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It’s a country of secrets and history, of stunning beauty and gorgeous islands, there is nothing it doesn't have, Croatia is the place to go. Whether you are swimming in the blue crystal waters or hiking through the untainted wilderness, it’s a country that will live up to your dreams. There are famous dogs from there, famous TV shows filmed there, famous minds there that have challenged the ways of thinking today and who could forget the exceedingly important cuisine that has been known to blow the mind, then the views that will knock anyone with eyes off their feet, swooning from the mere thought of it.
A few things about Croatia
- Croatia is in the southeast of Europe and shares its borders with Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and of course its main border is the coastline that stretches 1,777.3 kms. Outside of that there are 1185 islands that also act as Croatia’s coastline.
- The main body of water in Croatia is the Adriatic Sea.
- There is a region in Croatia called Dalmatia and the infamous black spotted dog, the Dalmation, has had its origins traced all the way back to this region.
- The capital of Croatia is Zagreb. It’s an inland city in the north close to the border of Slovenia. The population of the capital is around 800,000.
- Over 10% of the country is made up of parks and nature reserves that are protected.
- The population of the whole country is just over 4 million. Christianity is the most followed religion with one poll suggesting that just over 90% of the country follow the faith.
- Countless innovations have come from this wonderful land. Some of those being the Maglite, invented by Anthony Maglica a native Croatian that called Zlarin home, the world’s first torpedo that was constructed by Giovanni Luppis, he lived in Rijeka, then naturalised inventor Slavoljub Eduard Penkala invented what we now know as the modern day Pen originally called the ‘Automatic Pencil’. The most famous inventor to ever grace this land was of course Nikola Tesla.
- The national currency is the Kuna and 1 Kuna divides into 100 Lipa. This currency was agreed upon after centuries of alternating currencies that were the dinar, the Banovac and at one point almost became the Kruna (Crown) with the division of that being 100 banica (viceroy’s wife), this was decided against as the country became a republic.
- The main sources of revenue for the country are intangible goods (service sector), industrial sector, Agriculture and a large portion comes from tourism.
- There are only three preserved amphitheatres in the world where Roman gladiators used to battle for the crowd’s love. One of those is in Croatia in the seaside city of Pula, its name is the Pula Arena.
- Speed limits are in km/h and there are four general speed limits that are enforced in Croatia. The four limits are inhabited/cities and towns 50km/h, outside of the inhabited zones 90km/h, on expressways up to 110 km/h and freeways you can push it all the way to 130 km/h. Remember that these roads are not like the ones back home.
- Emergency number is 112.
- The legally allowed alcohol limit is 0.5g/l on the roads. This applies to people over the age of 24, under the age of 24 the legal limit is zero.
- The official language is Croatian.
Airports in Croatia
Croatia has 9 airports to choose from. They are Zagreb (ZAG), Split (SPU), Dubrovnik (DBV), Osijek (OSI), Rijeka (RJK), Pula (PUY), Brac (BWK), Zadar (ZAD) and Losinj (LSZ). Of these only two are inland, Zagreb and Osijek, the other 7 are either on the coast or on an island.
The three that are on islands are Rijeka Airport which is situated on Kirk island, Brac Airport and Losinj Airport. With this information stored it is really important to pick the right airport. If a city break is desired, then Zagreb airport is the ideal destination and is also serviced by the majority of airlines as it is the hub of air transport for the country. Osijek is the furthest west you can fly into the country; it is usually the most expensive flight as it is such a small airport and not many flights go there.
Dubrovnik airport is the most southern and usually the most sought after. The journey from the airport into the town centre is around 20km. It all really is personal choice of whether the islands and beaches are the top of the wish list or the nature parks and reserves inland are top.
Car companies that operate out of these airports are Enterprise, Avis, Rentalcars.com, Hertz, Holiday Autos, Sixt, Alamo are the big names. For more local rental and competitive deals there are companies like Keddy, Carwiz and Right cars. Always be specific about what you are after to avoid unnecessary fees.
