slo train 004

Crossing Borders from Ljubljana – Slovenia Rail Deals for January 2014

After too much time away from it, I’m excited to get back into the groove of hunting down deals on rail fares and finding new (to me) interesting routes. I’m coming across lots of useful info so I thought I’d share some of the better discoveries here as well.

This is an overview of some of the deals that are available now through December via Slovenian Railways aka Slovenske Zeleznice. If you’re planning to pass through Slovenia overland this winter, spring, summer or fall, this is for you.

The good news: Slovenian Railways has lots of great cross border deals at the moment, starting for as little as 25 EUR.

The bad news: tickets can’t be purchased on line, and won’t be available via the internets until the beginning of 2015. For non-residents, that’s a major downer. Down yes, but not necessarily out. At least not on all routes. Read on.

To begin, a list of special fares that link Ljubljana to four of the five nearest capital cities:

- Ljubljana-Belgrade: 25 EUR one way via the Beograd Spezial. Daily departure from Ljubljana at 08:25, arrives Belgrade 17:32. Return departs the Serbian capital at 11:00, arrives Ljubljana 20:53. Nine fares per route available at this price daily. Regular fares: one-way 54.80, 87.60 return.

- Ljubljana-Budapest: 39 EUR one-way, 49 return. At the moment, that’s the standard fare for EN 499/205 which departs Ljubljana daily at 06:35, arrives in Budapest at 16:29. Return (EN 204/498) departs at 14:45, arrives 23:37.

- Ljubljana-Prague: 49 EUR one-way on the EC 212, which departs Ljubljana at 09:22 and arrives at 21:21. Only four tickets available daily at this fare via the Praga Spezial per route but note that this train goes via Villach, Austria, and then onwards Vienna. Another shorter Prague connection, that goes directly to Vienna, is 132 EUR one-way.

- Ljubljana-Vienna (Meidling): 29 EUR with two daily options (departure 08:05 and 16:00, arrival 13:57 and 21:57) with 12 tickets available at that fare per departure via the SparSchiene special.

Other points north:

- Ljubljana-Zurich: 29 EUR one-way, with four tickets available at that price through the SparSchiene Zurich special. Sleeper in a six-berth compartment as low as 39 EUR, four-berth at 49 EUR. Departs at 21:10, arrives Zurich at 09:20. Return: departs 20:40, arrives 08:11. This can be purchased three months in advance.

- Ljubljana-Munich: 29 EUR one-way via the Munchen Spar or Smart Night specials. Six tickets available on both. Regular price in 77 EUR.

The EC 212/213 departs Ljubljana 09:22, arrives 15:41; return departs 12:18, arrives 18:31.
The 498/499 departs 23:55, arrives 06:10.  Return departs Munich 23:40, arrives Ljubljana 05:59. Sleeper in a six-berth compartment as low as 39 EUR.

- Ljubljana-Frankfurt: 49 EUR one-way, six tickets available via the Frankfurt Smart special. One departure daily: 09:22, arrives 19:49. Return: leaves Frankfurt at 08:22, arrives 18:31.

Other capitals?

These aren’t special fares but are worth noting beginning with Zagreb, the cheapest of the capital-to-capital connections.

- Ljubljana-Zagreb: 16.40 EUR one-way, 26.20 EUR return, with four departures daily: 06:35, 08:25, 14.45 and 18:35; return 06:50, 12:35, 18:37 and 21:20. Roughly two-and-a-half hours.

- Ljubljana-Sarajevo: 49.20 EUR one-way. Daily departure at 06:35, arrive 18:13. Return 10:46, arrive 23:37.

- Ljubljana-Bratislava: 87.20 EUR one-way. Depending on the connection times and the Vienna-Bratislava price, this might be cheaper if you can get one of one the SparSchiene specials to Vienna listed above.

- Ljubljana-Skopje: 88.40 EUR one-way. Daily departures at 08:25, arrive 07:22 the following day. Return; 20:10, arrive 20:53 the following day. Both require layovers in Belgrade of four-and-a-half and six-and-a-half hours respectively.

And to round things out, two more destinations of interest in Croatia, more specifically, Istria:

- Ljubljana-Pula (Pulj in Slovenian): 25 EUR one-way standard fare. Daily departure at 13:12, arrival at 17:51. Return: departs 13:20, arrives 18:40 (or 19:29 on Sat/Sun/holidays). Requires a chance in Buzet, Croatia.

