Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The Ups and Downs of Life in Croatia - Comparison is the Thief of Joy

January the 25th, 2023 - When it comes to life in Croatia, especially for a foreigner, there are many ups and downs that you won't be remotely acquainted with. The special little quirks of life in Croatia (be they good or bad) are the spice of life. Sometimes those spices are invigorating, and other times they just give you diarrhoea.

One trap you will naturally end up falling into, whether you express it or not, is comparing Croatia to your home country. This is something that is absolutely unavoidable and we all do it. Anyone who tells you that they don’t do it is lying. Perhaps they don’t do it anymore, but they are certainly guilty of having done it in the past. It’s completely natural to compare, no matter how often some ‘woke’ yoga instructing faith healer has told you not to on Instagram. No offence to yoga instructing faith healers at all, but you know the type of person I’m referring to, and it’s time we stop trying to pretend human nature can be controlled, because to some extent - it can’t. Comparing things to other things is part of perfectly normal human cognition, and while it isn’t always helpful, there’s little you can do to stop it. The key is to not let it affect you, and for that you need time.

Croatia shocks in many subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. If you’re not used to a country so bizarrely obsessed with paperwork, documents, copies of documents and flashes of ID cards at every semi-official turn, this will more than likely be your first surprise. Many (but not all) countries have moved on from this, and Croatia is also progressing and has been since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to. There are now many more things available to obtain from the comfort of your own home and online, but it would be a lie to say that the country isn’t still clinging on to queues, clerks and pieces of paper. 

While you might find what should be a very simple task to be an arduous, laborious venture full of unhelpful government officials and clerks, you’re also just as likely to find what should be an arduous, laborious venture easy and with a lot of help along the way. Croatia is as much of a country of balance as it is paradoxes. I can’t count how many situations I’ve had that should have been easy turn into ridiculous wild goose chases, and in the same breath, I also can’t count the amount of difficult problems I’ve had made so much more simple. Life in Croatia is a balancing act of sorts, to say the least.

Here’s a funny example for you; I once had to get a certain tax document. I went to the main tax office in Zagreb and a large, burly security guard told me that they don’t do that here. I insisted on speaking to the woman sitting behind the glass like some sort of museum piece for a second opinion. She, annoyed at me having disturbed her game of Angry Birds (and in fairness she was on a high level), confirmed what the aforementioned large, burly security guard had said. I eventually got the document I needed, although nobody from two institutions who should know, the tax office and the finance ministry, seemed to know who was supposed to give it to me (or even what it was). An argument even broke out between three women in one room at another tax office who couldn’t agree on what the document was and who was supposed to provide this document while I just stood there twiddling my thumbs. Explaining everything in Croatian had zero effect.

You’d think the tax office might be able to give you a pretty run of the mill tax document. More fool me, I suppose.

A few weeks later, I had to go to MUP for something which needed quite the explanation, and I had mentally prepared myself for the waiting, the random children running around in circles in an attempt to cure their terminal case of boredom, the clerks getting irritated at people for forgetting documents and the vending machine which, quite like the infamous McDonald’s ice cream machine, appears eternally out of order. 

I entered the building, bypassing the policeman by the door who is paid to stand and do, well, not a lot, taking a number and sitting down. One random circle-running child appeared from behind a pair of jean-clad legs, but I wasn’t made dizzy watching them spin around and around in their boredom for long. Up came my number, I handed over what I had, I was given what I needed, and the clerk barely even looked at me, let alone spoke. I was in and out in ten minutes. No questions (even the ones which should have been) were asked.

I have several such stories. For every bad one, I have a good one. Sometimes two.

I could have let myself get hung up on the whole tax document ordeal and compared it to the UK, where, honestly, not only would you never need to get such a document, but I’m not sure it even exists there. I would be lying if I said that in the throes of my frustration at the time, I didn’t think about how utterly ridiculous this entire quest was, how it was taking up my whole day, how incompetent every person I’d spoken to was, and how this would never happen in Eng… and then I stopped myself. No, that wouldn’t happen, but something else equally as absurd likely could and would.

The administrative bodies in Croatia, even in Zagreb, need a lot of work. Nobody can deny that. There is far too much paperwork, far too many things which require you to show up in person and take time out of your day to do so, and honestly, far, far too many people employed to do next to nothing but enjoy weird little power trips. Think of it like the meme about how many meetings could just be emails, that’s Croatian administrative bodies down to a tee.

For as much as expats complain about how such and such is not like that in their country in a negative sense, there is also such and such which is not like that in their country in a positive sense. Sure, you might be asked to obtain a tax document which not only does the tax office not produce, but apparently nobody has ever heard of. But you might also be pleasantly surprised by a MUP clerk who just wants to get home and who asks you nothing and couldn’t care less about the rules even when you’ve come armed with papers (and copies of said papers) and detailed explanations.

It takes time, a hefty dose of patience and a long exposure to the realities of life in Croatia before you can truly reach Nirvana, which is where you simply accept it for what it is, you pick your battles, and you realise that two realities can co-exist and don’t need to be compared to each other. Dealing with incompetent clerks and difficult-to-navigate rules is a headache wherever you might find yourself, but when you’re enjoying an ice cold cheap beer, looking over the glorious Adriatic to the rugged mountains and watching what Alfred Hitchcock once described as the most beautiful sunset in the entire world, it all seems worth it.

We all live our lives in a kind of process. Things are peeled away gradually, and different ‘levels’ are reached along the way. What we found difficult ten years ago, we likely don’t now. What we spend our time worrying over now, we likely won’t even remember in five years. Getting to know a new country also forces you to get to know yourself. It opens up and exposes parts of you that no other experience could, and forces you to give yourself a long, hard look in the mirror. You might find that you actually don’t particularly like yourself, and while that is a jarring experience, it will open the door to transformations. Nothing builds character like being forced out of your comfort zone, and nothing makes you more self aware than being plunged into unknowns.

Croatia is an onion. It has many layers, some parts of it might appear rotten, and other parts are white and pure. It has taught me many, many things, and while it has well and truly put my pre-Croatia definition of stress to shame, it has also taught me what true appreciation really is. It has taught me that comparison, despite being an unavoidable part of being human, doesn’t have to be given a voice that influences anything, and while there are many things in this country which absolutely do need to be changed, I wouldn’t change that part.

Comparison is definitely the thief of joy, as Theodore Roosevelt once rightly said, but only if you allow it to rob you.

For more on life in Croatia, from tips and tricks about renting a car and using the ferry services to opening a bank account and obtaining citizenship or residence, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section. Our How to Croatia series is published every Wednesday.

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

How to Croatia - New People, Expat Groups, Homesickness and More

January the 18th, 2023 - In this edition of How to Croatia, I'm going to take you through some of the sometimes rather surprising and unpleasant motions (and emotions) living abroad can stir up. From expat groups to dealing with homesickness and more, making it work means getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Remember when you were a kid and it was enough to tell another random kid you’d never met before that you liked his toy dinosaur and that was it, you ended up being friends with no questions asked. How simple life once was. As adults who obsess over our insecurities, what others might think of us, and worst case scenarios, we tend to overcomplicate making connections, especially genuine ones. Spoiled by being older and wiser, we add layers of complexity to things that should be simple, create barriers where there doesn’t need to be any, and sometimes even seek to protect ourselves from discomfort or embarrassment by not putting ourselves out there.

Did you know that we make our minds up about others within about ten seconds of meeting them? It’s subconscious and automatic. This is because back when we were living in caves and trying to avoid being killed by sabre toothed tigers, we didn’t have the time to spend getting to know others on a deeper level. I suppose when your life is all about churning out offspring and becoming old and decrepit at about 25, things like that aren’t quite as important. Times have changed dramatically, but we still tend to make up our minds to a certain degree about others based on the energy we feel from them when we first meet. First impressions are everything, as they say. Meeting people in Croatia might be a bit more complicated because of the language barriers, but deep down - we all speak the same language, and decency transcends everything else.

