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Travelling Croatia

Croatia, a former part of Yugoslavia, lies on the Adriatic Sea just opposite Italia. The country wasn't affected as much by the separation war when Yugoslavia broke down, at least not those parts tourists come to. In the northern part and along the cost you will see no trace at all. If you're a citizen of the EU you don't need a Passport, just an ID card. The standard of living is similar to Italy, no shortage on anything. Prices in average lower than in most EU countries. Crossing the boundary is quickly and makes no problem. Stop after crossing and change some money into Kruna.

Driving in Croatia

Tarmac roads are mostly good and a lot of work is put into them. This sadly also means that every year less gravel tracks are available. New roads generally have middle-european quality while some secondary roads still require attention for their wide. Often crossing another car can prove difficult on those roads. The main roads will soon receive additions of Motorways. A still bad stretch to drive, especially with a caravan, is the coastal road from Trieste-Rijeka to Split. An immense traffic in summer and on weekends makes this less than joyful. Filling stations are plenty on the main roads, all carry unleaded and most accept the usual credit cards. In 1998 unleaded and diesel were among the cheapest in Europe but in 2000 fuel prices almost reach european standards. Still a BIT cheaper though with prices similar to those found in Luxembourg (lowest in the EU).

The Motorways have toll boots but are relatively cheap. Their standard may vary from excellent to just acceptable. Credit cards are not accepted here. Take great care when paying. All prices are shown on a table outside the toll boot. IMMEDIATELY count your change and ALWAYS ask for a ticket. If you think the change they gave you is wrong DON'T MOVE, shut off your engine. This blocks the track and soon attracts the attention of the supervisor so usually the cashier will not insist. I didn't check the change until after the toll on the E65 near Zagreb and I had to convince the cashier that I would come back and block the entire station until he agreed to give me the right change.

Croatian drivers have a lot of common with italian drivers. They tend to drive in a more agressive way than most of us are used to. This should however seldom prove a problem if YOU think for them. Surprisingly if YOU make a sudden unexpected move they seem to anticipate it and don't start shouting and waving immediately. Drivers try ridiculous overtaking but their often anemic old cars aren't quite up to it so you better give them a chance. Same is true for Lorries and I don't have to tell you that a 20tons+ Lorrie loaden with petrol HAS the right of way, do I? Also the cars aren't in top shape and lorries are commonly overloaded to the point they can only drive in first or second gear downhill so be prepared for a surprise when coasting.

Parking your car may often prove difficult but look at the way local drivers do this. Almost all parking is tolerated as long as you don't block ALL the road. Police in touristic regions isn't too keen to ticket you except when the local authority decided to install parcmeters. Many parking spaces in touristic regions have to be paid for. An bad example is the island of Krk where you will have a really hard time finding a suitable free spot near any village.

Speeding is expensive. Police has modern equipment and you must pay at once. Sensible speeding is mostly tolerated. If not no local would still have a driving licence.

An important change from our usual way is that pedestrians are not given way. The common croatian driver will let you pass but he will not facilitate this. So take care- or cross in front of a tourist's cars.

In 2000 you had to drive all the time with the lights on. A lot of locals still don't do this but be aware of the law if you decide to keep them switched off.

Off roading

As in many not-so-overpopulated countries Croatia offers a good number of off-tarmac roads. Few interdictions are present (in 2000) but if an interdiction is signposted it really IS forbidden. True off roading, which means driving where no tracks are is rightfully forbidden. But there are so many secondary roads not covered in tarmac you won't be too much tempted to make your own tracks.

Click here for a roadbook.

Touristic tips

For the common touristic information needs there are quite a lot of books and guides around so help yourself. I can only give some small and personal views of this country.

When we went there we did it for the Adriatic Sea which is still quite clean. If you don't choose to stay on one of the many islands the coast has much to offer. We usually stay at Selce which is a village about an hour south of Rijeka and sheltered by the island of Krk.

Left: Selce from the air. The campgroun is just below the lower border of the picture.

 

Selce has an quite large camping located at the southern end of the village signposted Autocamp Selce. Many trees and an direct access to the water and within a few minutes walk from the small center are good sides, a noisy and crowded waterfront with a loud disco and lots of dust are the downsides. Washing facilities vary depending on the age of the building but don't expect too much. Hot showers are free for the rest it's bearable. During high season the campground is usually full. Quite a lot of locals leave their caravans all the year and just come for the weekend from Rijeka or even Zagreb (about 1,5 hours drive). Don't try to put a claim on the waterfront places. They are small, loud and overcrowded. Better take a large place some yards up the hill which also has the benefit of less noise. Credit cards are accepted, bread and fruit shops are on site. Dogs are allowed.

The town of Selce is still small enough to be explored in an lazy evening walk. Many restaurants invite you and their quality is quite good while the prices are way below those in central Europe. You get a good evening dinner for 2 including drinks, coffee and dessert for less than 10 Pounds in a waterfront restaurant. The many Gelaterias (Ice cream shops) offer great ice cream for 25 pence a ball.

Selce is also as good as any other coastal town as a base for excursions. I recommend doing a day trip to the lakes of Plitvice at about 120 Km distance. Famous for their natural beauty those lakes form a chain of 20 or so small lakes, all connected by waterfalls of all sizes. Wooden walkways let you pass along wonderful vegetation. Take good walking shoes. A bus service is running in the parc (free with the entrance ticket), in some places you must use free electric powered ferries. Sadly this region wasn't too far away from the Bosnian border and the parc was affected which leaded to destroyed walkways. But many efforts have been made and soon you won't be able to notice anything. The surrounding area may be a different story. In many villages around you can still see traces of war.

If you don't spend too much time in the park or if you do it in 2 days you can return by the way I did. Click on the map above to see the small roads I used. I draw a green line along those roads. Look for the starting point near just south of Plitvice in the right lower corner. Follow it to Uvala, Javornik and Lipice. Be warned however: The word road may well be overstressed for some of those mule paths. Beside this they are very hard to find as there are almost no signposts especially on the track to Lipice. A small track leading into the woods and looking more like a footpath may be the right road. So unless you have a PGS or better maps or an good orientation you may spend some time searching for a road. Also be prepared for some scratches as many "roads" are rarely used by cars.

Iself would avoid driving this stretch at night although Croatia is considered to be a "safe" country for tourists. I never saw an angry face or a fist waved but often encountered people who cheered and smiled at our passing. On our many miles I never felt unsafe like you often do in countries like Hungaria.

Handheld phones work in many parts of the country except the more remote areas in the mountains. A travel guide said that you must declare them at the frontier but the guards didn't say anything although they could clearly see both phones. No problem also for the GPS.

You can take your dog with you but you must conform to the often changing legislation. You will probably need an certificate of health as well as the vaccination certificate as this is a non-EU country. Some border guards indeed asked if we had the documents but never examined them. Be prepared to be fully scrutineered when reentering the EU.