Road Tripping Alone Across Croatia During the COVID Pandemic

Croatia is a destination that many travelers dream of exploring. It’s a small bucket list country, with just over 4 million people, with countless places to visit that will take your breath away!

Given the limited number of countries that one can travel to with an American passport during the pandemic, I narrowed my search down to a few of the countries that would allow for my nationality to come in and travel freely: Croatia, Turkey, and Mexico.

To mix things up a bit, I decided to revisit each of them, starting first in Croatia.

I will note that my travel situation is different than others because I have Spanish residency, which allows me to travel freely within Europe, stopping in nearby locations, such as Montenegro. Without my European residency, I would’ve needed a COVID test upon returning to Croatia from Montenegro, even if it was just for a day trip.

If you are planning to travel to nearby countries, check the latest updates so that you do not run into any problems along the way.

How to Get There

I started my road trip from Split, a beautiful coastal city that serves as a perfect access point to many other parts of the country and the Croatian islands.

I flew from Barcelona to Split on Vueling Airlines for around 35 dollars.

I also searched from other destinations and found the country to have many excellent connections to other parts of Europe and the USA, for a very reasonable price.

I always use www.skyscanner.com to find all of my flight deals. This will give you the ability to search all of the dates for the entire month (or year) in order to find the date that has the best fare.

Getting Around

Without a doubt, the best way to get around Croatia is in a rental car. In total, I traveled a bit more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) by car, which gave me so much flexibility to see everything that I wanted to see and the freedom to stop in the places that are a bit harder to get to by a bus.

I like to book my cars by www.rentalcars.com, which always gives me a good variety of cars to choose from, with excellent and competitive prices.

There are two different options for driving with car insurance. You can either get the full insurance through the company that you rent from, which will be an extra 20-30 dollars a day, or you can get the full insurance through the search engine website for around $75 for 6-7 days.

In total I paid:

Car Rental: $90 dollars (77 euros) for 1 week

Full Insurance through www.rentalcars.com : $87 dollars — (74 euros)

Total: $ 178

Gas is a bit more expensive in Croatia than in other places around Europe, but in total, I paid around $120 for fuel, which was not so bad considering how many miles I drove!

Also, keep in mind that if you are traveling across the country, you will need to budget in the additional prices of the highway tolls, which could be up to $50 in total, payable by card or local currency. If you have more time and do not mind going slower, you could drive the coastal highway, which is free of charge.

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If you are in Dubrovnik and are looking to rent a car for just a few days in order to see some of the surrounding places, such as Bosnia or Montenegro, I highly suggest the local company called, Avax Rent a Car.

The price was about 35 dollars for the entire day, with full insurance included and no extra fee for crossing into the neighboring countries. I picked the car up in the city center and returned it to the airport, which was saved me a lot of time on my path.

If you are unable to travel by car for whatever reason, it’s very easy and cheap to get around by bus, but you will have more limitations.

Choosing the Best Route

If you have around 2 weeks or more, I highly recommend starting with a rental car in Dubrovnik and making your way up along the coast, ending in Zagreb.

This route will give you the chance to stop and see many amazing attractions and towns along the scenic coastline.

I started my journey in Split and then bussed to Dubrovnik. I then rented a car from Sixt car rental and started my road trip from there.

I highly recommend Sixt because if you start in Dubrovnik they will allow you to drop your car off with no one-way fee in Zagreb! I searched almost all of the companies and most were charging hefty fees to drop the car off in another location. If you rent a car in Zagreb and try dropping it off in Dubrovnik, the one-way fee will apply.

Places to Visit
SPLIT

Split should be on the travel itinerary of every person traveling to Croatia. In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to visit a second time and I still found tons of new places to discover upon returning.

The old town is absolutely stunning. It is a UNESCO site and you could walk for hours throughout the streets and never run out of places to explore.

Some popular attractions include:

DIOCLETIAN’S PALACE: Incredible landmark built in the 4th century. If you are passing through the old town, it is impossible not to run into the palace.

