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Croatia Travel Guide

Croatia Flag
Wandering in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik, Croatia

“There is the endless coffee-drinking, there are dangers of mysterious drafts that lurk behind every open window, there are mothers-in-law, ubiquitous pillars of society, and the absolute importance of wearing slippers, but there is also the meaning of friendship and life being lived in a slower, more connected way.”

Cody Mcclain author of chasing a croatian girl

Top Five Destinations In Croatia

  1. Dubrovnik Is the “Pearl of the Atlantic” and will capture your heart from the moment you arrive. It is so well preserved and intact it feels more like a movie set vs. a 7th-century medieval wonder. Sitting on the gorgeous Adriatic Sea, it is the ultimate Mediterranean destination. It has a rich deep history and a resilient and friendly population. This city has seen its hardships from many wars, some with the scars still apparent less than 30 years ago. Inside the city wall of Dubrovnik, you wander cobblestone streets and view magnificent architecture. You feel it deep in your soul; its history and voices are there if you listen. Throw in some fantastic beaches, islands like Lokrum nearby, and many outdoor activities will make you wish you stayed a few more days.
  2. Istria Pennisula Encompasses a large area, but the whole region is a panacea of wonders. Many lovely medieval hill towns such as Motovun, Burek, or Hum take you back in time. This is also home to the Istria truffles, a treat beyond compare. The coastline of Istria has the breathtaking seaside fishing villages Rovinj, Purec, and Novigrad, to name a few. Or see one of the most well-preserved Roman Amphitheaters in Pula. There is culture, nightlife, rich history, and dramatic architecture throughout Istria. It has an Italian Tuscany feel as well since it was part of Italy until just after WW2. It is a wonder for all the senses.
  3. Split Is home to the famous Diocletian’s Palace, built around 300 AD. This is the heart of Split. It is a wondrous example of Gothic and Renaissance Architecture incredibly intact and striking. Wander this walled city and discover the Cathedral, the Bell Tower, Jupiters Temple, Egyptian sphinx, along with fascinating stories of Splits history. It has a dynamic and busy waterfront full of bars, restaurants, and clubs packed with people. It has quite a young pulse and clearly a major destination for partiers. But that doesn’t take away from the experience or beauty of this city. Hiking and biking are popular in Split.
  4. Zadar Is an ancient city that is 3,000 years old but has a bustling cosmopolitan scene at the same time. Its waterfront promenade is spectacular and has the world’s first sea organ and a monument to the sun. During the day, you step back in ancient history and at night partake in a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene. This is an up-and-coming go-to destination in Europe. It is also a good place to visit the Plitvice National Park, one of Croatia’s most natural wonders.
  5. The Island of Hvar With over 1000 islands in Croatia, what would a trip be without taking the time to stop by one? Hvar is a gorgeous island off the Dalmatian coast known for its lovely landscapes of vineyards, lavenders field, and of course, stunning beaches. The main city is a walled city with beautiful architecture, marble and cobblestone streets, magnificent churches, and a striking large town square. It is an area rich with outdoor activities such a swimming, boating, hiking, and beachcombing. There are archeological sites that date back to the neolithic era.

Did you know?

Croatia stats

  • Population: 4.2 million
  • Capital City: Zagreb
  • Currency: Kuna (HRK)
  • Government type: Unitary Democratic Parliamentary Republic Constitutional Republic
  • Head of State: President of the Republic
  • President: Zoran Milanovic
  • Ethnic groups: Croat 90.4%, Serb 4.4%, other 4.4% (including Bosniak, Hungarian, Slovene, Czech, and Romani)
  • Languages: Croatian (official) 95.6%, other 4.4% (including Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, and Albanian)
  • Religions: Roman Catholic 86.3%, Orthodox 4.4%, other 3.3%, unspecified 2.5%, not religious or atheist 3.8%
  • US State Department Risk Level: 3 due to Covid.
  • Terrorist groups: N/A
  • Croatia’s GDP (2017) is 49 billion EUR.
  • Croatia’s key service sector is tourism which contributes to almost 20% of the GDP.
  • Croatia has one of the longest coastlines in the Mediterranean, covering an area of over 3,625 miles.
  • Croatia became a member of the European Union in 2013. It is not though part of the Schengen Zone; they applied in 2015 and are awaiting approval.
  • The industrial sector is dominated by ICT, Mechanical Engineering, the pharmaceutical industry, shipbuilding, food processing, chemical industry, and textiles.
  • Inventions attributed to Croatia include pay by phone parking, electric speedometer, electric car, forensic fingerprinting, necktie, parachute, water cannon, mechanical pencil, laminate flooring, high-speed photography, Maglite flashlight, and valium.
  • United Nations member since 1992
  • Croatia holds first place in Europe in the number of visitors per capita. In 2018 it had 20 million visitors.
  • The highest peak in Croatia is Dinara Peak at 6000 feet.
  • Life expectancy is 76 years old.
  • The literacy rate is 99.3%.

