This article is part of our Trip Report – Our Summer Holiday in Dubrovnik and Beyond
One thing that we thought would be helpful to introduce into our international Trip Reports is an article containing basic information for travel to that country. We’ll kick this off with an article of Basic Information for Travel to Croatia.
The Republic of Croatia is located in Central/Southeast Europe, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, across the sea from Italy. It has existed since 1991. Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia and fought a fierce and bloody War of Independence that lasted until 1995.
Croatia has a population slightly in excess of 4 million, and it covers almost 22,000 square miles. The US state closest in size to Croatia is West Virginia, which is the 41st largest state.
Croatia’s capital city is Zagreb, inland in the north. Its biggest tourism city is Dubrovnik, in the far south on the coast of the Adriatic.
Croatia is a member of the European Union (EU), and in fact is the EU’s newest member, having joined in 2013. We don’t profess to have any sort of in-depth knowledge, but we suspect that becoming a member of the EU has hastened Croatia’s economic development by virtue of the economic and political stability that flows from belonging to the EU.
To help you place Croatia geographically, here’s a map showing the location of Croatia with respect to the rest of Europe:
And here’s a closer-look map at Croatia itself:
US State Department Country Page
If you’re American, you should always visit the US State Department’s Country Page for a country in advance of your international travel. Here’s a link to the US State Department Country Page for Croatia:
Visa and Passport Validity Requirements
No visa is required for Croatia, so long as you have a valid US passport and are traveling to Croatia for tourism or business for less than 90 days within a 180-day period. Upon entry, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond your planned date of departure.
Note, however, that if you transit a Schengen area country on your way to or from Croatia, you will likely need to have six months of passport validity remaining after your last planned departure from a Schengen country.
Because Croatia is not part of the Schengen area, the upcoming ETIAS Visa requirements that go into effect at the beginning of 2021 do not directly impact travel to Croatia. Again, however, note that if you transit a Schengen country on your way to Croatia, you may need an ETIAS Visa after 1/1/2021.
Immigration and Customs
Despite being a member of the EU, Croatia is not part of the Schengen common travel area; thus, there are immigration controls if traveling between Croatia and Schengen-area countries.
Currency restrictions for entry and exit are up to 10,000 Euros each direction.
Our specific experiences with Croatia immigration/customs were as follows:
Arriving by Air at Dubrovnik (DBV) Airport
Upon arriving by air from Prague (PRG), Czech Republic, which is a Schengen-area country, passage through immigration was smooth and easy. Perhaps we were fortunate to arrive at a time when not many other international flights were getting in, but lines were short and we passed through in less than 10 minutes. As obvious American tourists, questions were minimal and non-threatening.
Land Border Crossings Into Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina
During our stay in Dubrovnik, we took driving day trips into Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina (B&H). The border crossing for Montenegro was about 40 minutes from our Dubrovnik-area hotel, and the border crossing for B&H was no more than 10 minutes away.
The most important point we can convey here is – make sure you build time into your agenda for land border crossings.
Also, if you’re renting a car to drive yourselves across the border, make sure to let your rental car company know, so they can provide a “green card” for border crossings. We were charged a $25 fee for the green card by our car rental company.
Exiting Croatia into Montenegro took about 20 minutes in mid-morning. Once we got to the crossing booths, though, this direction was easy and uneventful. As American tourists, Montenegrin officials seemed happy to allow us in.
The same was true of exiting Croatia into B&H. We had a wait of about 30 minutes, mid-morning, and as with Montenegro, the B&H officials seemed happy to welcome American tourists.
Re-entering Croatia by land was more time-consuming on both trips. Each time, the mid-afternoon wait was at least 40-45 minutes. Croatian officials seemed to check everyone entering Croatia from Montenegro and B&H very carefully. Our passage seemed easier than some ahead of us in line, again probably because we were non-threatening American tourists.
One thing that was unusual about the land border crossing between Croatia and B&H was the number of people who walked across the border. We talked to some people about this and learned that it’s the normal way of life, if you live in B&H and want to visit the beach in Croatia, that you secure a ride to the border, be processed on foot and walk across (which was definitely faster than crossing in a car), and then have a pre-arranged ride waiting for you on the other side of the border.
