Welcome to our Croatia Travel Guide where we try to answer the most common questions regarding your travel to Croatia. Croatia is emerging tourist destination. When I think of Croatia, I associate it with: small, safe, sublime, pebbles, islands, sea, countryside. The country has over thousand islands, 8 national parks, 11 nature parks, over 6.000 km of coastline and seven World Heritage sites.
From Paklenica climbing sites, beautiful beaches of central Dalmatia, great food of Istria, Croatia’s fabulous wines, partying on the islands, sailing the Adriatic, Croatia has a lot to offer to its visitors.
We’ve dedicated this entire website to this wonderful country. Vera is born and raised in Croatia, and I moved here 13 years ago. We’ve been traveling around Croatia extensively. And here at our blog we share the best of Croatia just as we discover it.
Visitors to Croatia can find useful travel tips, in-depth destination guides, things to do, places to stay, and lots of information on Croatian food and restaurants. I also sometimes share my musings on expat life in Croatia.
Contents For 26 Things To Know Before Travelling To Croatia
- 1 Do you need a visa?
- 2 Weather in Croatia
- 3 Money
- 4 Best time to go
- 5 Getting there
- 6 Getting around
- 7 Croatia travel destinations
- 8 National parks
- 9 Unesco World Heritage Sites
- 10 Accommodation
- 11 Driving
- 12 Renting a car
- 13 Tourist registration
- 14 Food
- 15 Drinking
- 16 Travel insurance
- 17 Tours and activities
- 18 Itineraries
- 19 Shopping
- 20 Safety
- 21 Internet
- 22 Roaming charges
- 23 Is Croatia part of EU & Schengen visa regiment
- 24 Beaches
- 25 Parking
- 26 Language
- 27 Recommended travel guides
- 28 Further reading from our Croatia travel guide:
Do you need a visa?
Majority of foreign visitors don’t need visa to enter Croatia, including, but not limited to, EU countries, UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Foreign citizens of those countries can enter Croatia, and stay here for 90 days within 180 days period.
Citizens of EU countries can enter Croatia using only their ID card, all others need to travel with a valid passport in order to enter Croatia.
If you require a visa to enter Croatia, but hold a valid Schengen visa, as well as visas for Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria, you don’t need a separate visa for Croatia. You are free to travel to Croatia under the condition of your current visa from the above mentioned countries.
If you require a visa for Croatia, you can print and fill the application forms here, and submit it along with requested documents to Croatian Embassy, Consulate, or an accredited tourist agency.
In order to apply for a Croatian visa, you’ll need a valid passport issued less than 10 years ago, and with an expire date at least three months after the intended departure date from Croatia.
All questions regarding visa you can send via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weather in Croatia
Croatia has three distinct climates: continental climate in its interior, the Mediterranean climate along the coast, and the mountain climate above 1200 m.
Along the coast you can expect dry, hot, and sunny summers, and mild, although sometimes wet, winters. Weather along the south Adriatic region of Dalmatia is generally drier and sunnier than in the northern Adriatic region of Istria. Daily temperatures can differ up to 5 °C.
Average summer temperatures are around 22 °C, but this also means that in July and August you can expect over 40 days with daily temperatures of over 30 C. Average winter temperatures are around 10 C, with January being the coldest month with daily average temperatures of less than 10 C. The average sea temperature varies from 12 °C in winter to 25 °C in summer.
Croatia’s interior has a moderate continental climate. This means that winters are cold and wet, with lots of fog, while summers get hot, and dry. Average winter temperatures are around 4 C, while the average summer temperature are around 22 °C.
While Croatia is a part of European Union, the country still doesn’t use Euro as a common currency. Croatian currency is Kuna (short: kn), and the exchange rate is at about 7,5 kn per 1€, 6,8 kn per 1$, and 8,4 kn per 1£.
You can also pay many things with Euro, like accommodation, meals in restaurants, pay-tolls on Croatian roads, and gasoline. However you’ll usually get your change in Kuna, and the exchange rate can be less favourable than at the exchange offices.
Best time to go
Majority of tourists head to Croatia in July and August. However, busiest time is not always the best time to visit.
The best time to visit Croatia is in June and September. There are far less people around (definitely no queues, traffic jams, nor crowded beaches), the weather is still warm and sunny, prices are more affordable, and the sea is warm enough to swim in. Another tip: Sea is usually warmer in September than in June.
