Tips For First Time Travel To Croatia, Ilustration

18 Tips For First-Time Travel To Croatia

In this week's Croatia travel tips we are sharing our tips for first-time travel to Croatia. Readers of our blog, often send us emails with questions regarding their upcoming, and often first-time, visit to Croatia. So we've decided to publish a post with some of the most common concerns, misconceptions, and general tips.

Tips For First Time Travel To Croatia, Ilustration

Tips For First Time Travel To Croatia | Croatia Travel Tips

Even if you've been to Croatia before, we hope you'll find some useful tips for your next vacation in Croatia.

First-time travel to Croatia: all you need to know if you travel to Croatia for the first time

Stay somewhere central

You can't visit the entire country in a week's stay. No matter how small Croatia might seem, the country is long, and from Umag to the northwest to Dubrovnik to the southeast you'll need to cover 700 km. Besides, there are so many places to visit in Croatia, that you simply can't do it all in a week or two.

If you still like to visit more than one place, stay somewhere central. And then do day trips from your base location.

Split can be a good base to visit Dalmatia (and Split is an awesome town to see!). From Split, you can easily reach the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula, and Vis, Trogir, Omis, Krka Waterfalls, and even Dubrovnik.

Porec is a great base to visit Istria. It's centrally located to visit all highlights of Istria within an hour's drive. And yet it's a cheaper place to stay than Rovinj.

Take a road trip

If you don't travel by car already, then rent one at least for a day when in Croatia. Croatia is a perfect destination for a road trip. Roads are in great condition, and the scenery is breath-taking.

Our favorite road trips are along Adriatic coastal road from Split to Dubrovnik, along the Peljesac peninsula, and around Istria. Here is our full post on Driving in Croatia, and Car Rental in Croatia.

Eat local

I would say that travelers to Croatia, after visiting a country for a brief time, leave it with the biggest misconception about food.

A plate of shellfish in Kantinon restaurant in Rovinj

Eat Local in Croatia

No, along the coast, locals don't eat roasted pork. We'll all always rather have a roasted lamb. But hey, if Germans, our most numerous guests, love their roasted pork, then we are happy to prepare it for them.

Many restaurants are also very touristy, and not particularly exciting. You know those places offering pasta, pizza, risotto, grilled meat, and a fish plate for two?! Advertised, for better understanding, with photos of the plates you'll get.

Please, try to eat at least once at restaurants that locals love.

Island hopping on your own isn't that easy

Many readers of our blog, as well as our friends, when planning to visit Croatia for the first time, imagine themselves hopping from one island to another and visiting half dozen of them in less than a week.

It's not going to happen. While islands are not far one from another geographically, they are far enough when it comes to ease of transport. More often than not you'll need to choose a port city on the mainland for your base if you would like to visit more than one island during your short stay in Croatia.

Sorry to disappoint you, but the only way to do it is by renting a yacht, or hopping on those charter boats that sail along Adriatic.

Visit Zagreb

Zagreb's main square and the cathedral at night

Photo credit: chrmoe & flickr

Zagreb is for many visitors to Croatia, their entry point to Croatia, yet the majority of travelers either visit it for just a couple of hours or skip it altogether. Mistake! Zagreb is wonderful, and even more so in summer, when many locals leave town for the coast, traffic gets light, and lots of street performances take place all over the town.

Put Zagreb on your Croatia travel itinerary! Check here all wonderful things to do in Zagreb, or read our post on the best Zagreb accommodation.

Shop at a local green market

Croatians love shopping for fresh produce at the open-air green and fish markets. You'll find these markets in every town in Croatia.

Feel the pulse of the town, and watch the locals go about their everyday life, as you explore local green markets. We've written about Dolac, Zagreb's main green market, and Pazar, Split's green market.

Plitvice aren't the only national park

Plitvice is one of the most visited places in all Croatia, and the single most visited national park in Croatia. But, indeed, it's not the only beautiful national park in Croatia.

Tips For First Time Travel To Croatia | Visit Croatian National Parks

Tips For First Time Travel To Croatia | Photo Credit: Alessandro Pili & Flickr

Croatia's got them eight. If you don't like crowds, consider visiting Risnjak, North Velebit, or Paklenica National Parks.

