Planning a vacation in Croatia could be quite overwhelming as this small country in the Mediterranean offers some of the most stunning and pristine waters, charming towns full of history, mouth-watering cuisine, and breathtaking national parks. This detailed guide is packed with practical tips for Croatia to maximize your stay, plan your vacation stress-free, and enjoy it to the fullest.
Tips for Croatia: Know before you go
Most of the nationals don’t require a visa to travel to Croatia, including EU countries, the USA, Australia, Canada, UK, and New Zealand for instance.
The visa is valid for 90 days within 180 days period. Do note though that, Croatia is still not part of Schengen, therefore you’ll need to show your documentation at the border.
EU citizens can enter the country only with their ID cards, while others need a passport. However, if you need a visa to travel to Croatia and have a Schengen visa from another country, you don’t need a separate visa for it. This also includes visas for Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus.
If you are not sure about your visa requirements, check out iVisa, and apply beforehand.
Currency in Croatia
Even though the country is part of the EU, it doesn’t use the Euro as its currency. The country has its own, called Kuna. However, the exchange rate with the Euro is much higher than with US dollars.
Best time to visit Croatia
July and August are the peak seasons, thus there are hundreds of thousands of visitors to the most famous locations of the country. And might not be the best time to visit Croatia if you don’t like overcrowded places.
Consequently, the best time to visit Croatia is June and September. October is not that bad either, however, you won’t be able to swim in the sea. During these months of the year, the country sees far fewer tourists, the weather is still sunny and warm, there are no ques, while prices are quite low.
Is Croatia safe?
Croatia is a safe country to travel with very little street crime and almost no violence. It could even be one of the safest ones in the world. However, to be on the safe side, always take care of your belongings.
Get travel insurance
No matter how long you’ll be spending in Croatia, a weekend, or three weeks, one of the tips for Croatia, and elsewhere, is to get travel insurance that covers either basic or complex issues. All sorts of things might happen on holiday and travel insurance not only covers your health, but some of them can even help you with lost luggage and missed/canceled flights. The one I personally use is SafetyWing, an international company that gives me extra security in knowing that they can help me sort out some issues caused during my travels.
The Internet is widely available. WiFi coverage is pretty good, and many towns offer free wifi hotspots. Besides, private accommodation, hotels, hostels, and even campsites, do offer a free WiFi internet connection.
Bring water shoes
Croatian beaches are gorgeous, but the majority of them are rocky and pebbly, with a rare one having a sandy shore. Therefore, one of the best tips for Croatia I can give you is to pack water shoes. Alternatively, you can buy one in the country.
Tips for Croatia: How to get to Croatia
Traveling to Croatia from any European country is relatively easy. There are many direct flights to all major Croatian towns. Several budget-friendly airlines have frequent flights to Croatia, such as WizzAir, Ryanair, and Eurowings to name just a few. And if you don’t want to look at each website, try using Skyscanner, it shows flights of all airlines, including the cheap ones.
Besides, flying to Croatia, you can try traveling by bus as well. European cities have good connection with the major cities in Croatia. However, the bus schedules are quite hard to find online as there are plenty of companies offering the service. GetByBus and FlixBus are the ones I can recommend.
Croatia tips for getting around the country
As in any other country, the best way to travel across the country is by car. However, if you are on a budget or don’t want to drive a car in a foreign country, there are lots of other possibilities. Forget traveling by train in Croatia. Unlike European cities, Croatian trains are very slow, instead opt-in for buses.
Buses are fast, affordable, modern, and frequent. GetByBus and FlixBus will take you to all the major cities and towns of the country. But if you can’t find the ticket or schedule of a destination you want to visit, you can always try going to the bus stations and asking the cashier.
For traveling to the islands, the best transportation is via ferries. There are several companies offering the service and connects big cities with many islands of the country. And for some islands, ferries are the only way to get there. For schedule and prices, I would recommend looking at Jardolinija.
Tips for Croatia – How to choose your destination in Croatia
Even though Croatia is considered to be a small country, it offers a wide choice of beautiful destinations, full of rich history and culture. Therefore, one of the major trips for Croatia I can give you is to be picky about which landmarks, islands, and cities to include in your Croatia itinerary.
Choosing your destination definitely depends on many factors including what kind of a traveler you are, the number of days you can spend here, your budget, and when you plan a visit.
Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Plitvice Lakes, and Hvar are the most visited places among many tourists. However, the country is full of hidden gems, gorgeous coastal towns, beautiful beaches, and wonderful natural sites.
What kind of vacation are you looking for?
Answering this question is one of the most important aspects of choosing your destination in Croatia. Do you like wandering through cities and learning more about history? Are you an adventure junkie, or do you look for relaxing days at the beach? Or maybe you are a wine enthusiast who wants to visit local vineyards?
Adventure and nature lovers will enjoy Croatia’s national parks; gourmands should go to the Istria region, while history buffs can visit Split, Zadar, and Dubrovnik, and beach lovers can enjoy dozens of islands including Korcula, Hvar, Mljet, Brac or Vis.
What’s your budget?
