Experienced solo traveler Mandie makes solo travel to Croatia less scary with these solo Croatia travel tips.
When I first mentioned to my parents that my first solo travel plans included Croatia, their faces blanched. He flat-out grimaced when discussing it with the next-door neighbor and suggested I skip Croatia and head to Greece instead.
“Is that…safe?” my mother asked.
Unfortunately, like many Americans who remember the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, their concept of Croatia was a war-torn country still suffering from the aftermath.
Anyone who has ever been to Croatia recently can tell you this couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a reason this country has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. In my opinion, as a solo female traveler, Croatia might be the safest and arguably most picturesque of the Balkan countries to travel through.
Croatia is also where I began to come into my own as a true solo traveler.
The first two months of my solo trip were spent volunteering in exchange for room & board, which was an excellent way to ease into my first long-term solo trip. I spent several weeks at each destination with hosts who graciously took me under their wings & showed me the sights.
Then I reached the end of my Workaway projects and the beginning of the unscheduled section of my trip. I was excited, I was terrified, and I was heading toward Croatia.
Your confidence as a solo traveler is something that develops the longer you’re on the road. In Belgrade, I overcame my fear of public transportation without knowing where my stop would be. In Mostar, I got over my fear of bargaining in street markets. In Sarajevo, I overcame my fear of approaching strangers and asking if I could join them for a while.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Split that I felt I had found my stride.
At least, what I thought was Split. It turns out that following a large group of giggling girls on holiday was not the best strategy for determining which bus stop to get off at.
This is how I accidentally wandered around the lovely seaside town of Makarska, looking for a road that didn’t exist. When I realized my error, I also learned something else…I didn’t even care.
Maybe it was the friendly people who spoke enough English to try to help me out. Perhaps it was a clean, rocky beach stretching out before me. (I could sleep on the beach if I had to, right?) All I knew was that I finally had confidence in myself as a solo traveler. It didn’t matter where I was; I could figure it out.
When I finally got to Split (yes, the real Split), it felt like I had stepped back into medieval times. I had no idea how to find the hostel I’d booked, but I couldn’t be bothered with such trivial facts.
There were winding stone streets to explore—romanesque churches, medieval fortifications, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque-style palaces to discover. A certain palace built by former Roman Emperor Diocletian (that just happened to be featured in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones) was waiting for me.
It was a dream come true for a fantasy-loving, World of Warcraft-playing, medieval-obsessed nerd girl.
After getting delightfully lost several times before finally locating my hostel, I realized something: I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I was in a city where I had no idea how to find anything. No one around me was speaking English. Tourists were milling around busily, and I was standing there snapping 1,587 pictures of Roman architecture. I had never felt more at home.
Brands We Use And Trust
Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #1: Understand What Solo Travel Is About
Solo travel is great, but it’s not for everyone. You’ll find it relatively easy to meet people in Croatia, but not always. If you’re highly sociable and struggle to spend time alone, solo travel isn’t for you. However, if you enjoy your company and find it easy to talk to people you’ve never met, you’ll have a ball.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #2: Create A Rough Itinerary
You’re rolling your eyes and wondering what happened to spontaneity. Having a plan doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous occasionally, but it pays to know what you want to see and when. That way, you’re sure you’re not going to miss out on anything, and you can search for trips that head off in your desired direction.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #3: Go At Your Own Pace
There is SO MUCH to see and do in Croatia, from the beautiful Dalmatian coastline to the culturally-rich capital of Zagreb. Don’t hesitate to switch up your itinerary if your schedule allows it. Try to stay flexible because it’s likely that you’ll learn about some fantastic destination that hasn’t been on your radar when talking to other travelers and wanting to go. And don’t be afraid to slow down; book an extra few days in a town you love and relax. It’s easy to get burned out trying to make it everywhere and see everything. A slow, flexible trip is the best way to travel through Croatia.
This is the freedom that travelers are always talking about: the freedom to do exactly whatever it is you want to do and go wherever you want to go. The freedom is always inside our heads, but many of us don’t fully embrace or accept it until we become travelers.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #4: Understand Where The Crowds Are
Crowds are a) annoying and b) a little scary when you’re alone. You can overcome these two things by understanding where the biggest crowds are. For instance, Dubrovnik in summer is super-busy, sometimes to the point of wanting to get out of the place! If you want to head there, you can go in the spring or autumn, and it won’t be as busy. Do your research.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #5 : Remember That Croatia Is Hugely Seasonal
Most solo travelers will head to Croatia during the summer months. That’s because Croatia isn’t a year-round deal for the most part. It’s seasonal in terms of what is open and how easy it is to get around.
November to February is cold in Croatia, and it can rain, be very windy, and even snow. You probably won’t find direct flights to the coast at this time. March to May starts to warm up, and places begin to open. Travel gets a little easier, and you can usually find fantastic deals around this time. As a solo traveler, April into May is a great time.
