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Ultimate Guide for Your Trip to Croatia

As you may all know, Croatia is one of the top-rated travel destinations. This is my ultimate guide trough Croatia, and I’ll try to show you everything you need to know before and during your trip.

Packed with gorgeous old towns, jaw-dropping nature, beautiful crystal-clear sea, delicious food, and great hosts who are always ready to help, no wonder that over 21 million tourists visited Croatia in 2019.

Not bad for such a small country, don’t you think?

Ok, I may be a little subjective when it comes to Croatia, but don’t judge me. I can’t help myself, it’s my favorite place on earth. After all, it’s a place my heart calls home.

I’m not going to write about must-see locations right now, but about people, food, tradition, and of course, some necessary information about Croatia.

ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR YOUR TRIP TO CROATIA

Ultimate Guide for Your Trip to Croatia

Let’s just start with a couple of the most important information you should know before traveling.

Traveling to and within Croatia

By plane:

  • Croatia has 9 airports, and Zagreb Airport is the main international airport
  • Airports in Dubrovnik and Split are important airports on the Croatian coast
  • Zadar airport is located in the middle of Adriatic, which makes it a perfect starting point for any destination 
  • Most of the traffic in other airports on the coast takes place during the summer months
  • Low-cost airlines are flying to Croatian airports (Zagreb airport excluded), also mostly in summer months

By bus

  • A great cheap option for those who are traveling from nearby European countries
  • Flixbus – low-cost bus in Europe
  • All cities in Croatia are well connected, which makes traveling from one city to another very easy, especially in summer (larger number of daily lines)
    For more information click here.

By train

  • Also, a great option for travel to Zagreb is by train. But I would not recommend traveling by train within Croatia. The train network is limited, trains are less frequent, and most importantly, it takes to long.
  • For example, from Zagreb to Rijeka, you will need 2 hours by car, 2.5 hours by bus and 4 hours by train. 
    Fore more information click here.

By car

  • Croatian cities are well connected with highways, so I would definitely recommend traveling by car
  • To travel on highways, you have to pay the toll, which can be a drawback for those traveling on a budget.
  • For example, toll fee for traveling with personal car from Zagreb to Zadar is 105,00 HRK (13,86€/ 15,57 USD/ 12,43£) or to Split 157,00 HRK (20,72€/ 23,29 USD/ 18,59£). The price of the toll depends on the type of vehicle you are traveling with and your entry and exit point on the highway

Best time to visit

Natural Park Plitvice
Plitvice Lakes National Park

Always!

Kidding aside, there is no wrong time for visiting Croatia. I don’t have to tell you that the summer season is a peak of Croatian tourism, but there are many things you can do all year round.

For example: exploring some of 8 national parks or visiting Zagreb Advent (one of the best Christmas Markets in the world) 

Also, many people say that pre- and post-season is the best time for those looking for a relaxing vacation without crowded beaches and cities. But if you know where to look, you can find small quiet places, where you can enjoy the sun, sea, food and Croatian hospitality even in high season.

Language

Croatian is the official language in Croatia. It has many dialects and is challenging to learn, but it’s always nice to know a few essential words. People will appreciate that!

Hi = Bok

Good morning/afternoon/evening = Dobro jutro / Dobar dan / Dobra večer

Goodbye = Doviđenja

Please = Molim

Excuse me = Oprostite

Thank you = Hvala

You are welcome = Molim

Sorry = Oprosti

Yes/No = Da/Ne

Cheers = Živjeli (probably the most important word to know 😀 )

Cheers (Ultimate Guide for your trip to Croatia)
Živjeli!

Most people speak English, and you will be surprised by how many people can speak German and Italian. So, there should be no problem in that regard.

But (there is always a but) if you rent an apartment from older people, you may have to explain to them with your hands and feet what do you want. I have to tell you, even if that happens, they will do anything to make you feel welcome. So, don’t be a grinch, take it as a humorous holiday adventure.

Safety

Generally, Croatia is a safe country to travel to. Overall crime levels are quite low, but I wouldn’t leave my bike on the street unlocked if you know what I mean.

To be completely honest in major cities like Zagreb, I wouldn’t even leave it locked on the street.

I wouldn’t say it is unsafe to travel in Croatia, not at all, but you know how they say opportunity makes a thief. You just have to take care of your belongings wherever you are.

There is a project ‘Safe tourist season’ in which Croatian police cooperate with the police of other countries to reduce the most common crimes like pickpocketing on the beaches. 

Money

Croatian kuna (Ultimate Guide for your trip to Croatia)
Croatian kuna

Croatian kuna (HRK) is the official currency in Croatia. But the more used short currency name is KN.

  • 1 EUR = 7,58 KN
  • 1 USD = 6,78 KN
  • 1 GPB= 8,48 KN

Note: this currency exchange rate is from Croatia National Bank exchange rate for June 5th, 2020

If you don’t want to travel with a large amount of cash, you can easily pay with your credit card or withdraw money from an ATM. Be prepared to pay a small fee for using these services.