Many foreigners tend to think Croats are a bit standoffish because they tend not to walk around with beaming smiles plastered across their faces. While people in the UK have even been known to apologise to inanimate objects when bumping into them, you’ll likely not notice that here. Despite typically not being seen grinning from ear to ear, the truth of the matter is that Croatian people would usually give you the shirts off their backs if asked. 

Croats speak English to an extremely impressive standard, but even an attempt at speaking Croatian (which is notoriously difficult and most Croats are aware of that), will win you instant appreciation with most people. A friendly ‘dobar dan’ (good day), ‘dobro jutro’ (good morning) or ‘doviđenja’ (or just ‘đenja’ for short) will elicit a smile and help develop connections. I’ll jump more into language a bit later on.

Expats who like to live their lives in expat bubbles full of their own nationality or indeed different nationalities who have also come to live in Croatia do so understandably. Humans are social animals, we seek out what feels most comfortable, and the craving for something familiar can be extremely strong when spending extended periods of time abroad, and that doesn’t really fade no matter the length of time spent outside your home country. 

I still have cravings for Greggs sausage rolls and every time I go to England, which is every few months or so, I transport myself back in time with the taste of them, proper fish and chips and Irish bacon. My mum’s Sunday dinners are something irreplaceable, and even if they could somehow be made in Croatia, I honestly don’t think I’d want to eat them anywhere else but in my childhood home. I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here (the thought of sausage rolls does have that effect), but my point is that feeling homesick and longing for home comforts isn’t unusual, and what might be a hard pill to swallow is the fact that while it will fade in and out, this will likely never go away. It’s human, and while frustrating, it’s completely natural.

Don’t limit yourself to other expats only

Feeling like you don’t quite belong here (being home) or there (being Croatia) often leads expats in Croatia to associate and build relationships solely with those from their country of origin. While understandable, doing so will limit your understanding of Croatia and Croats enormously. Becoming friendly with the locals will see doors open up to you in a way you might not expect, despite how obvious and logical it might seem to read it. Understanding the country you’re in on any deeper level gives you the opportunity to see the wood from the trees, broaden your horizons and grasp another way of life, even if not entirely. 

While I’m a huge proponent of immersion, I am absolutely aware that saying ‘just speak to people’ is a daunting task and much more easily said than done. Feeling comfortable in a new place is a gradual process which happens over time and isn’t straightforward, so if you’re just interested in meeting others who will more than likely share the same struggles, have the same problems, and be feeling the same feelings as you for now while you get settled and find your feet, I’d recommend introducing yourself to some expat groups. There are several large and very active and helpful ones to be found on - you guessed it - Facebook.

Expat groups

There are expat groups for various locations all over the country, from Osijek to Dubrovnik and everywhere in between, and most of them are very active. Asking questions there will help get you realistic answers from people who have experienced things themselves, introducing yourself there will quickly gain you some friends, and observing what’s posted there will keep you up to date on events and the like which you might not have known about otherwise, especially if you’re still working on learning Croatian.

Expats in Zagreb [Official], Expats meet Split, Dubrovnik Foreign Circle, Expats of Dalmatia, Expats in Dubrovnik, Expats on Brač, Korčula, Hvar Comunita Degli Italiani Spalato, Croatian Australian NZ-ers and Friends in Split, Expats in Trogir, Americans in Croatia, Chilenos en Croacia, Indians in Croatia, Latinos en Croacia, Svenskar i Kroatien, South Africans in Croatia… I could go on, but you probably get my drift. These are just some of the expat groups on Facebook, so you’ll find something that suits you without any problem at all.

There are usually local Croats who are members of these groups, too.

For more on finding your feet in Croatia, be it regarding setting up your health insurance and finding a job and somewhere to live, to driving and learning to avoid snakes and bears, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section and our How to Croatia series, which is published every Wednesday.

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

How to Croatia - Why You Absolutely Should Learn the Language

January the 4th, 2023 - In this edition of How to Croatia, we're going to be exploring the reasons why you should make the effort to learn the language, and that Croats having an excellent grasp of English should never a be a get out of jail free card.

I’ll be frank, learning Croatian is difficult unless you happen to have a Slavic language as your mother tongue. It has been listed as among the most difficult languages to pick up in the world on multiple occasions, and I’ll also be frank when I say many expats don’t bother trying to learn it. Do you absolutely need to be able to speak Croatian? Honestly, no. You’d get by. I’ve mentioned that the English language proficiency among Croats is very high. Should you learn to speak Croatian? Yes. And not only because it is the respectful thing to do when living in a country where Croatian is the official language, but because it will help you to adapt in a way that nothing else even comes close to.

Do you need to be fluent? Absolutely not. Croats are (unless the person is very ignorant to the world) aware that Croatian is difficult to learn. That said, as I mentioned before, any attempt at learning shows respect and will be greatly appreciated and even admired if you manage to get a bit more advanced with your skills. 

It’s true when they say that the earlier you begin learning something, the more quickly and easily you’ll master it. Croatian kids converse very well in English, many of them take extra lessons outside of school, and a lot of them enjoy watching YouTube videos by American content creators and reading books written by British authors. I’ve met Croatian kids who actually don’t even like to speak in Croatian, choosing to instead speak in English among themselves, and lapping up the chance to practice to what is often fluency. 

Given the fact that the English language is so desired and so widely spoken across the world, those who have English as a first language often speak only that. That of course isn’t always the case and claiming so would be a wild generalisation, but at age 13 with raging hormones and wondering whether or not Darren from the year above fancies you or not, it isn’t really the best time to soak up the ability to tell everyone what you did on holiday in French. This puts Brits especially at a disadvantage when it comes to properly learning foreign languages.

Croatian is made up of dialects, there are three main ones; Kajkavian, Shtokavian, and Chakavian, but the reality is that the way in which people speak can alter from town to town, let alone region to region. Someone from Brač (or as they call it - Broč) will struggle to understand someone from Zagorje, and vice versa. The way the time is told in some parts of the country is different from in another, and Dalmatian is a language with many unfortunately near-extinct words of its own. Did I mention that Dubrovnik language is also one of its own in many respects? Don’t get me started on different words being used on different islands which are a mere stone’s throw away from each other. There are words that the now dying generation use which, when they depart this life, will tragically go with them.

Some words in Croatian are so similar to each other in how they sound but mean wildly different things. Proljev is diarrhoea, and preljev is dressing. I cannot imagine a salad slathered in the former would be all that appealing. A friend once accidentally called her mother in law (svekrva) her ‘sve kurva’ (kurva means whore). Another person I know once said he had a headache (boli me glava), but ended up saying ‘glavić’ instead, which is part of the male sex organ. Given that ‘glava’ means head, you can probably guess which part ‘glavić’ is. My point is that this is a language which is intricate, and the little things make a big difference.

Croatian is a very colourful language. The ways people swear in this country and the creativity used is quite the art form in itself. The genitals of sheep, mice and Turkish people are dropped into conversations quite casually, and people refer to things being easy as a ‘cat’s cough’ or even as ‘p*ssy smoke’. I’ll be here all day if I carry on and explain all of their meanings, but rest assured, Croatian makes up for its infuriating difficulties with its imaginative creativity.

How do I begin learning Croatian?

Turn on your TV, your radio, and start reading news in Croatian language. You’d be surprised how much information having the radio or TV on in the background actually puts into your brain without you even actually listening. Children’s books are also extremely helpful if you’re starting from scratch.

Find a private Croatian teacher

Word of mouth and expat groups are your friend here. People are always looking for Croatian teachers and seeking recommendations for them. One question in an expat group will likely land you with several names of teachers with whom other users have had good experiences and progress with their language skills. Some teachers hold small classes, some do lessons over Skype, Zoom or another similar platform, and others will meet one on one. 

Language exchanges

There are also language exchanges offered informally, where a Croat will teach you Croatian in exchange for you teaching them English, German, French, Spanish, or whatever language is in question. You both help each other learn the other’s skill, and it is a very equal affair.

