From rugged coastlines to romantic towns, Croatia is one of the best Mediterranean holiday destinations. It’s also one of the ultimate destinations for island hoppers, those wanting to get out on the open water and practically skip from one spectacular island destination to the next. But, how do you get around?
Here is the lowdown on the best way to get around heavenly ‘Hrvatska’, an insider’s guide to transportation in Croatia. From comfortable local buses to the almost never-ending (and sometimes bewildering) ferry schedules that will deposit you on your island of choice, let’s explore the best way to get around this absolute gem in the Adriatic Sea.
Traveling across Croatia
Explore Croatia by air
Now unless you’re hopping over the border from marvelous Montenegro, or just been to explore Budapest, there’s a strong chance you’re arriving in Croatia by air. But, after this, most travelers will spend their time sailing across the country, hopping from high seas ferry to small local boat.
That said, if you’re thinking of adding Zagreb or Pula to your Croatia itinerary, you’re best placed to book a flight. You can’t go wrong with local carrier, Croatia Airlines, who fly from Zagreb daily to destinations like Dubrovnik, Rijeka and Zadar and also operate a weekly ‘summer’ service between spring and autumn between destinations like Rijeka to Split or Dubrovnik.
|Zagreb||Split||Croatia Airlines||Daily (in season)|
|Zagreb||Pula||Croatia Airlines||5 per week|
|Zagreb||Dubrovnik||Croatia Airlines||Daily (in season)|
Explore Croatia by train
Throw any ideas of a romantic railway out the window – Croatia is not really the place for train travel. Railway connections in Croatia, while not rudimentary, are geared towards cargo transport or run on less-touristy routes.
The only real options for visitors really yearning for a train experience is to look at the Zagreb to Rijeka or Zagreb to Split routes, although both of those have efficient, high end bus routes that could get you there in less time. That said, in summer there is a special Zagreb to Split overnight train which might just scratch that railway itch, particularly if you’re wanting to jump on an early ferry out to the islands.
Explore Croatia by intercity bus
In Croatia, the ferry is king but buses can be used when you really need to connect between over ground destinations.
Like air travel, the biggest transportation hub for buses is Zagreb, where you can generally hop on a bus to many of the far-flung destinations like Zadar, Rijeka or the coastal beauties of Split or Dubrovnik.
If you do decide to hop on a bus, the ride should satisfy even the fussiest of travelers: Plush, reclining seats, icy-cool air conditioning and often free, fast Wi-Fi, ideal to upload those cracking Instagram pictures from the previous stop.
Explore Croatia by minivan or private car
With Croatia’s coastline usually being fodder for ferries, you definitely can connect quickly between some of the charming towns by car, either with a plush people carrier fit for larger groups, or a private car, geared towards smaller groups.
Minivans or private cars are usually best used for overland transport, so trips from Zagreb to places like Rijeka, Zadar and Pula are good bets. That said, since you’re in veritable luxury, you’ll find prices to match – hiring a private car or minivan with a driver usually gives you the convenience of leaving when and from where you like, but some eye-wateringly expensive prices to match.
Explore Croatia by ferry
You’ve finally made it to the crowning glory of this piece: The speedy and eminently safe connecting ferries! If you’re planning a trip to Croatia, time on a ferry is part and parcel of the journey – lugging your backpack onto the deck, perching yourself by a salt-encrusted window and watching the azure seas roll by is a signature of ferry sailing in the Adriatic.
And, when it comes to ferries, you are spoilt for choice. From smaller crafts to sleek catamarans and huge, yet high-speed expansive vessels, you’ll find yourself gliding through Mediterranean waters with ease, before disembarking at yet another idyllic island paradise.
Ferries are definitely the most efficient (and often only) way to get to one of Croatia’s many captivating islands. That said, the schedules can be an absolute nightmare to figure out, as Croatia’s ferry scene is not dominated by just a few players – instead, you’ll find heaps of local operators all doing a few routes. Your best bet? Plan out your itinerary and then use a platform like Bookaway to pick up the ferries of your choice, all in one place.
There are so many popular routes that it’s difficult to name them all, but definitely consider at least adding sublime spots like Hvar, Brac, Mljet and Vis if you’re headed to the Dalmatian islands, or Rab, Pag and Krk if the Northern Adriatic is part of your Croatia island hopping itinerary!
Pro tip: If you feel a little nauseous on ferry rides, try to snag yourself a seat near the back of the ferry. This is usually the most stable place as the engines are closest to the water’s surface.
A few of the most popular routes include:
|Split to Hvar||Up to 9 times daily||Starts at US $19|
|Korcula to Dubrovnik||2 departures daily||Starts at US $26|
|Dubrovnik to Mljet||3 departures daily||Starts at US $18|
|Zadar to Lopar||Daily||Starts at US $32|
|Rijeka to Krk||2 departures daily||Starts at US $18|
Getting around Croatia’s cities
Now your mode of transportation within the country’s most eye-catching cities varies. The cobblestone streets of Dubrovnik or Split are best explored by foot, plus these walled cities don’t allow the usual taxis beyond their boundaries. However, for islands like Brac you’ll definitely need to hop into a taxi (or, if you’re lucky, a local bus) if you’re to get across their expanse and capital city, Zagreb, definitely has its fair share of transport modes.
You won’t find many taxis trawling the streets of Croatia’s smaller cities, mainly since they’re small and usually better for a quick stroll. And, when you do find one in places like Hvar, if you’re transiting over from Hvar Town to Stari Grad, you’ll be paying a pretty penny for it.
However, bigger cities definitely have lots of taxi options, and you’ll find them at more pocket-friendly prices. The always ubiquitous Uber can also be found all across Croatia, present all the way along the Dalmatian coast as well as in tourist hotspots like Rijeka and Istria.
You can also often hop on an UberBOAT! Yup, each summer sees branded Uber speedboats whizzing around Split and Dubrovnik as they ferry passengers to their nearby destinations.
By local buses and trams
Again, the local bus and public transportation networks differ depending on the destination but, in most cases, you’ll find a local bus (or two) for making your way around the city or, in some cases, a little further afield.
Take, for example, Split, a city where you’ll mostly find yourself meandering around on foot, especially since motorized transport isn’t possible within the old city walls. However, any traveler worth their passport will know that they should take a ride on the bus out to Krka National Park, the breath-taking location of the impressive Skradinski Buk waterfalls.
Similarly, in the nation’s capital, Zagreb, you’ll not only find a system of 117 buses, but some charming cornflower-blue trams zigzagging around the city streets.