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2018 Car Rental Croatia & Driving In Croatia Tips
Croatia is a country in southeastern Europe, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It shares its borders with Slovenia to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast, Serbia to the east and Montenegro to the southeast. This ideal location in the western Balkans makes it perfect to drive between these European countries, which is why a car rental Croatia is highly recommended.
Croatia has plenty of fascinating historic sites to explore, as well as some beautiful stretches of coastline, the famous Dalmatian coast in particular. Being one of the most picturesque countries in Europe, driving in Croatia is an essential part of any trip to Croatia, especially on the roads hugging the dramatic Adriatic coast.
Driving in Croatia is nothing to be frightened of, at all. The roads are excellent. Okay admittedly, we do have many narrow small goat tracks in rural areas, but we also have a superb freeway, the A1, which is super-easy to navigate.
There are numerous options when it comes to car rental in Croatia, as well as several luxury car rental options for you to choose from. Although car hire in Croatia is easy, it is important to remember that the traffic laws in Croatia may slightly differ from those in your own home country. If you’re looking to rent a car in Croatia, here is our Croatia car rental guide to help you make an informed decision.
Things You Should Know When Renting A Car In Croatia
Renting a car in Croatia, in fact in any foreign country, can be a little nerve-wrecking until you get your bearings.
Here are just a few tips to get you started when looking at Croatia car hire. We hope they will take some of that fear or those worries away. As these tips are in no way intended to be a complete list and are subject to change, be sure to ask your car rental company for the latest information to make sure you stay on top of any new regulation or policy changes.
FIRST THINGS FIRST, IF YOU PLAN TO RENT A CAR IN CROATIA IN THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER, BOOK YOUR CAR RENTAL NOW.
With so many tourists, you’ll want to secure the size and model just right for you and get a reasonable rate. Prices tend to keep rising the closer it gets to July and August. This is due to the increasing number of rental car bookings and fewer available options.
2018 Rental Car Companies That Service Croatia
Wondering what is Croatia’s best car rental company? When it comes to the best car rental companies in Croatia, there are two that we absolutely love.
- Economy Car Rentals
- Cheap-O-Air Car Rentals
- Hertz Croatia
- Budget Car Rental Croatia
- Oryx Car Rental
- Holiday Autos
- Best Rent Dubrovnik
- Kompas Rent A Car
- Kompas No. 1
- Last Minute Rental Car
- Dollar – Thrifty
If you do not want to rent a car in Croatia, you can pre-book a private transfer or taxi. We suggest you use our company, Octopus Transfers.
Car Rental Croatia Tips
Just Show Up Without Booking Ahead
Um, NO! Please ignore any advice that says to just show up and book your Croatia car rental when you arrive. Maybe that works in the low season, but in summer you can forget driving away in any rental car if you wing it. You’ll be left to catch the bus. This is the first and foremost car rental Croatia tip we can offer you. Keep this in mind!
One-Way Rental Fees
When renting a car in Croatia, be aware of one-way rental fees. For example, if you plan to pick your vehicle up at Dubrovnik airport and then return it to Split, or you want a car rental Zagreb to Dubrovnik, be prepared to pay an extra fee. If you want to avoid this cost, think about your route and how you can circle back to the place of pick up and drop the car back there.
Long-Term Car Hire In Croatia
Long term car hire in Croatia is an attractive idea for anyone who is planning on staying more than five days in the country. Though it may seem like an expensive way to get around, rates for long-term hire are actually very reasonable and are much cheaper than short-term hire. This, of course, also means that you can see much more of Croatia than you would if you relied on public transport.
Costs, Rules, And Extra Charges
- As mentioned above, you’ll get slugged an extra fee to pick up and drop off your car at two different locations. You need to prearrange different pickup and drop-off locations. I would try to rent a car in Zagreb and drive all the way to Dubrovnik (or vice versa) to make the extra fees worth it. But, if you just want to go from Split to Zadar or Split to Dubrovnik, think about a private transfer or the bus to avoid hefty one-way fees. The same goes for picking up or dropping off the car out of office hours. It’s possible to arrange it, but you’ll pay extra. Just keep that in mind.
- Before you leave with your rental car, be sure to inspect your vehicle for any damage and, in case there is any, make sure it is recorded. This is one tricky way companies like to make extra money each summer!
- A credit card is compulsory when renting a car in Croatia. The company will pre-authorize your credit card for a security deposit, so remember that if you plan to use your credit card on vacation in Croatia. Before you make a car rental booking, be sure to check that you have adequate funds on your card, that you won’t need for the duration of your car hire and then some days afterward while you wait for the refund to be processed. The specific amount ranges from €500 up to €3,000 from what I found through research.
