Set magnificently on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia’s borders and rulers have seen dramatic changes over the centuries. From Ottomans, Habsburgs and Venetians to the French, Croatians and Yugoslavs, its strategic locale and–one can easily imagine–its sheer beauty have made it a coveted region through the centuries. Today, Croatia is a parliamentary unitary state. The capital city is Zagreb.
With a wide range of geography – the heights of the Dinaric Alps, the Pannonian Plains around the Danube River, the coasts of Dalmatia, and more – it is a nation of enormous biodiversity. Inland, one of its grandest features are the Plitvice Lakes, a necklace of terraced hillside lakes connected by waterfalls. Along the coast, a thread of more than 1,000 islands line the shore, creating a stunning haven of beaches, forest and seaside fishing villages dreamily known as Dalmatia.
Croatian is Croatia’s official language. While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges that reveal the welcoming and resilient nature of Croats. See the BBC’s language for helpful hints.
Life in Croatia
Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Saturday between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. On Sundays some stores in shopping malls may be open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Banks are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants, lunch is served from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and dinner is usually served from 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. In tourist areas, restaurants serve continuously from noon until late in the evening.
Tipping: In restaurants and bars, it is customary to round up your change on the table. In upscale restaurants, a 10 to 15 percent tip is customary. Taxi drivers receive 10 percent of the fare. For luggage assistance, offer 5 to 10 HRK per bag.
Croatian public holidays: Croatian public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events may affect your travel planning. Visit the Croatian tourist board’s website.
Croatian cuisine is a savory blend of tastes reflecting the cultures–from Italian to Austro-Hungarian–that have influenced the country over the course of its history. Coastal cuisine is typically Mediterranean, generous with olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Appetizers may include menestra (a vegetable and bean soup akin to minestrone), salata od hobotnice (octopus salad), prsut (a tasty Croatian version of prosciutto), and Pag cheese, which is a sheep cheese often accompanied with olives. Dalmatian brodet (mixed fish stewed with polenta) and pastičada (beef stewed in wine and served with prunes and gnocchi) are regional delicacies. Fresh grilled fish figures prominently on the menus. Desserts may include amareta (round, rich cake with almonds) and kremsnite (custard pie).
Truffles are a sought-after delicacy on the Istrian Peninsula to the north. The world’s largest white truffle was found here, measuring in at a gigantic 2.88 pounds. In Croatia, dogs are favored over pigs for sniffing out these gourmet indulgences.
Croatia has good-quality wines that are typically only available locally, especially from the Istria region, including a white, sparkling Prosecco-type wine, and red. Many grappa-style fruit and/or herb brandies are also enjoyed at the end of a meal.
Croatia’s climate varies from Mediterranean along the Adriatic coast to continental throughout inland areas such as Zagreb and the plains. The sunny, coastal areas experience hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Wind patterns cool the coast with refreshing breezes in the summer, while the sea stores heat in the summer. Temperatures may range from the mid-60s to mid-80s. Be prepared to layer your attire if your itinerary includes boat journeys, since weather at sea can be variable.
U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For more information, see travel.state.gov.
Croatia uses the kuna (HRK). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 HRK. (While the official currency is the Croatian kuna, euros are accepted at many large hotels and restaurants; as of May 2015, 1 USD = 1 euros). Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit oanda.com for the latest.
Many businesses in Europe will no longer accept credit cards without PIN numbers (chip and pin cards). Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.
We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s), credit card(s), some U.S. dollars to exchange, and some euros in small denominations.
No immunizations are required to enter Croatia. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.
Electricity: Alternating current of 220V and 50Hz is used in Croatia. Plugs have two prongs. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.
Phone: Croatia’s country code is “+385.” Cell phone coverage throughout Croatia is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.
Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.
Croatia is in the Central European Time Zone, Eastern Standard Time plus 6 hours. For more information on worldwide time zones, see: worldtimezone.com.
A wealth of travel information is available at croatia.hr/en-GB/Representative-offices/United-States-Canada.
The majority of international flights into Croatia arrive in Dubrovnik and Zagreb, both requiring connections within Europe from the United States. Internal flights are available on Croatia Airlines to larger cities.
International Airports in Croatia
- Dubrovnik Airport
- Osijek Airport
- Pula Airport
- Rijeka Airport
- Zadar Airport
- Zagreb Airport
Croatia’s national train company is HŽ Putnički Prijevoz. If you can navigate the Croatian language, you may book your train travel directly with them. Or, if you plan to travel for longer periods, consider Rail Europe, a U.S.-based company that provides schedules, reservations, and ticketing for all European train networks. Their multi-day, -week or -month passes in one country or combinations of countries may be a more economical and convenient choice. For more information, go to raileurope.com or call 800.622.8600.
Other local transportation
In addition to rail and airlines, Croatia has an extensive long-distance bus network that, for some towns and cities, may be more convenient and affordable than rail or air travel. Because there are a number of local companies that do not have the ability to receive bookings online, it is best to buy tickets and seats at the local bus station.
Most major car rental agencies are available at airports and train stations, although it may be best to rent through a local agency branch. Taxis are available at all major airports, train stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance).