Croatia Travel Guide: Things To Know Before Traveling To Croatia

Welcome to our Croatia Travel Guide where you will find all the information you need for planning a trip to Croatia.

Croatia is an emerging tourist destination. When I think of Croatia, I associate it with small, safe, sublime, pebbles, islands, sea, countryside. The country has over a thousand islands, 8 national parks, 11 nature parks, over 6.000 km of coastline, and ten World Heritage sites.

Croatia Travel Guide | 34 Things To Know Before Traveling To Croatia, Illustration
Croatia Travel Guide | 34 Things To Know Before Traveling To Croatia

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 15 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.

Coronavirus in Croatia

Whether you had your trip to Croatia planned for later this year, you own a property in Croatia, or you are just pure curious how Croatia is fighting SARS-COV-2, we wrote a post on the whole situation. Please get all information in this Coronavirus in Croatia blog.

Where is Croatia located?

Before moving forward let's get the basic facts sorted out. Croatia is located in Europe! It is a Central European and Mediterranean country. Croatia is bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the west. Croatia shares borders with Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro. The longest land border it shares with Bosnia, and the longest sea border, it shares with Italy.

Below you will find a location of Croatia on the map.

Where is Croatia located
A location of Croatia within Europe | Photo credit: TUBS / CC BY-SA

Do you need a visa?

The majority of foreign visitors don't need a visa to enter Croatia, including, but not limited to, EU countries, the UK, the 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 expiry date at least three months after the intended departure date from Croatia.

All questions regarding visa you can send via [email protected]

Weather in Croatia

A couple kayaking in the Adriatic sea at sunset
A couple kayaking in the Adriatic sea at sunset

Croatia has three distinct climates: the 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 is around 22°C.

Money in Croatia

While Croatia is a part of the European Union, the country still doesn't use the euro as a common currency. Croatian currency is Kuna (short: Kn), and that is the best currency to use in Croatia. The exchange rate is at about 7,6 Kn per 1 €, 7,0 Kn per 1 $, and 8,6 Kn per 1 £.

Euro is also a good currency to have in Croatia. Euros are widely used in Croatia especially when paying 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 favorable than at the exchange offices.

Exchanging the money in Croatia

The majority of the exchange offices advertise “no commission policy”. While it is true that they don't charge the typical commission, they do set their own exchange rates. These rates, in summer 2019, were anywhere from 7,2 Kn for a Euro (just a bit lower than the official exchange rate set by Croatian National Bank), to as low as 6,5 Kn per 1 €. Beware of these discrepancies, and shop around for the best rate.

ATM machines in Croatia

When withdrawing money from the ATM, try to use official banks' ATM machines (they should have a sign of one of the Croatian banks like Zagrebacka, Privredna OTP, Erste, or Adikko bank). These ATM machines are usually near a bank's branch offices.

In resorts and hotels, you'll more often find Euronet (blue and yellow) or Auro Domus ATM machines (yellow and black). While they are often located at more prominent spots in towns, hotels and resorts, and thus more convenient to use, they are also more expensive to use. However, if the convenience is more important to you than a few euros here and there, go ahead and use these machines as well.

Credit cards in Croatia

Although credit cards are widely accepted in Croatia, they aren't accepted everywhere. One of the first things you will notice in Croatia is the abundance of ATM machines wherever you go. Smaller businesses, as well as some restaurants and bars, prefer cash. A general rule of thumb is that if you see a credit card sticker at the door or near the cashier, then you should be able to pay by credit card. But, the only safe way to know, is to actually ask.

Another thing regarding the money that you need to be aware of is the so-called dynamic currency conversion. This basically means that the amount of your credit card transaction is converted to your home currency at the point of sale (rather than by card issuer).

In hotels or restaurants, or just about anywhere where you intend to pay by credit card, the staff might ask you if you prefer the charge in local currency (Kuna), or in your own currency. While theoretically, you might profit sometimes from being charged in your own currency by a merchant on the spot, it rarely happens in reality. You will just end up paying more than you otherwise would. So always choose to pay in local currency. Or ask for the exchange rate and compare it with the one you find that day on the internet.

When is the high season in Croatia?

The high season in Croatia is from mid-June to mid-September. The peak travel time includes the last week of July and the first two weeks of August.