Take a Croatian language course

Certain faculties and Croatian language schools, such as Croaticum, offer Croatian language and culture courses for foreigners. Did you know that you can also apply for residence based on studying here? There are different types of courses available and at reasonable prices. Some of them are even free! From semester-long courses on language and culture spanning 15 weeks and over 200 lessons to one month courses of 75 lessons spanning 4 weeks, there is something for everyone, depending on how much time they can or want to put into it. There are also others which offer Croatian language courses online, such as HR4EU, Easy Croatian, the Sputnik Croatian Language Academy, CLS and more.

If you have a Croatian partner, don’t rely entirely on them

Have them help you to learn, but don’t completely rely on them to the point that they’re your buffer stopping you from attempting to learn and improve. Many expats make this error, and their Croatian spouse actually ends up becoming an unwilling barrier to them picking up at least bits of the language in their perfectly noble attempts at helping. Stick some notes on household items with their names in Croatian. You’ll be calling a bed a krevet, a door a vrata, a wall a zid, a floor a pod, a window a prozor and a glass a čaša (or a žmul, if you want to take a step even further and learn a little old Dalmatian), in no time.

Age is a factor, so don’t run before you can walk

It isn’t a popular thing to say, but age does play a role when it comes to learning new skills, whatever they may be. Kids soak up new languages like sponges because their brains are developing, but with each passing year of our lives, that sponge gets a little bit drier. Croatian isn’t Spanish, it has very complex rules which are unlike what native English speakers have grown up using. You might find that you never truly master Croatian, and you might also feel as if you’re behind and not picking it up as quickly as you’d like to. This is normal, and it’s fine. Moving to or spending any significant amount of time in another country is a huge shift and for some people, throwing themselves into learning the language is last on the list in comparison to working out how to make ends meet or set up their lives. Nobody should be shamed for not having the same priorities as others might have. For some people, being a polyglot is just part of their nature, for others, it just isn’t. Patience is a virtue. Many expats will tell you that they understand much more Croatian than they’re able to speak, and if you can reach that level (which takes a while), you’re already much more than halfway there.

If you’re a member of the Croatian diaspora, the State Office for Croats Abroad has has scholarships available

If you’re a member of the Croatian diaspora, even if you don’t have Croatian citizenship and don’t have any intention of moving to or working in Croatia, you can still learn Croatian in various locations in Croatia and reconnect with your family’s roots and heritage.

I’m a translator. I translate from Croatian into English all day long, I could talk about my love and endless interest in linguistics all day (so I’ll stop now) and I can tell you that the two languages are very different in almost every aspect. It will not come easily, but genuine desire and consistent effort will surprise you with its results. Listen to Croatian, watch things in Croatian with English subtitles, have your spouse, friends and Croatian family members help you, don’t fear making mistakes and your confidence will grow. You will get there.

For more How to Croatia articles, which explore living in and moving to Croatia and span everything from getting health insurance to taking your dog on a ferry, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

How to Croatia - Getting Around on Land, at Sea and in the Air

December the 14th, 2022 - In this edition of How to Croatia, let's explore the numerous ways you can get from point A to point B (and to the points dominated by a few other letters, as well), be that by using the roads, maritime transport, or the air.

For such a small country, Croatia has numerous transport options which are generally very good. An array of bus companies, both domestic and foreign, operate on Croatia’s roads, and while Croatian trains are another kettle of fish entirely, bus, maritime and even domestic air connections and the ease of which public transport generally works is praiseworthy for such a small nation which doesn’t exactly have huge sums of cash to blow on it.

Bus services

Jumping on a bus in most places across Croatia is often the most efficient way of getting from A to B, and to a few other letters should you so wish. Croatia’s overall bus network is extremely comprehensive, and even the smallest villages are usually still connected. This is very impressive when you think of far richer countries such as the UK which has horrifically poor bus connections the further north you move, with some rural villages being almost entirely cut off.

Generally faster than the train (for reasons we’ll delve into later on), buses are the main travel choice for tourists and locals alike. Journey times are mostly reasonably quick on direct routes, but do be aware that bus journeys from let’s say… Dubrovnik to Zagreb, do take a while. Nobody can do much about that distance.

Online information on bus options is constantly improving and has done quite remarkably over the last few years, as is the option of buying tickets online. Expect to stop at least once on longer journeys, which will be welcome news for smokers, those who really need to stretch their legs and those in need of a toilet.

From Flixbus to Čazmatrans, a fantastic way to learn all you could possibly want to know about bus services in Croatia, from local lines which get you from A to B to large companies taking you to one end of the country and back again or indeed outside of its borders, is to pay a visit to the website Get By Bus (getbybus.com), and then enter ‘Croatia’.

Trams

Zagreb’s trams are without a doubt the most famous Croatian trams, but there is another city which boasts this handy and very environmentally friendly method of getting around too - Osijek. Trams were once present in both Istria and Dalmatia, with a very beloved (and very charming) one once operating down in Dubrovnik, but unfortunately they are a thing of the past.

As touched on above, the City of Zagreb has a very well developed central electric tram network called Zagreb Electric Tram, or ZET for short. These trams are generally blue, but also come in other colours, and sometimes with imagery promoting everything from Zagreb University to Gavrilović meat products. They make their way through the streets in all directions like a steel snake slithering through a concrete jungle during the day and late into the night. You can get from just about anywhere to anywhere else in Zagreb using the tram network, and timetables can be found at tram stops dotted all over the city or by visiting ZET’s website (zet.hr), and selecting English (EN) as your preferred language.

It’s worth noting that ZET also runs Zagreb city bus services, and those buses are of course also blue.

Further east in the City of Osijek, the only tram network still in existence outside of the capital is a favourite method of public transport. Having begun way back in the 1880s as a horse-car tram line, this way of getting around is still going strong. All information and timetables can be obtained by visiting gpp-osijek.com and searching ‘vozni red tramvaja’ (tram timetable).

Renting a car

There are many rental car companies dotted all over Croatia, and during the tourist season it’s always a bit of a game when driving along the motorway to count the amount of them you see. In Croatia, all driving licences are accepted, but if your licence is printed using a non-Latin script for instance in Cyrillic, Arabic or Chinese, you will need to get an International Driver's Permit (IDP). An IDP can only be obtained before you leave your own country, usually with the country's automotive association or a similar institution. You’ll also need to be 21 or older.

Crossing borders in a rented Croatian car

There’s usually no problem at all with taking a rental car across an international border, but the best thing to do is to specifically check with your rental company. You should also check the insurance situation if you intend to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) and visit neighbouring Montenegro or Serbia, neither of which are EEA member states. A green card will usually be required if you intend to do this and most rental companies in Croatia will have this included in the price because of how common it is for people to drive in and out of these countries, but definitely check before you book. There was a requirement to have the green card for Bosnia and Herzegovina as well, but it isn’t required any more. This is good news for many drivers as crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina from Croatia and back again is very common.

Is it possible to organise one-way car rental in Croatia?

Yes, and it’s a very popular thing to do. This can be an extremely cost effective way of travelling if you’re in a small group, and journeys such as Split to Dubrovnik or even Dubrovnik to Zagreb are good examples of popular one-way rental routes. It may also be possible to do one-way rentals across borders in some situations but you must absolutely check with your car rental company before you book, and let them know your plans.

Things to note

Due to the sheer amount of companies offering car rental services across the country, do shop around. It’s wise to organise a plan with a rental car away from the airport, as what you might deem to be more convenient will almost always be more expensive. You will get a better deal elsewhere in almost every single circumstance.

If you are planning on crossing borders, make your plans explicitly clear and ask for confirmation that this won’t be a problem. Each company has its own set of rules and what they are willing or not willing to facilitate. Don’t leave it up to chance.

On a less serious note, if you do rent a car and want to see parts of the country (especially down by the coast) that you wouldn’t usually get to, skip the motorway and take the old road. It takes longer, but you’ll get to see some absolutely jaw dropping mountain and coastal scenery and visit some places along your route you’d otherwise bypass entirely by jumping onto the motorway. You won’t regret doing this, I promise.

