Travel to Croatia

Croatia is a country located at the northwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula. It may be a small country, but it is actually one of the most beautiful places in Europe. The country is located in between its neighboring countries Slovenia, Hungary, and Bosnia while the other end is surrounded by the Adriatic sea.

With a population of about 4.2 million, one can say that Croatia is still a relatively small country compared to other European giants. Croatia’s motto is only fitting for its wonderful beauty – “Our beautiful homeland”. It reminds you of your beautiful home.

Dinara Peak is the highest mountain in Croatia. Because of the border, the mountainous region helps keep the climate in Croatia cool. Overall, this country has an alpine climate. All thanks to the large forests of the Dinara mountains.

Only 48 islands out of its 1,200 islands and islets are inhabited. It’s on the island of Kirk where you can see the greatest number of people living in Croatia. Island hopping Croatia is the ideal way to explore this beautiful country – especially while on a Croatia honeymoon! Read all about sailing Croatia.

The best time to visit Croatia is during summer, to take full advantage of the beautiful beaches and islands.

Along the Adriatic coastline is also where you see the best beaches in Croatia. There are also historic towns and scenic villages that you can visit in this area. The places around the coastline are a perfect mix of new and old, of tradition and technology all combined into one. The Istria region is full of medieval and historical buildings in Croatia. In here, one of the largest amphitheaters in the world is located. The historical place goes a long way back to the Roman empire.

This post has more information about what you need to know before visiting Croatia.

Travel tips for Croatia

Visa Requirements for Croatia

Croatia is one of the countries that have just recently joined the European Union (EU). With that said, the visa requirements for Croatia are in line with the provisions of the EU. Usually, foreign visitors won’t need visas to enter Croatia. This rule applies to citizens of the United Kingdom, European Union, United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Visitors from these countries can stay in Croatia for up to 90 days.

For Schengen Visa holders, there will also not be a need for an additional visa. A regulation made in 2012 extends the validity of the Schengen visa without any additional visas. But for all other third-country nationals who already have Schengen documents, they won’t need a new visa to visit Croatia. For the visa application forms, visit this website.

Important Cultural Information

The Roman Catholics in Croatia are greatly influenced by their religion. Hence, when visiting Croatia, it’s important to respect their churches and places of worship. Sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin or the Gospa are spread throughout the country. It’s recommended that visitors respect the infrastructure and observe silence when you’re in the area. Villages and towns also have their specific patron saint. With that comes the saint’s feast day. Each feast day is celebrated with a procession and a Eucharistic church ceremony.

Folklore is also sacred in Croatia. The Croats are truly passionate about their songs, fairy tales, rituals, dances, and costumes. These all mean so much to their culture that they even hand these practices down to the next generations of their family members.

When you’re meeting a local in Croatia, a simple handshake and direct eye contact will do. The most basic greetings are “Dobro jutro” (good morning), “dobro dan” (good day), and “dobro veèer” (good evening). Professionals are also intended to be addressed with their titles followed by their surnames. Only close family members and friends use one another’s first names. So, you have to be careful of this fact. An embrace and a kiss on the cheek can also be considered as a form of greeting only if you are meeting someone you are close to. Wait for the Croatian to initiate the gesture before doing so. In social gatherings, the host always introduces the guest. They usually start with the women, followed by the men. The oldest in the group gets introduced first.

Banking & Money in Croatia

The Croats use the Croatian kuna as its official currency. Although it is a part of the European Union, the use of Euro for everyday purchases isn’t widely accepted. However, for tourist places, both the Euro and the kuna can be used for buying items. They are also pretty strict when it comes to the appearance of the bills. If these are damaged and torn, they will not be accepted by the merchants. So be careful!

You can exchange your currency for kuna at the exchange bureau, banks, post offices, automated teller machines (ATM), and at airport kiosks. It’s recommended that you have your currency exchanged through the ATM to get the best deal. It’s not advisable to have the currency exchanged while you’re still outside of Croatia because of its low exchange rate.

The most commonly accepted debit and credit cards in Croatia are Cirrus or Mastercard, Visa or Plus, Maestro, and Diners Club. American Express may be accepted although it’s not considered to be as reliable as the others. It’s still best that you bring a small amount of cash with you at all times. Local merchants don’t always offer the option to process cards as payments.

When it comes to ATMs, you won’t have any problems finding one in Croatia as it is widely available in most of the tourist places. Most ATMs are also available in English and accept the majority of internationally recognized credit cards. To operate an ATM in Croatia, you would need to have a four-digit PIN so you may want to settle that before coming into the country.

Medical Emergency Information

If there is an emergency, you can call 112 from any phone at no cost. This will get you in touch with the police, firefighters and ambulances.

Some useful emergency numbers in Croatia are the following:

  • 192 – police
  • 193 – fire brigade
  • 194 – ambulance services
  • 195 – sea rescue
  • 1987 – any kind of roadside help

Make sure to get good travel insurance for Croatia beforehand. Compare options with both WorldNomads and SafetyWing.