However, the busiest time is not always the best time to visit Croatia.

Best time to visit Croatia

The best time of the year to visit Croatia is in June and September. There are far fewer 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. And vice versa.

What to bring to Croatia

We all have our own rules and tricks when it comes to packing. However, we’ll give you a few ideas on what to bring to, and what to wear in Croatia.

Croatia has four seasons, and three distinctive climates: Mediterranean climate along the coast, mountain climate on its rugged mountains, and a continental climate inland.

This means that if you are visiting Croatia during the summer the majority of your clothes should be light. Nevertheless, a windbreaker jacket, and a pair of long pants, and leggings always come in handy. For the rest, take a couple of shorts and tops that you can mix and match, or a few casual summer dresses. Don't forget your beachwear including swimsuits and cover-ups, water shoes, sunglasses, and a microfiber towel. A pair of sandals and a pair of walking shoes are also a must, as well as a travel money belt.

Also, with luggage restrictions and weight limits, it's worth investing in lightweight luggage for your travel to Croatia.

As for the rest, don't forget your photo equipment (with plenty of extra batteries); waterproof phone bag; adapters and converters (Croatia uses 220V, 50 Hz frequency, and type C & F plugs. Both are similar plugs with two round prongs with 19 mm between the two); and other small things you will find indispensable in Croatia.

Here is our full post on what to bring to, and what to wear in Croatia. 

Getting to Croatia

Traveling 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 connected by plane with the rest of Europe throughout the year. For detailed information on flights scheduled to Croatia consult the Skyscanner website.

We've also recently found out about Scott's cheap flights' program. They basically search for airline mistakes or intentionally great deals and email them to you. We haven't used it ourselves, but it seems worth a try (they have a free plan too).

Croatia Travel Guide, Illustration for pinterest
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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 the GetByBus website to check and book intercity buses in Croatia and beyond.

You can also check with a local bus station once you are in a 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 make 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 traveling by train to Croatia. However, if you really have to, you can find more information on the 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.

Getting around Croatia

The best way to travel around Croatia is by car. Croatia is a 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 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 traveling 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 online.

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.

Public transportation in bigger towns is reliable and efficient. Split, Rijeka, Zadar, Pula, and Dubrovnik use city buses, while Zagreb has an extensive network of electric trams. Public transport costs around 2€ per ride.

Taxis are generally pricey (except in Zagreb and Rijeka), but since Uber entered the market back in 2015, cab's ride started getting more affordable. UberX is available in the majority of popular tourist towns like Zagreb, Split, Rovinj, Dubrovnik, Zadar, etc.. Uber is by far the cheapest taxi option in Croatia. However, Uber also dynamically adjusts its prices to demand, and prices generally increase during the main tourist season.

Here is our full post on how to get around Croatia.

Croatia holiday destinations

One of the most common questions we get is where to go in Croatia. Many visitors who travel to Croatia for the first time tend to visit the main tourist towns and attractions, like ZagrebSplit, Plitvice, Hvar, and Dubrovnik. However, Croatia is full of hidden gems, charming villages, wonderful natural sites, and beautiful beaches.

Where to go depends heavily on the type of traveler you are, things you want to do in Croatia, the time you plan to spend in Croatia, and your budget.

We have written extensive travel guides on the following holiday destinations in Croatia:

National parks

With a surface of just over 56.000 m2, Croatia is rather a small country. However, due to its geographical location, geomorphological 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 strict reserves. Almost 10% of the country's territory is protected. National parks of Kornati, Brijuni, and Mljet are located on the islands and characterized by rich marine life. The Risnjak, Northern Velebit, and Paklenica national parks cover mountainous areas. 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, the old town of 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. Here is our list of 10 Unesco World Heritage Sites in Croatia not to be missed.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Croatia, Illustration
A lovely seafront apartment in Komarna

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 of each of them.

Croatia offers a variety of accommodation to choose from: hotels, hostels, apartments, 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 a 4-star family destination. However, some destinations are fancier than others. This is particularly true for Dubrovnik, Hvar Town, and partially Rovinj.

