes, etc. now.

NomadicMatt

I don’t but I will ask my guide and get the name.

NomadicMatt

The place is called Veritas!

Looks like the non peak discounts are the way to go for sure and looks like a fun trip!

Wow, it’s quite expensive! I travel to Croatia regularly, but I’d prefer off-season, especially September when the water is still nice. May is for those who don’t want to go into the sea or dive in drysuits- I had an awesome liveaboard dive trip in May but the water was only 15-16 degrees “warm”. By the way, the cheapest sailing trips are organized by groups for themselves when they rent a boat and somebody with a skipper’s license is navigating. And you shouldn’t travel with 33 companions on a sailing boat…

Well, I guess this review is proof that Matt doesn’t write a glowing review even for comps. Sounds like purgatory to me—but then, if 40 is old, then I’m REALLY old.

NomadicMatt

I write honest reviews.

And I meant 40 was old in relation to the other travelers! Everyone needs to stop being so offended! I’m closer to 40 than most people think!

Gina

I would Love to visit, I am an adventurous single woman of 44. Were there single women on the cruise? I don’t want to be on a boat full of couples……. thanks

NomadicMatt

There were lots of single women on the trip.

ac

i was a guide on these tours and “closer to 40″ than anyone imagined..!

NomadicMatt

That’s true. If you went with a small group of friends, you could do it cheaper by renting your own boat.

Tracey

40 years old isn’t OLD! I understand they were older than the average on the boat, but to call them old is a huge inaccuracy and highly insulting to them!

Colleen

I’m 47 and had no idea I was old. I stand corrected. = )

Colleen

I will also alert my 82 year old mother. She spent last December traveling through India for the first time and is headed to Egypt this Christmas. I don’t think she knows she’s old either. = )

Manuel De La Rosa

way too expensive!! but I gotta say It is cool that they provided the trip, must have been a good experience. Sounds really funny but faaaaar over priced. In the caribbean you culd be a king with that amount of money.

Rob Davies

I actually did Busabout on my first real backpacking experience. I have to say I wasn’t really a fan of it, as when I finished the bus pass I had with them, I went off to my own places independently and found it much more my thing.

But I can see why people would do it. Busabout is good if you want all the things done for you, and is also good if your a first time backpacker and still new to the whole process. For me, I prefer doing things independently but I see its appeal.

NomadicMatt

I agree – I think they are great for people who need to get their feet wet. It’s a reason why I suppost them and similar companies like the Kiwi and Oz Experience.

Stephen

I having been dying to do this trip for years. Summer 2013 here I come!

Sammi

hi matt, thanks for this review! i have been looking forward to reading your thoughts on busabout as i am traveling with them for the first time to oktoberfest in a few weeks. i, too, think i am going to be the only non-aussie on my trip! although your review has pointed to both the good and bad sides of the trip, it has reassured me about it! i was starting to get a little nervous about traveling alone on an organised trip, but it sounds like i will be just fine :) sounds like you had a great time! X

Thanks for this – its great to know there’s other options for travelling around than cars and trains. My husband and I do alot of road trips and he drove the whole time on our trip to Croatia. I always feel bad if my husband can’t look out the window if he’s staring at the road the whole time!

Wow…that seems REALLY expensive. Anyone who wants to travel Croatia solo but cheaper – you’ll have just as social an experience if you stay in hostels and get the ferries between islands. I did the Split – Hvar – Dubrovnik route on my own and staying in hostels and still ended up partying with the boat crowds most evenings, so you really don’t need to fork out that much for a similat experience. (Plus doing it solo means you get to spend as much time as you want in places, so I got to spend far more time in Dubrovnik than Matt did).

We have hired the yacht for two (and the skipper) in Trogir and travel along the Croatian coast too, in this August. And we have seen all this drinking companies on the big boats :-) This is not for me. I don’t like all this people, I need only my woman on the board :-)

Tom

I did the same trip last year and enjoyed it, I felt we got lucky with our group though. Other boats had people just getting smashed from 10am in the morning every single day which whilst I like a night out that’s taking it a bit to far.

A lot of the trip and whether you enjoy it will really come down to who happens to be on your boat. The boat stops at some excellent swimming spots and it’s awesome to see the islands. I wouldn’t pay full price for the trip though, I would only go if you can get a 2 for 1 deal or 50-60% off (as said above, look out of peak season).

Busabout is a company that operates bus services in the western suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. So, expect there are more Aussies. I have been dying to have this kind of trip soon.

This is a warning! Just wait Matt, someday you will be 40 and OLD! LOL I guess I must be 6 foot under already!
When my grandmother was 80, she was preparing to go on a tent camping trip for the first time. My 16 year old self, said, “Wow grandma, you’re really spry in your old age. ” She replied, “I might as well, while I am still young.” I went home and said there was really something wrong with Grandma, she thinks she is still young! Well, I know what she meant now.
I hope that your mindset will be young when you get there, or you won’t have any fun. You young, whippersnapper! LOL

I’m not offended, I just think it’s funny. We all think a certain age is too old for whatever, at some point.

