In recent years, Croatia has become a hugely popular European tourist destination. What was once overlooked by many as a possible holiday destination, has now become a top choice for holidaymakers everywhere.
Croatia is brimming with heavenly landscapes, dazzling, turquoise waters, ancient Roman ruins, friendly locals and exquisite local cuisine. Croatia provides experiences, scenery, people and food like no other part of Europe.
Are you planning a trip to Croatia soon? This guide will ensure that you’re well prepared for visiting this beautiful country.
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Planning A Trip To Croatia – Essential Travel Tips
- Croatia is a member of the EU but it is not part of the Schengen Agreement. EU/EEA citizens along with citizens of a number of countries including the USA, Canada and Australia can visit Croatia for up to 90 days without a visa. Find out more here.
- The currency in Croatia is the Kuna. If you need to exchange money, the best place to do so is at the bank. Pro tip: Get a Revolut card and forgo all of those pesky bank charges!
- The standard continental European type which is the two round pin plug/socket of 220V-240V.
- No vaccinations are required when entering Croatia and tap water is safe to drink everywhere so don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle like this one!
- Wi-Fi is quite common in lots of hotels, hostels and restaurants and there are also plenty of internet cafes in larger cities which can be helpful if you need to print tickets etc.
- Tipping is not essential but if you’ve had a delicious meal and/or fabulous service then tipping the waiter/waitress shows a lot of respect.
- By European standards, the crime rate is low. However, pickpocketing (similar to other parts of Europe) is common in larger cities like Split or Dubrovnik. Always take the necessary cautions against this.
Now you know the basic travel essentials, let’s dive straight in and find out what you need to know when planning a trip to Croatia.
Try To Avoid Travelling During The Peak Season
If you can, avoid planning a trip to Croatia during the peak season. This runs from June until the end of August each year. The country is literally bursting with tourists during this time.
On our first visit to Croatia, my partner and I arrived in July and all of the main tourist cities were overcrowded beyond belief. It almost felt like we were walking around in a huddle or a pack which made it hard to enjoy the sights.
It’s also extremely hot during this period and as it’s peak season, prices are considerably higher. Croatia is a part of the European Union but at present, it still has its own currency, the Kuna.
If you can’t avoid travelling during this time (like us, who have set work holidays), then plan ahead for the crowds. Go out earlier in the morning or late in the evening and buy food and drinks in the supermarket instead of only in bars and restaurants.
Travel Croatia Using The Bus Network
Most of Europe is interconnected by trains which is a fun, sustainable way to explore Europe. However, the train system in Croatia is quite poor and should simply be avoided when planning a trip to Croatia.
Travelling by bus is much more viable – we travelled extensively throughout Croatia by bus and Wi-Fi, storage and sometimes a table was often provided.
What I will say, though is we did sometimes find that bus journeys that were supposed to take an hour, took three hours instead. So be prepared for that. We booked all of our seats through GetbyBus who cater for a lot of Eastern European destinations and they’re really reasonable too.
Rent A Car To Explore Hidden Gems Of Croatia
While the bus network in Croatia is extensive, it can also be quite time consuming with few stops to take in the beautiful scenery along the way. If you would like to see off the beaten track Croatia, then hiring a car is the way to do it.
I highly recommend using the car rental service Discover Car Hire – I have rented cars from them many times when travelling. I found that they provide great value for money plus they also offer 24/7 customer service.
It’s worth noting that you won’t need a car for the entire duration of your stay in Croatia as many cities have narrow, cobblestoned streets. You can travel by ferry with your car to various islands around Croatia.
Learn A Few Of The Local Phrases
I mention this quite a lot on the blog but I honestly think that it is such an important thing to do when visiting a country that doesn’t speak the language that you do.
Learning a few phrases of the local language before you visit can go a long way – it shows respect, it highlights how glad you are to be there and it’s a nice way of communicating with local people.
Yes, you may pronounce words wrong (I know I did) but the look of delight and gratification was well worth it. I have created a printable which has simple, easy to use language phrases – you can download it here.
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Don’t Forget To Bring Water Shoes
When planning a trip to Croatia, I’m sure that spending time by the water will factor in on your itinerary. If so, then do not forget to bring these water shoes. You will thank me later for this tip!
White, sandy beaches are not common in Croatia and most beaches consist of hard to walk on white stones. I read about this before our trip and I invested in these shoes for both myself and J, which were a lifesaver, especially as the stones were scorching hot due to the sun.