We've written extensive guides on accommodation in the following destinations in Croatia:

Hotels in Croatia

A good choice of 5-star hotels you’ll find in Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rovinj, and Losinj Island. All-inclusive resorts aren’t popular in Croatia, although some hotels offer all-inclusive formula. All-inclusive Croatia mostly refers to a full board meal plan with unlimited selected drinks at mealtimes. Many hotels in Croatia offer a half-board meal plan, and dinner often comes cheap when purchased as a part of a room rate.

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 the hotel’s official website. Sometimes hotels offer special deals available only through their website.

Read our full post on hotels in Croatia.

Apartments in Croatia

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 rating. The most popular websites for apartment rentals in Croatia are Booking.com, HomeAway, and Airbnb.

Here is our full post on apartments in Croatia if you wish to read further.

Villas in Croatia

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! Or, read our full post on villas in Croatia.

Campsites

Croatia is also a very popular camping destination. There are lots of campsites all along the coast, and just a few of them in continental Croatia.

Popular campsites in Croatia include Lanterna in Porec, Valkanela in Vrsar, 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 the Croatian Camping Association.

Driving

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. A one-way fee from Zagreb to Split (approx. 400 km) costs 200 Kn (27 € / 30 $)*.

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.

Read more: Full post on driving in Croatia you can find here.

*prices checked in May 2020

Renting a car

Car Rental in Croatia, Illustration
Car Rental in Croatia | Croatia Travel Guide

The best way to explore Croatia is by car. And if you don’t travel in 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.

Full post on car rental in Croatia you can find here.

Tourist registration

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 the next morning) your passport or an ID card.

Food

Must-try Croatian food, illustration
Must-try Croatian food

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, other seafood and green veggies.

As a traveler, you might also make some false assumption based on a food offer in touristy restaurants along the coast. These restaurants often offer what tourists aks for, and not necessarily a typical Croatian dishes.

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 the best places to eat in Croatia. Istrian restaurants rank the highest on this list.

Drinking

The tap water is safe to drink in Croatia. However, if you still prefer to drink bottled water, bear in mind that bottled water is extremely expensive here. For instance, a 1.5 L bottle of natural water costs around 6 Kn in a supermarket, three times more expensive than in Italy.

The 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, the 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 many microbreweries started putting on a market a more appealing craft beer, like San Servolo, LAB or Zmajska pivovara.

Spirits are very popular in Croatia, and they come in a variety of flavors. Here they are called rakija. The basic one is most often produced from grapes (called Loza), but then they are flavored 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

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 depends on the 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 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.

We recommend buying travel insurance from WorldNomads.com. Available to people from 140 countries, it’s designed for adventurous travelers. And it covers an overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home.

Tours and activities

Things To Do In Croatia, illustration
A sailing boat in the Adriatic Sea at the sunset

Croatia offers a lot of activities to do for all ages and all year round. The country is rich in history, natural beauty, ancient 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 stuff 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.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love Omis, Paklenica, and Cicarija. They all offer an endless choice of adventures to enjoy.

We’ve written a full post on things to do in Croatia. You can also check the Get Your Guide website for a full list of tours and activities in Croatia.

Itineraries

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 the 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, as well as queues for ferries.

If you stay a week or ten days, you can visit a few highlights, like Zagreb, Plitvice, Split, and Dubrovnik.

Suggested week itineraries

a | ZagrebPlitvice LakesSplitHvarDubrovnik

b | Dubrovnik – Peljesac Peninsula – Korcula – Split – Zagreb

c | Zagreb – Plitvice Lakes – Istria

Suggested two-week itineraries

a | Zagreb – OpatijaIstriaPlitvice LakesZadar – Krka Waterfalls – SplitBrac Island – Korcula – PeljesacDubrovnik

If you prefer to join a group tour, we highly recommend checking tours proposed via Tour Radar. They have a classical coach and boat tours, but they also have a great choice of adventure, cycling, and various themed tours.

Here are few suggested group tours found on Tour Radar:

Croatia & Adriatic Cruise

This 10-day tour gives you the best of continental Croatia and the Adriatic. The tour starts in Zagreb, and ends in Dubrovnik, with a visit to 10 other destinations in between. We like that this tour takes you to the island of Vis, one of our favorite islands in Croatia. You also get to see Korcula, Hvar, Brac, and Mljet islands. The small cruise ship can fit 38 passengers in 20 air-conditioned cabins. The ship is pretty new, launched first in 2013.