If you like to stick to waterfalls, try Krka Waterfalls instead. If you are curious about the Croatian islands, why wouldn't you visit Kornati, Mljet, or Brijuni, all three national parks themselves?

Visit Istria

Istria is the most visited region in Croatia. Yet it remains very little visited by overseas guests, like Australians, Americans, or Japanese.

It sometimes seems to be Europe's best-kept secret. Lots of Europeans, particularly Germans, Austrians, and Italians, spend their holidays in Istria.

Motovun panorama

If it's your first-time travel to Croatia, consider visiting Istria. The region is gorgeous, full of history, culture, and a dream destination for any foodie.

Forget trains, use buses instead

Unlike the rest of Europe, the Croatian train network is really poor, and not really a viable way to explore the country. However, the bus network is extensive, awesome, and reliable. Forget trains, and look for buses instead.

GetByBus does a great job of aggregating lots of bus lines within Croatia, and between Croatian towns and major European destinations. Even more, they offer online tickets for all those bus lines.

Croatia isn't off the beaten path destination

Hell, no! Croatia has always been popular among European travelers.

When you visit, especially during high season (July, August), and especially popular destinations like Plitvice, Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Istria, expect crowds, queues, traffic jams, and few (if any) solo moments for a selfie.

Taxis are expensive

Uber just started operating in Croatia a few years ago, and so far it operates only in Zagreb and Split a year around. In other coastal towns, like Dubrovnik, Zadar, and Rovinj, Uber operates seasonally.

Zagreb also has the most competitive and cheapest taxi scene in all Croatia. So, yes, if visiting Zagreb, go ahead and take a cab everywhere.

As for the rest of Croatia, use it if it's your only transport option, or if you are two or more and can split a cost. Taxis are super expensive, and the drivers aren't always polite.

English is widely spoken

No need to worry about not speaking Croatian. It's a difficult language to learn and Croatians know it.

Almost everybody speaks at least a little English, and many people also speak at least another foreign language (German and/ or Italian being the most widely spoken languages after English).

Excellent tourist infrastructure

A room in the Adriatic Hotel in Rovinj

Tips For First Time Travel To Croatia | Beautiful hotels to be found

Tourism, as we know it today, started mass developing in Croatia in the '60s. And today tourism is the main industry in Croatia (for better or worse).

That said, expect to find an excellent tourist infrastructure all along with coastal Croatia: from amazing all-inclusive resorts, luxury & boutique hotels, budget hostels, to an abundance of vacation rentals, villas, and campsites.

Read more: Croatia Accommodation Guide

Don't be afraid to rent with locals

Croatians have a long tradition of hosting vacationers from all over the world. Almost every family along the coast rent apartments to tourists. Vacation rentals are a great alternative to hotels, offer better value for money (especially for families, or large parties), come with a fully-equipped kitchen, and offer more space.

Check my in-laws' vacation rentals in southern Dalmatia, and our villa rental near Porec. Or, read our full post on Croatia apartments to rent.

It's not cheap, but it doesn't need to be expensive

People sometimes falsely assume that Croatia is cheap. Well, it's not. In fact many things, particularly groceries, are more expensive than in the US or any Western European country.

The only things I find cheap(er) in Croatia are wine, spirits, cigarettes, pastry shops, and dining out.

For the rest, expect to spend as much as back home.

Read more: Cost of travel in Croatia

Wine here is awesome, and so is olive oil

Croatia is a small country, and whatever people here produce, they produce it in small quantities. All produce is also mostly sold to the Croatian market.

Kozlovic Vineyards in Istria

This is the reason you've perhaps never heard of Croatian wine or olive oil. But let me reassure you, they are of excellent quality, and must try when in Croatia. In fact, we highly recommend you to go wine tasting or olive oil tasting.

Our favorite white wine is Malvazija Istarska (check our post on 5 wineries to visit in Istria), and our favorite red is Dingac from the Peljesac peninsula (especially Saints Hills).

As for olive oil, I am absolutely crazy about this Croatian stuff. So much that now we even make our own olive oil. We recommend visiting Chiavalon Olive Oil Estate in Vodnjan.

