Do’s and Don’ts For Travel in Croatia

September 4, 2011

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this post are not my own, they are from the previous owners of this blog. I haven’t visited Croatia myself, so I can`t comment on them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I welcome the discussion, as long as the comments stay friendly and polite.

Croatia was one of the most difficult places we’ve travelled to. My first draft of this post was a bit less forgiving, but then we went to Korcula and the people became friendlier, the weather cooler and the beaches more inviting. I realized that for as many unfriendly, unhelpful people as there are working in the service industry, there are just as many kind, welcoming and hard-working people who are ready to show you a good time. Chatting with our friendly taxi driver in Zagreb, we caught a different perspective. “People in Croatia don’t like to work,” he said. “Sometimes the wages are so low that you don’t have the will for a smile.”

pula beach

Holidaymakers soak up the sun on a beach in Pula.

I don’t know what to say to that. When I’m travelling in a country I take notice of the socioeconomic conditions. I’ve travelled to poor regions before, none poorer than Bolivia. And everyone there had a genuine smile on his or her face. Thailand was also full of friendly people, despite the fact that many of them live in substandard housing and I saw a few bathing in the Chao Phraya River.

Economically Croatia is nowhere near as poor as these two examples. Perhaps they feel so because of their proximity to the Schengen area countries? Is this a good excuse for such consistently rude, unwelcoming behaviour to visitors? I’d love to hear from other readers on this issue.

Those who keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter may know that we cut our time there short by two weeks. Croatia is a very beautiful country and we didn’t even get to some of the most attractive cities and areas. It isn’t cheap, however, and we’re celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary this month. We don’t want to deal with unfriendly people and a lot of nonsense. But I want to be helpful and for visitors to have the knowledge to make the most of their time. Here are my do’s and don’ts for exploring and preparing for your Croatian adventure so that you can have hopefully have a better time than we did.

DO Choose your accommodation carefully

Yes, you can stay in a hotel. But you’ll pay a lot more money and have a much more impersonal time than if you go on a site like HostelBookers and find an apartment. We stayed in two: one in Pula and one in Korcula. These had amenities like satellite television, free wireless internet and kitchens. At Nina we had an entire apartment to ourselves with our own kitchen, air conditioning and a table. Both times we were hosted by kind families who did our laundry, made us breakfast, gave us tips on what to see and do and we got to experience the local people. Our hotel experiences were nowhere near as nice. In Zadar we were yelled at as we checked in because the woman hadn’t bothered to check her email from the online booking site we used. In Rab we left three days early because our tiny hotbox hotel room had mosquitoes and their idea of a sea view room meant you had to stick your head out the window and look around the corner.

Korcula Town

Our favourite spot in Croatia was Korcula. This is a view of Korcula Town from the water.

DON’T Expect great service

You might be blown away by friendly, attentive service at a shop, restaurant or hotel, but let this be a pleasant surprise rather than an expectation. Croatians don’t exchange the normal pleasantries you might be used to elsewhere in the world (unless they know you and then they’ll chat for twenty minutes while the rest of the customers stand there waiting to be served) and quite a few of them just have no idea how to assist someone with questions. On a positive note, everyone speaks at least a little English so you’ll have no problems with language barriers. Even the tourism office is no guarantee. When we visited the one in Rab we were trying to get to Split. “Good luck,” said the guy behind the counter with a straight face. It was only after I outlined the options we’d already researched and became frustrated about the fact that we’d come to him for help (the old, ‘you’re the expert, if you don’t know who does?’ trick) that he finally became helpful, even friendly in the end. Which brings me to my next point.

DON’T Try to island hop

Our itinerary included the islands of Rab, Brac, Korcula and Hvar with plans to stay three to five nights in each place. We thought it would be a breeze to get from one to another. Wrong. Each journey involved about three legs even if the islands seemed close. Ferries don’t run from one island to the next with any regularity. In most cases you have to take a ferry (or two) and then a bus to your destination. The hubs are Rijeka, Split and Dubrovnik with connections from some of these requiring careful timing. Most of the ferries are run by Jadrolinija, but smaller operators do exist. We had some long travel days and probably would have been happier choosing our favourite island and staying there the entire time. How do you know which island you’ll like the best? You don’t until you visit. For us, Korcula was the best, but this may be simply because of the experiences we had there. It’s the gastronomic island, with great food, nice beaches and a pretty little town. Rab was our least favourite and isn’t really suitable unless you have a boat. Many people swear by Hvar but it’s the most popular and can be very expensive. We ended up forgoing travel there so we could enjoy more time in another country.

