Getting around Croatia

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.

Getting around Croatia, Illustration
Boats anchored in a bay in Croatia

Public transport in Croatia is reliable and easy to use. Croatia public transport consists, above all, of an extensive bus and ferry networks. 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 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, public transport system, above all bus and ferry networks, is efficient and reliable, roads are in a great condition, and the extensive network of multilane highways connects north with south and east with west.

However, there are few things to keep in mind.

Seasonality

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

Traffic jams on main highway junctions and at the entrance to the popular resort towns are common in July and August. And even more so on rainy days when majority of tourists head to the town insead to stay at the beach. Split suffers from some of the worst traffic jams in all Croatia. This can delay your trip whether you travel on intercity buses or by car.

Crowds

If there are too many people and cars, sometimes you won't get on your desired bus or a ferry. This is particularly true for ferries, as they operate on first come first serve basis and if the ferry is full, you'll need to wait for the next one. If you plan to take ferry on foot, 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 the bus.

Wind

Some regions of Croatia can have strong winds. This sometimes causes closures of the highways. This is particularly true for the tunnel Sv. Roko on the highway A1 (highway sequence from Zadar to Gospic), Kikovica-Ostrovica sequence on the highway A6 between Zagreb and Rijeka, and coastal road E65 between Senj and Karlobag.

Destinations

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 region. You can easily move from Zadar, Split or Dubrovnik by bus and even plan visits to smaller towns like Trogir, Omis or Makarska.

However, to move around using buses in Istria or Croatian Islands is more challenging and in many instances not convenient at all.

What is the best way to travel in Croatia?

Driving is the best way to travel in Croatia. Driving in Croatia is easy, 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, like Istria and Croatian islands.

Private transfers are expensive option, but work the best when you aren't comfortable driving yourself, but would still like to enjoy 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 Korcula, Orebic, Cavtat and Dubrovnik.

Carpooling can be an option for people who are on tight budget and 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.

How much is transportation in Croatia?

Besides time and convenience, budget plays a big role when deciding on the transport method you will use in Croatia.

So, let's see what you can expect in terms of transportation costs in Croatia.

A one-way bus ticket from Zagreb to Split costs around 20€, from Zagreb to Dubrovnik is around 30€, while the bus ticket from Split to Dubrovnik will set you back around 15€.

Depending on the season, car rental in Croatia will cost you anywhere between 20€ to 80€ a day for the economy-size car. Add to that a cost of fuel at about 1,30€ per liter. If you decide to use multilane highways in Croatia, you will need to pay road tolls. The tolls amount to: 16€ from Zagreb to Zadar, 25€ from Zagreb to Split, 31€ from Zagreb to Ploce (last junction direction Dubrovnik). Road tolls increase about 10% from June to September.

Ferries are cheap for passangers, but very expensive for the vehicles. A ferry from Split to Stari Grad on the island of Hvar costs 6,5€ per person and 42€ for a car. A passanger catamaran from Split to Hvar Town will set you back 15€ per person. Ferry from Split to Supetar on the island of Brac costs 4,5€ per person, and 20,5€ for a car. If you decide to visit Korcula from Orebic, the ferry will cost you 2,3€ per person and 10€ per car.

If you decide to fly from Zagreb to Dubrovnik it can set you back 100€ in avarage. 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 late night flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik).

The cost of a private transfer depends on a vehicle (usually you will have a choice of a 3- or 7-person vehicule), and the distance. Expect to pay around 350€ for a 3-person transfer from Zagreb to Split, 250€ from Zagreb to Zadar, and 220€ from Split to Dubrovnik.

*all prices are approximate, rounded and converted from Croatian currency (Kuna) into € using the exchange rate of 7,5 kn per 1 €

Flying

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.

Croatia Airlines plane on a runway
Croatia Airlines plane on a runway

Main airports are Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. However, only Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik airports serve international flights a year around. Although, limited number of them from November to April. Other airports are seasonal.

When you should consider flying within the country?

  • 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, multi-lane highway goes only as south as Ploce. From Ploce to Dubrovnik you'll need to drive on a two-lane coastal road. And finally, the main coastal road to Dubrovnik passes through Bosnia, which means that you'll probably lose precious time waiting at the border crossing. Expect to pay around 100 € for a return-ticket from Zagreb to Dubrovnik.
  • If you would like to pack 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 to book directly with an airline to secure the best deal.