- You need to be 25 years old to get a rental car in Croatia unless you pay a young driver surcharge for your car rental.
- Don’t forget to refill your car rental before returning it. If not the fee will be HUGE.
- There are extra charges to travel across to Bosnia-Herzegovina – wrong, wrong, wrong… see below.
Croatia has some toll road systems, and you are required to pay a fee when using roads that fall under this category.
The costs are well worth the expense if you need to travel long distances. However, if you are in no hurry when driving on your Croatia holidays, I would suggest you use scenic routes along the coast whenever possible to get maximum visual pleasure. If you are worried about unknown costs, use this calculator to determine fuel and toll road charges, or this price list for Croatian toll charges.
Croatia rental car companies will inform you of some of the unique road signs in Croatia. Motorway signs in Croatia have the letter A followed by two digits. They also have a green background and a motorway picture in white. Country roads, on the other hand, have a letter Z and four numbers, while state roads are denoted by the letter D followed by two digits.
Another good car rental Croatia tip is that, as a rule, headlights should be used at night and at instances when the visibility on the road is less than 100 meters. From October to March, the law requires that dipped headlights are used during daylight hours.
And trust me, you will get pulled over. I have been three times for this! It took me a long time to adjust to this rule – whoopsie. So, don’t make my mistake and turn on your headlights in winter.
As is the case across all of Europe, wearing a seatbelt at all times is compulsory. At the date of publication, the fine for not doing so was 500 HRK / 65 EUR /84 USD.
Be warned about the wind. Wind gusts on the A1 from Zadar north to Zagreb reach hellish speeds of 90 and 100 km/h, and they don’t close the roads unless the wind exceeds 140 km/h! Drive slowly when it’s windy.
The minimum age for renting a hire car in Croatia is 22. It is also worth noting that drivers 70 years of age or older will need to pay an extra insurance premium to rent a car in Croatia.
Reasons Not To Get A Car Rental In Croatia
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to renting a car in Croatia. The driving in Croatia can be overwhelming for first-time drivers on the right-hand side of the road. Additionally, drivers here are not as careful or considerate as in Australia or the United States. Some drivers don’t signal. They love to pass even when it’s not allowed and many places don’t have accurate road signs.
However, don’t let you put that off you renting a car in Croatia. After all, driving is a way that allows you to really discover the small towns and secret spots that you can’t get to by bus. These are the only reasons we suggest you don’t get a car rental in Croatia:
- If you plan to get a tan at the beach and don’t want to do many day trips, why waste money on car rental and parking fees?
- If you plan on only staying within the old towns of cities like Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Split, or Zadar, you’ll probably be better off without a car because finding parking can be nearly impossible (especially in Dubrovnik and Split). The local bus network in those areas is reliable and inexpensive.
Taking The Car On The Ferry
Your rental car in Croatia is permitted on the local ferries, i.e., those going from the mainland to the islands and back. However, you cannot take your rental car across to Italy by ferry. Valid registration papers are required to be in the driver’s name for international ferries.
Local Tip: Book your car ferry tickets as soon as you arrive in Croatia. They fill up so fast, and you could be left waiting behind.
Avoid Unexpected Charges
The costs of hiring a car across the globe can be expensive, including Croatia. Do your research to avoid getting caught by extra or unknown charges, especially with cheap car rental Croatia companies. Be sure to ask upfront about the following things.
- One-way hire fees
- Out-of-hours pick up and return
- Extra driver charges
- Exclusions for taking the car off-road
- Last minute cancellation fees
- Additional costs for GPS and car seats
Compare car hire companies. When we first hired our car in Croatia, I was shocked to see the price ranges for the same car. Now I always tell everyone to be sure to spend the time comparing costs between rental car suppliers. Even the cheapest car rental companies here in Croatia offer very well-maintained vehicles, so do not be worried about that.
By considering the above car rental Croatia tips, you are assured of a much better experience when driving in Croatia.
Download this FREE app from iTunes from Hrvatski Auto Klub (Croatian Auto Club). It provides detailed traffic and travel information, as well as roadside assistance services and is available in English, German, Italian and Croatian.
