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Transportation in Croatia

Expat life in Croatia has its advantages. Expats living in Croatia’s beautiful vacation destinations benefit from the local infrastructure for the tourism industry. But there’s more to daily life than leisure: We also have info on education, health, safety, and transportation in Croatia below.
Local ferries connect the many Adriatic islands with the mainland.

Air Travel Is Largely Aimed at Tourists

Most expats arrive in Croatia by plane, at one of the country’s five international airports. These are located in Dubrovnik, Rijeka (or rather on the nearby island of Krk), Split, Zadar, and, of course, Zagreb. Many international flights are seasonal, though, mostly during the summer season. However, Split Airport offers flight connections to Germany and Italy all year round. Most other international flights outside the vacation season start and land in Zagreb.

Zagreb Airport, aka Pleso Airport, is Croatia’s busiest international transportation hub. There are regular flights to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK. Again, you are able to choose among more destinations during the summer months. Throughout the year, flights to Frankfurt, Munich, London, Paris and Vienna are especially frequent.

Zagreb Airport is situated about 17 km from the city center, in the suburb of Pleso (hence the alternative name). It is easy to get there via an airport shuttle from the central bus station on Marin Držíc Avenue. Due to the high number of passengers (nearly 2.6 million in 2015), a second terminal is currently under construction. The project, worth 2.5 million HRK, is expected to be completed at the end of 2016. Local authorities are hoping to see Zagreb Airport become an important regional hub, which hopefully will lead to a wider range of international flights to and from Zagreb once Terminal 2 is finished.

Traveling by Rail Can Be Inefficient

Within Croatia, there are also domestic flights, e.g. from Split to Zagreb. However, travel by bus or train is far cheaper. Unfortunately, the railway network in Croatia is not particularly efficient. There are international rail connections to Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovenia.

However, the interior railway routes are somewhat lacking. Northern and eastern Croatia profit from a major east-west link between Dobova (on the Slovene border) to Tovarnik (in the Serbian border region), which includes Zagreb as an essential stop. On the other hand, train connections to and within Dalmatia are not nearly as good.

Since much of the railway infrastructure is in dire need of modernization, trains often travel at low speeds. Though they can be rather slow, they are nonetheless fairly clean and mostly on time. If you are looking for a particular train connection, please check the website of Croatian Railways.

Buses Are a Better Option

Due to the above mentioned disadvantages of train travel within Croatia, residents and visitors alike tend to prefer going by bus or coach. Intercity buses are often faster than the respective train connections, and the well-developed market for coach travel includes a variety of providers with relatively comfortable buses and fairly inexpensive tickets.

The main hub for intercity bus travel is the Central Bus Station in Zagreb. It also features an adjacent tourist office, and its homepage provides an up-to-date timetable, as well as contact information/directions, in English.

Major bus companies (which also offer some online information in English and/or German) include:

Coastal Ferries

In addition to planes, buses, and trains, ferries also belong to Croatia’s public transportation network. There are large Adriatic seaports in Ploče and Rijeka (especially for cargo traffic), and important passenger ports in Split and Zadar. International car ferries will bring you and your vehicle to Ancona or Bari on the Italian side of the Adriatic Sea.

There are many more local ferry routes to Croatia’s numerous islands in the Mediterranean. In summer, these routes are mostly aimed at tourists while visitors in winter might quickly notice that the ferries now cater to residents of the larger islands who commute to work or school on the mainland. The national ferry company operating along the Croatian coast is called Jadrolinija.

Driving in Croatia

If you prefer being independent of public transportation, you are probably interested in driving in Croatia. The road network is generally well maintained, but rural roads can be rather narrow and curvy. In such areas, you should also beware of farm animals or local wildlife crossing the road — or simply standing in the middle of it. The Croatian highway and expressway system is quite modern and safe, though, and there are more new highways under construction.

Highways are easy to recognize: Their symbol is a white A on a green background (for autocesta), and they have numbers from 1 to11. Highways in Croatia are all toll roads, so you should have a major international credit card or enough cash (kuna or euros) at hand.

Unlike highways, Croatian expressways do not require you to pay any kind of fee. They are the most important state routes, e.g. D1 from Macelj, via Zagreb to Split, or D8 along the coast from Rijeka to Dubrovnik. More information on highways and expressways, including traffic and safety reports, can be found on the Hrvatske autoceste website.

Driving Permits

If you are in Croatia for a short-term stay only, you can keep using your own driving license. After six to twelve months, however, you usually need to exchange your foreign driving permit for a Croatian one. To do this, you normally have to go to the nearest police station and bring along the following documents:

  • your old driving license
  • an official translation into Croatian
  • a recent medical statement that you are fit to drive
  • two recent passport photographs
  • a completed application form
  • fees (HRK 105)

However, before you go to exchange your driving license, do check with the local police or with your embassy in Croatia if any special requirements apply to license holders of a particular nationality.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Paul Zimmerer

"The InterNations network helped me transition from a study abroad student to a resident of Zagreb."

Emma Baxter

"The InterNations network helped me get in contact with other expats and internationally minded people in Zagreb."

Global Expat Guide