History of Croatia
The name of this sparkling land derives from many places starting with Medieval Latin, North Western Slavic, Old Persian there is not necessarily a direct meaning for this name.
Croatia has hosted people on its lands for thousands of years. It is said that it was once the densest population of Neanderthals across Europe, with bones and other indicators being unearthed in the north. Moving quickly on as there is not much proof of other settlements till around 1000 BC when the Illyrian tribes, a tribe of people that worshipped many a deity and god that were birthed from nature, settled here. They gave their names to places like Histri (in Istria) and the Delmati (in Dalmatia).
Around the 4th Century BC the Greeks set foot upon Croatia in an attempt to overthrow it, they did inhabit some of the many islands, but they didn’t have the success that they are well known for at the time. During the 7th century it is said that the Croats arrived here and made Croatia what it is today however this was disputed and said that this was anywhere between the 6th and 9th century. Two Dukedoms were formed, Duchy of Pannonia and Duchy of Croatia and they ruled over the lands till the first King Tomislav united the two Croatias into one. Tomislav defeated invasions from Hungary and Bulgaria to then further the Kingdom bringing it to its peak in 11th Century BC.
In 1918 after WW1 the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenians was formed and the first iteration of this country was under Serbian rule which lasted from 1918 till 1941. Parts of the coastline and some of the islands had been handed over to Italy. The country was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1941 which allowed Croatia an odd independence under a fascist ruler, Ante Pavelic. This was a terrible time in Croatia’s and the world’s history, with all the atrocities that were committed. The Croats were not going to stand for it, they rose up against Nazi rule and took back their country. The country then became part of the Republic of Yugoslavia. This republic lasted till June 25th, 1991 when the Croats decided they wanted their country back, they annexed themselves but were left open to invasion from Serbia. After four long years the country was liberated and became the idyllic destination it is known as today.
This is an abridged version of Croatia’s history to give a small insight into the spirit of the people.
Guide to Croatia
With so many airports, exhaustive pages of history and coastlines, islands and inland parks that would take a lifetime to visit if you started now, Croatia is never going to let you down. There are beaches to lay on, coastal towns that will take you back in time, mountains that even the greatest climbers are afraid of and waterfalls that will take your breath away. So let’s start with beaches.
A rather unorthodox beach to head to is Kraljičina plaža (Queen's Beach), Nin. Here you will find views of the Velebit Mountains whilst you sip on cocktails from one of the many beach bars, the water is flat but the main reason people would come here is for the mud, that’s right the mud, which is in the reeds behind the beach. The mud that’s there is Peloid mud which is a natural treatment for sore joints and skin conditions. Throw in the towel after attending the health spa and head to Lovrečina Bay, Brač Island, where the sea can only hope to get more sapphire and the surrounding mountains couldn’t be more emerald, this is a truly secluded spot that is everything you’ve seen on those pamphlets. The next one you have no doubt seen in one of the commercials when you first started thinking about Croatia, its Zlatni Rat, Brač Island, still in the same vicinity as the last but more open to the elements. This beach jettisons out into the water like a sandy pier, the water is as Azure as you hope for. The final beach to be added to your list is the famous Banje Beach, Dubrovnik, shown in Game of Thrones, this is a busy one, so get in early but it also has some tasty beverage spots to whet your whistle.
It's such a watery place that you will have to also head inland to catch the not so salty waterfalls. The greatest ones here would be Plitvice Lakes National Park, multiple cascades that can be viewed from a suspended bridge, it is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. Krka National Park is another sequin on the shiny Croatian dress, this bright spot has the second largest concentration of lavender per km squared in Europe. Mali Buk Waterfall is back up near the Plitvice Lakes National Park however it is much more secluded due to the half hour hike, it’s worth it.
