Traveling Around Croatia In 2019
Aaah Croatia! The country of Dalmatians and neckties, waterfalls and islands, traditional food and ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although relatively small, this ancient nation is exceptionally varied. Visitors can enjoy spectacular national parks, sample local seafood and wine, visit centuries-old towns, go island-hopping in the Adriatic, and so much more. This is also an increasingly modern country—you can explore Croatia in a handful of different ways.
Some are independent and require planning, while others allow you to just sit back, relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Let’s check out the best ways to get around Croatia in 2019.
But, before we do there are a few things to keep in mind. My choices for travel are more luxury based (though I do explain below cheaper, less luxurious options), in summer it is much easier to use public transport as there are more services available, and equally, the road congestion in winter is non existent outside of the capital Zagreb.
Road Trip Croatia
Few vacation activities are more delightful than cruising along the Dalmatian coast, windows down and the warm wind blowing through your hair, stopping wherever you please and visiting gorgeous historic towns.
A self-drive road trip is the best way to explore Croatia if freedom is what you’re after. You determine your own route, your own destinations, and it’s completely up to you when you leave and when you arrive.
On the other hand, when driving through Croatia yourself, you won’t be able to take in the scenery as much as you would with other forms of transportation. You’ll have to keep your eyes on the road constantly, especially during summer when the traffic is horrendous.
Sometimes, it’s just more convenient to let someone else do the driving. That said, Croatia road trips can be awesome with the right planning.
A drive from Zadar to Dubrovnik, for example, is nothing short of glorious. On the way, you’ll pass quaint coastal villages as well as major cities such as Šibenik and Split. Alternatively, exploring Istria by car is absolutely amazing as well (and a must as they lack bus/train services). For an authentically Croatian road trip, opt for a drive around rural Slavonia from Zagreb and visit fascinating towns such as Osijek.
Tip: If you’re visiting Croatia in early-summer, try to attend the annual Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally, described as “the car race of the future.”
One of the most popular ways to explore Croatia is by boat (and my total favorite!). Home to more than 1,200 mesmerizing islands, each different and unique, Croatia is a dream destination for island vacations.
Distances between islands are often really short, allowing you to visit several places in a short period of time. On a cruise in Croatia, you’ll wake up in a different place pretty much every day!
One of the easiest and most luxurious ways to travel Croatia is with a gulet expert – this way you’ll sail around the glorious Croatian islands, leaving behind the mainland crowds and stress. The captain and crew will pamper you the entire way, ensuring a wonderful atmosphere and offering meals and drinks. On top of that, it’s possible to personalize almost everything, from the route and activities to drinks and food options.
Some of the gulets are like top-rated hotels, some come with a jacuzzi, lounge chairs and staff to keep you fed and well-boozed for your sailing experience.
Bus Travel In Croatia
Budget travelers en-route between Croatia’s larger cities won’t find a better public transport option than taking the bus. The bus network in Croatia is reasonably good with connections between cities prolific. You can zoom through Croatia on a bus from Zagreb to Split, from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park, from Rijeka to Dubrovnik. It’s exceptionally convenient and cheap.
The downside of this, however, is that traveling around Croatia by bus is super-popular. In the peak season, as thousands of tourists and backpackers head to the Adriatic, they get really full. Therefore, I always tell families that buses in Croatia are a very inconvenient option for those with kids traveling with multiple suitcases. On top of that, if there are a few of you in a group, it can be just as cheap (or just a little extra) to rent your own hire car or get a private transfer.
It’s impossible to get to Croatian islands by bus, which could be a major disadvantage if you plan to island hop Croatia. For mainland travel between popular towns, though, this is a great choice.
There can be some logistical planning issues with traveling Croatia by bus in that, there are a dozen bus companies in Croatia, and to-date not one bus company can take you all over the country. You’ll need to look up each of the operators individually. Check out Cazmatrans, Libertas, Autotrans, Croatia Bus, and Promet Split to get you started.
Note: You do also have to pay for luggage to be stored under the bus – that always irritates me, so factor that into your costs.
Croatia Private Transfers
When it comes to pure convenience, nothing beats private transfers. You can take private transfers all over Croatia, from to airport arrival halls to your hotel and between cities. Even though they people think that they often quite expensive, you will get picked up and dropped off wherever you like and you may be surprised at just how affordable they are.
For quick and easy airport-to-hotel (or vice versa) transportation, private transfers are the way to go, as are trips between Zadar to Split.
This is an excellent option if you’re visiting Croatian cities, but not if you’re going island hopping. For families, though, nothing beats private transfers.
Ferries In Croatia
Because of the many coastal cities and a huge number of visit-worthy islands, the Croatia ferry network is rather extensive with lots of services through the summer . This makes it super-easy to pick and choose routes, by doing so creating your own Croatia ferry itinerary (if that’s what you’re going for).
The biggest ferry company in Croatia is Jadrolinija, you can also look at other smaller operators like G&V Line, Kapetan Luka, and Mia Tours.
There are so many options to travel by ferry in Croatia, that it would be impossible for us to list them all here. Instead, we provide a comprehensive overview of how to get to and from the major destinations by ferry—places such as Pula, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik, as well as a couple of popular islands right here.
In case you do not read the full ferry guide we listed above, please note two very important things
- Ferries operate on a first come, first serve basis, so line up well in advance (even if you have a ticket you are not guaranteed a place onboard). If you don’t make it to the first ferry, you’ll have to wait for the following one.
- If you wish to take your hire car on the ferry, you’ll need to line up VERY early. On some routes in Summer, we arrive 1.5-2 hours early and get the car in the line.
Train Travel In Croatia
Just forget this idea. It’s totally useless. Sorry, but in Croatia, we are FAR behind other European cities with regards to train travel. That said, we do have some options, and I can say that traveling by train from Zagreb to Ljubljana (Slovenia) is better than by bus, and I also know some people who did like traveling by train from Zagreb to Split.
Route options and up-to-date timetables and prices can be found at http://www.hzpp.hr/ – you should no though, that you can not make online bookings. That has to be done at the station, but you can do that a few days before you wish to travel if you want security.
Click on any heading to sort the table accordingly.
|Departure||Destination||Cost in Kuna||Duration|
|Zagreb||Rijeka||95 – 115||4 Hours|
|Zagreb||Vukovar||115 – 130||4 Hours|
|Zagreb||Split||165 – 185||6-8 Hours|
|Rijeka||Osijek||195 – 215||9 Hours|
Flying In Croatia
If a city break in Croatia is what you’re after, flying would be a solid option. You can fly into Zagreb from various major European cities, including Paris, Munich, Amsterdam, Zurich, and London.
You’ll need to weigh up the time it takes, and the costs to see which routes are better for flying. As an example, Zagreb to Dubrovnik is a great option – as you do not have to worry about crossing the BiH border – which can be very time-consuming.
Note that if you’re flying into Zagreb (and perhaps take a domestic flight in Croatia), you will still need some form of transportation to get to your accommodation. In that case, private transfers and local buses are the best options.
Flying in Croatia is expensive in summer – as we have only one domestic carrier – so book well in advance to try to get the best deals. We have several main airports (Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik) that you can plan your travels around all year. Then, in peak season you can also look at a few other more seasonal airports.
Want Ideas For Things To Do In Croatia?
If you are traveling to Croatia, we’ve got a stack of suggestions. Here are just a few:
- What To See And Do In Croatia
- Best Things to Do With Kids in Croatia
- 62 Ideas From Travel Bloggers on What to Do in Croatia
- Car Rental Tips and Deals
- Find Out About Festivals in Croatia
- See Which Tours of Croatia We Recommend.