Croatia is a great country for a summer holiday. If you’re visiting for the first time here are the 20 things you need to know before venturing on your Croatian adventure.
1. When to visit?
The peak of the tourist season is in July and August and that’s when the country is considered most beautiful. However, a great time to visit is June or September: there are no tourist crowds, the weather is still great, the prices are lower and the sea is warm.
2. Reaching the country
There are major airports in Zagreb, Split and in the vicinity of Rijeka, so reaching the country isn’t a problem. Many airliners offer direct flights from all over Europe and the lines are more frequent from April to September.
3. Will you need a visa?
Most foreign visitors don’t need a visa to enter the country and can stay in the country for 90 days. If you’re an EU citizen you’ll only need your ID card to enter the country, while other visitors will need a valid passport.
4. What’s the weather like?
There are two distinct climates: the continental climate in the inland of the country and the Mediterranean in the coastal regions. Assuming you’re visiting the coast you can expect hot and sunny weather with an average summer temperature of 32 degrees Celsius.
5. Tourist registration
If your hotel, villa or apartment host ask you for your passport know that it is pretty common: all tourists have to be registered at local tourist officers with non EU citizens automatically registered at the police as well. Don’t worry, your passport will be returned to you in half an hour or so.
Being a popular tourist destination Croatia has plenty of hotels varying in quality and price. It’s popular to rent villa or an apartment; plenty of locals make their living by renting rooms (often referred to as ‘apartments’) to tourists. These arrangements don’t include meals, but will generally provide you with a decent room and are cheaper than an average hotel.
Although the country is a member of the European Union it doesn’t use the Euro. The Croatian currency is called Kuna (kn) with an exchange rate of about 7.5 kn for 1 €, 7 kn for 1 $, and 10.3 kn for 1 £. Note that you can often pay things in Euros (gasoline, pay tolls, meals, accommodation) but you’ll get your change in Kunas.
8. Getting around
The best way to travel is by car since the roads are generally in good condition. Bus lines from and to major cities are frequent and affordable but buses tend to be slow and crowed during season. If you’re heading to one of the islands there are multiple ferries, especially during the summer.
First time visitors are usually attracted by coastal towns like Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Šibenik or national parks such as Plitvice and Krka but there are plenty of smaller towns on the coast suitable for a classic Croatian sunbathing holiday. All islands are beautiful and popular. You should decide what kind of holiday you want and then choose the perfect island for you – Brač, Hvar, Vis, Lastovo, Šolta, Krk… The capital of Zagreb is worth of visit as well, being the focal point of Croatian public life. Inland has it owns beautiful towns and rural households with a lot of touristic attractions.
10. National and Nature Parks
Croatia is a country of great biological diversity and preserved flora and fauna. Such richness is well captured in its national and nature parks: the country has eight national parks and ten nature parks and you should visit at least one or two while in the country.
11. UNESCO World Heritage
Croatia is pride on its seven cultural, historical and natural beauties added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage list. These are – Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Historic City of Trogir, The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik, Old City of Dubrovnik and Stari Grad Plain on island Hvar.
Croatia is known for great pebble beaches; majority of these are public beaches without any kind of entry fee. However, it’s not uncommon for hotels to have private beaches for their guests. Sand beaches are rare but if you want you can find some really beautiful and popular and some perfect for families and kids.
We’ve already mentioned that the roads are in good condition: there is a multi-lane motorway connecting Ploče – Makarska – Split – Šibenik - Zadar – Rijeka – Zagreb – Slavonski Brod – Osijek and you can also travel on older roads which are pay toll free. Although these routes are slower than the motorways they provide you with a chance to see the countryside and explore the country.
Generally speaking Croatia is a very safe country. There is little street crime and such incidents are rare. People are usually warm towards tourists. However, take care of your belongings in crowded areas, beaches or public transportation.
The Croatian gastronomy is rich and diverse: the coastal regions based their diet on seafood, olive oil and vegetable, although you can find some meat specialities as well, while the continental parts of the country eat a lot of meat and generally severe food. If you’re on a tight budget there are a lot of fast foods and bakeries but the Croatian cuisine is so great that we recommend you enjoy it while you’re in the country.
Tap water is good to drink but there are many kinds of bottled water in supermarkets. As for alcohol the legal drinking age is 18 and drinking usually takes place at café bars which serve both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and are usually open from 8 AM till midnight. Night clubs usually work until 4 AM. We have a huge variety of wonderful domestic wines, brandies and liqueurs and it would be pity to visit Croatia and not try at least few of those.
WiFi coverage is good. Many towns offer free hotspots in the town centre, and virtually all cafes have WiFi for their customers. The same goes for hotels, hostels, villas, apartments and even campsites. However bear in mind that the Internet is not to fast with the average download speed of 5.6 Mbps.
Roaming charges for EU countries have dropped since 2013: outgoing calls are 1.91 Kunas per minute, incoming calls are 0.47 Kunas, an SMS message is 0.57 Kunas and the Internet is 1.90 Kunas per megabyte. For non EU countries charges are higher.
Don’t worry if you don’t speak Croatian as most Croatians know at least some English especially those working in the tourist sector. German and Italian are spoken as well.
Most hotels offer parking spots for their guests which are free of charges. There are three other types of public parking: garage parking, street parking and open air parking lots. Usually, one hour of parking costs 8-12 Kunas in centres of towns but have in mind that there are car-free zones as well.