(Yes, I’ve used a click-bait title)
I have made a 10-day roadtrip in Croatia in August 2017. If you plan to do the same in the next month or Summer, here are a couple of hints that might be helpful.
We were two, we planned – almost – absolutely nothing before setting foot in Central Europe.
The reason for this post is that although this not knowing how tomorrow will be thing can be fun, to have some things planned will allow you more peace and relaxation during your holidays (i.e., you won’t need to spend each night struggling with air b’n’b or booking.com).
2. Time of the year
I know it is complicated, but if you can, do not go to Croatia neither in July nor in August. The coast is absolutely crowded with tourists, just like you and me, but it always feels like an Us/Them thing.
Plus, food and groceries are expensive in the coast, and I don’t know if it is a seasonal trend (on average we paid 30€ for a meal in a restaurant).
I once googled “road trip planner” and endend up either on the first or second result which was Furkot. I have never heard about it before – how come! – and it.is.wonderful. It is a road trip planner in all its glory: where you will go, eat, sleep, how many hours you will drive in each day, how many kilometers between stops, among others.
It does not have the easiest interface and it annoyed me a couple of times, but after customizing your journey with how much driving you want to make per day, whether you want to pay tolls, whether you want to camp or sleep in chain hotels, you can configure pretty much everything and Furkot spits a proposal that you can analyse, edit and share with anyone.
This was how I saw my initial plan was too ambitious – of course – and maybe I would have to, reluctantly, compromise and not go to Montenegro.
Another nice thing about this free service is that it allows you to export your road trip in a lot of formats. You can add it to your calendar, GPS, excel, you name it. The not so nice thing is that it does not really have a mobile app.
In short, I cannot recommend it enough. Here is a print screen of our journey’s initial plan.
4. Car rental
This was one of the things that was stressing us a bit because the internet only has bad stories about car rentals, how they charged for stupid things after you returned the vehicle or how they charged extra for insurances or green cards.
Because of that, our first criteria was that it had to be a well known company such as Avis, Europcar or Hertz. The second criteria was: the cheapest.
I’ve compared the prices between rentals in Slovakia and Croatia and the difference was huge! More than double in Croatia.
Wait, what, Slovakia?
Oh yeah, sorry. We’ve spent a couple of days in Bratislava meeting old friends, and since we had to return to Viena in the end of our holidays, we’ve decided to rent the car in Bratislava – it was cheap (180,00€ for 10 days!). We went to Avis in Seberíniho 1765/9 and the service was great. We got an almost brand new car with all documents and insurance and when we returned it we only paid 0,05€ more!
Still about the car, while we were about to cross the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina (you have to if you want to go to Dubrovnik from where we came) I started reading these scary things about a certain “green card” which I’ve never heard about before. Some people wrote we had to ask for it in advance to the car company, others that it costs 130€. As we were getting closer to the border I started thinking that we might have some problems with the lads.
In all borders we’ve crossed they’ve never asked for this document, only the ID card. Because of the number of tourists doing the same as we, we had to wait a bit in lines at the borders, but nothing much.
Nevertheless, car companies do not ask where you are going with the car so by default all cars should have this document which states that the car holder is minimally insured in case of an accident.
6. The Internet
This lack of planning meant we had to be online a lot of times to search for accommodation, travel apps from the cities we were at, Tripadvisor or Yelp, or general information. I had maybe 1,5GB of internet available (no roamming now, hurrah) and it was enough.
So I recommend considering this ammount of GB available thing when travelling. The signal in Croatia was perfect everywhere we went, and all apartments had wi-fi.
7. Google maps
Although we had Furkot, we’ve travelled everywhere with Google maps. It is very trustworthy and probably the most up-to-date map. When we did not want to pay tolls it never made a mistake – even when we thought it was wrong because the road was too good to be free.
8. Motorways and Highways
Croatia has a similar system – and while we’re at it, similar prices – to those of the motorway system in Portugal. You grab a ticket, ride and ride and ride and when you’ve reached your destination, you leave and pay with card or money (or another electronic system) at a toll stop.
Since we had to cross a few countries, the information is that Austria, Slovenia and Hungary require vignettes to ride on some motorways, which you can buy beforehand. Croatia does not.
9. Road app
While we were travelling a friend asked us “Is everything alright, no wildfires where you are?” and we were surprised because we did not know about wildfires. Turns out it is rather common in Croatia to have wildfires during Summer. A few hours later we’ve actually seen a big wildfire and I was shit scared of actually being driving into it. So, on the road, I’ve installed HAK’s app, which is a very good app from the Croatian autoclub with English version. It notifies you of the roads which are closed, what to do in case of accident, where are the nearest petrol stations, etc., very useful and no one should make a road trip without it.
10. The cigarette lighter charger
Since we where always online with our smartphones to navigate using Google Maps, our batteries went out faster. That is why on the second day of our journey we bought this USB double charger in a croatian shopping centre, and it became indispensable.
11. The Music
As much as you can have fun listening to foreign radio stations, you NEED to start singing something familiar eventually. I thought of this beforehand and brought a USB pen drive which I prayed our car could read. Well, not only did it read USBs, it connected via Bluetooth to our devices, so: sweet. Anyway, I just wanted a reason to say we’ve listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and that this is one hell of a song. They are good road trip companions.
Seriously? Having a rented car?
Yep. Well, we didn’t actually use Uber in Croatia but we’ve never used it before and we absolutely loved the experience in Slovakia. But let me tell you, we seriously considered it in Dubrovnik. You see, this city is impossible. It is sweet and beautiful and I am glad I went there, but it is small for the ammount of tourists and Game of Thrones fans that go there. One way to avoid the inherent traffic is, for example, to charge 6€ for an hour of parking in Dubrovnik.
If your staying near Dubrovnik but not exactly there, do not take your rented car there, but Uber there.
Also, while we were there, they were trying a new service: Uber Boat! You could go to some Islands from Split using Uber, pretty cool.
And this is it. I hope this post is useful to some people. But it is so easy to travel in Croatia that in reality you can just go. Everyone is very nice and speaks great english, the food is great, the weather is good, the beaches are good (spoiler: all images are edited, the sea is transparent, not really THAT blue!) the roads are good and road triping is fun.
Obviously, we are in love with the Internet since our teenage years and we are that type of travellers. But you can also do everything offline, using paper maps, and sleeping in those rooms advertised by ladies and lads by the road!