Check availability and prices!

Best of Croatia and Slovenia

This 11-day discovery coach tour starts in Zagreb and ends in Dubrovnik. However, it's packed full of exciting destinations in Croatia, and neighboring Slovenia including Ljubljana, Bled, Rovinj, Opatija, Plitvice, Trogir, Split, and Peljesac peninsula. You will get to see many great destinations in a short period of time, while still having ample time on your own. The tour also includes one special “Be my guest” dinner where you get a chance to experience a traditional meal with a local family.

Check availability and prices!

Croatia Island Hopper from Split

This 8-day island hopping tour operated by Busabout is the single most popular tour in Croatia on Tour Radar. The boat tour starts and ends in Split with stops in Hvar, Mljet, Dubrovnik, Korcula, Makarska and Omis. Bear in mind that Busabout boat tours are intended a bit more toward the younger crowd.

Check availability and prices!

Cycling the Dalmatian Coast

A small group tour takes you from Split to Dubrovnik in 8 days on your bicycle. The tour provides accommodation, meals, and transportation. You'll get a chance to test your cycling abilities in Hvar and Korcula Island, along the Peljesac peninsula and Dubrovnik. The tour is intended for all levels of cyclists. The scenery along the route is lovely.

Check availability and prices!

One week multisport tour through 4 national parks

This 8-day tour takes you paddling across Kornati national park, hiking, rock climbing, and bungee jumping (optional) in Paklenica national park, cycling through Krka national park with a planned stop along the way in Sladic Winery, and a visit to Plitvice Lakes national park. Expect anywhere between 3 to 6 hours of activities every day, but nothing over-exhausting, rather at laid back pace. The tour starts and ends on the island of Murter.

Check availability and prices!

Shopping

Shopping in Croatia | Croatia Travel Guide
Shopping in Croatia | Croatia Travel Guide

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 Spar.

Supermarkets are open throughout the day, Monday to Saturday. On Sunday some shops are open all day, particularly in shopping centers, 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.

Is Croatia a safe place?

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.

Croatia travel guide: Internet

The 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 the private accommodation, as well as hotels, and even campsites offer a free WiFi internet connection.

However, the broadband internet in Croatia isn't as fast as you are perhaps used to. At least it's not as fast everywhere in Croatia. In bigger towns, the internet is fast, easily available, and reliable. According to the Speedtest.net, Croatia has the 10th fastest download speed for mobile internet in the whole world. But, the fixed broadband is pretty slow (Croatia takes the 72nd place on the global scale).

The average internet download speed in Croatia in March 2020 was 55,13 Mbps for mobile, and 35,93 Mbps for fixed broadband.

Roaming charges

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 back home.

How free is free? You need to check with your provider what's the amount of roaming data within the EU. For example, we have a flat rate for internet data in our mobile phone rate package. But, when we spent two months in Spain in winter 2020, we realized that we have only 10 GB of data free of charge in other EU countries.

So while the roaming data is free in the EU, the free data isn't unlimited. Anyways, 10 GB is pretty enough, unless you are binge-watching Netflix shows for hours at times. I hope you don't do that on vacation!

However, roaming charges for other countries are still pretty high. You can purchase some of the 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 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 neighboring 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.

Beaches

Beaches In Croatia, illustration
A lovely pebbly beach in Dalmatia

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. The 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 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, the 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 a post on the best beaches in Croatia if you’d like to read further.

Parking in Croatia

If you travel to and around Croatia by car, you might wonder about the parking situation in Croatia. Generally speaking the majority of hotels and private accommodation offer a parking spot free of charge.

However, bear in mind that city centers are usually car-free zones or have limited car traffic. If your accommodation is within a city center 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 town centers. However, some parking is more expensive, like parking at Riva in Split that cost 20 Kn for the first hour, and 25 Kn every consecutive hour; then, Dubrovnik, where you will pay an hour of parking in Zone 0 as much as 75 Kn.

We talk more in-depth about parking in our destination guides. Don't forget to check them once you decide on your destination.

Do people speak English in Croatia?

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 the most widely spoken languages in Croatia.

Is Croatia expensive to travel to?