Funs facts

  • The oldest inhabited city in Europe is the eastern Croatian city of Vinkovci which has been around for 8000 years.
  • Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO Intangible Goods of any European country together with Spain.
  • The Walls of Ston are the longest preserved fortification system in the world after the Great Wall of China.
  • Famous inventor Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, Croatia.
  • Croatia is ranked 4th in the world for alcohol consumption per capita.
  • The Roman amphitheater in Pula is the 6th largest Amphitheater globally and the only one with all 3 rows preserved.
  • Croatia’s coast is one of the cleanest in the world. With over 900 beaches tested, not one beach failed the ‘poor’ water quality test. 
  • Hum in Istria, with a population of around 20, is the world’s smallest town.
  • Croatia won the biggest haul of gold medals in Europe (per capita) at the Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio.
  • The richest collection in the world of remains of Neanderthals was discovered in Krapina in central Croatia.
  • Croatia is the home of the necktie.
  • Croatian men are the 7th tallest on the planet.
  • Split’s Diocletian Palace has a genuine Egyptian sphinx. Emperor Diocletian had it brought in from Egypt for his tomb.
  • Istria has been declared the world’s best olive oil region for the past six years in a row. 
  • One of the best-kept secrets (so far) is some of the best truffles in the world can be found in the Istria region of Croatia.
  • Zadar has the world’s first pipe organ played by the sea.
  • Marco Polo was born in Croatia on the island of Korcula.
  • Game of Thrones has done extensive filming in Croatia, and the Infamous Kings Landing is set in Dubrovnik.
  • The island of Vis was the setting for the Hollywood film Mamma Mia.
  • Croatia is ranked 4th in the world for alcohol consumption per capita.

Croatia Map

Good to know before you go

  • Tipping is traditional in Croatia. Customary is 10% of the bill. Also, it is not easy to put it on a credit card. Most diners leave tips in cash.
  • Surprisingly, many places do not take credit cards, especially coffee shops, bakeries, bars, and some restaurants. In light of this, always have lots of cash!
  • Overall, clothing is stylish and well kept. Croatians favor dark colors; black, blues, and grays for both men and women. This was countrywide. The dress is overall casual, even at the most upscale establishments.
  • Croatia has some of the best, most beautiful roads anywhere in Europe. Highways are tolled but also very reasonable. Have cash as some of the smaller exits are without staff.
  • When driving, pay attention to the timing on Google maps. We had a long highway drive suddenly increase 2 hours, for instance. Google said it was due to road closures, which, late at night, did not make sense. Croatia has a fantastic, continually updated highway website HAK.hr. However, it indicated no issues on the original path, so we continued as planned and did not encounter any closures or construction.
  • Croatia is a country of deep personal faith, and that is a defining aspect of the Croatian identity. During the Yugoslav occupation, outward displays of faith were discouraged, and once independent, they passionately celebrate their faith. It is poignant to observe.
  • Croatia has an internationally renowned term ‘Fijaka’ for a relaxed state of body and minds best described as the ‘sweetness of doing nothing’ or being in a ‘day-dreamy state.’ The pace is comfortable in all interactions you will have.
  • Croatians are confident, calm, trusting people who are welcoming, engaging, and kind.
  • They are fiercely independent and proud with a long, storied history. Croatia was at war not 30 years ago. The wounds of war are still visible in many cities and very fresh in their hearts.
  • They are confident but at the same time seem to be humble. There is no sense of arrogance.
  • Soccer is life to the Croats. They are passionate about this sport.
  • Family is core in Croatia. Children are always present, even late into the evening, and lots of them! They were always polite and well-behaved.
  • Croatia is an animal-loving country. Lots of dogs and cats out and about.
  • Croatian food is central to their culture and heritage. There is a strong Italian influence; pizza is everywhere.
  • Croats are quite proud of their cuisine. Deservedly so, it was a huge highlight of our trip there.
  • Though truffles from Istria are more on the map and are sold outside of Croatia, they remain very affordable at local eateries. Find the time to enjoy these delicacies when in this region.
  • There are lots of smokers in this country. Nevertheless, we rarely found it an issue as most restaurants, and most tourist sites do not allow smoking.
  • They speak excellent English almost everywhere!
  • It is a very safe country. As a matter of fact, Croatia is the 22nd safest country in the world.

Croatia Essential Info

US Consular Emergency
The 24-hour number from a US Phone 1-888-407-4747
Outside of US 011-202-501-4444

US Embassy Zagreb
Address UI. Thomasa Jefferson 2 Zagreb
Phone +385 1 6612 200
No Consulate offices in Croatia

Emergency Numbers
GENERAL 112
Medical 194 Police 192 Road Assistance 1987

Country Code
+385

Time Zone
UTC+1

Driving
Right side

Adaptors for Croatia
“Standard” Euro plug
Type C or F

Tourism Office
https://croatia.hr
New York Office phone 212 279 8672 

When to go to Croatia

Croatia has gained popularity in recent years, especially since it was a prominent filming location for Games of Thrones. In areas like Dubrovnik and Split, you can expect dense crowds and long lines at the peak of the tourist season. The best time to visit is from April to June and September to early November. This is often referred to as the shoulder season. You will find fewer crowds, lovely weather, and easy access to most sights.