Wi-Fi and Internet in Croatia

There are four main network operators in Croatia: Tele2, T-Mobile, A1, and Drimsim. All offer prepaid options. Usually, a certain amount of data allocation is given to a user to be used daily. 20 GB is the average amount of data that these service providers have.

The average data speed in Croatia is 3.67 Mbps for download and 1.08 Mbps for upload.

For sim cards for mobile phones, it’s easy to get one at the airport, gas stations, newsstands, and grocery stores.

Free Wi-Fi is usually available at most hotels, restaurants, cafes and some public spots. Make sure to set-up a VPN (like ExpressVPN) before using public Wi-Fi spots. Make sure to read our post on why it’s so important to use a VPN while traveling.

You will also find a few coworking spots in Croatia, mostly in Split, Zagreb, Zadar and Rijeka.

Arrival in Croatia

There are three major airports in Croatia. There’s the Zagreb Airport, the Split Airport, and the Dubrovnik Airport. Currently, the only non-European flights to Croatia are from Qatar, Dubai and Tel Aviv.

For Zagreb Airport, airlines that fly here include Qatar Airways, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, and KLM. The Croatia Airline buses operate in this area. Buses at the Zagreb airport leave every half-hour or hour from about 7 AM to 10:30 PM. A ride costs 30 KN. Taxis going to the center are also available and cost about 150 KN to 200 KN.

For Split Airport, most of the airlines that land and depart from this are KLM, Easyjet, Croatia Airlines, and Aeroflot, to name a few. There is an airport shuttle bus that heads directly to the central bus station at least 14 times a day. One ride costs about 30KN, and the whole trip lasts for 30 minutes. There are also local buses that stop near the airport every 20 minutes. Bus fares range from 13KN to 17 KN. Taxis are also available at 250KN and 300KN per ride.

For Dubrovnik Airport, there are a lot of airlines going to and from this place. Some of which are American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, and Lufthansa. The Atlas airport bus service is in charge of the transfers. For 40 KN, the ride will last about half an hour, and it is timed to work around flights. Buses to the airport stop at the Pile Gate and the nearby bus station. Each taxi ride costs up to 280 KN.

Search for flights to Croatia on Expedia.

There are direct railway lines to Croatia from Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Greece. Croatia trains are part of the Eurail and Interrail routes.

There is also a very good network of buses once in the country that are both cheap and regular. There are buses to Croatia from Italy, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Montenegro, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Germany.

You can arrive via car from neighboring countries. Consider Europcar for car hire in Croatia.

Areas of Croatia

Croatia is characterised by beautiful coastlines, stunning islands and quaint cobblestoned villages. Below are the main tourist areas that should guide you with where to go in Croatia.

Zagreb

Zagreb is the capital and largest city in Croatia. Upper Town is the site of the Gothic, twin-spired Zagreb Cathedral and 13th-century St. Mark’s Church. Lower Town has the main square, Ban Jelačić, plus shops, museums and parks. This interesting city is is characterised by its 18th- and 19th-century Austro-Hungarian architecture.

Split

Split is an ancient port city with Roman ruins located on the Dalmation Coast. It’s known for having some of the best beaches in Croatia. Many of the island hopping Croatia trips start/end from here.

Istria

You can tour all of Istria in a day. That’s how small this place is. But don’t underestimate the beauty that Istria can bring. If you’re looking forward to getting to know the ancient and medieval roots of Croatia, this is the best place for you to do so.

With its gorgeous pebble beaches and ancient architecture, you’ll never run out of things to know more about Croatia through the Island of Istria. You can enjoy local food and go sightseeing in the churches at Novigrad. Then you can explore more of the countryside and attend the annual film festival in Motovun. You will certainly enjoy how intimate this place is as it is one of the least populated areas in all of Croatia.

Dinara Mountains

If you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous and more inclined with nature, then you should head to Dalmatia, Croatia. This is where you can see the Dinara Mountains. At 1,830 meters, the Dinara Peak is the highest mountain and summit in Croatia. Enjoy mountaineering, hiking, and climbing in this place as well as the great view you get to see upon reaching the top.

Adriatic Coast

The Adriatic coast in Croatia is one of the best places you can view the Adriatic coastline from. There are a lot of places you can see in this area. From its picturesque UNESCO-listed historic towns at Dubrovnik to the national park at Plitvice Lakes, then this is the place that you should add to your itinerary when visiting Croatia.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is on many Croatia travel itineraries and for good reason. This historic coastal city and UNESCO World Heritage site is absolutely stunning.

Transportation in Croatia

The most popular means of getting around in Croatia is by bus. The bus routes cover all the major towns, famous tourist spots, and even the most remote villages. The buses are right on time, and they even have nightly routes.

Trains and trams are also available as a means of getting around. While they are inexpensive, convenient, and comfortable, the travel time using trains is much slower compared to when taking the buses. This is because Croatia’s train network is limited and trains are less frequent than buses.

In Zagreb, there are around fifteen tram routes that run as early as four in the morning until midnight.

For domestic transfers, the plane is considered to be a more affordable means than getting by using the bus. For short island transfers, however, boats are the best way to go.