Also, keep in mind that Croatia is extremely popular among Germans, and Austrians, especially the northern Adriatic regions of Istria, and Kvarner. So crowds (and accommodation prices) tend to increase around German school holidays (like Corpus Christi – it’s either in mid May to early June, or late May to mid June; it changes from year to year). Ha, but this also means that in the year when German school holidays are in May, hotels often offer special discounts for June (on, yeah, check it out!). And vice versa.
Travelling to Croatia from anywhere in Europe is quite easy. From April through September many airlines have direct flights from all over Europe to all major Croatian towns. Besides, Split and Zagreb are well-connected by plane with the rest of Europe throughout the year. For the detailed information on flights schedule to Croatia consult Skyscanner website.
We’ve also recently found out about Scottt’s cheap flights program. They basically search for airlines mistakes or intentionally great deals and email it to you. We haven’t used it ourselves, but it seems worth a try (they have a free plan too).
You can also travel to Croatia from other European towns by bus. Bus schedules are a bit harder to search for as there are many different bus companies running the service. However, if you would like to travel by bus, we highly recommend using GetByBus website to check and book bus lines in Croatia.
You can also check with a local bus station once you are in destination and you can physically walk there. Getting information over the phone, or email can be impractical, and expensive (yes, they still use automated phone machines that makes you wait forever, and charge you a fortune for waiting!).
Find out more here:
Train connection to and around Croatia is quite limited, and we generally don’t recommend travelling by train to Croatia. However, if you really have to, you can find more information on Croatian Railways website.
Our favorite way to travel around Europe, and to Croatia as well, is by car. Whether it’s your own car or a rental car, it’s the most convenient way to move around Europe.
The best way to travel around Croatia is by car. Croatia is small country with great roads, and lots of nice little villages totally worth a detour. The only way to really discover the country is to travel by car. We’ve written a full post about driving in Croatia as well as about a car rental in Croatia.
Another excellent way to travel around Croatia is by bus. Buses are modern, fast, affordable and frequent. The only places we wouldn’t recommend bus travelling is on the islands and in Istria. For the rest, if you can’t travel by car for whatever reason, hop on the bus and enjoy the ride. Use GetByBus to check lines, schedules, and to book your bus ticket.
Ferries are still the most popular, and sometimes the only way to get to the islands. The main ferry ports include Rijeka, Zadar, and Split, but ferries also depart from smaller coastal towns like Brsecine, Makarska, Drvenik, Orebic, Ploce, and Prapratno. Full post on ferries in Croatia.
Public transportation in the bigger towns cost around 2€ per ride. Taxis are affordable in Zagreb and Rijeka, but you need to choose the right company. UberX is available in majority of popular tourist towns like Zagreb, Split, Rovinj, Dubrovnik, Zadar, etc.. Uber is by far the cheapest taxi option in Croatia.
Croatia travel destinations
One of the most common questions we get is where to go in Croatia. Many of visitors who travel to Croatia for the first time tend to visit the main touristy towns and attractions, like Zagreb, Split, Plitvice, Hvar and Dubrovnik. However, Croatia is full of hidden gems, charming coastal towns, wonderful natural sites, and beautiful beaches.
With a surface of just over 56.000 m2, Croatia is rather a small country. However, due to its geographical location, geo-morphological, and ecological conditions, as well as its climate, in terms of biodiversity Croatia is one of the richest countries in Europe.
The nature here is divine: from the Adriatic sea, high-rising mountains, to plains of Slavonia, and rolling hills of Istria and Zagorje.
The country has eight national parks, ten nature parks, and two nature reserves. Almost 10% of the country’s territory is protected. National parks of Kornati, Brijuni, and Mljet are located on the islands, and characterised by rich marine life. The Risnjak, Northern Velebit, and Paklenica national parks cover mountainous area. They all feature interesting limestone rocks, meadows, and vast forests.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia’s most visited national park, as well as Krka national park, are both famed for its lakes, streams, rapids, and waterfalls.
Unesco World Heritage Sites
Croatia doesn’t lack in cultural and historical sites. Even ten of them made it to the Unesco World Heritage Sites list.
These sites include The Euphrasian Basilica in Porec, St. James Cathedral in Sibenik, Trogir, Diocletian Palace in Split, Dubrovnik old town, Stari grad planes on the island of Hvar, Plitvice Lakes, the Venetian Works of Defence from the 16th and 17th centuries in Zadar and Sibenik, Stećci Medieval Tombstone Graveyards in Cista Provo and Konavle, and Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests in national parks Paklenica and Northern Velebit.
