Without a doubt, taking a Croatia road trip is the ultimate way to see the country.
Croatia is easy to navigate, there are tons of accommodation options, and it can be very a budget-friendly travel destination.
How do I know this?
I’ve spent about a month in Croatia to date and, in that time, have seen a lot of what it has to offer.
On my trip, I started in Dubrovnik and worked my way north, driving, taking buses, and cruising on some ferries as I went.
I can promise you, taking a Croatia road trip will be a breeze — you’ll have a great time and driving will give you the freedom to see more of the best things to do in Croatia than you could any other way.
In this article, we’ll talk about how to rent a car, where to road trip in Croatia, where to stay, and so much more.
So, without further ado, here’s my ultimate Croatia road trip guide!
The Ultimate Croatia Road Trip Guide
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Is it safe to drive through Croatia?
In short, yes – it is very safe to drive through Croatia.
Many of the driving laws in Croatia are much the same as those in North America and the rest of Europe, drivers adhere to these laws, and roads are (for the most part) very well marked.
I had no troubles driving through Croatia so, if you’re a smart and experienced driver, I’m positive you won’t either.
As for safety in Croatia in general, I felt very safe traveling through the country.
Tourism is a major driver of the economy in Croatia, and you’ll find that the locals are more than hospitable to visitors.
However, I would recommend that you pay extra attention to your day bag while in crowded areas (this Osprey Daylite day bag is great for security purposes), but that’s pretty standard for most of Europe.
How do you rent a car in Croatia?
Whenever I decide to rent a car abroad, my first go-to is Discover Care Hire.
Not only will they help you pick your best rental option and get you a great rate, but they’ll also help you with insurance.
However, if you plan on renting a campervan or something similar, then I recommend using Motorhome Republic.
Pro tip: Through this process, it’s good to keep in mind that most Croatia rentals (and European rentals for that matter) are manual transmissions. If you don’t know how to drive a manual car, then make sure you specify at the car rental agency that you’re looking for an automatic when booking.
When’s the best time of year to go on a Croatia road trip?
Without a doubt, the best time of year to go on a Croatia road trip is in the late Spring and early fall.
Tourism in Croatia slows down a lot in the Winter, meaning not all the attractions, ferries, and tours run, and summertime sees hoards of people flooding the country.
So, for the best prices, options, and peace of mind, I recommend May / June or September / October.
Personally, I spent the entire month of June on a Croatia road trip and it was perfect. The crowds were manageable, the weather was warm, and I was able to do the trip on a budget.
Do you need car insurance to go on a Croatia Road Trip?
100% Yes. Car insurance is a non-negotiable when going on a road trip abroad.
While getting general travel insurance for travel is usually a good idea, driving a rental car abroad ups the financial stakes quite a bit.
You might fancy yourself a good driver, but that doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen or you can account for other people on the road.
Personally, I recommend getting World Nomads car insurance before you start your Croatia road trip.
Not only will World Nomads provide general travel insurance based on your specific needs, but they also have a plan that covers your vehicle insurance as well.
If you plan on driving a car abroad, don’t hesitate to book this.
In fact, many car rental places require you to have insurance in order to book, and booking with World Nomads might end up saving you some money rather than going through their own insurance company.
I’m not saying don’t do your research and get quotes and price comparisons (here is a good site for comparing policies), but World Nomads has never steered me wrong.
If you do purchase car insurance in advance, then be sure to have your documents printed out when you get to Croatia and pick up your rental car.
7 Important Tips for Driving in Croatia
Tip #1 – Drive On The Right
For our UK, Irish, Australian (etc.) friends out there, it’s important to keep in mind that Croatians drive on the right-hand side of the road, as they do in most of Europe.
If you’re used to driving on the left, then driving on the other hand side of the road takes some getting used to.
Just remember to factor this in before you start planning your Croatia road trip itinerary.
Tip #2 – Carry a Reflective Vest
Did you know that carrying a reflective vest in your car is mandatory in Croatia?