Maritime travel

Being a country with a history so inextricably tied to the sea, Croatia naturally has some excellent connections with ferries and catamarans, not to mention water taxis, from the mainland to the islands. 

Incredible sunsets, gorgeous mountain views with the breeze blowing through your hair, nothing quite beats ferry travel on the Adriatic. Alternatively, the quicker catamarans cutting through pristine Croatian waters taking you to your next destination can be exhilarating. While jumping on a boat may seem like a carefree thing, unless you’re seasick of course, there are a few things worth bearing in mind, and a few pieces of advice worth taking on board (no pun intended), before you head off on your Adriatic adventure. Just a few minutes invested in learning how things work might save you hours in ferry queues in the scorching summer when, trust me, hanging around boiling alive isn’t much fun.

Let's start with the main player, the Big Daddy, if you will - Jadrolinija

Jadrolinija (Adriatic line) is by far the most well known and largest company engaged with the transport of people and cars between the mainland and the islands. This Croatian shipping company is headquartered in Rijeka, is state-owned and was founded in 1947 in that same Kvarner city.

Whether you want to get from Dubrovnik to the nearby islands, from Makarska to Brač or from Split or Zadar to Ancona or Bari in Italy, this company is where you need to be looking. You can find all of their timetables on their website (jadrolinija.hr). You can book online and purchase tickets on the Jadrolinija mobile application (app). Jadrolinija’s ferries are surprisingly punctual but summer and the crowds can cause delays. If things are problematic, the company usually puts more ferries into operation on particularly busy lines.

The Jadrolinija ferry schedule changes with the seasons, meaning that there is a summer and a winter schedule. The winter schedule usually starts in later October and runs until late May. During this time, there is a severe reduction in ferry services to the islands, even the busiest and most popular ones. If you’re planning on doing some out of season travel, you should plan extra time to travel between the islands. Things pick up again in May with the summer schedule, with even more crossings during the peak summer season weeks.

Ferry or catamaran? That is the question!

There are several key differences between jumping on a ferry or a catamaran in Croatia when planning your Adriatic sea journey. If you’re travelling with a car, then the catamaran is not an option at all, for example. Another example is that smoking is not permitted inside a ferry, but you can smoke outside on the deck. Catamaran journeys are almost always without an option to go outside.

While catamarans (the company you need to look for in this regard is Krilo/krilo.hr) are undoubtedly quicker, they are also typically more susceptible to cancellation due to bad weather conditions. If you’re planning on taking pets or bicycles on board, both are no problem at all if you’re going to take the ferry. But both are problematic if not totally impossible on some catamarans.

Things to note

While it is relatively simple to get from Croatia to Italy, getting to other Adriatic or Ionian countries is quite poor. There has been talk for years, for example, of establishing a route between Croatia and the popular Albanian port of Durres, but nothing has been set in stone so far. There is also no connection to either Montenegro or Greece, with Corfu in particular being an interesting and wildly popular destination not currently served in any way at all.

Facilities on board vary a lot, depending on both the season you’re travelling and the route you’re travelling.

Most ferries and catamarans will have at least some form of refreshment, usually in the form of overpriced drinks, pringles and sandwiches which consist of cheese or ham, or ham or cheese, or ham and cheese, or cheese and ham… You get the idea. You can typically only pay in cash and the ATMs on board usually rip you off or simply don’t work at all. I know I’m probably not selling this mode of transport to you, but it’s worth mentioning as you will save yourself a decent amount of money if you buy your food and drink before you board. You can take it on board with you without a problem.

WiFi does exist on some ferries, especially on larger vessels running on popular lines, but it can be erratic and unreliable, especially when the journey passes through weaker signal areas out on the open sea.

There are toilets on board all ferries and catamarans operating in Croatian waters. Although I definitely wouldn’t say they are the cleanest or most modern in the world, they do get the job done, or perhaps it’s better to say that they allow you to.

It is very important to note that if you buy a ticket as a foot passenger, you’ll be guaranteed a space on the vessel, but with cars, it’s all about where you are in the queue. During the peak season, that means you might be waiting a while.

Buying tickets online and offline

Like much of the rest of the country, Jadrolinija was also living in the dark ages and resisting entering the digital age until quite recently. It finally brought in the option to buy tickets online several years ago. All ferry companies now offer online sales through their websites, and as I mentioned a while ago, Jadrolinija now even has an app!

One useful tip, especially on popular routes such as Split to Hvar which can sell out quickly, is that if the boat is going on to another destination, a percentage of the tickets should be allocated for the final destination. So if Hvar is sold out, ask for a ticket to the next place and jump off on Hvar. It may cost you a little more, but your time, if not your money, will be saved.

Pets, bikes and cigarettes

You can take pets and bikes on ferries but there are restrictions on both on catamarans. Bikes are not allowed on catamarans while pets can go aboard under specific conditions. For regular ferries, such as those operated by Jadrolinija, you don't have to pay anything for having your pet with you. Any damage your pets do when on board the ferry is your responsibility, and they must not pose any sort of danger to other passengers. Animals aren't allowed inside, with the exception of guide dogs. Dogs must always be on a leash, while cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice (the list goes on) must remain in their pet transporters.

Some catamarans will transport your pets but only if they have conditions which include cages or pet transporters in which they can be held for the duration of the journey. You’ll also usually have to buy your pet a ticket, the price of which is the same as for regular (human) passengers.

Smoking inside is forbidden on both ferries and catamarans, and as there is no outside access on the catamaran at all, this means that there is no smoking at all, either. That said, you may smoke freely out on the deck on the ferry.

Air travel

For such a small country, it is remarkably well connected by air. Domestic flights operated by Croatia Airlines are a regular sight in the skies heading from Dubrovnik to Zagreb and back again, and this 50 minute (ish) flight is very popular, as is the even shorter flight between the capital and Split.

There is also Trade Air, which is a small Croatian passenger and cargo charter airline which was founded back in 1994 and based at Zagreb International Airport. Its primary activities are operating passenger charter flights and cargo operations.

Of course, Croatia is extremely well connected to a wide variety of European cities as well, and while this is especially true during the summer months, it’s true to a great extent for the majority of the year, particularly if you’re travelling from Zagreb International Airport.

Domestic flights

During Croatia Airlines’ summer flight schedule at this moment in time, and likely for the foreseeable future, you can fly to…

Zagreb from Pula, Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik and even from the island of Brač which has its own airport.

Split from Zagreb and Osijek

Dubrovnik from Zagreb and Osijek

Pula from Zagreb and Zadar

Zadar from Pula and Zagreb

Brač from Zagreb

Osijek from Split and Dubrovnik

The flight schedule is of course subject to change, but for the current schedule at any time of year, which includes domestic flights, head to the Croatia Airlines website and select ‘current flight schedule’ which also offers more detailed information and will let you know of any changes as and when they happen.

International flights

Croatia Airlines is very far from the only one connecting Croatia with the rest of Europe. With Ryanair now more or less totally dominating, cheap flights from Croatia to an incredible array of European destinations are now very easily accessible. During the summer months, a huge number of carriers from across the continent fly to and from Croatian airports up and down the nation, and there is never a problem getting into the country. During the winter months, while things do generally thin out, especially for Dalmatia and Istria, getting to Zagreb is just as easy as it is during summer, with the likes of Croatia Airlines and Ryanair flying from Zagreb International Airport to many major European cities and the likes of London Heathrow and London Stansted on a daily basis.

This is an extremely easy thing to Google (or jump onto Skyscanner) for, so I won’t go into the tiny details which can of course change, but put it this way, British Airways, Air France, Ryanair, Croatia Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, Jet2, easyJet and more all offer direct flights into Croatia, and that’s just some of them.

