Croatia is a diverse nation that boasts some of the best natural sites in the world, is full of fairytale-like architecture, and is incredibly safe to boot. Yet, there are some Croatia travel tips and things you should know before you go.
I’ve spent about a month traveling Croatia to date and can’t recommend the country more, whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned expert.
Read on to discover my top 15 tips for Croatia travel!
15 Tips for Traveling Croatia
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Tip #1 – Plan for the shoulder season
Croatia is a destination that thrives in the shoulder season. July and August are not only the hottest months in Croatia but also the busiest tourist months — seeing millions of visitors every year.
So, to get around the hordes and the heat, I recommend visiting Croatia in either May-June or September-October.
Personally, I visited in June and found that the days were hot and sunny (but not unbearable), all the main attractions were open, and the crowds were minimal. Keep in mind that many of Croatia’s attractions completely shut down in the winter, so try and stick to the warmer months unless you have a specific wintertime agenda.
Tip #2 – Book in advance
When planning a trip to Croatia, booking your travel, activities, and accommodations in advance is the way to go.
Many services in Croatia book up entirely in the summer and come close to it in the shoulder seasons, so you don’t want to be left stranded once you arrive. Booking ahead is made easy as so many services are online. I was able to book accommodations, ferries, cars, and attractions with ease.
🛏️ Still need to lock in a hotel? Search Booking.com for the largest inventory in Croatia.
Tip #3 – Carry cash
Though you may rely on your credit cards while at home, you’re gonna need to carry some bills when you visit Croatia. Whether it’s for tipping, purchasing souvenirs, or dining out, many services are cash-only and prefer appropriately-sized bills.
The Croatian currency, the Kuna, is easily accessible from ATMs around the country, so don’t worry too much about acquiring cash ahead of time.
Tip #4 – Know the tipping etiquette
Though tipping is practiced in Croatia, it isn’t quite as standardized as it is in North America. While tips are not expected in Croatia, tipping 10%-15%, or simply rounding up your bill, is generally appreciated by wait staff.
That said, in most instances, you won’t find a line to write in a tip on a bill (if you’re paying with a card), so bring some extra Kunas so you can top it up.
Tip #5 – Visit more than just Dubrovnik
When many people think of Croatia, picture-perfect Dubrovnik springs to mind. But, while Dubrovnik should certainly be on your itinerary, there is so much more in Croatia that is worth an explore.
As some ideas, you could go island hopping, take a food tour through Istria, explore Zagreb’s unique culture, take a Croatian wine tour, hop on a sailing trip, or take a day trip to a national park. To help you figure out where to go, I even put together another epic guide to the top Croatian destinations!
That said, while you’re in Dubrovnik, there are some activities you need to jump on. Like, did you know that Dubrovnik has some amazing Game of Thrones tours? Or that walking the old town walls is one of the most popular things to do in the country?
Tip #6 – Check out a national park
Speaking of the best places to go, Croatia’s national parks should definitely be on your list. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the parks in Croatia are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Between the pristine lakes of Krka National Park, the sky-high waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes, the lush beauty of Mljet, and the dramatic canyons of Paklenica, you’ll be in nature heaven.
🎉 Fun alert! Taking a tour is one of the best ways to see the national parks. This Krka National Park tour includes round-trip travel from Split, boat rides, and local spirit tastings!
Tip #7 – Drive carefully
Whether you’re on the Adriatic coastal highway or on one of the islands, there tend to be a lot of steep cliffs, drop-offs, and twisty roads. The locals are used to these roads but, if you’re not, then go the speed limit and stay within your comfort zone.
I know how intimidating driving a car in a new country can be, so I wrote a whole article on driving tips for Croatia!
🚗 Need a rental car? Be sure to bookmark Discover Cars! They’re my go-to trusted rental search engine when I’m abroad, and they have great inventory in Croatia.
Tip #8 – Embrace the bus
In my experience, the buses in Croatia are clean, inexpensive, and an extremely efficient way to get around the country.
Sure, you won’t be able to go off the beaten path, but if you don’t have a license or just want your trip to be more hands-off, then this is definitely a good option. There are routes going to all the major hubs and sites, and you’ll often be able to book your trip day-of (in the off-season, that is).
That said, I did find it easiest to book bus tickets from the terminals themselves, opposed to online.
✈️ Still planning your trip? Check out my pre-planned 7-10 day Croatia itinerary!
