The golden rule of “Closer to Nature” in Croatia is followed by everyone, but each in his own way. Someone enjoys the stunning ecology of the country: the cleanest sea and beaches, where instead of ridiculous beach umbrellas rise pine trees, and the coastal waters are transparent to tens of meters.
Someone chooses the healing power of land and water – the blessing of Croatia has as much as 20 mineral springs and a unique field of curative petroleum. Well, the most radical citizens, accustomed to understand everything literally, come here to throw off the hypocritical covers of civilization and completely merge with nature on one of the many nudist beaches.
Agree that against the backdrop of such magnificent opportunities, talk about some of the simplicity of the local hotels and food in them sound at least inappropriate?
- 1 Regions and resorts of Croatia
- 2 Climate
- 3 Visa and customs
- 4 Transport
- 5 Communications and Wi-Fi
- 6 Hotels in Croatia
- 7 Local currency
- 8 Safety
- 9 Beaches of Croatia
- 10 Treatment in Croatia
- 11 Diving in Croatia
- 12 Cuisine and restaurants in Croatia
- 13 Entertainment and attractions in Croatia
- 14 Holidays and events in Croatia
Regions and resorts of Croatia
The capital of Croatia Zagreb is the largest city in the country, but by European standards is quite compact. In Zagreb, especially in its historic center, beautifully preserved medieval architecture. There are many beautiful palaces and cathedrals, green parks and small cafes with verandas. To explore the city is better on foot, because firstly, it is small, and secondly, to pass on the narrow streets in the center of the city is quite problematic.
Croatia is conventionally divided into three resort areas. Peninsula Istria is known for its picturesque views of the Adriatic Sea, clear waters and close proximity to Italy (just 3.5 hours by sea to Venice). Beaches in Istria are not the most comfortable: coarse pebbles and concrete platforms, but it is quite cool, even at the height of the summer season.
Lovers of romance should go to Rovinj, Pula and the island of Krk, for young people will suit Medulin (one of the few places in the region where you can find sandy beaches and diving), lovers of quiet rest and the elderly waiting Lovran, and wishing to improve their health can visit Opatija.
The capital of Croatia is Zagreb, a well-preserved medieval city that is best explored on foot.
Middle Dalmatia is suitable for vacations with children. Here the beaches are of fine pebbles with a smooth entrance to the sea, and on the shore there is all the entertainment infrastructure. Tučepi and Baška Voda are considered the best resorts for family holidays.
The island of Brac also has a beautiful coast with fine pebbles, but this place has long been beloved by nudists, so these beaches are more suitable for adults. The most prestigious resort in the region is Makarska. There is a whole promenade with luxury restaurants, hotels and spa centers. A good thalassotherapy center is opened in Sibenik, where all the discos and other youth “movements” are concentrated.
Southern Dalmatia is a mountain and an island. Here they grow oysters and produce the most famous wine in the country “Dingac”. There are sandy beaches near Dubrovnik, but the coast is mostly stony.
According to UNESCO, Dubrovnik is one of the three most beautiful cities of the Renaissance along with Amsterdam and Venice.
Ski resorts in Croatia are equipped no worse than Austrian or Swiss, but they are significantly cheaper. The closest resort to Zagreb (only 10 kilometers) is Sleme.
The slopes here are rather gentle, which is suitable for beginners and children, and the slopes themselves are located in a picturesque nature park.
A relatively young resort that has already gained popularity among fans of winter sports is Platak. Its main feature – gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea from the highest point.
Croatia has a continental climate in the north, mountainous in the central part and Mediterranean climate on the Adriatic coast. Summers are dry and sometimes hot, and winters are mild and rainy. The average winter temperature is +5 … +10 ° C in the coastal areas, and in the mountains it drops to -5 … 0 ° C.
