One of the most popular destinations from Zagreb is undoubtedly Split. The Dalmatian capital, once known as the Gateway to the Dalmatian Islands, is now a booming tourist resort in its own right, and many tourists to the capital head south after their time exploring Zagreb. But how to get there?
There are a range of options, and the two cities are well serviced with connections, including travel options through the night. Here is what is on offer, depending on your budget and comfort level.
Travel by car has become a lot quicker in recent years with the expansion of Croatia's motorway network. The main route (A1) is just under 400km from Zagreb to Split, which will get you there comfortably in four hours with no traffic issues. Simply follow the green signs to Karlovac from the city centre, and you will eventually come to the motorway. Croatian motorways have tolls, and the one way charge to Split will set you back a little under 200 kuna one way.
It should be borne in mind that the motorway is sometimes closed at the tunnel at Sveti Rok (just over halfway), occasionally for de-mining, but more often if there is a strong bura. Should this happen, a diversionary route is in place, very scenic, but a little frustrating for those in a hurry, and plan to add at least an hour to your journey. How to check on the motorway status before you travel? The Croatian Automobile Association (HAK) has a very useful info service on traffic problems, also in English. You can find it on the Total Croatia News homepage. Please note that in peak season, the motorway can get very congested, especially around Sveti Rok, leading to significant delays.
Another option for those not in such a hurry and looking to save a little money is to take the old road from Zagreb to Split, the main route until the motorway opened, but now only with a fraction of the traffic. Speed limits will slow you down compared to the motorway, but so too will the beauty, and highlights on the route include Lake Peruca, Europe's second largest fortress in Knin, and UNESCO World Heritage Site and natural paradise, Plitvice Lakes.
The bus route between Zagreb and Split is busy and one there are departures every hour and more during the day, with overnight buses also in operation. The earliest morning buses depart at 05:00. Journey times range from five hours to a little longer, depending on the number of stops and how much (if at all) the bus uses the motorway.
Prices also vary considerably (as much as double), with the cheapest fare being 79 kuna one way, but many companies offer discounts on return tickets. The information flow, and an amazing concept called online booking, improved recently with the launch of a new website called www.buscroatia.com which lists all the departures, bus comapanies and prices, allowing you to plan your journey and book the ticket in advance, which you are advised to do during the season.
Some bus companies offer free WiFi onboard, but few have a toilet. The journey is typically broken at a service station halfway, with a break of 20 minutes.
The line between Split and Zagreb was upgraded a few years ago, and there is a daily service between the two cities, with two trains daily in either direction, as well as an overnight service (which also comes with a car transportation wagon service in season), daily from May and three nights a week during the low season. Prices are similar to the buses, with special offers frequent, and the daytime journey time is just over five hours.
The night service takes longer, but is comfortable and can substitute for a hostel stay for those on a budget, especially out of season, when the trains are quite empty, and a carriage to oneself is the norm. You are advised to buy your ticket in advance during the peak season. Sleeping compartments are available. For the latest timetables, the most efficient option (in English too) is www.bahn.de
Croatia Airlines operates daily flights from Zagreb to and from Split, with a flight time of about 40 minutes, much quicker than the bus, but also quite a lot more expensive, as well as the travel to and from both airports. Prices vary considerably – check out www.croatiaairlines.hr for the latest schedules and prices.
By Car Share
The concept of car sharing is growing in Croatia, and there are several Facebook pages now live, providing a platform to connect drivers and would-be passengers, including one which is solely focused on the Zagreb to Split route (https://www.facebook.com/groups/395072813905936/). Drivers post details of times of seat availability and price, passengers of their needs, and connections are made.