Getting around Croatia isn't really difficult, but it does require some planning. In this post, we share information and tips on traveling around Croatia to help you better plan your Croatian trip.
Public transport in Croatia is reliable and easy to use. Croatia's public transport consists, first of all, of an extensive bus and ferry network. You can also get around Croatia by plane. Train travel within Croatia is unfortunately very limited. If you decide to rent a car in Croatia, you'll find that the roads are in great condition and driving in Croatia is pretty easy.
Is it easy to travel around Croatia?
Generally speaking, traveling around Croatia is easy. Infrastructure is good, the public transport system, especially bus and ferry networks, is efficient and reliable, roads are in great condition, and the extensive network of multilane motorways connects the north with the south and east with the west.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The number of daily ferry and bus lines decreases significantly from November through April. And, even worse, some lines completely cease to operate (for example a catamaran between Dubrovnik and Split, via Korcula, Mljet, and Hvar, runs only from June to September).
Traffic jams on main motorway junctions and at the entrance to the popular resort towns are common in July and August. And even more so on rainy days when the majority of tourists head to the town instead to stay at the beach. Split suffers from some of the worst traffic jams in all of Croatia. This can delay your trip whether you travel on intercity buses or by car.
If there are too many people and cars, sometimes you won't get on your desired bus or ferry. This is particularly true for ferries, as they operate on a first come first serve basis and if a ferry is full, you'll need to wait for the next one. If you plan to travel on foot to the islands, and leave the car on the mainland, then normally you should be fine even at the last minute arrival.
The same can happen for people traveling on buses. Make sure you buy your ticket in advance either online or at the counter, and make sure you arrive at least half an hour before departure to be sure to embark on the bus.
Some regions of Croatia can have strong winds. This sometimes causes closures of the motorways. This is particularly true for the tunnel Sv. Roko on highway A1 (motorway sequence from Zadar to Gospic), Kikovica-Ostrovica sequence on the motorway A6 between Zagreb and Rijeka, and coastal road E65 between Senj and Karlobag.
Using public transport in Croatia is easier in some destinations than in others. Zagreb, for example, is well-connected with the rest of Croatia. The same is true for Dalmatia and Dubrovnik regions. You can easily move from Zadar, Split, or Dubrovnik by bus and even plan visits to smaller towns like Trogir, Omis, or Makarska.
However, moving around using buses in Istria or Croatian Islands is more challenging and in many instances not convenient at all, and sometimes it is simply impossible.
What is the best way to travel in Croatia?
Driving is the best way to travel around Croatia. Driving in Croatia is easy, and convenient, and it gives you lots of flexibility. Roads in Croatia are second to none, modern, wide, and easy to navigate.
Public transport is best suited for solo travelers and budget-conscious travelers. However, traveling on inter-city buses takes up too much time and it's not always the most convenient way to travel. Moreover, some destinations have limited bus networks, especially in Istria and Croatian islands.
Private transfers are an expensive option, but work best when you aren't comfortable driving yourself but would still like to enjoy the convenience and flexibility of traveling by car.
Shared transfers are rare in Croatia. You can find them sometimes between major destinations and the airport, like this shared transfer from Dubrovnik Airport to Cavtat, and Dubrovnik and Slano.
Carpooling can be an option for people who are on a tight budget and do have not too much time in Croatia but would like to visit more than one place. In this case, carpooling gives you the speed of a car at the price of the bus. BlaBla Car is the most popular carpooling service in Croatia, and it is widely used.
How much is transportation in Croatia?
Besides time and convenience, the budget plays a big role when deciding on the transport method you will use in Croatia. Here is what you can expect in terms of transportation costs in Croatia.
A one-way bus ticket from Zagreb to Split costs anywhere between 18 € and 25 €, from Zagreb to Dubrovnik is between 23 € and 30 €, while the bus ticket from Split to Dubrovnik will set you back around 20 € (although sometimes you can find ticket as cheap as 10 €, this is more a good luck than the rule).
Depending on the season, car rental in Croatia will cost you anywhere between 20 € to 90 € a day for a mini-size car. Add to that the cost of fuel at about 1,46 € per liter of diesel, or 1.34 € for Eurosuper 95. If you decide to use multilane highways in Croatia, you will need to pay road tolls. The road tolls amount to 16 € from Zagreb to Zadar, 24 € from Zagreb to Split, and 30.60 € from Zagreb to Ploce (last junction direction Dubrovnik).