Croatia isn't a cheap place to visit. It's more expensive than the neighboring countries, like Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, or Hungary.

Generally speaking, continental Croatia and Zagreb, in particular, keep prices moderate to I would dare to say even cheap.  However, the coast is mostly expensive, and the prices tend to increase year after year.

That said, if you travel on a tight budget, you can still keep it under control. Stay away from top destinations (visit them but sleep somewhere else), come in the off-season, explore places off-the-beaten-path, forget hotels, choose instead an apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen and prepare your own meals, ask locals for good value restaurants, etc.

Check our budget tips for traveling in Croatia, and also a post on total Croatia travel costs.

Tipping in Croatia

People often ask us what's a tipping etiquette in Croatia. In short, tipping isn't necessary but it is widely appreciated and accepted.

The majority of Croatians, in bars and restaurants, simply round up the bill. We on the other hand, out of a habit, always leave around 10%, and only if we are satisfied with the service.

If you are taking the group bus tour, someone will usually collect the tips for the driver and the guide at the end of the tour. Here, usually, people chip in what they feel appropriate.

What time zone Croatia is in?

Croatia belongs to Central European Time Zone, meaning it is one hour ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), and two hours ahead of GMT when daylight saving time is observed.

Daylight saving time makes us move our watches one hour ahead. It takes place from the last Sunday in March until last Sunday in October.

Find here time differences of some major towns when compared to Croatia:

  • Barcelona: 0
  • London: – 1 hour
  • Montreal: – 6 hours
  • New York City: -6 hours
  • L.A.: -9 hours
  • Chicago: -7 hours
  • Tokyo: +7 hours
  • Sydney: +8 hours

If you are traveling from overseas, you will certainly experience jet-lag when visiting Croatia. You can check this no jet lag homeopathic remedy to ease your symptoms.

How much is VAT in Croatia and is it refundable?

At the moment, VAT in Croatia is 25%, but it should go down to 24% as of January, 1st 2020.

If you are a foreigner without permanent or temporary residence in Croatia, you can ask for a tax refund for all purchases above 740 Kn (100 €).

Ask the salesperson for the tax-free form at the moment of purchase. Fill-it up, get it stamped right there, and then again at the airport, or at the border by a customs officer. You have six months from the purchase date to claim your VAT return by mailing it back to the shop where you originally bought the item.

Another way to achieve a VAT tax refund is to look for the shops that are part of the Global Blue Tax-Free service. They all have a sign displayed in the window along with the working hours, and credit cards that they accept. The procedure is similar (fill up the tax-free form, get it stamped at the shop, and in the airport), but the refund is quicker and can be obtained already at the airport, in the Global Blue's office. Here is the procedure explained in detail. 

Croatia plugs, adapters and converters

Croatia uses 220V, 50 Hz frequency, and standard European type C & F plugs. Both are similar plugs with two round prongs with 19 mm between the two.

If plugs of your devices are different,  you will certainly need an adapter in order to charge them. You can find one here.

While adapters will help you use your plugs in Croatia, converters will help transform voltages from hire to smaller or vice versa. If you need a converter you can easily buy one on the Amazon.

Recommended travel guides

Further reading from our Croatia travel guide

We hope you've found our Croatia Travel Guide useful. Is there anything else you'd like to know? Let us know in the comments below.

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47 thoughts on “Croatia Travel Guide: Things To Know Before Traveling To Croatia”

  1. Hi we plan to travel to Croatia in July 2020. I am trying to convince my husband to rent a car but he is worried about driving in a foreign country. Can you give any opinion on this topic? I am more worried about the inconsistency of travelling by train and having to wait and plan with the transportation schedules, as well as carrying luggage everywhere.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  2. You stated that it is probably best to request credit charges be made in kuna, rather than US currency. If my credit card does not charge a foreign transaction fee, would that still be true?

    Reply
    • Hi Marcia,
      this is the exact reason why we suggest that you take your charges in Kuna. Because your credit card doesn’t charge you a transaction fee. If you take it in your home country, then Croatian bank will charge the transaction fee, or rather they will use the less favorable exchange rate, so they make money. Just keep it in the local currency, even more so if your credit card doesn’t charge these fees. Hope this helps.

