Since it’s a question that concerns almost every visitor to Croatia, we’ve decided to give you an overview of what to expect, and to help you better plan your travels within the country.Getting around Croatia isn’t really difficult, but it does require some planning.
If you decide to rent a car, you’ll find that roads are in great condition and driving around is pretty easy. You can also get around by plane, and hydroplane. Train travel within Croatia is unfortunately very limited. Public transport in Croatia is excellent, with extensive bus, and ferry networks.
Getting around Croatia by bus
When it comes to public transportation in Croatia, buses are your best option. Bus network in Croatia is extensive. Buses are frequent, fairly reliable, and affordable (though not cheap).
Bus stations are usually in the center of town, or within walking distance from the center. A price of a ticket includes your luggage too, although if you have a bicycle or additional bags, bus drivers can ask you to pay extra for the luggage.
There are many bus operating companies in Croatia, and not a single one runs on all lines. The largest national bus operators are Autotrans, Croatia Bus, and Cazmatrans.
There are many local operators like Libertas in Dubrovnik region, Promet Split in Split region, and Liburnija in Zadar region.
There isn’t a single website where you can check all bus lines and schedules within Croatia. If you travel to or from Zagreb, Zagreb bus station has a good overview of timetables for all buses, and you can buy tickets online. You can also visit a website of larger bus operators for additional information. Autotrans has a good user-friendly website.
When to consider traveling by bus in Croatia:
- If you plan to spend enough time in Croatia, like two weeks or more, you won’t mind spending an additional time traveling on bus.
- If you only plan to go from point A to point B, and then stay put.
- If you are a solo traveler or a couple, bus is perhaps your cheapest option to travel around Croatia. For larger groups and families, it can get as expensive as renting a car.
- If you don’t feel comfortable driving on Croatian roads.
- If you don’t plan on travelling on bus around islands, or in Istria. These are the only places in Croatia where local buses are infrequent, and not your best travel option.
Whether you travel by your own car, or plan on renting a car, driving is definitely the best way of getting around Croatia.
Croatia is small and getting around Croatia by car is, not only the most comfortable, but often the fastest way to get around. It takes only 4 hour drive to reach Split from Zagreb, just over two hours to reach Rovinj, Plitvice Lakes, and Porec, and less than three hours to reach Zadar. Dubrovnik is the only faraway place to travel in Croatia by car (but that road trip offers the best scenery ever, and it’s totally worth the effort).
When you should consider driving in Croatia:
- If you like to make impromptu stops along the way, and explore the less visited places and the countryside.
- If you like road trips.
- If you are a larger group, or a bigger family, car can be the cheapest travel option.
- If you plan to visit Istria, and plan on exploring the region.
- If you plan to travel around any of Croatian islands.
- If you have a very little time but would like to visit few places.
Note: Many people making a round trip of Croatia, often combine flying and driving. They either fly from north to south and then rent a car and make their way up north, or vice versa.
Flying is the fastest way to get around Croatia. But with only two domestic carriers: Croatia Airlines, a large national carrier; and European Coastal Airline, operating a small fleet of hydroplanes, flying is not always the cheapest travelling option within Croatia.
Main airports are Zagreb, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. However, only Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik airports serve international flights a year around. Other airports are seasonal.
When you should consider travelling by plane:
- If you plan on visiting Dubrovnik from Zagreb, flying there is perhaps your best travel option. First, Dubrovnik is the southernmost town in Croatia. Second, multi-lane highway goes only as south as Ploce. From Ploce to Dubrovnik you’ll need to drive on a single-lane (each direction) coastal road. The last, but not the least, the main coastal road to Dubrovnik passes through Bosnia, which means that you’ll probably lose precious time waiting at the border crossing. Expect to pay around 90 € for a return-ticket from Zagreb to Dubrovnik.
- If you have little time, but would like to visit different coastal regions like Istria, Dubrovnik and an island or two. Since 2015, European Coastal Airline operates small hydroplanes on limited routes along the coast. Split is one of its main home ports, and you can easily fly to Pula, Brac, Hvar, and even Lastovo. At shoulder season the airline runs lots of promotional deals, but in high season prices are high. Expect to pay 100 € for a return-ticket from Split to Pula, and 70 € from Split to Vela Luka (Korcula Island).
Note : As there aren’t a load of domestic airlines, your only chance to get an affordable ticket is to book early. We suggest you to book directly with an airline to secure the best deal.
Note: European Coastal Airline website is a mess to book through (mostly because they don’t have a full year open for bookings, so you’ll often get “no availability” response. However, check their timetable as it’s more accurate, and will give you a good look at their scheduled flights (then you proceed to online booking).
Getting around Croatia by taxi
Taxis are still very expensive in Croatia, except in Zagreb and Rijeka. Taxi service is heavily regulated, and fares are fixed. Taxi-meters are a norm, so make sure your driver turns it on.
Uber is only available in Zagreb (as of this writing), and it only works with licensed drivers.
In short, don’t plan much on using taxis, unless you don’t mind spending lots of money.
Although Croatia is a very safe country, I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking your way around. Vera claims she hitchhiked around Croatia a lot when she was in high school. But these days you don’t see many hitchhikers on a road, and you see even less cars picking these few up.
Getting around Croatia by ferry
Getting around Croatia will sooner or later get you on a ferry. Ferries are often the only way to reach islands.
The largest ferry company is Jadrolinija, operating majority of routes with its extensive fleet of ferries and catamarans. Besides Jadrolinija, on some routes, you’ll also find other operators like Kapetan Luka, G&V Line, Rapska plovidba, and Mia Tours.
You can book a ferry ticket online for Jadrolinija and Kapetan Luka ferries. Other companies sell tickets only over the counter.
In summer ferries are crowded, and you should arrive at least two hours prior to departure in order to board a ferry.
When you arrive at the ferry terminal, line your car immediately for a boarding, then go to the counter to buy a ticket. Ferries operate on first come, first serve basis. If you don’t make it to the first ferry, you’ll need to wait for another one.
When we traveled to the island of Brac from Makarska, we were the last car to board the ferry, although we arrived precisely two hours prior to departure.
Ferries are cheap if you don’t travel by car. Should you take a car on ferry depends heavily on how do your plan to spend your time on an island. If you plan just to visit a ferry port village, then you won’t need a car. But if you plan to explore the island, you’ll need a car.
You can also get around an island by bus, but buses are infrequent, and often don’t leave enough time for a visit. You can also consider renting a car on the island in order to save on a ferry. But if you plan to do so, make sure you book your car rental well in advance. In high season it’s hard to find an available car on the spot.
As a way to visit an island you can also take private or group boat tours. These tours are available in all coastal towns. An island tour is usually to the nearest islands, and it includes a lunch on board.
Some islands, like Lopud, Kolocep, or Silba, are car-free islands.
Recommended travel guides
- Fodor’s Croatia Travel Guide (we are co-authors!). / Our UK readers please click here.
- Lonely Planet Croatia Travel Guide / Our UK readers please click here.
- Rick Steves’ Croatia & Slovenia / Our UK readers please click here.