Ferries are cheap for passengers but very expensive for vehicles. A ferry from Split to Stari Grad on the island of Hvar costs 7.3 € per person and 43.30 € for a car. A passenger catamaran from Split to Hvar Town will set you back 8.4 € per person. The ferry from Split to Supetar on the island of Brac costs 5.5 € per person and 22.6 € for a car. If you decide to visit Korcula from Orebic, the ferry will cost you 3.2 € per person and 12.2 € per car.
If you decide to fly from Zagreb to Dubrovnik it can set you back 100 € on average. However, sometimes you can get cheaper tickets if you purchase them early enough, if you fly during the low season, and if you use less popular flights (like early morning flight from Dubrovnik to Zagreb, or a late-night flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik). When we checked in January for flights in July, the rates were as low as 58 €. It pays to book early!
The cost of a private transfer depends on a vehicle (usually you will have a choice of a 3- or 7-person vehicle), and the distance. Expect to pay around 450 € for a 3-person transfer from Zagreb to Split, 350 € from Zagreb to Zadar, and 300 € from Split to Dubrovnik. The 8-person vehicles cost about the same, or just a little bit more, so if you are a bigger group, private transfers can be a really interesting option to travel around Croatia.
Flying is the fastest way to get around Croatia. But, with only one domestic carrier, Croatia Airlines, flying is not always the cheapest traveling option within Croatia.
The main airports are Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. However, only Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik airports serve international flights a year around. Although, just a limited number of them fly from November to April. Other airports are seasonal.
When to get around Croatia by plane?
- If you plan on visiting Dubrovnik from Zagreb, flying there is perhaps your best travel option. First, Dubrovnik is the southernmost town in Croatia. Second, the multi-lane highway goes only as south as Ploce. From Ploce to Dubrovnik you'll need to drive on a single-carriageway coastal road. Expect to pay around 100 € for a return ticket from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, or even less if you book early enough.
- If you would like to visit as many places as possible in whatever little time you have in Croatia, then you might consider flying one way and driving another. For example, if you fly into and out of Zagreb, you might rent a car, drive down south, stop along the way, and once you reach the southernmost point of your trip (Dubrovnik perhaps), you can drop off the car, and fly back to Zagreb.
Note: As there is only one carrier operating on national routes, your only chance to get an affordable ticket is to book early. We suggest you book directly with Croatia Airlines to secure the best deal. Alternatively, shop for the best deals on a CheapOAir website!
Getting around Croatia by bus
When it comes to public transportation in Croatia, buses are your best option. The bus network in Croatia is extensive. Buses are frequent, fairly reliable, and affordable (though not cheap).
Bus stations are usually in the center of town or within walking distance from the center. A price of a ticket includes your luggage too, although if you have a bicycle or additional bags, you will pay extra for the luggage.
There are many bus-operating companies in Croatia, and not a single one runs on all lines. The largest bus operators with extensive bus networks all over Croatia are Arriva (ex. Autotrans), Flixbus, Croatia Bus, and Cazmatrans.
The Getbybus does a fairly good job of aggregating different bus lines and schedules within Croatia. You can also book your tickets online through their website.
If you travel to or from Zagreb, the Zagreb bus station has a good overview of timetables for all buses, and you can buy tickets online. You can also visit the website of larger bus operators for additional information. Arriva also has a good user-friendly website.
When to travel around Croatia by bus?
- You plan to spend enough time in Croatia, like two weeks or more, and you won't mind spending additional time traveling by bus.
- You only need to go from point A to point B, and then stay put.
- If you are a solo traveler or a couple on a budget, a bus is perhaps your cheapest option to travel around Croatia. For larger groups and families, it can get as expensive as renting a car.
- You don't feel comfortable driving on Croatian roads.
- If you don't plan on traveling on the bus around islands, or in Istria. These are the only places in Croatia where local buses are infrequent and not your best travel option.
Whether you travel by your own car or plan on renting a car, driving is definitely the best way of getting around Croatia.
Croatia is small and getting around by car is, not only the most comfortable but often the fastest way to get around. It takes less than 4-hours drive to reach Split from Zagreb, just over two hours to reach Rovinj, Plitvice Lakes, and Porec, and less than three hours to reach Zadar. Dubrovnik is the only faraway place to travel in Croatia by car (but that road trip offers the best scenery ever, and it's totally worth the effort).
When to move around Croatia by car?
Decide on moving around Croatia by car in the following situations:
- If you like to make impromptu stops along the way and explore the less-visited places and the countryside.
- If you like road trips.
- Those who travel in a group, or a bigger family, will often find that traveling in Croatia by car is the cheapest option.
- Those planning to visit Istria and explore the region.
- If you plan to travel around any of the Croatian islands.