Taxis

There are a number of taxi companies operating in Croatia and the market is very liberalised (which was a thorn in the side for some at first). There are many apps you can download, and of course there’s the much loved Uber. Bolt is a favourite taxi service in Zagreb in particular, as is Cammeo. Both of these services have apps which are easily downloaded, and you can link your bank card so that when you book, you pay and you don’t need to worry about looking for change in your pocket when you’re dropped off. You can also follow the car you’ve ordered as it makes its way to you, you’ll be told the time it will need to get there, and you’ll be told the name of the driver (with a photo), the car’s licence plate number, and the type of car coming. Like with Uber, most taxi companies big enough to have apps will also give you the opportunity to choose the size of vehicle you need, as well as approximate prices.

Things to note

As with just about anywhere, there are private taxi companies operating in Croatia which seek to do little else but rip you off. This is especially the case if you’re travelling from a Croatian airport to your destination and you’ve hopped in a taxi waiting like a vulture just outside arrivals. Try to avoid this unless you have absolutely no other choice. This is advice that probably applies anywhere and is a trend most prominent in tourist hotspots such as Dubrovnik and Split.

Some companies which are larger and have apps have fixed rates to take you TO the airport.

Trains

Croatia does of course have a rail network, but it has faced endless issues. Train drivers and other staff simply not turning up to work, falling asleep and so on has happened (and will likely happen again). They take a very long time to reach their destinations, the system has suffered a great lack of investment over the years and while Croatia does have high hopes to alter this, especially given the fact that the European Union is pushing for more and more electric, environmentally friendly methods of transport (meaning trains), it will take a long time before Croatia catches up with certain other European nations. I’ll be honest and tell you to avoid travelling by train in Croatia, there are so many other options (and great roads!) which will be more satisfying to you. If you’re set on travelling this way despite these warnings, your best bet is to check out www.interrail.eu and choose Croatia by Rail.

For more on Living in Croatia and Moving to Croatia, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

How to Croatia - How Can I Work Legally and How Do I Find a Job?

November the 30th, 2022 - Imagining yourself lounging around on a Dalmatian beach with a cold beer in hand is all well and good, but unless you've won the lottery or have a foreign wage or pension coming in every month, how do you fund it? Here's how to get a job (legally), in this edition of our How to Croatia series.

I know, it might be funny to read ‘working in Croatia’ considering the reality that the Croatian economy isn’t exactly booming and an enormous number of people are out of work for various reasons. There is a demographic crisis which is still ongoing, a brain drain, and there are employers seeking employees but can’t pay them what they’d like to. It’s a complicated situation that requires a book of its own, but one of many Croatian paradoxes is that you just can’t get the staff, despite the fact that the staff are quite literally everywhere.

I’m aware that many expats in Croatia earn their money abroad, or are drawing a foreign pension. In that case, you can safely skip this part, but for those who want the experience of working for a Croatian company, read on!

Now, it’s important to note that being able to work in Croatia and under what conditions also depends, much like residence, on your nationality. 

So, who can work in Croatia? Do I need a work permit?

If you’re an EEA citizen, or you’re from Switzerland, you are free to take up work or self-employment in Croatia much like a Croat can. You don’t need any type of work permit or special permission to do that. If a Croatian company wants to hire you, they can.

If you’re a third country national, then things are a bit more difficult. Not impossible, might I add, but more difficult. If you’re a third country national and you haven’t yet been granted permanent residence, then you’ll need to seek a work permit if you’re offered employment.

If you’re a British national covered by the Withdrawal Agreement (a pre-Brexit Brit), then you can work without a work permit. Post-Brexit Brits, however, fall under the third country national category.

If you have permanent residence in Croatia, you can work in Croatia regardless of your nationality, be it an EEA citizenship or a third country one, being a permanent resident in Croatia more or less equals you with a citizen, especially in this regard.

Seems simple enough… How do I get a work permit?

In order to get a work permit, you'll need to either apply from within Croatia if you're already here, or at a diplomatic mission in your own country. Should you need to extend the work permit you've been granted when here in Croatia, you may do so in person at your local administrative police station (shock, horror, it’s the police again!)

Please note that the law states you must begin the work permit extension procedure 60 days before your current work permit is due to expire. There are exceptions of course, and discretion is commonly used by MUP, but it's best to stick to this rule to avoid needless complications and possible extra paperwork, not to mention a fine.

What does a third country national need to present when applying for a work permit for Croatia?

You'll need to present an official (government issued) ID, such as a biometric ID card or a passport, and a copy of the information page.

An employment contract (it's wise to make a couple of copies), or other appropriate proof of having concluded (signed) a work contract

If you're not technically being employed by a third party, and you intend to carry out your work in Croatia as a self employed person, you'll need to provide proof of you having registered your company/trade (tvrtka or obrt), etc, in Croatia. (Extracts from the relevant registers should not be more than six months of age).

A completed application for the work permit (this can be picked up at the administrative police station when you apply, or at the competent diplomatic mission outside of Croatia).

Your OIB (personal identification number used for tax purposes that was touched on earlier).

If you've registered your address in Croatia, you'll need to provide proof of you having done so (either via a registration certificate, proof of you having submitted that particular document, or your Croatian ID card if you already have it).

A photo of you (this is done in the same way as with the residence permit, so MUP will tell you more).

Proof of having paid the applicable fees for the application.

You may be asked for proof of your education and qualifications, proof of sufficient funds, and other documents depending on your individual situation.

You'll notice that unlike when you as a third country national applied for residence in Croatia, you may not need to provide proof of having Croatian state health insurance when applying for a work/stay and work permit if you are being hired by a Croatian employer/company, as this will be paid by them anyway.

In some cases, however, third country nationals continue to be asked for this, and it is prescribed by law even though this often isn't asked about, so do be prepared for the question.

Is Croatia part of the EU Blue Card scheme?

Croatia is indeed part of the EU Blue Card scheme, which often proves useful for third country nationals in Croatia. If you're highly skilled and are offered an EU Blue Card, this can entitle you to two years of being able to work in Croatia. Other work/stay and work permits typically only allow for twelve months at a time and in some cases can prove problematic to extend.

For certain jobs, you don't need a work permit, but a work registration certificate, and your employer can get this for you from the police. If you're unsure of whether or not this applies to you, ask MUP and your employer.

I’m a third country national going through this process, does my Croatian employer need to be involved at all in this process?

Yes.

The work/stay and work permit procedure can either be done by you, or by your employer who has their company seat in Croatia. You'll both be required to provide supporting documents as and when asked for them. You may also be asked to provide official translations for any documents you provide which are not already in Croatian.

There used to be a quota system in place, but it has been abolished… Why?

Croatia used to use a quota for the employment of third country nationals in various sectors in need of workers. This has been abolished, so I won’t go too deeply into it. 

Under the no-more-quotas-rule, an employer from Croatia seeking to hire a foreign (non-EU) worker will have to contact their Croatian Employment Service’s (CES) regional office to verify whether or not there are any unemployed persons in their records who meet their requirements.

If there are any, the CES will mediate the employment of that (usually Croatian or EEA) individual, otherwise, it will issue an opinion on the basis of which MUP will issue work permits for foreigners. Once again, this refers to third country nationals, not EEA citizens, who can work freely just like Croatian citizens, without the need for any type of permit. If you’re an EEA citizen, just ignore this entirely.

It’s worth bearing in mind that these tests aren’t carried out in the case of seasonal agricultural workers, and there’s no need for the test in certain other professions either. I’m aware this comes across as somewhat vague, but these tests are also overlooked for occupations that are lacking on the local and regional labour market and cannot be 'stoked' by migration into the country, the implementation of strategic and investment projects, and ‘other circumstances relevant to economic growth and sustainable development’.

In other words, it’s all about context and the situation at hand. Much like just about everything else in Croatia.

Now that bit is (hopefully) cleared up, how do I actually find a job?

I’ll be honest, it’s no easy feat. Croatia is a nation of paradoxes in many regards, and this is just one of them. There’s an ongoing demographic crisis, employers can’t get the staff, everyone is out of work, there is plenty of work and there’s also no work. I know, it’s difficult to wrap your head around.

