27 Traveling In Croatia Tips – First Time Travel Guide

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Planning your first trip to Croatia? You’re in for an unforgettable adventure! Croatia, with its stunning coastlines, rich history, and diverse landscapes, offers a unique blend of experiences for travelers.

As someone who fell in love with this country during my first visit in 2000 and now calls it home, I’m excited to share some valuable tips and insights to ensure your Croatian getaway is nothing short of amazing.

Whether you’re seeking sun-soaked beaches, exploring ancient cities, or indulging in local cuisine, Croatia has something for everyone. So, let this Croatia travel guide be your trusted companion as you embark on your Croatian journey. Get ready to discover hidden gems, soak in the culture, and create lasting memories in this beautiful Mediterranean paradise.

These tips will make your first break in Croatia extra fun and extra exciting.

Croatia Travel Blog_Tips For First Time Travel To Croatia

  1. Croatia now uses the euro
  2. Check if you need a visa
  3. Don’t be afraid of driving
  4. Book ahead of time
  5. Hop from island to island
  6. Know about tipping
  7. Croatia is safe
  8. Make use of public transportation
  9. Avoid peak season and travel in the shoulder season
  10. We speak English
  11. Don’t forget the national parks
  12. Check the cruise ship schedules 
  13. Keep some cash with you
  14. Don’t be afraid to try new foods
  15. Know that the beaches are rocky
  16. Venture outside of the main cities
  17. Explore the Istrian Peninsula
  18. Check out a local sporting event
  19. Take a day trip (or more)
  20. Rental apartments can be a great option
  21. Drink local
  22. Use Zadar as a base
  23. Spend time on Pag Island
  24. You can drink the tap water
  25. Don’t be drunk
  26. Croatia is now in the Schengen Zone
  27. Pack comfortable shoes

I am going to assume that “tips” like “visit the old city of Dubrovnik,” “see Plitvice Lakes National Park,” or “check out Croatia’s islands” are apparent and don’t need to be repeated.

If you’re planning a trip to Croatia, Dubrovnik is likely the first place you’ve heard about. Instead, here are some suggestions that are guaranteed to make your journey that much smoother, take you a bit off the beaten path, and even save you a little money no matter the time of year you go.

1. We Now Use The Euro

Euros in Croatia - Currency in Croatia

Since January 2023, Croatia has adopted the euro as its official currency. This means you won’t need to exchange currency if you’re coming from a Eurozone country. It simplifies your financial transactions during your stay.


2. Check If You Need A Visa

Visa rules vary according to nationality, so always make sure that you check your particular needs before traveling. Croatia is now in the Schengen zone, so if you travel to other countries in the group, they’re going to add up within your allowance.

3. Book Ahead Of Time

A lot of Croatia’s most popular spots tend to become very full during the summer months, particularly Dubrovnik. If you want to avoid disappointment and get the best rates, make sure you book accommodation well ahead of time.

You can head online and find plenty of options, no matter where you want to go.

4. Skip The High Season And Travel In The Shoulder Season

Cres Island, Croatia: View from the beach promenade to the Adriatic coast near village Valun
Cres Island, Croatia: View from the beach promenade to the Adriatic Sea near the village of Valun

If possible, avoid the prime tourist season months of July and August. Temperatures are high, tourist crowds are insane, and hotel prices are at their peak. You’ll also pay more for ferries, national park entry fees, and other attractions. Do you need any more reasons to avoid the prime months of the year?

We visited Croatia for three weeks in September, starting north of the country and working south. The weather was still warm and comfortable, the sea temps were still suitable for swimming, it was easy to find excellent accommodation, and the worst of the tourist hordes were gone. Now, don’t get us wrong, places like Dubrovnik and Split were still crowded…but imagine how much worse it could have been!

However, one quick heads-up: If you’re traveling to the islands by ferry, the number of scheduled boats reduces dramatically outside of June through to September. Keep that in mind if traveling outside those peak times.


5. Croatia Is Safe

Croatia is a destination where you can explore with peace of mind.

Croatia is widely considered safe for you, with low crime rates, especially when it comes to violent crimes against tourists. While petty theft can happen, it’s not rampant, so a little vigilance goes a long way.

Our locals are welcoming and often speak English, making it easy to navigate and ask for help. Croatia’s healthcare system is reliable, and Croatia offers excellent medical facilities if you need them.

6. Make Use of Public Transport

If you want to explore further, don’t be afraid of using the local buses. The inter-city services are efficient and very clean while also being mostly tourist-friendly. Buses visit all popular tourist sites and cities, and it’s a lot cheaper than taxis or car hire.

7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Driving, But Do So Carefully

A group of cars driving down a road in Istria. Tips for going to Croatia - drive.

