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  • Writer's pictureWandering Ways

Croatia travel tips for first-timers

Updated: Sep 12

Croatia, a country of 1244 islands, numerous unspoiled National Parks, and an exceptional food and wine scene, is quickly becoming one of Europe's top destinations. It has been voted as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you are planning to visit this diverse nation for the first time, take heed of our top ten Croatia travel tips for first-timers to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.

beach overlooking old city walls, people swimming
Banje Beach and Dubrovnik Old Town

Croatia travel tips for first-timers

1. Book smart by choosing the best time to visit Croatia

If you want to avoid crowds, long queues, and high accommodation prices, the best time to visit Croatia is in June or September. The weather is still warm and sunny, and the sea is perfect for swimming. Moreover, prices are more affordable than in peak season, and there are fewer tourists around. Keep in mind that the sea is usually warmer in September than in June.

However, if you plan to visit Istria or Kvarner, be aware that these regions are very popular among Germans and Austrians, and crowds tend to increase during their school holidays in mid-to-late May or June. But if you plan your trip well, you can take advantage of special discounts that hotels offer during the off-peak season.

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2. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment

During the high season, it's crucial to book transport and accommodation ahead of time in Croatia. Ferries, flights, and buses to popular destinations can fill up quickly, even in June and September. It's best to book a month or so in advance if you have a specific place and time in mind.

Private accommodations are abundant, but the most desirable and well-located rooms and apartments can be booked early.

Island-hopping by local ferries requires careful planning, as the schedules are not necessarily daily and vary by season.

Check the latest schedules and ferry companies, and don't assume that there "must be" a ferry from one place to another. Inter-island ferries are limited, especially in the off-season.

Arrive at the ferry embarkation point at least two hours in advance, even with a reservation, and ask the Jadrolinija office how early to arrive for your particular sailing.

3. Focus on one or two places during your first visit to Croatia

If you have limited time, it's better to focus on one or two places in Croatia to fully appreciate their offerings. Consider spending a couple of nights in Zagreb, known for its cool vibe, and then head to the coast to enjoy the Adriatic Sea.

For longer trips, explore other hidden gems such as Plitvice Lakes and the castles of Zagorje.

Taking your time to explore fewer places in-depth will make your visit more rewarding. Don't try to see it all on your first visit, focus on the places that interest you the most.

city center buildings with red roofs and gothic cathedral during sunset

Dubrovnik may be a must-see destination, but with its popularity comes the crowds. Consider visiting Split instead, Croatia's second-largest city, which boasts a remarkable UNESCO Heritage Site in the form of the Roman Diocletian's Palace, as well as fantastic dining, shopping, and entertainment options. For more information, read our ultimate guide on 10 must-d things in Split. But don't stop there - there are plenty of other hidden gems in Croatia worth exploring. Discover the charm of Zadar and the incredible Istrian eateries in Pula, which is home to a massive UNESCO-designated Roman amphitheater. Taking the time to get off the beaten track beyond Dubrovnik is a smart move, as independent travelers looking for unique experiences in Croatia will not be disappointed.

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sea port, roman city ruins, red roofs and mountain in background

4. Bring enough cash and buy travel insurance

Cash is necessary for some restaurants, private accommodations, local ferries, and bus transportation. ATMs are available in every town, airport, ferry terminal, and bus station.

Travel insurance is also recommended to prepare for unexpected events. Holidays can be unpredictable, and unexpected issues can arise, such as missed connections, lost luggage, or health problems.

Even though Croatians are incredibly helpful, it's always reassuring to have an independent operator to rely on to help solve any problems that may occur.

For a stress-free holiday experience, we recommend EKTA, travel insurance, an internationally recognized company that offers round-the-clock service and easy-to-understand policies.

5. Go Island Hopping

With over a thousand islands, Croatia is the perfect destination for island hopping. Take a ferry or private boat and explore the stunning coastline, stopping at islands like Hvar, known for its vibrant nightlife and luxurious yacht scene, or Vis, a more secluded island with beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters. Don't forget to try the local wines and seafood.

One popular route for island hopping in Croatia is starting in Split and visiting islands such as Hvar, Brač, Vis, and Korčula. Each island has its unique charm, from the historic Old Town of Hvar to the stunning Blue Cave on Biševo Island.

Another popular route is starting in Dubrovnik and visiting islands such as Mljet, Korčula, and Lastovo. Mljet National Park is a highlight of this route, offering visitors the chance to explore stunning saltwater lakes and lush forests.

Island hopping in Croatia can be done by ferry, catamaran, or private boat. Ferry and catamaran schedules vary by season, so it's important to check ahead of time. Private boats can be chartered with a captain or rented for those with boating experience.

No matter which islands you choose to visit, island hopping in Croatia is a unique way to experience the country's stunning natural beauty and rich culture.


medieval city surrounded by blue sea.
Korcula Island

7. Try the Local Delicacies

Croatian cuisine is delicious and diverse, with each region having its own specialties. Make sure to try local delicacies like Peka, a traditional meat and vegetable dish cooked under a bell-shaped lid, Pasticada, a beef stew with prunes and vegetables, and Fritule, a sweet pastry often served with chocolate sauce. Don't forget to sample the wines of Pelješac and Istria, two of Croatia's most famous wine regions, known for their reds and whites.

Book Old Town Dubrovnik Food Tour

Book Dubrovnik Food and Drink Walking Tour with a Local Guide

Croatia travel tips for first-timers

wood fired meat dish with vegetables
Peka, a traditional meat and vegetable dish cooked under a bell-shaped lid

8. Discover the Best Local Beverages

Indulging in fine cuisine is incomplete without excellent beverages, and fortunately, Croatia offers a plethora of them. Despite the world-class quality of Croatia's wines, the small production and high domestic demand make them difficult to find on supermarket shelves back home, so make the most of it during your stay.

If you're in Dalmatia, the mighty Dingac is a must-try for fans of full-bodied reds, and Posip is a dry white that seafood lovers will adore. Malvasija, another dry white, is a specialty of Istria and pairs perfectly with seafood. When it comes to dessert wines, Malvasia from the Dubrovnik region is highly recommended.

Wine-tasting tours can be booked wherever you are in Croatia, along with food-themed excursions and experiences.

Aside from wine, Croatia's fiery fruit brandy, rakija, is a must-try. It's usually made from grapes and packs a punch.


famer with donkey harvesting grapes with blue seawater and pine forest in the background
Vineyard by the Sea Peljesac Peninsula

9. Croatia's bus network is the way to go

While train travel is popular across Europe, it's not the best option for exploring Croatia due to the country's poor train network. Fortunately, Croatia's bus network is extensive, reliable, and the way to go for travelers. GetByBus is a great resource for finding and booking bus lines within Croatia, as well as between Croatian towns and major European destinations. They offer online tickets for all bus lines, making it easy to plan and book your travels.

10. Pack Light and Smart

While it's important to travel light, there are a few items you shouldn't forget when packing for your trip to Croatia. Mosquito repellent is a must, as mosquitoes can be quite bothersome during the summer months. Don't forget to bring adapters for your electronics, as Croatia uses European-style plugs. And if you plan to visit any of Croatia's rocky beaches, pack water shoes to protect your feet. With these essential items in your luggage, you'll be well-prepared for a comfortable and enjoyable trip.

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