Employment in Croatia is, on the whole, very seasonal. The unemployment rate traditionally drops like a tonne of bricks the closer we edge to the summer tourist season, and we all get to read about it each and every year in the newspapers like it’s some economy-rescuing phenomenon. Talk about groundhog day. I digress, finding a job in the catering, hospitality and tourism sector isn’t that difficult as the warmer weather approaches, especially as the demographic crisis is biting even harder.

Traditionally, citizens of Croatia’s neighbouring countries such as Serbia and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina come to work as bar staff, waiters and chefs in coastal Croatian destinations to fill labour market gaps. Many people from Bosnia and Herzegovina also hold Croatian citizenship and of course speak Croatian, so it’s easy for them to hop over the border and get a job. Given that Dubrovnik for example is so close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, people from a town called Trebinje which belongs to Republika Srpska often travel the few miles into the extreme south of Dalmatia and gain employment as seasonal workers during summer, repeating the same thing each year, much to the disdain of Dubrovnik’s locals.

More recently, Croatia has been importing labour from much more distant countries, including India, Nepal and the Philippines. There are even agencies which facilitate precisely this. Since the war broke out in Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February 2022, many Ukrainians have also taken up residence and work in Croatia. Ukraine is hardly a distant country, but it is a third country (a non-EEA member state) and this is worth mentioning because the number of Ukrainians working in Croatia has increased significantly since Croatia facilitated this for refugees.

Many Croats have gone off to Ireland, Germany and all over the place to seek work and better prospects. This was made extremely easy when Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, allowing Croats to work in most countries across the bloc without the need for a work permit, with only a few continuing to maintain labour restrictions which would expire after a period of however many years. The United Kingdom and Austria were just two of several of the countries which imposed this. Those restrictions were eventually dropped.

Background over, let’s get back to the practicalities.

How do I find a job in Croatia?

There are a multitude of ways. In a country so set in the ways of connections and someone’s friend’s uncle knowing someone else’s cousin who used to work for so and so (apparently it’s called networking now), word of mouth is king. 

Talk to who you know, and ask them to talk to who they know

Word of mouth is, as I stated above, king in Croatia. Many people find jobs through someone who knows someone else, so put yourself out there. If you’re fluent in a language like English or German, you can absolutely use this to your advantage.

The Croatian Employment Service (CES)

In Croatian, this is Hrvatski zavod za zapošljavanje, or HZZ for short. It is a state institution which implements employment programmes. It is by no means a legal requirement as a jobseeker to apply to be kept up to date with new jobs on offer linked to your desired field of work, education and profession in this way, but it might help you. What you need to commit to if you do choose to do this is to visit their office once a month, then once every two months after some time passes. You’ll need to find the office closest to your place of residence if you choose to take this route. 

You can unsubscribe from their service and from receiving information on available jobs from them at any time, whether you’ve found work or not.

Facebook groups

There’s a Facebook group for just about anything, and finding jobs and staff is no exception. Numerous Facebook groups exist solely for this purpose. Many of these groups are regionally based, or city/town based. A quick Facebook search will allow you to narrow down the sort of thing you’re looking for, be that freelancing, work in the blossoming Croatian IT sector, seasonal work, or even work as a skipper, videographer or photographer.

Most of these groups will contain the words ‘trebam’ (I need), ‘tražim’ (I’m looking for), ‘nudim’ (I’m offering) and posao (work/a job). Add your location if that is important to you and you’re not a remote worker, and off you go. Just watch out for scams and spam posts. They’re usually obvious and properly administered Facebook groups will quickly take such posts down, but sometimes they aren’t as obvious as one might hope. This is a very legitimate way to seek and find work, with thousands of people doing it, but it always pays to keep your wits about you.

Websites and platforms

Just like in most other places, Croatia has its own array of websites and platforms dedicated to job searches. Posao (posao.hr) is a very popular one, as is Moj Posao (moj-posao.hr), Jooble (hr.jooble.org), Oglasnik (oglasnik.hr), Freelance (freelance.hr) and even Njuškalo (njuskalo.hr) all have a huge amount of jobs on offer spanning a very wide array of different fields and professions. There are some which offer information and even live chats in English, such as danasradim.hr, which is a Croatian language website with a live English language chat option, and PickJobs, which is available in multiple languages. 

I’m not endorsing any of the above websites, nor do I have any affiliation to them, but this is just an example of (only a mere handful) the amount of websites in Croatia dedicated to employment, be you the employer or the would-be employee. LinkedIN is also extremely helpful and will show you jobs best suited to you, as will websites like the aforementioned Moj Posao which have a newsletter you can subscribe to.

Target Croatian companies specifically

If you’re qualified and interested in a highly specific field, such as engineering for example, the likes of Rimac Automobili and Infobip might well be on your radar. There are many rapidly growing, wildly successful companies in Croatia (contrary to what you might hear and read), and they’re more or less constantly expanding and trying their hands at new things. These are the types of companies that you need to contact directly. They might be a safer option if you’re a non-EEA national without permanent residence, meaning you need a work permit in order to legally work in Croatia, as highly qualified employees who aren’t EU Blue Card holders are still deeply desired by companies like the aforementioned who are willing to go the extra mile to get you sorted legally.

Language schools

There are multiple language schools spread across Croatia who are often on the hunt for native English speakers (and indeed the native speakers of a number of other languages). A quick Google search will reveal their details. It’s absolutely worth contacting them.

Things to note

There are more and more large multinational companies popping up in Croatia, particularly in larger cities Zagreb and Split, who require staff who speak other languages. Some don’t even make speaking or understanding Croatian a requirement.

When the quota system (which I talked about a little bit in the Working in Croatia chapter) was in force, things were a bit different for companies seeking to employ third country nationals. They didn’t have to contact the Croatian Government and were free to facilitate the employment of a third country national (and have their work permit approved) as long as their skills matched what the quota needed. That is no longer the case. Now quotas are a thing of the past (and have been since January the 1st, 2021), employers must still contact the powers that be and make sure there are no Croats or permanent residents registered on the labour market who would fit the bill for the job before being able to hire you.

Many job posts being posted on Facebook groups in particular will state that they want people who have ‘EU papers’ (meaning either an EU passport, or someone who isn’t an EU citizen but who does have permanent residence in Croatia).

The economy isn’t ideal at the minute (it feels like we’ve been saying that for an eternity, doesn’t it?), and finding a job is not easy, so don’t be put off if you don’t hear back from some of the places you apply to. Unfortunately, ignoring applications as opposed to sending out a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ in response has become the norm just about everywhere.

As I talked about before, because Croatia’s demographic crisis is becoming more and more problematic, many Croatian employers are importing foreign (non-EEA) labour, either from neighbouring countries or from much further afield. If you are a non-EEA national and you manage to land a job, just be prepared for MUP to take a while to approve your work permit. They have been struggling with an increasing backlog and there are unfortunate (and infuriating) cases in which Croatian employers in the tourism, catering and hospitality sectors are waiting for weeks for their employees’ work permits to be processed, leaving them short of staff in the height of the summer season purely due to complicated red tape. 

Because of this, if you’re a non-EEA citizen and you want to work in Croatia’s tourism, catering or hospitality sector, you must begin your job hunt months before summer arrives to make sure (as best you can), that your paperwork is all done and dusted and you can begin work and legally receive a wage before the tourist season hits.

You’re much more likely to find work in less formal ways than through the CES. I’m not saying that it doesn’t help, but most people simply don’t fall into jobs through that service, particularly if they’re foreign, and every other way I’ve listed is more popular and usually yields more fruit.

For more on our How to Croatia series which is published each week, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

How to Croatia - Getting an OIB and Opening a Bank Account

November the 9th, 2022 - In our latest edition to our How to Croatia series, we look into how to get a personal identification number (OIB) and open a Croatian bank account as a resident.