The peak summer months of June to August are crazy busy. The crowds will sometimes drive you mad, but it’s also the best time to meet people and get a suntan. Of course, it’s also the easiest time to get around regarding availability, but prices are higher.
As we move into autumn, from September to October, you’ll get a similar experience as in the spring. The weather is a lot easier to handle, prices are lower, and you’ll be able to move much easier. However, things do start to close at the beginning of October.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #6: You Can Buy Everything You Need
You don’t need to take your entire life’s belongings with you when you head to Croatia. There are lots of shops, lots of them. You can buy everything you need. Just take the basics and pack a capsule wardrobe. That way, you won’t drag a huge case around and find some fun picks in markets and boutique stores.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #7: Take Public Transportation
Croatia has a top-notch infrastructure and consistent public transportation. Bus travel is an easy and affordable way to get around the country, and it’s also a great place to meet other travelers and locals alike.
When I got off at the wrong stop in Makarska, it was easily remedied because there were buses to anywhere I wanted to leave about every half hour. Also, most drivers speak enough English to point you in the right direction and are friendly and helpful.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #8: Hostels In Croatia Are High Quality
Once upon a time, hostels were not the most incredible places to stay, but everything has changed. Croatia has plenty of unique and affordable community housing, from party hostels (usually those with a bar on the premise) to quiet, more laid-back options. For the most part, hostels in Croatia are pretty good quality, and if you prefer to, you can usually book a private room. While dormitory-style sleeping arrangements may not float everyone’s boat, they are easy to meet new friends and find a temporary travel buddy.
If you’re content with a little more solitude, check out rooms or apartments on Airbnb. If you prefer a good, old-fashioned hotel room, try to avoid the larger resorts, as they tend to attract families and package tours. Staying close to the city center is always a good idea because it tends to be easier to find, and there’s plenty to do within walking distance (always a plus for when you’re sick of planning things out on your own).
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #9: Use Technology To Make Connections
The great thing about solo travel in Croatia is that plenty of people like you – all traveling around and doing their own. You can spend time alone, but if you want to meet up with others, you can use apps. For instance, Bumble BFF helps you meet people in the same area as you, and EatWith enables you to find social dining experiences so you don’t have to eat alone.
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #10: Take Free Walking Tours
Tour guides tend to have a wealth of knowledge regarding where to eat, what to do, and how to avoid tourist traps wherever you are. They are a great way to get to know a city’s history and culture and provide plenty of opportunities to meet other solo travelers with whom you might have something in common. I try to take a walking tour in every city I visit, and the ones I went on in Croatia were informative and fascinating.
I climbed up about a million stairs to get to a ‘cross on a hill’ that someone on the walking tour told me about – an experience I would have missed otherwise!
Croatia Solo Travel Tip #11: Join A Group Adventure Or Day Trip
There’s no shortage of options for the active traveler in Croatia, and almost every city offers organized small group tours. Go diving, cycling, hiking, kayaking, or parasailing. Take a Game of Thrones Tour tour in Dubrovnik or Split and meet some other fans. Busabout offers affordable sailing trips along the Dalmatian coast. Group adventures are a great way to make new friends when you’re sociable.
You can start on a group day trip, then stay on your own, as I did in Zagreb. After a scheduled group tour, I waited two extra days just because I felt like it. I explored the Upper City and visited the Museum of Broken Relationships. I walked through cemeteries because, hey, I like cemeteries. I sat atop the wall near the Iron Gate, drank my coffee & wrote in my journal. I spent a ridiculous amount of time hiking up (and getting repeatedly lost on) Medvednica Mountain in search of Medvedgrad Castle.
Female Solo Traveler Tips
As a female solo traveler, there are a few extras you need to think about. It’s unfortunate that in this day and age, we still need to do this, but safety is paramount.
Croatia is a safe country, but as anywhere in the world, there is always the odd bad apple. By keeping your wits about you and following these easy tips, you’ll navigate the experience happily and safely.
During my stay in Split, I sat alone in cafes drinking Croatian wine and people-watching along the Riva. I hopped on a bus to Omiš, a small coastline town with a magnificent sand beach, and spent a day there on a whim. I sampled approximately 13 different flavors of freshly-made ice cream. I visited Game of Thrones filming locations & probably spoiled the last season for anyone who would listen to me ramble on about it. (How are there people who still don’t know about the Purple Wedding?)
I sunbathed on rocks & jumped off them into the salty sea. I stayed in a terrible hostel but still made good friends. I hung out with them when I felt like it, and when I didn’t, I sat down by the water and read my book. I didn’t apologize to anyone for wanting to do my own thing.
I realized what travel is truly meant to be: an experience that is profoundly and uniquely personal.
Split may not be the most popular city in Croatia, but it meant so much to ME.
I found my freedom in Croatia. I got my ‘travel legs.’ For that, Croatia will always hold a special place inside my heart.