Accommodations in Croatia

There are a lot of lodging options you can choose from in Croatia. There are hundreds of resorts, villas, hotels, apartments, and motels spread throughout the country.

But if you want to get a great deal, the best way for you to go is to book an apartment. Apartments are more preferred than any type of Croatia accommodation since it allows guests to have more control of their time and what they want to do. In remote villages where the festivals are usually held, there are a lot of apartments available for rent. Most tourists prefer to lodge in these types of areas to experience a more intimate feel in Croatia.

But if you feel more comfortable staying in a more formal set-up like a hotel, there are numerous choices you can consider.

Read our guide on where to stay in Dalmatian coast and Plitvice Lakes National Park accommodation.

If traveling in the high season (winter), make sure to book your accommodation well in advance. We recommend booking accommodation on either Booking.com or Agoda.

Booking.com

What to Eat and Drink in Croatia

Croats love food. Their festivals and family gatherings won’t be complete without the presence of food.

As a tourist traveling in Croatia, expect that you will eat whatever your heart may desire. There’s no such thing as a fixed Croatian cuisine that’s known throughout the country. Their food is a mix of multiple cultures and tastes that Croats have adjusted to make it as their own.

However, you can quickly recognize the heavy influence of Italian, Ottoman, and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Some of the Istrian food and drinks you have to try when you’re in Croatia are the following:

  • Octopus Salad
  • Black Risotto
  • White Risotto
  • Olive Oil
  • Pasticada with Gnocchi
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Peka – slow cooked veal or octopus mixed with potatoes and other vegetables
  • Ćevapi – small street food sausages made from pork and beef
  • Borek – flaky, chewy dough filled with cheese, spinach, and sweet fillings
  • Pag cheese
  • Croatian Wine
  • Craft beer

Things to Do and See in Croatia

You cannot visit Croatia without having to tick off at least one UNESCO World Heritage site. Even though Croatia is a small country, it has ten UNESCO-recognized heritage areas.

The ten world-renowned places that you can visit in Croatia include:

With just these ten on their own, you can safely say that you have seen Croatia’s finest tourist spots.

Other famous places that are built based on the Catholic religion is the famous Blue Lagoon. In here, you can take an Aquaman Underwater Town Tour to see the statues of the stations of the cross in a whole new level – literally.

Hiking and mountain climbing are two of the most popular activities that tourists do in Croatia. Zip lining and rafting along the Cetina River are also two of the most enjoyed activities of tourists. You can also visit Croatia’s best beach, which is located on the island of Brac.

When in Dubrovnik you absolutely HAVE to do a Game of Thrones tour!

From visiting historical monuments to exploring the natural wonders, you will never run out of things to do in Croatia.

If you’re visiting Split, check out our post on things to do in Split.

Shopping in Croatia

Zagreb, the capital and largest city in Croatia, houses one of the biggest shopping centers in the country. Enjoy a variety of options and sales at the Arena Centar. Here, you can look for both international brands and local merchants.

If you’re looking for a place with the best souvenirs, then you should head to the Mall of Split. Here you can find fresh produce, fashion retail stores, and other Croatian designer brands as well.

SubCity Dubrovnik is also an ideal place for you to shop. Here, you can find numerous selections and a wide array of clothes.

There are a lot of shopping malls in Croatia. Whether you are looking forward to buying designer items or local Croatian things, you can all find them conveniently in the mall.

Croatia’s Nightlife

Croatia is undeniably beautiful in the morning, but it gets even more fun at night. The most famous nightlife places in the country are located in Zagreb. From bars, concerts, and nightclubs, the capital city won’t disappoint. Nightlife near the coastlines is also as lively as it is in the cities. Beach restaurants and nightclubs decked along the coast of the Adriatic sea are one of the most go-to places of tourists at night.

Island hopping Croatia is also renowned for its fun party cruises. You can even catch a  speedboat to the party town of Hvar for the night – check it out! The best time to visit Croatia for the ultimate nightlife experience is during the height of summer.

Safety Tips for Croatia

Croatia is safe for travelers. With its low overall crime levels, tourists and locals alike should feel comfortable when they are in this country.

However, there are still some things that you need to be wary of. In the most popular tourist destinations where the volume of people is high, pickpocketing and theft are common. To avoid this, make sure that you keep your wallet and gadgets in your front pocket at all times.

Nevertheless, with the proper safety precautions, you shouldn’t have any problems with your stay in Croatia.

Conclusion

Traveling to Croatia is worth it. It may not be one of the most sought-after tourist spots in the world, but its natural beauty draws travelers who are looking for more than just the mainstream cities. Here, you get to experience Croatia’s vibrant religion and culture. As well as its breathtaking UNESCO world heritage sites. Nothing could ever compare to these places.

Although it’s pretty unconventional to travel preferably by bus and to stay in apartments for the entirety of your stay, these are all part of the Croatian experience. Make sure to at least plan your visit with one festival overlapping your itinerary. You’ll get to see how rich their culture is and how alive the traditions of the Croats are.

You will never run out of places to explore and things to know in this country. From its historical sites to its one-of-a-kind nightlife experience, Croatia is truly a gem hidden from the rest of the world.

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