- Rijeka-Ljubljana: 17 EUR one-way, 27.20 return. Departures at 06:35 and 15:10, arrivals 09:20 and 17:55. Return: Departures at 11:55 and 20:40, arrivals 14:53 and 23:30.

Where to buy? Station ticket offices and authorized agencies. The list is here.

With the exception of the Budapest run, I’ve been on all of these routes, many of them several times.  The quality of the trains varies wildly; quality-wise there is still a wide bridge between the trains operated by the countries of the former Yugoslavia and eastern Europe and those of their western and northern Europe counterparts. That said, the gap isn’t nearly as wide as it was a decade ago when I moved to the continent permanently.

And finally: all tickets listed are for 2nd class travel. If you manage to get the cheaper fare, you cannot upgrade to 1st class from those specially-priced tickets. All can be purchased up to two months prior to departure, three months for the Zurich route. Timetables, routes, and prices valid through 14 December 2014. But we all know that it’s always best to double check, right?

In closing I leave you with this, a 35-second video shot aboard MV 482, the Rijeka-Ljubljana line. The soundtrack is Chrome Weels by Asian Women on the Telephone and it rocks.

Between Bled and Jesenice, Slovenia, 24-Sep-2012.

SLO Train – Pic du Jour

Between Bled and Jesenice, Slovenia, 24-Sep-2012.

Shooting in the rain and sticking my head where it didn’t belong. 24-Sep-2012

More shooting in the rain – playing with my GoPro on the slow train between Bled and Jesenice last September when a camping trip was rained out.

I’m leaving for my extended trip in 19 days, but the moving van will be here in 33 hours. Why I’m playing with photos when I’m surrounded by half empty boxes that need to be filled remains a mystery.

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Trains and Stations – A Fetish in Fifteen Photos

I really wanted to take one of these home. Breclav station, Czech Republic, 24-Jun 2007

The way my mother tells the story, I was smuggled into France as a six-month old, wrapped in swaddling clothes and hidden among a small pile of blankets in a crowded sleeper car. Whether the tale is an embellishment I can’t say, but I do know that that episode instilled in me an early love for train travel. Nothing remotely resembling passenger trains existed in the US midwest while I was there, so my fetish for trains didn’t finally and fully blossom until I moved back to Europe 38 years later.

When I need to go somewhere, for business or pleasure or both, I insist on going by train whenever practical. Even when a 13-hour train trip could be covered in about five by car (going to Sarajevo from Ljubljana, for instance). I also take lots of pictures from and of those trains and stations.

I spent a bit of time further organizing my flickr stream tonight and rediscovered most of these 15 train-related pics, many of which I haven’t looked at in years, and decided to breathe a bit of life into them here. They’re not necessarily my 15 favorites, but were selected instead to represent a variety. And I do like them all. If you’re interested in checking out more, there are 134 in my flickr Trains and Stations set at the moment. Most of them are Creative Commons non-commercial licensed, so feel free to use them if you’d like as indicated in the descriptions. Enjoy!

Wien Südbahnhof. 14-June-2008



Lyon Part-Dieu station, Lyon, France, 03-Sep-2008



Monaco-Monte Carlo station, at center of the photo. Entirely underground. Monte Carlo, 24-Nov 2007



Piraeus Station, Piraeus, Greece, 13-Nov-2008



Sarajevo, 1 July 2011



Ataturk at the Istanbul Gar, or train station, the final stop on the now defunct Orient Express. Istanbul, 13-Mar-2012



Zidani Most train station, Zidani Most, Slovenia, 17-Apr-2009



Milano Centrale station, Milan, 03-July-08



Cute stranger’s napping feet, on the EC 102 from Wien Sudbahnhof. Somewhere in Moravia, Czech Republic, 24-June-2007



Central station, Thessaloniki, Greece, 14-Sep-2009



Camera Shy bootleg CD vendor, Central Station, Valencia, Spain, 10-Mar-2008



On the RER from Charles de Gaulle towards the Gare de Nord, Paris, 07-Jul-2007



Kitzbuhel, Austria, 10-Feb-2009



Milano Centrale, 11-Dec-2006


These snaps are this week’s contribution for Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter) hosted by Nancie on her website, Budget Travelers Sandbox. When you have few minutes to browse, check out Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places.

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Stealth mobile street shooting – lesson two (LJ pic of the Day)

I was inspired enough by my first lesson in stealth mobile street shooting last weekend to wander out for more these past few days. At top is a gentleman patiently waiting for something in the train station’s ticket office on Wednesday afternoon. I’ve been in that position myself on occasion and have found that a book helps.

