Getting around Croatia: cars, trains and buses

Car, public transport or bicycle: Croatia can be discovered in many ways! Here is a mini-guide on how best to organise a trip to this beautiful country.
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If you are planning a journey of discovery to Croatia, you should consider how to get around the country. There are several ways to explore Croatia’s beautiful territories and the choice depends on the type of trip you want to take, your budget and the stages of the itinerary. Travelling with your own car or renting a car is the best way for many to explore the country in total freedom with a tailor-made itinerary. Travelling by car can also be very convenient, especially for those travelling with family or in a group with other friends as they share the expenses.

Many decide to travel to Croatia by ferry and then once there rent a car. If you don’t want to travel by car, an alternative is public transport such as buses and trains. As for the latter, however, it must be said that Croatia’s rail network is not so well distributed and connections are not very fast. In most cases, one can replace the train route with a bus route, which allows one to reach one’s destination just as cheaply but without losing too much time in travelling and changing.

There is no shortage of those who choose to visit Croatia by bicycle or backpacking, although two wheels are the most popular option in Croatia. Thanks to the mild climate in many coastal areas of the country for many months of the year, cycling is an option that more and more people are considering, especially when it comes to exploring the islands. Cycling and walking are part of a slower type of tourism that allows you to get to know towns and territories off the beaten track and off the main tourist routes.

Here, then, is a mini-guide to the different modes you can consider for a voyage of discovery in Croatia.

Travelling by car in Croatia

The car is certainly the most comfortable way to travel around Croatia

Croatia is a country that lends itself perfectly for a nice on-the-road trip by car. Those who live close to the Croatian border can reach this destination by car, while those who live further away can consider two other options. As a first, alternative solution to travelling by car, you can consider reaching Croatia by ferry, perhaps even taking the car with you. Ferries depart from the main Italian ports and make it possible to reach the largest Croatian coastal cities thanks to the numerous connections operating especially during the summer season.

The second option is to reach Croatia by plane and once there rent a car to set off at leisure to discover this beautiful country. The advice in this case is always to rent the car in advance before leaving, taking time to evaluate the numerous rental companies, the cars available and also the rental conditions.

Generally, renting a car at the airport is not only the cheapest solution, but also the most convenient because it saves you money on the taxi or bus you would have to take to get from the airport to the city centre.

The advantages of travelling to Croatia by car are not over yet, as having your own vehicle gives you many other benefits. Not only does the car allow you to plan a trip in total freedom, touching lesser-known towns and cities, but at the same time enjoying greater privacy, a detail appreciated especially by couples. By using a car, moreover, you do not have to constantly check and depend on public transport timetables, but can decide on your own timing and travel arrangements. Driving in Croatia is not particularly difficult because traffic regulations are very similar to those in other European countries; furthermore, in recent years the country has carried out a programme of modernisation of the road network to enable fast and safe connections between different Croatian towns and between Croatia and its neighbouring countries.

The main rules for those travelling by car include wearing a seatbelt and observing speed limits, which are 130 km/h on motorways, 110 km/h on motorways, 90 km/h outside built-up areas and 50 km/h in built-up areas. It should also be noted that it is forbidden to use a mobile phone while driving in Croatia, and that motorways are toll-free, with the toll being collected at the toll station in cash or by credit card.

Trains in Croatia

The train is convenient for reaching cities outside Croatia

Unlike other European countries, for Croatia we cannot say that the train is a good means of transport for discovering the country as the Croatian rail network is not well developed and has slow connections and fairly low quality trains. In most cases the car or bus can take up to half the time compared to the train to reach the same final destination, so if you want to travel by train the only advice is to arm yourself with a lot of patience as well as a lot of time. One of the advantages of travelling by train, however, is certainly the beautiful panorama that you can admire from the window.

In addition, it should be noted that there is no railway line connecting the cities on the coast, but only the main ports boast connections with Zagreb, especially in the summer; even in these cases, however, bear in mind that it always takes almost twice as long by train as by car. From Zagreb, however, it is possible to travel by train to other foreign capitals such as Budapest and Ljubljana.

Types of trains in Croatia

There are no high-speed trains in Croatia, but only these types of trains

Travelling by bus in Croatia

The bus is probably the cheapest way to travel around Croatia

Travelling by bus in Croatia can be a good solution if you cannot travel by car, as the network of bus connections in the country is well distributed and ticket prices are not too expensive. In addition, in most cases bus stations are located close to the city centre so once you arrive at your destination it is easy to start your visit. (An exception is Dubrovnik, where the bus station is about 5 km from the old town, but from there it is easy to take a local bus or taxi).

There are several bus companies whose routes cover almost the entire Croatian territory, also thanks to the modern motorway network; moreover, it is sometimes possible to find companies that run the same routes at similar times, so it is advisable to consult the official websites to see which one has the best price. In addition, in Croatia it is good to remember that transporting large backpacks and suitcases in the hold involves paying a surcharge, and that during the summer months, given the high number of travellers, it is advisable to reserve your seat in advance, especially if you are travelling between large cities.

Types of buses in Croatia

Buses in Croatia can be categorised into three different types:

The main companies travelling in the country are: Autotrans, Brioni Pula, Contus, Croatiabus and Samoborcek. There are also long-distance buses such as Flixbus that connect several European cities with Croatia. Other international routes operate with neighbouring countries such as Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Germany.

Domestic flights in Croatia

Although Croatia has as many as three international airports, Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, as well as other domestic stopovers, flying is not a very popular means of internal travel. Domestic flights are not numerous in winter, while in summer, connections between the hinterland and the coast are intensified with numerous flights between Zagreb and Rijeka, Split and Dubrovnik. Domestic flights can also be very cheap, especially in the low season, so they might be a good option to consider if you are not travelling by car.

Croatia Airlines, the national flag carrier, is modern, safe and reliable and also has bus connections between Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Rijeka airports and their respective city centres. There are not many connecting flights to the islands as most travellers prefer to use the ferry from the nearest mainland port.

Cycling in Croatia

Cycling in Croatia is a great way to get around and do sport!

Thanks to its beautiful scenery, location and mild climate, Croatia is an ideal destination for discovering by bicycle. This area offers many opportunities for cycling in every season, as you can explore river valleys, mountainous areas, ancient towns and the country’s Adriatic coastline by bike.

It is also possible to reach Croatia by bike as the cycle route known as EuroVelo 8 (EV8), which stretches from Cadiz, Spain, to Cyprus, also passes through Croatian territory. If you cannot bring your own bike, don’t worry: bicycles are easy to rent in Croatia, especially in Zagreb and the towns along the coast.

Other tours that can be taken in the country are chosen by those who enjoy slower journeys and contact with the local population; in fact, by bike, it is possible to visit little-known places and admire the millenary traditions of this country, which are the result of the various dominations that have followed one another. The islands, too, are perfect for a bike trip. Places like Pag and Lošinj are ideal for a quiet and relaxed itinerary, while other islands, with more hilly terrain, are suitable for the more energetic. Be careful, however, as the common trait of all these territories are spectacular views that are often addictive!