It’s true – and this law is in place so that, in the off event your car breaks down or you need to pull over on the side of the road at night, other drivers can see you well in advance.
Generally, there will be a vest available when you rent a car in Croatia, but it’s good to double-check on this – you could get a fine if you don’t have one.
Tip #3 – Carry Your Passport
As a foreigner, carrying your passport at all times while driving is a must.
If you get pulled over on your Croatia trip, you’ll need to show the police officer all your essential info.
Additionally, be sure to always have your license and registration in the car with you while driving.
Tip #4 – Bring Cash
There are a few toll roads in Croatia, such as the E71 between Zagreb and Split, and E59 and E70 in and out of Zagreb.
To make your life easier on your Croatia road trip, make sure you have plenty of Kuna in various denominations, or plan your road trip itinerary around these toll routes.
Tip #5 – Know Your Emergency Numbers
In the event you need to call somebody for emergency assistance in Croatia, keep a list of emergency numbers on hand.
Good ones to know are the general emergency number for Croatia, your car rental company phone number, and your insurance provider number.
The general emergency help number in Croatia is 112.
Tip # 6 – Don’t Fret About Fueling Up
I don’t know about you but, in my travels, paying for fuel at gas stations has often been an adventure in and of itself.
Truthfully, I always have a bit of anxiety before fueling up abroad.
However, after filling up my car with gas on my trip to Croatia, I can assure you that the process is no big deal and is just as easy as at home.
Nobody will try to rip you off, you can pump the fuel yourself (at most major stations), and many gas stations take both credit cards and cash.
Tip # 7 – Know How to Navigate
This tip seems like a no-brainer for anyone who has ever been on a road trip, but to make sure you don’t spend too much time lost or wondering where to go next, plan out your navigation in advance.
My number one way to navigate, no matter where I am in the world, is to use Google Maps.
Simply download a map for your country onto your phone in advance (to do this, simply search for a destination, click “more” at the bottom of the page, and then select Download Offline Map).
Additionally, I highly recommend purchasing a physical road map of Croatia once you get to the country.
This will help navigate you through any updates that Google has yet to make, keep you only on the major routes, and provide you with a backup in case your phone battery dies.
7 – Day Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
With so much to see, it can be tough to narrow down your perfect Croatia road trip itinerary.
That said, you can definitely see some incredible spots with just a week in Croatia, it’ll just take some planning and prioritizing.
Based on my experiences in the country, I’ve put together this 7-day Croatia road trip itinerary that will help dip your toes in the Croatian waters, so to speak.
However, for a full 7 – 10-day overview, I highly recommend checking out our Ultimate Croatia Itinerary guide.
Days 1 & 2 – Dubrovnik
With its famous city walls, gorgeous turquoise waters, and jaw-dropping old town, Dubrovnik is the perfect city in which to start your Croatia road trip.
Dubrovnik is situated right along the coast of the Adriatic, and the sea views you’ll get from the city will be top-notch.
However, as great as Dubrovnik is, I highly recommend timing your visit appropriately. As mentioned above, you’ll definitely want to visit in a shoulder season, as the old town gets packed in June and July.
Additionally, Dubrovnik is firmly on the cruise ship route, so if you get there before the ships arrive (before noon), or after they take off again for the day (roughly 5 pm), you should be good to go.
As for things to do in Dubrovnik, Croatia this city honestly has enough to keep you busy for a week or more.
However, with just a couple days in Dubrovnik, I recommend you walk the city walls, take a cable car ride up Mount Srd, relax in Gradac park, go kayaking on the Adriatic Sea, take a day trip to the island of Lokrum, and take a Game of Thrones tour (many scenes were filmed here)!
Days 3 & 4 – Hvar Island
After spending a couple of glorious days in Dubrovnik, hop in your car and head to Hvar Island!
Note: To get to Hvar you’ll have to take the ferry, so be sure to book both yourself and your car a spot aboard.
