- Croatia in a nutshell
- Things to arrange in advance
- Public transport
- Additional information
Croatia (Hrvatska) has been a country since the 1990′s. Where is Croatia? Croatia is located in Central Europe and Southeast Europe, at the crossroads of the Balkans and the Mediterranean. It is bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in the east, Slovenia in the north-west, Hungary in the north-east and Montenegro and the Adriatic Sea in the south. Croatia area is 56,594 square kilometres (21,851 square miles), consists of 20 counties and the city of Zagreb, with a total population of about 4.5 million.
One of Croatia’s pleasures are its coastline of 1,778 km and the 1,185 islands together with a Mediterranean climate. But Croatia has much more! You can enjoy a vivid nightlife in Dalmatia, hike through pristine forests watered by mountain streams in the west or soak up culture.
As Croatia has endured Roman, Venetian, Italian and Austro-Hungarian dominion, you’ll find a strong central European flavour in the baroque architecture of Zagreb, and Italian devotion to the good life percolates up from the coast, permeating Croatian food and style. During holidays and festivals the country’s Slavic soul emerges, as colourfully costumed dancers whirl about to traditional folk melodies.
Croatians retain a strong attachment to the land and traditions that nourished the dream of independence for so long.
- Dubrovnik (an independent state at the time) was the very first nation to formally recognize the United States as a nation when it declared independence from Great Britain in 1776.
- Croatia’s currency, the Kuna, was named after a small rodent, whose fur Croats used for payment many centuries ago. In English this animal is a Marten.
- The necktie was invented in Croatia and is called a “cravat,” which is derived from the word “Croat.”
- The highest point in Croatia is the Dinara peak at 1,831 metres (6,007 feet).
- Croatian young people can vote at the age of 16 if they have a job but they must wait until 18 if they are unemployed.
- Goran Ivanisevic is Croatia’s greatest sport hero of Croatia. He won the men’s single at Wimbledon in 2001 after entering on a wild card.
- Istria is the biggest peninsula and used to be part of Italy until World War II.
- Travel documents: Canadians and Americans only need a valid passport, which will allow you to remain in Croatia for a maximum period of 90 days.
- Driving license and registration: A International Driving Permit is not required as Croatia recognizes most driving licenses in their original form. Still, it is recommended to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in case you got pulled over. It will cost you between $15 to $20. Visitors should be aware that right turns at red lights are prohibited. When driving, right of way is given to the vehicle coming in from the right, unless otherwise indicated. Failure to respect these laws may result in fines.
- Medical passport: If you are using medication, ask your doctor for a ‘medical passport’. This can be a signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names which details your affliction and what medicines you need to use. Bring medications in their original, clearly labelled containers. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.
- Insurance documents (travel/health)
- Tickets and reservations
- Money and credit cards
Croatia's official currency is the Kuna (HRK). The Kuna is divided into 100 Lipas. When listed as a price, the Kuna is abbreviated to Kn. The Kuna comes in dominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 as notes and 1, 2, 5, 25 as coins. The Lipa comes in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50.
You're better off having some Kunas (or converting your own currency into them) to make things easiest when you're in Croatia. ATM’s are now nearly everywhere in Croatia except the most remote and uninhabited islands. Just look for the "bankomat" sign. Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, and Eurocard are the most commonly accepted cash cards; American Express is slightly scarcer. A tip: call your bank before leaving home and find out how much they're charging for ATM use.
Although many tourist business owners may accept Euros, they are not legal tender in Croatia. Any amount of Kuna you have left at the end of your stay can be converted to Euros at a local bank or exchange office. Keep receipts to reconvert Kuna to foreign currency. Foreign currency may be freely taken in and out of the country, however the limit for local currency is 15,000 Kuna.
Banking hours in Croatia are 8am to 4 or 7pm on Monday to Friday. On Saturdays some banks are open until noon and in the larger cities some banks are also open on Sundays. Exchange offices can be found at main railway stations and bus terminals, international airports and harbour terminals, border crossings and bigger marinas. They generally work 24 hours a day or are open to service the arriving and departing passengers.
Credit cards are widely, though not universally accepted. Visa, Mastercard and Diners are accepted the most frequently, American Express is accepted less frequently. All stores and hotels accept credit cards and they are increasingly accepted in restaurants as well (at least the larger ones). If you're dining at a small family inn off the tourist path you should bring cash just in case. Owners of private rooms and apartments in Croatia never accept credit cards. If you arrange a room or apartment when you step off your boat or bus, make sure you get to an ATM in order to pay your landlady.
Most banks still accept international traveller’s cheques like American Express, Visa or Thomas Cook. However, with the rise of ATM’s, there are fewer opportunities to cash traveller’s cheques and the rates have become quite unfavourable. Banks are the only places now to exchange them. A record of the cheque numbers and the initial purchase details is vital when it comes to replacing lost cheques.
Tipping in Croatia
Tipping in Croatia is not mandatory. If you are satisfied about the overall dining experience in a restaurant, tip is around 10% or you can just round the total up to the nearest Kuna when paying. In clubs or cafe bars it’s common to also round up the bill. Taxi drivers or hairdressers don’t expect a tip, but they appreciate the ones they get. As always, a tip can “open a lot of doors”...
Croatia has a good standard of health service. The healthcare system in Croatia is controlled centrally. The state owns hospitals and the county governments own the medical centres.
