Croatia //

Travel essentials

Addresses

The Croatian word for street, ulica, is either abbreviated to ul. or omitted altogether if the meaning is clear enough without it. The street name always comes before the number. Buildings that don’t have a street number are often designated by the letters “bb”, meaning bez broja or “without a number”.

Costs

Croatia is by no means a bargain destination, and the cost of accommodation – on a par with Western European countries for most of the year – shoots upwards in July and August. Eating and drinking, however, remain reasonably good value.

If you’re staying in hostels or private rooms, self-catering and travelling by public transport, then bargain on spending at least 500Kn/£50/€60/US$80 per person per day. If you are staying in a decent apartment, eating out once a day and enjoying yourselves in the evening, then 850Kn/£85/€100/US$130 per day seems more reasonable. Staying in a good hotel, eating in nice restaurants, hiring a car and not skimping on the cocktails will involve a daily outlay of 1500Kn/£150/E180/US$240 or above.

Accommodation will be your biggest single expense, with the average private room weighing in at around 250Kn for a double, rising to 375Kn in fashionable places like Dubrovnik and Hvar. In high season the cheapest doubles in three-star hotels hover around the 800Kn mark, although they can be significantly cheaper in spring or autumn.

As for transport, short journeys by ferry and bus (say from Split to one of the nearby islands) cost in the region of 40Kn, while moving up and down the country will naturally be more expensive (a Zagreb–Split bus ticket, for instance, costs upwards of 210Kn. The prices of accommodation, ferry tickets, international bus tickets and tourist excursions are often quoted in euros, although you can pay in kuna.

About 200Kn per person per day will suffice for food and drink if you’re shopping in markets for picnic ingredients, maybe eating out in inexpensive grill-houses and pizzerias once a day, and limiting yourself to a couple of drinks in cafés; 400Kn a day will be sufficient for breakfast in a café, a sit-down lunch and a decent restaurant dinner followed by a couple of night-time drinks.

Prices often include a sales tax, known locally as PDV, of up to 22 percent. Visitors from outside the EU can claim a PDV tax refund at the Croatian Customs Service for goods over 750Kn, as long as they have kept all original invoices – though the refund can take up to a year to arrive.

Crime and personal safety

The crime rate in Croatia is low by European standards. Your main defence against petty theft is to exercise common sense and refrain from flaunting luxury items. Take out an insurance policy before you leave home and always stow a photocopy of the crucial information-bearing pages of your passport in your luggage – this will enable your consulate to issue you swiftly with new travel documents in the event of your passport being stolen.

Croatian police (policija) are generally helpful and polite when dealing with foreigners, and usually speak some English. Routine police checks on identity cards are common in Croatia: always carry your passport or driving licence. If you get into trouble with the authorities, wait until you can explain matters to someone in English if at all possible. The police are not allowed to search your car or place of abode without a warrant. Should you be arrested, you can be held in a police station for 24 hours without charge. The police are supposed to notify your consulate of your arrest automatically, but often fail to do so.

There are few specific situations in which female travellers might feel uncomfortable and no real no-go areas, although some of the more down-at-heel café-bars can feel like male-only preserves. By Western standards, Croatia’s streets are relatively safe at night, even in the cities.

Electricity

Wall sockets in Croatia operate at 220 volts and take round, two-pin plugs. British travellers should purchase a continental adaptor before leaving home.

Entry requirements

Citizens of EU countries need only a valid passport to enter Croatia. Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are allowed to enter Croatia without a visa for stays of up to ninety days. Citizens of other countries should check visa regulations with the nearest Croatian embassy or consulate before leaving home.

Visitors to Croatia from non-EU countries are required by law to register with the local police within 24 hours of arrival. If you’re staying in a hotel, hostel or campsite, or if you’ve booked a private room through a recognized agency, the job of registration will be done for you. If you’re staying with friends or in a room arranged privately, your hosts are supposed to register you. In practice, however, they very rarely do so. This only becomes a problem if the police have reason to question you about where you’re staying, which in well-touristed areas is very rare. Even if they do, official attitudes to registration are flexible: the police often turn a blind eye to tourists and hosts alike if you’re merely enjoying a short holiday on the coast, but can throw you out of the country if you’ve been staying in Croatia unregistered for a long period of time.