With an exception of the Plitvice Lakes, all other sights are located along the coast.
We often get asked about the best type of accommodation in Croatia. For this reason we’ve written a full post on different types of accommodation in Croatia, with all pros and cons for each of them.
Croatia offers a variety of accommodation to choose from: hotels, hostels, apartment and villa rentals, and campsites. Which one is right for you depends heavily on your style of travel, and your budget.
Croatia is mostly seen as 4-star family destination. However, some destinations are fancier than others.
A good choice of 5-star hotels you’ll find in Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Rovinj. All-inclusive resorts aren’t popular in Croatia, although some hotels offer all-inclusive formula. In Croatia, all-inclusive mostly refer to a full board meal plan with drinks included during the meals. Many hotels in Croatia offer a half-board meal plan, and a diner often comes cheap.
Booking.com is by far the most popular website for browsing and booking hotels in Croatia. They offer the largest choice of properties, and have the most flexible booking policy. You can also check hotel’s official website. Sometimes hotels offer special deals available only through their website.
Many Croatians rent apartments to tourists. Apartments are a good alternative to hotels. They are cheaper, offer more space and come with a fully-equipped kitchen. Apartment rentals, just like hotels, need to be licensed and get an official star category. The most popular websites for apartment rentals in Croatia are Booking.com, Homeaway, and AirBnB.
Another popular and emerging type of accommodation is villa rentals. Mostly located off the big tourist resorts, these villas offer peace and quiet and lots of privacy. Besides, villas come with a pool where you can chill all day long. We have our own villa to rent in Istria – check it out!
Croatia is also very popular camping destination. There are lots of campsites all along the coast, and just few of them in continental Croatia. Popular campsites in Croatia include Lanterna in Porec, Polari in Rovinj, Park Umag, and Zaton in Nin near Zadar. The best place to make yourself familiar with Croatian campsites is Camping.hr, an official website of Croatian Camping Association.
Many of our readers reach out to us with a question about driving in Croatia, road condition, and safety on Croatia roads. Croatian roads are in a very good condition, with a new multi-lane motorway connecting Zagreb to the north and Rijeka to the northwest with Ploce in the south. Tolls apply on all multi-lane motorways named with letter A, as well as on some bridges (eg. Krk Bridge), tunnels (eg. Ucka tunnel between Rijeka & Istria), etc.
Besides motorways, you can also travel on toll-free state roads. These roads are also in good condition, but with a single lane for each direction, and some of them, particularly a coastal road D1, are winding.
Renting a car
The best way to explore Croatia is by car. And if you don’t travel by your own car, don’t shy away from renting a car in Croatia. You’ll be able to take in the sights; travel off the beaten path; see more in less time; and have a freedom to stop wherever and whenever you feel.
Car rental in Croatia is very seasonal. This simply means that you’ll need to secure your car rental well in advance if you plan on visiting Croatia in July and August. This also means that rental prices increase dramatically in these two summer months. We recommend using Rentalcars.com for your car rental in Croatia.
All tourists staying in Croatia need to be registered at a local tourist office. And non-EU citizens will also be automatically registered at the police.
This is the reason why during the check in process at any hotel, private accommodation, or campsite, you’ll be requested to show (and often leave until next morning) your passport or an ID card.
We love food in Croatia. It’s varied, fresh, local, and tasty. In continental Croatia people eat lots of meat, while a diet in coastal regions is heavily based on fish and other seafood.
As a traveler you might also make some false assumption based on a food offer in touristy restaurants along the coast. One of the most popular posts on our blog is our post on must-try Croatian dishes. Make sure to read it so you don’t miss on some of the local specialties.
We also give a couple of tips on where to find local, delicious, and cheap eats in Croatia.
And don’t miss our ultimate list of best places to eat in Croatia. Istrian restaurants rank the highest on this list.
The tap water is safe to drink in Croatia. However, if you still prefer to drink a bottled water, bear in mind that bottled water is extremly expensive here. For instance, a 1.5 L bottle of a natural water costs around 6 kn in a supermarket, three times more expensive than in Italy.
Legal drinking age in Croatia is 18. Among alcoholic drinks, wines, beer, and spirits are very popular in Croatia.
