CroatiaCroatia (Croatian: Hrvatska) is a Mediterranean country that bridges Central Europe and the Balkans.
There are three distinct areas of Croatia: Lowland Croatia (cr: Nizinska Hrvatska), Littoral Croatia (Primorska Hrvatska) and Mountainous Croatia (Gorska Hrvatska) and these can be neatly split into five travel regions:
- , the capital, has a fine old city.
- to the east is the chief city of Slavonia, with many budget flights.
- is the main town of Istria with a well-preserved Roman amphitheater.
- is Croatia's main port, with ferries across to Italy and to the Adriatic islands.
- has a rich history and lies in a scenic area, yet is overlooked by most tourists.
- has an entire ancient city shoehorned into a Roman Imperial palace.
- town itself is small, but it's the hub for the long Makarska Riviera.
- is a spectacular walled city and .
The islands are some of the best of what Croatia has to offer. There are reckoned to be 1244, but the top handful are:
- , large and well-developed. Nearby Krk is nowadays connected to the mainland.
- is a long thin island, with Supetar its main port.
- has a charming old port.
- has an attractive old town and string of little villages.
Inland in the rugged mountains are many scenic areas:
- is the mountainous region between Slovenia and Croatia.
- is a spectacular scenic area and .
- is a river valley near Šibenik.
ClimateNorthern Croatia has a temperate continental climate, while the central and upland regions have an Alpine climate. The Adriatic coast has a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Spring and autumn are mild along the coast, while winter is cold and snowy in the central and northern regions. The average temperature inland in January ranges from -10°C to 5°C; August 19°C to 39°C. The average temperature at the seaside is higher: January 6°C to 11°C; August 21°C to 39°C.
TerrainCroatia's geography is diverse with flat agricultural plains along the Hungarian border (Central European area), low mountains and highlands near the Adriatic coastline, and islands. There are 1,246 islands; the largest ones are Krk and Cres. The highest point is Dinara at 1,830 m.
HistoryIn ancient times, what is now Croatia was part of the regions of Illyria and Dalmatia. This region came under Roman control and became a province known as Illyricum from 27 BC. In the 5th century, Rome was declining and the Ostrogoths seized an opportunity to rule the area for a short period. The Avars arrived soon after, incorporating the land into the Avar Khaganate.
In the early 7th century the Croats came and defeated the Avars, and formed two duchies: Croatia and Pannonia. The establishment of the Trpimirović Dynasty ca 850 strengthened the Dalmatian Croat Duchy, which together with the Pannonian principality became a kingdom in 925 under King Tomislav. The independent Croatian kingdom lasted until 1102 when Croatia, after a series of dynastic struggles entered into a personal union with Hungary, with a Hungarian king ruling over both countries. In 1526, after the Battle of Mohács, in which Hungary suffered a catastrophic defeat against the Ottoman Turks, Croatia severed its relationship with Hungary and its parliament (Sabor) voted to form a new personal union with the Habsburg Monarchy. Croatia remained an autonomous kingdom within the Hapsburg state (and later Austria-Hungary) until the empire's dissolution following its defeat in World War I.
In 1918, a short-lived State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (carved out of south Slavic parts of Austria-Hungary) joined the Kingdom of Serbia to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. The new state was unitarist in character, erasing all historical borders within its new territorial division, which resulted in a strong movement for more autonomy for Croatia. This was achieved in 1939, only days before the start of World War II, when Croatia was granted broad autonomy within Yugoslavia as Banovina of Croatia. When Axis powers Germany and Italy invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, the state was dissolved, parts of it annexed to Germany and Italy, and puppet governments installed in Croatia and Serbia. After the 1941 split between the Partisans and the Chetniks in Serbia, the Chetnik groups in central, eastern, and northwestern Bosnia found themselves caught between the German and Ustaše (NDH) forces on one side and the Partisans on the other. Almost immediately, a strong resistance movement was formed, led by communist leader Josip Broz "Tito" (whose father was a Croat), which gained broad popular support. The Ustasa-led Nazi puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia – which included most of present-day Croatia, all Bosnia and Herzegovina and a small part of Serbia – had a population of some six million people, including around 3.5 million Croats, 1.8 million Serbs and 700,000 Bosniaks. Modelled on Nazi Nuremberg laws, the NDH in April 1941 passed legislation against “non-Aryan” Jews and Roma. After Jasenovac concentration camp was founded in 1941, solely by the governing Ustaše regime rather than by Nazi Germany as in the rest of occupied Europe, in its vision of an ethnically pure state – with Bosniaks considered as Croats of the Muslim faith – the NDH started targeting Serbs and two minorities, Jews and Roma, and others were killed because they were anti-fascists, as well as real or suspected political enemies. In the 2000s, the Jasenovac Memorial Site started working on a list of all the inmates who were killed or died at the camp, using existing name-by-name lists, documents, confirmations of deaths and verifications by relatives. The Memorial site has put together the most comprehensive name-by-name list so far, which includes a total of 83,145 victims. Sorted by ethnicity, the list has 47,627 Serbs, 16,173 Roma and 13,116 Jews, while Croats, Bosniaks and others make up the total number. While the Memorial Site itself says that the number is not final, as well as admitting the possibility that there are isolated mistakes in its list, it believes that the total death toll is within its estimate of between 80,000 and 100,000 people. By early 1945, the NDH army withdrew towards Zagreb with German and Cossack troops. They were overpowered and the advance of Tito's Partisan forces, joined by the Soviet Red Army, caused a mass retreat of the Ustaše towards Austria. The British Army, however, refused them entry and turned them over to the Partisan forces, starting the Bleiburg repatriations. Although NDH (1941–1945) was part of Croatia's history, current Constitution of Croatia does not officially recognize the Independent State of Croatia as the historical or legitimate predecessor state of the current Croatian republic.
