The sunset at Zadar, sun is yellow and orange behind some clouds setting in the sea
Croatia,  Road Trips

Driving in Croatia: All You Need to Know for Road Trips

Croatia is a beautiful country, that has lots to offer to visitors. Road trips are the best way to explore, so what do you need to know before driving in Croatia? We’ve done a Croatia road trip twice, and numerous other road trips. So we know how to road trip through Croatia. During our visits, like this Balkan road trip, we’ve fallen in love with Croatia. Read on to get all the information you need before embarking on that Croatian road trip.

Driving in Croatia: Traffic Rules

We are only mentioning rules for cars, not for biking, motorcycles, campers or other vehicles. For the most up to date information on traffic rules, check your country’s website on Croatia traffic rules.

  • In Croatia traffic (cars) drive on the right side of the road. Taking over another vehicle is done on the left.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs is forbidden. Driving with alcohol is forbidden under the age of 24. 24 and up you can have a blood alcohol level of max 0.5 promille.
  • You’re not allowed to drive and hold your mobile phone in your hands. Handsfree calling is however permitted.
  • Kids under 12 years old cannot sit in the front seat. Kids up to the age of 5 must be seated in a suitable child seat.
  • When driving in the mountains and the roads are narrow, ascending traffic has priority over descending traffic.
  • On a junction traffic coming from the left yields to traffic coming from the right. Unless there are traffic signs indicating otherwise.
  • Traffic coming on a roundabout yields to traffic already on the roundabout.
  • Maximum speed limit for cars without a caravan or trailer, is 50 kilometers per hour inside city limits, and 90 kilometers per hour outside city limits. On highways it’s 110 kilometers per hour and on motorways 130 kilometers per hour.
  • For people younger than 25 the maximum speed limit is 10 kilometers lower per hour.
  • On some roads it’s mandatory to drive with winter tires and/or snow chains from November 15th till April 15th.
  • In this period it’s also mandatory to carry a snow shovel.
  • In the same time span it’s also mandatory to remove all ice and snow from their vehicle.
  • Next to that from November 1st to March 31st, you need to have your dipped headlights on during the day.

Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory on all seats in the car.

Safety

When you’re visiting Croatia for the first time, you might wonder is it safe to drive in Croatia? Yes, it is. Keep yourself to the traffic rules above and others issued by Croatia. Use common sense. The most important thing is to be aware that you’re in a different country with different rules, regulations and customs.

However the roads are safe to drive on. They’re overall in good condition. There are no areas to be avoided or anything like that. Croatia is a safe country.

Where is Croatia Located

Croatia is a country in Southeast Europe. It was part of former Yugoslavia. In the North it borders with Slovenia and Hungary. On the East side with Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. In the South with Montenegro. The West is coast, there’s Croatia borders with the Adriatic Sea.

The shape of Croatia also gets compared to half a t-shirt. Since it has a broad piece in the North and then a long stretch of land South along the coast. Giving the country an odd shape. The coast is littered with islands.

Why Visit by Car

Croatia is a stretched out country with lots of different landmarks and points of interest. However it’s still a relatively small country. To view a lot of the landmarks in one trip, you’ll need a car and a road trip is the perfect way. This way you can combine Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Split and Pula for instance or Krk island, Zadar, Krka National Park and Dubrovnik. There are ample options for trip combinations and a car is the best way to visit these places on your own terms, take the time for them that you want and be able to easily reach them. By car is the best guarantee you can see a lot in only a short period of time.

The roads in Croatia are generally in good condition and easy to navigate.

Why Visit Croatia

Why? Because Croatia is simply a beautiful country.

First of all it has a long coast line, with lots of opportunities to swim in the sea. The beaches are mostly pebble and rock beaches, but you can easily enjoy a day on one of them. The coast line is also beautiful to just drive along with the islands you can see off the coast, cliffs in some parts and the pristine sea.

Plitvice Falls, small streams dropping down in a clear greenish lake
Plitvice Falls

Next to this Croatia has some top notch national parks, such as Plitvice Lakes National Park and Krka National Park. Plitvice Lakes is world famous and attracts more than a million visitors each year. It’s the largest national park in Croatia. It’s as stunning as the photos. Plitvice and Krka revolve around waterfalls.

So you’ll need to visit Croatia for stunning scenery and landscapes that’ll blow your mind away.

The beautiful landscapes however don’t stop at the national parks and the coast. The islands are also worth your time. They’re gorgeous and there are many islands to choose from. We loved Krk-island, which is reachable via a toll bridge. The other islands are reachable with ferries. These you have to book (far) in advance.

Trogir skyline, as seen from the other side of the water
Trogir skyline

Beautiful nature isn’t the only things Croatia has to offer. It also has beautiful cities with lots of history, such as Pula, Zagreb, Zadar, Split, Trogir and Dubrovnik. Some of the cities date back to Roman times and still have artifacts left over from these times.

