Famous for its coastal beauty, ancient ruins, wild parties and much, much more, a vacation in the Mediterranean is something out of a dream. While many may imagine the picture perfect seaside towns of Greece or the rich wines of France, they may not realize just how huge this hot-ticket destination really is. That’s where Mediterranean travel experts who can help navigate the ins-and-outs of this sprawling region come into play and we’ve asked three agents who are experts in the destination for their hot tips and tricks to Mediterranean travel.
Visiting a new country can always come with its fair share of culture shock. So what can travelers do to make sure they’re well-prepared before making the journey? Our experts advise doing a little research before boarding that flight across the world.
Emily Kladivo, owner of Emily’s Travel, LLC in Plymouth, MN, says what’s custom in the U.S. isn’t always the norm overseas. “Travelers need to know their destination. Do you tip or not? Paying for bread and water in Italy is normal, if you don’t want it, tell your servers,” said Kladivo. “Clothing is another thing. What Americans feel is normal might not be in other cultures so do a little research beforehand so you’re better equipped.”
Mediterranean expert and travel agent at Travel Leaders, Bonnie Clark echoes Kladivo’s advice on preparing before a big trip. “Before visiting the Mediterranean, it is important to understand the different languages, traditions, history and cultures of the different countries,” said Clark. “Although the countries may look similar, they are very different.”
Kathy Hirst, travel manager for Black Pearl Luxury Services in Salt Lake City, UT, mentioned that in addition to different cultures and customs, things aren’t always as they appear in photographs. “One of the biggest surprises to people is that the beaches in the Med are crowded, rocky and in many cases, not as pretty as the beaches we are used to,” said Hirst.
As mentioned above, the Mediterranean is a huge region that spans 21 countries. So what’s the best way to get around for travelers looking to see the most on their vacation? Planes, trains and automobiles, our experts say it really comes down to personal preference.
“I’ve taken many modes of transportation across the region. Whether it is a plane, train, bus or even a car, each is a great way of getting around,” said Kladivo.
Hirst also recommends travel by rail, but prefers other modes of transportation for long-haul travel. “The best way to travel between Mediterranean cities is train. But for longer stretches I put my clients on flights since they are so economical and save time.”
Clark discourages travelers from road tripping between countries and says that cruising will give travelers the best bang for their buck.
Some spots in the Med get more love than others. We asked the agents which under-the-radar destinations are worth scoping out and why travelers should visit them.
“Slovenia is a very beautiful and unusual country with its glacier lakes, castles and snow-covered mountains,” said Clark. “Piran, Slovenia is a tiny piece of land that juts out to sea and has a beautiful oval-shaped square where travelers can climb the bell tower and see the views of the harbor and the city. You can also visit the Skocjan caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Kladivo has noticed a rise in tourism to southern Italian cities and destinations along the coasts. “Places like Athens, Greece and some of the lesser known Greek Isles are gaining popularity,” said Kladivo. “Crete and Sicily are popular too. These places are great if you want to fully experience how others live and how amazing the cultures are. Every place has something to fall in love with and the less tourism-heavy areas are where you’ll truly see life from a local perspective.”
Another area seeing a jump in tourism is Croatia which may partially be thanks to HBO superstar series, Game of Thrones. “Croatia is a great destination for clients and it is becoming more popular for those who don’t want to battle the crowds of Greece. There is great food, wonderful locals, beautiful scenery and the dollar goes much further,” said Hirst.