The end of World War II resulted in the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Yugoslavia, which later became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with the Constitution of 1946 officially making the People's Republic of Croatia and the People's Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina two of the six constituent republics of the new state. Communist Yugoslavia was formed with Tito becoming "president for life". Tito ruled with a strong hand, using political repression and secret police to quell any separatist sentiments, with the official motto of the new country being "Brotherhood and Union". Still, because Yugoslavia didn't belong to the Warsaw Pact, having broken off political ties with the USSR in 1948, it was by far the most open socialist country in Europe and its citizens enjoyed more civil liberties and a higher living standard than the rest of the Communist bloc.
After Tito's death in 1980, the weakening of political repression led to a period of political instability. Faced with the rise of nationalist sentiment, a decade-long recession, and the weakening of communist grip on power on the eve of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the first free elections were held in Yugoslavia in almost 45 years. In January 1990, the Communist Party fragmented along national lines, with the Croatian and Slovenian delegations demanded a looser federation, while the Serbian side, headed by Milošević, opposed this leading to a rise in inter-ethnic tensions. In late April and early May 1990, the first multi-party elections were held in Croatia, with Franjo Tuđman's win and constitutional changes in 1990 transformed the Socialist Republic of Croatia into the Republic of Croatia. Nationalist Serbs in Croatia boycotted the Croatian Sabor and seized control of Serb-inhabited territory, setting up road blocks and voting for those areas to become autonomous. The Serb "autonomous oblasts" would soon become increasingly intent on achieving independence from Croatia. This led to open war in Croatia and later in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and by mid-1991, the Croatian War of Independence had already started.
Croatia was first recognized as an independent state on 26 June 1991 by Slovenia, which declared its own independence on the same day as Croatia. But by 29 June, the Croatian and Slovenian authorities agreed to a three-month moratorium on the independence declaration, in an effort to ease tensions. On 8 October 1991, the Croatian Parliament severed all remaining ties declaring their independence from Yugoslavia. Serb-controlled areas of Croatia were part of the three "Serb Autonomous Oblasts" later known as the Republic of Serbian Krajina, bulk of which would not be under Croatian control until 1995.
Finally, the Croatian independence was internationally recognized in January 1992, when both the European Economic Community and the United Nations granted Croatia diplomatic recognition, and the country was accepted into the United Nations shortly thereafter. The war ended four years later, in 1995, with a decisive Croatian victory in Operation Storm. Present day borders of Croatia were established when the remaining Serb-held areas of eastern Slavonia were restored to Croatia pursuant to the Erdut Agreement of November 1995, with the process concluded in January 1998. The anniversary of Operation Storm is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in Croatia every August 5.
After a period of accelerated economic growth in the late 1990s and 2000s Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union in 2013. Croatia today is a functioning liberal democracy, with a free market system and a robust welfare state.
- January 1: New Year's Day
- January 6: Epiphany
- Easter (according to the Gregorian calendar)
- Corpus Christi (60 days after Easter)
- May 1: International Workers' Day
- June 22: Anti-Fascist Struggle Day
- June 25: Statehood Day
- August 5: Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian defenders
- August 15: Assumption of Mary
- October 8: Independence Day
- December 25: Christmas
The main language is Croatian, which is a Slavic language which is very similar to Serbian and Bosnian.
Many Croatians can speak English to some level, but German and Italian are also very popular (largely because of the large annual influx of German and Italian tourists). Elderly people rarely speak English, although they may be able to converse in German or Italian. If you know Polish or Czech then these languages have some similarities to Croatian. Some people might also speak French or Russian. Many older people can speak Russian as it was a compulsory second language in schools during the communist era, but this has largely been supplanted by English among the younger generations.
Any person not covered by a visa exemption will need to apply for a visa at a Croatian embassy or consulate in advance. The application fee for a short stay Croatian visa is . However, it may be possible for multiple-entry Schengen visa holders to use their Schengen visa to enter Croatia provided that it remains valid during the their stay.
More information about visa exemptions and the visa application procedure is available at the website of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs .
By planeCroatia has international airports in Zagreb, Osijek, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik.
- Zagreb (ZAG) as the capital city is the hub for Croatia Airlines, with conventional-carrier flights to the other major cities of Europe, plus Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Dubai and Doha. There are domestic flights to Osijek, Pula, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik.
- Osijek (OSI) in the east of the country has flights to Cologne, Zagreb and Dubrovnik, and that's about all. It used to have budget flights serving travellers heading into nearby Serbia, but nowadays they can fly to Belgrade so this traffic has dried up.
- Pula (PUY), Rijeka (RJK), Zadar (ZAD), Split (SPU) and Dubrovnik (DBV) largely serve the tourist trade, with many seasonal flights across Europe. They're rather quiet in winter after the daily flight to Zagreb has departed. See also individual city pages "Get in".
So Europe is well-served but from North America, you'll need to change at a hub such as London or Frankfurt.
Airports in neighboring countries are sometimes a better option. These include Ljubljana, Graz, Trieste and Venice Marco Polo.
Conversely, Dubrovnik is sometimes used as the airport for Montenegro, though less often nowadays as flights to Tivat have expanded.
The rail network passenger lines are operated by Hrvatske Željeznice (HŽ) Putnički Prijevoz (PP). They connect all major Croatian cities, except Dubrovnik (you can take a train to Split then take one of the frequent buses or the more scenic ferry to Dubrovnik, the train station is at the pier). There are direct lines from Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary (suspended due to immigrant crisis), Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. There are indirect lines from almost all other European countries.
