Croatia Travel Guide: 5 Tips for Planning Your Journey

Croatia, Planning, Solo Travel — By on January 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm

by Caroline Eubanks
Special to Lost Girls World

I had read a guidebook about the Dalmatian Coast and drooled over images of the idyllic sapphire waters that could make Italy jealous. I even caught an episode of Rick Steves to catch up on my history about the former Yugoslavian nation. But did I have any idea of what to expect from my first solo adventure? Absolutely not. From the moment the Croatia Airlines plane made its descent into Split, I had already fallen hard for the country. It’s easy for solo travelers to choose a destination based on the traditional Grand Tour, but if you’re looking for something a little different, here’s what you need to know about traveling solo in Croatia.

1. Croatia has the appeal of Italy with the price tag of pre-Euro Greece. Meaning? It’s super affordable. While young Aussies, Americans and Brits once spent their summers island-hopping in Greece, many have since moved up the coast to the Balkans. Budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair fly into Split, Dubrovnik and the capital of Zagreb, as well as the national carrier Croatia Airlines. Accommodations are also a bargain, as the women at the bus and train stations will tell you as they offer up rooms at their homes. If you’d rather stay somewhere slightly more legitimate, the hostels will cost you less than 100 kuna. As of this publication date, 1 kuna is equal to €0.13 Euro or $0.17 US. The food, which is inspired by Italian dishes like pizza, pasta and risotto, can be purchased for less than $7 US.

2. Croatia’s dangerous liquor of choice is rajika. And just like its sister liquors, like grappa (Italy) and ouzo (Greece), it burns all the way down. But if a local offers you a shot of it, you can’t turn it down since many make it themselves. Just smile and say “zivjeli.” In the party towns along the Dalmatian Coast, specifically Hvar Town and Dubrovnik, the drink of choice is buckets or carafes of mixed drinks with long straws. If you haven’t yet learned your lesson in the backpacker hostels around the world, watch out for these drinks. You can’t taste the alcohol, but you’ll likely feel it bite you in the ass. Beer is also a cheap and basic choice if you don’t want to risk it.

3. The early season is your best friend. I recommend visiting between May and early June before the islands become overrun with tourists from Italy, Germany and Australia. Early season also means cheaper deals on flights and accommodations. You won’t be fighting Americans in line for the attractions because our country doesn’t seem to have embraced the country the way other European nations have. I only met one other American while I was there.

4. The only way to see the Dalmatian Coast is by water. Don’t bother trying to see the coastal towns by bus. There are dozens of tour operators that run cruises from Split to Dubrovnik, visiting the islands in between. BusAbout, Sail Croatia and Travel Talk are just a few. They include a week’s worth of on-board accommodations, meals and daily swims in the Adriatic. If you’d rather stay on dry land, Blueline and Jadrolinija operate ferries to many of the islands. Check their websites for schedules.

5. It’s not as dangerous as you think it is. Since Croatia was caught in a devastating war in the last twenty years, many people still imagine it as dangerous, but that is not the case. When I told my friends and family I would be going there completely alone, they pictured scenes straight out of Hostel and Taken, but their fears turned out to be unfounded. As with any place, you have to be aware of your surroundings and you’ll have a great time. With that said, as Patty Hodapp unfortunately found out in Greece, the police are not always your friends. There have been reports of men claiming to be police officers trying to abduct women in Dubrovnik. The lesson here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to dance with that cute stranger, but be sure to keep your guard up.

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  • Very cool tips. With a little effort — and a trip through Albania — a visit to Croatia can be part of a tour around Greece, so it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.

  • tiho says:

    It is Rakija not rajika … and nothing is open in early season … only two months worth of going there are July and August … although it does get busy … but who cares, you will be on the Yacht most of the day – right 😉
    There is no better place on earth … Nowhere !!! and spend your money …

  • Annie says:

    Great tips! I am absolutely dying to see Croatia, and even more so kicking myself for not doing it when I lived in Italy! I suppose there is good reason and I hope that means when I do finally make it there (maybe next year???) I will be a wiser traveler 😉

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  • Lia Valazza says:

    Thanks for the tips on travel in Croatia. Visitors should remember, there is more to Croatia than the Dalmation Coast. There is a large Lipizzan facility that would be worth visiting. That is if you can pull yourself away from those stunning blue seas!