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 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, 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 : $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 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.


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.


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.


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, 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 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 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 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 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, 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.


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

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SARAH DODDRoad Tripping Alone Across Croatia During the COVID Pandemic
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Discovering the Beautiful Island of Sao Tome & Principe, Africa

As we were getting ready to land on the island of Sao Tome & Principe in Africa, the man sitting next to me on the airplane looked over and quietly whispered to me, “you must be going to the island for work, no?”

With a very confused look on my face, I smiled and said,

“No, I am going for tourism. I have been traveling alone in West Africa for the last 3.5 months and this is my last stop.”

He looked at me totally shocked, as if I had told him something that was absolutely absurd and unheard of.

“Look all around us and see if you notice anything in common with the majority of the people”- he mentioned

I awkwardly turned around, looking to my right and to the left. He was right, there was a commonality:  Couples, many, many couples. They were of all ages, the giddiest of them being the elderly couple sitting in the seat in front of us, which were kissing endlessly until the plane hit the ground.

So, what the man next to me was trying to determine with his original question is: why on Earth would someone travel to a beautiful island destination, full of lovers, COMPLETELY ALONE?!

Over my years of traveling, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the typical line: “One day, when I have the love of my life by my side, I will travel to that incredible destination I have always wanted to visit, but until then, I will wait.”

Many people constantly wait until another day, and the sad truth is that many will never actually visit their dream destination because they are constantly waiting on a future change or person to come.

Sure, Sao Tome & Principe is a beautiful island and there are many lovers that visit there, but it’s suitable for all types of travelers, even solo travelers. As I was looking out the window as we were landing I did not get upset by his random question to me, nor did I enter in a depression of the reality that I was there completely alone. In fact, I felt the opposite. I could feel the excitement building as we got closer and closer to the runway, knowing that I had 8 full days to explore this small island, which is the second smallest country in Africa.

Sao Tome & Principe was already on my good list before entering, considering the fact that as an American I did not need a visa for up to 15 days. That was an excellent plus, especially given the amount I spent only in visas in West Africa before arriving. In fact, the no visa applies to all European citizens and in many other parts of the world.

NOTE: Before booking a flight it’s important to check and make sure you need a visa. Many require visas in advance. 

Flying to Sao Tome is quite simple. Portugal and Ghana are the normal layovers to enter into Sao Tome through Tap Air. I was super impressed with the company, which had competitive prices, good amenities on board and good food options for the long international flight.

NOTE: Keep in mind that it is absolutely necessary to have you Yellow Fever Certificate. The moment you get off of the plane there is an officer at the door checking each card individually. 


Language: Portuguese

Dinero: Dobra, euro accepted in many places

This is a cash ONLY country. I made the mistake of visiting with little cash and when I arrived I spent a whole entire day trying to get money transferred in by Western Union.

After spending all day at the bank, the transaction was unsuccessful. I then started to investigate different ways to get money and I was informed that if you really need to take out money with your card then you can visit EcoBank and talk with the person in charge. They will then give you a code, which allows you to take out money from the machine. I obviously did not know this, or I would’ve done this in the first place.

If that does not work, there are small places available that you can transfer money by PayPal with 5% commission. In the end, this was the option that I ended up going with. The transaction was super simple and in an official building.


It’s quite difficult to get lost on the island. Throughout most of Sao Tome, its one main road, with few turn offs. The road conditions are not excellent and especially the more south you go, the more likely the chance is you will need a 4×4.

Without a doubt, the best way to get around is by renting a car. Public transportation is available (yellow minivans shared with many people), but it only stays on the main roads and will not take you to the waterfalls, plantations and all of the places that are worth the visit.

Renting a car will cost you €40 a day plus gas, and if you want to rent a guide, another €20.

I’ve visited the island half of the time by myself and then the other half with a local guide. Looking back, I am happy that I spent the extra money for a guide and the driver, because the roads were rough and as a passenger I was not responsible for any sort of damages that could’ve happened on the road.

In addition, a local guide can give you lots of interesting information, tell you stories and make the experience even more meaningful.

I was traveling alone in the beginning, but I found an elderly 73 year old man that was also traveling alone. We decided to split the travel costs and have a fun adventure together.

Motorcycles are also available, but you need an international motorcycle license. However, I was told by many people that the police do not ever check your license, but in the case that they do, you would be required to pay a fine.


