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Questions About Croatia

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Hi, I would like some tips on Croatia:

1.I am thinking of going in May and or September. I don't want to be there when there are giant crowds and I need to go at a more budget friendly time. I am thinking September mainly because I can save a bit more for my trip. But, May is not off the table completely.


2.I am hoping to go for 12 days. I am thinking of traveling to Istria, Dubrovnik and Split. I am also thinking of renting a car mainly because I have read that it is easier than traveling on buses and trains in these areas and it saves time. Does anyone have suggestions about car rentals, is it easy to drive in these areas?


3.Does anyone have any suggestions on hotels and/or places to visit while I am in these areas in Croatia (I would like a hotel that is about $125-$200 USD and has wireless internet access)? Are there day trips I should think of taking just in case I have time and what would you recommend? Also, if you have suggestions for guides I can hire to take me around these cities that would be fantastic.


Lastly, if anyone has any other tips that would be great. I know this is a lot to ask. I am just really trying to get as much advice as I can. I have never traveled to Eastern Europe so I am not sure what to expect.

Thank You in advance!

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    I visited Croatia in 2009 (I missed Istria but did get to Dubrovnik and Split). You can read my old trip report (and see pictures etc.) by clicking on my name. There are lots of other trip reports posted on Fodor's as well - I suggest you read them.

    I rented a car in Zagreb, stopped at Plitvice Lakes National Park (THE highlight of Croatia for me), then on to Dubrovnik with a few stops on the way (one night in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina,). I found driving very easy until I got into Dubrovnik, where it was a bit challenging (not impossible - but be prepared). There is a big modern highway from Zagreb past Split most of the way down to Dubrovnik (I think eventually it will go all the way, not sure if it is done yet). The Croatian drivers may seem a little nuts, passing on two lane roads at high speeds with seeming little passing clearance, but that's just how they drive, and I got used to it quickly.

    I visited in early October. By then the season was ending though it was still warm in Dubrovnik, but I still kind of wished I'd visited a few weeks earlier, in September. May is probably not a bad time either, I hear.

    Many people also visit at least one island like Hvar or Korcula off the Dalmatian Coast. I visited Korcula. You can use car ferries but they run up and down the coast only a few days a week. There are car ferries daily between Korcula and the mainland but you have to take two separate ferries via Orebić.

    I used buses and catamarans from Dubrovnik back up to Split (via Korcula) and that worked out fine for me, not having a car to deal with the ferries. Depends how you do it I guess; if you don't go to an island you don't have that complication.

    Note that in many of these towns in Croatia there are very few proper "hotels" and more apartments and private rooms - commonly called "sobe." For Western Europe, I might use a conventional hotel booking website but for Croatia I'd look at alternate sources for smaller places like Sobe or apartment-booking websites. I actually wound up preferring to stay in places like this vs. conventional hotels, but if aren't used to it, it takes some adjustment.

    Otherwise, I loved traveling in Croatia (and Slovenia) and hope to go back. I felt very safe, and Croatia is very accessible for western travelers. Many people speak at least some English but if not, I really had few issues getting around or communicating one way or another.

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    I went in May/June -- gorgeous wildflowers and still mostly off-season. I would think that Sept. might also suit well. Either way, if you plan on visiting any islands, do check the schedules carefully -- as I recall, some lines change markedly on 1 June and again on either the 1st of Selp. or Oct. (sorry, I don't remember which, but it doesn't really matter what I remember because you need to check it either way!)

    With 12 days, you can see some wonderful things, but you WILL need to be selective. I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, note their opening/closing times, and mark them on a calendar. Then pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from the train/bus station or whatever, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together.

    FWIW, I thought the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet provided particularly good and comprehensive coverage of Croatia.

    For your time in southern Croatia (Split and further south), you probably don't need a car and I would encourage you to use public transportation in that area, as a car will only be an inconvenience in Split, Dubrovnik, and many of the islands. A car can be an advantage for visiting the Plitvice Lakes and Istria; whether it is worth it depends on your specific plans and interests.

