Croatia Airlines has a near monopoly on flights that travel among Croatia’s seven airports: Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Rijeka, Osijek, Pula, and Zadar. The best-served routes are Zagreb–Split and Zagreb–Dubrovnik, which both see several flights daily.
Almost every town in Croatia has a bus station, and the network of bus routes makes this form of transportation an excellent, economical option for travel within Croatia. Express routes on updated highways facilitate travel among major cities and buses stop at almost every village in the country, though schedules might be inconvenient for those with limited time.
Ferry/catamaran travel is a way of life on Croatia’s coast. There is no other way to get to the islands (except Pag and Krk, which are linked to the mainland via bridges). Jadrolinija is the major ferry operator. In summer, ferry schedules are beefed up to handle the increased traffic, but not necessarily aligned for the multiple connections necessary for convenient island hopping. Weather is another trip buster: Whenever the bura (the fierce northwestern wind that regularly hammers the area) blows, ferries may be delayed, and catamarans sidelined altogether.
Note: When planning your trip, do not underestimate the time it takes to travel by ferry. Besides calculating the water crossing, build in time to get to the ferry port, to wait in line (if you have a car, you might have to queue for hours), and to get from the port to your final destination. Check ferry schedules carefully, as not all routes operate every day.
Driving is the best method for seeing the real Croatia—even the islands. However, between car rental (a subcompact starts at 50€ per day) and gas at unprecedentedly high prices (11kn per liter in the summer of 2014), private car transportation can be quite expensive. During July and August, it is important to reserve a rental car well before you arrive.
You will pay extra for each authorized driver besides the primary renter. Every driver must be 22 or older to rent a car in Croatia (some companies stipulate 25 and up for cars more powerful than 80 kW/110 hp).
Local agency M.A.C.K. has offices in Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, and Cavtat, and offers excellent rates. Reps speak English, provide maps and directions, and are very helpful. Go to www.rent-a-car.hr for more information. Global agencies Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, and Budget all have offices at the Dubrovnik and Zagreb airports, plus other city locations.
Croatia’s main highways (singular, autocesta; plural, autoceste) are well-marked and well-maintained. Secondary roads vary in quality and can range from excellent to unmarked dirt tracks. Gas stations are readily available on the autoceste, along main highways, and outside smaller towns. These are usually “hyper” gas stations, in that most have attached restaurants, convenience markets, and picnic areas. Gas station restrooms are generally immaculate in Croatia, and some even offer shower facilities. Stations are typically open from 7am to 7pm daily, until 10pm in summer.
Maps that note gas stations across the country are available, and a wise investment if you plan on driving long distances. They’re usually available at gas stations. See www.ina.hr and www.hak.hr for details.
Note: Almost every city and town in Croatia seems to be converting intersections with traffic lights to roundabouts with varying rules for entering and exiting, so proceed with caution.
Warning: Police are strictly enforcing Croatia’s drinking and driving laws and posted speed limits. If you are a driver under 24 years of age, zero tolerance (0.0 percent blood alcohol) applies. For those 24 and over, a limit of 0.05 percent is the rule.
The speed limit in urban areas is 50kmph (30 mph) unless otherwise marked, 80kmph (50 mph) on secondary roads, and 130kmph (80 mph) on highways. You’ll have to pay fines on the spot. If you’re stopped for any reason, you will be expected to produce a valid driver’s license, car registration papers, a rental contract, and an insurance certificate. Watch for speed traps along the coastal highway and in rural towns and villages.
Croatian Railways (www.hzpp.hr) is an efficient way to travel between Zagreb and towns in the northern and inland parts of the country. The overnight train from Zagreb to Split is outfitted with couchettes, meaning you can get a good night’s sleep and wake up at your destination. All of Croatia’s major cities except Dubrovnik are connected by train service.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.