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Inspired by my Croatian heritage on my grandfather’s side, I first traveled to Croatia to study in 2015. I stepped off the plane in Dubrovnik without knowing anyone and only knowing a couple of basic Croatian phrases that my grandfather taught me. It wasn’t long before the hospitable, community-oriented culture welcomed me with open arms. This sense of safety in Croatia is one of the reasons I decided to make this country my permanent home.
Since 2017, I’ve been based in Dubrovnik while traveling throughout Croatia and beyond. As well as traveling alone, I’ve led group tours to nearly every corner of the country. From my collective experience of traveling throughout Europe, Asia, and the U.S., I can definitely say that Croatia is the safest country I’ve visited.
However, there are some essential safety tips you should familiarize yourself with before planning a trip to Croatia.
Crime in Croatia is relatively low, and pickpocketing is less common compared to other European countries. However, travelers can be an easy target for petty theft in Croatia. Keep your belongings close to you and avoid carrying large sums of cash.
Croatia’s currency is the Croatian Kuna. Avoid carrying around more than US $250 (roughly 1,600 Kunas) at once. Be mindful of your belongings in your accommodation and always keep your bags locked. Try to avoid leaving money and valuables unattended while on the beach – always ask a friend or family member to wait with your belongings while you go for a swim.
There aren’t many major travel scams in Croatia, but a few tips can save you from getting overcharged as a visitor.
There are many “Euro Net” ATMs and foreign exchange booths throughout Croatia, however, you’ll get a better exchange rate if you take out money from an official bank or one of its ATMs.
Many places accept both Euros and Kunas, but often the price in Euros is slightly inflated. Generally, you’ll get a better deal if you pay in Kunas. Most places accept bank cards, but you can often get a cash discount when buying jewelry or other souvenirs.
Although it doesn’t happen often, there are cases when owners may overcharge tourists, even for a coffee or couple of drinks. It is required by law that all customers receive a receipt, and this is also a way to double-check you were not overcharged.
Looks out for taxi drivers overcharging you. You can avoid this by asking for a price to your destination before getting in the taxi, and asking the driver to keep the meter on during the journey.
Uber, Cameo, or Eko Taxi are also all available in Croatia and give you a set price in advance of the journey beginning.
While Croatia’s slower train system isn’t the most convenient option, you can easily travel by road or boat.
The most affordable, safe and reliable way to travel around Croatia is by bus. However, make sure you get back to the bus on time at rest stops, as Croatian buses are notorious for leaving tourists behind.
To rent a car in Croatia you will need a valid driver’s license from your home country. You will also need a debit or credit card to make a security deposit. You can get a lower daily rate for car rentals if you are able to provide a higher security deposit, which is usually easiest by credit card.
Keep in mind, they drive on the right-hand side of the road in Croatia.
Most car rentals offer manual cars, with a couple of automatic options at almost twice the price. Roads are narrow, sometimes along cliffs, and you have to look out for careless drivers who don’t follow the speed limit.
The police in Croatia do not need probable cause to pull you over. They may perform random drink driving checks and Croatia has a zero-tolerance attitude to drinking and driving if you are under 24, and the limit is 0.05% of alcohol if you are over 24.
Traveling by boat is a great way to explore Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coast. You can visit any of the islands using public or private ferries. You can also hire a skippered yacht to sail through Croatia’s islands with a group of friends or rent a speed boat for the day. You can skipper yourself if you have valid Navigational and VHF licenses.
Croatia is an ideal destination for adventure travelers. It is critical that travelers follow a few common-sense safety precautions while enjoying any adventure activities.
The Adriatic coast is filled with hidden coves ideal for cliff jumping, but you do need to be careful to watch where you jump. In some areas, rocks are not visible from above, or loose gravel makes the cliffs unstable. Always check with locals to see if it is safe, even if you see others jumping.
Watch out for sea urchins (known as sea hedgehogs in Croatia. They don’t bite and are not a deadly threat, however, their spines can cause painful swelling. The spines can get stuck inside your skin, similar to getting a large splinter. So, you’ll want to avoid stepping on them or trying to pick them up. They are often found on rocks around shallow water.
There are several incredible hikes in Croatia. It’s best to hike the mountains with a guide or group of friends, as it is easy to get lost when you are alone.
Always stay on the main path, as some remote areas in the mountains still have land mines, or unexploded bombs, leftover from the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s. It’s also important to stay on the marked walking paths, such as at Plitvice Lakes, to avoid slippery cliffs and to preserve the park.
Croatia experiences a fair amount of seismic activity, especially near Zagreb and along the coast, and damaging earthquakes do sometimes occur. On December 29, 2020, a 6.4 magnitude quake struck near the town of Petrinja, about 30mi (km) south of Zagreb. Widespread damage was reported along with at least five deaths. In March of 2020, Zagreb was struck by a 5.3 magnitude quake.
When traveling in earthquake-prone areas, plan ahead by carrying a small emergency kit and your important documents with you, and identifying a safe evacuation point. During an earthquake, find a safe place indoors, away from windows, and ride it out. After the quake, head to your evacuation point, and get in touch with your emergency contacts. Be prepared for aftershocks, which are sometimes larger than the original quake.
Cafe bars are a big part of Croatian nightlife and are generally safe. However, you need to take precautions as you would elsewhere, such as never letting your drink out of sight, and going out in groups.
Split and Zagreb have the best nightlife options, as they are the biggest cities in Croatia. However, in Split try to avoid clubs that are trying to lure in tourists off the street with flyers or drink specials. Some of these venues are infamous for scamming tourists by overcharging them for drinks or services and demanding payment upfront.
It’s also best to avoid nightclubs and bars that draw in rowdy football fans, as fights often break out between opposing team supporters.
Overall, Croatia poses few threats to travelers in terms of crime. However, here are some further safety considerations.
Croatia is a popular destination for families, but the country isn’t necessarily child-proof. Be mindful of watching your child on stairs without railings, beaches without lifeguards, and narrow sidewalks close to incoming traffic. Also, note that many buildings and apartments do not have ramps or elevators, so call ahead and ask your accommodation provider if you plan on bringing a stroller.
I’ve traveled a lot alone around Croatia and found it to be safe. However, women are not immune to cat-calling. Some men may persistently try to talk to you if they see you’re sitting alone. Just be polite but firm if you are not interested in talking to them. Accommodation in hostels, private apartment rentals, and hotels are all safe for solo travelers, using normal common sense.
Croatia is safe for LGBTQ+ travelers. Same-sex marriage is legal in Croatia, but nearly 90% of the Croatian population is Catholic and in some of the smaller towns and villages you might find some locals are more conservative.
Some people may stare if they see public displays of affection between same-sex couples. While most of the gay bars are in the capital of Zagreb, there are plenty of LGBTQ+ friendly places that welcome travelers every year throughout Croatia.
Before you buy a travel insurance policy, check your government travel warnings and health advice – there may be no travel insurance cover for locations with a government travel ban or health advice against travel.
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