An ongoing Balkan border post

As we did for the entry to Tunisia, we’ll be giving a handy how-we-did (promising nothing as generic as a “how-to”) for the borders we encounter. This post will be updated after each one – hopefully, with good news of how easy they all were…

Albania
Entry via ferry from Brindisi to Vlora, arriving 7am on a Sunday.

Our major concern was getting insurance – and that’s going to be a repeating concern, since our UK insurer won’t cover us for any countries bar those in the EU, plus Croatia. In the event, it was very straightforward. As we returned to the van on the car deck of the boat, we were approached by somebody asking if we needed to buy insurance… One very official looking A4 certificate was quickly filled in, and cash handed over. As we exited the boat, other sellers were standing around, and there was a branded insurance office next to the port exit. We paid €51 (but €44 is written on the certificate…) for 30 days, or were offered 15 days for €27.

Other formalities were straightforward – just a straightforward passport and vehicle registration document check, passport stamped (nothing extra for the vehicle) and done.

Macedonia
There are two main road crossings from Albania to Macedonia by Lake Ohrid – one at the south (Tushemisht), near to Greece, one at the north (Qafë Thanë). Of these, the northern is by far and away the more major.

Formalities are straightforward – passports & car registration, although the Macedonians also ask for the insurance Green Card.

Tushemisht does NOT have an insurance sales point. If you do not have a Macedonian Green Card, you will be refused entry, and have to go to Qafë Thanë.

Qafë Thanë’s insurance sales point is inside the country. We passed through the Police checkpoint and were told to park the car, walk in and buy insurance, then return and take the car to the Customs checkpoint and in. Our passports were held whilst we did this.

The insurance sales point (€50/15 days) does NOT take Albanian Lek or plastic. You will need either Macedonian Denars (there is no ATM at the border, and they aren’t exchangable outside the country) or Euro cash.

Montenegro
As of the start of 2012, Serbia is now within the normal EU vehicle insurance agreements, so is automatically covered in the same way as any other EU country. Or, rather, it should be if only UK insurers weren’t so pathetic in their small-island mentality. But that’s another story. Our insurers (Allianz, via Swinton) finally agreed that the Foreign Office website and several foreign insurance industry websites were correct in explaining this, and issued us with the Green Card that we don’t actually need any more. However, before Feb 2012, Montenegro delegated their insurance paperwork to Serbia – so the older Green Card form explictly includes Montenegro (MNE) under Serbia (SRB). If you have a Green Card for SRB which does not specify MNE separately, it’s valid for Montenegro until the end of Dec 2013. The one Swinton issued us with falls under this, and was accepted (even though just a colour printed PDF, not an original) with no problem at the Sukobin/Vladimir crossing west of Lake Shkodra.

If you’re not so lucky, then there are insurance sales huts on the Albanian side of the border, but I didn’t see any on the Montenegrin side. Other than that, formalities were a doddle – the two countries have their huts right next to each other, so you don’t even realise immediately that one’s out and one in, just thinking they’re Police and Customs for Albanian exit. The one entertainment was wondering what your chances of ever seeing your own documents again were, after handing them to the Albanian policeman wander up the queue of vehicles collecting car documents and passports from everybody, then wander slowly back with a fistful.

Croatia
Almost too easy. Really, the border south of Dubrovnik was like crossing a “proper” border. Just a nice civilised little queue, and a nice civilised little check of the proper papers – and that was it. Where’s the fun in that?

Bosnia & Hercegovina
The Croatians wanted to check the registration document on leaving the country, but the Bosnians weren’t at all bothered on entering. They were, I think, too busy having fun and sharing a joke amongst themselves – I’ve never had to interrupt laughter before to have my passport scanned… We had no green card, and had to raise the subject of insurance ourselves – once the surprise cleared off their faces, they pointed us to the freight management hut. We asked around the companies in there, and were pointed backwards and forwards until somebody came back from the loo and admitted that, yes, he was responsible for selling insurance.

He rummaged through his paperwork, admitted that he could only do 16 day policies, and reached for the calculator. €122. Are you having a laugh? For a car, it would be €32. Come with us. THAT is our van. Oh. Back in we go, and the paperwork is written out for €32. Yes, it was that easy to save €90. Croatian Kuna were perfectly acceptable, at a better Euro/Kuna exchange rate than most places in Croatia charge.

We’ve heard from another traveller that they were told (at a different border crossing) €55 for five days or €75 for fourteen, for a much bigger motorhome. They’d also spoken to somebody who was charged €25 for three days for a car. Go figure.

This entry was posted in By Country - Albania, By Country - Bosnia, By Country - Croatia, By Country - Macedonia, By Country - Montenegro, Officialdom stuff. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to An ongoing Balkan border post

  1. Pingback: Into Bosnia and Hercegovina | Wherever the road goes…

  2. Mala Britanija says:

    I travel to Bosnia by car 2 or 3 times a year. Also I visit Serbia and Montenegro regularly.
    Firstly I agree that British insurers are pathetic. Our friend who has her car insured in Germany have no problem getting Green Cards for BiH.
    Secondly the insurance huts will rip you off if they can get away with it (sometimes with the border police taking a cut-we’ve seen them in action). The insurance period and price varies considerably depending on what border crossing you use. We have been quoted €15-€120 for the same product. Bosanski Brod is particularly corrupt!
    Thirdly the cover is 3rd Party only.
    Fourthly even though Serbia and Montenegro do not ask for Green Cards-do not assume your UK insurer covers you-they probably do not!
    Fifthly, if you do manage to get across the border without insurance -you do so at risk of having your vehicle seized and fined up to €500.
    It’s a nightmare, and the FCO have been particularly unhelpful as have the Bosnian Embassy in London
    Advice is to have a native speaker with you or forcefully negotiate the price. Once your in BiH, particularly the Republika Srpska-watch out for speeding or any traffic offence. We once passed 6 speed camera cops on a 50km stretch. There was another on the border with Montenegro who was enforcing a 10km limit near Hum/Foča for no apparent reason.

    • AdrianC says:

      Mala,

      For your fourth point, don’t forget that it’s all changed from the start of this year. If and when insurers start to get their paperwork up to date, they’ll find that if they cover other EU countries, they HAVE to cover Serbia. Allianz should already know this – but might well have “forgotten”! Montenegro has separated from Serbia, though, and that would need a seperate Green Card, unless the insurer gets it wrong and sends out a pre-2012 Green Card because it’s the only one they’ve got for Serbia. In that case, the international rules of Green Cards mean they have to stand by it.

      You don’t surprise us one bit on the border guards taking a cut!

      Cheers,
      A&E.

  3. Pingback: Circles around (former-)Yugoslavia | Wherever the road goes…

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