In Croatia, where the Mediterranean, the mountains and the Pannonian plains come together in a unique harmony of natural beauty, within just a little more than a hundred kilometers, you can come across excitlingly different landscapes.
Croatia is a land of unique and rare natural beauty whose tradition goes back over two thousand years during which a great historical and cultural heritage has developed. With 2,600 sunny hours per year, with its 1,000 islands, a rich historic past, many beautiful cities and warm Mediterranean climate Croatia has recently become a favorite vacation spot for Bill Gates and Paul Getty.The beauty of the Adriatic coast has been memorized for centuries by famous artists, writers and poets. George Bernard Shaw wrote: "Those people seeking paradise on earth should come and visit Dubrovnik."
Experience the more than 1,000 pristine islands and beaches where the sun shines over 300 days a year; feel at home with the friendly natives; sample the local specialties of fresh seafood and fine high quality Croatian wines.
1. No visa is required for entry into Croatia for citizens of Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. 2. No special vaccination is required. 3. Croatia boasts, with reason, the best drinking water in Europe. 4. Croatia has on average 3000 sunny hours a year! That is out of a possible 4380 daylight hours in a year! 5. On the coast winters are very mild, rarely falling below 10ºC. One can see lemons on the trees in February! 6. In summer it's hot but not too hot, the average July temperature being 29ºC.
Despite the relatively short flight times (no more than 2.5 hrs from the furthest European airport, if flying direct), a lot of people do consider driving to Croatia. How long it takes depends, of course, on your country of origin. From the UK it is a particularly long trek, not least because you have to cross the Channel to France orHolland first. From France or Holland you will have to count two days for the trip, and a further day if you are planning to go to the south of Croatia - this is driving sensibly, at legal speeds and at 8 hrs a day. The most direct route from the north of France, which happens also to be the most picturesque, is to head for Lyon, then toGeneva across the Alps and cross the French-Italian border via the Mont Blanctunnel (the toll is about 28 €). Once in Italy it’s practically a straight road all the way to Croatia, going through Milan, past Venice and ending up at Trieste on theAdriatic, after which you then have a short stretch of Slovenia to cross and you’re in Croatia. The route doesn’t actually go through Venice, but a nice idea, to break the journey up a bit, would be to plan a day at Venice - it seems crazy to go all that way and pass Venice!
For folk living in the South of France, in Austria, in Switzerland or in southern Germany you can knock a day off these journey times. If you live in northern Italy the journey is a cinch and you would probably only ever consider driving to get to Croatia. From all other parts of Italy catching a ferry to Croatia is probably the best option.
It is always advisable to consult one of the many route planners on the Internet and print out your route before departing. For English speaking people the AA’s route planner is excellent which you’ll find at: www.theaa.com
Driving in Croatia
Firstly, it should be mentioned that Croatians drive on the right side of the road.
If you’re headed for the Dalmatian Coast you could catch a Jadrolina car ferry from Rijeka to many of the major Dalmatian towns. The ferry leaves Rijeka at 6 pm and gets to Split for the next morning, Korcula for midday and Dubrovnik for mid afternoon. The return trip including a cabin costs 360 €
A big motorway building program is underway at the moment which will connect all the major coastal towns from Rijeka in the north to Dubrovnik in the south. At the moment only a 20 km stretch north of Zadar is open but it is hoped that the Rijekato Split stretch will be open by 2005, and the Split to Dubrovnik stretch by 2007. This will cut a sizable chunk off the journey times to the coastal towns. Until the motorways are built you’ll have to put up with the existing coastal road which wind around the countless bays and indentations of the Croatian coast with very little opportunities to overtake. Croatian lorry drivers are very considerate, if they see a clear passage ahead for you to overtake they will flash their indicators, but many drivers take horrendous risks overtaking and you always have to expect that a car may come round the bend on the wrong side of the road! Saying all that, the journey south is spectacularly beautiful and the biggest hazard to the road will probably be yourself, because your eyes will be fixed on the scenery rather than on the road!
Do remember that in summer the roads around the coastal resorts will be very busy indeed and if you can see a route to your destination on the smaller inland roads it is definitely worth considering. Similarly with parking, in summer finding places in the town centres can be very difficult, so if you can find a place further from the centre it would be advisable to take it - a lot of Croatia’s historic towns, such as Trogir,Hvar and Dubrovnik, don’t allow cars in and the car parks outside are not really large enough to cater for everyone. In out-of-season periods, however, finding a parking place is not normally a problem.