I’ve read all kinds of reviews on Busabout and they all seem seem to be overwhelmingly positive. It looks like you had an absolute blast, and you have convinced me that Croatia is a vacation destination that I must visit!

From your photos and descriptions it sounds like you spent quite a bit of time in the water, what was the weather like when you were there? The water temperature was warm enough to swim?

Thanks for the great post!

I think you really would’ve liked Busabout’s Sail Turkey. We partied with the other boats three times but the other four nights could have been spent relaxing–well, depending on the kind of people you had. We ended up having a bit of a party boat, but the other 3 boats that sailed that week didn’t seem that way at all. Other travelers who had done it also said their week was really chilled-out…while the ones who did Sail Croatia said it had been wild.

It was also cheaper…I went during peak season and for 7 nights, all meals included, it was in the mid $700s. Still had to pay for water and drinks, though.

BUT Sail Croatia is on my list for next time :). Not sure if it was the same for you, but the girl to guy ratio was ridiculous, maybe 1 guy for every 12 girls.

NomadicMatt

Our boat was 50/50 split between guys and girls.

I did a Busabout Tour to Greece in 2006 and I loved it! If we wanted to stay on an island for a few more days (we would have to pay our own way for ferries after a certain point, however), we had that option. I love the flexibility that the company gives travelers but also organizes well thought out trips with good tour guides. That said, I think I like doing the solo thing and something that is less of a party. Croatia is definitely on the list, though!

Lisa

Hi Matt, can I ask whether you stayed above or below deck, and whether you stayed on the boat with the shared bathrooms or private bathrooms. What’s your review and recommendations on that?

NomadicMatt

Above deck and all the rooms on my boat had private bathrooms.

Lisa

Thank you for your reply. How did you find it? I read about people sleeping above deck because its too warm and/or still partying into the night but did you find above deck noisy? Actually, I’ve already booked and that’s exactly what I booked (above deck, ensure bathroom). I’m hoping out boat isn’t too party-ish and that fact that the higher price will weed out the party animals.

I will definitely plan travel in the sailing boat. I am really thankful to you for this quite interesting and informative share.

Anna

I’m considering doing a Sail Croatia trip with Busabout this year, probably not at the height of summer after reading your review, but I’ll be on my own so just wondering if girls shared rooms with other girls or was it just completely random, ie. I could end up sharing a room with a guy I’ve never met?

NomadicMatt

You should share a room with a girl not a guy.

Lou

Not meaning to broach the topic of age again, but…
I’m a 36 y.o. single girl travelling to Croatia in August. I love meeting people, going out, having fun, etc, but am not looking for a contiki-type experience. I happily did my backpacking at 23 so I’m not looking for that.
Any tips on which sailing company I should go with?
Thanks!

John Quest

If sailing is your thing, maybe the best option would be to rent a cabin on a goolet.
they’re not too big(e.g. you won’t have to endure 30 other people on the boat ), but still large enough to be comfortable.
You an also personalize your experience.
Check it out on Youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2j3Q7S43xc4&list=TLQu7jDyHZun8

Carrie

Hey- I just returned from a Fanatics Croatia Sailing tour and WOULD NOT recommend the company. Looks like Busabout is a better experience. Our boat was in bad shape (i.e. plumbing issues, showers leaking onto the floor below, sewage coming from floor drains…). I had to sleep in the dining hall one night due to this and the company has not even acknowledged my complaint. The other thing I must warn about for these types of tours is that partying is the #1 priority… don’t expect much culture and if you’re not into partying constantly and trying to hook up with other travelers you probably won’t fit in. I wish I had known this beforehand and would have saved myself the cash and done my own tour.

Dani

To all you travellers. Aussies do these tours as it is ingrained in Aussie culture that they book everything before they travel. You can get catamarans and ferry’s linking the islands three or four times a day and then stay as long as you like at a destination before catching a boat to another island when the time suits. These sail Croatia trips are great if you want to party with Aussies and not branch out to the locals etc and if you want to drink a lot of beer. If you want to experience culture , history and enjoy the ambience then plan your own trip and buy ferry tickets in Croatia and travel as you please

Mniqi

Hi NomadicMatt,
We are a new couple, early thirties, adventurous, “foodie” fetish, currently based in UK and craving SUN during a 2 May- 11 May break away.
Croatia has been on my wishlist for years, but as it seems early May will still be chillie. Will Crete be a better holiday destination?

I am an advanced diver, but neither Croatia nor Crete diving seems exceptional enough to be deciding factor.

What would you re come d.
Thank you
Mniqi

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