SAINT DOMNIUS CATHEDRAL: You can actually climb up the tower to get amazing views of the city, which is highly recommended.

My favorite part in all of Split was the Marjan Hill viewpoint. You will have to walk up lots of stairs to get there, but all of the effort will be worth the incredible views that you get of the city and ocean. There is a walking trail up there if you want to continue exploring, which I highly suggest, especially if you are looking for a good running path.

If you want a good introduction to the city upon arriving, they have free city tours available. This can be an excellent experience to give you an orientation to all the city has to offer and give you the chance to ask a local for all of the best places to see, eat and explore.

DUBROVNIK

This is one of the most popular, if not THE most popular city in Croatia. Just like Split, Dubrovnik has an incredible Old Town, which is said to be one of the most well preserved medieval cities in the entire world!

I walked aimlessly through the Old Town, stopping in all the little shops, exploring the narrow hidden side streets, and indulging in some delicious local food.

I would highly suggest giving yourself at least 3 hours to walk around this area and at least 2 additional hours if you want to pay around 30 dollars in order to climb upstairs and walk the perimeter of the town.

Dubrovnik is a haven for history buffs, Game of Throne lovers, and photographers that are looking for unique photo and video opportunities. The city an excellent mix of has palaces, churches, monasteries, and historic monuments.

ZADAR

This was a nice stop that served as a midway point from Dubrovnik to Istria. I did not spend much time here, but I did get the chance to explore the city, stroll along the water way and see some ancient ruins, historic buildings and medieval churches.

Zadar also serves as a great location if you are looking for a central place to stay in order to be connected to many popular places, such as Plitvice Lakes and other surrounding islands.

PLITVICE LAKES

This is one of the most popular attractions in Croatia, located about 1.5 hours from Zadar or 2 hours and 15 minutes from Zagreb.

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This national park covers over 73,000 acres and is a great place to go if you love the outdoors and are looking for a place to hike. There are 7 different routes you can take, which are easy to follow so that you do not get lost.

The most basic route should take you around 3 hours and the longer ones could take up to 6-7 hours, which will allow you to see everything. There will be a bus and a boat included in the price that transfer you to different parts of the lake.

Important reminder: Drones are not allowed. I carried my drone in my bag, but there are cameras at different locations and many signs indicate that it is prohibited.

The hours are from 7am-6pm

The entrance fee is was 180 kuna (26 USD).

I had read that the park tends to get very crowded before the pandemic, but I barely saw anyone during the time that I was there.

Where to stay: I booked a small guest house from booking.com, which was only about 6 miles (10 km) from the waterfalls. I highly suggest staying nearby so that you can get up and arrive there early.

Accommodation ranges from about $20 + for a private room.

TROGIR

Trogir is located about 35 minutes by car from Spit (50 minutes south from Sibinik). This is an absolute must, especially if you love history and beautiful architecture.

Trogir was labeled a UNESCO site in 1997. There are some beautiful historic sites to visit, the most popular one being the Cathedral of St. Lawrence.

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It is a town that is much calmer than Split and directly on the water. I did not get the chance to spend the night there, but most locals recommend that it is an ideal place to stay for at least one night.

SIBENIK


Sibenik is another charming coastal city, which has 2 UNESCO sites and is a famous spot for Game of Throne fans. On my tour through the town, I was shocked to find that Sibenik is only one of five cities in the entire world to have 2 world heritage sites in it.

Don’t forget to check out St. Jacob’s Cathedral and Sv. Nikola Fort

ISTRIA

Istria was my favorite area that I got the chance to visit in Croatia and the place I decided to spend my birthday.

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This is a perfect area of Croatia if you love gastronomy and wine. In fact, this area is known as the “Tuscany” of Croatia.

I have traveled the world extensively for the majority of my adult life and some of the best dishes I have ever tried were in this part of Croatia.