  3. Firstly, congratulations on your brilliant web site, so helpful to first time visitors to Croatia. We are staying on Korcula at the end of September, would you recommend booking the ferry, and if so which is the best web site to use?

    Reply
  4. Thanks for all the info. We are coming from Canada for a 10 day stay beginning of July. We fly in & out of Zagreb but want to see Split & go up north for a bit too to see some family birthplaces. How much time do you recommend for each city stay & absolute must sees while we are there?

    Reply
  5. Epic post Frank! I’ve spent the last couple of summers sailing around Croatia and think it’s incredible. Favorite island is most probably Kos. Have some great memories of playing cricket with some of the locals. Cant wait to get back!

    Reply
  6. This was amazing and super helpful! For first timers going to Croatia (about a week) where do you recommend going? Was planning for a July trip, but your post sort of scared me to be mentally prepared ha!

    Do you ever work with readers to come up with an itinerary?

    This was super helpful! Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Great info…thank you very much.
    My Bride and I will be in Croatia from Sep 11 to Sep 20. We will arriving in Dubrovnik and leaving from Zagreb.
    We are planing to stay 3 days in Dubrovnik, 3 in Split and 2 in Zagreb. Would you recommend any changes to this and what places around those three cities are a must? We will have a car. We love waterfronts, small (Mom & Pop) licensed restaurants, some beach time and sightseeing.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Mário & Fatima Sousa…….Mississauga, Canada

    Reply
  8. Hi Frank! Thank you for all of the info. I am a bit overwhelmed. My husband, 2 adult daughters and I are planning our trip to Croatia in late May/early June 2019 for a week to 10 days. We love adventures! What itinerary would you suggest?

    Reply
  9. Great info, thank you. We are planning our trip for Sept/Oct 2019, touring around Croatia and neighboring countries for 2 weeks. Planning on staying just outside of Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik. We are travelling from Canada, renting a car and booking Apartments and BnB’s. Wondering if there would be any significant differences between September and October for weather, costs, tourism, crowds, etc.
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  10. Hey,

    Your blog is really helpful.

    We are from India and we are planning to visit croatia in the last week of february, 2019. And we are majorly looking to cover North (Alps, Gorski Kotar) and South (the beaches and other popular places).

    Since we are not fully aware of the weather conditions in Feb, I wanted to ask whether it is decent enough to travel in feb? without any complications brought in by weather?

    Reply
  11. I am planning a week-long trip to Croatia in September with 8 young adult family members. Is it best to go from city to city staying in a hotel, rent a villa one place and do day trips or rent a boat and go down the coast?
    Amy

    Reply
  12. Thanks for all the great advice. For a two week holiday, can you suggest which towns to stay in? I’d love to visit Zagreb, Plitvice, KrKra, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik. I’d like to stay in two or three places and do the rest from there.

    Reply
    • You can stay in Zagreb for a day, Plitvice either for a day or in transit from Zagreb to Split, Hvar for 2-3 days if you want to visit the entire island; otherwise book an island tour from Split. So if you only want to stay in two or three of these towns, make it Zagreb, SPlit and Dubrovnik, because they are best located to do day trips elsewhere.

  13. Great blog. Thanks for the info. We – fellow Canadians – plan to spend Jan to Mar 2019 in Croatia, basically in the Trogir area. We’d appreciate any further thoughts you’d wish to pass on.

    Reply
  14. I would like to know about tipping in Croatia for bus drivers and tour guides. Our travel club is bring a group to Croatia in May 2019.

    Reply
    • I always go with 10% when in restaurants. As for the rest, you give what you feel. Normally, you collect from the entire group and you give it at the end of trip if you were happy with the service. I am not aware that there is a tipping rule for drivers and guides as for how much should you tip. You basically tip what you feel they deserve.

  15. Hi..We are planning to visit next year..Have children who will be agedelivered 11 and 13..are there things for them to do?

    Reply
  16. Hi there. Thanks for all the information. So useful! Question re timing. I would head over in the September holidays to beat the crowds but want to check most of the bars etc are still open all year round. Sometimes in countries like Japan where we lived for 8 years they are very strict on seasons and so going outside (even slightly) means u go to a great beach bar only to find it closed. Thanks

    Reply
  17. Thank you for your blog and the very valuable information you provide. My family (a total of 16 of us) are visiting Croatia at the end of this month. 3 of us are from BC Canada so it has been even more exciting to hear what you have to share.