There are no customs restrictions on the kind of personal belongings that you need for your holiday, although you are limited to two hundred cigarettes, one litre of spirits and 500g of coffee. It’s a good idea to declare major items – laptop computers, televisions and other electronic equipment, boats – to ensure that you can take them out of the country when you leave. Pets are allowed in, providing you have a recent vaccination certificate. Note that when leaving you can only take 2000Kn of currency with you.

Gay and lesbian travellers

Although homosexuality has been legal in Croatia since 1977, it remains something of an underground phenomenon, and public displays of affection between members of the same sex may provoke hostility, especially outside big cities. The younger generation is more liberal in its attitudes to homosexuality, and though there are few recognized gay hangouts, some of the more alternative clubs in Zagreb have a reputation for attracting a tolerant, mixed crowd. Adriatic beaches where same-sex couples will feel comfortable include those around the Istrian resorts of Rovinj and Poreč, on Sveti Jerolim near Hvar, and on Lokrum near Dubrovnik.

A Zagreb Pride march has been held every June since 2005 and, despite the presence of counter-demonstrations in the early years, has become a regular feature of the city’s calendar. The first Split Pride procession, in June 2011, was notoriously halted by a mass demonstration of an estimated ten thousand homophobes, but passed off without incident in 2012.

The website w friendlycroatia.com offers useful travel tips on various Croatian destinations.

Health

No inoculations are required for travel to Croatia. Standards of public health are good, and tap water is safe everywhere. However, anyone planning to spend time walking in the mountains should consider being inoculated against tick-borne encephalitis.

Minor complaints can be treated at a pharmacy (ljekarna); in cities, many of the staff will speak some English, while even in places where the staff speak only Croatian, it should be easy enough to obtain repeat prescriptions if you bring along the empty pill container. A rota system ensures that there will be one pharmacy open at night-time and weekends – details are posted in the window of each pharmacy.

For serious complaints, head for the nearest hospital (bolnica or klinički centar), or call an ambulance (t 112 or t 94). Hospital treatment is free to citizens of EU countries, including the UK and Ireland, on production of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC; available online in the UK from w ehic.org.uk; in Ireland from w ehic.ie); nationals of other countries should check whether their government has a reciprocal health agreement, or ensure they have adequate insurance cover.

Insurance

You’d do well to take out an insurance policy before travelling to cover against theft, loss and illness or injury. A typical travel insurance policy usually provides cover for the loss of baggage, tickets and – up to a certain limit – cash or cheques, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your journey. Most of them exclude so-called dangerous sports unless an extra premium is paid: in Croatia this can mean scuba-diving, whitewater rafting, windsurfing and trekking, though probably not kayaking or jeep safaris. If you need to make a claim, you should keep receipts for medicines and medical treatment, and in the event you have anything stolen, you must obtain an official statement from the police.

Internet

An increasing number of hostels, hotels and cafés offer free wi-fi access to their customers, and internet cafés are common in cities and Adriatic resorts. Prices are generally reasonable: expect to pay around 20–30Kn per hour online. Some internet cafés require customers to register as members (usually free of charge) before allowing use of the computers – so you might want to keep a passport or other form of ID handy.

Laundry

Self-service launderettes are hard to come by in Croatia, although most towns have a laundry (praonica) where you can leave a service wash.

Mail

Most post offices (pošta or HPT) are open Monday to Friday from 7 or 8am to 7 or 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 1 or 2pm. In villages and on islands, Monday to Friday 8am to 2pm is more common, though in big towns and resorts some offices open daily, sometimes staying open until 10pm.

Airmail (zrakoplovom) takes about three days to reach Britain, and eight to ten to reach North America; surface mail takes at least twice as long. Stamps (marke) can be bought either at the post office or at newsstands. If you’re sending parcels home, don’t seal the package until the post office staff have had a look at what’s inside: customs duty is charged on the export of most things, although newsprint and books are exempt.

Maps

The biggest range of maps covering Croatia is by Freytag & Berndt, which produces a 1:600,000 Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina map, a 1:300,000 Croatia map, a 1:250,000 Istria and northern Croatia map and 1:000,000 regional maps of the Adriatic coast.