From neighboring countries, there are EuroCity, InterCity and EuroNight rail services:
- EC "Mimara": Frankfurt - Munich - Salzburg - Ljubljana - Zagreb
- IC "Croatia": Vienna - Maribor - Zagreb, also by EuroNight train
- EN 414: Zurich - Zagreb - Beograd (can be booked online with SBB or any other railway agency by phone)
- IC "Adria": Budapest - Zagreb - Split (suspended due to immigrant crisis, direct connection to Split only during summer)
The German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) has a Europe Special/Croatia, where they sell Munich-Zagreb starting at .
While Croatia is covered on some Eurail passes, staff at domestic ticket windows tend to have no idea about validating the pass on the first day of use. There are recorded instances of staff saying that the conductor would validate the pass, and the conductor simply treating it as a regular ticket. Fortunately, the international ticket staff (particularly in Zagreb) are aware of how to validate the pass, and have been known to validate it retroactively where necessary. They even ask for the details of the domestic ticket seller who gave the wrong information.
The traveller is therefore recommended to have already validated their Eurail pass on arrival in Croatia, or to have it validated at an international window even if the first trip on it will be domestic.
To enter Croatia, a driver's license, an automobile registration card and vehicle insurance documents are required. If you need road assistance, you should dial 1987. The following speeds are permitted:
- 50 km/h - within built-up areas
- 90 km/h - outside built-up areas
- 110 km/h - on major motor routes
- 130 km/h - on motorways
- 80 km/h - for motor vehicles with a caravan trailer
- 80 km/h - for buses and buses with a light trailer
When driving in the rain, you should adjust speed to conditions on wet roads. Driving with headlights is not obligatory during the day (during Daylight Savings Time; it is obligatory during winter months). Use of mobile phones while driving is not permitted. Maximum permitted amount of alcohol in blood is 0.05% (matching neighboring Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) although this has varied and was down to 0% until that was found to not be tenable in the country. Use of seat belts is obligatory.
Hrvatski Auto Klub is the Croatian Automobile Club dedicated to assisting drivers and promoting greater traffic security. Its site offers minute-by-minute updates, status of national traffic, weather, numerous maps and webcams all over Croatia. Content is available in Croatian, English, German and Italian.
Once you're in the country, Croatia has a reliable and cheap bus network.
If you are coming from Italy there are two buses daily from Venice leaving at 11:00 and 13:45 going to Istria, with a final stop in Pula. These are operated by different bus companies, but you can buy tickets for both buses at the ATVO bus office at the Venice bus station. The office is in the bus station, but located outside on the ground level across from where all the buses park. Both buses pick up at spot b15. It is roughly a 5-hour bus ride, with stops in Trieste and Rovinj. You can also pick up the bus at the bus station in Mestre, 15 minutes after the scheduled bus leaves Venice. Coming in from Trieste, Italy is popular among Europeans, for Trieste is a Ryanair destination. There are multiple daily bus lines from Trieste to Croatian cities operated by the Arriva Croatia bus company. You cross the Italian-Slovenian border first, and then the Slovenian-Croatian border, but they are very close to one another.
Dubrovnik and Split are the main destinations of international buses from Bosnia and Hercegovina or Montenegro, with daily buses traveling to cities such as Sarajevo, Mostar and Kotor (some lines such as Split-Mostar operate every few hours). Seasonal lines also extend through to Skopje from Dubrovnik. Border formalities on the buses are extremely efficient, and do not involve leaving the bus (previous services from Dubrovnik to Kotor involved changing buses at the Croatian border).
Osijek is a large bus hub for international travel to Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia in addition to its local buses, and the station is located conveniently next to the railway station. Many buses heading from Zagreb north into Hungary or Austria will pass through Varaždin.
Ferries are cheap and go regularly between various places by the coast. Although not the fastest, they are probably the best way to see the beautiful Croatian islands of the Adriatic Sea.
Jadrolinija is the main Croatian passenger shipping line that maintains the largest number of regular international and domestic ferry and shipping lines. The following international lines are serviced by car ferries:
- Rijeka - Zadar - Split - Hvar - Korčula -Dubrovnik - Bari
- Split - Ancona - Split
- Korčula - Hvar - Split - Ancona
- Zadar - Ancona - Zadar
- Zadar - Dugi otok - Ancona
- Dubrovnik - Bari - Dubrovnik
Blue Line International also covers the international line Split - Ancona - Split
Venezia Lines has regular catamaran lines between Venice and the Croatian cities of Poreč, Pula, Rovinj and Rabac.
National airline company Croatia Airlines connects major cities in Croatia to each other and foreign destinations. Due to the comparatively short distances and relatively high hassle of air travel - especially when you travel with luggage - domestic air travel is used mostly for getting to end points - e.g., Zagreb to Dubrovnik (see map) and vice-versa.
Another popular flight (available in the summer months only) is between Split and Osijek, saving a long trip back through Croatia, or alternatively through the middle of Bosnia.
Train travel is definitely improving in Croatia, with money being spent on updating the aging infrastructure and vehicles. Trains are clean and mostly on time.
Croatia's rail network connects all major Croatian cities, except Dubrovnik. If you want to visit Dubrovnik, you will have to travel by train to Split, and then go on the bus for Dubrovnik. Trains to Pula are actually connected via Slovenia due to historical accident, though there are designated connecting buses from Rijeka.
Rail is still the cheapest connection between inland and coast, though not the most frequent. 160 km/h "tilting trains" that connect Zagreb with Split and other major cities in Croatia such as Rijeka and Osijek provide more comfort and fast journeys between cities (Zagreb-Split is 5.5 hr, Osijek is 3, when other trains take around 4.5 hr). If you make a reservation early enough you can get a substantial discount, or if you are a holder of an ISIC card.
