Check out this practical list of things you should know before backpacking and hitch-hiking in Croatia…
1) EU but not Schengen… yet
Croatia joined the EU on the 1st of July 2013, however it is still not part of the Schengen Area, so immigration controls still take place, but travellers from EU states are exempt from customs checks.
Stays of 90 days or less, also do not require a visa for nationals from the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan and a host of other countries.
Other nationalities should check with the Croatian embassy in their own countries.
Further information can be found here.
Food & Drink
2) Fish by the coast, meat inland…
Croatia lies on the fault line of two great culinary traditions as the Mediterranean fish of the coast meets the Slavic meat-heavy food of the inland areas of the country. Local specialities vary: in the eastern regions kulenova seka (spicy sausage) is extremely popular, in the central areas štrukli (cheese stuffed dumplings) and other weighty Slavic food is the norm and along the coastline fish and seafood are the thing to go for.
3) When and where to eat…
Lunch is generally eaten between 12:30 and 3 pm, dinner between 7 and 10 pm, although expect on hot summer nights diners to eat a little later. Eating options include a restoran (restaurant), a konoba (tavern) – the difference being mainly that taverns have slightly more homely decor and might possibly stay open during the day – or a gostiona (inn), a more down at the hell version of a restoran. For locals the most important meal of the day is lunch (ručak) rather than dinner (večera). Fast food mainly consists of hamburgers and pizzas, and the balkan snacks like burek (deep fried pastry) and ćevapčići (grilled mince meat sausages in bread, called the Balkan kebab)
4) Saving money in a restaurant…
Fresh fish is priced by the kilogram – so how much you pay depends largely on how big the fish is. Blue fish (tuna, sardines, etc.) are also far less expensive than white fish, but do not always feature on the menu. Similarly, if you want to save some money buy the house wine served by the carafe, as it is cheaper than by the bottle.
5) CouchSurf or Camp!
In the larger cities couchsurfing is possible and if that fails try hostels or private homestays. Along the coast the best thing you can bring is a tent as it will save you a considerable amount of money. Check out this Croatia camping site for more information on campsites in Croatia.
6) Wild camping, illegal but possible but beware of the land-mines
Be aware of the danger of land-mines if you’re planning on sleeping wild especially in the border and central areas of the country. Always ask a local, most will offer their gardens. Please, keep this in mind and be careful!
The view from our tent in Krk
7) The joys of a temperate climate
Croatia generally enjoys a warm and rainy continental climate with average temperatures of −3 °C (27 °F) in winter and 18 °C (64 °F) in summer. The warmest areas of Croatia are along the Adriatic coast and especially in its immediate hinterland, as the temperature highs are moderated by the sea. The rainiest regions are the Dinara mountain range and in Gorski Kotar.
Transport & Hitch-hiking
8) Hitch-hiking possible, but waiting times vary
We had a generally positive experience hitch-hiking in Croatia and we were able to avoid the perils of public transport for the majority of our time there. This being said, it should also be noted that we did have some trouble getting of the Istria Peninsula. Patience is key, I guess.
9) Toll roads are the hitch-hiker’s friend
There is one place that is truly the haven of the hitch-hiker in Croatia: the toll road. The people that work there tend to be quite hitchhiker-friendly and we attest from personal experience that the toll roads out of Zagreb are full of hitch-hikers waving down cars.
10) Ferries – infrequent & confusing but sometimes unavoidable
The website of Jadrolinija, the national ferry line, which posts timetables on its web site is very confusing. Our best advice is to check the dates. Be warned that they do change multiple times throughout the year and from day to day. Island hopping is difficult, so you may end up travelling to and from the mainland and adding a lot of expense. It should also be noted that Ferry tickets are not sold on ferries and need to purchased in advance from a ticket office.
11) Trains cheaper than buses but slower
Bus services are generally very efficient and offer a relatively cheap service. Trains are often up to 15% cheaper, more comfortable but much slower. The main train lines run from Zagreb to Rijeka, Zadar and Split and east to Osijek. There are no trains along the coast.