Since we love road trips so much, driving in Croatia was on our radar for this coming summer. We already completed a Croatian itinerary last year and we fell in love with the country. The food, the weather and the stunning sights all made us want to recommend Croatia to all family and friends. Although most people who decide to visit Croatia usually arrive in the country by plane, we want to encourage you to entertain the idea of driving in Croatia. Renting a car in Croatia and planning a Croatian road trip will be far more rewarding. Not only you will have the freedom of travelling wherever you want, but you'll be able to explore several areas where public transport might be less reliable. Also, Croatia is a popular destination, so driving for certain sights first thing in the morning, will help you skip the crowds, making your holiday far more enjoyable. Besides, driving in Croatia is actually really relaxing, with good roads and infrastructure. So here is everything you need to know about getting a car in Croatia, driving on the motorways and what itineraries we recommend for you.
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Driving in Croatia
We loved driving in Croatia as we found it pretty relaxing and great. The roads seemed in perfect condition with some small exceptions. Even when driving on small roads, we found it easy to navigate and safe. Drivers don't seem to be very aggressive and nobody drove dangerously around us.
The motorways are relatively quiet too. It could be because of the toll prices perhaps, but even during the summer busy season, we found the roads to be quite empty. Maybe we just got lucky both times we visited Croatia. The cities are a lot busier and trafficky. Expect places like Dubrovnik to be very busy at times. During the summer, you can be stuck in traffic during rush hours.
When we visited Split, the traffic seemed a lot better during the summer. Istria overall was a breeze with very few cars around in comparison to the busy Dubrovnik. You'll find some traffic en route to Plitvice Lakes but if you venture out first thing in the morning you can also beat the traffic jams. Just remember to always respect the speed limits and obey all traffic laws. We recommend using a satnav for your ease as well, so you can pay full attention to the road.
Croatia is not part of Schengen which means that if you decide to rent a car outside of Croatia, you will need to pass passport control at the border. If you drive from Split to Dubrovnik, you'll have a small stretch of road which passes Montenegro, so you'll need your passport and car papers with you.
When renting a car, please ensure all papers are in the car, handy, so you can show them to the officials when needed.
Overall, driving in Croatia is really good. You'll have a great time exploring Croatia's gorgeous landscapes by car.
Croatian motorways have toll gates, so you don't have to worry about buying a vignette in advance. Most of the prices are reasonable and the quality of the roads is very good. There are clear signs on all roads and as I already mentioned, the motorways are relatively empty and very relaxing to drive on.
In Croatia, you need to drive on the right and overtake on the left-hand side. You can't drunk drive in Croatia and all passengers must wear seatbelts at all times. You are not allowed to use your phone during driving as it is illegal to do so, but you can use a hand free device for this purpose.
Smaller single file roads can be a little more challenging but locals tend to help and be patient enough with foreigners. Overall, driving in Croatia is a very nice experience, much better than flying or relying on public transport.
Car rental in Croatia
Car rental in Croatia is affordable and safe. Croatia is part of the European Union so you can expect good car standards. As the roads are generally good, you can rely on a small car for your trip. For families with kids, we recommend investing in a medium-large category vehicle for your comfort.
Prices start from as little as £6 per day and can be picked up from most airports or nearby cities. We recommend checking Discover Car Hire for booking your car. If you decide to drive to Croatia as part of a longer European road trip, you can see on their website that you can easily rent a car in Budapest or Vienna and drive all the way down to Croatia. That's pretty great.
You know we love road trips and we prepared for you more advice on how to pack for a road trip.
Tips for renting a car in Croatia
As with any car rental, we recommend that you ensure all car papers are in order before signing the contract. Do a visual check of the car and take some pictures on the day you receive your keys. If you notice any damage or scratches, make sure to inform the staff so they can add these to your contractual agreement. What this means is that you won't be held liable for any previous damage made to the car.
When you return the car, ask the agent to do a visual check before handing over the keys. Also, take some photos as proof of the condition of the car. If you damaged the car, inform the agent immediately and ask for a quote.
To ensure your holiday is great, we always advise that you take out comprehensive coverage when renting a car. This may cost a little extra a day, but can also offer so much peace of mind should the car get damaged in any way. The full coverage is significantly cheaper than full insurance offered by a car rental supplier (at the moment it's 7.95 euros for any destination). You can check more info about it on the Discover Car T&C.
For example, we had a small incident during our road trip in Norway, but because we had full cover, nobody even bothered us. The insurance took care of everything without us having to worry about a thing or pay a penny extra.
Driving in Croatia for the first time? Here is a sample itinerary we recommend.
3 days in Dubrovnik (day trip to Kotor)
Day 1 - Dubrovnik
Visit the Old Town in Dubrovnik which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's very well preserved and dotted with an array of local shops and boutiques as well as restaurants awaiting to delight you with their seafood options.
Take a trip to the city walls as well which is a must for all Game of Thrones lovers.
For lunch, we recommend Nishta, a delicious vegan restaurant right in the centre. You won't leave feeling hungry that's for sure. During the season, it's best that you call to make a reservation as it can get very busy.
Spend your evening chilling on Banje Beach, one of the local favourite. Because of its proximity to the old town, this beach can get a little crowded. We recommend renting a kayak and making your way to Lokrum island.
