Road Traffic Police Officers on the Adriatic Coast
The Adriatic coast is stunning, but while the temptation may be to take in the view, the advice is to keep your eye on the speed limits.
Driving along the Adriatic coast is as picturesque as it gets, with highlights including views of some of the 1185 islands of Croatia, a bird's eye view of Dubrovnik and the stunning honeymoon choice of Elizabeth Taylor, Sveti Stefan in Montenegro. With the much-anticipated Adriatic highway, connecting Western Europe to Greece, via Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania, still some way off, tourists are restricted for the most part to slower, coastal roads with speed limits rarely exceeding 80 km/h. In peak season, the mobile homes from Italy and Holland clog up the roads further and, with passing places few and far between, the temptation to overtake and speed where one shouldn't can be an expensive process.
In most countries, the official line if you commit a traffic offence is you will have your passport and licence impounded, given a ticket and required to go to the nearest bank or post office in the direction from whence you came and pay the required fine. Of course, if you are offending after office hours, there is a potential problem, which can sometimes be solved in the local way. If you find yourself in such a situation, one suggestion is to ask if it is possible to sort this on the spot, without driving all the way back. Possible scenarios for what happens next are too plentiful for this short article. There is a well-developed culture of fellow drivers coming the other way warning of imminent police activity with a quick flash of the headlights, which should prompt you to check your speed.
As always, the advice is to keep to the speed limits, observe the local laws for headlights (mandatory everywhere in winter, even with sun blazing) and make sure you are below the legal alcohol levels.
Driving in Croatia
Traffic police in Croatia tend to be officious and take few prisoners. As with elsewhere in the region, they stand at the side of the road with handheld radar and will summon offending cars in by raising a baton. Spot checks for documentation near borders are not uncommon, so have car ownership/rental papers, as well as driving licence and passport to hand. A particular favourite location from painful personal experience is the town of Opuzen, which has a turning to Mostar and Sarajevo. After toying with zero tolerance alcohol a couple of years ago, one drink is fine, but the limit is lower than the UK. An interesting debate during the zero tolerance period was how to treat priests in this predominantly Catholic country, and the driving after altar wine debate took up several column inches.
Driving in Bosnia
Many tourists are surprised that Croatia is not a contiguous country. Although plans are progressing with the Peljesac Bridge, at time of writing the 23km stretch of the Bosnian Riviera has to be negotiated to reach Dubrovnik. As much of the traffic is transit through the border town of Neum, cars are often waved through. Most standard insurance does not cover Bosnia and a seven-day green card is the minimum requirement, costing €20. Many drivers don't bother, figuring that they will be fine for the 23km, and most are, but spot checks, usually by the Orka restaurant after Neum, can result in some difficult discussions. English is not so widely spoken among the traffic police in Bosnia and sometimes the prospect of having to struggle along in English is enough for them to wave the offender on, although it seems that recently that officers have been issued with a crib sheet in English for the most common phrases. Venturing into the Bosnian interior is one of the most stunning drives in Europe, but keep your eye on the speed levels, especially as you see a sign for the village of Bradina.
Driving in Montenegro
Montenegro is the most frustrating country in the region to drive in, and the local boys in blue are ready to take capitalise on road rage and speeding. The popularity of the coastal resorts of Budva, Kotor and Sveti Stefan far outstrip the current infrastructure, and the one major artery passes through numerous conurbations, with corresponding speed limits of 40km/h. Added to that is the incessant local traffic pulling out in ancient Golf Mark Ones, only to then halt the traffic once more ten metres later as they turn left into their local cafe. The book, My Life Behind a Golf Mark One is waiting to be written. As with Croatia, traffic fines can be very expensive, so enter into the local spirit and plan a little longer for your journey.
Driving in Albania
Which leaves the ultimate driving experience and the friendliest traffic policemen in Europe -Albania. Enjoy!