Hospitals are located in all major cities and towns. They are mainly financed through contracts with the Croatian Health Insurance Institute. Hospitals are categorized into general and specialist hospitals. Both types of hospital have outpatient facilities. Every municipality has a health centre plus a network of primary health care units. Health centres give general care to the whole of the municipalities’ population, gynaecology and dental care. In addition, they are bound to provide people with emergency treatment, diagnostic services and health education. Remote rural health centres also offer specialist outpatient care, which is supervised by a hospital. Some also provide maternity and short-term inpatient facilities.
Most have at least one person on hand who can speak English. Doctors, medical clinics and hospitals also do not accept credit cards. Prices are reasonable, but you must pay cash. Travellers are advised to arrange for medical insurance prior to departure. Prescription medications should be kept in the original container and packed in carry-on luggage.
Pharmacies in Croatia are marked with a green cross and you can easily find them. Most pharmacies are privately owned. The growth of the private sector has lead to improvements in making drugs more accessible. They supply both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
Railways are not the most effective modes of transport within Croatia, as international borders have shifted since many rail lines were built. For example, the southern Dalmatian coast and the Istrian peninsula cannot be accessed by rail from Zagreb without crossing an international border. Other rail routes within Croatia are infrequently serviced, slow, or more expensive than comparable bus service. One exception is the overnight auto-carrying train from Zagreb to Split that allows you to avoid crowded highways to the coast on busy summer weekends. Domestic bus service is generally more reliable and economical than rail service.
Croatian Railway's (Hrvatske Zeljeznice) operates trains in Croatia (see http://www.hznet.hr/Default.aspx?sec=282). The main rail routes are Zagreb-Split, Zagreb-Rijeka and Zagreb-Osijek. There are no trains to Dubrovnik, but you can take a train to Split and then hop on one of the frequent buses or take the more scenic ferry to Dubrovnik. Istria is connected by rail to Slovenian network only. The most popular route by tourist and travellers is one that connects the capital Zagreb with Split and the Adriatic Coast.
Internationally, there are direct lines from and to several surrounding countries, including Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Greece and Italy. Overall, the train network in Croatia is not as extensive as the bus network and for many destinations within the country, buses are a faster and more convenient option. Still, the railway is a sustainable mode of transport and it's probably the best way of travel in terms of nature preservation.
The bus service in Croatia is first class: there is even a bus connection between the smallest villages in the country. There are express buses that cover longer distances and which are reasonably comfortable. Bus travel is also inexpensive, and the new motorways in parts of the country have reduced journey times considerably. In the tourist areas local buses are regular (approx. every 15 minutes) and travel from the outskirts into the towns. It is not possible to buy tickets for bus journeys in Croatia online. Tickets can only be bought at bus stations or on buses. In almost every larger town, there is a bus station (Autobusna Stanica) where tickets are sold and timetables are clearly displayed.
There are no metro lines in Croatia. The capital Zagreb has an extensive tram network. Also Osijek and Split have an active tram system. Other places had a tram system in the past, but with competition from the buses, they stopped operating.
Jadrolinija (http://www.jadrolinija.hr/default.aspx?lang=2) is the main provider of car and passenger ferries and catamarans in Croatia. There are regular connections between the main ports and the offshore islands. A coastal service runs all the way from Rijeka in the north to Dubrovnik in the south, via Split, Stari Grad and Korcula.
Taxis in Croatia are widely available at taxi ranks, especially in the tourist areas. There are easy to spot taxi signs on the roofs. Ask for a rough price before you get in as Croatian taxis are generally rather expensive. The taxi timer is switched on at the location of a passenger's boarding. You can ask the receptionist at your hotel to order you a taxi or provide you with a phone number. The taxi usually comes within 10 to 15 minutes from the call except in the busy summer season where it depends on how much business they have.
It is quite safe to travel all over Croatia and mugging and thefts are not a problem. You can safely walk in any town at night, but use your common sense, as always. You should take the usual precautions to protect yourself, your passport and other valuables when out and about. Try to utilize hotel safe facilities and if driving, do not leave valuables in the vehicle. In crowded areas like airports or train stations be aware of pickpockets and bag snatchers. Common sense is the best defense against petty crime.
In case of an emergency, you can dial the following numbers when you’re in Croatia:
112 - General emergency service
92 - Police
93 - Fire department
94 - Ambulance
987 - Road assistance
988 - Information service (phone directory)
- Bring an adapter for the 220Volts/AC system to charge your phone, computer, etc. (European - two round pins, 220Volts/50 Hz.).
- Croatia is in the Central European Time zone (Greenwich +1h).
- Internet cafés are available in all major cities in Croatia. They are relatively cheap and reliable. A free Wi-Fi signal can be found in almost every city (cafés, hotels, private unsecured networks...)
- The international access code for Croatia is +385. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). All numbers must be preceded by 0, whether originating in Croatia or out, unless calling a mobile phone. To call from Canada or the U.S. to Croatia you have to dial 011 + 385 + City Area Code + Number.
- National holidays in Croatia: 1 January (New Year’s Day), 6 January (Epiphany), Easter Monday, 1 May (Labour Day), Corpus Christi (60 days after Easter), 22 June (Anti Fascist Struggle Day), 25 June (Statehood Day), 5 August (Victory Day and National Thanksgiving Day), 15 August (Assumption Day), 8 October (Independence Day), 1 November (All Saints’ Day), 25 December (Christmas), 26 December (St. Stephen’s Day).