    Reply
  18. Hello
    Just found your blog and its just what i,m after, so much information. I am visiting Croatia next month with my son, we are staying near Trogir. I was going to take kuna but you say most places take Euros?
    I have rented a car and plan to travel around a bit.
    Thanks Karl

    Reply
  19. I am watching the World Cup finaland cheering for the team! I decided to visit the beautiful country in 2019 with my family. Look forward to it!

    Reply
  20. We’re going in September to visit Lokve, where my husband’s people are from. Have you been there? Can you tell us anything about it? Thanks!

    Reply
  21. We are currently in Croatia and it is just beautiful. The water shades from turquoise to deep blue and the rocky hills provide a beautiful contrast in the landscape.

    We stayed rather in the south and we took the E65 coastal road. If you have time to spare and you are not in a hurry, I recommend this road compared to the highway. I wish I could describe it but I will never be able to narrate the full picture, so I made a short clip on our journey that I wish to share.

    It is on YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKEiQI4NOos&t=60s

    Reply
    • thanks for sharing, Lynn! Great clip, it shows well what to expect. However, most of the video is made in the northern part of the road, between Rijeka and Zadar.

  22. Hello, very nice blog of yours! I was wondering what area you would suggest a family of four to stay in. A place that is child friendly and filled with entertainment is something I had in mind, but would like to know what places wold exactly fit my needs. Thank you!

    Reply
  23. Hello, very nice blog of yours! I was wondering what area you would suggest a family of four to stay in. A place that is child friendly and filled with entertainment is something I had in mind, but would like to know what places wold exactly fit my needs. Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Hi there, me and my husband have been trawling the internet looking for ideas of where to visit with our two children (2 & 9 years) and we’ve stumbled upon your AMAZING site. It’s literally a godsend!!
    Please could i pick your brains and ask where you would best recommend? We love the beach, history and lovely food!!
    Any advice would be so gratefully recived!

    Reply
  25. Hi, loving the information on your website. We are coming to Croatia for 2 weeks from the 6th of September, and are wondering if you think we need to pre-book accommodation or should we be able to book a few days in advance?
    Cheers, Karen

    Reply
  26. Hi Frank, just found your website and love it. My husband and I will be vacationing from US to Croatia from Sept. 5 to 19. First time. Don’t plan on seeing the entire country on this visit but would like a few highlights. We will land in Split and leave from Dubrovnik. Are there any and can you recommend a private tour guide company?

    Reply
  27. Hi – so glad I stumbled upon your wonderful post ! We are thinking of travelling to valamar island in July . I am concerned it will be very busy and hugely commercial ? X

    Reply
    • Hi Colleen,
      if you would like to receive our newsletter, please sign up for it through the website. Let us know if we can help with anything regarding your upcoming trip to Croatia.

  28. Hi. Will be in Croatia July 17-31. We’d love to book a 3-5 day sailing or yacht trip around the islands. Possibly start and end in Split. Do you have any recommendations?

    Reply
  29. I have been to Croatia with my mum last year and this charming country won our hearts, Frank! I still haven’t crossed Dubrovnik off my bucket list, but your post was truly inspiring. I guess now I have plenty of more reasons to explore magnificent Croatia!

    Reply
  30. Hi Frank,

    Really enjoy your detailed travel guide! My gf and I (early/mid 20’s) are traveling to Dubrovnik, Croatia next week and we plan to rent a car for about 10-11 days. Our plan is do explore the coast of Croatia, spend some time in several cities and eventually make our way to Slovenia where we’ll return the car.

    Do you have any advice with regard to having the “luggage” of the car, and doing trips to islands and etc.? We want the car to have the flexibility, but we may not use it EVERY day. We also don’t want to try and pack too much into the week and a half we are in Croatia. There is the potential we stay longer, but we thought it may be neat to make our way up to Slovenia, spend a few days there then make our way to Austria for a week.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  31. Hi guys, we love your blog and passion for Croatia. We are a family run business, that runs 3 adventure bases in Croatia. We only employ local staff and follow green responsible policies. We would love to talk about working with you. Whats your best mobile number?

    Reply

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