If you want the freedom to explore on your own steam, you could hire a car. However, do be aware that some of Croatia’s roads are very steep and winding. Don’t let that put you off; make sure that you stick to the speed limit and only use the roads you feel comfortable on.


8. Croatia Is Now In The Schengen Zone

As of January 2023, Croatia has officially become a member of the Schengen Zone, marking a significant milestone in its integration with the European Union.

After years of preparation and meeting the necessary criteria, Croatia’s entry into the Schengen Area has streamlined travel for both its citizens and international visitors. This development allows you passport-free movement across borders between Croatia and other Schengen countries, making travel within the region more convenient and efficient. 

9. Hop From Island To Island

Tips for Travel to Croatia: Hvar Island
Tips for Travel to Croatia: Hvar Island

Rather than making day trips from Split or Dubrovnik to the islands of Hvar, Vis, Korcula, etc., plan your itinerary to jump from one island to the next. Each has a distinctly different character, and there are ferries and shared water taxis that will take you from one to the next without having to backtrack to the main port.

A bit of planning will save you time and money and is an excellent way to work your way from Split to Dubrovnik or vice versa.

We visited both Hvar (as a day trip) and Korcula (over several days) and vastly preferred Korcula. While Hvar is beautiful and definitely has its charm, its higher-end type of travel seems to attract more of the “monied” party crowd. Since we left our yacht at home, it wasn’t our scene. It depends on what you’re looking for, but Korcula was our favorite.

In contrast, Korcula is quiet, laid back, beautiful, and relaxing. If you go, rent bicycles to tour the island and explore beautiful beaches and fun beach bars. If you’re into wine, you should also pop into local wineries and try some of their Grk wine, found only in Korcula.

10. Know About Tipping

Balkan Flags_Croatia 2

It can be hard to know from location to location about tipping. You’re not expected to tip in Croatia, but it’s always appreciated. If you want to do so, e.g., you enjoyed the service you received, then around 10-15% of the total bill is a good rule of thumb.


11. We Speak English

While many Croatians in tourist areas speak English, it’s always appreciated when travelers make an effort to speak a bit of the Croatian language. Simple phrases like “hello” (bok), “thank you” (hvala), and “please” (molim) can go a long way in enhancing your interactions with us locals.

12. Don’t Forget The National Parks

Modric Caves | Paklenica | Zadar Region | Croatia Travel Blog 6
Modric Cave, Paklenica

It’s easy to stick to the beaches and cities, but the national parks in Croatia are so blindingly beautiful it would be a crying shame to miss them. Check out Plitvice Lakes (a UNESCO world heritage site, by the way), Krka National Park, and Paklenica to get you started.


13. Check The Cruise Ship Schedules

Day Trips From Dubrovnik - Lokrum Island

But you’re not going on a cruise, we hear you say! Maybe not, but you will want to be aware of them regardless. Dubrovnik can have 10,000 cruise ship passengers on high-traffic days, resulting in shoulder-to-shoulder congestion in the Old Town combined with all the other coach bus tour groups and independent travelers.

Split and Dubrovnik are popular areas famous for their Old Towns. Medieval towns tend to have narrow streets and cover a finite, typically small, area. Cruise passengers often explore these towns in large tour groups. Do you see what we’re getting at?

If you can visit either of these cities on a day where there are only 1 or 2 cruise ships in port, rather than 7 or 8 (or even when the ports are hosting smaller vessels rather than the behemoths), the Old Town that you want to enjoy will be noticeably less crowded. This worked out well for us in Dubrovnik! Explore another part of the city on high-traffic cruise ship days or take a day trip to an island or another town.

14. Cash Is King In Some Places


While credit cards are widely accepted in most bars, restaurants, cafes, and attractions, especially in tourist areas,  main resorts, towns, and cities, smaller businesses, local markets, and rural areas may prefer cash.

It’s a good idea to have some local currency – remember, we now use the euro – on hand for these situations.

15. Know That The Best Beaches Are Rocky

Punta Rata Beach - Makarska Riviera Croatia

Before you go to the beach, know that most of Croatia’s beaches are rocky. There are a few sandy beaches, but the majority will have pebbles or rocks. It’s a good idea to take some sea shoes with you, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

16. Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Foods

Croatian cuisine is a delightful blend of Mediterranean, Central European, and Balkan flavors. Don’t miss the chance to savor local dishes like seafood risotto, peka (a delicious meat and vegetable dish), and pasticada (marinated beef). And, of course, indulge in the local desserts.

17. Venture Outside Of The Main Cities

Things To Do In Rovinj - Croatia Travel Blog

When we toured around southern Croatia, eventually, the crowds got to us. You don’t have to go too far outside the main tourist centers to find peace and still have the beautiful scenery you want.

Less than an hour’s drive from Split, Trogir is a fantastic town right on the water with a small but atmospheric old town and beautiful beaches. Trogir can be visited as a day trip from Split, or better yet, make it your base with Split being the day trip.