Drinking usually takes place at cafe bars, serving any kind of drinks, from coffees, and teas, to wine, beer, and any alcoholic drinks. Cafes work all day, opening as early as 6 am, and closing usually around midnight. Night clubs, pubs, and some bars work until 4 am.
Local wines are good. In the last two decades many small family-run wineries lead the way with good quality wines made of indigenous grape varieties, like Malvazija, a dry white wine produced in Istria, or Plavac Mali, a red variety dominating vineyards of the southern Dalmatia.
Croatians also drink lots of beer,
but you’ll hardly find an exciting choice of beers here in Croatia (not the case any longer, craft beer scene in Croatia is now super exciting!). The most popular mass-produced local beers are Karlovacko and Ozujsko, both light lager type. In recent years few microbreweries started putting on market a more appealing craft beer, like San Servolo, Nova Runda or Zmajska pivovara.
Spirits are very popular in Croatia, and they come with a variety of flavours. Here they are called rakija. The basic one is most often produced from grapes (called Loza), but then they are flavoured with different ingredients. The most popular are travarica (herb brandy), medica (honey brandy), orahovaca (walnut brandy), visnja (chery brandy), mirta (myrtle brandy), and rogac (carob brandy).
Travel insurance covers all kinds of situations if things go wrong: from luggage loss, trip cancellation, to medical assistance.
If you are an EU-citizen then your European Medical Insurance Card covers your basic medical needs and emergency medical care. However, it doesn’t cover emergency transport to your home country.
Non-EU citizens are advised to check with their embassies for what level of medical care they are covered in Croatia, as it heavily depend on bilateral and reciprocal agreement between the countries.
For other damages like document and baggage loss, loss of belongings, and trip cancellation, you’ll definitely need to purchase a travel insurance. There are many travel insurance companies offering different insurance options and packages. You can compare all your options using a website like Travel Insurance Review.
Tours and activities
Croatia offers a lot of activities to do for all ages, and all year round. The country is rich in history, natural beauty, historical towns, wonderful architecture, pristine beaches, and rugged mountains.
Foodies will enjoy exploring restaurants in Croatia, especially in Istria, Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split. Croatia produces some of the world’s best extra virgin olive oils (if you wonder why you should care, read Tom Mueller’s book Extra virginity: the sublime and scandalous world of olive oil). There are lots of places where you can go for an olive oil tasting, and learn how to distinguish the real staff from the crap. A visit to a winery is a must if in Croatia, particularly in Istria.
Tisno on the island of Murter, Novalja on the island Pag, and the town of Hvar offer 24 h partying for young and restless.
An outdoor enthusiasts will love Omis, Paklenica, and Cicarija. They all offer an endless choice of adventures to enjoy.
We are often asked to suggest or revise a proposed itinerary for Croatia. So here are few things to bear in mind when planning your Croatian itinerary.
Although the country is relatively small, it’s long (from Umag in the northwest to Dubrovnik in the south there is over 700 km), and it’s not that quick to travel from north or west to the south.
If you plan to visit Croatia for less than a week, we highly recommend you pick up one destination, and stick to it. Do day trips from there, but don’t pretend to visit entire country in less than a week. Also, in July and August, you need to take into account possible traffic jams, and congestions on the roads.
If you stay a week or ten days, you can visit few highlights, like Zagreb, Plitvice, Split and Dubrovnik.
Suggested week itineraries
a | Zagreb – Plitvice Lakes – Split – Hvar – Dubrovnik
b | Dubrovnik – Peljesac Peninsula – Korcula – Split – Zagreb
c | Zagreb – Plitvice Lakes – Istria
Suggested two-week itineraries
a | Zagreb – Opatija – Istria – Plitvice Lakes – Zadar – Krka Waterfalls – Split – Brac Island – Korcula – Peljesac – Dubrovnik
When you think of shopping, Croatia doesn’t necessary come to mind. However, there are a couple of awesome things to buy in Croatia. Croatian artisan olive oils are some of the best in the world. Croatian design and concept stores are also making momentum; check Take Me Home in Zagreb or Prostoria in Rovinj for some original souvenirs, accessories, unique clothes, bags and jewellery. We’ve written two posts on the subject: What to buy in Croatia, and Croatian souvenirs: fun, cool and authentic. Don’t forget a high-end tie store – Kravata Croata.
Open markets, where you can buy fresh produce, are popular in Croatia. The largest national supermarket chain is Konzum. Other popular supermarkets in Croatia include Lidl, Kaufland, Plodine, and Bila.
