Ultimate Guide To Traveling Around Croatia, Written By Locals
Aaah Croatia! The country of Dalmatians, 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—getting around Croatia is possible in many ways.
Some are independent and require planning, while others allow you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Let’s check out how to travel around Croatia.
But before we do, there are a few things to remember. My travel choices are more luxury-based (though I explain below cheaper, less luxurious options).
Using public transport in Croatia in summer is much easier as more services are available. Equally, road congestion in winter is nonexistent outside of the capital Zagreb.
Factors To Consider When Traveling Around Croatia
It’s pretty easy to travel around Croatia. The roads are excellent, and public transport is cost-effective and easy to use. Aside from regular roads, you’ll also find a network of motorways that help you travel all around the country, making it faster and more cost-effective.
Despite that, you do need to factor in these elements when choosing which transport option to go for.
Time Of Year
Croatia has a high and low season, and during the summer months, you’ll typically find more bus and ferry services, compared to the low season, between November and April. In some cases, you cannot get a direct service, such as the case with catamaran journeys between Dubrovnik or Split to the islands of Hvar and Korcula; these only operate during the summer. For that reason, double-check that the route you’re looking at actually works at the time of year you’re visiting.
Dubrovnik and Split are known for terrible traffic in the summer months, which increases further on the weekends and during school holidays. Remember, it’s not only tourists who want to enjoy the beach but locals too! If you travel by car or bus, you’ll need to factor this into your plans.
This is usually only a problem during the summer, but booking your bus or ferry ticket online is always best rather than waiting until the last minute. Deciding to ‘chance’ could mean waiting for the next service, which could completely derail your day’s plans.
The summer months are pretty predictable, but the shoulder and winter months can be somewhat unpredictable in terms of weather. It can rain a lot, and it can also be very windy at times. Some areas are known for their wind, especially on high-speed motorways. This can sometimes close sections of the motorway and add miles to your journey. Particular trouble spots include the A1 motorway Sv. Roko tunnel from Zadar to Gospic, the A6 Kikovica to Ostrovica area, and the E65 between Senj and Karlobag, particularly along the coastal road.
Cost Of Traveling Around Croatia
There are several options for getting around Croatia, but it will depend on the amount of time you have and your budget as to which choice you go for.
In this section, we’ll give you rough travel costs, but do remember that the current climate means prices can fluctuate quickly, so always double-check ahead of time to ensure up-to-date prices.
To give you an idea of prices between major cities, a one-way ticket between Zagreb and Dubrovnik will cost around 30 euros, between Zagreb and Split about 20 euros, and Split to Dubrovnik about 15 euros.
The price of car hire will depend upon the provider you choose, the package, and the type of car you opt for. However, an economical choice will usually cost around 20-80 euros per day. (Please note that these prices rise yearly and may be inaccurate when reading.) the fuel price is fluctuating wildly at the moment, so you need to also factor in this.
You will need to pay for toll roads throughout Croatia. Motorways are a faster route, but these have tolls attached to them, which are 16 euros to travel between Zagreb to Zadar, 31 euros from Zagreb to Ploce (on the way to Dubrovnik), and 25 euros from Zagreb to Split. (Please note that these prices rise yearly and may be inaccurate when reading.)
Foot passengers will find that ferries are a very cost-effective option; for instance, Split to Hvar is 6.50 euros for a foot passenger but 42 euros for a car. You can see that car ferries are more expensive and that’s something you need to consider. Another example is Split to Brac, at 4.50 euros per person and 20.50 euros for a car. (Please note that these prices rise yearly and may be inaccurate when reading.)
You can usually find last-minute flights at reasonable prices, but again, the cost of flying is much higher at the moment. Therefore, booking as early as you can is now a better choice. For example, a flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik is around 100 euros one way. You can reduce this by choosing to fly very early or very late at night.
Being flexible with your journey will save you money.
Methods Of Traveling Around Croatia
Road Trip Through 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. Oh yeah!
A self-drive road trip is the best way to explore Croatia if freedom is what you’re after. You determine your own route and your own destinations, and it’s entirely 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 Croatia transport options. You’ll have to continually keep your eyes on the road, especially during summer when the traffic on Croatia roads is horrendous.
Sometimes, having someone take care of the driving in Croatia is more convenient. That said, Croatia road trips can be excellent with proper planning.
For example, a drive from Zadar to Dubrovnik is nothing short of glorious. On the way, you’ll pass quaint coastal villages and 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 the early summer, try to attend the annual Nikola Tesla Electric Vehicle Rally, described as “the car race of the future.”