Near Dubrovnik, a great day trip option is Cavtat. Reachable by bus, or even better by water taxi, Cavtat is a small town that feels worlds away from busy and crowded Dubrovnik in about an hour. You can do walks around the island and plenty of accommodations and waterside restaurants, so bring your comfy shoes.

There is so much more to Croatia than Dubrovnik, Split, and the islands in between them.

18. Drink Local

Traveling in Croatia tips - drink local wine. A shadowy figure grasping a fork.

Croatia boasts a long tradition of winemaking, and each region has its own distinct grape varieties and winemaking techniques. Whether you find yourself in Istria, the Pelješac Peninsula, or the beautiful vineyards of Slavonia, take the opportunity to go wine tasting. Sample local wines like Plavac Mali, Malvazija, and Graševina while enjoying the picturesque vineyard landscapes.

Croatia’s craft beer scene is flourishing, with microbreweries popping up across the country. Try the local craft beers, which often incorporate unique ingredients and flavors. Seek out a local pub or brewery, and ask for recommendations from the locals. Some popular Croatian craft beers include Velebitsko, San Servolo, and Zmajsko Pivo.

19. Tap Water Is Safe

One less thing to worry about while in Croatia is the tap water. It’s perfectly safe and very drinkable. Feel free to fill up your reusable water bottle and stay hydrated as you explore the beautiful landscapes and cities without the need to purchase bottled water.

20. Don’t Be A Drunk

Traveling in Croatia tips - don't be drunk. A display of wine bottles from Istria on a wooden table.

Croatia is known for its warm hospitality and vibrant nightlife, but it’s important to enjoy it responsibly. After years of dealing with unruly behavior from tourists, some destinations, like Hvar Town, have implemented fines for public drunkenness. It’s not only frowned upon but can also result in a fine of up to €700.

So, while enjoying the nightlife, keep in mind to drink responsibly and avoid public disturbances to ensure a pleasant experience for yourself and those around you. 


21. Use Zadar As A Base

Traveling in Croatia tips - Go to Zadar. The first time I stepped into the courtyard of a building, I was in awe of the magnificent arches and pillars that adorned the space.

Zadar is a fascinating city to explore in its own right, but it can also be used as a base for a couple of days to explore several of Croatia’s incredible national parks. This includes the famous Plitvice and Krka National Parks waterfalls and hiking in the nearby mountains at the less touristy Paklenica National Park.

Rent a car to give yourself the most flexibility if you feel comfortable driving – or get a private transfer for a luxury touch. Our top off-the-beaten-path tip for visiting Zadar is to check out Pag Island.

22. Explore The Istrian Peninsula

Worlds Smallest Town Hum Croatia | Share Istria | Croatia Travel Blog
World’s Smallest Town: Hum Croatia

Istria, the northern part of Croatia bordering Slovenia, was one of our favorite parts of the country. We based ourselves in Rovinj and explored the coast and inland from there.

Istria should be on the itinerary of any foodie out there. The region is home to some of Croatia’s best wines, truffles, and olive oil. Since the Italians once ruled the area, it has a distinctly Italian feel that you don’t experience in the rest of Croatia. Unfortunately, that often manifests itself in low-quality pizza and pasta in tourist restaurants.

Do yourself a favor and stick to ordering dishes with local ingredients. Renting a car to explore the small hilltop towns, such as Groznjan and Motovun, makes for a great road trip!

Rovinj itself is an interesting town to explore on foot. With some great weather, you can work on your farmer’s tan, exploring the shops, restaurants, and churches during the morning.

Then show off that tan on the beaches, walking distance south past the harbor and along the coast. Just be warned – the further you walk, the fewer clothes people wear.

The southern end of the beaches is not for the shy. Let it all hang out, as they say!

23. Spend Some Time On Pag Island

Pag Island Paski Sir cheese range
First Timers Tips to Croatia: Paski Sir on Pag Island

Pag has an entirely different landscape than much of the rest of Croatia; in some parts, it almost seems like you’re driving on the moon. A handy bridge from the mainland to Pag Island makes it an easy one-hour drive from Zadar. The island is probably best known for its cheese.

While they make many different types of cheese, the most famous is made from sheep’s milk. Salt from the surrounding ocean gets deposited on the vegetation of Pag Island, particularly a hardy type of local sage, which the sheep then eat. This provides a distinctive flavor to the Pag cheese.

Pag Island also has some great beaches. Zrce Beach is the “Ibiza of Croatia during the summer months.” Get your rave on at the Hideout Festival or laze about one of the enormous beach clubs. If dancing with drunk 20-something strangers isn’t your thing, the beach is deserted by September, but the water is still warm and swimmable. We practically had the place to ourselves!