Getting around Croatia by bus

When it comes to public transportation in Croatia, buses are your best option. 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, bus drivers can ask you to pay extra for the luggage.

Autotrans bus on the road in a town in Croatia
Autotrans bus on the road in a town in Croatia |Getting around Croatia by bus

There are many bus operating companies in Croatia, and not a single one runs on all lines. The largest national bus operators are Arriva (ex. Autotrans), Croatia Bus, and Cazmatrans.

There are many local operators like Libertas in Dubrovnik region, Promet Split in Split region, Liburnija in Zadar region, and Crnja Tours or Fils in Istria.

Getbybus does a fairly good job in 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, Zagreb bus station has a good overview of timetables for all buses, and you can buy tickets online. You can also visit a website of larger bus operators for additional information. Arriva also has a good user-friendly website.

When to consider traveling by bus?

  • You plan to spend enough time in Croatia, like two weeks or more, and you won't mind spending additional time traveling on 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 travelling on bus around islands, or in Istria. These are the only places in Croatia where local buses are infrequent, and not your best travel option.

Driving

Whether you travel by your own car, or plan on renting a car, driving is definitely the best way of getting around Croatia.

Small rural road in Croatia
Small rural road in Croatia |Getting Around Croatia By Car

Croatia is small and getting around by car is, not only the most comfortable, but often the fastest way to get around. It takes only 4 hour 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 you should consider driving in Croatia?

  • 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 to explore the region.
  • If you plan to travel around any of the Croatian islands.
  • If you have a very little time but would like to visit a few places.

Note: Many people making a round trip of 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.

Read more: Car Rental In Croatia

Ferry

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 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, G&V Line, Rapska plovidba, and Mia Tours.

Ferry in Croatia sailing between Split and Brac
Ferry in Croatia sailing between Split and Brac |Getting Around Croatia By Ferry

You can book a ferry ticket online for Jadrolinija, G&V Line, and Kapetan Luka ferries. Other companies sell tickets only at the counter.

Few tips on travelling 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 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 ferry depends heavily on how do your 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.

As a way to visit an island you can also take private or group boat tours. These tours are available in all coastal towns. An island tour is usually to the nearest islands, and it includes a lunch on board.

Some islands, like Lopud, Kolocep, or Silba, are car-free islands.

Getting Around Croatia |Pin Me For Later
Getting Around In Croatia |Pin Me For Later

Taxi

Taxis are still very expensive in Croatia, except in Zagreb and Rijeka. Taxi service is heavily regulated, and fares are fixed. Taxi-meters are a norm, so make sure your driver turns it on.

UberX is available in Zagreb and Split all year around, and in coastal towns like Dubrovnik, Zadar, or Rovinj only in 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.

Carpooling

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, travel 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 on bus.

Hitchhiking

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 less cars picking these few up.

Recommended travel guides

Further reading

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.

Still have a question? Please leave them in the comments below. 

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18 thoughts on “Getting around Croatia”

  1. Hi frank,
    We are a family of 5, 2 adults 3 children 14,13,11. Looking for accommodation in Porec in the town with a shared pool for use when we get back from daily excursions, can you advise please. We really do not want to drive in the evening!

    Looking forward to hearing your advice

    Reply
  2. Hello Frank,

    I request your help. We are 5 ladies who plan to visit Croatia and would like to visit Plitvice National Park. We plan on landing in Zagreb first, spend a few days here and then go to Plitvice. We would like to spend a couple of days in Plitvice. Could you please advise on the following.

    (1) The best way to travel from Zagreb to Plitvice

    (2) Options of stay within Plitvice

    (3) The best way to travel from Plitvice to Zagreb. Since Dubrovnik is way down south, we were not thinking of visiting this place, but go back to Zagreb and then fly to Budapest or back to our country

    I have checked out details on the net and find that travelling within Croatia is not as simple as it seems. At this point I find it complicated so would appreciate any help you can give us.