Information for the trains can be found on the Hrvatske željeznice - Croatian Railways site in Croatian and English has timetable and prices.
Tickets are not usually sold on board, except if you happen to get on the train on one of the few stations/stops without ticket sales. However, only local trains stop on such stations. In all other cases, a ticket bought on the train will cost considerably more than the one bought outside the train.
A very comprehensive coach network connects all parts of the country. Bus service between major cities (intercity lines) is quite frequent, as well as regional services. The most frequent bus terminal in Croatia is Bus Terminal Zagreb (in Croatian "Autobusni kolodvor Zagreb"). Despite the recent improvements in the railway network, buses are faster than trains for inter-city travel. See Bus travel in the former Yugoslavia for more information.
- Autobusni kolodvor Zagreb - Bus Terminal Zagreb, timetable information, content in Croatian, English
- CroatiaBus - bus company - timetable information, prices, content in Croatian and English.
- Arriva Croatia - bus company - timetable information, prices, content in Croatian, English, German and Italian.
- Autobusni promet Varaždin - bus company - timetable information, prices, content in Croatian, English and German.
- Libertas Dubrovnik - bus terminal and company information in Dubrovnik, with international and domestic information. Content mostly in Croatian.
Croatia is endowed with a beautiful coastline which is best explored by ferry to access the hundreds of islands.
In many instances, the only way to get to the islands is by ferry or catamaran. If you plan on using either you should check these web sites because they have the regular ferry and catamaran information.
- Jadrolinija - Jadrolinija is the Croatian National ferry company, and as well as routes operating from the major cities to the islands, operate a ferry along the Adriatic Coast from Rijeka to Dubrovnik (and then across to Bari, Italy) calling at Split, Hvar, Mljet and Korčula. Check timetables as the schedules are seasonal. The boats are large and have sleeping facilities as the Rijeka-Split leg goes overnight.
- SNAV is an Italian company connecting Split with Ancona and Pescara. Check timetables as the schedules are seasonal.
- Split Taxi Boat, speed taxi boat transfers from Split Town or Split Airport to nearby islands.
- Azzura lines, is an Italian operator connecting Dubrovnik with Bari Check timetables as the schedules are seasonal.
- Split Hvar taxi boat Taxi boat service that works 24 hr and can take you anywhere you want.
- Yacht Charter in Croatia, a charter company with one of the largest fleets, situated in Split ACI Marina.
- A Yacht Charter Croatia offers a variety of sailing yachts, gulets and catamarans.
- Antlos offers a selection of skippered yacht holidays in Croatia, including Split, Hvar, Brac and the whole of the Dalmatian Coast.
- Navis Yacht Charter services are intended for those who want to explore coast and hidden bays by sea for one week or more.
- Europe Yachts Charter Europe Yachts Charter offers you chartering services in Croatia and some other Mediterranean countries.
- Croatia Cruise Cabin Charter Discover a completely new cruising experience that gives you the freedom to sail individually or in smaller groups.
- Crewed Yacht Charter in CroatiaLion Queen charter offers Gulet Cruises Croatia as one of the main specialist in this area.
- If travelling as an individual or small group tour operators like Med Experience offer individual spots on a yacht trip down the coast.
- Map with Croatian yachting marinas There are 6 main regions where you can charter a yacht: Istria, Kvarner gulf, Zadar region, Sibenik region, Split region and Dubrovnik. All of them all well-communicated with Croatian airports.
- Globe Yacht Charter is specialized for organizing cruises around Croatian islands. They offer all inclusive yacht charter.
- Catamaran Charter Croatia brand new catamarans for charter in Croatia. Bare boat or with skipper.
- PlainSailing.com bareboat, skippered and crewed yacht and catamaran across Croatia.
Outside the summer months it is often difficult or impossible to make a day trip to the more remote islands. This is because ferry schedules are made to suit commuters who live on islands and travel to the mainland, not vice versa.
Roads in Croatia are usually well maintained, but can be very narrow and full of curves. Some local roads in Istria have been worn down to a smooth surface from regular wear and tear, and can be extremely slippery when wet. It's difficult to find a true highway with more than one lane per direction, the only exceptions being the ones connecting Rijeka, Zagreb, Osijek, Zadar and Split. Speed limits are thus low (60–90 km/h), and it's not recommended to drive faster (although most locals do), especially at night. Be aware of animals crossing the road.
In case you want to overtake a slow vehicle on a narrow road, often the drivers in front of you will set the right yellow turning lights, and drive on the very right side, to sign the drivers behind, that it is okay to overtake. But at your own risk.
Renting a car is around the same price as in the EU (from around ). Almost all cars have a manual transmission. Most rental agencies in the Balkans allow you to rent a car in one country and drive in the neighboring countries however try to avoid a renting a car in Serbia and driving it into Croatia (or vice versa) in order to avoid negative attention from nationalists.
On Croatian Motorways toll fees apply (and may be paid in either kuna or euros). The A6 motorway runs between Zagreb and Rijeka, and the main motorway A1 from Zagreb to Dubrovnik is still under construction (the current ending point is in Vrgorac, which is 70 km from Dubrovnik). To reach southern Dalmatia including Dubrovnik, you must cross a short portion of Bosnia-Herzegovina, so check if you need a visa or other special requirements for entry into Bosnia (EU and US citizens don't need a visa). Another major motorway is the A3, linking the Slovenian border (not far from Zagreb) with eastern Croatia and the Serbian border (120 km from Belgrade). The general speed limit on motorways is . You will probably encounter cars driving much faster, but following their example is of course highly unsafe.
When exiting a toll motorway, ask the receipt at toll booth if it is not given to you to be sure you do not get overcharged (you could receive along with the receipt some unexpected change compared with the price you were given verbally).