During the summer in the mountains it is rather fresh +15 … +20 ° C, and the sea is hot and sunny +23 … +27 ° C, the water temperature is +22 … +25 ° C. However, the sun in Croatia is everywhere. This country is one of the record-breakers in the world for the number of sunny days a year.
The best time to visit – in May and September. In July and August the weather is great, but there are too many tourists and the beaches are overcrowded. April and October are also very nice in Croatia, but it is quite cool to swim.
Visa and customs
To visit Croatia you will need a visa and insurance.
Foreign currency can be brought in and out freely (amount over 10 000 EUR should be declared), local currency – up to 2000 HRK (anything above this amount should be declared). Duty free import of 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 g of tobacco (optional); 2 liters of wine or 1 liter of spirits; 250 ml of cologne and 50 ml of perfume. Duty free 1 kg of coffee, import/export of food products is not subject to special restrictions.
You are allowed to bring into Croatia things for personal use (including sports equipment and various electronics) – just enough for one person. If the customs officer will suspect that you are bringing these goods for sale (large volume, new packaging, etc.), there will be questions.
Firearms, ammunition, explosives, drugs, spray cans, skins of wild animals and antique items can’t be brought into the country. Antiques and other artistic and historical value can be taken out of Croatia only with the appropriate certificate.
For purchases over 500 HRK you can get a refund of 20% of the total cost of goods if the store supports the Tax Free system. You need to fill out a special receipt at the cash register or a special counter in the store. The rules do not apply to petroleum products and goods with damaged packaging.
The cheque and the purchased goods must be presented to the customs officer at the airport, you will receive a stamp and go to the Global Blue office (they are located at the airports in Zagreb and Dubrovnik) to get the money. Within 3 months the money will be transferred to the card from which the purchase was made, or given in cash immediately. The maximum refund can be 11,250 HRK in cash and 37,500 HRK to a credit card.
Domestic flights of Croatian Airlines fly from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, Split and Pula. In summer there is a charter flight to Krk once a week, and there are also flights between Split and Osijek.
Croatian trains are comfortable and on time. Railroads connect all major cities in the country, except Dubrovnik (in this case you need to take a train to Split, and then change to a bus to Dubrovnik). On popular lines (Zagreb – Split, Zagreb – Osijek, etc.) there are modern express trains. In summer the number of trains to seaside resorts increases.
The trains move most intensively in the northern part of the country. The center of the network is the capital city of Zagreb. From there regular trains go to Split, Osijek, Varaždin, Pula and Rijeka. In summer, traffic increases, especially on the lines leading to the seaside resorts. Fares from Zagreb to Split are 208 HRK and from 111 HRK to Rijeka, one way. Tickets are sold at the ticket offices of railway stations and on the official website of Croatian Railways, where you can find detailed timetables and tariffs.
A ticket bought at the ticket office will be cheaper than a similar ticket bought from the conductor on the train.
If you want to travel around the country a lot, it makes sense to buy the Eurail Croatia Pass. It offers unlimited travel for 3, 4, 5 or 8 days. Each pass is valid for a month and the price of a 3-day pass is 64 EUR and 8-day pass costs 142 EUR for an adult. There are discounts for children and families. You can find fares on the website.
Intercity buses are a very convenient way to travel in Croatia, the fares are low and most of them go to places you can’t reach by plane or train. For the most popular destinations, buses run every hour, in high season sometimes more frequently. A trip from Zagreb to Split costs from 105 HRK. You can find timetables and fares on the official website of the bus station in Zagreb. You can also buy tickets online.
Public transport within cities
The most popular means of transportation in Croatian cities is the bus. In Zagreb, there is also a tram and cable car. Everywhere there is a single ticket, which is essentially the counterpart of the Moscow “Troika” – Karta Pretplatna. Tickets can also be bought from the driver, the amount depends on the time of the trip: 30 minutes – 4 HRK, 1 hour – 7 HRK, 1.5 hours – 10 HRK, etc.