That’s enough water adventures now it’s time for adventurous culinary explorations, grab a table at 360 degrees, Dubrovnik. Here the mind-altering dishes will deliver romance almost as much as the beaches. Their Octopus is simple and their Foie gras complex, the way it should be done. Why not go to another Michelin starred restaurant whilst you’re here, it’s a holiday and they are cheaper here, Noel, has got a four or seven dish tasting menu and either one will have you drunk with delight. There is a dish on the menu that is simply Adriatic fish but of course is not simple at all, they have pared bone marrow with the delight of a light fish, it complements perfectly. There’s no reason to think that everything in Croatia is Michelin starred and if it’s not I’m not going, this simply is not true, drive over to Villa Spiiza where the fish are leaping onto your plate. The dishes are traditional with a nouveau twist to them.
Zagreb has become the go to for craft beer in the country, with places like Craft Room having over 13 beers on draught alone, they rotate them to keep up with the thirst of a nation. They slide out some pretty tasty burgers to go along with your brew too. With all the terrain and the numerous challenges throughout the land of where to eat, where to sleep, how to tan properly and what to do next it feels like a trilogy of effort, so get off your feet and mosey on over to Tolkien’s House, it’s not your average place, it goes well toward making you the ranger of old, keep an eye out for Gandalf.
No reason to spend the whole time wandering around when you could be hanging out or off, Croatia is well-known for its rock climbing and the most famous of all is Paklencia near Zadar. There’s the 350m high cliff face, so not for beginners, known as Anica Kuk which sports single pitch bolted sport routes, multi pitch sport routes and traditional routes. Istria is the climbing area around Pazin, Pula and Rovinj which are all popular holiday spots, great for leaving the partner on the beach whilst you go scale some crags.
Croatia Car Hire FAQ’s
Cost of hiring a car in Croatia?
If you were to fly in Zagreb, the inland capital, the price of hiring a Volkswagen Up or similar is £8.34/day, for a 7 day rental around April. Alternatively, if you were headed straight for the coast say somewhere like Dubrovnik then the price for hiring a Toyota Yaris or similar is £8.36/day, again with a rental around April.
What is the cheapest car hire in Croatia?
The cheapest car hire in Croatia is Carwiz from Zagreb or Split international airports at £8.34/day for a Volkswagen Up or similar.
How much is it for an economy car hire per day in Croatia?
An Economy car rental in Croatia for April, from Carwiz, with a pickup from Split airport and drop off to the same location is £9.93/day for a Ford Focus or similar.
Which car companies operate out of Croatia?
Although there are many airports around the country, the availability of companies that hire cars are reasonably consistent. Those companies being Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Alamo, Thrifty, Carwiz, Right cars and Keddy.
Can I change my car mid hire?
Most companies put the customer first, of course if there is an issue with the vehicle then changing it should be at the expense of the hire company, best to confirm with them before setting off.
What’s the best way to get around Croatia?
The first point to be made here is that there are numerous island destinations that are more often than not the reason people travel here. That said, there are dedicated ferry services that go to and from the major islands to the coast, they operate every day and are a mix of state run and privately operated services. If you are on the mainland then not only is there any number of coach services, there’s also the trains that travel all across the country. If you opt for a car then you will be your own master, but it doesn’t come cheap to control your destiny, there are additional ferry fees, parking during peak season and other issues. On the other side of fees and parking is the ability to drive to parts of your island day trips that others won’t be able to get to in time.
Do I need an international license for Croatia?
Drivers that are not from within the EU need to have an IDP(International Drivers Permit) and their personal license. Drivers from the UK will not need and IDP up to 9 months after the date the UK leaves the EU then for visits under 6 months your UK license will suffice.
What if I have an accident?
Contact the local authorities first then the car company that you hired the rental from.
Which side of the road do the Croatian’s drive on?
Are the roads dangerous?
In terms of roads that have been laid, no. The standards will be unfamiliar, so too will the locals driving habits so be more cautious than you would be ordinarily.
Key Driving Stats in Croatia
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