    I agree with Andrew about the ease of driving in Croatia -- the major roads are very easy to drive; the back roads mean sharing the narrow roadways with some seemingly suicidal drivers. I didn't "get used to it." I did realize that I needed to drive with extreme defensiveness on back roads, and that's hard to do when there is no place to pull off.

    No need to hire a guide ANYWHERE in Croatia unless that's your preference. Just get a good guidebook or two.

    Like Andrew, I consider the Plitvice Lakes the single most worthy site in Croatia -- and unlike Andrew, I did visit Istria and some other parts of Croatia, too. I can't recommend this park highly enough -- it is truly magnificent. Try to spend a night either before or after, and try to plan on at least 6 hours in the park.

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    I cannot comment as to the better of May or September as we went to Croatia this August. The towns and parks were busy but most of the roads were fine and we found the driving easy. We hired a car from Zagreb Airport via AutoEurope and we were very pleased with it.

    If you are staying at Split and do not want to go as far as Plitvice there is another National Park at Krka which is very beautiful. We went there as we were told that it is not as busy as Plitvice in August. It was still extremely busy but very well organised.

    We booked our apartment in Stivašnica, a small village on the coast, and hotel in Karlovac via Booking.com There is a huge variety of accommodation available on the site and we have always found the reviews very helpful in guiding our choices.

    The people in Croatia were lovely. Many, especially those interacting with tourists, spoke excellent English but were delighted when we made an effort to say some basic phrases in Croatian.

    In all it is a delightful country and whenever you go I am sure you will have a great time.

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    I'M currently staying at hotel bellevue, Trogir near Split. The hotel is good value and has decent wifi in the room. Trogir old town is well worth a visit being a Unesco world heritage site.

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    Spring is better for travel because the days are longer, not to speak of the flowers and fresh greenery. Also the locals aren't sick of tourists yet.

    Get some guidebooks and/or search the Internet for more information about sights to see in Croatia and environs. It's nice to travel some by boat in Croatia, but the options are fewer in the shoulder seasons.

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    We just returned from Croatia. We were there just for 4 nights/5 days (combined with four days in Prague and 12 days in Spain) Would have loved more time in Croatia, but had commitments in the other places. Wonderful people, spectacular scenery, good infrastructure, medieval ruins galore, amazing seafood, decent prices. We traveled with our two young adult sons and visited Hvar, Split, Krka and the village of Skradin.

    Tips for Split/Krka
    - In Split, we loved the Piazza Luxury Suites, brand new boutique hotel right on the main square. Few amenities, but stylish w/ stellar service and coffee/chocolate croissants delivered to your room in the morning. Get a room on the plaza side, could be best view in Split. We used their driver, Mario, to take us to Krka and also to take us to and from the airport, catamaran etc. He was very professional and drove the hotel's Mercedes.

    - When you tour Diocletian's Palace, pay extra to see the basement level - very impressive, used as location for Game of Thrones

    - We're sorry we didn't get to Plitvice, but Krka was better for our family because it was only an hour away from Split and you can swim in the absolutely stunning pristine waterfalls. I had read on tripadvisor that it's packed until 3pm, so we got there at 4pm and stayed until 7pm (in the summer it's open until 8pm - check hours your time of year). It was not at all crowded, so the TA advice payed off. A true paradise.

    - After Krka, Mario took us to the tiny picturesque village of Skradin, which he said has the best food in the country. Ate at Bonaca (where Bill Gates supposedly gets take out for his yacht). Had a giant sea bass prepared w/ potatoes and vegetables, roasted in a special oven. Best fish we've ever had.

    - We had the Lonely Planet and DK guidebooks. DK was too heavy to carry around. LP had good historical info, but wasn't up to date w/restaurants, hotels, etc.

    ---

    Let me know if you decide to go to Hvar. There we stayed in an airbnb and I have some amazing restaurant recs.

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