If you are visiting Croatia for the first time, you might wonder what driving in Croatia might be like. Don't worry about it! Here in this guide, you will find all you need to know if you plan to drive in Croatia.
The best way to explore Croatia is by car. No doubt about that! The country is small, roads are generally in good condition, and you can simply see so much even if you plan to visit Croatia only for a short period of time.
Contents For Driving in Croatia
Driving in Croatia: General Information
In order to drive in Croatia, you will need a valid driver's license from your home country, unless your driver's license is written in other letters but Latin. In that case, you will need an international driver's license.
If you get pulled over you might also be asked to show your passport or ID. Keep it somewhere handy in case this happens.
In Croatia, we drive on the right side, and we follow the same common road rules as elsewhere in the world.
A hatched line means that you can take over, while a solid line means that passing isn't allowed.
You will need to wear your seatbelt at all times. This applies to all seats in the car that feature a seatbelt, even for the backseats. A child seat is required for all children with a height of less than 135 cm. Children higher than 150 cm can use the front seat.
You will need to have headlights on from November, 1st until March, 31st. A similar rule applies to winter tires (or having snow chains in the car): they are mandatory from November 15th until April, 15th on all winter road sections. In other words, you can drive in Istria and Dalmatia (from Zadar to Konavle) without winter equipment. In all other areas, you will need it. Here you can see the map of winter roads (those in blue and green).
You can't use a mobile phone while driving. You can use hand-free devices.
In the absence of other priority rules, follow the right-hand rule: this means that you need to give way to the traffic to your right. Observe stop sign even when you don't think it is needed. Speed limits are posted on the signs along the roads.
Generally speaking, a speed limit on motorways is 130 km/h, 90 km/h on open roads, and the inner-city speed limit is 50 km/h. There are of course exemptions to the rules on specific road sequences. Follow the signage and observe the speed limit at all times.
Roads in Croatia
Roads in Croatia are generally in good condition and quite smooth. For most parts, they are asphalted and without potholes. However, some roads, especially on islands, and off-the-beaten-track destinations, can also be narrow, windy, and not featuring the protective fence. The Croatian government continuously invests in the improvement of road infrastructure.
The multilane motorways run from the north to the south, and from the east to the west, with only a few exceptions. Exceptions include a road section between Ploce and Dubrovnik and a road section from Rijeka to Pazin in Istria. These sections feature modern, well-maintained wide and fast roads, but with a single carriageway.
Getting from Zagreb to Zadar, Split or Dubrovnik
A1 motorway, popularly called Dalmatina, connects Zagreb with Ploce since 2011 when construction of this motorway was finalized. This means that you can easily reach the entire Dalmatia via nice, modern, multiple-lane motorway.
From Ploce, you still have about 100 km to Dubrovnik, on a coastal state road D8 (ex E65). This road is in good condition, but it is mostly a single carriageway road. At certain places, you will find a double-lane on one side of the road (the ascending side), while a single carriageway remains on the other side (three lanes in total). This helps a lot when you are stuck behind a truck or another slow-moving vehicle.
This is also one of the most scenic roads in all Croatia. However, coastal road winds a lot, skirts along high cliff edges at some places and passes through many villages, where you are highly advised to respect speed limits. This makes a trip a bit long and tiring.
There are other few roads that you can take to reach Dalmatia from the north.
D1 road passes inland, through Plitvice Lake, and Knin, and then down to the coast where it joins the D8 road.
D8 (former E65), also called Jadranska magistrala (Adriatic coastal road), is a coastal road from Rijeka to Dubrovnik. This is perhaps the most scenic road in all Croatia, especially popular among motorcyclists. A part of the road from Rijeka to Zadar is the most dramatic with sharp curves and susceptibly looking protective fences, but it is also the least frequented.
Which road you'll take depends on your budget and time. A1 motorway has tolls, but it's also the safest and fastest way to reach the south. Road tolls from Zagreb to Split amounts to 181 kn one way.
D1 and especially D8 are both good roads, and a viable option to reach Dalmatia from the north. And while you'll save on tolls, you'll spend more time driving (although not so much more). Since the motorway has opened, fewer people use state roads. This makes them less busy, and faster too.
Getting from Zagreb to Rijeka, and Istria
The A6 motorway connects Zagreb and Rijeka. The distance between the two is around 150 km, and the highway costs 70 kn each direction.
The multi-lane motorway ends in Rijeka and further west to Istria, you drive on a single carriageway road. To get to Istria, you'll pass through the Ucka Tunnel. After the tunnel, you continue driving through Istria on the main Istrian road called Istarski Y due to its shape. This is a partly two-lane road (until Pazin), and partly multi-lane road (from Pazin on). Istarski Y has tolls, and they amount to 44 Kn from the tunnel Ucka to Rovinj (exit Kanfanar), and to 53 Kn from the tunnel to Porec (exit Baderna).