Supermarkets are open throughout the day, Monday to Saturday. On Sunday some shops are open all day, particularly in shopping centres, while downtown shops often close at 1 pm or 3 pm. In summer, along the coast, shops are open seven days a week, and often as late as midnight.
Croatia is very safe country with very little street crime and almost no violence. However, as everywhere, take care of your belongings, especially when using public transport.
Land mines are still present but in remote areas where tourists rarely visit anyway.
Internet in Croatia is widely available. WiFi coverage is pretty good, with many towns offering free wifi hot spots at prominent places in a town. Most of private accommodation, as well as hotels, and even campsites, offer a free WiFi internet connection.
However, the internet in Croatia isn’t as fast as you are perhaps used to. The average internet download speed in Croatia is 12.5 Mbps.
Since summer 2017, roaming surcharges within EU countries don’t exist any longer. This means that, if you are with any EU mobile provider, you will pay the same prices for data, calls and SMS as you would pay at home.
However, roaming charges for other countries are still pretty high. You can purchase some of mobile operators packages either in your home country, or in Croatia.
In Croatia T-com sells 7-days unlimited surfing for 11€. It includes nano, micro, or sms card. You can buy these packages at gas stations, newsstands, T-com centers, and at Croatian post offices.
Is Croatia part of EU & Schengen visa regiment
Croatia is a member country of the EU. However, the country is still not a part of the Schengen visa regiment. This means that you’ll still need to show your documents at the border entering Croatia from the neighbouring EU countries, and vice versa.
If you have a valid Schengen visa, you don’t need a separate visa to visit Croatia, but Croatian visa alone won’t make you eligible to visit other European countries. You’ll need to apply separately for a Schengen visa.
Sea and sun are still two main reasons for so many people to visit Croatia. Croatia has over 6.000 km of coastline, and over 1.000 islands. Two most popular coastal regions are Istria to the north, and Dalmatia to the south.
Croatian coast is mostly rocky with pebble beaches mostly formed in coves, and bays. Makarska Riviera, located in central Dalmatia, offers the most beautiful beaches in all Croatia. Perfectly round and small pebbles that feel almost like a sand but that don’t stick on you forever.
The sea is limpid clear, you can often see the seabed from faraway. My in-laws have a seafront property in Komarna, in southern Dalmatia, and I can see the fish swim in the sea from the third floor of their house.
So, if you search for that perfect sandy beach, you might get disappointed with beaches in Croatia. Although there are some sandy beaches here too, they are simply not Croatian thing.
In Istria, coast is a bit rougher than in Dalmatia, and pebbles are rare to find. However, the beaches here feel less crowded, due to the well preserved coastline.
We’ve put together few posts on beaches in Croatia if you’d like to read further.
If you travel to and around Croatia by car, you might wonder about parking situation in Croatia. Generally speaking majority of hotels and private accommodation offer a parking spot free of charge.
However, bear in mind that city centres are usually car free zones, or have a limited car traffic. If your accommodation is within a city centre enquire about parking before booking.
There are three types of parking: garage parking, open air parking lots, and street parking. Expect to pay around 8 to 12 kn per hour in towns’ centers.
Parking in Dubrovnik is especially expensive, at some places as high as 75 kn per hour.
We talk more in-depth about parking in our destination guides. Don’t forget to check them once you decide on your destination.
You don’t speak Croatian? No worries, most of Croatians speak at least some English, and many speak at least another foreign language. Besides English, German and Italian are most widely spoken in Croatia.
Recommended travel guides
- Fodor’s Croatia Travel Guide (we are co-authors!).
- Lonely Planet Croatia Travel Guide
- Rick Steves’ Croatia & Slovenia
Further reading from our Croatia travel guide:
- Croatia Travel Guide: Things To Do In Croatia
- Ultimate Guide To Accommodation In Croatia
- Packing List For Vacation In Croatia
- How To Choose Your Destination In Croatia
- Where to go in Croatia: best places to visit in Croatia
- Car Rental In Croatia
- Driving In Croatia
- Cost of Travel To Croatia
- Croatia On Budget: Money-saving Tips
- Outdoor Activities in Croatia
- 49 Awesome Beaches In Croatia
- Snorkeling In Croatia
- White Water Rafting In Croatia
- 20 Must-Try Foods In Croatia
We hope you’ve found useful our Croatia Travel Guide. Is there anything else you’d like to know? Let us know in the comments below.