Toll Roads

All motorways are toll roads in Croatia, accept the ring road around Zagreb and the A7 leading from Rijeka to Krk. Some bridges and tunnels also charge a toll.

You can pay the toll by means of cash, in Kuna’s or Euro’s, or with a creditcard. There’s a toll badge available, the Electronic toll collection. This gives a 20% discount on tolls and you can skip the long waiting lines on busy traffic days. Here you can find the tariffs on toll roads in Croatia.

How Long Does It Take to Drive Croatia

You can drive from North to South or vice versa in a day. From Dubrovnik to Rijeka is 609 kilometers/378 miles, which is about 6.5 hours. However traffic jams can make this longer. From East to West or vice versa is shorter. From Osijek to Rijeka is 440 kilometers/273 miles, a bit more than 4 hours (again without traffic jams).

However if you drive through Croatia in one day you’ll miss all the highlights and only see the toll roads. On our first road trip we spent 11 days in Croatia, on our second road trip we spent 9 days in total in Croatia. We’ve seen a lot all over the country, but there’s still lots leftover for us to discover.

Hiring a Car and Airports

There are 9 international airports in Croatia. Zagreb Airport is the main international hub and Dubrovnik International Airport is the second-largest airport in Croatia. Rijeka Airport, Bol Airport and Losinj Airport are all 3 located on an island. The other 4 are Split Airport, Pula Airport, Zadar Airport and Osijek Airport.

Rental cars can be picked up from most airports or nearby cities. Croatia is part of the European Union, so has to comply to their car safety rules and standards.

What Do You Need to Drive in Croatia

When driving in Croatia you need to carry a valid driver’s license. Next to that you need registration documents, insurance documents and a passport as a form of identification.

If you have a driver’s license in a non-Roman/non-latin alphabet, than you need to have an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Also you need to have a reflective jacket in your car, that you have to wear when you must be outside the car in case of a breakdown or accident.

Main Motorways and Roads

The A1 motorway, nicknamed the Dalmatina, connects Zagreb in the North with Ploče in the South. It’s a modern, multi-lane motorway.

D8, nicknamed Jadranska magistrala, the Adriatic coastal road runs from Rijeka in the North to Dubrovnik in the South. It’s a single carriageway road and the most scenic road and the most scenic road in Croatia. We’ve driven it twice now, both ways and this is true.

The D1 is an inland route, connects Zagreb with Split. It passes through Plitvice Lakes National Park. This is a single carriageway road.

A6 motorway runs from Zagreb in the East to Rijeka in the West. This is a modern, multi-lane motorway.

The D66 connects Opatija with Pula on Istria (the popular peninsula in the Northwest). It’s mostly a curvey coastal road, with some pretty epic scenic views. We drove this road on our first Croatia road trip and loved it.

Where to Stay

Croatia offers it all; hotels, campgrounds, apartments and bnb’s. In different luxury categories. We’ve stayed at all of them accept bnb’s.

We have a whole blog on campsites in Croatia, where all the ones we have stayed on are named. From luxury ones, such as Camping Beach Resort Solaris (Šibenik) to simple and basic campgrounds, such as Camping Kate (Mlini).

We’ve booked hotels and apartments through Booking and a few times just drove up to a hotel. All of them were clean, good and safe. There are all sorts here from 1 to 5 stars. Overall hosts were friendly. Not all of them spoke English, but Google translate is your friend.

When to Visit

Croatia can be visited all year long. However the Summer months are best. The temperatures are warm between 20°C/68°F and 35°C/95°F. Sunlight is plentiful and the water temperature of the sea is pleasant. Rain is very rare. The other months there’s more rain and windy days. In the Winter it can get cold. The North has continental climate conditions. The Adriatic coast has a Mediterranean climate. Inland behind the coast, the region around Zagreb, the Summers are warm and the Winters very cold and snowy.

July and August are the months that receive the most tourists. If you want less crowds and still good weather, June and September are best. If you don’t mind more chances of rain and less sunny days then April, May and October are good months to visit. The Southern Adriatic is your best bet on good weather these months.

What Not to Miss

Greeting to the Sun, a large area on the harbor with blue colored glass . Many people are walking on it
Greeting to the Sun in Zadar

When visiting Croatia there’s so much to see and do. What I think should be on your itinerary:

  • Krk-island: beautiful, easy to reach by bridge.
  • Zadar: the best hidden gem in Croatia.
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park: the second most famous landmark in Croatia, deserves several days.
  • Dubrovnik: the most popular city in Croatia, definitely visit this city.

Tips for Traveling to Croatia

Here are a few tips to keep in mind on traveling in Croatia.

  • The currency in Croatia is the Kuna.
  • You can pay with Euros, but they won’t give you a good exchange rate.
  • They speak Croatian in Croatia.
  • A lot of places they will speak (some) English.

So That’s All On Driving in Croatia

Now you know all you need to know before going on a road trip in Croatia.

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