In the summer of 2018 my long awaited Interrail trip according to the motto “Adriatic circulation” was finally due. Which means: One ferry crossing was preprogrammed. There are plenty of possibilities to cross the Adriatic by ship:
Durres-Bari (8-9 Std)
Durres-Ancona (16 Std)
Durres-Trieste (27 Std)
CROATIA (main routes):
GREECE (main routes):
All routes go both ways, of course. There are also ships along the coastline, as well as in Italy as on the right side of the Adriatic. Because the ferry timetables change from season to season and many of the ships don’t offer a daily service, please look up the timetable for your desired route here. Simply type in the cities and done. You can also check the prices, departure times and alternative routes immediately.
Interrail on the ferry
On tips within Greece, an Interrail discount is possible. There is also an Interrail Pass called "Greek islands". Interrail Passes for Greece for instance, you can buy here. As far as I know, there are no Interrail discounts available with other ferry crossings. But I can console you: the ferry discounts are quite hard to get and even better: The crossings don’t cost that much anyway.
The comfort categories
To disclose the secret: My trip on the night ferry cost €55, including a place to sleep in my outside cabin and a private shower. What a bargain!
Ferries can be booked here. By the way: If you purchase your ticket via these links, you automatically support all the free content on rail.cc.
If you want to book a place to sleep, you will have two options:
Either a cabin for 2 or 4 people. Both is available for sharing or by itself, either outside (with window) or inside and either with or without bathroom. That means as a solo traveller you can either book a private cabin or stay in a 2 or 4 shared one.
We pretty much opted for the most luxurious of all options for the ferry trip: The 2 shared cabin with bathroom (and shower), which actually was less than €10 more expensive per person than a 4 shared cabin without bathroom and window.
In addition, there are also recliner seats, which are obviously a cheaper option. I doubt though, that they are suitable for an overnight ferry and a good night’s sleep.
My Ferry trip from Durres (Albania) to Bari (Italy)
We arrived at around 6pm at the bus terminal of Durres. We had taken the bus from Podgorica via Skadar to Durres on this day. The departure was at 1pm, arrival at 5pm, the rest was due to a delay. I recommend having 1-2 hours buffer. With our ferry, that was absolutely no problem, because it was due for departure as late as 11pm. But be aware! You need to arrive at the port at least 2 hours before departure.
Originally we had planned to ferry from Bar (Montenegro) to Italy, but for a long time it looked like there were no ferry services available, which is why we booked our trip via Durres. At least I got to see Albania. ?
Alternatively, you can travel to Durres by train (I would include some extra time for delays here as well). The train station is located near the port, just like the bus station. Here is a picture of the timetable:
After disembarking the bus, we had to fight through a number of taxi drivers that were offering their services. After that, we crossed a pedestrian bridge, leading directly to the ferry terminal.
Hint: The bridge is not shown on Google Maps, merely a 2.6 km journey. Please don’t be misled by that.
Overly punctual, at around quarter to seven, we arrived at the ferry terminal. First, I walked to the information desk to ask, when and where I have to check in. It is best to have your printed booking ready. After that, you will be asked for your passport number and you can continue on to the self-service check-in.
The check-in is easy and quick. You get your boarding pass and have to wait for a while, depending on the time of day. In the waiting hall, you can find a kiosk, toilets, a seating area, but no working Wi-Fi. Instead, you can go stretch your legs in the port area, which is what I eventually did …
The ferry access was announced for 8.30pm, but was luckily available a little earlier. This meant for us: Going to bed earlier than expected, because the pure travel time from 11pm to 8am would have been a little short.
At 7.30pm the first passengers passed the security control. I strongly believe that this is probably always the case, and you rarely have to wait much longer. The reason for that: Lots of on-board offerings. But more about this later.
We passed security and were guided over an automobile ramp into the belly of the ship by some guides. From there, you take the elevator up to “Reception”. Because the ship belongs to the Italian company “Grande Navi Veloci” (= big, fast ships), all employees come from Italy and I could finally speak Italian. Of course, they also speak English, especially much better than many Balkans ...