Tip 2: If you’re wondering what side of the road Croatia drives on, it’s on the right side!
Cruises In Croatia
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. On a cruise in Croatia, you’ll wake up in a different place almost every day!
One of the most comfortable and 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 fantastic 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 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. If you want luxury and convenience, this is probably the best way to travel around Croatia for you.
Bus Travel In Croatia
Budget travelers in Croatia without a car who’d like to travel between the larger cities won’t find a better Croatia 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, Zadar to Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Rijeka to Dubrovnik. It’s exceptionally convenient and cheap.
The downside of this, however, is that traveling by bus in Croatia is super popular. As thousands of tourists and backpackers head to the Adriatic in the peak season, 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 a few of you are 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. However, travel between popular towns is a great choice for mainland Croatia.
There can be some logistical planning issues with traveling to 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. To find the best bus company in Croatia for your specific needs, 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 also have to pay for luggage to be stored under the bus – that always irritates me, so factor that into your costs when determining Croatia bus prices.
Private Transfers In Croatia
When it comes to pure convenience, nothing beats private transfers. You can take private transfers all over Croatia, from airport arrival halls to your hotel and between cities.
Even though people think private transfers are pretty expensive, you may be surprised at how affordable they are.
Private transfers are the way to go for quick and easy airport-to-hotel (or vice versa) transportation. Here are some other options:
- Split To Zagreb
- Zadar To Krka National
- Split To Dubrovnik
- Zagreb To Budapest
- Zagreb To Dubrovnik
- Zagreb To Ljubljana
- Zagreb To Venice
- Zadar To Pula
- Medjugorje To Split
- Zadar To Split
- Zadar To Plitvice Lakes
- Zagreb To Split
- Zagreb To Rovinj
- Split Airport Transfers
- Split To Novalja Transfers
- Suncebeat Festival Transfers
- Zadar Airport Transfers
- Zadar To Split
- Split To Krka
Taxi Travel In Croatia
If you choose to travel by taxi, you’ll automatically notice that fares in Croatia are pretty high. However, in Rijeka and Zagreb, you’ll find lower fares.
When traveling, make sure the driver turns on his meter, and it’s perfectly okay to ask for a rough cost beforehand too.
While it’s not the best idea to rely on taxis, a taxi is a good choice if you find yourself stuck or you only need to travel two short distances quickly.
Ferries In Croatia
Because of the many coastal cities and the number of visit-worthy islands, the Croatia ferry network is rather extensive, with lots of services throughout 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 Croatia ferry companies and options 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 critical things:
- Ferries operate on a first-come, first-served 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 car ferries in Croatia, you must line up VERY early. On some routes in Summer, we arrive 1.5-2 hours before and get the car in the line.
Train Travel In Croatia
Just forget this idea. Trains in Croatia are totally useless. Sorry, but in Croatia, we are FAR behind other European cities regarding train travel. That said, we do have some options to take the train through Croatia, and I can say that traveling by train from Zagreb to Ljubljana (Slovenia) is better than by bus. I know some people who enjoyed traveling by train from Zagreb to Split – how I will never know.
Route options and up-to-date Croatia train timetables and prices can be found at http://www.hzpp.hr/ – you should know 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.
Croatia Train Travel Examples
Cost in euros
12 – 16
16 – 18
22 – 25
26 – 29
Flying In Croatia
|Departure||Destination||Cost in euros||Duration|
|Zagreb||Rijeka||12 – 16||4 Hours|
|Zagreb||Vukovar||16 – 18||4 Hours|
|Zagreb||Split||22 – 25||6-8 Hours|
|Rijeka||Osijek||26 – 29||9 Hours|
If a city break in Croatia is what you’re after, flying would be a reliable 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. For 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 taking 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.
Croatia internal flights are 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.
Hitchhiking In Croatia
Hitchhiking is a risk in any country, even in safe countries such as Croatia. It’s not the best idea to hitchhike – it’s extremely unpredictable, and you have no idea when you may end up where you need to go.
Thanks for this guide I will be visiting Croatia in 2019.
Hi, do you have any advice on the best way to get from Croatia to Montenegro (Kotor)? We are visiting both Zadar and Split while in Croatia. Travelling with the family but trying to keep costs down where possible! Thanks
Well if you are onto travel to Croatia, then you will surely enjoy boat trip and sea trip of the country. You will have glimpse of beautiful culture and people and beautiful heritage sites on the way, while you can also explore beautiful calm sea with wonderful island to watch out.