While on the topic of trains, I wanted to pass along a few newsy links of interest from Slovenia Rail, but since the English language section of their site’s news section hasn’t been updated for more than two years, I won’t bother. I hope the guy in the picture isn’t waiting for it to be updated.

Ljubljana New Train Station, Revisited – LJ Pic of the Day

One of the most read/searched for posts on Piran Café is this one, published just a few weeks shy of three years ago, about plans for Ljubljana’s new main train station. The post read in part, as follows:

The two phase project, with a total price tag that ranges from 220 to 300 million euros, includes a new bus station, shopping and entertainment center set for completion by the end of 2009. The train station, a new high rise business center, luxury apartments and four-star hotel, is to be completed by the end of 2010.

Here’s an update snapped at lunchtime today. Nice shades of green in that greenspace, no?

Wandering Earl wanders into Slovenia

I just came across a blog by traveler Wandering Earl, who set off on a three-month trip to Asia in 1999. He’s still on the road 4,294 days later.

He arrived in Ljubljana a few days ago via rail from Vienna, so check out his blog and say ‘Hi’, ok?

His is a lifestyle many fantasize about, but very few have the wherewithal, resourcefulness or guts to actually take the plunge. His website and blog are worth spending some time with if you’re looking for experience-tested ideas on how to sustain yourself on the road long-term.

Best of luck, Earl, and I hope you enjoy your stay in this little corner of the planet. It’s a pretty nice one, too.

slo train 006, a photo by pirano on Flickr.

Vidblog for June/July 2011

Since August has almost wound down and I’ll be away for most of the next three weeks, there’s no time like the present for my second vidblog, combining bit and pieces from June and July 2011.

Shots taken in Rabat, Morocco; Lille, France; Menton, France; Sarajevo; Monaco; in and around Ljubljana, Slovenia; and during a long train ride between Zagreb and Sarajevo. I’m hoping to put together a piece on that train journey itself, a leisurely 17-hour jaunt (Ljubljana-Sarajevo, one way) through Bosnian countryside during which I finally experienced the term vukojebina. (To my Bosnian friends, no offense intended. It truly was beautiful. That’s just how I felt.)

Enjoy and feel free to share! :)

Baba Bobo Mastered by Cobra (avec logo panthère)

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

May’s vidblog, with bits and pieces from Doha, Qatar; Hengelo, The Netherlands; Ostrava, Czech Republic; a few airports, and in and around Ljubljana, Slovenia is here and here.

A pair of SLO trains

From Slovenia, that is, but they are fairly slow, too.

I recently made the leap into the world of video and shot these for Vimeo’s 1 Minute project. I like the idea of trying to capture the world in 60-second bits, adding some context to the beauty of the banal. That’s the goal, anyway. The rules are simple: the video must be exactly one minute long, remain unedited, have no camera movement (ie panning, tilting, etc), and should only use original sound.

Both of these were shot at Ljubljana’s main train station on 21-April-2011, and both star regional, graffiti-splattered trains.

Enquiring Mind

It’s always a pleasure to encounter inquisitive people.

This is at the train station in Brescia, Italy, on 21-March-2011, just one of several long shots I collected for a project that might come to pass at some point. I couldn’t have planned the stop better if I tried.

If anyone knows this person, drop a line.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport notebook

I was on the ground in Bangkok for just over 10 hours, more than ample time to get a visa, hop the new train into the center of town, stroll around a bit and get a delightful fix of Thai cuisine before heading back to catch my midnight flight back to Europe.

The airport recently celebrated it’s 4th birthday, and it’s a massive place. At 563,000 square meters (just over 6 million square feet), it’s the world’s third largest single-building airport terminal. Despite its size, it’s surprisingly quick and easy to get around.

A few items of note for day-trippers:
- Citizens of many countries don’t need visas, including the UK, USA and Australia. More visa info is here.
- For many others, Visa on Arrival is available. Here’s a list. You’ll need a passport-sized photo – if you don’t have one handy there are photo booths nearby where can get four pictures snapped and pick your favorite. 200 baht (about 5 EUR, 7 USD). If time is short there is a fast track line available (cost is 200 baht) and it does seem to save a considerable bit of time.

There’s a great new airport train, The Airport Link, which after numerous delays, finally began operating in August. The City Line runs every 15 minutes, serves eight stops and ends at the Phaya Thai station roughly 30 minutes away. The best part – there’s an introductory promotional fare of just 15 baht (USD 0.50/ Eur 0.36) through 1-Jan-2011. After that, fares will range from 15 to 45 Baht.