Istria is a paradise of truffles! White truffles are only grown in two parts of the world, Istria and in another region in Italy. Ordering a pasta dish with white truffles is an absolute must while there.

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In fact, I loved the truffles so much that I even went out hunting in the woods with the dogs! I highly suggest having this experience with Karlic Tartufi. They are a local family that has so much passion, experience, and knowledge about truffles. The experience was very interactive, informative and the truffle tasting after was delicious!

Where to Stay: I highly recommend Roxanich Wine and Heritage hotel.

I stayed there for two nights and I had an amazing experience. The hotel has 32 rooms, all uniquely designed in beautiful and bright colors. The environment is very laid back, quiet and the views around are lovely.

I love the fact that this hotel has a nice outdoor swimming pool, an indoor spa, with 2 saunas and a Turkish bath.

Below the hotel is 4 floors of wine cellars, where they prepare the wine. They have tours available daily, with wine tasting, which was worth the experience!

Where to eat: I had such an amazing experience at Konoba VRH restaurant that I thought it was definitely worth the mention. They offer an excellent selection of traditional Istrian cuisine.

I had a huge dish, with 5 types of pasta and truffles for my birthday lunch and I left feeling so happy and satisfied! They even made me a dessert with a candle for my special day. Highly recommended!

ROVINJ

Rovinj is a popular town in Istria, which attracts around 40,000 visitors a day in the regular season. The town has a very cozy and artsy feeling to it, with tons of amazing photo opportunities for anyone that loves photography.

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This is a great place to spend a relaxing day, exploring the old town, strolling along the harbor, or even taking a boat for the day. There are boats available to Venice, Italy on a daily basis, which only takes about 3 hours.

There was an excellent market in the center of town, which sells local products, souvenirs, and of course, truffles!

Where to eat: I had an incredible lunch at Hotel Adriatic. I ordered sea bass, with a truffles pasta and a lemon tart for dessert and it was all delicious. Highly recommended!

OPATIJA

Opatija, located in Kvarner Bay, was one of my last stops on my road trip across Croatia. If you research information about the area, you may hear it being referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”

Slatina Beach is the biggest beach in Opatija and is a fantastic place to visit, but my favorite location was the 12 km promenade built in the early 1900s.

The views are stunning as you walk along the ocean. I highly recommend stopping to see the statue of the Maiden with the Seagull, which is the most photographed place in the whole area.

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There are many nice parks, one of them being the Park Angiolina, dating back from the 19th century. This is claimed to be one of the most beautiful parks in the whole country.

Opatija is in an excellent location if you are looking to take a road trip across multiple countries. It is only a 2-hour drive from Slovenia and Italy, so you could visit Opatija and then cross over and see Lake Bled in Slovenia, which is SO worth the trip!

Where to Stay: I suggest the Hotel Navis, which is an upscale hotel, located on the water. I stayed here for 2 nights and waking up to the sound of the ocean waves was the PERFECT way to end my stay in Croatia.

The hotel also has an excellent restaurant, where you can order fresh fish, traditional Croatian dishes, and specialty wines.

Another great place to eat in the Kvarner region that was worth the mention is a place called Konoba Zijavica in Mošćenička Draga, located right on the water.

This a family-run restaurant (over 40 years and counting), that specializes in seafood plates. The shrimp and octopus plates are highly recommended.

USEFUL INFORMATION:

  • Money: Croatia Kuna (6.4 kuna – 1 USD)
  • Language: Croatian, although English is often spoken
  • Visa: no visa (90-day max)

Don’t forget to also check out:

5 IMPORTANT THINGS I HAVE LEARNED DURING SELF QUARANTINE

IS SOLO TRAVELING WEST AFRICA WORTH THE EXPERIENCE?

10 MOST COMMON QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ON TRAVELING ALONE TO SAUDI ARABIA

SARAH DODDRoad Tripping Alone Across Croatia During the COVID Pandemic

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