    Reply
  3. Is it possible to see Dubrovnik and some of the islands in a 4 day period (I’d ideally like to do some sailing around the Dalmatian coast)…I’d also need to get to Istria after that and was wondering if there was a way or order you’d recommend doing this.. also if you recommend any particular sailing companies.. I’d be flying in from NYC…

    Reply
  4. Hello Frank,
    Two people need to travel from Split city centre to Zagreb International Airport on a Sunday morning in July to arrive no later than 12pm. Could you recommend a private transfer/ car company that would be able to accommodate?

    Many thanks in advance

    Reply
  5. Hi Frank, can you provide details on the ferry from Dubrovnik to Bari/Puglia Italy. We are planning 8 days in Croatia (feel free to sugges an Itinerary and or Must See Highlights for our time in Croatia.) WE will be going in early May 2018. is the overnight Ferry a reliable, comfortable and safe option…..traveling overnight should save a day for sightseeing. I read some reviews and they werent too favorable. also there isn’t a timetable, and i would like to book tickets, / dates to ensure securing our tickets.

    appreciate any help and suggestions you have.

    thanks,

    Reply
  6. Hi there- I love all the amazing information and suggestions on frankaboutcroatia- thank you! We are in Australia and trying to book Jadrolinija Catamarans throughout Croatia for our 5 week holiday. The website says we cant pre book these. I know we pre booked 2 years ago on our last trip. Do you know if this is correct or have they not published the 2018 timetable yet? We appreciate any advice, thank you again

    Reply
  7. Hi Frank,

    Great website – very helpful!

    We are flying into Split next week (4 days there) then taking the Catamaran down to Dubrovnik (4 days there too) then taking the bus to Kotor (3 days on the bay) then bus back to Dubronik – taking boat over to Mjlet Island (2 days) and then onto Brac by boat (2 days) and then back to Split by boat to fly out.

    Does that all sound viable? I have booked most of the boats and and bus. We were going to get a car but it seemed like a lot of money and hassle in high season and would be expensive if we wanted to do islands too. Did a lot of research but want to make sure online tickets are safe and viable for boats and buses.

    Thanks for any help.

    Katherine

    Reply
    • Sound ok to me. Busy, but doable. Yes, online tickets for buses and ferries should be reliable. For ferries 100%, for buses just make sure to be there a bit ahead of time (just in case)

  8. What’s the best way to get from Vrsar to Dubrovnik without renting a car? I don’t want to drive as I’ll be traveling alone. Oct 1st for 1 week. Will either fly out of Dubrovnik or Split back to Seattle.

    Reply
    • Check Croatia Airlines flights from Pula to Dubrovnik, and taxi between Vrsar, and Pula airport – or bus to Porec, and then shuttle to Pula.

    • Thanks.

      How about getting from Vrsar to Split on Oct 1st? There are no direct flights out of Pula on that day and we don’t want to drive. Any ideas on shortest/quickest bus or train routes?
      Thanks again!

  9. I will be traveling with friends in July. We want to go by train from Zagreb to Split by train. Question: As seniors, would we be eligible for a reduced senior rate, even though we are not Croatian citizens?

    Reply
  10. My experiences getting around Croatia in the last 10 years or so.

    1. 2/3 of the bus companies we used recently charged us for luggage
    2. Downtown Zagreb to downtown Zadar is faster on the bus than flying (unless you live in the airports)
    3. Downtown Zagreb to downtown Split is barely faster flying than a bus
    4. Downtown Zagreb to downtown Dubrovnik IS faster flying
    5. Just about every other combination is faster driving or by bus
    6. The train from Zagreb to Ljubljana is much better than a bus
    7. The train from Zagreb to Split is a decent alternative to bus but there’s not as many departures
    8. If you’re renting a car to get around Croatia it may be fastest and most flexible but also probably one of the most expensive ways even if you pack the car. The price of gas alone between Zagreb and Zadar is equal to bus tickets for five people. Add in car rental and it’s much more expensive than buses.
    9. What’s wrong with buscroatia.com for one website to compare bus tickets?

    I didn’t mention ferries as I’ve only used them to cross back and forth to Italy. When I go from Zagreb to Ljubljana I always take the train. When I go from Zagreb to Dubrovnik I always fly. Everywhere else I use buses.

    Reply

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