It appears that wherever we may roam on this tiny blue dot taking trips around the sun, we end up ‘roaming’ into a taxman. Croatian taxes are the bane of society for a multitude of reasons, but I won’t get into that now. Once you’ve got your residence permit, you’ll need what’s known as an OIB to be able to work, open a bank account, and do just about anything. You can obtain an OIB without residence, too, or before you embark on the residence process.

What is an OIB?

An OIB, or personal identification number (or tax number) is a little bit like a national insurance number (you’ll know what I mean if you’re British), but you’ll end up using it so much in Croatia that you’ll likely end up remembering it. Does anyone else never look at their UK NI? Christ only knows what mine is. The funny thing is that I’ve used my OIB so often that I know it back to front. Bit sad, really. Anyway, back to the point! An OIB is very easy to get, you can simply visit your local tax office (porezna uprava) and ask for one. You’ll just need your passport or other form of government-issued ID.

You can also make the request for an OIB online by visiting porezna-uprava.hr and selecting ‘Dodjeljivanje OIBa’ (Assigning an OIB), then selecting English language as your language of choice (EN).

Getting an OIB assigned to you is so easy that if you’ve gone through the residence process first, you might think you’ve done something incredibly wrong. You haven’t. This is one of those situations in Croatia that seems too simple to be true. Cherish them, they happen at random and are kind of few and far between.

Once you have an OIB, you can open a Croatian bank account as a resident.

Opening a Croatian bank account

There are numerous banks available in Croatia, with the Croatian National Bank (Hrvatska narodna banka or HNB/CNB for short) serving as the independent regulator of commercial banks operating in the country. 

The CNB was established as part of the Croatian Constitution which was passed by Parliament on the 21st of December, 1990. It issues banknotes, holds the national monetary reserves, aims to maintain stability and ensures the financial liquidity and soundness of the country’s financial system. The CNB joined the European System of Central Banks and started performing its role under the Statute of the ESCB and the ECB, following Croatia’s entry into the European Union back in July 2013.

Some of the most popular banks in Croatia are Privredna banka Zagreb (PBZ), Zagrebačka banka, Erste & Steiermärkische bank, Raiffeisenbank Austria Zagreb (RBA), and Hrvatska poštanska banka (HPB). There are of course others, such as Addiko bank and OTP, but there’s no need to list them all. Many banks are foreign owned, and those such as Erste are very popular with expats thanks to their ease of use, very good mobile app, and good customer service. There are English language options on banking apps and on their websites.

To facilitate your transactions (paying rent, paying the bills) to receive your Croatian salary and have a local bank card, and to do literally anything financially, you’ll need a Croatian bank account.

What do I need to open an account?

To open a bank account in Croatia, you’ll need an OIB. Generally speaking, you’ll need a valid passport, your residence permit (either your ID card or your registration certificate, if your card isn’t yet finished) and the bank’s application form that you can find online or get directly at the bank to open a bank account as a foreign national. Most of the staff working in banks speak a decent level of English, so you shouldn’t have any communication difficulties. The process is fairly quick.

Types of Croatian bank accounts, apps and online banking

The most typical account types are giro, current and savings account. Some banks offer automatic overdrafts once you open an account, while in others you have to apply for an overdraft once the account has been set up.

As stated, most banks offer online and mobile banking services, which comes in handy when paying the bills, for example, because you can simply scan the QR code that can be found on every payment slip and the payment information is filled in automatically, so you simply have to authorise the payment, click send and the job’s done.

Bank loans for foreigners

Applying for a bank loan is a modern reality in a society which lives increasingly on credit. Inflation and spiralling prices are likely to force more and more people to live this way. Croatia is no exception in putting things on the plastic, even though so many people still love to carry cash, and of course, some cafe bars, pubs and even restaurants like to pretend their POS machines are broken until the tourist season arrives. You can probably guess why... Despite that, many Croatian households of all classes have loans from the bank for a variety of different reasons.

I’ll be blunt, the procedure for getting a bank loan in Croatia is not simple. There are many hoops to jump through, requirements to satisfy, papers to obtain and time to kill, at least in the bank’s eyes. Unless you are armed with an extra dose or ten of patience (or you’ve been sedated), you have a particular masochistic passion for providing people with documents, copies of said documents and filling out forms with half-chewed pens stuck to tables by strings, frustration will be your main companion and your eyes will probably see more of the back of your skill than much else, you know, what with all the rolling they’ll be doing.

Many doe-eyed, would-be foreign buyers of Croatian property seek to borrow funds from the bank to help with their purchases. Despite lots of promises and stringing along, there is still no mortgage product on offer in Croatia for foreign buyers, so please, please, bear this in mind.

Opening times

Opening times for banks will be clearly displayed on their doors, their websites and their apps. Be aware that Croatia is the land of religious holidays, bank holidays, and random days where things just aren’t open. Those days can of course affect the operating hours of banks. Luckily, many things can now be resolved online and through mobile banking, thanks to virtual assistance and even instant chats.

ATMs

Just like across the vast majority of the rest of this modern, fast-paced world, ATMs can be found all over in Croatia, they have even been ‘evicted’ from the hearts of ancient towns like Dubrovnik. You’ll have no problem finding one, and the vast majority (if not all of them) have different language options you can select before withdrawing cash or checking your balance. Do keep in mind that different banks have different limits on how much cash you can withdraw in any given 24 hour period, so make sure to check what yours is.

 

For more on How to Croatia, from adopting pets to getting health insurance, make sure to keep up with our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

Pets in Croatia - Laws, Strays, Dog Beaches and Dalmatians

October the 26th, 2022 - In this edition of How to Croatia, we're going to be looking at pets in Croatia and exploring everything from animal welfare laws, vaccines, dog beaches, and adopting stray animals to Croatian dog breeds (because the list doesn't begin and end with the beloved Dalmatian).

While the City of Zagreb is dominated by well looked-after small ‘apartment dogs’ such as Lhasa Apsos, Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers and mongrels consisting of genetic mixes of everything from the Jack Russell to the Pug, the Dalmatian coast is unfortunately dominated by stray cats and the apparent total inability to understand why spaying and neutering one animal can prevent the suffering and disease of litter after litter of kittens who didn’t ask to be born. 

I’ll be frank, you’re going to see many stray cats wandering the streets all along the coast. Dalmatia, at least for the most part, and there are of course exceptions, still hasn’t quite cottoned onto the fact that foreign visitors typically adore cats and do not see them as ravenous pests or walking vectors of disease to be shunned away into dark corners somewhere. I’ll get into that more later as it’s something that I am passionate about as an animal lover and I don’t want this to just be me on my soapbox banging on about fleas and intestinal parasites.

Let’s start with the basics - Can I bring my pet with me into Croatia?

Speaking generally - Absolutely. Yes. There are also opportunities for your pets to have a great time while in Croatia, including swimming, trekking, or doing anything else you and your pet enjoy doing. By ‘pet’, I’m assuming dog here, as I highly doubt your cat enjoys diving off rocks into the sea, but maybe you have an outlier. Or a Bengal tiger.

One thing that does unfortunately seem to bypass some people and which is very dangerous, is bringing your pet to Croatia when it is boiling hot. Croatia can get too hot even for humans who have a choice about turning on the air conditioner, putting it on turbo mode, closing the blinds or having a nap during the particularly harsh afternoon hours. Pets don’t get that choice and the amount of people who continue walking their dogs in 30+ degree heat is infuriating to see. So, a word to the wise: If you plan on bringing your pet to Croatia with you, you’d do well to avoid the peak tourist season (that would be late June, July and August) or at least try to avoid the most popular tourist destinations. It tends to be extremely hot and very crowded here during that wildly busy summer period, and dogs won’t appreciate walkies when their paws are burned and when they succumb to heat stroke which can and does kill them. While this is true for all dogs, if your dog has spent their life in the UK, Norway or indeed anywhere else in Northern Europe, the heat will be an additional shock to their system that they won’t have a chance in hell of knowing how to cope with.