You can also reach Rijeka and Istria from Zagreb using toll-free single carriageway state roads. These roads first pass through Gorski Kotar, over Jelenje to Rijeka. Then further west you can take a coastal road D66. This road has been improved a couple of years ago. And while it's curvey, it also offers some wonderful scenic views. It's popular among motorcyclists.
Driving in cities and towns
Driving in towns and cities during the summer is absolutely crazy. In coastal towns, on a rainy summer day (yes, that happens sometimes) everybody seems to be heading downtown … with a car. Please don't be one of those people 🙂
Big cities like Zagreb, Rijeka, and Split are loaded with traffic at all times, especially Zagreb. While the real rush hour is normally from 7.30 am-9.30 am, and from 4.30 pm-6.30 pm, the rest of the day, traffic-wise, isn't much better.
Zagreb is lovely to drive around in August as the town gets devoid of people. However, in big towns you mostly won't need a car except to get in and out of town. All big towns have very good public transport. We advise you to use it.
Driving in the countryside
Village roads are really good everywhere you go in Croatia. And while they do get busier during the tourist season, they are still nice to drive on.
Roads off the beaten path are narrow, twisty, unlit, and don't have a white line in the middle, but they are also devoid of traffic.
When driving in countryside pay attention to small and big wild animals (rabbits, deers, pheasants, hedgehog, foxes) you are likely to encounter. On these minor roads, you can also have tractors and other farm vehicles.
On those smaller roads, you will also often encounter cyclists. Even more so, since electric bicycles became more affordable and popular especially among the older population. This is especially the case in Istria that is heavily advertised as a bicycle-friendly destination although the cycling paths are very few. People of all ages and skills end up cycling on small country roads, and it can get dangerous. Pay attention and be patient!
Drivers in Croatia
In Croatia, you've got two types of drivers: locals, and tourists. Although in a totally different way, they are both equally dangerous on a road.
Croatians, especially in Dalmatia, tend to be fast, impatient drivers, who aren't shy to cut, overtake (sometimes even on blind corners), horn and swear at you if they feel you are slowing them down. Croatians also use a horn to greet friends and acquaintances they encounter on the road.
Tourists, on the other hand, are often lost and tend to take sudden turns as soon as they see something interesting along the road.
But, things are not that bad as they might sound. Most of the time you'll have a pleasant time on Croatian roads. Just pay attention (and skip that sudden sharp turn when you see honey stand along the road).
Tips for driving in Croatia
- Observe speed limits. The inner-city speed limit is 30 to 50 km/h; on open roads speed limit is up to 90 km/h (but with lots of slower limits in curves, and other road conditions); on all major toll roads speed limit is up to 130 km/h.
- Like in the rest of Europe, Croatians drive on the right side.
- If possible, avoid traveling on weekends in summer. Traffic congestion on the roads is common.
- Your country driver's license will be sufficient to drive in Croatia. However, International Driving Permit, while not mandatory, is recommended.
- Road rules are similar if not the same as everywhere else: observe speed limits, don't use your phone while driving, and wear a seatbelt at all times.
- Dipped headlights are mandatory during the daytime from November, 1st until March, 31st.
- Alcohol rule is somewhat complicated: permitted blood alcohol limit for driving is 0.05%, as long as you don't have any road accident. Involvement in any accident stipulates immediate zero alcohol tolerance (a mandatory breathalyzer is required for any accident).
- Croatian Auto Club (HAK) provides road assistance, should you need it. They have English speaking operators. The telephone number is: 987
- Stop signs are mandatory, and the right turn is only allowed if a traffic light is green.
- Traffic conditions are transmitted in Croatian, English, and German via HRT 2 (98,5 MHz), and they also have news in these languages.
- The price of fuel is around 10 Kn per liter, for both diesel and gasoline. The prices can slightly vary from gas station to gas station but in general, they are very much similar.
Useful resources about roads and driving in Croatia
- Croatian Auto Club (HAK) has a useful smartphone application with detailed traffic information and condition, weather info, live webcam images, and more. It's free to download. Get it here.
- Plan your routes in Croatia with ViaMichelin and Google Maps.
- For more info about motorway and pay-tolls, visit Croatian Roads (HAC), Motorway Zagreb Rijeka, and BINA Istra.
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We hope you've got a good idea of what to expect on Croatian roads, and what driving in Croatia is all about. As always, if you've got any questions, please leave it in the comments below.