There are currently two ferry companies that service this route – Jadrolinija and Kapetan, and the journey takes roughly 3.5 hours. However, keep in mind that this route is not serviced in the low season.
The process is very easy, however, and there will be attendants aboard to help you figure out where to go and what to do.
Just be sure to book your ferry ticket in advance – they may or may not sell out, and you’ll want to ensure your spot.
As for what to do on Hvar Island, don’t let the island’s small size fool you – there are tons of ways to fill your itinerary.
Hvar Island may have a reputation as a party destination, but there is so much more to this quaint island than that.
While there are certainly some hoppin’ clubs, there are also sprawling lavender fields, pristine beaches, quaint medieval towns (visit Stari Grad – I beg of you), and towering fortresses.
And, for a great day trip idea from Hvar, take a boating tour to the Blue Cave — it’s one of the top attractions in the country and is a great addition to your Croatia itinerary.
I recommend splitting your time between all of these activities, for a truly well-rounded view of Hvar Island.
Days 5 & 6 – Split
Next up on your Croatia road trip itinerary, it’s time to head out of Hvar and, uh, hop on another ferry.
From Hvar, Split is about a 1 hour and 40-minute ferry ride, and there are upwards of 15 trips between the two places per day.
Split, Croatia is where to come to get a perfect mix of modernity and antiquity, nature and city, and sea and mountains.
It’s Croatia’s second-largest city and the hub of Croatian culture.
While in Split, I recommend taking a tour through Diocletian’s Palace, checking out some more Game of Thrones locations, exploring the Old Town, hiking Parka Suma Marjan, visiting the Cathedral of St. Dominus, climbing the bell tower, strolling along the promenade, and visiting Froggyland (a museum home to over 500 stuffed frogs).
Day 7 – Krka National Park Day Trip
It’s pretty much a given that you’ll visit a national park while on your Croatia road trip and, while there are other notable ones such as Mljet and Plitvice Lakes National Park, none is closer to Split than Krka.
Krka National Park features 142 square kilometers of stunning waterfalls, boardwalks, wildlife, and hikes.
There are beautiful swimming spots (the one at Skradinski Buk is famous) and some pretty mysterious caves here as well.
While you can definitely road trip to Krka National Park from Split, getting a tour guide for a day trip is also a great idea. This Krka National Park tour is not only highly-rated, but it will also give you round trip transportation to the park, feed you lunch, and give you a bit of a guided tour.
However, if you do plan on road-tripping to Krka National Park, rest assured that there is plenty of parking and the roads leading into the park are all well-marked.
Where to Stay on a Croatia Road Trip
Best Hotels for Your Croatia Road Trip
Hotels are abundant throughout Croatia, and you’ll be able to find some great ones no matter your trip budget.
Here are some of the top-rated hotels in Croatia’s major cities:
- Dubrovnik: Hotel Adria is a 4-star hotel close to the Old Town that offers free parking. However, if you want to keep your wallet a little more tightly-strapped, then Hotel Petka is great if you have a mid-range budget.
- Hvar: Villa Nora Hvar is a beautiful bed and breakfast that features on-site parking and free wifi, while Hvar Riva Rooms is a conveniently-located luxury property (although offers no on-site parking).
- Split: Both Hotel Slavija and Hotel Prima Luce are highly-rated options in Split that offer parking and free internet. Keep in mind that there is no parking in Split’s Old Town.
Best Hostels for a Road Trip in Croatia
Croatia is a great place to backpack through, and as such there are tons of amazing hostels to choose from.
Here are some of the top-rated hostels in Croatia:
- Dubrovnik: Hostel Petra Marina is located 2.5km from the Old Town, offers onsite parking, and has free wifi. Meanwhile, Hostel Angelina is located in the Old Town and is set in a gorgeous historic building (although there is no driving – or parking – in the Old Town).