- If you have very little time but would like to visit a few places.
Note: Many people making a round trip in Croatia, often combine flying and driving. They either fly from north to south (eg. from Zagreb to Dubrovnik) and then rent a car and make their way up north, or vice versa.
Ferries are often the only way to reach islands. So sooner or later, you will end up using a ferry to get around Croatia.
The largest ferry company is Jadrolinija, operating the majority of routes with its extensive fleet of ferries and catamarans. Besides Jadrolinija, on some routes, you'll also find other operators like Kapetan Luka, TP Line, Rapska plovidba, and Mia Tours.
Kapetan Luka has four lines, three sailing between Split, Hvar, Brac, Korcula, Mljet, and Dubrovnik; and one line sailing between Pula, Unije, Susak, Mali Lošinj, Ilovik, Silba, and Zadar.
TP Line offers connection on four lines. Two lines sail between Dubrovnik, Korcula, Lastovo, Elafiti Islands, and Mljet, while the other two lines operate between Split, Brac, Hvar, Korcula, Mljet, and Dubrovnik.
You can book a ferry ticket online for Jadrolinija, TP Line, and Kapetan Luka ferries. Other companies sell tickets only at the counter. A Bookaway website is also a good place to shop for ferry tickets online.
tips on traveling around Croatia by ferries
In summer, ferries are crowded, and you should arrive at least two hours prior to departure in order to board a ferry.
When you arrive at the ferry terminal, line your car for boarding immediately, then go to the counter to buy a ticket. Ferries operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you don't make it to the first ferry, you'll need to wait for another one.
Ferries are cheap if you don't travel by car. Should you take a car on a ferry depends heavily on how you plan to spend your time on an island. If you plan just to visit a ferry port village, then you won't need a car. But if you plan to explore an island, you'll need a car.
You can also get around an island by bus, but buses are infrequent, and often don't leave enough time for a visit. You can also consider renting a car on the island in order to save on a ferry. But if you plan to do so, make sure you book your car rental well in advance. In high season it's hard to find an available car on the spot.
You can also visit some islands on a private or group boat tour. These tours are available in all coastal towns. An island tour is usually to the nearest islands, and it includes lunch on board. The most popular island tours are The 5 Islands Tour from Split, Elafiti Island Trip from Dubrovnik, and this Full Day Sailing Trip to Kornati from Zadar.
Some islands, like Lopud, Kolocep, or Silba, are car-free islands.
Taxis are still expensive in Croatia, except in Zagreb and Rijeka. Taxi service is heavily regulated, and fares are fixed. Taxi-meter is a norm, so make sure your driver turns it on.
UberX is available in Zagreb and Split all year round, and in coastal towns like Dubrovnik, Zadar, or Rovinj only in the high season (June to October). Uber in Croatia only works with licensed drivers.
In short, don't plan much on using taxis, unless you don't mind spending lots of money.
BlaBlaCar, a carpooling platform, is very popular in Croatia and many people use it. In fact, my sister-in-law who works in Vienna, but has family in Zagreb, travels every weekend from Vienna to Zagreb and back to Vienna using BlaBlaCar.
The rides aren't really cheap. Usually, they cost as much as a bus ride. However, the main advantage of carpooling is the time, as you will arrive quicker than if you travel by bus.
Although Croatia is a very safe country, I wouldn't recommend hitchhiking your way around. Vera claims she hitchhiked around Croatia a lot when she was in high school. But these days you don't see many hitchhikers on a road, and you see even fewer cars picking these few up.
Recommended travel guides
- Fodor's Croatia Travel Guide (we are co-authors!)
- Lonely Planet Croatia Travel Guide
- Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia
We've got lots of good stuff here at our Croatia Travel Guide and Blog, stick around, read further, and let us know if we can help with anything regarding your travel to Croatia.
- A Complete Travel Guide To Croatia: 34 Things To Know Before Travelling To Croatia
- Tips For First-Time Travel To Croatia
- Car Rental In Croatia
- Ultimate Packing List For Vacation In Croatia
- Things To Do In Croatia
- Croatia Travel Budget: How Much Money You'll Need In Croatia
- Money-saving Tips For Croatia
- Where To Have Local, Cheap And Delicious Meals In Croatia
- How To Choose Your Destination In Croatia
- Where To Go In Croatia: Best Places To Visit In Croatia
- A Complete Guide To Accommodation In Croatia
- Driving in Croatia
- Must-try Croatian Food
- How To Get From Split To Dubrovnik And From Dubrovnik To Split
Do you still have a question? Please leave them in the comments below.