Croatia Airlines flies routes between Croatia and Europe’s major hubs, among them Amsterdam, Athens, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Prague, Rome, Sarajevo, Vienna, and Zurich. Zagreb (ZAG) and Dubrovnik (DUB) are Croatia’s biggest gateways and Lufthansa is the largest international carrier that serves them. Both Lufthansa and Croatia Airlines are members of the Star Alliance, which includes United Airlines. At press time, no U.S. carriers were flying directly into Croatian airports.
Tip: It’s wise to book your flight to Croatia on United or other Star Alliance member airline (Austrian, Swiss, SAS, and so on) if only to smooth luggage handling. If your initial carrier is a Star Alliance member, bags will be checked through to your destination, a boon when catching connecting flights. (If you start your trip on a nonmember carrier, you might have to pick up your bag, go through customs, carry your bags through the airport to the connecting gate, and recheck them with Croatia Airlines or other connecting airlines.)
In 2003, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) phased out gate check-in at all U.S. airports. E-tickets have made paper tickets nearly obsolete. Passengers with e-tickets can beat the ticket counter lines by using airport electronic kiosks or online check-in from their home computers. Online check-in involves logging on to your airline’s website, accessing your reservation, and printing out your boarding pass—the airline may even offer you bonus miles to do so! If you’re using a kiosk at the airport, bring the credit card with which you booked the ticket, or bring your frequent-flier card. Print out your boarding pass from the kiosk and proceed to the security checkpoint with your pass and a photo ID. If you’re checking bags or looking to snag an exit-row seat, you will be able to do so using most airline kiosks. Even the smaller airlines are employing the kiosk system, but always call your airline to make sure these alternatives are available. Security checkpoint lines vary in length from country to country and from airport to airport. If you have trouble standing for long periods of time, tell an airline employee; the airline will provide a wheelchair.
If you have metallic body parts, a note from your doctor can prevent a long chat with the security screeners. Keep in mind that only ticketed passengers are allowed past security, except for folks escorting children or passengers with disabilities.
In terms of what you can and can’t carry on, the rules keep changing, but in general sharp things such as knives are out, nail clippers are okay, and beverages must be purchased after you clear security. Liquids are limited to 3-ounce containers that fit in one, 1-quart plastic bag. Keep this bag outside your suitcase to show screeners as you pass through security.
Note: On Croatia Airlines and most European airlines travelers are allowed only one carry-on bag. Check size and weight requirements for each of the airlines you book with. Limits on carry-on weight and dimensions set by Croatia Airlines and most European airlines are lower than limits on U.S. airlines.
Airport screeners may decide that your checked luggage needs to be searched by hand. You can purchase luggage locks that allow screeners to open and relock a checked bag if hand searching is necessary. Look for Travel Sentry–certified locks at luggage or travel shops and Brookstone stores. These locks, approved by the U.S.’s TSA, can be opened by luggage inspectors with a special code or key. For more information on the locks, visit www.travelsentry.org. If you use something other than TSA-approved locks, your lock will be cut off your suitcase if a TSA agent needs to hand-search your luggage.
The TSA has issued a list of prohibited items; check its website for details.
The highways that connect Croatia to its neighbors (Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro) are good and getting better as miles of new pavement are poured. This is especially true of the span between Ljubljana and Zagreb, a route that now takes just 2 hours to complete. The route from Budapest to Zagreb runs across Croatia’s northern border and is also popular. It takes about 5 hours to reach Zagreb (362km/225 miles) from the Hungarian capital.
Visitors coming from Italy and Austria must pass through Slovenia to get to Croatia’s border, but Slovenia’s roads are excellent, too.
Note: If you choose the route through Slovenia, be aware that Slovenia requires tariff stickers for cars using Slovenian roads. In 2014, prices for weekly stickers for motorcycles were 7.50€ and cars were 15€. Even if you are just passing through, you’ll have to buy the sticker.
In December 2007, neighboring E.U. countries Slovenia and Hungary joined the Schengen Area, a group of 26 European countries that have abolished passport requirements and other forms of border control at their common borders. Croatia is not yet a Schengen member, but is working to apply to join the group in July 2015. Once it becomes a member, crossing national lines to and from Croatia should be seamless.
Even as European Union border checks disappear, travelers should be sure to carry passports, insurance cards, and any rental car papers (including the car’s registration). This is especially true if you are going through Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, or Montenegro, countries that are not yet fully in the E.U. membership pipeline.
Car rental -- Car rental in Croatia is expensive, and it can be tricky. Even if you use a global agency like Hertz or Avis, it is best to reserve a car by contacting a local agency in the city where you plan to rent, rather than through the agency’s parent company or online. It’s also a good idea to take the “full insurance” package offered with your car rental, even though it can add considerable cost. Warning: In most cases, liability coverage from your domestic auto insurance policy will not cover you on vehicles rented outside the U.S. That is also true of the auto coverage that comes with most major bank cards. Check with your insurance agent and credit card company to be sure.
You will be given a chance to inspect your vehicle with your car rental rep, and you should be certain the rep documents any existing scratches or other damage before you take the keys. Any dings incurred thereafter, not to mention major damage, will be charged to you at full rate.
Note: Most cars rented in Croatia are stick shift. Vehicles with automatic transmissions are scarce and you will pay extra if you need this feature.
Trains connect most major Croatian cities north of Split, but there is no train service to cities between Split and Dubrovnik in southern Dalmatia.
Zagreb does have convenient railway links with Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland, but the links to and from other European countries can be extremely time-consuming. The train ride from Paris to Zagreb, for example, takes 18-plus hours, while a rail trip from Frankfurt to Split will take almost 24 hours.
There is a year-round regular overnight ferry service from Ancona in Italy to Split in Dalmatia. Other less frequent lines include Bari in Italy to Dubrovnik, and Venice in Italy to several coastal towns in Istria. In the Ancona–Split case, you hop aboard the ferry around 9pm and arrive in Dalmatia just as the sun is rising. Routes, fares, schedules, and booking information are available from the respective companies listed. Note: Fares and schedules are subject to frequent change.
Blue Line International — From April through October, this ferry line has daily overnight service between Ancona and Split. Round-trip deck passage for two without a vehicle starts at 76€ in low season. A deluxe cabin for two with a vehicle runs from 338€ round-trip in low season.
Jadrolinija — Croatia’s national ferry line has three international routes, which run year-round, though the frequency of service is downscaled in winter. In peak season (Jul–Aug), Jadrolinija ships travel almost every night between Ancona and Zadar, Ancona and Split, and Bari and Dubrovnik. Round-trip deck passage for two adults without a vehicle is approximately 144€ for the overnight trip between Bari and Dubrovnik; the fare on the same route for two and a vehicle plus an external cabin with a toilet is 452€. Note that these are low-season prices. Prices are the same for Ancona–Split and slightly less for Ancona–Zadar.
SNAV — In addition to the options above, from late April through early October, the Italian company SNAV operates a car ferry between Ancona and Split. A fast “Jet” catamaran used to run as well, but this service was discontinued in 2013. Prices and schedule information are available on the website.
Venezia Lines — This Maltese company runs fast catamarans (foot passengers only) from mid-April through early October between Venice and Rovinj, Poreč, and Pula on Istria’s western coast. Current schedule and fare information is available on the website.
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.