Croatian currency is Kuna

Yep, it's true! Croatia is a member of the EU, but not a member of the Euro Zone (countries using Euro as a common currency).

Croatian currency is Kuna, and the exchange rate (as per May 2020) is 7,6 Kn per 1 €, 6,9 Kn per 1 US$, and 8,5 Kn per 1 £.

Pack light, but don't forget these items

We strongly believe that one should always travel light, and bring as little things as possible when traveling.

However, a few things we highly recommend you to bring with you to Croatia are mosquito repellent (we like Repel’s Lemon & Eucalyptus), adapters, and water shoes for Croatian rocky beaches.

Read more: Packing list for a vacation in Croatia

Recommended travel guides

Further reading: more Croatia travel tips

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.

We hope you've enjoyed our tips for first time travel to Croatia. Still, have a question? Please leave them in the comments below. 

Featured photo credit: MacPepper via Flickr

34 replies
  1. Auto Taxi Medo
    Auto Taxi Medo says:

    Hey Frank, that was an interesting read. You pointed out that taxis are cheaper in Zagreb and Split than in other cities. However, I would like to add that taxi services such as ours (Auto Taxi Medo https://autotaximedo.com/ ) provide intercity transfers at nominal costs round the year.
    It was lovely to read about a first-time visitor’s concerns and your solutions to them. It feels great that so many people are excited to explore our country. Cheers!

    Reply
  2. Emrana Hafesje
    Emrana Hafesje says:

    Hi my name is Emrana.
    We are planning to go to Croatia (tomorrow!)
    There are 5 of us
    Is it worth hiring a car to go around split ,that’s where we are staying.

    Also we are planning to visit debouvernic for the day using local transport or the ferry what is your advice.

    Please could you also advise on how the cost in food and local supermarket are .
    We are traveling from the UK.
    Thanks alot in advance for your time
    Emrana

    Reply
  3. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    Frank you are a Godsend! This is so helpful. But here is my dilemma that is not being spoken of. Flying into Croatia in the winter months. A bit of a challenge. That said, do you have any tricks for getting to Split easily from London Gatwick in November specifically by chance?? Any advice on what airlines might be most affordable to go through online?? I’m in Canada and rarely travl. We’re headed to Split to volunteer in November for the month, but not many airlines are flying to Split at that time of year. Any help or advice is so appreciated!! Thanks in advance. Veronica

    Reply
  4. Julie Appelbee
    Julie Appelbee says:

    Hi Frank great site. We are travelling to Croatia on the 24th July, land in Zagreb, hired a car and staying in Zagreb for 3 nights. We have 16 days in total in Croatia.

    Would you be able to suggest a few places to visit in that time frame. We are going to the lakes area and would like to make it to Dubrovnik. We fly out of Zagreb at the end of our holiday.

    Thankyou

    Reply
  5. Bruce Thomson
    Bruce Thomson says:

    Dear Frank,
    We are a senior couple in good health visiting Croatia in Sept. for the first time. Right now we have ten nights in Croatia. We would like to have 2 bases (maybe Dubrovnik & Split) and take day trips. Should we visit Zegreb or is it too far?

    Reply
  6. Mariah
    Mariah says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for these tips and everything on this blog! Have been searching for a resource that has a more local perspective, and this has been so very helpful. Can’t wait to experience my first trip next week!

    Reply
  7. Sophia
    Sophia says:

    Hi Frank, thank you for your very helpful site! I’m planning to go to Croatia in August and I have some friends who I am meeting there for a boat tour that covers Split, Makarska, Stari Grad, Hvar, Vis, Korcula, Sipan and Dubrovnik. I have three weeks to travel and I very much want to see Montenegro as well. How safe is it for a woman traveling on her own? Do you recommend doing another boat tour to Montenegro or taking a bus? Any tour groups you particularly like for solo travelers?