One of the tips for Croatia you need to consider is that the more popular the destination is, the more expensive it would be. That said, Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in the country. Therefore, if you are a budget traveler, try to limit your days visiting the city as well as dining out.
However, don’t let this ruin your trip. Other cities of the country are less cheaper with more affordable prices in cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as the fees for the attractions decrease.
If you are thinking of visiting Croatia over the weekend, you need to be very precise where you want to go and what you want to see. Obviously, you can’t see as many places as you would for a one or two-week vacation here.
Therefore, just choose one destination which you really want to visit and get to know it well. For instance, you can fly to Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik, or Zagreb. The weekend is quiet enough to explore those cities and you might even have time to soak up the sun and dip in the see.
One Week Vacation
When planning a trip to Croatia for a week, you can be a bit more flexible here by choosing 2-3 destinations. Decide on the central location of the country, so you’ll have the possibility to travel to the surrounding towns or islands.
You can decide which region you would like to visit. If you go for Istria, consider Pula, Rovinj, or Porec.
Zadar is also a nice city to explore both continental and coastal Croatia. The great location of the city will enable you to make day trips and visit Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes, Paklenica, and Velebit National Parks, and even explore the Kornati Islands.
If you’d like to wander through the Dalmatia region, Split is a great base. From here, you can take a ferry to various islands including Brac, Vis, and Hvar, explore Trogir, Omis, and Sibenik, and hike through the Krka National Park.
Dubrovnik, the ‘Pearl of Adriatic’, located in the Southern Dalmatia region is another great place to explore the gorgeous city with its stunning old town and its surrounding small villages. You can go to Komarna village and island-hop in Korcula, Mljet, or have a day-trips to Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Two weeks and more
Having more days for exploring the country, means that you can travel to more towns, islands, and national parks of your choice. Depending on where you would start your trip, you can easily create the itinerary that includes all the major destinations of Croatia. Moreover, you can even visit its neighboring countries as well.
Therefore, you can pack your itinerary with Dubrovnik, several islands, Split, Zagreb, Zadar, Plitvice and Krka National Parks, Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kotor in Montenegro to name a few.
Croatia travel tips for national parks
Croatia has eight national parks, two nature reserves, and ten nature parks. Almost 10% of the country’s territory is protected.
The most popular ones among tourists are Plitvice Lakes National Park and Krka National Park. One full day is enough to visit both.
You can visit UNESCO World Heritage Site Plitvice a day trip either from Zagreb or Zadar using a bus. Alternatively, you can do it from Split as well, but it would be a tiresome adventure. In that case, you can join this organized tour offered at GetYourGuide.
Krka is closer to Split and a great option for a day trip exploring waterfalls. Moreover, you can swim in front of waterfalls here unlike Plitvice.
If you are after less touristy and somewhat off the beaten path national parks in Croatia, check out Paklenica National Park for stunning hiking trails and rock climbing options. The park is close to Zadar.
Other national parks to check out:
- Mljet National Park
- Risnjak National Park
- Sjeverni Velebit National Park
- The Kornati Islands National Park
- Brijuni National Park
Croatia tips for sailing the Dalmatian Coast
Croatia has around Croatia 1,246 islands, isles, and inlets making its archipelago the largest in the Adriatic Sea. Some of them are uninhabited, while some offer gorgeous landscapes. Therefore, sailing down the coast and visiting some of the best islands in Croatia truly is a magical experience.
Island hopping in Croatia on your own is absolutely doable but it also depends on the season of your visit and how much time you have. Obviously, ferries have more regular schedules during the high seasons. So plan accordingly if you want to do it on your own.
Fortunately for those who have only a few days to spend in Croatia, there are plenty of companies offering full and half-day tours from various Croatian towns to nearby islands.
If you’ll be visiting Split, you might want to visit five nearby islands and a blue cave. Touring Elaphiti Islands from Dubrovnik is one of the most popular attractions for visitors. And if you wish to visit Kornati Island, the densest archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, it’s best done from Zadar.
Tips for Croatia – Learn some basic words in local lingo
Croatia has its own language and uses the Latin alphabet. However, this is never a barrier when traveling across the country. The majority speak English, and you can find those who also speak Italian or German. However, it’s always a nice gesture when traveling to a new country to know some basic words and phrases in the local language. So, here are a few of them that might come in handy:
- Good day – Dobar dan, the most common way of greeting people
- Hello – Bok
- Good evening – Dobra večer
- Yes – Da
- No – Ne
- Sorry – Žao mi je
- I don’t understand – Ne razumijem
- Excuse me – Oprostite
- Please – Molim
- Thank you – Hvala (definitely learn this one!)
- Do you speak English – Govorite li engleski?
Tips for Croatia: What to eat in Croatia
Croatian cuisine is diverse, fresh, and tasty. The meals in the coastal part of the country are based on seafood and fish, while the continental part uses a lot of meat. Therefore, here’s the list of must-try meals and desserts in Croatia
Crni rizot (Black Risotto) – This is one of the most common meals you’ll see in every seafood restaurant across the country. It’s basically a squid risotto and the color is made from the squid ink.