Most Popular Car Rental Companies In Croatia
Oryx Rent A Car Croatia: Headquartered in Zagreb, Oryx Rent A Car has locations in all major areas of the country. | t: +385 21 895 164 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sixt Croatia: This global company has an office in just about every town and is who we often used before we lived in Croatia. | t: +385 1 6219 900 | e: email@example.com
Ask Your Car Rental Company In Croatia About…
- If the car requires diesel or petrol. Trust me; it’s an expensive mistake to make. I did it here… ouch!
- Local tips and suggestions when it comes to the scenic routes for your journey.
- Additional expenses (if any) for driving across the border to Italy, Hungary, etc.
- Ask about road signs that you need to be aware of.
- Young-driver surcharges.
- Discount car rental companies often have offices at each airport. Ask about the one-way drive fee if you don’t plan to return the car to the place of hire.
Car Rental Croatia FAQ
What Kind Of Car Should You Rent?
Go for the smallest car possible. Parking spaces are tight here, so that’ll give you an advantage.
For families, you’ll need to go slightly bigger and rent a car with adequate space for your luggage. Look for the display that shows you just how many bags and people can fit inside.
Vans are available for groups. They do have the most room but remember they are much harder to park in the cities. So, maybe book a private transfer with Octopus Transfers Croatia instead.
What Is The Alcohol Limit On Croatian Roads?
The Blood Alcohol Limit is 0.05% percent for those over 24 (0.00% for those under 24). Be safe and smart and try not to drink anything while driving in Croatia.
Which Documents Do You Need When Driving In Croatia?
You will need to keep the vehicle registration and insurance paperwork in the car at all times. Leave them in the glove box for easy access in case you’re asked for them.
Which Driving License Will You Need?
American visitors might wonder “can you drive in Croatia with a US license?” The answer is pretty straight-forward and applies to all foreign visitors.
International licenses are valid within Croatia when used in conjunction with an international driver’s permit. In my experience (and many others I know) rental car companies in Croatia don’t ask for the international driver’s license, but I would not take a risk and obtain one before you start your vacation.
Also, these licenses are valid for the first six months only. If you plan to stay longer, both are required to obtain a Croatian driving license after this grace period has lapsed.
Do You Need A Special Border-Crossing Card To Enter Bosnia-Herzegovina?
Short answer. No. Both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro are included in the green card that your car rental insurance company supplies for travel within Croatia. Some rental car companies do try to charge you extra, but it is not required. You can read more about it on the website of the National Green Card Bureau to avoid being scammed into paying extra.
Automatic Or Manual?
The majority of rental cars in Croatia have a manual transmission. If you prefer (or need) an automatic vehicle, you’ll need to ensure you book well in advance and be prepared to pay a lot extra.
And, even then… you may get here to discover that they do not have a manual transmission rental car available. I have heard that story several times now, so you’ve been warned.
Which Lane Is Used When Driving?
In Croatia, drivers are required to keep right when driving and overtake on the left. The general road conditions in Croatia are safe. The A1 Motorway provides premium access for long-distance driving between the major cities.
What Are The Speed Limits In Croatia?
Speed limits in Croatia exist and are clearly marked:
- In built-up areas is 50 km/h
- Open roads up to 80 km/h
- 130 km/h on motorways
At the time of publication, the fines for speeding ranged between 500-15,000 HRK / 65-2,000 EUR /84-2,500 USD. Now that would sting your holiday budget. Don’t speed!
Driving In Croatia – What It’s Like
Croatia is a large country, but it’s also one that is packed with things to see and do. Driving is the best way to see it all at your own pace.
Of course, driving in a foreign country can be difficult, simply because you don’t know the landscapes and terrain. Let’s see what to know when renting a car in Croatia, in every direction.
Most of you will start in Istria or Zagreb and want to join the A1 motorway. This rather busy road handily connects Zagreb with Ploce. This is a major plus point because it means you can get from A to B so much easier than the old coastal road. Moreover, driving is easy, thanks to the multiple well-maintained lanes.
When you reach Ploce, if you’re venturing further south to Dubrovnik, you still have another 100 kilometers to go, but you are on a rather scenic coastal road (D8), which takes the boredom out of driving. This road provides beautiful panoramic views. You may, however, get stuck behind a slow-moving truck, but there are overtaking opportunities, which speeds the whole thing up. The road is somewhat slow going, so please do have patience. Having said that, any coastal road the world over has bends and turns, as well as high cliff passes, but this adds to the scenery and drama. You’ll pass through several villages along the way, and you are highly advised to stick to speed limits.
Alternatively, you can reach your southern destination from the north by a couple of other ways, including the D1 road which heads inland and skirts past Plitvice Lakes and Knin, before heading down the coast to join the aforementioned D8 road.