Note: although it shouldn’t be a problem paying with your card in larger cities, supermarkets, and restaurants, this could be a problem in smaller places. So, it’s always a good idea to have some cash with you.

When it comes to tipping in Croatia, you should consider rounding up your bill in cafe bars and giving a tip about 10% of your bill in restaurants.  

Shopping or Sightseeing

Planning to shop in Croatia?

You should know that most shops are open on Sundays, especially in the summer. But if you decide to shop on the national holiday, please check if the shops or malls will be open that day and what are the working hours.

So, don’t worry about shopping, you can do it every day of the week!

The same goes for sightseeing, visiting museums, amusement parks or national parks.

Croatian people and tradition

You have to understand one thing before visiting Croatia, we are a coffee nation. We can sit in coffee shops for at least 2 hours, drink coffee and complain about life. So, don’t be confused if it is a workday and all the coffee shops are full. That’s just the way who we are!

Oh, I really miss that ☹. After moving to Germany, I did that only a few times. Mostly when my Croatian friends were here for a visit. And I must say, after sitting for more than an hour in a coffee shop, people started looking at us strangle, like we were waiting for a chance to escape without paying.

To get back on the point, Croatia is such a small country but diversified in so many different ways. Every region has something different to offer. If you have a chance to visit more Croatian regions, you could experience the diversity of nature, climate, culture, and tradition.

Tradition varies from place to place, but it is important to know that Croats stick to tradition. If you are lucky enough, you may even experience in person some of the Croatian most famous folk customs like Sinjska Alka or Poklade.

Stereotypes about Croatian people

Like for every other nation in the world, there are a few stereotypes about Croatian people too. Some of them are funny, some are true, and some are entirely wrong. It’s up to you to find out which of them are true 😉

Zagreb

Zagreb
Zagreb

I will begin with Croatian capital city and my hometown Zagreb. As a cultural and learning center of Croatia, both in the past and today, people from Zagreb often think that they are ‘upper class’ citizens. But to be honest, there are very few ‘real Zagrepčana’ (people from Zagreb). Most people living in Zagreb originate or come from other parts of Croatia. Their favorite word is ‘kaj’ (meaning what but in dialect), and you will hear it all the time.

Zagorje

One of the best-known stereotypes about people from Zagorje (Northern Croatia) is that they love to drink wine. To be even more detailed, they love to drink Gemišt (a combination of wine and sparkling mineral water). And they can be little tricky if you cross them, so be careful, if you hear the words ‘tužil bum te’ (I’m going to sue you), you better go and find yourself a good lawyer 😉.

Slavonia

If you choose to travel through Slavonia, make sure to bring a pair of larger jeans. There is only meat on their menu, and they love to eat Kulen (a type of flavored sausage) and drink Šljivovica (strong plum brandy). They are in charge of a good time, and you will likely see them playing Tamburica (traditional Croatian instrument) and singing ‘bećarac’ (a humorous form of folk song).

Dalmatia

Split
Split

All you can hear is complaining, complaining, and a little more complaining? You are probably in Dalmatia. They love to sit, drink coffee, and complain about everything. Life in Dalmatia is passing slowly. If you are in a hurry passing by the locals, you will hear their favorite word ‘Pomalo.’ It is a Dalmatian version of the word ‘polako,’ which means slowly, but overall, it describes Dalmatians’ relaxed lifestyle. If it seems to you that they are depressed, don’t worry, they are caught by ‘fjaka’ (it’s not easy to describe this word, but it would be something like a state of mind with the aspiration for nothing).

Croatian food

My favorite part 😉

Croatian cousin is the best cousin in the world!

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit now. But after you try some of the Croatian specialties, I’m sure you will understand me.

Although this is very difficult for me, I will choose only 10 of my favorite dishes. I have to set a limit because this post could quickly turn out into a cookbook.

  1. Janjetina na ražnju – lamb on the spit. It’s very important that the lam is homemade and the best lamb you can find on Croatian islands, such as Pag or Cres
  2. Peka – it can be lamb, veal or octopus with potatoes, made in an open fireplace, and hot coals are placed over the metal lid that covers the dish (peka is not a food it’s only a way of preparing a meal)
  3. Pašticada – stewed beef cooked in a special sauce and served with gnocchi
  4. Pršut – homemade ham
  5. Paški sir – cheese from the island of Pag
  6. Zagorski štrukli – dough filled with cheese, can be cooked or backed
  7. Brudet – seafood stew served with creamy polenta
  8. Riba sa ražnja – grilled fish
  9. Fritule – donut-like fried pastries
  10. Sarma – mincemeat rolled into the cabbage leaves
Peka - octopus (Ultimate Guide for your trip to Croatia)
Peka - Octopus (Source: prirodna.hr)

There are a lot of other delicious national dishes, but this is my top 10. Have you already tried some of these dishes?

Oh, and don’t forget to try Croatian brandy (rakija), wine and beer. These can be perfectly combined with the food mentioned above.

All in all, Croatia is a must-see location. Whatever you choose to do or see in Croatia, you will certainly meet some fantastic people, eat delicious meals and have a great time.

I hope this ultimate guide will help you by planning your trip to Croatia!

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