There are countless options for lodging, ranging from very luxurious, mid range, to budget AirbnB rooms. I decided to try many different places out in order to get a more well rounded opinion on the accommodation options available on the island.

For the low budget travelers, the cheapest option is Airbnb for around $12/night. These options are available more outside of the city, but still within walking distance. However, if you are a solo traveler and are looking to meet people, this is not the best option in my opinion.


There are two main guest houses in the city, which can range anywhere from $40-100 a night, depending on how many people you are traveling with. This is an excellent way to meet other travelers, cook and share meals and have a common area to talk and have a community of people around you.

I really enjoyed my stay in the guest houses and if you are traveling with another person, the price comes out to be very reasonable.

The two main guest houses are: Sweet Guest House & Sao Pedro. They both have different atmospheres and are located on different parts of the city, so depending on your taste, you can easily decide which one is best for you.

Both are about a 10 minute walk to the city center and easily accessible by car. I tried both of the guest houses out and I can say with 100% confidence that either one of them are excellent choices.


The best thing about here is the cozy atmosphere, the shared, fully stocked kitchen and common area. I met other travelers there and even learn how to cook some delicious Nigerian food with 2 Nigerian men that were there for work. The common area has a big TV and couches for people to sit and relax, as well as an excellent outdoor area, right off the kitchen, to eat outside.

The vibe is very good there and the rooms are spacious and comfy. Of all the places that I stayed, this one had the best air conditioning, which was a huge plus! The staff was helpful and even organized a trip for another traveler and I to the south of the island.  They did all the work and all we had to do was show up, pay and enjoy the trip.

Breakfast is available in the morning at an additional price, which included tropical fruits, coffee, eggs, etc.

Highly recommended.

For more information, click here


The best part about this place, in comparison to the other places that I stayed in the island, was its distance to the beach. You literally walk out the door, down the street two minutes and the beach will be right in front of you. Also, if you plan on visiting the chocolate factory, it as well is just a 2 minute walk.

You can feel the vibes of this place the minute you walk in. The huge pool, surrounded by palm trees gives this place a very tropic feeling. It’s a perfect place to lay out by the pool and read a book, relax or even go for a swim.

This is a good place to meet other travelers, in a location that is ideal and safe. The guesthouse is gated,  so I had to fear in laying out by the pool in the evening or night.

The owner was very helpful in helping me to organize my stay, finding nice places to eat and organizing my transportation.

Breakfast is included in the morning for an additional cost and has a large variety of fruits, cereals and bread.

Overall, I highly recommend this place!

For more information, click here


After visiting the guest houses, I decided to try out a couple of hotels in order to see how they are different in comparison to my experience at the guest houses.

The first hotel that I stayed at was Hotel Central. It gets its name because of its location. It is centrally located, right in the middle of all of the action. It´s just minutes away from the main market and restaurants. Wifi was not available in the rooms, but there is a small couch downstairs where one can sit and use the internet.

The rooms were very comfortable, with air conditioning. A breakfast buffet was included in the morning, which offered eggs, fruits, bread and cereal.

A very great alternative if you want to be centrally located!

For more information, click here: 


If you are looking for a place that’s more upscale, then look no further than this hotel. This hotel is just 15 minutes away from the airport, in the area “Vila Dolores.”

The rooms were very modern, spacious and elegant. The hotel had all the nice extra amenities that I love, such as a robe, slippers, hair dryer and a a mini fridge to store my drinks.

This hotel has 24 hour security and a good parking area if you have a rental car. This is a quiet place to go and relax, located 10 minutes by foot by the city center.

Breakfast was included in the morning, with different options of fruits, cereals, eggs etc.

For more information, click here: 



If you are a chocolate lover, then this is your place to splurge! Years back Sao Tome & Principe used to be the world’s largest cocoa producer, but from what our guide explained, after the small country became independent, a lot of the plantations throughout the island were abandoned. The cocoa history is quite interesting here and you can learn about it at Claudio Corallo Chocolate Factory.

For just 4 euros you can join a chocolate tasting tour where you get the chance to try all kinds of delicious chocolates and learn about the history.


It can get a bit wild, but the market is a great place where you can get a good feel for the local culture of the island. This place is packed full of people selling fruits, fish, meat, and everything you can possibly think of. They can get a bit rowdy in there, so hold on tight to your stuff.

They sell a lot of raw fish and meat, so if you have a weak stomach, you may want to just visit the market from the outside.