    Many thanks!
    Sophia

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      Hi Sophie, it’s very safe to travel solo in Croatia. Majority of the places are small towns with good infrastructure. So there is nothing to worry about. I don’t know about any tour groups for solo travelers. But we recommend using Get your Guide for day trips. You can check one of their Montenegro tours here: https://bit.ly/2J0HHZQ

  8. Cardia
    Cardia says:

    Thanks for your details blog, we will land in Zadar airport and plan to go straight to Dubrovnik, but it’s quit long bus journey, is it possible to take Uber or other transportation way to shorten the time? What about book a car with guide? It’s worth to pay such expensive cost. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      Uf, it’s definitely possible, but can get quite expensive. Maybe you can look into shared options like GoOpti (https://bit.ly/2Oc8tOg), or even better, if you can get someone who speaks Croatian, check a car-sharing website BlaBla (https://bit.ly/2IJO5Fl). This is a widely used website in Croatia for peer-to-peer car sharing. Unfortunately it’s only in Croatian.

  9. Silvia Costa
    Silvia Costa says:

    Hi Frank,

    We are travelling from Brazil to Italy and Croatia early July and we will only have 6 days in Croatia (it should have been more but we are taking a ferry from Italy and we depend on the ferry schedule).
    Our first stop is Dubrovnik where we plan to stay for 2 days and take the Game of Thrones tour. Next, we are planning to go to the islands. Do you think it is a good idea to ride straight to Hvar by the ferry Drvenik/Súcuraj and explore the islands from there ? Or is it better to go straight to Split (our next stop) and then explore the islands? We pretend to visit Hvar, Crac and Vis, at least. Is there any other island you would recommend? On the way back to Italy (Venice) we may stop at Istria (it depends on how tiring it will be – 648 km). As it will be more a kind of pit-stop, which place/town would you recommend?
    Thanks a lot in advance,
    Silvia

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      The road from Sucuraj to Jelsa isn’t in the best condition, and the southern part of the island is pretty deserted. However, the crossing to Sucuraj takes less time (35 min) than crossing to Stari Grad (120 min), so it comes down to what would you prefer: to explore less travelled part of Hvar Island, or to get quickly to Split via more comfortable road.

  10. Jim Luce
    Jim Luce says:

    Frank, we are heading to Croatia in a few weeks, April 14-24. Trying to finalize the itinerary and would like some advice. Here is the high level
    4/15 Arrive Zagreb early afternoon; tour of Zagreb
    4/16 Mid-afternoon flight to Zadar
    4/17 Day trip to Plitvice National Park
    4/18 Zadar to Split via Krka National Park
    4/19 Morning tour of Split
    4/19-23 Here is where we need help:
    – We need to experience Dubrovnik and would like to see some islands (Brac, Hvar, Mljet and/or Korcula, depending on time. Is it feasible/worthwhile to charter our own boat to travel from Split to Dubrovnik and experience a/some island(s)?
    – You HIGHLY recommend seeing Istria. Where should we work that in and/or would you adjust the itinerary above to better cover the country?
    – And how should we decide which of the islands above to visit?
    4/23 5pm flight, Dubrovnik to Rome

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      ups, seems like we are too late for the answers. Sorry for that Jim! Hope you have figured it out and that you have enjoyed your time in Croatia.

  11. MANDAR
    MANDAR says:

    I am planning to visit Croatia on 21-May-26-May-2019. I am having doubt about public transport, how does it operate and where can I find more information regarding this?

    Reply
  12. John
    John says:

    Hi Frank! We are visiting Croatia for a week this June. For a family of three to travel from Dubrovnik to Split, would you advise taking the bus or a ferry? To me the ferry sounds more scenic, but I don’t know. Thanks for any tips! – John

    Reply
  13. Susan
    Susan says:

    I will add my compliments about your site. It has such wonderful information.
    We are planning a first time visit to Croatia in mid-April with our 5 adult children. Our current plan is to rent a place for a week to 10 days and make that our base of operation. Istria is one option since it affords access to a trip to Venice. Would this be a good plan or would staying further south be a better option. Thank you so much for your any advice you can give.

    Reply
  14. Thomas B. Tyner
    Thomas B. Tyner says:

    Thank you for the amazing tips on vacationing. I didn’t know that if you decide what destinations and dates you wanted beforehand was more time efficient. My wife and I haven’t been on a vacation since our son was born and we are in dire need of some time away. Again, thank you for this amazing write up!