City and town plans are more difficult to come by, although tourist offices often give away (or sell quite cheaply) serviceable maps of their town or island. In addition, Freytag & Berndt publishes city plans of Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. The best map of Zagreb is the 1:20,000 plan prepared by the Geodetski zavod Slovenije (Slovene Geodesic Institute), which is available in three versions: one published by a local firm in Zagreb, a second published by the Hungarian firm Cartographia and the third by Freytag & Berndt. All the above are available from shops in Croatia.

Money

Croatia’s unit of currency is the kuna (Kn; the word kuna, meaning “marten”, recalls the medieval period when taxes were paid in marten pelts), which is divided into 100 lipa. Coins come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 lipa, and 1, 2 and 5 kuna; notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 kuna.

The best place to change money is at a bank (banka) or exchange bureau (mjenjačnica). Banks are generally open Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm, and Saturday 8am to 11am or noon. In smaller places they normally close for lunch on weekdays year round, and aren’t open at all on Saturdays. Exchange bureaux are often found inside travel agencies (putničke agencije) and have more flexible hours, remaining open until 9 or 10pm seven days a week in summer if there are enough tourists around to justify it. The larger post offices also have exchange facilities, offering rates similar to those in banks. Exchange rates in hotels usually represent extremely poor value for money.

Travellers’ cheques can be exchanged in almost all banks and exchange bureaux in Croatia but the transaction frequently takes ages. It’s much easier (and perfectly safe) to withdraw cash from ATMs, found in all Croatian town centres and at most points of arrival in the country. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels and in the more expensive restaurants and shops, and can be used to get cash advances in banks.

Naturism

Naturism (denoted locally by the German acronym “FKK”) has a long history on the Adriatic coast. There are self-contained naturist holiday villages in Istria (the biggest are just outside Poreč, Rovinj and Vrsar), and naturist campsites in Istria and the island of Krk. Throughout Croatia, you’ll find isolated coves or stretches of beach where it is OK to be nude, providing it is at a discreet distance from the main family-oriented sections.

Opening hours

Shops in Croatia are usually open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, and on Saturdays from 8am to 2 or 3pm, though we have listed exact times throughout the Guide. City supermarkets often stay open late on Saturdays, and open on Sundays as well. On the coast, during summer, shops introduce a long afternoon break and stay open later in the evenings to compensate. Office hours are generally Monday to Friday 8am to 3 or 4pm.

Tourist offices, travel agents and tourist attractions often change their opening times as the year progresses, generally remaining open for longer during the summer season (usually June to September).

On the coast, museums and galleries are often open all day every day (sometimes with a long break in the afternoon) in July and August, and closed altogether in the depths of winter. At other times, things can be unpredictable, with attractions opening their doors when tourist traffic seems to justify it. In big cities and inland areas, museums and galleries are more likely to have regular opening times year-round, and are often closed on Mondays.

Churches in city centres and well-touristed areas usually stay open daily between 7am and 7pm or later, but many in smaller towns and villages only open their doors around Mass times. Churches or chapels that are known for being architecturally unique or that contain valuable frescoes may have set opening times and admission fees (in which case we’ve mentioned them in the Guide); otherwise you’ll have to ask around to establish which of the locals has been nominated as holder of the key (ključ). Monasteries are often open from dawn to dusk to those who want to stroll around the cloister, although churches or art collections belonging to the monasteries conform to the opening patterns for museums and churches outlined above.

Phones

Croatian phone booths use magnetic cards (telefonska kartica), which you can pick up from post offices or newspaper kiosks. They’re sold in denominations from fifteen up to one hundred units (impulsa). Generally speaking, a single unit will be enough for a local call, and the fifteen-unit card (costing around 15Kn) will be sufficient for making a few longer-distance calls within the country or a short international call. It’s best to avoid making international calls from your hotel room: charges can be extortionate.

If you want to use your mobile phone abroad, check the likely call costs carefully and be aware of any charges for data roaming (your data roaming facility can in any case be switched off if you do not want to be liable for data charges). Bear in mind that you are likely to be charged extra for incoming calls when abroad. If you want to retrieve messages while you’re away, you’ll have to ask your provider for a new access code, as your home one is unlikely to work abroad.

