Croatia

croatia essential Information

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Fast becoming one of Europe’s must see destinations, Croatia is blessed with near perfect weather, and is a heady mix of stunning natural beauty and cities enjoying growing levels of post communist chic. Many come for the near 2000 km of coastline, with over 1000 jaw-droppingly beautiful islands, studded with world class cities such as Dubrovnik and Hvar. But, delve a little inland (with the help of our Croatia Top Destinations list) and you will find adventures lying just of the beaten track and a strong and vibrant local culture to boot. All at much more agreeable prices.

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Visas

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, check out the map for your country…

Croatia visa policy map

Other nationalities should check with the Croatian embassy in their own countries.

Further information can be found here.

Dubrovnik, Croatia (60) - city walls and port. backpacking and hitch-hiking in Croatia

Advantages of hitch-hiking in Croatia

Croatia is one the most natural stunning countries in Europe, blessed as it is with sun-kissed beaches, beautiful national parks and breathtaking islands, which offers some unexpected benefits when hitch-hiking in Croatia. In the summer there are plenty of tourists and thus cars, especially from Germany and other northern European countries, which always increases the chances of getting a ride.

Another knock-on effect is the extensive and well maintained road system which helps to shave hours of travel time.

Toll roads are a blessing, as the authorities have a liberal attitude towards hitchhikers, and they are an ideal place to snag a longer lift. This is especially true around Zagreb.

Also, considerable amounts of money can be saved on accommodation as Couchsurfing is relatively widespread in the larger inland cities and secluded beaches make great spots for a bit of wild camping.

Rijeka, Croatia (1) - City Tower and City Gate - Gradski toranj

Disadvantages of hitch-hiking in Croatia

Although hitchhiking in Croatia is generally a pleasant experience, that isn’t to say that it is a budget travellers paradise. Croatia is relatively expensive, in comparison to other ex-Yugoslavia states, and it promises to get more expensive since its ascension to the European Union.

For those wishing to visit the islands, ferries are a steep and unavoidable expense. Hitchhiking to and from the coastal towns and peninsulas of Croatia can be slow going, due to a lack of traffic and general unwillingness of drivers to stop.

As an alternative to hitch-hiking, trains are not a great option – although slightly cheaper than buses they are extremely slow and there is no train route along the coast.

Finally, in the summer Croatia is hot, so be sure to take plenty of water and don’t forget to cream up.

A ship near Dubrovnik, Croatia

Food & Drink

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.

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)

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.

Zagreb, Croatia (14) - Dolac Market. backpacking and hitch-hiking in Croatia

Accommodation

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.

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, Croatia. backpacking and hitch-hiking in Croatia

The view from our tent in Krk

Weather

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.

Rovinj coast, Croatia. backpacking and hitch-hiking in Croatia

Transport & Hitch-hiking

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.

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.

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 and be aware 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.

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.

Small island near Rovinj, Croatia. backpacking and hitch-hiking in Croatia

Money

Croatia is definitely not a budget travellers paradise with prices at western European levels for most of the year and then climbing even high in the summer months, especially in July & August. Accommodation is one of the greatest expensive and expect to pay around 200-300HRK for even the most basic forms of sleeping arrangements. Camping, which costs between 70-110HRK per person, is a useful way to cut costs here. In a moderate restaurant a meal will set you back 35-55HRK for a starter and 80-125HRK for a main, but prices can be kept down to 40-60KN by taking basic meat options and Italian staple dishes, Additionally, bread is usually not free even if put on your table unsolicited. Taking the cheapest option (campsites, 1 hot meal a day, mixed with occasionally cooking, water and a beer) will cost around 150KN a day.

 Current exchange rate

Types of roads

Knowing what roads to hitch-hike on is easy with our Croatia hitch-hikers essentials guide:

Croatia hitch-hikers essentials1. Autocesta (A) – motorways & dual carriageways with a speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph). They have white-on-green road signs as in Italy and other countries nearby. On the whole they are toll highways with a ticket system. Hitch-hiking on them is illegal.

Croatia hitch-hikers essentials2. Brza cesta (D) – expressways ranging from four lane expressways distinguishable only from the motorways by lack of emergency lanes only: to four or six lane urban expressways with numerous at-grade intersections and traffic lights or two lane limited access roads. They have a speed limit of 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph) and have white-on-blue road signs. In the majority, the expressways are not tolled. Hitch-hiking on them is a grey area.