The funicular in Zagreb has long been not only a transport, but also a tourist attraction. It is open daily from 6:30 to 22:00 and leaves every 10 minutes. The cost of the ride is 4 HRK.
The funicular in Zagreb is the shortest in the world – only 66 meters long – but locals and tourists alike enjoy riding it.
If you are planning a quick introduction to Zagreb, it makes sense to buy a Zagrebcard. This card includes free public transportation and discounts in museums, theaters, restaurants and other tourist-friendly places. The card costs 98 HRK for 24 hours and 135 HRK for 72 hours. More information on Zagreb and on the web site.
Cabs in Zagreb are inexpensive by European standards. Standard fare is 5-7 HRK per km, and 10-20 HRK for a landing. The price of one piece of luggage ranges from 1 to 3 HRK. At night, on holidays and on weekends, fares go up by 15-20%. You can catch a car on the street, or call for a car by phone.
Croatian cities and Zagreb in particular do not have any particular hills, so it is very convenient to ride a bike here. The only possible difficulty is the cobblestone sidewalks. In central areas of the cities are many rentals, prices everywhere are about the same: 3 hours – 40 HRK, a day – 100 HRK, a week – 60 HRK.
Communications and Wi-Fi
Cell phone service in Croatia is quite good and inexpensive. Signal is almost everywhere, except for some mountainous areas. You can buy a SIM card at the offices of mobile operators, post offices, as well as in newsstands and tobacconists and supermarkets, where they sell top-up cards rated from 20 HRK (the account will be filled with exactly this amount without commission).
The cards are valid for 90 days from the date of purchase. Popular mobile operators – T-mobile, VIPnet and TELE2, you can choose any, as the tariffs and quality of communication they have about the same: 1.5-3 HRK per minute in Croatia, 5-8 HRK per minute with Russia.
With mobile Internet in the country, all is well only in large cities. In small towns, if there is 3G coverage, it is good luck. This service does not require any special activation, the Internet will appear in your phone immediately after the activation of the SIM card.
The most convenient tariffs for active users are with a daily unlimited number. Free Wi-Fi is available in all hotels, restaurants and cafes in major cities, it may not be present in small towns and villages.
Hotels in Croatia
Almost all Croatian hotels on Russian market are renovated. The level of hotels usually corresponds to the declared category. Most hotels are 3; there are few 4 and 5 hotels.
Meals are mostly breakfasts or half board – buffet. Only a few hotels are all-inclusive.
The difference in the cost of the tour “with dinner” and without it – 4-5 EUR per day. It is worth checking beforehand if drinks are included in the price: in many hotels they are included only for breakfast and for lunch or dinner you have to buy them for a rather substantial extra charge.
Prices for accommodation in Croatia are slightly lower than the European average and depend on the resort. The highest are in Zagreb and Dubrovnik. Hotel 5 * in Dubrovnik in the high season will cost about 220-300 EUR per night for two persons, 4 * – about 75-100 EUR, and a good “three” will cost about 35-45 EUR per night for a double room. In other cities the prices are likely to be lower.
Spoilt by the Eastern extravagances of Turkish five-star hotels may not be satisfied with modest Croatian three-star hotels with small and simple rooms. Somewhere there is no air conditioning (check in advance). Animation is available only in hotels of international “chains”, which are very few in Croatia, and in Russian language is not common yet.
The voltage in the network is 220 V, frequency 50 Hz, there are standard plugs and sockets with round plugs, but due to intensive reconstruction of many hotels to European standards, sockets of European standard are more common.
The monetary unit of the country is the Croatian kuna (HRK). Current exchange rate: 1 HRK = 11.84 RUB (1 USD = 6.19 HRK, 1 EUR = 7.5 HRK).
A bit of history: The name of Croatia’s national currency, the kuna, comes from the marten, whose pelts were previously used instead of money. It is best to go to Croatia with euros or dollars. Theoretically it is possible with rubles, but there is a great risk to lose a lot on currency exchange.