    Reply
  15. Kai
    Kai says:

    Hey frank! Thanks for this awesome blog. Just one question please, what would be the best option you could give me if I am to travel to Croatia from Singapore? Can you please tell me what are the best options for the airlines I should book for and hotels that are near Zagrib? Thank you and great post by the way!

    Reply
  16. Kathy Ralph
    Kathy Ralph says:

    Frank,

    Two questions –

    1) Is power adapter that was used in Hungary good for Croatia?
    2)What is best way/place to exchange U.S. dollars for Kuna?

    Thanks.
    Kathy

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      Hi Kathy,
      I don’t know how are electric outlets in Hungary. In Croatia we use round-pronged plugs, like on this photo: https://goo.gl/images/wnxTv4.
      There are many exchange offices in Croatia. They take no commission but check for the best exchange rate among them once you are here. Banks usually charge commission.

  17. Dan and Susan
    Dan and Susan says:

    Hi, Frank and Vara. We are Dan and Susan from La Mirada, California, USA. Susan found your blog, and we appreciate the loaded content about Croatia. Thanks for all the work you put into it. It’s been tremendously helpful.

    We will be visiting Croatia from May 13, 2019 through May 29, 2019. We are very excited about the trip. We are currently planning our itinerary, and this is where we were hoping you can provide some feedback.

    As you can see, we have an open day on 5/18. Should we stay another night in Rovinj and explore Motovun, or leave Rovinj and visit a different area?

    Also, we were planning on staying at Rastovaca when we visit Plitvice. What are your thoughts on this?

    Lastly, do you recommend we stay in Split for 3 days and explore Hvar and Brac as day trips? Or would it be better to stay at Hvar for two nights?

    We would appreciate any input and advice you may have about our itinerary.

    5/13: Depart LA
    5/14: Arrive Zagreb 2:25 PM
    5/15: Zagreb
    5/16: Rovinj
    5/17: Rovijn (visit Pula)
    5/18: ???????
    5/19: Rastovaca
    5/20: Rastovaca (explore Plotcice National Park)
    5/21: Zadar
    5/22: Split
    5/23: Hvar
    5/24: Hvar (explore Brac)
    5/25: Mostar, Bosnia
    5/26: Dubrovnik
    5/27: Dubrovnik (visit Kotar, Montenegeo)
    5/28: Zagreb
    5/29: Depart Zareb

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      Hi Dan and Susan,
      thanks for reaching out, and thanks for reading. Here are our thoughts, you can as well stay in Rovinj another day and visit Motovun, but also Groznjan, and perhaps Porec on the way back. You can plan a lunch in hinterland (our suggestions would be tavern Toncic, Buscina, Morgan, or Stari podrum). You can also visit a winery, perhaps Kozlovic, or Kabola. On the day that you visit Pula, plan a stop in Vodnjan at Chiavalon to taste some local olive oil. Plitvice, maybe you can depart for Zadar after the visit. It all depends how long you plan to hike in Plitvice. If you go for a 6 or 8 hour tour, then staying another night in Plitvice can be a good idea. Otherwise, you can probably go straight to Zadar. Use that extra day in Zadar to do an excursion to Kornati National Park. It’s beautiful!
      It’s easier to explore Brac from Split than Hvar.

  18. Andrew Marcus
    Andrew Marcus says:

    Hi Frank

    I am from australia and am going to have 3 days in dubrovnik before joining a group tour from Split tp Bled.
    I would like your suggestions for 2 day tours..i”m thinking Montenegro and Mostar in a coach for budget reasons

    what are your ideas

    cheers andrew

    Reply
    • Frank G
      Frank G says:

      Both are interesting tours, but you’ll be quite sometime in bus. I would choose one (Mostar) and spend two days chilling and exploring Dubrovnik

  19. Mark Howsam
    Mark Howsam says:

    Can you give me an idea what are the toll fees like on the large highways?

    We are coming to Croatia June , we can hardly wait.

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Reply
  20. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    What a lovely, impressive sight! Can you tell me anything about festivals and markets that will take place in the fall? We will be traveling to Istria in late October, and wanted to know what source you use for finding local events. Thanks for your time and help!

    Reply

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