Due to the Adriatic sea, the weather is often quite mild in Croatia from April through October. Spring can still be cool, but a simple jacket takes care of that. The weather in Croatia very much has seasons, and you should plan accordingly when packing. Winter is mild, cold and can be perfect for visiting the ski resorts in central Croatia.

  • Summer 62-83 °F (25-30 C)
  • Spring 40-73 °F (17-23 C)
  • Fall 42-73 °F (14-25 C)
  • Winter 31-46 °F (9-14 C)

Our Favorite Croatia Travel Resources

This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Croatia Travel Books/Guides

Before every trip, we order at least five travel guides to research our trip. Of course, Croatia was no different. Only the best two make the trip with us. Making that cut can be challenging, but it was easy on this trip as these two books met all our requirements.

Moon Croatia and Slovenia by Shann Fountain Alipour

We cannot recommend this book enough; it is the perfect Croatia resource. The guide is full of beautiful photographs detailed strategic guidance to help you plan every detail and visually get drawn into Croatia. For history buffs, it provides just the right amount of background to tickle your fancy. This book made the cut to travel with us, and we used it frequently. A big fan of the Moon Guides, which is one of the best ones we have used. Discover this wonderful travel guide here

Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia by Rick Steves and Cameron Hewitt

Full disclosure: we are huge Rick Steve’s fans, it will be rare we do not recommend one of his wonderful guides, and it is no different for Croatia. We love his travel style and perspective. His off-the-beaten-path approach, together with his independent travel philosophy, matches well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. This book made the cut into our suitcase and was a fantastic resource. Find this must-have guide here

Our Favorite Croatia Travel Websites

1. Total Croatia News

2. Croatia Tourism

3. US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Croatia Country Info

We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the US Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency US and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in Croatia. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.

Croatia International Travel Information (state.gov)

4. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource

This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Croatia.

CDC’s Travelers Health Page for Croatia

Our Favorite Croatia Travel Maps

Michelin Croatia Map 757 Easy to read the map with practical road and travel information. Castles were marked as well as all major destinations. Though we default to Google maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here.

Our Favorite Apps

Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app will instantly display all your travel options, booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find on your local app store.

Rick Steve’s Audio Europe This app includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find on your local app store.

Croatia News This app keeps you updated on recent happenings and news stories about Croatia.

Google Translate We use this often to practice proper pronunciations of Croatian words. As we always encourage, it is essential to learn the basics to greet and thank people in the local language. Google translate was an easy app to use. If needed, you can enter text in English, and it will speak back in Croatian to aid in communicating with locals. Furthermore, it came in very handy to translate text into images instantly.

Do you have a favorite Croatia travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or

© 2021 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved

Our Croatia Travel Posts

Want to learn about Wanderers Compass?

Squaremouth.com

Our favorite travel insurance site!

If you are booking a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well insured. Not for the little stuff but the big stuff like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, they use top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover Covid medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.

MedjetAssist

Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world

They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the US to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover Covid-related transports as well.

Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for $295. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.

Expedia.com 

Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours 

Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you would need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, cruises, to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.  

Booking.com

Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours 

Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.

We always start with Expedia to check prices, but it sometimes says it is sold out. We then try Booking.com, and we find it lists plenty of rooms. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.

Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO)

Traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?

With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.

VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network that also has access to all forms of lodging should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family, with no problems to date.

Tripadvisor

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travelers, from planning to booking to taking a trip. Travelers around the world use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do, and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.

With more than 1 billion reviews and opinions from nearly 8 million businesses, travelers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodations, book experiences, reserve tables at delicious restaurants and discover great places to see nearby. We use them for guidance and research on every trip, it is a valuable app for the independent traveler.

Rail Europe

Discover Europe by Train

Rail Europe sells train and bus tickets for travel across Europe. They cover 24 countries, 105 rail operations, and 20,000 stations. They are the official rail and bus operations agents in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Rail Europe continues to add coverage all the time.

It is a fast, easy and economical way to purchase train and bus tickets for Europe. Eurail passes are also available to buy through their site.

Amazon.com

An excellent source for travel essentials and guides

Amazon is one of the most extensive shopping online sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and it is their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com that provide extensive options for customers.

We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.

Travelpro Luggage

Thoughtfully Designed | Meticulously Constructed | Quality Guaranteed.

We have used this luggage for years, left briefly to try others, and returned to Travelpro. Travelpro luggage is carried by crews from over 90 airlines worldwide.

Travelpro takes the time to learn what travelers want and need, then builds it. The key factor for us is that it must be lightweight upfront and very resistant to rough handling. Their luggage is the best, and we could not recommend it enough. It is our go-to luggage.

iVisa

Travel documentation made more accessible

iVisa.com is dedicated to providing customers with a simple, fast, and reliable way to get travel documentation for their journey. Their online application process makes getting visas, health declarations, or passport photos a breeze, all from your home’s comfort. As a leading independent company in the travel documentation industry, they take pride in making global travel more accessible for everyone. In the end, it is a simple and affordable travel resource to get the necessary entry documents complete for your international travel.

This section contains affiliate links. If you use these links (the ads with photos are NOT affiliate links) to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

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