Drinking and driving laws
The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Croatia is .05 %. There is quite a big police presence on Croatian roads and they routinely spot-check motorists for drinking and driving. The procedure and laws governing this are exactly the same as in any other European country except that drivers who refuse a breathalyser are automatically presumed to have admitted to driving while intoxicated.
Post offices are open from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. on working days; from 7 a.m. till 4 p.m. in smaller towns and villages, and some are working split shifts. In major cities and in tourist resorts, post offices on duty are open till 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Phone cards, which are sold at post offices and newspaper kiosks, are used for all public telephones.
For specific and current information you might want to visit official Croatian Post website.
Money in Croatia – The Croatian Kuna
The Croatian currency is the Kuna (not the Euro!), which is divided into 100 lipas. (The word ‘Kuna’ means marten, a weasel-like animal, whose fur Croats used as payment many centuries ago. The word ‘lipa’ means lime tree, but we don’t know the connection here!) When listed as a price, Kuna is abbreviated to Kn.
The Kuna comes in dominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 as notes and 1, 2, 5 and 25 (25 Kn being largely commemorative) as coins. The Lipa comes in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50. In Croatian, the plural of Kuna is Kune (pronounced ‘koo-neh’), although it is fine to pluralise it – as many outside of the country do – to Kunas.
The 200 Kuna note. The front features Stjepan Radic, a Croatian politician and founder of the Peasant Party in the early 20th century. The back shows Osijek’s headquarters, a building which dates from 1726
In the opinion of many, the Kuna is overvalued but is nevertheless a stable currency. The current exchange rate between the Kuna and various world currencies can be found at the Croatian National Bank website.
Obtaining Kunas prior to your visit to Croatia
In the UK, it is possible to obtain Kunas prior to your trip to Croatia at some foreign exchange stores. The easiest way might be to purchase your money online, as once you order the amount you want the money can either be posted to you (for a charge) or it can be picked up at an airport prior to your departure.
Do also check with your own bank to see if you can order Kunas online with them.
Money in Croatia – ATMs
Alternatively, you may not see the need to purchase Croatian Kunas prior to your trip – which is perfectly understandable. In this case, our first piece of advice would be to take a bank card/cash card instead – this avoids the need to travel with large-ish amounts of cash, and ATMs are readily available in all resorts, towns and cities in Croatia, in banks, supermarkets, airports and elsewhere.
As a foreign card is inserted into the machine, you will most likely be presented you with a choice of languages – no need to navigate through Croatian-language menus. The exchange rate you’ll receive will be fairly good, and there may only be a small service charge, which depends on your bank back home – you may want to check before travelling. Local banks may also charge an operating fee on top of this.
If you travel abroad a fair bit, you may like to see if you can find a bank in your home country that will provide you with a debit card that doesn’t incur charges (or incurs only very low charges) when used aboard.
Are Euros accepted in Croatia?
You will find that you can pay for some items – private accommodation, taxis, some small restaurants – in Euros. Do note that this is entirely on anunofficial basis; the Euro is NOT an official currency and NO business/individual is required to accept them as payment. (It is just the case that some businesses, particularly small/family-run ones are happy to receive Euros – this probably harks back to the days of Yugoslavia when people were happier “holding” Deutschmarks rather than the unstable Yugoslav Dinar.)
You may well find that prices in some accommodation places, restaurants and elsewhere quoted in Euros. This is purely because so many visitors to Croatia are from Euro-using countries, and some business owners display Euro prices to make it easier for them. Likewise, whatever your currency, you may have a rough idea of what its exchange rate against the Euro is – but you’re unlikely to know what the exchange rate against the Kuna is!
Currencies to take with you and changing money in Croatia
Taking your ‘home’ currency (Euros, UK Pounds or U.S. Dollars) to Croatia and changing it there will not result in any problems – all are easy to exchange for Kunas in the country, although other currencies can of course be changed too.
If your home currency is something other than these three, and you’d like to play it safe, the best currency to take to Croatia is Euros.
Hotel exchange rates are usually quite poor, so try to avoid changing your money at your hotel. You’ll probably be better off changing your money in a bank or in one of numerous Bureaux de Change dotted around towns.
Food and drinks in Croatia
In the coastal regions of Croatia the cuisine has a rather Mediterranean flavour, as you would expect, with lots of olive oil used in the preparation. However, Croatian cuisine does have its own distinct identity, especially in regards to the cooking of fish. The tradition of grilling and roasting fish and delicacies of the sea has been carried down from generation to generation, where the taste of the fish depends on the grilling technique and the type of wood chosen. There is also the tantalising Dalmatian olive oil method of cooking, gradelavanje, which gives the fish a particular and fantastic taste. All along the coast and the isles, the fish menus are unrivalled - even the humble sardine will never taste quite so delicious. Many Croatian fish restaurants have their own fishing boats, so you can be assured of the freshness of the fish. Also, it is not uncommon to choose your own fish from a selection of different species kept on ice in the centre of the restaurant.