If an unknown person flashes their car lights at you it may be a sign that they've recently passed a police unit doing speed limit checks. Ensure you comply with all the traffic rules and regulations to avoid being stopped and fined.
Trying to find a parking space near Croatia's coastal old towns in the summer can be an exercise in futility. Even though prices range from the merely expensive 7 kn in Split to the extortionate 30 kn per hour in Dubrovnik, the spaces fill up very quickly. However, away from the old towns, parking is convenient and often free at shopping malls and large supermarkets, sports venues, near residential tower blocks and at restaurants (free for guests).
You can use a taxi service by calling 970, or sometimes another number for a private company – check individual city articles. The taxi usually comes within 10 to 15 minutes from the call except in the busy summer season where it depends on how much business they have. Croatian taxis are generally rather expensive.
You can also book the transportation in advance which is great when you are in a hurry or have a larger number of people in need of transportation, or you just want everything organized in advance.
You can also arrange a taxi service by E-mail in advance to have even more comfort and to save money since these taxi operators are cheaper than the regular taxi service.
Hitchhiking is generally good. If you can get to a highway toll stop simply ask people to take you with them as they open their windows to pay the toll. The toll collectors usually won't mind. The tricky part, of course, is to get to the toll stop. If you are in Zagreb and you are, like most people, heading south, take the bus 111 from the Savski most station in Zagreb and ask the bus driver where to get off to get to the toll stop. The next best place to ask people to pick you up are gas stations. And finally, using the good old thumb will work too if everything else fails. On some roads, hitchhiking is not permitted. Roads on which you cannot hitchhike are usually denoted by a sign with the word 'autostop' crossed out ('autostop' is Croatian for 'hitchhiking').
Croatia has an impressive history, a fact that is best explained through the vast array of sites worth visiting. Most towns have an historical centre with its typical architecture. There are differences between the coast and the continental part, so both areas are a must. The most famous town is probably Dubrovnik, a prime example of the coastal architecture, but by no means the only one worth visiting. Equally important is the capital and largest city, Zagreb, with a population of about 1 million. It is a modern city with all the modern features, yet it has a laid back feel. In the east, in the region of Slavonia with its regional capital Osijek and the war torn Vukovar are awe inspiring. Scattered throughout the region are vineyards and wine cellars, most of which give tours and tastings.
Throughout the country there are numerous cultural venues that are worth seeing. Croatia has 7 UNESCO protected sites, 8 national parks and 10 nature parks. In total, the country has 444 protected areas. Beautiful Adriatic sea stretches along of coastline, there are 1,246 islands to be seen making Croatia an attractive nautical destination.
Sailing is a good way to see the coastal islands and networks of small archipelagos, and it gives you a chance to see some incredible bays that are simply inaccessible by anything other than a boat. Most charters leave from Split or the surrounding area on the North or the South circuit, each offering its own pros and cons, although Dubrovnik is becoming increasingly popular. A good way is to book a package with a company at home (and let them worry about speaking in Croatian!), although many Croatian companies do offer both bareboat and crewed charters.
Booking a charter vessel is basically done in two payments - 50 percent of the charter price is paid as a deposit, after which the booking is confirmed. The other 50 percent of the charter fee is usually paid six weeks before the charter date. Before paying the first charter fee you should request to see the charter contract from the agency where you chartered a boat - pay close attention to the cancellation fees because many times if you cancel your charter vacation you could lose the initial fifty percent you have already paid. After that you are all set to go sailing.
Most yachts are only available on a Saturday - Saturday basis in peak season (May - September) but there may be more flexibility from yacht companies in April and October if you can't do the full week. When you arrive at the 'home marina' (where your chartered yacht is situated), you need to do the check in (usually Saturday around 16:00) and you have to do the shopping for the charter vacation - there is usually a mini-market in the marina, but it will be expensive compared to a normal supermarket. Typically you will be nearest a big supermarket on the first day, so it's the best time to stock up. Buy everything that you possibly can (that won't go off) - the sea and winds can unpredictable and you don't want to get stuck on the boat without anything to eat or drink! Top up your shopping with fresh bread, meat, fruit and vegetables in local marinas.
You can also order from yacht provisioning services who can deliver your shopping straight to your yacht. This is convenient because it takes the load off you and the things you must do when you arrive at the marina for your sailing holiday, but also (obviously) works out more expensive.
Naturist resortsCroatia was the first country in Europe to introduce the concept of commercial naturist resorts. According to some estimates about 15% of all tourists that visit the country are naturists or nudists (more than one million each year). There are more than 20 official naturist resorts as well as a very large number of the so-called free beaches which are unofficial naturist beaches, sometimes controlled and maintained by local tourist authorities. In fact, you are likely to find nudists on any beach outside of town centres. Naturist beaches in Croatia are marked as "FKK".
The most popular nudist destinations are Pula, Hvar and island Rab.
Medical tourismIncreasingly Croatia is becoming a popular place for health tourism. A number of dental surgeries have experience in treating short term visitors to Croatia.
Croatian dentists study for 5 years in Zagreb, Split or Rijeka. Harmonization of training with EU standards has begun, in preparation for Croatia's accession.
Croatia for the disabledFacilities for the disabled are not as developed as elsewhere, but there are exceptions to this and certain hotels, camp sites and beaches have facilities for the disabled and wheelchair access.
One of Croatia's more "wild" holiday offers are the lighthouses. Most of them are situated on a deserted coastline or in the open sea. The speciality of this is that you are able to cut yourself off from the rest of the world and take the time to "smell the roses". Sometimes the best way to relax is to take part in a Robinson Crusoe style holiday.