- Hvar: Hvar Centre Dorms is located right downtown Hvar – it doesn’t have onsite parking, but there is plenty nearby.
- Split: Downtown Hostel is located right in Split’s Old Town and features air-con and a 24-hour desk. As mentioned above, there is no onsite parking in this area of the city, but you can park your car in a lot nearby.
Airbnbs for a Your Croatia Trip
When I took a road trip through Croatia, I personally opted to stay in Airbnb’s.
My friend and I had a blast getting to know local families and living as Croatian’s do.
These are some of the top Airbnb’s (including some of my personal faves) in Croatia:
- Dubrovnik: If you’re looking to save a buck and have a chill Airbnb experience, then I recommend staying in the nearby town of Cavtat. I did this and found it super easy to get to Dubrovnik every day by both ferry and by bus. This GreenHouse Studio Apartment in Cavtat has free street parking, air conditioning, free parking, and sea views.
- Hvar: Located right below the Spanjola Fortress in Hvar, this highly-rated Airbnb features sea-views, free parking, and air conditioning. Also, this Airbnb in Stari Grad is perfect if you’re looking for something a little more quaint and remote.
- Split: Airbnb is a great way to achieve luxury accommodations on a budget, and this is no further exemplified than by staying at this 4-star apartment in Split. The accommodation is right downtown, has free street parking, and is highly rated.
How to Find a Campervan for Croatia
Feel like seeing Croatia from a different perspective? Then road trip Croatia by campervan!
Campervans are super easy to rent in Croatia though Motorhome Republic and you’ll have all the amenities you need throughout your trip.
You decide exactly where you go, where you sleep, and what you do – what could be more freeing than that?
Camping in Croatia
If you’re looking to stay in the best of Croatian nature, then plan yourself a camping trip!
There are tons of great campgrounds all throughout the country, all with varying degrees of amenities.
This is easily the best way to go on a shoestring budget Croatia road trip too, as there are both dispersed and designated campsites to be found.
Just be sure to always pack out!
Alternatively, if you’re into something a little more luxe than on-the-ground camping, try Glamping.
Pro tip: If you’d like to save money on your road trip but still have the comforts of home, then check out popular (and safe) house sitting site Trusted House Sitters.
Croatia Road Trip Essentials
Trying to figure out what to pack for a Croatia road trip? Let’s go over some essentials:
If you plan on camping your way around Croatia, then I recommend bringing along a sleeping bag, pillow, tent, sleeping pad, kitchen kit, camping stove, flashlight, refillable water bottle, and bear box.
Whether you’re traveling by bus, cruise ship, or car, I always recommend bringing along a trusted travel backpack. The Tortuga Setout Backpack is perfect for a road trip through Croatia as it’s waterproof, comes in different sizes and is affordable.
That said, if you’re the kind of person who likes to do their research before you buy, then check out our guide to the best travel backpacks for Europe!
For days when you want to get comfy in the car, bring along a travel pillow. Tried and true, the Trtl Pillow provides neck support and folds down when not in use.
For some more travel pillow options, check out our article on the best travel pillows.
Car Safety Gear
Going on a Croatian road trip, while undoubtedly the most freeing way to explore, also means you’re taking on the responsibility of a car. To make sure you have all you need with you before setting off into the great unknown, I recommend buying a small car roadside emergency kit.
An emergency kit should have a multi-tool, a small first-aid kit, self-powered flashlight, work gloves, rags, duct tape, a caution triangle, and a warm blanket.
Sure, it’s not the most convenient thing to travel with, but it could be worth it in the event of an emergency.
Chances are, you’ll have access to roadside assistance with your car rental company (or they may even provide a small kit of their own), but if not, add this to your packing list.
That’s it for our Croatia Road Trip Guide!
I hope this answered a lot of your questions about going on a road trip through Croatia and gave you some Croatia itinerary ideas!
For more tips on traveling through Europe and going on road trips, check out some more of our guides:
Happy road tripping!