Croatia hitch-hikers essentials3. Državne ceste (D) – sometimes difficult to distinguish from expressways, state roads are assigned one, two or three digit numbers. Speed limits vary from 50 km – 110 km an hour. Hitchhiking on them is legal.

Croatia hitch-hikers essentials4. Županijska cesta (Ž) – Country roads with a four digit number. The speed limit is 50 k/m. Hitchhiking on them is legal.

Map of Motorways and Main Roads

Croatia hitch-hikers essentials

source: ezilon.com

Speed limit on Croatian roads

Croatia hitch-hikers essentials

Absolutely essential hitch-hikers phrasebook

– hello – Bok (bohk)
– thank you – Hvala (HVAH-lah)
– yes – Da (da)
– no – Ne (ne)
– please – Molim (MOH-leem)
How are you…? Kako ste? (KAH-koh steh?) fml. Kako si? (KAH-koh see?) infml
– goodbye – Doviđenja (doh-vee-JEH-nyah) or Zbogom (ZBOH-gohm)
– hitch-hiking – Stopira (STO-pi-ra)
What is your name? – Kako se zovete? (KAH-koh seh ZOH-veh-teh) fml.
Kako se zoveš? (KAH-koh seh ZOH-vehsh) infml.
– I don’t have money – Ja nemam novaca (yah ne-MAM NO-vats-a
 We don’t have money –Mi nemamo novaca (Mi NE-ma-mo No-vats-a)
– money – novac (NO-vats)
– I’m going to … – Ja idem u… (yah EE-dem u…)
– We are going to … Mi idemo u (mi EE-de-mo u…)
– I am…  Zovem se … (ZOH-vehm seh)
– I am from…  Ja sam iz (yah sahm iz…)
– Nice to meet you!  Drago mi je (DRAH-goh mee yeh)
– I don’t understand  Ne razumijem. (neh rah-ZOO-meeyehm)
– now – sada (SAH-dah)
– today – danas (DAH-nahs)
– yesterday – jučer (YOO-chehr)
– tomorrow – sutra (SOO-trah)
– friend – prijatelj (pri-ya-TE-li-yee)
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Very useful when they ask you where you’re staying. The concept of Couchsurfing is often too difficult to explain, so just say you’re staying with a friend. You can also use this word to express the relationship between you and your fellow travellers.
– Can you stop? – Može li se zaustaviti? (MO-*se li seh ZAU-sta-vi-ti) (* s from leisure) 
– I want to get out – Želim izaći! (*SE-lim ee-ZAR-chye) (* s from leisure) 
– turn left – Skrenite ulijevo. (SKREH-nee-teh OOH-lee-yevoh)
– turn right  Skrenite udesno. (SKREH-nee-teh OOH-deh-snoh)
– straight ahead – ravno (RAHV-noh) / pravo (PRAH-voh)
– here – ovdje (OV-d-ye)
– over there – tamo (TA-mo)
– beer – piva (PEE-vah)
→ You should know this word, you will be often invited for some.
– bus station – autobusnog kolodvora (AWH-toh-boos-nohg KOH-loh-dvoh)
→ You should know this word and listen out for it to avoid situations when your driver, in their best intentions, takes you off the road and drives you to a station.
– train station – željezničkog kolodvor (ZHEH-lyeh-znee-chkohg KOH-loh-dvoh)
– help me! – Upomoć! (OO-poh-mohch)
– look out! – Pazite! (PAH-zee-teh) fml. Pazi! (PAH-zee) infml.
– street – ulica (OOH-lee-tsah)
– road – cesta (TSES-ta)
– roundabout – kružni tok (k-RU*S-ni tok) (* s from leisure)
– crossroads – raskrižje (RAH-skree-zhyeh)

Red roofs in the town of Rovinj, Croatia

Main Border Crossings

Croatia – Bosnia & Herzegovina

There are sixteen border crossings between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The two most important, and thus busiest, probably being:

Gradiška/Bosanska Gradiška which lies on the motorway E661 and connects Zagreb to the capital of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka.

→ Metković located in the south-east of the country and marks the commonly used main border crossing between Mostar and Dubrovnik.

Croatia – Montenegro

There is one border crossings between Croatia and Montenegro.

Karasovići / Debeli Brijeg is the only border crossing to Montenegro and lies in the deep south of Croatia on motorway 8. We used this border crossing ourselves and it absolutely trouble-free.

