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 Balkans makes it perfect to drive between these European countries, so a car rental in Croatia is highly recommended.
Croatia has plenty of fascinating sites to explore and some beautiful stretches of coastline, particularly the famous Dalmatian coast. Being one of the most picturesque European countries, driving in Croatia is essential to any trip to Croatia, especially on the roads hugging the dramatic Adriatic coast.
Below we have 4000 words on what it’s like to drive in Croatia. We also offer tips about renting a car in Croatia and answer the top questions about Croatia’s self-drive holidays. Scroll down for more info if these do not answer your questions.
Q: What side of the road does Croatia drive on? A: We drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Q: Are there toll roads in Croatia? A: Yes. But there are ways to avoid them if you’d prefer to save cash and take the scenic route.
Q: What side of the road does Croatia drive on? A: We drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Q: How easy is it to drive in Croatia? A: Driving in Croatia is nothing to be frightened of at all. The roads are excellent. Admittedly, we have many narrow small goat tracks in rural areas, but we also have a superb freeway, the A1, which is super-easy to navigate. Generally, depending on your driving skills and experience, driving in Croatia is likely no different from driving in your home country.
Q: Is it safe to drive in Croatia? A: Totally. Be prepared for people speeding and taking more unnecessary risks than you’d be used to in North America or Australia.
Q: Do you need a vignette for Croatia? A: No. Tolls here in Croatia are paid directly at toll gates if you do not own an electric payment unit.
Q: How can we save money on a car rental? A: Book early, choose manual (not automatic), and come on off-peak season. Use an aggregation site like this one.
Q: Can I drive a rental car from Croatia to Montenegro? A: Yes, you can. You can rent a car in Croatia and drive to Montenegro and other European countries. That said, however, most, if not all, Croatia car rental companies that allow border crossings will try to charge a so-called cross-border fee. We have more information about this below.
Q: Can I drive from Dubrovnik to Split or vice versa? A: Yes. A road trip from Dubrovnik to Split, or Split to Dubrovnik, is one of the greatest and most popular Croatia self-drive tours. You can either drive across the short coastal section of Bosnia-Herzegovina or circumvent it and that new bridge – known as the Pelješki most. The Pelješac Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge in Dubrovnik-Neretva County and saves you from having to cross the Bosnian border. Generally, the Split to Dubrovnik drive time is about 3.5 hours, depending on possible border delays and how often you stop. We have much more information about traveling between Split and Dubrovnik here.
Driving In Croatia Tips And Tricks
There are numerous options for getting around Croatia, and car rentals in Croatia may be one of the best. There are several luxury car rental options for you to choose from.
Although car hire in Croatia is easy, it is essential to remember that Croatia’s traffic laws 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-wracking until you get your bearings.
Here are a few tips to get you started 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 regulations 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.
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. With so many tourists, you’ll want to secure the right size and model for you and get a reasonable rate.
Rental Car Companies That Service Croatia
Wondering what Croatia’s best car rental company is? When it comes to the best car rental companies in Croatia, there is one stand-out booking system:
- Rental Cars – we love their easy-to-use search system (as seen above) and excellent customer service
- Discover Cars – we used them in 2022 and found the booking system great to narrow down our needs and payment easy
- Auto Europe – they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and hold 24,000 car rental locations worldwide
- 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
Car Rental Croatia Tips
Check out the info we suggest you know before booking:
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 want a car rental from 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 pickup 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 plans to stay in the country for more than five days. Though it may seem like an expensive way to get around, long-term hire rates are very reasonable and cheaper than short-term hires. 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 other pickup and drop-off locations. I would try to rent a car in Zagreb and drive 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 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, 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 if you plan to use your credit card on vacation in Croatia. Before you make a car rental booking, 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 to 3,000 euro, 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 Bosnia-Herzegovina – wrong, wrong, false… see below.
Croatia has some toll road systems, and you must 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 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.
You can also find helpful info on
Motorway Signs – The Ultimate Driving In Croatia Tip
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. On the other hand, country roads have a letter Z and four numbers, while state roads are denoted by the letter D, followed by two digits.
Reading & Speaking
Here are some very helpful words and phrases you might need to know while driving in Croatia:
|Autocesta = motorway|
|Benzin = petrol|
|Bezolovni benzin = unleaded super 91/95 gas/petrol|
|Desno = right|
|Dizel = diesel|
|Državna cesta = State roads|
|I have a flat tyre = pukla mi je guma|
|I have been in an accident = Ja sam bio u nesreći|
|Izlas = exit|
|Lijevo = left|
|Osiguaranje = Insurance|
|The car broke = Auto se razbio|
|Ulaz = entrance|
|Ulaz Zabranjen = No Entry / Do Not Enter|
|Where can I buy petrol? = Gdje mogu kupiti benzin?|
Where is the police station? = Gdje je policijska stanica?
|županijska cesta = country roads|
Another good car rental in Croatia tip is that, as a rule, headlights should be used at night and in 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 done 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 when driving in winter.