Jadrolinija ferry Croatia

Jadrolinija runs most of the ferry services in Croatia.

DO Bring the right gear

Croatia’s beaches are not the sandy affair you might be used to. While sand beaches do exist, most of them have pebbles or sharp rocks, so purchase some reef shoes. Don’t um and ah about it: it will make the difference between skipping happily into the water or wincing as you tiptoe for fifteen minutes out to the deep part. You’ll also probably want some snorkel gear and a beach towel as even the more expensive hotel we stayed at in Supetar didn’t provide these. Hats and sunscreen are a must.

DON’T Visit in August

This was probably our biggest mistake. It’s stinking hot, teeming with German and Italian tourists (which is fine but you might get tired of constantly being addressed in German when you’re speaking Croatian or English) and many locals are absolutely sick and tired of foreigners. I suspect this was our biggest foible but, unfortunately, this was the only time we had this year to visit. Everything is more expensive, more crowded and more aggravating.

badija beach croatia

DO Bring cash

Even if the door of the establishment has the Mastercard and Visa logos on the door and even if you see the credit card machine sitting there on the counter, don’t assume that your card will be accepted. We came across more ‘cash only’ businesses in Croatia than anywhere in South America. And bring plenty of money in general. The only bargains are beer and transportation.

DO Enjoy the nice local food

We didn’t have a bad meal in Croatia. From delicious grilled meats to fresh seafood to excellent Italian dishes, you can’t go wrong with restaurants. For those with a sweet tooth, you’ll find a gelato shop every 50 metres and bakeries have excellent pastries and desserts. In general, ‘caffes’ serve coffees, ice cream and specialty drinks while restaurants and takeaway shops have the food. Diversity is not common – restaurants of a similar type will offer pretty much the same menu and we didn’t find much in the way of international cuisine. Be sure to try cevapcici and the delicious fish such as Sea Devil, which is like monkfish.

Our favourite restaurants were:

Bistro Palute – Put Pasike 16, Supetar, Brac island

Vinotoka – Jobova 6, Supetar, Brac island

Kod Kadre – Arsenalska 3, Pula

Pizzeria San Marco – Rapske brigade 6, Rab island

korcula harbour

Laid-back Korcula town

DO Be prepared for some shocks

Some things might truly surprise you, especially if you’ve never visited the Balkans before. People sound more aggressive when they speak and it takes awhile to realize that they aren’t yelling at you. In Pula we sat through a dinner across from a pregnant woman in her third trimester smoking cigarettes and drinking beer and no one besides us was batting an eye. On a beach in Supetar I was taking pictures of the sunset when a local started throwing rocks at me because I was unknowingly in the way of his photos. Never mind the fact that there was a whole empty stretch of beach to his right. When John came over to tell him to stop, the guy became even more aggressive and grabbed his arms, pushing him away. After we went back to our table their teenage daughter followed up by giving us the finger repeatedly, making faces and yelling obscenities at us. The owner of our hotel told us that some people are a bit crazy because of the war, but that was just too crazy for me.

korcula sunset

A gorgeous Korcula sunset

I’m sure many people travel to Croatia and have a positively wonderful experience. The locals we met who weren’t in the service industry were lovely people, so please don’t take this review as a commentary on Croatian people in general. It’s always nice to feel welcome in a country when you’re travelling, otherwise it can be a challenge to stay somewhere for a long time. For us, it was just too aggravating to justify the cost of being there. Sometimes beauty just isn’t enough.

Have you visited Croatia? What are your top tips?

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250 Comments on "Do’s and Don’ts For Travel in Croatia"

8 days 10 hours ago

Hi, I agree with most things in this article except for the great food. I am a Croatian born in Australian and speak both Croatian and English fluently. I have also lived all over the world for 12 years as a private yacht stewardess including poor countries in the Carribean and Cape Verde.