You can exchange currency in banks, exchange offices, post offices, travel agencies “Kroatia tourist” (they also exchange travellers cheques), and hotels almost everywhere. Some banks exchange currency without commission, but usually the commission is 1-1.5%. The reverse exchange is possible only in banks, at that it is necessary to show the bank receipts for the initial exchange.
Traveler’s checks are accepted in most major banks in the country (it is preferable to use checks in euros). If you buy more than 500 HRK you can get a VAT refund when leaving the country – for this purpose the customs office should present your passport, the receipt from the store and the goods.
In hotels, restaurants and cabs the tip is 10% (if the service charge is not already included in the bill). It is also customary to tip guides and bartenders.
Banks in Croatia are open daily from 8:00 to 17:00, on Saturdays until 13:00, the day off – Sunday. Credit cards MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Visa are accepted everywhere.
Croatia is considered one of the safest countries in Europe. But as in all crowded tourist places, there are pickpockets, so it is worth observing the basic rules of safety. Do not carry large sums of money and do not demonstrate expensive equipment for a large crowd of people, so as not to seduce thieves.
Smoking in public places is prohibited in the country, and it applies to the beaches. For smokers at the entrances to the beach there are special bins where you can smoke as much as you like.
If you are caught with a cigarette on the beach chair, you will have to pay a fine of 135 EUR.
In Croatia they fight fiercely against tax evaders, so you have to get a receipt in the store every time, even if you buy an ice cream or bottle of water. If you fail to do so, you may be suspected of collusion with the owner of the outlet for tax evasion. You could also be fined for that. It is strictly forbidden to extract the coral – it threatens not only a fine, but also possible arrest.
The tap water is safe to drink. But it is better not to order tea except for expensive Chinese restaurants, because in most places it is of very poor quality.
Beaches of Croatia
All beaches in the country are municipal and admission is free. A beach chair costs on average 30 HRK per day, an umbrella 20 HRK. Some hotels provide beach equipment for free.
The beaches of Istria, with very few exceptions, are artificial concrete platforms, natural stones, plateau or small pebble lagoons.
In Middle Dalmatia (Brela, Baska Voda, Tučepi and other cities) and on the island of Brač beaches are fine pebbles, they are considered the best on the entire coast. The pine trees grow literally 3-4 meters from the surf line, so no umbrellas are required.
On the island of Brac is the most popular beach in the country – “Zlatni Rat”, awarded with the Blue Flag. The peculiarity of this beach is that it is constantly shifting: a part of the coast is deepened into the sea, so under the influence of wind and sea currents pebbles and sand “move”, and the coastline changes its shape.
In southern Dalmatia there are and pebble, and rock, and concrete, and on the islands near Dubrovnik – and sandy beaches. And Croatia in general and Istria in particular is almost the main center of world nudist tourism.
Treatment in Croatia
There are over 20 thermal springs on the territory of Croatia, around which the balneological centers and entire resorts are built. Most of them are concentrated in the north and east of the country, mostly not far from the capital. They come here to treat the diseases of respiratory and nervous system, musculoskeletal apparatus, cardio-vascular system, and to recover after traumas and complicated surgeries.
In this country, there is the only deposit of medicinal naftalan oil in Europe. In Ivanich-Grad there is the Naftalan clinic of the same name, which specializes in the treatment of skin diseases and is considered one of the best in the world in this sphere.
Diving in Croatia
The crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, the lack of strong currents and the diversity of the underwater world attract divers from all over the world to Croatia every year.
Local sites offer different level of difficulty: flat sea bottom with colonies of interesting plants and schools of fish, landscape sites (vertical walls, underwater caves), and special pride of Croatia underwater – artificial and natural racks. Popular diving sites are the natural ones – St. Ivan Island (ideal for beginners), Sturag and Banele islands, Galeb walls (underwater caves).