Croatia has 11 rent-a-lighthouses along the Adriatic coast: Savudrija, Sv. Ivan, Rt Zub, Porer, Veli Rat, Prisnjak, Sv. Petar, Pločica, Sušac, Struga and Palagruža.
Croatia's official currency is the kuna, denoted by the symbol "kn" (ISO code: HRK). Although many tourist business owners may accept euros, they are not legal tender in Croatia. Any amount of kuna you have left at the end of your stay can be converted to euros at a local bank or exchange office.
Prices are around 10% to 20% lower than most other EU countries. Tourist destinations and articles are much more expensive.
ATMsATMs (in Croatian bankomat) are readily available throughout Croatia. They will accept various European bank cards, credit cards (Diners Club, Eurocard/MasterCard, Visa, American Express, etc.) and debit cards (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa electron, etc.) Read the labels and notices on the machine before using.
Tipping is not particularly common, although it may occur in restaurants and bars. Prices are usually already adjusted upwards, and labour laws ensure a minimum wage for all workers, therefore tipping is usually not expected.
Taxi drivers and hairdressers are often given tips by rounding up the displayed price to the nearest multiple of 5 or 10 kn.
A unique practice of tipping exists among the pensioners who receive their pension via mail in rural settlements. They may leave any coinage to the postman who delivers it as a sign of appreciation.
Tax-free shoppingIf you buy goods worth more than 740 kn you are entitled to a PDV (VAT) tax return when leaving the country. This applies to all goods except petroleum products. At point of purchase ask the sales person for a PDV-P form. Fill it out and have it stamped on the spot. On leaving Croatia the receipt will be verified by the Croatian Customs service. A PDV refund in kunas can be obtained within six months, either at the same shop where you bought the goods (in that case the tax will be refunded to you immediately), or by posting the verified receipt back to the shop, together with the account number into which the refund should be paid. In this case the refund is dealt with within 15 days of receipt of the claim. There is another, much easier way to receive the refund. Buy your goods in shops with a "Croatia Tax-free Shopping" label. This label is displayed on the shop's entrance, usually next to the labels of credit and debit cards this particular shop accepts. Using an international coupon, refund is possible in all countries-members of the Tax-free international chain. In this case the service charge is deducted from the tax refund amount.
Croatia now uses the Global Blue system. They will do the refund and take a commission. You can do this at the airport or post it once you get home.
Natural cosmeticsThe ingredients used (herbs, olive oil, etc.) are grown in Croatia. In comparison to some world famous beauty products, Croatian natural cosmetics present real value for money.
Ulola makes soaps, bath salts, body butters and more. It's all natural and comes in combinations like orange and cinnamon, and goats milk and almond oil.
S-Atea produces soaps, shower gels, body butter and more. Seaweed, olive oil, rosemary and lavender are some of the ingredients they use.
Brac fini sapuni (Brac quality soaps) makes a wide range of natural soaps. A recent addition to their bath line is Aurum Croaticum made from virgin olive oil and thin leafs of 23 carat gold!
Croatian clothing designersThere are many Croatian designers and clothing specialists.
Etnobutik "Mara" (designs by Vesna Milković) offers a range of really unique clothing and accessories inscribed with "glagoljica" (glagolitic script; old Slavic alphabet). Some of her designs are protected as Authentic Croatian produce.
I-gle Fashion Studio by two female designers Nataša Mihaljčišin i Martina Vrdoljak-Ranilović. Their clothing is sold in Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge (London).
Nebo ("Sky") is a fashion house that makes really nice, funky clothes and shoes.
Nit ("Thread") is definitely not widely known even among Croats but is definitely worth visiting as they have some "funky and arty but serious" clothing items that are "value for money".
Borovo is a well-priced and stylish shoe company which makes everything from flip-flops to desert boots and high heels.
Croatian cuisine is quite diverse so it is hard to say what meal is most typically Croatian. In the eastern continental regions (Slavonija and Baranja) spicy sausage such as kulen or kulenova seka is a must try. Čobanac ("shepherd's stew") is a mixture of several kinds of meat with a lot of red spicy paprika. In Hrvatsko Zagorje and Central Croatia pasta filled with cheese called štrukli is a famous delicacy (it is said that the best štrukli in Croatia is served in the Esplanade Hotel restaurant in Zagreb), as is purica s mlincima, which is baked turkey cooked in a special kind of pastry. Sir i vrhnje (sour cream with cottage cheese) can be bought fresh on the Zagreb main market Dolac. Croats love a bit of oil and you will find plenty of it in piroška. In the mountainous regions of Lika and Gorski Kotar meals containing mushrooms, wild berries and game meat are very popular. One of typical dishes in Lika is police (oven-baked potatoes covered with bacon) and several kinds of cheese (smoked cheese and škripavac).
The coastal region is well known for its truffle delicacies and soup maneštra od bobić (Istria), Dalmatian pršut and paški sir (Pag-island cheese). Dishes made of fresh fish and other products of the sea (calamari, octopus, crabs, scampi) shouldn't be given a miss! Many places serve fish delivered from the local fisherman the night before - find out which ones!
Croatian cuisine has yet to come up with a fast food representative. The market is dominated by globally ubiquitous hamburgers and pizzas but you will also find "burek" and "ćevapčići" imported from the Ottoman Empire, which stretched from the Middle East to neighboring Bosnia. The latter two dishes are widely popular throughout Southeastern Europe. Burek is a type of meat or cheese pastry whereas ćevapčići are seasoned minced meat shaped in finger-size portions served in bread and often covered with onions. Although definitely not a fast meal (takes several hours to prepare), also foreign in origin is the so-called sarma or sauerkraut rolls filled with minced meat and rice. For those coming back from nightclubs at 04:00 or 05:00 as is common in Croatia, it is popular to go to the local bakery and get fresh bread, burek or krafne (Croatian chocolate filled donuts) straight out of the oven. As far as fast food goes, who needs it when you can buy delicious prsut during the day and warm bread at night to compliment it. Most Croatians generally look down at fast food.