Strukli – Originally from Slovenia, Strukli is a pastry filled with sour cream and cottage cheese. It prepared either boiling in water or baking in the oven.
Punjena Paprika (Stuffed Peppers) – Peppers stuffed with a mixture of rice and meat in a tasty tomato sauce is a favorite dish for many locals. Unfortunately, you won’t see it often on the menu, and once you do, order it. It’s a great homemade dish to try here.
Octopus Salad – Octopus salad is a perfect summer dish as its light and very refreshing. The seafood is widely available in the country, thus the salad is made from fresh octopus, making it taste delicious. The salad is made from boiled octopus, onions, parsley, and olive oil dressing.
Cevapi – Cevapi, pronounced as Chevapi, is a grilled skinless sausage dish popular across the country. These finger-shaped sausages are made from a mixture of pork and beef meat and is served on flatbread with raw onions and ajvar (sauce made from peppers).
Pljeskavica – Just like Cevapi, Pljeskavica is a grilled dish of spiced meat patty made from pork, beef, and lamb. Even though it’s a national dish of Serbia, the meal is popular in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The meal comes with onions, ajvar, kajmak (milk cream), and cheese salad either on the plate with a side dish or with a flatbread like a hamburger.
Prsut – Ham prosciutto, or prsut (pronounced as prshut in English), is one of the most famous appetizers you must try in Croatia. The preparation method is the key to tasty prosciutto. The ham is washed, salted and flattened under the rocks, then it’s hung to dry.
Burek – Burek is a pastry dish filled with different fillings, like meat or cheese. It’s one of the most famous snacks in the country found in every restaurant or bakery shop.
Croatia tips for trying local drinks & spirits
Croatia’s most popular local beer brands are Karlovacko and Ozujsko; both light lager types. If you are a wine person, you’ll love Croatian wine, which for some reason is not widespread across the globe. Croatian wine is cheap, light, and full of aromas and flavors. Try Posip, dry white wine, or Dingac red, both from the Dalmatia region. When in Kroatia, try Grk, a local variety, and if you’ll be in Istria, look for Malvasija
If you are into spirits, definitely try the famous rakija which comes in different flavors. The basic is made of grapes. And the most popular is travarica (herb brandy), orahovaca (walnut brandy), medica (honey brandy), mirta (myrtle brandy), visnja (cherry brandy), and rogac (carob brandy).
Other practical tips for Croatia
Tap water is safe to drink
It is absolutely safe to drink tap water in Croatia. Around 87% of the population is linked to the public water supply system, which is regularly controlled, making it safe to drink. Bring your reusable water bottle and refill it anywhere you can, saving money and planet from single-use plastic bottles.
Money and ATMs
You can find ATMs almost everywhere in Croatia. Some allow you to withdraw money from your credit card, however, remember that there will be an interest and withdrawal fee.
Cards are widely accepted, but there are some local restaurants that are cash only. So do carry some cash with you, especially when buying local ferry and bus tickets, or using a taxi. Big ferry companies do take card payment.
Changing money is easy with similar rates in different exchange offices. The commission is already deducted from the rate shown on the table, so you’ll get the exact amount.
Tipping in Croatia
Tipping in Croatia is nonmandatory. It is mostly only done in cafes, bars, and restaurants, but you are welcome to tip in other places too. Leave up to 10% of the total amount of your dinner in restaurants but only if you are satisfied with the service. If you are not, you can leave nothing. And if you are leaving a tip in Croatia, do that in cash even if you pay with the card.
Tips for Croatia – What Croatian souvenirs to bring home
We all bring something back from our travels, be it a simple fridge magnet, a postcard, or anything else. However, sometimes, it’s difficult to know what exactly to buy in the country and what their authentic souvenir is. When it comes to Croatian souvenirs, here’s what you might want to come back home with:
Traditional Cravat – did you know that Croatia invented the tie? Now, you know! Tie here is more than a decoration or an accessory and carries a historical value. The country even celebrates International Cravat Day on 18 October. Therefore, the tie is one of the most traditional Croatian souvenirs you can bring home
Licitar Heart – this wooden red heart adorned with colorful designs is one of the best souvenirs from Croatia to gift to your sweetheart on special occasions. In old days, Licitar was made from a honey dough in Croatian handicraft families and was similar to gingerbread. The young men would give solicitor to women to show their affection. Today, Croats use small-sized Licitar Hearts as a Christmas Tree decoration.
Olive Oil – locally made olive oil from native trees makes a perfect Croatian souvenir for anyone who loves cooking.
Rakija – the traditional spirit of Croatia is another great alternative to bring a piece of your Croatian holiday back home. There are plenty of flavors to choose from.
Lavender – lavender plant popular all over the world used in various self-care products. Romans used it on various occasions, be it childbirth, scented baths, liturgy, or medicine. In Croatia, the main region for growing lavender is Hvar, Grablje, Brusje.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Croatia travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
– Book affordable flights on Kiwi.com, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
– Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Croatia, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
– Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda, or find a cool apartment on Airbnb and get $34 off on your first stay (my invite expires in 30 days after you sign up! )
– Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
– Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here
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