The best time for diving is from May to October. For diving you need a special permit from one of the branches of the Croatian Diving Union. Diving to certain wrecks requires additional permission.
Well-known wrecks: the Numidia – the largest wreck in the Adriatic, a 120-meter ship of the Second World War (40 meters deep); the excavator Draga, the waters around which are transparent all year round; Coriolanus – a minesweeper, sunk in 1945 with a huge colony of sponges; Lina – a merchant ship that went down in 1914, an Italian destroyer, split in two by a mine during the war.
Six things to do in Croatia
- Go on a nighttime disco adventure to the island of Hvar, where the clubs and restaurants abound.
- Check out the legendary caves of the nymph Calypso on the island of Mljet at noon. Swim out of the caves in the ultramarine glowing water.
- Take an extreme canoeing trip down the Cetina River canyon, which includes a 50-meter waterfall.
- To walk through the labyrinths of the Vranjace Cave, which is 15 km from Split.
- Personally count the number of portrait heads that decorate St. Jacob’s Cathedral in Sibenik. The architectural marvel is assembled from individual stone slabs, and there are 74 heads.
- Have dinner at the open-air restaurant Radmanovi Mlinice, built on the site of an old mill on the bank of the mountain river Cetina. There is a special train from the center of Omis to the restaurant.
- What to bring
- The most common local souvenir is wine (usually dry – there is a large selection). Among strong drinks the most famous are “Travarica” (on herbs), “Slivovica” (on plums) and “Grusovica” (on pears). Also popular is the cherry liqueur “Maraskino” from Zadar (British monarchs are big fans of it).
The more expensive purchases are jewelry from Rijeka called “morcis” – fine brooches, pins, pendants in the form of Negro heads (“relatives” of the Venetian “Moretto”). You can also buy items made of coral, which can be found here on many islands. Of the traditional folk products are the beautiful lace of the Dolmac Islands, hand embroidery, wooden carvings, wool and leather goods, carpets, ceramics, national costumes and tapestries.
Men’s silk tie is a very stylish Croatian souvenir. This accessory was invented here, and the local fashionistas are very proud of it.
Croatia is located in the neighborhood of Italy, which means that in local malls and stores there are high quality clothes and shoes. The prices are a little bit lower than in Moscow, and the choice is quite decent, though not as luxurious as in Milan. It is worth looking at leather clothing and bags, shoes, as well as local and international democratic brands. As a souvenir you can buy men’s silk ties. They were invented in Croatia.
The most diverse shopping is in Zagreb. The largest shopping center of the Croatian capital – Zagreb Arena – is a short drive from the city center. For those who want to save money there is an outlet – Roses Designer Outlet. It is located outside the city, to the north of Zagreb. For shopping in Dubrovnik, go to the shopping center Lapad, Branimir or Importanne, which is located directly under the main train station.
Stores are open on weekdays from 8:00 to 20:00, on Saturdays and Sundays until 14:00. On the coast during the tourist season they are open from 6:00 to 12:00 and from 17:00 to 20:00 (22:00).
Cuisine and restaurants in Croatia
In addition to the standard European cuisine, Croatia cooks many national dishes. These are Dalmatian or Istrian “prsut” (cured meat), Pashsky or Lichsky cheese, sheep cheese, Slavonian “kulen” (a kind of sausages), the famous Samobor or Zagorje “cesnovki” (also sausages). In Dalmatia, on the islands and in Istria, the main dishes are fish and seafood, as well as “pashticada” (stewed meat) and boiled lamb.
Other popular Croatian specialties include “chobanac” – stew made of various kinds of meat generously seasoned with paprika, “strukli” – macaroni and cheese, “police” – baked potatoes with bacon. On the coast it is certainly worth trying the expensive (and very tasty) truffle dish, the Istrian soup “manestra”. For a sweet treat, we recommend tasting the chocolate delicacies “bajader” and “griot”.