Croatia – Hungary

There are five border crossings between Croatia and Hungary. The most important being:

Goričan / Letenye which the endpoint of the Croatian A4 motorway at Goričan and the start of the Hungarian M7 motorway to Budapest. Thus connecting the Croatian and Hungarian capitals.

Croatia – Slovenia

There are sixteen border crossings between Croatia and Slovenia. The most important ones are:

Bregana / Obrežje which marks the end of the A3 motorway from Zagreb and the start of the Slovenian A2 motorway to Ljubljana

Rupa / Jelšane which runs from Italy towards the Southern Croatian coast and is very popular with tourists and truck drivers.

→ Kaštel / Dragonja which is located on the European route E751 and is one of the main and busiest border crossings between Slovenia and Istria. The crossing is set near a small Slovenian airport Portorož and connects with A9 motorway that goes to Pula. At peak summer weekends you might encounter 20km long queues.

Plovanija / Sečovlje – a great alternative to the Kaštel crossing in summer if you want to avoid long queues. it’s used mostly by locals and it’s situated only 2km west from the previous crossing.

Šočerga / Požane which is a small border crossing linking Slovenia and central Istria. Beware, there might not be a lot of traffic, though.

Croatia – Serbia

There are seven border crossings between Croatia and Serbia. The most important being:

→ Lipovac / Batrovci which lies on the former Zagreb-Belgrade main road and signals the end of the Croatian A3 motorway and the beginning of the Serbian motorway 1.

→ Ilok / Backa Palanka which offers a quicker route to Novi Sad. The border crossing is over a bridge though so if you aren’t already in a car you may be in for a long walk. (thanks to kawairakija for this information)

Ania hitchhiking out of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia Top Destinations

 

Zagreb 1 full day is enough

Zagreb, Croatia (29) - Croatian National Theatre. croatia top destinationsZagreb is Croatia’s capital and largest city and is a wonderful blend of austere Austro-Hungarian architecture, top-end restaurants and down at the heel pubs. The city itself can be divided into Gornji grad (Upper Town) and Donji grad (Lower Town) with the upper town containing the medieval historical centre and the imposing Zagreb Cathedral. Other highlights include the pedestrianised Strossmayer šetalište, a popular socialising place which offers lovely views across the lower town, and the unique Museum of Broken Relationships.

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② Plitvice Lakes National Park – 1 full day is enough

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia (8). croatia top destinationsConsidered to be one the most beautiful natural areas in all of Europe, the Plitvice Lakes National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 and is located in the mountainous area of central Croatia, on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The park is most famous for its series of interconnected lakes arranged in cascades which are distinctive for their palette of colours and the unique flora and fauna of the area. Ticket prices vary (110–180 KN/15-24€) depending on the season and during summer the park is extremely busy.

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③ Rovinj – 2 days minimum to walk around, have a swim and soak up the atmosphere

Rovinj, Croatia (20) - red rooftops. croatia top destinationsThe charming town of Rovinj is coastal Istria’s star attraction; beautifully positioned on the peninsula jutting out over the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. It is one of the last authentic Mediterranean fishing ports and the sound of seagulls following the early morning catch is one the endless charms of this beautiful place. It’s not as touristy as some other Croatian gems, but it’s equally beautiful and not as expensive. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and a few camp-sites around to guarantee you a cheap stay. Be sure to climb the Belfry of Sv Euphemia for wonderful views across the town.

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④ Dubrovnik – 1 full day is enough

Dubrovnik, Croatia (57) - old ship at sunset. croatia top destinationsThe picture perfect medieval city of Dubrovnik is one of the Mediterranean most prominent tourist attractions and perhaps Croatia’s star destination. The UNESCO World Heritage Site old town is in an almost perfect state, despite the shelling it received during the Yugoslav wars of the early 90s, with the central thoroughfare Stradun and city harbour notable for their particular beauty. Be warned that Dubrovnik is not cheap, with food and accommodation at eye watering prices but sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. Just to give you some idea: to stay in a tent on somebody’s driveway: 20€, cheapest meal in a restaurant: 20€, beer bought in a kiosk: 2€.

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⑤ Poreč – 1 day is enoughPorec, Croatia - Porec old town with Euphrasian Basilica - wikicommons, Croatia Top Destinations

The ancient Roman town Potec is located on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula and is saturated with tourists in the summer. Meaning that quiet, it is not, but it does have the 6th century UNESCO World Heritage Site Euphrasius Basilica, the most integrally preserved early Christian cathedral complex in the region as well as curious blend of Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque buildings to keep you entertained.