I highly suggest buying some Jackfruit and trying it out. It’s not available in all parts of the world, so it’s a fruit that everyone should try at least once.


This is a unique 1566 fortress which is now converted into a museum. This is great place to visit in the city center, with rich history and excellent places to take photos.


There are so many dishes available in Sao Tome, which are strongly influenced by the Portuguese. One of my favorite activities that I did within the city was visiting different restaurants and trying typical dishes.

The most common food on the island, without a doubt, is fish, banana and rice. Other local dishes that I enjoyed are:

Calulu: a traditional dish prepared with fish, veggies (eggplant, onion, spices and typically served with rice and plantain. This was my favorite dish that I tried.

Barriga de Peixe: traditional grilled fish, with comes served with rice, or breadfruit

Cachupa: delicious dish, made with green beans, corn and broad beans.



In my opinion, the south was the most impressive part of the island. Its a straight road to get there and is located about 2.5-3 hours by car from the airport.

I highly recommend spending at least one night in the south, but it is possible to just do a day trip, although it will be a bit rushed.


This was one of our first stops on our way to the south of the country. This is one of the most original and largest cocoa plantations, which many years ago had thousands of locals employed.

There are many places for breathtaking views from there and it’s definitely a stop that you must visit.


I absolutely loved visiting here. There are some amazing views and it’s interesting to see the water pound hard against the rock to create a large blowhole.

Although my guide told me it was not a good idea, I still decided to go down the hill closer to the rocks. Its interesting to see up close and its a better place to get a photo.


This rock is one of the most famous volcanic rocks in the hole world and it’s impossible not to see if you are traveling to the south. You can either take a hike towards the rock or get a nice shot from the road.


This was such an impressive beach, with beautiful white sand. Out of all of the beaches that I explored, this was one of my favorites. The area was super clean, white sand and very peaceful.

The roads are unpaved to get there, so it’s recommended to go with an SUV. There are different bungalows available to sleep, which is an excellent idea for at least one night.

This is also a popular turtle beach between the months of September and April. Here you will be able to see female turtles lay their eggs in the sand, which is a pretty neat experience!


I took a long stop here to explore the area where the fishermen were hard at work, bringing in the fish and cleaning their boats. They were all so friendly with me and had no problems with me taking a few pictures.

From Porto Alegre you can visit Rolas Island, which is the area in which you can cross the equator. It takes about 20-30 minutes and will cost anything between 35-45 euros.

I did not make that trip, but I have heard from other travelers that its a beautiful experience!



On my road trip by car to the north of the island, I came across the Blue Lagoon. There is a very pretty view spot from the road, or you can go down and swim in the crystal blue water.

This is an excellent stop for divers or snorkelers who love to explore the underwater life.


This has the reputation for being one of the best swimming areas on the island. It easy to reach from the capital and its worth the visit. This is a good place to get some amazing views and to relax on the beach.


This is one of the most important towns on the island. What I loved about visiting this area was going into the town and getting the authentic feel of the people on the island.

I stopped and had a local lunch and had the opportunity to connect with the kids, listen to them sing and put on performances for the International Kids Day.

If you are feeling really adventurous, just outside of Neves you can find the beginning of climbing point for Pico de Sao Tome, which is the highest mountain in the whole island.



The center of the country is where one you can explore different waterfalls, see the forest and even bird watch. There are many different endemic species of birds and on a chilled out day, this can be a great option to explore.


This is the main place that one can go and learn about coffee, processing, harvesting and have a good coffee tasting.

Coffee is a huge part of their culture here and its a must see when visiting. It’s very close to the capital and can easily be done in just one morning.

Here you can also visit some of the plantations. If you are lucky, a cute kid might even come up to your window and hand you a cocoa pod so that you can suck the sweetness out of each bean. It tastes just like candy!


This is a waterfall that’s about 20 by car minutes from Monte Cafe. I went during the dry season, so it was impossible to swim, but my guide mentioned that many people enjoy swimming there. The waterfall is accessible by car and requires no hiking to access it.

Its located in the forest and the drive getting there is beautiful, but quite bumpy!


If you have a lot of time it is highly recommended to visit the neighboring country, Principe. At this moment there are not boats that take tourists between the two islands, but flights are available at different times throughout the week.

Prices range from €70-150 one way. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to make this trip, but I plan to go back in the future and check it out.

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adminDiscovering the Beautiful Island of Sao Tome & Principe, Africa
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