As is the case across Europe, wearing a seatbelt is compulsory. At the publication date, 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 or older must 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 remember when renting a car in Croatia. 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 that put you off renting a car in Croatia. After all, driving is a way that allows you to 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 make many day trips, why waste money on car rental and parking fees?
- 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 or online. 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 in Croatia. 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 vehicle in Croatia, I was shocked to see the price ranges for the exact vehicle. 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.
Considering the above car rental Croatia tips, you are assured of a much better experience driving in Croatia.
Download this FREE app from iTunes from Hrvatski Auto Klub (Croatian Auto Club). It provides detailed traffic and travel information and roadside assistance services and is available in English, German, Italian and Croatian.
Ask Your Car Rental Company In Croatia About…
- If the car requires diesel or petrol, trust me; it’s an expensive mistake. I did it once
- 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
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 showing 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 always need to keep the vehicle registration and insurance paperwork in the car. Please 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 straightforward 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 an international driver’s license. Still, 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 must 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. 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 try to charge you extra, but it is not required. You can read more about it on the National Green Card Bureau website 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.
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, so you’ve been warned.
Which Lane Is Used When Driving?
The general road conditions in Croatia are safe. In Croatia, drivers must keep right when driving and overtake on the left. 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 marked:
- In built-up areas is 50 km/h
- Open roads up to 80 km/h
- 130 km/h on motorways
Don’t speed! Now that would sting your holiday budget. The fines for speeding ranged between 500-15,000 HRK / 65-2,000 EUR /84-2,500 USD at the time of publication.
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 key plus point because it means you can get from A to B much easier than the old coastal road. Moreover, driving is easy, thanks to the multiple well-maintained lanes.
When you reach Plčce, 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. However, you may get stuck behind a slow-moving truck, but there are overtaking opportunities, which speeds up the whole thing.
The road is somewhat slow going, so please do have patience. Any coastal road the world over has bends and turns and high cliff passes, but this adds to the scenery and drama. You’ll pass through several villages along the way and 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, which is probably the most scenic road in the country. Be aware that the section between Rijeka to Zadar is harder to pass, but fewer cars are on this stretch, so it’s not particularly slow.
There are toll roads at specific 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.
You can reach Rijeka on the A6 motorway from Zagreb, with 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. You will go through the Ucka Tunnel to get to Istria, and when 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 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.
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. The big cities are always busy, especially during the rush hours (7.30-9.30 am and 4.30-6.30 pm). Most of the big towns and cities in Croatia have public transport, so you could go down this route if you don’t want to brave the traffic.
The countryside in and around Croatia is undoubtedly rewarding and is worth checking out. More traffic will likely be around during the summer, but these roads are never too busy.
Remember 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 are needed. Be careful of wildlife on the roads in these parts of the country and farm vehicles, which could slow you down.
As you can see, Croatia isn’t a complex country to explore via road, and provided you take your time and use updated maps; you’ll have an enjoyable road trip experience!
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 need to be aware of a few factors:
- Many village roads 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 European adventures. 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 the United Kingdom might find it a little tricky.
- Drivers in Croatia often go fast, ignoring speed signs and overtaking on corners and across double lines. Stay focused and be extra alert.
- Turning right at 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 in Croatia? What was your experience driving in Croatia? Let us know in the comments!
Some good tips here SJ. I’ve driven in Croatia – stunning drives! – but we had our own car that we’d driven from home in the south of France. I’m sure this will be very helpful for people wanting to rent and drive.
Thanks Phoebe, yes its a great way to see the place. I hope people find useful.
SJ – Great article. We rented a car and drove all the way up and down the coast while we were in Croatia. It is a great way to get around, and we found it extremely easy. I recommend it to all!
Super!! What was your itinerary Corinne? In which direction did you drive?
We never drove in Europe until this last trip when we rented a car in Germany. Is Croatia a more sane place to drive compared to Italy? After witnessing the seemingly haphazard manner of drivers there, I don’t think we will ever drive in Italy, at least not in the southern portion of the country.
As always your posts make me want to go to Croatia. We’ve narrowed our 2015 Europe trip down to three choices now (Dubrovnik is one!), and it’ll be up to flight prices to make our final decision next month!
Croatia IS better to drive than most of Italy in my experience. Way less traffic and better roads. But the same crazy over taking and parking takes place. If you are in Dubrovnik, you can go without a car. The buses are good to get you from A-B. But if you plan to go beyond, like Split or Zadar, hire a car, and the coast road or the freeway are both very easy to navigate. Here is hoping that the flight prices bring you to my Croatia :)