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Trogir – 1 day is enoughTrogir, Croatia - old town and harbour, Croatia Top Destinations

Containing one of the best preserved Romanesque-Gothic medieval towns in all of Europe, Trogir’s walled historic centre comprises of a wonderful blend of palaces, churches, and towers, as well as a fortress on a small island. Highlights include St. Lawrence Cathedral and the Duke’s Palace, but the real joy is simply in taking a stroll around this UNESCO World Heritage Site jewel.

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⑦ Šibenik & Krka National Park – 3 daysSibenik,Croatia - Sibernik harbour - wikicommons - Croatia Top Destinations

The historic town of Šibenik was one of the first Croatian settlements on the Adriatic coast and over its long history has been under Venetian, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslavian and finally Croatian rule. Its principal attraction is the UNESCO World Heritage Site St James’ Cathedral, the most important Renaissance building in all the region and the nearby Krka National Park.

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Split 2 days

Split, Croatia - Wikipedia 2The unofficial capital of Dalamatia, Split is Croatia’s second largest city and is blessed with almost perfect weather, experiencing over 2800 hours of sunlight every year. The city’s principal attraction is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Diocletian’s Palace, built in 4th century AD in preparation for the Roman Emperor’s retirement, and the fulcrum of Split’s old town. Other attractions include St. Domnius Cathedral and the boat accessible Hvar Island.

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⑨ Krk Island3 days if you want to see the whole island

Krk port, Krk island, Croatia. croatia top destinations

Croatia’s largest island, Krk is also one of its busiest especially in the summer months. Centrally located Krk Town is pleasant enough but is something akin to a Slavic Ibiza, with hordes of tourists walking the bar strip. Other places of interest on the island include Punat, which is the launchpad for Košljun island and monastery, Baška and its popular beach and the cliff-top village of Vrbnik.

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⑩ Hvar Island3 daysHvar Island, Croatia - Hvar Grad - wikicommons, Croatia Top Destinations

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Hvar is Croatia’s most picturesque island and is extremely popular with tourists. Many are drawn by the UNESCO World Heritage Site Stari Grad Plain, an agricultural landscape that was established by ancient Greek colonists in the 4th century BC. Other highlights include walking the medieval streets of Hvar Town and visiting the charming villages of Stari Grad and Jelsa.

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⑪ Korčula Island3 daysKorcula Island, Croatia - Korcula Town - wikicommons, Croatia Top Destinations

Korčula Island is renowned for its vineyards, olive groves and villages, and offers a little more relaxed pace to its ever increasing number of summer tourists. Korčula Town, the island’s principal town, is a glorious mix of marble streets, Renaissance and Gothic architecture and imposing coastal citadel. Also be sure to check out any of the charming villages of Blato, Smokvica, Pupnat, Zrnovo or Lumbarda.

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⑫  And what would you recommend?

Croatia outline map. croatia top destinations

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What should be our number 12 in your opinion? We are very curious to hear where you’ve been and what you liked, so please share your knowledge and experience in the comments!

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Croatia Top Destinations Map

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Our Experience

We hitch-hiked in Croatia as part of our ‘The Balkan Peninsula by Thumb 2013‘ trip in which we covered 689.3km by thumb. During our stay in Croatia we hitchhiked from the Slovenian border to Zagreb, visited the Krk and Istrian peninsulas before heading inland again to cross into Bosnia. We entered Croatia once again in the deep south to see Dubrovnik before eventually hitch-hiking onto Montenegro. We found couchsurfing in the capital and used our tent everywhere else.

This was our route:

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written by: Jon

3 comments

  • I live in Croatia on island of Krk.

    So in your top destination list you missed some perfect places and you were really close to lot of them. ;)

    1.Motovun (Istria)
    2.Pula (Istria)
    3.Brijuni national park (Istria)
    4.Island of Rab (Kvarner Gulf)
    5.Zadar (Dalmatia)
    6.Kornati national park (Dalmatia)
    7.Island of Brač (Dalmatia)
    8.Island of Vis (Dalmatia)
    9.Pelješac peninsula (Dalmatia)
    10.Mljet national park (Dalmatia)
    11.Trakošćan castle (North Croatia)
    12.Varaždin (North Croatia)

    We have a lot more to offer in Croatia but this places are must see destinations.

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