We recently had a wedding in Croatia, which was an AMAZING location for a wedding. Before the ceremony, we had a road trip to get to Dubrovnik, as we landed in Zagreb–the nation’s capital. I have been to many places in Europe and would describe this as the country that combines everything Europe has to offer.
I’d never heard of Croatia before, but thanks to Game of Thrones, this has become the new travel destination. It has literally EVERYTHING you would want to see including islands, European history, mountains, beautiful landscapes, and cheap beer. If you are like me, and are not afraid to rent a car in a foreign country, then you will need some advice.
Here are some road trip travel tips in Croatia:
Plan your itinerary before you go.
We landed in Zagreb and had to be in Dubrovnik 3 days later for the wedding. So we spent time in the city before making our way South. Before getting your car, you should plan an itinerary by looking at the drive time between each destination (Check out current rates and deals too before planning your next trip!).
A good order is to drive from Zagreb to the Plitvice Lakes. These are waterfalls that take a whole day to tour, and probably more like 2 days, but we only had time to do 1 day. Then you can drive down to Split, which is a city on the sea and full of history. In between there, you can make a stop in Zadar, which has great seafront restaurants.
After sleeping a night in Split then you can make the drive towards Dubrovnik. If you have time to take a boat to any of the islands like Hvar, it would definitely be worth your trip! Otherwise, you can always make a day trip to Montenegro, which is a beautiful neighboring country.
Check with your credit card and current insurance before getting renter’s insurance.
It’s a good idea to have insurance when you’re renting a car, but you don’t always have to purchase it through the rental company. I booked my rental car with my Visa credit card, which meant that I’m covered with their insurance and don’t need to purchase the rental car’s. Some on your current car insurance policies include rental cars, too. So check with both of these before spending the extra money.
Get the GPS.
You have to pay extra to have GPS in your car, but it's 100% worth the money. Although a lot of the Croatians speak English, their signs are all in Croatian. So for your peace of mind and for better navigation, get the the GPS.
Go the speed limit.
When I see a sign that says I can travel 130 kilometers/hour, I instantly go into Fast and Furious mode. Finally, a speed limit I like! Except it's only 80mph, which is still fast, but no 130. And my Croatian friend explained to me that they monitor their speed, and it's really bad if you get caught speeding. So I would recommend going the speed limit--no Fast and Furious.
Pay for parking.
You know you're setting up for a good trip when you start out with a parking ticket in hour 1. You DO have to pay for the parking in Croatia and most of the time it's at a kiosk down the street. If you don't they WILL ticket you and it costs around 150 Kuna.
Book an Airbnb.
My favorite place to stay on a trip is an Airbnb because it allows you to live more like a local and normally comes at a lower rate than a hotel. We stayed in 4 very different places throughout the country and didn't have any complaints about any. The main thing to look at when you're looking up an Airbnb is the ratings.
I always read through other peoples' experiences to make sure it's a good place to stay. It's also good to check for things like Wifi and parking, and to see if there are added fees, like cleaning and extra persons. If you haven't already created an account, you also get $25 off your first booking when you sign up! What better excuse do you need?
The exchange rate is awesome!
1 Croatian Kuna is equal to about 16 US cents. Which means when you order that beer for 7-8 Kuna it's barely over a whole dollar! That's like having dollar draws EVERY night of the week. This is also a good thing to know, so you don't freak out if something is 150 Kuna (Like the parking ticket you may or may not have gotten...).
Don't bother with the Green Card, if you're only driving through Croatia.
We got a green card when we rented our card, because we weren't sure and the rental company said yes, get it. According to my Croatian friend, you only need one if you're planning on traveling outside the country in certain areas. If you're only planning to cross through border control (Like through Bosnia to get to Dubrovnik) then you will only need a passport. So save yourself the $12 for 12 beers.
Take the bus in cities.
The bus system is so easy to use! Our Airbnb was a little outside of Dubrovnik, and we were contemplating driving every day into the city, until our amazing host introduced us to the bus system. It's very easy to read and you get unlimited rides if you buy the Dubrovnik Card (You also get a TON of discounts on museums and entrance fees if you get the card. So I highly recommend it). The main thing to remember on the bus, is to know when your stop is coming up and to hit the bell.
Free Wifi is everywhere.
Since travel plans are crazy expensive through cell phone carriers, I mainly wait until I have Wifi to talk to people and posts to social media. In Croatia, there is literally free Wifi at every place, which makes Snap and Insta story posts even better (They're actually in real time!). Most of the time the password is 12345678 (Yes, really) or the restaurantname1111, but if those don't work, ask your server. They will gladly give you the password.
The locals are super friendly and most speak English.
It can be intimidating going to a place that doesn't speak the same language as you, especially if it's your first time in a different country. However, most Croatians speak basic English, if they're not completely fluent. You will have no problem ordering food or asking for directions. They're also super fun people that love to have a good time.
Explore the nightlife.
One of the best parts of going to a new city (Well for me anyways), is going out at local bars/clubs. I'm more of a beer drinker, so I look for the bars that have a chill bar and try local beers on tap. In Coratia, the 2 good local beers you should try are Karlovacka and Ozujsko. Also, if you're in Dubrovnik, you MUST go to the Revelin Culture Club. It's FANTASTIC--pretty much a rave in a castle. Tourists have to pay a cover, but if you go with your new Croatian friends, you can skirt this.
Try a tourist excursion.
Most of the time I'm anti-tourist gimmicks, because they don't feel authentic. However, we did an all-day island boat trip and it was great. We met a couple of people from Ireland, drank unlimited wine, and got to see beaches and islands we wouldn't have made it to on our own. If you have time, or are looking for a way to kill some down time, I suggest trying one of these tourist trips.
Visit the Game of Throne hotspots.
If you haven't already started watching Game of Thrones, you should--the next season isn't out until 2019 (Very distraught about it). However, being able to see some of these iconic settings will bring a little bit of fun to your road trip. If you're not a fan, they are still beautiful places to see.
These are the top spots you should try to hit on your road trip:
- St. Dominika Street--The place of the walk of shame in Dubrovnik
- Bokar Fortress-- The setting of King's Landing in Dubrovnik
- Klis Fortress-- AKA City of Meereen just 20min from Split
- Diocletian Palace-- Where many of Daenerys' scenes take place in Split
- Lokrum Island-- AKA City of Quarth a boat ride from Dubrovnik
If you do go to Croatia, you should tell me about your experience (My email is firstname.lastname@example.org). I LOVE talking travel with other people and reminiscing on past trips. You can also feel free to ask me any questions. Croatia should definitely be added to your bucket list, if it wasn't already. I recommend traveling during the off season, too. If you need convincing, read this. Happy traveling! Go book your next adventure today 🙂