Croatian cuisine isn’t restricted to fish, there are many delicious meat dishes too. Grilled pork and roasted lamb are common dishes, and beef too, which is often cooked in a delicious tomato sauce, although you can, of course, have your steak ‘straight’. Regional differences in Croatian cuisine are quite evident and in the north of Croatia Austro-Hungarian culinary influences are strongest. One finds meats cooked in bread crumbs, goulashes served with stuffed cabbage, and a dish called sarma, a winter delight of a rare excellence. In the region around Zagreb, strukli, thin sheets of cheese cooked in water, is a speciality. In Slavonia, the speciality is kobasice, or pork sausages. Along with the many types of delicious sausages on offer, there is the famous kulen, which is very similar to salami.
Connoisseurs of cheese must try all the different cheeses on offer. In the markets one finds a thick white cheese svjezi sir sold in little plastic sacs and usually eaten, as an accompaniment to a salad, with salt and pepper. Paski sir, a hard cheese from the isle of Pag, is an excellent cheese and one of the most reputed.
For century known for its values, both in gastronomy and alternative medicine, olive oil is one of the "controlled origin products" of the Istrian setting. Rich olive groves grow on the fertile and red soil in almost every part of Istria. However, the most famous, top-quality olive oil comes from the northern part of Istria, around Tar and Porec, although fine olive oil is also found in the region of Vodnjan.
Seafood also deserves a special place at the Istrian table. Cod Istrian-style, Istrian-style fish stew, seafood risotto, scampi "na buzaru" are only some of the characteristic Istrian seafood specialties. From the distant past Istrian prosciutto has been a famous and widely recognized Istrian hors d`oeuvre. It is tastier if thinly sliced. In all fine Istrian restaurants prosciutto is served with cheese and olives although it is also used for preparing hot dishes.
In Istria pasta is a characteristic hors d`oeuvre. Pasta is prepared with all kinds of sauces. Ravioli, "posutice", "fuzi" and macaroni are prepared with different meat, game, vegetables, mushrooms or escargots. Although you can taste different kinds of mushrooms in Istria, like the well-known and very tasty "martincice" and "lisicinke", probably the most famous is the Istrian truffle. There are different ways to use this delicacy, ranging from combinations with "fuzi", omelettes, sprinkled on steak, with game, or truffles can even be used for preparing pastries.
Characteristics of Istria are also asparagus that grow in the wilds and are gathered in spring. Although asparagus are bitter, they are very tasty when prepared with eggs, as a salad or side dish. They are very healthy and are recognized as an excellent diuretic agent.
Apart from a bottle of olive oil, a valuable gastronomic souvenir is surely a bottle of "biska", typical herb brandy from Roc or Hum. There is also excellent homemade honey and along the road on the Istrian west coast you can buy multicolored bottles with brandy and fruit. Fig brandy is also one of the characteristic types of brandy.
Those who have sweet teeth will not be disappointed when it comes to choosing something off the shelves of the slasticarne. So many different influences: cream cakes of Austrian inspiration, nut cakes of eastern influence, kremsnites dripping in honey, rozata egg cakes, savijace strudels, delicious cakes oozing with cream, or one of the rich Dalmatian tarts.
The wines & beers of Croatia
Among the top quality red wines are Postup, Faros, Babic, the Dingac red from the Peljesac peninsular, and the Teran wine of Istria. Among the first class whites are Posip, Grk, Bogdanusa, and the well known sweet desert wine, Prosek. Even the region’s drinking water, which flows from the rivers Jardo and Cetina, is a speciality. Thanks to its purity and pleasant taste it is considered not only to be healthy, but is also mixed with wine to create Bevenda.
Not to be forgotten is the wine, known for its special taste of the warm south. Croatian wines were already reputable but they are becoming more and more renowned.
The Croatian beers most frequently drunk are Ozujsko pivo and Karlovacko pivo, both of which are excellent. Foreign beers tend to be more expensive, so unless you have a preference for a particular foreign beer you’ll do no wrong choosing Croatian.
Finally you must try, before or after enjoying one of the many varied dishes from the Croatian menu, the different sorts of schnapps. ‘The water of life’, Rakija, when made from a base of plums is Šljivovica, from grapes is Loza, and from herbs is Travarica.