Croatia’s mobile phone operators (T-Com, VIP and Tele 2) all offer pay-as-you-go SIM cards that you can use during your stay. However, you’ll first need to check that you have a phone that isn’t automatically blocked by your home operator when you insert a foreign SIM card. It will cost you around 200Kn for the card (although a certain amount of this fee is in the form of prepayment for your future calls), after which you can purchase prepay top-ups in increments of 50Kn and upwards.

Public toilets

Public toilets (zahod or WC) are rare outside bus or train stations, although every restaurant and café-bar will have one.

Smoking

Croatia is one of the few countries in Europe to introduce a total smoking ban (in May 2009), only to rescind it mere months later. At present, smoking is banned in restaurants, large cafés and the larger club-gig venues, but is permitted in cafés and bars that are smaller than 50m2, and smoking zones in clubs.

Time

Croatia is one hour ahead of the UK, six hours ahead of US Eastern Standard Time, nine hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, ten hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time and twelve hours behind New Zealand. The clocks go back and forward by one hour in late October and late March, in line with other EU countries.

Tipping

Tips (napojnice) are not obligatory, and wait staff don’t expect them if you’ve only had a cup of coffee or a sandwich. If you’ve had a round of drinks or a full meal, it’s polite to round up the bill by ten percent or to the nearest convenient figure.

Tourist information

The best source of general information on Croatia is the Croatian National Tourist Office (w croatia.hr). The tourist office can also supply brochures, accommodation details and maps of specific towns and resorts.

All towns and regions within Croatia have a tourist association (turistička zajednica), whose job it is to promote local tourism. Many of these maintain tourist offices (turistički ured or turistički informativni centar), although they vary a great deal in the services they offer. All can provide lists of accommodation or details of local room-letting agencies, but can’t always book a room on your behalf. English is widely spoken, and staff in coastal resorts invariably speak German and Italian as well. Opening times vary according to the amount of tourist traffic. In July and August they might be open daily from 8am to 8pm or later, while in May, June and September, hours might be reduced to include an afternoon break or earlier closing times at weekends. Out of season, tourist offices on the coast tend to observe normal office hours (Mon–Fri 8am–3pm) or close altogether – although there’s usually someone on hand to respond to emails and enquiries.

Travellers with disabilities

Many public places in Croatia are wheelchair accessible, especially in larger cities, though in general access to public transport and tourist sites still leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a growing number of wheelchair-accessible hotels, though these tend to be in the more expensive price brackets and they are not spread evenly throughout the country. Tourist offices throughout Croatia will usually find out whether there are any suitable accommodation facilities in their region if you ring in advance, but be sure to double-check the information they give you – some tourist offices optimistically state that establishments have disabled facilities, when in fact they don’t.

Travelling with children

Croatia is a family-oriented society and children are made welcome in hotels, restaurants and cafés, though this does not necessarily mean that facilities for children are widespread. Although some hotels, beaches and town centres will be equipped with play areas and parks, many will not. However, most Croatian beaches are full of other children – so finding playmates is not difficult. Families stay up quite late on the Adriatic – it is common to see children running around town squares and pavement cafés after 10 or 11pm. Baby food, disposable nappies, formula milk and other supplies are widely available in Croatia, although the choice of brands may not be as wide. Breastfeeding in public is becoming more common among the current generation of Croatian mums, though Croatia is still a conservative country and discretion is advised. Whether you come across baby-changing facilities or high chairs is very much a hit-and-miss affair.

Most Croatian hotels have three- and four-bed family rooms and suites, and each resort area will have a wide range of self-catering apartments of varying sizes. Most hotels will provide cots for babies and small children. There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding pricing policy in hotels and private accommodation, some apartment owners are very flexible and may provide an apartment with a child bed for the same price as a two-person studio; make it clear what you want when booking and see what is available. A lot of Adriatic towns have narrow stepped streets; so if you are travelling with a buggy, be sure to ask about ease of access.

Travelling by public transport in summer can be a hot and crowded affair so make sure you include plenty of liquid and other essentials in your hand luggage. On buses and trains, babies and toddlers travel for free providing they do not take up a seat of their own; children under 12 travel at half the adult fare. Folded pushchairs and buggies can be transported in the hold of the bus for a nominal luggage fee (7–10Kn). On ferries and catamarans, under 3s travel free, those aged 3–12 get a fifty percent discount.