Desserts: What it lacks in the fast food department Croatia makes up with a myriad of desserts. Probably the most famous is its delicious creamy cake called kremšnite but different kinds of gibanica, štrudla and pita (similar to strudel and pie) such as orehnjača (walnut), makovnjača (poppy) or bučnica (pumpkin and cheese) are also highly recommended. Dubrovačka torta od skorupa is delicious but hard to find. Paprenjaci (pepper cookies) are said to reflect Croatia's tumultuous history because they combine the harshness of the war periods (pepper) with the natural beauties (honey). They can be bought in most souvenir shops though the freshly made ones are always a better choice. Rapska torta (The Rab island cake) is made with almonds and locally famous cherry liquor Maraschino. This is hardly an exhaustive list and to dive further into the regionalities of Croatian cuisine, one can read the city and region articles.
Chocolate candy Bajadera is available throughout shops in the country and along with Griotte, is one of the most famous products of the Croatian chocolate industry.
An unavoidable ingredient in many meals prepared in Croatia is "Vegeta". It is a spice produced by Podravka.
Olives: a lot of people claim that Croatian olives and their olive oil are the best in the world. Many brands exist and some of them have several world awards. Try to buy olive oil from Istra (although oil from Dalmatia is also excellent) and choose only Croatian brands for olives. Try to read the label before buying to ensure you are buying Croatian olives and oil, since there are many cheaper imports, usually from Greece. All of this can be found in most supermarkets, but you should be really aware of the imports. Most Croatians aren't experts and prefer cheaper products, so the cheaper oils dominate the shelves.
The olive oil is an irreplaceable ingredient in coastal Croatian cuisine, but be aware of the use of cheaper, non-Croatian oil in restaurants. Most tourists don't notice the difference so the restaurants don't find it profitable to use excellent oil; they rather use cheaper Spanish or Greek. Usually, asking the waiter for a better oil (and looking like an expert) helps, and soon the waiter will get you a first-class oil hidden away at the back of the restaurant.
Alcoholic: Rakija, a type of brandy which can be made of plum (šljivovica), grapes (loza), figs (smokovača), honey (medica) and many other types of fruit and aromatic herbs, is the main distilled beverage served in Croatia. Pelinkovac is a bitter herbal liquor popular in Central Croatia, but is said to resemble cough-medicine in flavor. Famous Maraschino, a liquer flavored with Marasca cherries, which are grown around Zadar, Dalmatia.
Croatia also produces a broad palette of high quality wines (up to 700 wines with protected geographic origin), beers and mineral water. On the coast people usually serve "bevanda" with meals. Bevanda is heavy, richly flavored red wine mixed with plain water. Its counterpart in northern parts of Croatia is "gemišt". This term designates dry, flavored white wines mixed with mineral water.
Two popular domestic beers are "Karlovačko" and "Ožujsko", but "Velebitsko" and "Tomislav pivo" have received a semi-cult status in the recent years. It is served only in some places in Zagreb and Croatia. Many well-known European brands (Stella Artois, Beck's, Carling, Heineken and others) are made under license in Croatia.
Non-alcoholic: Mineral water, fruit juices, coffee (espresso, Turkish or instant), tea, Cedevita (instant multivitamin drink), and drinkable yogurt. Sometimes although very rarely you may find "sok od bazge" (elderflower juice) in the continental region. Worth trying! Also, in Istria there is a drink called "pašareta" and it is a sparkling red drink with herbal extracts. Very sweet and refreshing!
In some parts of Istria (especially south) in local basements, you can try 'smrikva' - a non-alcoholic refreshing drink made out of berries which grow on one sort of pine tree. The taste is a bit sour but very refreshing.
Alcoholic drinks can't be sold or served to anyone under 18, though this rule isn't strictly enforced.
Accommodation in Croatia is increasingly geared towards well-furnished, self-declared four and five star hotels. Prices are at their most expensive during the warmer months from June to September, especially July and August. Many coastal hotels are closed during the winter but there is at least one play to stay which is open in the off-season in all major towns.
Private rooms and apartments are quite common, targeting the masses as the country has experience a tourism surge in recent years. Apartments tend to be self-containing, with a kitchen, bathroom, small lounge, and often a terrace outside.
B&Bs haven't really taken off in Croatia because of the bureaucratic rules in place. In the countryside, rural homestays have become more visible, particularly in the inland regions. These homestays are slightly pricier than the private rooms and apartments, but include breakfast and home-cooked meals.
European Union citizens have the same status as Croatian citizens when applying to Croatian universities. Full English-language courses in computer science and medicine are available in Zagreb and Split.
VolunteeringCroatia is the destination of many worldwide volunteer organizations that send groups of volunteers throughout the year to help with agriculture, community development, education, animal welfare, and more. These programs are put together by nonprofits, community groups and volunteers to help locals improve their economy and way of life. With rich cultural history and stunning coastline, Croatia is truly is the jewel of eastern Europe. If you would like to travel to Croatia as a volunteer, visit these websites for volunteer programs, accommodations, travel dates, and tours.
During summer make sure you use adequate SPF to protect yourself from sunburn. There are no ozone holes over Croatia but it's fairly easy to burn in the sun. If this happens make sure you get out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids and rehydrate your skin. The locals will often advise covering the burnt spot with cold yogurt bought from the supermarket.
In case of an emergency you can dial 112 - responsible for dispatching all emergency services such as fire departments, police, emergency medical assistance and mountain rescue.