Tip #9 – Understand the ferry system
Without a doubt, the best way to get around Croatia’s islands is by taking the ferry. Croatia has an extensive ferry system, which allows you to easily go between countless islands with ease. Island hopping in this area is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Croatia.
To secure your spot on the ferries or water shuttles I recommend booking online ahead of time (especially if you have a car with you). Also, before you even get to Croatia, figure out what islands you’d like to travel to and what your ferry options are. Depending on the season, the daily number of ferries changes drastically and you don’t want to be left hanging.
Check out this map of Croatian ferry routes for a full scope of the system.
Tip #10 – Be aware of cruise ship routes
While Croatia attracts a lot of independent travelers, it also sees huge booms of cruise ship passengers from May through October.
Dubrovnik, which is right on the cruise ship route, sees thousands of visitors each day. Not only can this be overwhelming, but it also puts a strain on the delicate foundation of the town. In fact, because of the high number of visitors, there is a cap on the number of people that can enter Dubrovnik’s old town at any given time.
I don’t recommend skipping towns on the cruise ship routes, but rather planning accordingly. Try to avoid the throngs by visiting Croatia’s cruise ship port cities either early in the morning, later in the afternoon, or on off days.
This Croatia cruise schedule guide is perfect for helping avoid the crowds.
Tip #11 – Get out on the water
So much of Croatia’s tourism is built on water-related activities, and you’d do yourself a major disservice if you didn’t take full advantage!
Prepare yourself for jet-skiing, sailing, parasailing, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and so much more. Or, if you’re looking for a bit of a splurge, grab some friends and head out on Croatia’s infamous Yacht Week — a 7-day cruise full of sailing, hiking, partying, and swimming.
👉 Looking for more amazing activities? Then check out my picks for the 24 most epic things to do in Croatia!
Tip #12 – Prepare for rocky beaches
While it’s certainly not the rule, Croatia is home to a ton of rocky beaches. Sure, you’ll find some sandy beaches if you look for them, but in general, beaches full of pebbles are standard.
To prepare for this, bring along a pair of water shoes (they’ll also protect you from sea urchins), and quick-dry towels. And, while you’re hanging out on the rocky shores, I’d also recommend you bring your own snorkel set to explore with.
If you’re looking for some great sandy beaches, then definitely check out Lojena Beach in the Kornati Islands, Mlaska Beach on Hvar, and Uvala Lapad Beach in Dubrovnik.
Tip #13 – Buy travel insurance
Whether you’re in Croatia for a quick trip or a longer stay, I recommend getting travel insurance covering Croatia.
Croatia is a very safe country to visit, but things can happen anywhere (especially these days). We recommend World Nomads, and their Explorer Plan is great if you are planning to do any of the incredible adventure activities in Croatia. But, of course, be sure to do your own research and read the terms and conditions before buying any plan.
Tip #14 – Check your visa
Fun fact — even though Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, Croatia is not in the Schengen area. Meaning that, when you enter the country, you’ll find a defined border and have to go through customs.
For some nationalities, you’ll be able to stay in Croatia for 90 out of every 180 days, regardless of how long you’ve stayed in the Schengen area. That said, definitely look up the visa requirements of entering the country before you get there, as it does change depending on your specifics.
Another fun fact: if you look at a map of Croatia, you’ll see that while the country hugs most of the Adriatic sea, there is a sliver just north of Dubrovnik where Bosnia & Herzegovina lays claim. If you take the bus in this area (as I did), you will have to go through two border checkpoints to go in and out of B&H.
Unaware of this at the time, I was so confused by what was happening when they stopped the bus and took my passport. Definitely be in the know!
Tip #15 – Learn some Croatian
Don’t speak Croatian? Well, then you’ll be happy to know that many Croatians are fluent in English, especially in the major hubs. That said, out of respect for the locals, it’s always a good idea to learn some words in the native language when you travel.
For Croatia, some key phrases will do the trick such as “Hello (bok)”, “Goodbye (dovidenja)”, and “Thank you (hvala)”. Oh, and because you’re going to see it everywhere, “Hrvatska” is synonymous with “Croatia”.
📚 Pro tip: take Lonely Planet’s Croatian phrasebook with you! It’s loaded with phrases you’ll use on your trip.
That’s it for my top 15 travel tips for Croatia! Be sure to check out our full Croatia travel guide, or get planning with our most popular European travel articles:
- 5 Top Travel Backpacks for Europe Ranked
- How to Go Backpacking in Europe
- Top Backpacker Destinations in Europe
Have fun in Croatia!
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