Among Croatian national drinks we can mention red wines “Teran”, “Merlo”, “Cabernet”, “Opoplo”, “Plavac”, “Dingac” and “Postup”; white wines “Malvasija”, “Posip”, “Pino”, “Kujunjusa”, “Žlahtina” and “Muscat”. Among the strong drinks, the most famous are “Slivovica”, “Travarica” and “Lozovaca”, and among the dessert wines – “Prošek” and “Maraskino”.
Despite the presence of the sea “nearby”, the best fish in Croatia is kolbmyaso. The notorious “Vegeta” comes from Croatia. It is added to almost all dishes.
Cafes and restaurants of varying levels in the resort towns are at every step.
Prices are about this: If the table is present spirits or vintage wine, dinner will cost from 450 HRK for two. A dinner with local wine on tap costs HRK 250 for two people and a snack with mineral water or a beer in an inexpensive cafe starts at HRK 50 per person. The typical menu includes a salad, first and second courses plus drinks. Lunch with seafood is more expensive and lobster lovers will have to pay about 350 HRK per meal per person.
Portions are huge, and friendly hosts in some “konoba” (national tavern) like to treat homemade liquor. Especially if the tourist comes for the second time.
Entertainment and attractions in Croatia
Croatia is a very beautiful country and most of the attractions here – natural. It got all the best that we have in Europe: the beautiful Adriatic coast, mountain slopes, clear rivers and lakes, pine forests, the smell of which makes you dizzy and much more.
Not surprisingly, the main wealth of this country – national parks. The most famous, most beautiful and most visited national park is Plitvice Lakes; since 1979 it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The lakes of the reserve show all shades of blue, blue and turquoise, it is best to observe them from the observation deck above the valley of the Korana River. Bathing in the lakes is prohibited in order to keep them in pristine purity.
Krka National Park is famous for its canyon, descending through which you can see the lakes, a 20-meter waterfall and an abandoned Franciscan monastery in the middle of an uninhabited island.
In general, abandoned cities are one of the visiting cards of Croatia. For example, the empty town, aka Naked Island, near the island of Rab. Since 1949, there was a top-secret concentration camp for political prisoners. Hum is the smallest city in the world: officially there are only 17 residents, including the mayor.
There are many interesting excursion programs and routes in Croatia: “The educational way of Bilogorje Virovica”, the project “Roads of traditional cuisine”, “The pearls of the Drava valley” or a trip to the town of Grab.
There are medieval palaces and castles all over the country. The best preserved one is Diocletian’s Palace in Split.
This structure from the time of the Holy Roman Empire is located on an area of 3 hectares and looks more like a small medieval town than a building. Definitely worth seeing are the ancient Friedrichstein Castle on Kočevska Gora, the castles of Žužemberk and Chmielnik, the castle on an island called Otocec, the Castle of Turjaka and around 80 noble summer residences built in the style of the Renaissance.
Renaissance in the Dubrovnik Riviera and in the north of the country.
Holidays and events in Croatia
Every year in February Dubrovnik hosts a colorful carnival. Locals and tourists dress up in costumes and there are concerts, theatrical performances and performances all over the city. April is a traditional time for the Zagreb Music Biennale. And from the beginning of May to the end of July – crossbow competitions on Rab island (they have been organized since 1364).
Summer is the most generous time for festivals and holidays in Croatia. On the island of Korcula, since the end of the 15th century, the Knights’ games “Moreška” have been held in summer (on Thursdays, at 21:00), and in Poreč – the annual Folklore Festival, a very cheerful and colorful event (in June), in Zagreb at the same time – the Festival of cartoons.
Every year on September 16, Rovinj hosts a pilgrimage in honor of St. Eufimia, which gathers thousands of believers from all over Europe, in August – the Rovinj fair, and in September – a regatta. In Zadar, every September locals and tourists gather for the Festival of Pirates – almost a carnival, but themed, as well as the largest city fair and festivals of church music.