When you’re sitting in your hotel room (or rental apartment) balcony in Rovinj or Zadar, eating some incredible truffle cheese from Pag Island and washing it down with a nice bottle of Istrian wine, you can thank us later. ;) You’re welcome!

24. Check Out A Local Sporting Event

Travel Tips For First Time Visitors to Croatia: Tennis in Zadar
Davis Cup Tennis in Zadar

Few things offer a better immersion into the local culture than attending a local sporting event. In most of the world, this means checking out the local club schedule for a nearby football match. In other parts of the world, this could mean anything from cricket to sumo wrestling. This goes for any country, really, but keep it in mind for Croatia, a nation filled with sports enthusiasts.

Some of the major sporting events in Croatia are:

  • Davis Cup: Croatia has a successful tennis history, and the Davis Cup matches featuring the Croatian national team are highly anticipated events
  • Zagreb Indoors: This ATP Tour tennis tournament attracts top-ranked players and is held annually in Zagreb
  • Zagreb Marathon: Held in the capital city, the Zagreb Marathon attracts both local and international runners, offering a scenic route through the city.
  • Croatian Basketball League: Basketball is another beloved sport in Croatia, and attending a game featuring top Croatian teams is a thrilling experience
  • Croatian Handball League: Handball is highly popular, and the Croatian Handball League features competitive matches that sports enthusiasts can enjoy
  • Water Polo Matches: Croatia has a strong water polo tradition, and attending matches featuring top Croatian clubs or the national team is a great way to experience this exciting sport

25. You Need Comfortable Shoes

Croatia’s cities and towns are often best explored on foot, and a sturdy pair of comfortable walking shoes is an essential part of your travel gear. Many of Croatia’s urban centers boast picturesque cobblestone streets that exude old-world charm but can be less forgiving on your feet if you’re not well-prepared.

These uneven surfaces are not only found in the historic old towns but also many scenic coastal areas.

Whether you’re admiring ancient architecture, enjoying seaside promenades, or wandering through bustling markets, your feet will thank you for the support and comfort of your chosen footwear.

26. Take A Day Trip (Or More) To Mostar

Where To Stay In Mostar - Mostar Bridge

The city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an easy (although somewhat long) day trip from either Split or Dubrovnik. Plenty of travel companies offer tours. Public, long-distance buses are also comfortable and easy to arrange yourself.

Mostar is one of our favorite places in the Balkans. The culture is vastly different from Croatia because of its history, religious diversity, and fantastic food. If you can spare the time, spend a night here to see the sights and enjoy the food thoroughly.

Thrill-seekers can even sign up for a course to jump off the famous bridge. For wimps like us, keep your eye out for tour groups. There are plenty of “fake” divers on the bridge who can only attract a crowd and then solicit tips. The actual dives seem to happen as soon as the next tour group shows up on the water’s edge.

27. Rental Apartments Can Be A Great Option

Tips For Your First Time to Croatia: View Over Korcula
Tips For Your First Time to Croatia: View Over Korcula

When it comes to accommodation in Croatia, don’t overlook the convenience and cost-effectiveness of rental apartments. This lodging option not only offers comfort and privacy but can also save you money, especially if you’re open to staying a bit further from the bustling city centers or old towns.

Many travelers find that renting an apartment allows them to immerse themselves in the local lifestyle and experience the destination from a more authentic perspective. Plus, you can often get valuable insights and recommendations from your hosts, who are usually eager to share their local knowledge.

One significant advantage of choosing an apartment is the ability to cook your meals. Croatia’s fresh produce markets and local grocery stores offer a wide array of ingredients, making it easy to whip up your favorite dishes. This not only saves money on dining out but also gives you the opportunity to savor homemade meals with local flavors.

Whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or as a family, rental apartments provide flexibility and the freedom to create your own schedule. So, consider renting an apartment during your Croatian adventure and enjoy the benefits of both cost savings and an enriched travel experience.

So, there you have it – our insider’s guide to tips for traveling to Croatia. As a local, I’ve shared our best tips to help you make the most of your time in this incredible country. Enjoy your Croatian adventures!

Comments (6)

  1. What a great post. Like you, I find it impossible to have a ‘favourite’ destination in Croatia. I loved Cavtat (for the reasons you mention!), Rovinj and Pula, Trogir, Zadar, Sibenik (and Krka Park is majestic) and also Korcula.
    I went to Brac for a day from Split and hired a scooter – an awesome way to explore the gorgeous coastal villages like Postira, etc. Reading your blog has fuelled my flames – I’m desperate to go back there now!!

    1. One word, amazingly beautiful country. If this country had 10 months of tropical weather like Thailand it would get 100 million tourist as the towns, the food, the nature, the watetrfalls and 1200 islands are so unique and just heaven on earth.

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