Driving in Croatia – 10 Tips You Need to Know
Planning an epic road trip and wondering what driving in Croatia is like?
Croatia is the perfect European country for a road trip as not only is it easily maneuverable, but it also has a ton of sites to see that are only accessible if you have your own set of wheels.
How do I know this? Because during my month-long trip to Croatia I rented a vehicle and learned the in’s and out’s of how to road trip Croatia.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about driving in Croatia:
- ✅ 10 tips for driving in Croatia
- ✅ Why we use Discover Car Hire to find the best rental car deals
- ✅ FAQs about Croatia roads
- ✅ Insurance in Croatia (opens in new tab)
10 Tips for Driving in Croatia
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Opt For a Smaller Car
While the highways in Croatia were built to suit all types of vehicles, many of the (very narrow) city streets were not. If you plan on doing any city driving, even just getting to your hotel, I recommend renting a car on the smaller side.
During my Croatian road trip, I rented a tiny hatchback and found it perfect for driving along the coast. On top of that, many old towns in Croatia don’t allow vehicles at all. If your accommodations are in a pedestrian-only area, I recommend researching parking lots ahead of time so you know where you can park.
💡 A special tip: If at all possible, book hotels that have parking lots. This may not allow you to stay directly in the old towns, but it’ll be a weight off your shoulders as far as finding parking goes.
Book in Advance
Depending on the time of year you visit Croatia, car rentals can be hard to come by. While you’ll find there is plenty of rental availability from fall through spring, if you try to book in the summer (high season), you may find that there are slim pickings.
Booking well in advance will ensure you have a car for your Croatian road trip.
To book the best car and insurance for your needs, we recommend using Discover Cars. They are like a search engine that uses a review-based system that’s great for booking rentals in over 140 countries around the world.
If you’re looking for a car rental abroad, then we recommend you check out Discover Cars first. A search engine that includes all the top brands, they’re a trusted resource for getting the best deal.
Ask for Your Preferred Transmission
In a lot of Europe, manual transmission cars are standard (pun intended). Meaning, if you arrive at a car rental place and ask for a car, more often than not they’ll rent you a manual transmission.
I don’t recommend learning to drive a manual car on the spot, so if you’re currently limited to automatic then definitely book early and directly ask for an automatic transmission. It’s definitely an important travel tip for Croatia!
Have Maps on Hand
Carrying a map is essential for driving in Croatia.
While I recommend downloading google maps to your phone before you arrive in Croatia, purchasing a physical paper map is also a great idea. Google maps will get you most of the way, but if your phone dies or you go off-grid, then a paper map will add an extra layer of safety.
Plus, I find that paper maps make great souvenirs. Pop it in a frame when you get home!
🔎 If you plan on traveling Croatia for at least a week, then check out our epic Croatia travel itinerary!
Familiarize Yourself With the Signage
If you’re traveling to Croatia from another continent, then the signage you encounter may be a bit different from what you’re used to at home. While most of the signs will be pretty straightforward, just do a quick bit of research so you know exactly what to expect when you’re on the road.
Check out this Croatian road traffic sign directory for all the symbols you should be aware of.
Fuel Up Whenever Possible
While there are ample gas stations in all of Croatia’s major cities, if you plan on visiting the smaller towns or backcountry then be prepared to not have an abundance of fuel options.
I recommend filling up with fuel every half tank or so, even if you don’t think it’s urgent. It’s better than having to call in for backup!
Also, if you plan on hitting the road early or late in the day, keep in mind that not all of Croatia’s fuel stops are 24 hours. Just do a quick google search to find out if fueling up in off-hours is an option.
While Croatia is safe for driving generally, you’ll still find plenty of roads that swerve around mountains, have high drop-offs into the sea, are narrow, and have higher-than-average speed limits.
Chances are, the local Croatians that you’ll be sharing the road with are used to these things. They drive this way every day. But, if you’re not used to these things and you don’t feel comfortable copying their driving habits, then don’t.
Drive on the defense, not the offense.
Personally, I come from the Canadian prairies where it’s so flat I can see a deer coming from two miles away, and I definitely wasn’t used to driving on the outer edge of a Croatian cliff with no guard rails.
While I wasn’t going unreasonably slow, other vehicles still passed me a ton.
This leads me to my next point…
Stick With the Speed Limit
In Croatia, unless posted otherwise, the speed limits are:
City Driving: 37mph/60kph
Open Road Driving: 62mph/100 kph
Highway Driving: 81mph/130kph
As a visitor, I don’t recommend going over these limits (or too much under), as you don’t want to become a hazard or have any issues with your insurance or license.
👉 Where to Find Rental Cars: The best site to search multiple agencies in Croatia at once is the Discover Cars search engine. They make it easy to compare prices and reviews, so you always get the best deal!
Carry Cash for Tolls
While there are ways to avoid the toll roads in Croatia, sometimes they’re the most efficient route to your destination.
So, if you don’t mind paying an extra few Kunas (the local currency), then I recommend keeping some cash on hand to pay your way through the tolls.
Usually, you’ll be given a ticket when you enter the highway and will have to pay as you exit.
For example, toll roads exist near Zagreb, Krka National Park, Plitvice Lakes, Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, and parts of Istria.
Fees can be paid directly on the toll routes at the booths along the highway.
🔎 For more inspiration for your trip, check out these 24 epic things to do in Croatia!
Keep Your Documentation on Hand
As a foreigner renting a car in Croatia, it’s a good rule of thumb to always keep your documentation where it’s easy to grab if you need it.
This includes your driver’s license (and international permit, if applicable), passport, registration, and insurance details.
Also, while your rental car should come with it, make sure you have a reflective vest in your car. All vehicles in Croatia are legally required to carry one in case you have to pull over and exit your car on the side of the road.
Driving in Croatia FAQ
Is it safe to drive in Croatia?
Based on both the data and my experience, driving in Croatia is very safe. As long as you remain a defensive driver, keep inside your comfort zone, and know the rules of the road, you won’t have any problems.
What side of the road do they drive on in Croatia?
In Croatia, like much of the rest of Europe, they drive on the right side of the road. Overtaking other vehicles is done in the left lane. This will come as familiar news if you’re from North America.
Do you need an international driver’s license to drive in Croatia?
Depending on where you’re traveling from, yes, you’ll likely need an international driver’s license in Croatia. Additionally, you must be able to present a license from your home country that has been valid for at least two years. An international license doesn’t negate the need to carry your local license. This guide is a great resource to determine if you’ll need an international license in Croatia.
What are the requirements for driving in Croatia?
As a foreigner in Croatia, you’ll need to be at least 21 years of age (although some rental companies require you to be only 18) and have a valid license. You may incur a young driver’s fee if you are younger than 25.
What should I pack for my Croatian road trip?
To make sure you have a comfortable and safe road trip, I recommend bringing a car adapter for your devices, an external battery pack, a dashboard mobile phone holder, the numbers of emergency services, and a small roadside emergency kit.
That’s it for my top tips for driving in Croatia! I hope this helped in your Croatian research and prepared you for the best Croatian road trip possible. Up next, check out one of my Croatia travel guides, including: The Ultimate Croatia Itinerary (7 to 10 Days), 11 Best Destinations for Backpackers In Europe, and How to Go Backpacking in Europe.
Have fun in Croatia!
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Hi Taylor Herperger
Really great informations and guides, thank you.
Informative and helpful.
Planning a road trip from Zadar to Split. Is there anything I should need to know when driving into Split? I hear cars are not allowed in certain areas.