Since the hostilities ended in 1995, there remain an estimated 46,317 landmines in Croatia. However these are not to be found in areas visited by tourists. If you plan to hike consult locals before you go. The mine suspected areas are marked with 13,274 mine warning signs. Although mines are still a problem for Croatia, it is highly unlikely you will spot any minefields in Croatia today.
If you find yourself in area that can be potential contaminated with mines, do not stray from marked roads or known safe areas. For further advice refer to Wikivoyage's war zone safety section.
Watch out for bura wind danger signs. The bura can be particularly strong in the Velebit area, where it can blow up to 200 km/h and overturn lorries. However, if the wind is strong enough to pose a significant danger to all traffic on a road section, that section will be closed. During strong bura wind, avoid any activity on the sea. Accidents caused by wind occurs every year and claim tourists lives in Croatia. From sailing accidents to drownings due to high water.
Avoid strip clubs at all costs. They are often run by very shady characters, and often overcharge their guests. Foreigners have been charged for a bottle of champagne. These clubs overcharge their customers to the extreme, and their bouncers will not have any mercy if you tell them you can't pay. You will soon find yourself in a local hospital. Using common sense is essential, but due to the nature of the clubs this may be in short supply, and you may be better advised simply to steer well clear of these clubs.
Abuse of LGBT people is possible in Croatia, so travelers should avoid public displays of same-sex affection.
No vaccinations are required when going to Croatia.
If you're going camping or hiking in continental Croatia during summer, you should be aware of ticks and tick-carrying diseases such as encephalitis and lyme disease. Approximately 3 ticks in 1000 carry the virus.
In Eastern Slavonia (particularly around the Kopački Rit near Osijek) wear long sleeves and take insect repellent.
Tap water in Croatia is perfectly safe, and in some areas considered the best in the world. However, you can still choose from several brands of excellent bottled water (Jamnica being the most popular, and Jana, several times awarded as the world's best bottled water.)
Though the water may be some of the best in the world, avoid drinking the home-made wine sold in refilled plastic jugs in many local farmer's markets as it may cause intestinal distress.
Croatia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, and 1990s were marked by ethnic conflict and the bloody and brutal war in Croatia is still a painful subject, but generally there should be no problem if you approach that topic with respect. Croatia has seen a heap of invaders through history; Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslav, etc. Proudly independent today, calling Croatia Yugoslavia or calling Croats Yugoslav, would almost be considered an insult. Also don’t call the Croatian language Serbo-Croatian, as you could easily come across a person sensitive about the issue.
Visitors will find that domestic politics and European affairs are everyday conversation subjects in Croatia.
Visitors should avoid describing Croatia as a Balkan country, as Croats prefer to think of their country as Mediterranean and Central European, and some will take offence at the word "Balkan". Geographically, southern and coastal Croatia is part of the Balkans, while areas north of the Sava and Kupa rivers are not.
Socially, displays of affection among the younger generation are the same as Western European standards, but the older generation (over 65) are still quite conservative.
When driving on rural roads, particularly when a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver by raising your hand from the steering wheel.
Most Croats will respond to "thank you" with something along the lines of "It was nothing" or "not at all" which is equivalent to the English "Don't mention it".
Croatia uses the GSM 900/1800 system for mobile phones. There are three providers, T-Mobile (also operates the Bonbon prepaid brand), Vip (also operates the Tomato prepaid brand) and Tele2. Over 98% of the country's area is covered. Since 2006 UMTS (3G) is available as well, and as of 2013 also HSDPA and LTE. If you have an unlocked phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card for 20 kn. There have been promotions in which SIM cards were given away for free with newspapers (7 kn) and sometimes even literally handed out on the street. GSM phones bundled with T-Mobile or Vip prepaid SIM cards can be found in post offices, grocery stores and kiosks at varying prices.
An alternative to using a mobile phone is calling cards which can be found in postal offices and kiosks, there are two providers, Dencall and Hitme. You can buy cards from 25 kn.
Area codes: When calling between cities (actually between counties) or from a mobile phone, you must dial specific area codes:
(area code)+(phone number)
Slavonski Brod (035)
Mobile phones (091) (092) (095) (097) (098) or (099)
InternetADSL is common in Croatia. A 4 Mbit connection with unlimited downloads costs 178 kn per month via T-Com and just 99 kn with some other providers like Metronet or Iskon.
Cable internet is available from B.net with a wide range of speeds and prices.
Internet cafés are available in all major cities. They are relatively cheap and reliable. A free Wi-Fi signal can be found virtually in every city (cafés, restaurants, hotels, some libraries, schools, colleges). Private unsecured networks have become uncommon.
Croatia's postal service is generally reliable, even if sometimes a bit slow. Every city and town has a post office. Here you can find their exact locations, and here is the price list (the prices change often).
Television, radio and printed mediaHRT, the public television broadcaster, operates four channels, while the commercial networks RTL and Nova TV have two channels each. Foreign films and series are shown with sound in the original language (English, Turkish, German, Italian...) and Croatian subtitles. Only children's programming is dubbed. Many hotels and private apartments have some channels from other European countries (mostly from Germany).
Radio stations that feature English-language pop/rock music are HRT-HR 2, Otvoreni and Totalni. They all have occasional traffic reports, but only HR 2 translates them into English, German and Italian during the summer. Other nationwide stations are HRT-HR 1 (news/features), HRT-HR 3 (mostly classical music), Narodni (Croatian pop) and HKR (Catholic radio).
Newspapers and magazines from Germany, Austria, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia and other countries are available in Croatia. In Zagreb and the northern coastal areas some foreign newspapers arrive on the cover date, elsewhere they are late.