Cars & Driving / Uber / Airport Transfer
You drive on the right in Croatia (and Montenegro and B&H). Although the terrain was hilly and the roads often curvy, driving was fairly easy. The roads we traveled were in good shape and wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic (aside from a couple of construction zones on the road between Croatia and B&H). You shouldn’t hesitate to rent a car and drive if you want to take road trips around Croatia, including going into Montenegro and/or B&H.
Driving into the heart of Dubrovnik itself seemed much tougher, and we didn’t try it. We suspect parking would be difficult at best.
We took Uber rides between our hotel (about 5 miles outside town) and Dubrovnik each time, plus one taxi ride out of Dubrovnik when we found ourselves directly in front of a taxi stand when we were ready to leave. Uber was readily available and inexpensive. Drivers were thrilled when we tipped them.
For airport transfer – We covered this in our “How We Got Great Value” article for this Trip Report, but we’ll briefly recap here. The online booking services seemed expensive. We ended up booking airport transfers through an email exchange with the Vijad Cavtat tourist agency. Communication and service were great, and prices were reasonable – 25 Euros each way (about $29) for a comfortable private van that easily held all 5 of us and our luggage, to be paid in cash.
We’d use Vijad Cavtat again in a heartbeat if we return to Dubrovnik. If you’re heading to Dubrovnik and need an airport transfer, email Vijad Cavtat at email@example.com.
Currency & Exchange Rate
The Croatian currency is the Kuna. As of the time this article is being written in March 2019, the exchange rate for 1 Kuna is about 15 US cents. Or, the other way around, 1 US Dollar is worth about 6.6 Kuna.
Over the past year, the exchange rate for 1 US Dollar has varied from a low of 6.04 Kuna to a high of 6.62 Kuna.
One way to think of it, to slightly simplify the math, is that 20 Croatian Kuna equals about 3 US dollars.
Credit Cards & Mobile Payments
Credit cards were widely accepted in Croatia. However, at some smaller shops we needed cash. It was certainly important to pick up some cash to use as needed. We’d generally do this at a bank, but for convenience we withdrew money using an ATM at our hotel. Be careful of the fees that are tacked on to ATM machines that are not located at a bank. Fortunately, our banking plan allows us to be reimbursed for these fees, which was nice.
Mobile wallet payments were widely accepted in Croatia, but not universally accepted. This allowed us to earn 3x points in the mobile wallet category on our US Bank Altitude Reserve card for most of our purchases. In addition, mobile wallet payments are generally preferred in Croatia and the rest of Europe, as they don’t require a signature like most direct US card transactions. That said, Croatia was slightly less mobile wallet-friendly than other European countries we’ve visited recently such as France, Italy and the UK.
One unique aspect of mobile wallet and other credit card payments in Croatia is that restaurant tips cannot be added to the credit card bill. In other European destinations, we’ve always been able to ask the server to add a tip before we paid, and this was no problem. This seems to be forbidden in Croatia. Thus, you’ll want to have cash on hand for restaurant tips.
Despite Croatia belonging to the EU, the Euro is not an official currency. Euros may be accepted as payment, however. There are some shops in tourist areas that take Euros and even advertise prices in Euros. And, we didn’t find any restaurant servers or drivers who seemed unhappy if we tipped using Euros.
Power Supply & Electric Plugs
Electrical power supply in Croatia is 230 Volts, 50 Hertz, AC. Croatia uses standard European round-pronged plugs, which look like this:
Remember that, just like in other European countries that use 220-230V power, your hair dryers and curling irons won’t work in Croatia. Or, better put, they’ll work momentarily and then burn out and be ruined (hopefully not setting anything on fire along the way). You can either bring a power adapter to convert to US-style 110V, or better yet, purchase a hair dryer and curling iron that is designed to operate at 220V.
Your laptop and cell phone probably have built-in power adapters such that they should work fine and without danger on a 220V power supply.
We hope that you’ve found this article of basic information for travel to Croatia helpful. We like to help our readers by taking stress and uncertainty out of travel – after all, we travel to relax and get away from our day-to-day stresses!
Do you have other tips for travel to Croatia, or anything else to add to our basic travel information? Please help other Middle Age Miles readers by sharing in the Comments!
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