The Adriatic Coastal Road (D8) heads from Rijeka to Dubrovnik, and it is probably the most scenic road in the entire country. Be aware that the section between Rijeka to Zadar is harder to pass, but there are fewer cars on this stretch, so it’s not particularly slow.
There are toll roads at certain parts of these journeys. The A1 motorway is one of these roads, with the Zagreb to Split road having a toll that amounts to around 175kn (soon to go up in price) for each direction.
From Zagreb, you can reach Rijeka on the A6 motorway, with a distance of around 150 kilometers between the two cities. In Rijeka, the multi-lanes end and as you head further west to Istria, you are met with two-lane roads. To get to Istria, you will go through the Ucka Tunnel and then you venture onto the Istarski Y road, a two-lane stretch.
There are tolls on this particular stretch of road, and it costs 54kn (soon to be more) to go from the tunnel into Porec. If you want to avoid toll roads, you can get to Rijeka and Istria from Zagreb using the two-lane state roads that pass through Gorski Kotar, Jelenje and then onto Rijeka.
As you can imagine, the peak times and summer months are hectic, so driving will probably prove to be a stressful situation. If you’re venturing through coastal towns during a rare rainy summer day, be aware that there will be a crazy number of cars on the road.
Obviously, the big cities are always busy, especially during the rush hours (7.30-9.30am, and 4.30-6.30pm). No matter what time of day, the cities are bustling, but don’t let this put you off because places like Zagreb are fantastic to drive around. Most of the big towns and cities in Croatia have public transport, so you could go down this route, too, if you don’t want to brave the traffic.
The countryside in and around Croatia is undoubtedly rewarding and is definitely worth checking out. During the summer months, there will likely be more traffic around, but these roads are never too busy.
Bear in mind that country roads can be twisting and winding, and sometimes the night lighting isn’t the best. Many also don’t have the central white line, but care and attention is all that is needed. Do be careful of wildlife on the roads in these parts of the country, as well as farm vehicles, which could slow you down.
As you can see, Croatia isn’t a difficult country to explore via road and provided you take your time and use updated maps; you’ll have an enjoyable road trip experience!
Electric Cars In Croatia
Where to Charge Your Electric Car in Croatia + Other Handy Tips.
Electric cars are the vehicles of the future. Driving one of these beauties can at times be a little challenging because charging stations are still hard to come by. Fortunately, though, the Croatian network of charging stations will allow you to have a trouble-free holiday.
When entering Croatia from the East, you’ll find the nearest charging station after the main border crossing, Balakovo in Vukovar. If you’re continuing your trip towards Zagreb along the highway, you’ll find a charging station at Slavonski Brod, Nova Gradiška or the Stari hrastovi rest stop. If, on the other hand, you decide to stay in the area and explore the beauties of the region of Baranja, such as vineyards, wineries and the nature park Kopački rit, pick one of four stations in Osijek to charge your car before continuing with your adventures. Probably the easiest one to access is the station at the Portanova shopping center.
If you decide to pick one of the stations in the city center, make sure to set aside some time to walk around and feel the charm of Osijek, the largest city of Eastern Croatia. You can get the comprehensive guide to electric cars in Croatia here.
Driving In Croatia Essentials
I am often asked about factors related to driving in Croatia. Ultimately, I tell everyone that you can drive in Croatia. You just need to be aware of a few factors:
- Lots of roads in villages are often narrow, unpaved, and have room for one-way traffic. Take your time and be prepared to reverse.
- There are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. Croatia has some of the best gas stations we’ve encountered on our adventures across Europe. Including some with kids activity centers and healthy food.
- Driving in the country is always on the right-hand side of the road. So those from Australia or United Kingdom might find it a little tricky.
- Drivers in Croatia go fast, far too often ignoring speed signs and overtaking on corners and across double lines. Stay focused and be extra alert.
- Turning right on a red light is strictly prohibited unless there is an additional green arrow.
- If you violate the rules, you may be asked to pay a fine, which can be done on the spot. Be sure to ask for a receipt.
HELP Is At Hand!
- Contact the Croatian Auto Club Emergency Service on 987 if you have an accident or require emergency support on the road.
- Police: 192
- Fire Brigade: 193
- Ambulance: 194
- While you are driving in Croatia, stay up-to-date on driving conditions that are broadcast on the radio in English and German via HRT 2 (98,5 MHz).
What has been your experience with car rental Croatia? What was your experience like driving in Croatia? Let us know in the comments!