If I’m honest, I actually preferred the stony beaches of Croatia over sandy beaches. Because of the stony beaches, we were able to leave without the usual ‘sand everywhere’ nightmare. The beaches of Croatia were by far some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in all my travels and if you like the water, you need to check them out!
Avoid Staying Too Close To Popular Spots
It often seems easier to stay close to the action in Croatia such as in the old towns of Split or Zagreb. Each city comes with its own charm, history and beauty and they are incredibly popular destinations in Croatia.
However, these old town cities are also often heavily overcrowded, expensive and noisy, especially during peak season.
If you’re fine with this, then great! But if you’d like to experience Croatia without constantly trying to meander through the crowds, then perhaps staying a few minutes outside the city might be the way to go.
For example, we stayed just outside Split in an area called Podstrana where we were able to experience Split without all the hustle and bustle. Bus services in Croatia are great and if you’re renting a car, even better! Planning a road trip around Croatia is so exciting, find lots of top tips and must-see places here.
Don’t Always Expect Amazing Customer Service
In my experience, Croats are unbelievably hospitable, friendly and kind people. On our flight to Croatia, we got chatting to a guy from Croatia who lives and works in Ireland. He invited us for dinner and drinks one evening and insisted on paying (we kept in touch and repaid the favour).
We stayed in six different types of accommodation during our trip to Croatia and each and every one of the hosts went above and beyond to help us. We were travelling to the island of Hvar and somehow got on the wrong boat, which left us on the opposite side of the island.
Yet, our host came to meet us, despite it being an extra 40-minute drive for him. (Just in case you’re wondering, this was the gorgeous, family-run Dela B&B which I highly recommend if you are wondering where to stay in Hvar). All of our hosts were so incredibly hospitable and friendly during our stay with them.
Despite this, customer service can be slightly different from local hospitality in Croatia. It is common to experience somewhat unhelpful and slow service. Side street stalls closed on us unexpectedly, we were refused service for not having small notes and we often had extra long waits for food.
I’m not suggesting that it’s like this everywhere but it’s always good to be prepared. If you do experience this, just keep calm and try to understand that this tourism boom is still relatively new to Croatia.
Try To Visit At Least One Of Croatia’s National Parks
If you are spending any length of time in Croatia, then you really should visit at least one of the country’s glorious national parks. There are 8 national parks in total so keep that in mind when planning a trip to Croatia.
Two of the most popular parks are Plitvice National Park and Krka National park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it holds a huge sense of pride for Croats. Krka is also hugely popular with tourists as it one of the only parks where you can swim in the water.
Both parks offer gorgeous natural scenery, stunning waterfalls, hiking trails and picturesque views. If you can’t visit both of these places then this chart might help you to decide which one to visit:
|Plitvice National Park||Krka National Park|
|Lots of hiking trails||One main hiking trail|
|2-3 days is recommended||Easily visited in 1 day|
|Swimming is forbidden||Swimming is allowed|
|Easy to avoid the crowds||Generally always busy|
Research Before You Book A boat Trip
Boat trips are very popular in Croatia due to the proximity of so many stunning islands such as Hvar and Brac. It is also possible to do day trips from Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik and other coastal towns. You can check out my post on day trips from Zadar here.
You could also stay over for a few nights which we did in Hvar. It really depends on how much time you have. One huge piece of advice I have though is to do your research!
There are literally hundreds of agencies and stalls offering the ‘best’ boat trip imaginable. I mean, you can’t blame them, they are eager businesses who depend on tourism for their livelihood.
We were very pleased with ourselves when our trip to Hvar worked out pretty much the way we wanted to (getting on the wrong boat was not part of the plan, however!).
So when we landed back in Split after a blissful 4 days in Hvar, we decided to do an impromptu day trip to one of the other islands. Silly us really – what was meant to be a half-day tour with food and drinks ended up being a full day trip with the majority of it spent on a boat with not enough room for everyone on board.
We did get to see the beautiful town of Solta and snorkel in the glistening blue lagoon but we were told the majority of our time would be in the water and visiting Solta which just wasn’t the case.
So if you’re planning a day trip, do your research online before booking with a tour company. Ask the tour operator questions like “how many people will be onboard the boat?” and “what food and drinks will be available?”. This will ensure that you get to experience the islands of Croatia in the best way possible.
You Might Also Like….
- The Best Things To Do In Zadar, Croatia
- Incredible Day Trips You Have To Take From Zadar
- The Ultimate European Bucket List
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Over To You….
Do you have any travel tips for Croatia? Would you like to explore Croatia? I’d love to know what you think in the comments