Day 2 - Trip to Kotor
Grab the car and take a day trip to Kotor. Kotor is a splendid place with the most incredible landscape you can possibly imagine. Fall in love with its old town and take a hike up the city walls to enjoy stunning vistas of the Kotor Bay. For soft adventure lovers, you can rent a kayak for the afternoon or just swim in the bay.
Day 3 - Dubrovnik
In love with splendid vista points? Take the Dubrovnik Cable car for a 4-minute ride to the top of a 778-metre tall plateau which offers incredible vistas over the Old Town.
Have lunch at Magellan which has vegetarian and vegan options, then head towards our favourite beach: Sveti Jakov Beach. Sveti Jakov beach is located just over an hour away from the Old Town but you can also take your car there if you prefer. The beach is a lot more secluded than the one next to the centre, so you can get a bit more quiet, even during the season.
3 days in Split
Day 1 - Split
Start the day with a visit around Diocletian's Palace. This is an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD. We didn't expect to love it so very much. You can relax on the steps and admire it or just venture in and explore every single inch of it. Parts of this location was used for filming in GOT.
Have lunch at Marta's Veggie Fusion for the best vegan burgers in the city. We mean it! We ended up having lunch there every single day. No regrets: simply the best burgers and smoothies ever.
Enjoy a relaxing afternoon chilling on Bačvice Beach. Just make sure you get some water shoes as the beach is pebbly and not sandy.
Day 2 - Split
We wanted to explore more of the local town and understand its history, so we got a local guide for the day who told us the history of Split. It was great and it's something we very much recommend you do.
You can also hire a local guide to show you all GOT filming locations. You can check some of the stores and some of the oldest and unique places in Split. Everything has an interesting story, so why not hire a guide to tell it to you?
For the evening, we walked around the marina, took some pictures and had dinner at Matoni. Remember to book a table in advance. They have fantastic wines on the menu, so we really recommend it.
Day 3 - Split
We spent the entire day walking around the Marjan Forest Park. Marjan Forest Park is the perfect location for outdoor enthusiasts who want to spend some time in nature. There are various trails you can take in the park and can end up spending several hours just walking around.
Just make sure you bring some snacks with you for the day. After your trail, head to Kasjuni Beach located right in the park. You can also get a cocktail at Joe's Beach Lounge & Bar which is very close to the beach.
2 days in Plitvice Lakes
Day 1 - Plitvice Lakes
You can do just one full day at Plitvice Lakes but we wanted to try and avoid the crowds so we strategically did two days.
On day one, we went to Plitvice just before closing to see the sunset in the park and take pictures with as many tourists around as possible. We did a short trail and it was enough to capture the pictures we needed.
We had dinner at Babić which is one of the few good restaurants in the area. They have great service and good beers. We really liked it and went back on day two.
Day 2 - Plitvice Lakes
On day two, we woke up first thing in the morning to be pretty much the first people at the gate when the park opens. We took the long circuit this time (6-8 hours). However, by the time our trail joined in with the shorter trails, Plitvice become very busy and it took a while for us to pass the rest of the crowds. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the trail was fantastic and relatively quiet, so we do recommend it.
2 days in Rovinj (day trip to Motovun)
Day 1 - Rovinj
Rovinj is a superb little town with a beautiful church up to its hill. Hike there to enjoy stunning vistas of the sea. Stop along the way to check the local shops and perhaps buy a handmade souvenir.
Have lunch at Puntulina, a seafood restaurant located just by the sea. Enjoy a platter or raw and cooked fish, traditional to the area. Wash it all down with Croatian wine and have a relaxing siesta in the sunshine.
In the afternoon, walk around the main market area and pick some locally made olive oil.
Day 2 - Day trip to Motovun
Motovun is a village in central Istria, Croatia. In ancient times, both celts and Illyrians built their fortresses at the location of present-day Motovun.
When you get to Motovun, admire the beautiful Croatian landscape from the top and shop for locally sourced truffles. En route back, you can stop at a vineyard to purchase Croatian wine or arrange for a wine tasting.
3 days in Porec (day trip to Venice by ferry)
Day 1 - Porec
Stay at the Valamar hotel on Isabella island and enjoy an exclusive day by the beach. In the evening, take the quick ferry to the town of Porec (5 minutes by boat) and explore the Old Town. Have dinner at one of the many seafood restaurants in town, then finish the evening with some classic cocktails.
When you stay at Valamar, you can leave your rental at their dedicated car park. The team will take care of your luggage and will transfer you from the car park to the hotel. The ferry ride is included in the price and it runs every 15 minutes or so.
Day 2 - Day trip to Venice
Take the Venezia Lines ferries from Porec to Venice for an amazing day trip to Italy. Ensure you have your passport with you as you'll be crossing borders. In Venice, we recommend that you get a gondola ride and a water taxi so you can enjoy as much of the city on water. After all, this is how visitors used to enjoy Venice back in the days.
Our day trip to Venice was a highlight to our trip and something we truly recommend.
Day 3 - Porec
Start the day with a swim in the Adriatic sea, before making your way to the Old Town in Porec. After lunch, we suggest taking a day trip to Pula to visit yet another city and its splendid amphitheatre.
Finish off your Croatian itinerary with dinner at Sv Nikola, one of our favourite restaurants in Porec. Indulge in a seafood platter and order a special Croatian wine to celebrate your holiday.
What do you think? Are you ready to enjoy 2 weeks exploring Croatia? Let us know your own itinerary in the comments section below.