Never have I been treated with such disrespect as a single (40 year old) woman in the world. Constant abuse, rudeness and regularly being ignored and refused service in restaurants, especially if you (God forbid) want to ask a question about how a dish is prepared. I have been called stupid on so many occasions for asking a simple question.

I have seen other tourists get shouted at and abused regularly. I feel it is such a shame as aesthetically the country is so beautiful and the people should embrace the tourists as they help their economy. Croatians will dig their own graves if they don’t learn how to behave in a more civil and respectful manner. They consistently bite the hand that feeds them.

I wrote on this forum (which is incidentally, the first time I have ever written on any forum ever!) because I did an internet search to see if any other tourists have had bad experiences in Croatia. Apparently so. I have been here for 5 weeks and will never ever return.

I really hope the Croats take some feedback on board and make an effort to modify their abusive and rude behaviour.

2 months 15 days ago

Korcula is lovely, a magnificent view indeed. Regardless what country you visit, you are sometimes bound to have less pleasant experiences and we just have to accept this. Yes, the taxi driver has a valid point, it’s hard to be genuinely happy and welcoming when you know you have unpaid bills. It may be harder for some of us to understand this and the fact that you also met helpful, happy people that made your trip better is a clear sign that not all people are the same, regardless where you find yourself.

2 months 26 days ago

Very sorry to hear that. I’m half Croatian myself, and I feel ashamed when hearing that. But at least you found people who were friendly and helpful.

I have never experienced that Croats hate to work. In the southern parts, it can be so that people prefer to work in the night hours, due to the heat in the light hours. That’s a phenomenon that can be seen in other southern European countries, f ex Italy and Greece.

A question: Did you experience that the Croats were more crazy than Serbs or Bosniaks? Did you find the Croats more Middle Eastern-like in their culture, or are they as European as their neighbours? My experiences are that Croats are similar to Slovenes and Polacks, but maybe I’m wrong.

David from Germany and Vietnam
1 month 6 days ago

I really like Croatia after I experienced 4 days in August in Zadar. Everything there is fine and people are also good, friendly and good services and acceptable price. We rented an apartment and buy seafood to cook there. We found it better when eating in the restaurants and cheaper.
You should visit Zadar if you interested in beach and seafood. We are from Vietnam and Germany. Tchuss and Do Ba Da (= Hello).:))

2 months 24 days ago

Krille, thx for your reply. Since I (Geert) haven’t visited Croatia or Poland myself, I can’t really answer your question. Perhaps some of my readers can answer that question…

3 months 24 days ago

Great article about the beautiful Pula! If you want to know more look also at this interesting mini-guide to Pula city with some tips about where to accommodate as well..

6 months 17 days ago

Reading the blog and comments was interesting. It seems to me that some critics have unrealistic expectations for a country still emerging from decades of conflict, oppression, and economic challenges. How about the arrogant and ignorant assertion that rich Croatians should be as deferential as poor Bolivians? What an unwitting act of self incrimination!


I’m Croatian-American. Trust me, I know my heritage and am a harsh critic. Croatians can indeed be proud, hard, and apathetic. I won’t even get into the corruption. But Croatians can also be warm, loyal, and generous friends, cosmopolitan and cultured as well. If you are patient, understanding, and have a thick skin, you can experience this.

Get to know the historical context that illuminates why folks in the Balkans are a bit on the hard side. In fact, I do this in advance of traveling anywhere. I do my best to understand and conform to local cultures…and at least understand and tolerate breaches of my Western notions of civility and service. Whether for business or pleasure.

If you can’t do this, honestly, you shouldn’t be traveling.

6 months 17 days ago

I totally agree! As the new owner of this blog, I always try to understand the culture of the country I’m going to and as a Belgian I know what compromise is 😉 and how to adapt myself to other cultures. In fact, people in general, should be more tolerable towards each other.

I don’t want to remove the article from the blog, because everyone has the right to have their own opinions, and I’m sure that Andrea and John did have a lesser experience and I welcome the discussion (as long as comments stay civilised), but perhaps it’s better if I add a disclaimer to the article that they are not my opinions, since I haven’t visited Croatia myself and I can’t comment on them.

6 months 17 days ago

I agree on the exchange of ideas and information. It’s better to share them, as we educate one another in the process. It helps set expectations when traveling.


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