With approximately 1,200 islands, azure waters and picturesque villages rich in history, Croatia is drawing more and more travelers to its shores. In fact, Croatia closed the 2012 tourism year as the Mediterranean’s fastest growing destination, luring travelers with its pristine national parks, adventure sports and UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the medieval Old Town of Dubrovnik. While travel in Croatia is pretty much a breeze, here are a few dos and don’ts to help you navigate the country’s diverse offerings more smoothly.
Do Drive With Care (And Don’t Talk on Your Cell)
While Croatian buses may run well, if you want to zip around more freely, rent a car. All of the major rental companies, from Avis to Hertz, are represented in Croatia, and can be picked up at the Zagreb airport. It’s usually cheaper to book online, and best to reserve well in advance if you are making a summer trip — cars have been scarce in the popular travel months of July and August. Almost all Croatians drive a manual transmission, so if you prefer automatic, let the rental car company know when you make the reservation. Also, don’t drive and talk on your cell phone — it is illegal in Croatia, and strictly enforced. You can drive with your own license and a passport for up to 6 months, after which time you would need a Croatian driver’s license. And while road signs are easily readable in Croatia, the driving sometimes isn’t. Local drivers tend to pass aggressively, and although the views on the coastal route from Split to Dubrvnik are breathtaking, keep your eyes glued to the road — the guardrails on some of the hairpin curves don’t look very reassuring. But you do drive on the right side of the road in Croatia, so you can relax about that.
Do Charter a Boat
If you are visualizing many paradisiacal swims in clear blue waters, then the Dalmatian islands are calling your name. Most of the residents of Dalmatian islands have their own small boats to travel between islands and the coast — it’s the easiest way to get around. When You rent a boat then You can say: I’ve seen everything.
Don’t park Your boat everywhere
When You enter the port ask somebody where You can moor You boat. Empty place doesn’t mean that You may use it.
Don’t Walk With the Masses
If You want to avoid peak of the season then avoid 20th of July to 20th of August.
Do Remember the Patron Saint
According to the last major census, almost 90% of Croatians are Catholic. So keep in mind that each village and town has a patron saint whose feast day will be celebrated with processions and ceremonies and probably a day off from work. Croatians are especially devoted to the Virgin Mary, whom they call “Gospa.” Keep your eye out for little shrines built throughout the countryside to honor her.
Don’t Call It Yugoslavia
Croatia has long grappled with invading forces and external governments: Hungarian, Habsburg, Ottoman, Venetian, Serbian and Yugoslav. The country only just gained independence in 1991, and immediately thereafter was thrust into the devastating Bosnian War of the early ’90s. Now, Croatians are truly free, with a well-deserved sense of national pride. Therefore, steer clear of calling them Yugoslav.
Do Call It Croatian
Linguists say the Croatian language is almost identical to Serbian, except that Croatian is written in the Roman alphabet, while Serbian is written in Cyrillic. Nonetheless, always call their language “Croatian,” and not “Serbo-Croatian,” as it has sometimes erroneously been called in the past; comparisons to anything Serbian can still be a touchy subject for some.
– Mayer Charter – Boat rental expert in Croatia