We were handed our room access cards and began looking for our cabin.
After arriving there, we dropped our backpacks and started eating – the typical Interrail way – our brought along dinner. Then we took a tour through the ship.
Outside on the ferry...
Inside of the ferry...
It has various restaurants, including Italian pizzerias, bars and a small shop, to offer. Whereas the prices are a little higher than usual, but still normal prices for a ferry, I guess. A tasty dinner in the restaurant should not cost a fortune.
We returned to our cabin and were eager to try the shower. Suddenly there was an announcement: “Vi ricordiamo i signori passeggeri che il ristorante e la pizzeria a la carte sono aperti – We remind our passengers that the restaurant and the pizzeria a la carte are now open“. And all of that also in Albanian, what I obviously can’t reflect here. From this time on, you were reminded of the great bistro offerings every few minutes.
It was dawning on us, that this might be disrupting our sleep in the early morning hours, so I went to reception again (I wanted to ask for the Wi-Fi password anyway).
I was told, that we would probably be woken up an hour early. Meh. Also, the Wi-Fi was only available for purchase.
Unfortunately there was also no option to turn off the announcements for your cabin. By now it had already gotten dark and the ferry was still lying in the harbour – Departure was planned for 11pm anyway – and I went all the way to the top deck of the ship to have a look at the city at night. It was still pretty warm, but luckily the temperature in the ship was very pleasant.
At around 10pm all passengers had comprehended, that the restaurants are open and located on deck 7, so the announcements finally stopped ;) We decided to go to bed. I put sheets on the lower bed, my travel companion took care of the top one.
I stayed awake for a little, but fell asleep fairly quickly altogether. While dozing off, I heard the ship’s engine being started, but I must have fallen asleep around 11pm. My companion told me later on – he must have been up a little longer than me – that the ship seemed to have departed with a little delay.
"Vi ricordiamo i signori passeggeri..." – We were ripped out of our dreams instantly! And no, there was absolutely no way to turn off the announcements. Tired and angry I looked at my watch – 6.30am! I would have been only just okay with being awoken an hour early, but one and a half hours before arrival … a clear drawback. At least I had slept fairly pleasantly. Quiet, almost without interruptions, just briefly for a midnight tinkle. Despite the continuous announcements, we didn’t have breakfast at the restaurant, but rather ate our brought-along food, to treat our budget with care. :)
Then we packed our few things and left our last night’s lodging. For the last five minutes we got comfortable in the seats. We arrived on time, and they started to call out the different passenger categories one after another, who were allowed to disembark in that order. When it was the turn for people without a car, we entered the elevator and left the ship at 8am sharp.
At the harbour terminal we had to go through a passport control, since we arrived from outside of the EU. A border official asked us: “Soli?” (if we were travelling alone), I answered “Si” (= yes). He didn’t even want to see my parents’ declaration of consent (since I was not 18 years old, yet).
Leaving the port area turned out to be a little odyssey. After the information, provided by an official didn’t make any sense, we simply followed GoogleMaps, which turned out to be false, just as in Durres, and we ended up walking back for a few minutes. Port areas are truly huge! Finally, we found a hidden shortcut for pedestrians, whereas GoogleMaps only shows the autoroute. Something you need to know in advance ... We made our way to the train station "Bari Centrale", where we wanted to take the FrecciaBianca to Rimini. The station is located roughly 2.5 kilometres away from the port.
Rimini was supposed to be our starting point for our visit to San Marino, but first, there was a little problem with the train conductor. More about that in our next blog post...
The ferry was – other than expected – a little highlight of my Adriatic circumnavigation. On the positive side, there are great facilities, comfy beds and our own bathroom with shower for a very acceptable price. Those who are not travelling on a budget can enjoy a tasty pizza or bring the day to a close with a nice glass of wine.
What I didn’t enjoy were the frequent announcements, the Wi-Fi is debatable, since it’s an overnight ferry and you’re supposed to sleep anyway. Altogether I would definitely recommend it.
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