For the last couple of decades, Croatia has transformed into one of the main holiday destinations in Europe with its many islands, islets, national parks, and beaches attracting more and more travelers each year. To make sure you’re ready for your first trip to Croatia, here are some Tips about Travelling in Croatia and advice to make your trip the best possible experience.
Croatia is a popular destination for tourists, especially in July and August – which is why most of the accommodation is booked months in advance. Even though a decade ago it would be perfectly easy for tourists to just travel to Croatia in the middle of July and look for the accommodation as they arrive, today it is no longer the case and if you decide to be adventurous and see where the road takes you, you might end without a place to spend the night or you might have to spend over your planned budget just to avoid that situation or settle on the poorly located or furnished accommodation.
Don’t expect you will be able to come during high season and find available and affordable accommodation in the first (or even second or third) row from the sea – they are the ones that get booked first. It is better to plan ahead and book the accommodation in advance – there is a big variety of quality accommodation at affordable prices all over the Croatian coast and many of them offer early bird discounts.
When you visit, especially during high season (July, August), and especially popular destinations like Plitvice, Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar or Istria, expect crowds, queues and traffic jams. So if you don’t like crowds and want to have your peace and quiet on the beach all day, avoid the high season months and if it’s possible to travel off-season. Dalmatian coast has a mild Mediterranean climate which means the weather is usually warm and comfortable from mid-April to late October and if you decide to come off-season you can experience all the historical landmarks, natural attractions, and beaches without having to squeeze through the crowds. Not only that – the prices are usually cheaper off-season.
Although credit cards are widely accepted in Croatia, they are not accepted everywhere. Smaller businesses, as well as a lot of restaurants and bars and nearly all private accommodation only accept cash so be prepared to have some cash with you just in case. Generally, if you see a credit card sticker at the door or near the cash register you can be sure that the place accepts cards. If you don’t see a sticker, don’t hesitate to ask before you sit in the restaurant and order the food. If you don’t like to travel with a lot of cash, don’t worry, there are plenty of ATM’s on all popular locations along the coast – just be sure to look for the ones with the best exchange rates.
Even though Croatia is a member of the EU, it is not a member of Euro Zone – which means that the local currency in Croatia is not Euro, but Kuna with the currency exchange rate of 7,43 kg per 1 € (as of December 2019). Some establishments might accept payments in euros, but most of them will not so make sure to exchange your currency to kuna before or after your arrival to Croatia.
Croatia is a small country, however, it has many attractions and popular destinations so don’t try to visit everything in a day or two – take your time and pick what you want to visit during your stay. If you’re staying for two weeks, split your stay between different locations – for example, a week in Split and a week in Dubrovnik – and then plan your visits to the national parks, nearby islands or other attractions.
You don’t have to focus just on the most popular destinations and attractions, there are much smaller yet equally charming towns which are also great starting points for discovering other cities and locations. For example town Trogir, which is just 30 km from the city of Split or town Šibenik which is halfway between the cities of Zadar and Split. There are beautiful cities other than Dubrovnik, and Plitvice Lakes is not the only national park – explore a little!
If you are planning to visit Split Croatia then you must read this post.
Croatia is known for its numerous islands and islets therefore island hopping is one of the most interesting ways to explore the coast. However, if you don’t plan on renting a sailboat for a week to explore the islands or book an organized island-hopping cruise, island hopping might not prove to be so easy as you might think. For once, not all islands are connected with ferries. Mostly bigger cities have a larger network of ferry boats which can take you to nearby islands, but in some cases, ferry boats will only go once or twice a day. Do not assume that there “must be” a ferry from one place to another.
Read the schedules carefully and check with the ferry company if necessary. If you don’t want to rent a sailboat or a yacht or book a charter boat, you can experience island hopping on a smaller scale by booking a day trip that will take you to nearby islands (the so-called Three island or Five island tours, etc.).
Croatia has many beautiful beaches but if you imagine you will find sandy beaches everywhere – don’t get your hopes up, most of the beaches in Croatia are rocky or pebble. So come prepared – good water shoes that you can swim in make all the difference. In addition to comfort, water shoes protect against the occasional sea urchin that may loiter near the water’s edge (just keep in mind that sea urchins are usually the sign of a clean sea!). Don’t worry, there are still some sandy beaches available in Croatia (the most notable one being Zlatni rat on island Brač), just don’t expect the golden sand like in the Caribbean.
As was already mentioned, Croatia is a popular destination so be prepared for traffic jams while traveling during high season. Sure, the highway network is large and stretches almost throughout the entire country, however, you should also be aware that most of the coastal cities in Croatia are old cities formed in ancient or medieval times – which also means that sometimes their infrastructure will not always be as it is in the “newer” cities with carefully planned streets.
Due to geography, a lot of streets are narrow and steep so if you’re traveling by car do not expect wide boulevards and roads everywhere you go, especially in the cities. Consider traveling by bus, boat or even taxi for shorter locations or maybe rent a scooter during your stay – it’s a nice and convenient way to avoid traffic jams while still traveling easily around the city.