When I created my travel bucket list back in January, I was not expecting to be able to explore this beautiful country so soon. You can imagine how exciting this was and still is for me ☺
Croatia is breathtaking and unbelievable. The medieval presence seeps through all of its cities’ architecture- the towers, city walls, churches and cathedrals. It was as if I entered a different time and world! Boasting in many attractions such as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, picturesque towns, well-preserved historical buildings, unspoiled national parks and beaches, crystal clear waters, over 1,000 islands and the list goes on, it’s no wonder why Croatia is buzzing with worldwide attention!
This post will highlight the basics of my trip and answer some commonly asked questions. I will share more about the places I visited, things to do and things I will do differently in a separate post at a later time.
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I wasn’t familiar with this country until I saw Sonia and Andy Yang travel here last summer. I was instantly attracted by its charm and started researching more about this country. My initial 2 weeks vacation plan was Italy and Croatia. I was ambitious and wanted to do everything: Venice – Amalfi Coast – Florence – Rome – Ancona ( then take ferry to Zadar, Croatia) – Split – Dubrovnik. In the end, E and I chose 2 full weeks of Croatia for the following reasons:
- We prefer to have a better and fuller taste of a country rather than to rush through it. We chose to stay in Croatia for 2 weeks in order to spend longer periods in each city.
- The road system here is simple and clear. Roads are in excellent condition. Considering this was our first “overseas road trip”, we felt more comfortable taking on Croatia in comparison to Italy. (We rented the car for the first half of the trip, then took the ferry and bus for the remaining half)
- Croatia is becoming a popular travel destination but it’s safe to say that Italy takes the lead. We didn’t mind visiting places that were less “touristy” and of course, less packed.
- PLITVICE NATIONAL PARK! E and I are huge fans of exploring outdoors so Plitvice National Park was on our top list of things to do. We might have purposely flew into the capital city in order to “drive by” this national park. Well, one of the reasons 😉
|Sep 15||Toronto||Fly out, Layover at Amsterdam|
|Arrive in late afternoon, Explore|
|Plitvička Jezera (Plitvice National Park), Arrive in Zadar at night|
|Krka National Park, Arrive in Split at night|
|Sep 21||Half day at Fortress Klis, Explore|
|Sep 22||Full day at Trogir|
|Sep 24||Hvar island||Morning ferry to Hvar, Explore|
|Sep 25||Hvar island||Island hopping|
|Morning ferry to Dubrovnik, Explore|
|Sep 27||Ancient City Wall at 9:30 am; Old Town Tour at 4 pm|
|Sep 29||Montenegro Full Day Tour|
|Zagreb, Toronto||Evening layover at Zagreb|
Tourism is a major industry here and so travellers of Croatia are lucky to choose from fancy hotels, resorts, airbnb, hostels, etc. We stayed at airbnbs for the entire duration of our trip and the average price per night was approximately $40-50. We chose to stay outside the tourist area aka the “old city” and this meant cheaper prices and having peace and quiet in the local neighbourhoods at night. With the rental car we only needed to drive 10-15 minutes to enter the touristy area. Our accommodations in Split and Dubrovnik were a little further away and with no car, we had to wake up a little earlier to catch the bus. It’s always fun taking the local buses!
After landing in the capital city Zagreb, we picked up our rental car at the airport. We love the schedule flexibilty that renting a car provides and for the 7 days, our total came to $175 Canadian (pick up and drop off at different cities- not bad!). Road tripping in Croatia is extremely straightforward and the signs are clear. We took the toll route option for longer driving distances whenever possible and it was affordable and time efficient! For example, we took the toll from Plitvice NP to Split and it only costed us 35-40 kuna ($7-8 CAD). The drawback with toll routes is that you don’t get to experience the scenic drive along the coast if you wish to travel from say Split to Dubrovnik.
After making our way down to Split, we kept the car for two more days to explore the nearby attractions before returning it. We decided to enjoy Dalmatia (the southern half of Croatia that parallels with the sea) by foot, bus and of course, sea. From Split, we took the ferry to Hvar Island, then ferried to Dubrovnik. There are numerous ferries and catamarans that sail the Adriatic Sea connecting the major city ports and islands. It’s a shame to not visit the islands so you’ll likely be experiencing some sort of a boat ride. The bus system in Split and Dubrovnik is easy to understand and multiple lines will take you to their respective old cities. Bus schedules and city maps are posted in the stops.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- Parking Zones: Parking in the cities are categorized into zones. Each city is different but their signs will specify the price per hour.
- Bus Fares: Buy the bus fares at TISAK’s (newspaper stands) and not at the bus stations or on the bus. TISAK prices are slightly lower. Ask for the prices of round trip tickets vs. single trip.
- Ferries: Look into different ferry companies and their timetables! There are multiple ferry companies and routes that operate all year round, however, many routes are summer-only and ferries from an island to another can be sparse. When I travelled near the end of September, it took some effort to find a ferry that operated from Split to Hvar Island and Hvar Island to Dubrovnik. In fact, it is popular to book with catamarans and smaller private boat companies if you wish to go island hopping. Catamarans service dies down after summer though. Below are the ferry companies we booked with.
Lovrijenac Fortress, Dubrovnik
- CLIMATE: June, July and August are the most popular months but visitors are warned about overcrowding, higher prices and the scorching heat. Shoulder seasons (April, May, September, October) is the recommended time to visit. While we went in late September, we were met with many rainy days, scattered showers and thunderstorms. All this was thanks for the prolonged summer drought in Croatia. It was inconvenient to explore in the rain but this just makes the trip more interesting and memorable, right?
- MONEY: Croatia has their own currency, Kuna (code: HRK). At the time I went, 1 Canadian dollar = approximately 5 kuna. We took Kuna, credit card and Euro with us. The restaurants, shops, TISAK’s, supermarkets, etc. in the big cities and tourist areas accept credit cards but it’s best to take cash anyway. Smaller boutiques/gift shops, family restaurants and rural parts of Croatia will only take cash.
- LANGUAGE: Because Croatia is mainly driven by tourism, you will have no problem communicating with locals in English.
- SAFETY: A commonly asked question was Croatia’s safety. We felt very safe throughout the trip. The locals are friendly, tourist areas are buzzing and neighbourhoods are well lit. And although Croatia was just at war 20 years ago and the damages are evident in some of the buildings in the old town of Dubrovnik, we did not feel unsafe or unwelcome. It’s great that this country is so tourist friendly without having to compromise its strong sense of community, history and culture.
I won’t go into too much detail about the places I visited, what worked, what didn’t and what I can do differently next time. I’ll save that for another post!
Croatia is a perfect balance between unspoiled natural gems, history, culture and activity. I hope this post sparked some interest in you to visit this magnificent country! Thanks for stopping by and reading about my trip ☺
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