Transporting a pet to and from Croatia

The rules and regulations regarding the entry of pets to the Republic of Croatia are what you'd expect from any European Union (EU) member state. Pets must have a microchip, have a valid pet passport or authorised certificate, and this must confirm their clean bill of health, and they absolutely MUST be vaccinated against rabies.

For pets younger than three months, things are somewhat more complicated, but you shouldn’t really be travelling with an animal that young. All the aforementioned rules are valid for the non-commercial entry of animals to Croatia (under five individual animals), for low-risk countries, and are valid for dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, ferrets and some other species.

There is a bylaw which defines which border crossings are permitted for animals to enter the country, but it includes almost all major border crossings in Croatia, including ports and airports, so you shouldn't worry about that, as it is highly unlikely you'll find yourself crossing the Croatian border at any of the border crossings that aren’t included in that bylaw.

Similar rules apply for when an animal is leaving Croatia and going to a different country. Your pet must be able to be clearly identified through its microchip and be vaccinated against rabies. Please note that these are Croatia’s own rules for animals exiting the country, and it is entirely possible that any country to which you plan to bring your pet might have more stringent rules of its own in place, so if you choose to take your pet with you on your onward travels from Croatia, please make sure you know precisely what the authorities of the country you’re going to need from you in order to make sure your pet has a smooth journey and a safe arrival to their destination.

Attitudes towards pets and domestic animals in Croatia 

I’ll be frank (as I was before), there are people, particularly down in Dalmatia, who for some unknown reason cannot grasp that cats are pets which require our love and care. There are still enormous issues with spay and neuter programmes not being the absolutely obvious thing to implement, and there are sadly situations in which cruel individuals poison cats and allow them to die horrific and drawn out deaths. While this is illegal in Croatia, it is rare that the culprits are ever found or punished.

There is also an awful practice of dumping hunting hounds which are too old to keep up, injured, or aren’t fulfilling their purpose anymore. Tourists coming across confused, dehydrated and frightened hounds which have been abandoned in the middle of nowhere (often in the Dalmatian hinterland) or running in and out of traffic on busy roads isn’t an uncommon occurrence. And while litters of helpless kittens too young to be away from their mother being dumped in bins (yes, seriously) are still very much a reality which is dealt with by selfless animal rescue volunteer organisations and vets, over the past several decades, the situation has gradually improved.

There are certain cities, towns and municipalities in different areas of Croatia which now run fully or semi funded spay and neuter programmes, so the owner of the animal in question isn’t charged. Others run ‘actions’ where the owners of dogs kept outside chained up are severely fined. There are even checks for microchips on pet dogs out on the street from time to time. There are vets who will selflessly treat injured strays and many organisations and shelters which will feed, foster and adopt out strays. It would be a lie to say that Croatia has reached ‘Western standards’ of animal care, and the situation is unfortunately somewhat similar in just about all Mediterranean countries, but have things become far better on the whole? Yes.

Pets and the conditions in which they live across Croatia have gotten better. In most places in Croatia now, both dogs and cats live cushy lives as well-fed, fully vaccinated, and sometimes totally spoiled furballs.

While generations of local cats line the old stone walls, sit waiting in harbours for fishermen they have ingratiated themselves with to give them some sardines and laze around in the sun, in most places in Croatia it is against the local bylaws to let dogs roam around freely without being on a leash. This isn’t really enforced in smaller areas, and to be perfectly honest, you’re far more likely to meet a local dog who belongs to so and so who everyone knows taking himself for a quick wander and a swim before going home than you are Cujo. This is especially the case in smaller Dalmatian towns and villages. And, yes, we'll get back to the topic of Dalmatians and their origins a bit later on.

Laws regarding pets in Croatia

We've already mentioned the most important laws regarding pets in Croatia, such as the fact that they should have a microchip and they should have all of the necessary vaccinations and proof of such (for dogs, the most important one of all remains the rabies vaccine). While they are the main things to keep in mind, there are some other national laws regarding pets to consider as well. The most notable one concerns so-called ‘dangerous breeds’. This refers to dogs from the group of breeds discriminated against by many countries solely because of idiots with two legs which fall under the ‘(pit) bull terrier type’ category. Any dog lover will tell you that the idea of a dog breed being inherently ‘dangerous’ is a completely idiotic notion, but unfortunately this breed discrimination does continue.

Opinions aside, there are unfortunately some special conditions for keeping ‘(pit) bull terrier type’ breeds. This includes the provision that the dogs considered to belong to this particular breed type can only enter Croatia if they have a pedigree issued by a member of the International Canine Federation (Fédération cynologique internationale). These dogs should always be on a leash when outdoors and have a muzzle on at all times while in public.

While there are areas and bylaws which prescribe where your dog can be off the leash, you do generally need to keep your dog on a leash in more populated areas (unless it's a dog park). When it comes to taking your dog with you to a restaurant or a cafe, do ask if animals are permitted. Generally (and especially in bars and cafes) the answer will usually be an emphatic ‘Yes’, and your four-legged companion will also likely receive a bowl of water, especially in warm weather.

What about finding accommodation which accepts pets in Croatia?

First things first, don't assume that all accommodation units will be fine about accepting your pet. You do need to check and if you’re booking online through a platform such as Booking.com or Airbnb, you’ll find that whether or not pets are welcome is typically clearly highlighted. On top of that, almost all campsites across Croatia are very pet-friendly. There are only a small handful that have a strict pet-free policy, so they’re very easy to avoid. If you’re going about booking something in a less common or straightforward way, make sure to ask about your dog, cat, bird, hamster, or whatever pet you have.

When it comes to actual hotels, the situation can become a little bit more complex so make sure you explicitly ask, and also let them know if your pet (particularly if the animal in question is a dog) is a large breed. Some hotels have very vague guidelines about ‘smaller pets’ which won’t be made clear unless you ask about them specifically. Although both are technically ‘smaller pets’, there’s still a rather big difference between a guinea pig and a West Highland Terrier. If the answer is no, don’t be put off. Do shop around. You’ll definitely find somewhere more than happy to accommodate your furry family member.

Things to note

There are handy websites that can help you navigate Croatian accommodation facilities and private landlords, so do look for the ones that are happy to house you and your pet: while probably not completely up-to-date, you can certainly get a feel of the number of options there are out there by visiting Povedi me/Take me.

Taking pets on public transport

More often than not, it’s very possible to take your pet on most forms of public transport, but the rules will usually be somewhat vague, not clearly defined and you and your furry (or feathered, or scaled) pal’s success might vary. A lot depends on the size of your pet, the exact time you want to travel with your pet and honestly, the mood of the driver themselves. Less than ideal, I know, but that’s the reality and it’s worth keeping in mind.

Pets on trains

Small animals which are 30 centimetres or less in height are permitted on Croatian trains as long as they spend the duration of their travel time in the safety of their pet transporters. This is also true for dogs of that size, as they can sit calmly on their owner's lap. The great news is that both of those options are usually free. Service dogs of all breeds, sizes and weights are more than welcome everywhere and also travel for free. For larger dogs, owners will often need to have their veterinary booklet with them to prove a clean bill of health, their list of completed vaccinations and proof that they’re microchipped. They will need to be kept on a short leash and will usually need to wear a muzzle (although this isn’t always checked) for the duration of their time spent aboard the train. You’ll also need to pay for their train ride. If you want to take your dog on a sleeping coach, you’ll also have to pay for all the beds in the section.

Pets on buses

For bus travel between cities in Croatia, the rules are more vague owing to the fact that there are a great many companies providing all sorts of bus services. The rules naturally differ from company to company. Because of that, it is very difficult to say with certainty that you will or won’t be allowed to board a bus with your dog or other pet. Your safest bet would be to go with the presumption that you can’t board any bus with any type of dog during the height of the summer tourist season, and during the off-season, your best chance to get a dog on the bus are if it's a smaller breed which can either sit comfortably on your knee or be in a pet transporter.

Pets on ferries

Dogs and animals of all kinds (okay, maybe not lions or crocodiles, although there was a tiger travelling on a Croatian ferry to Hvar once, don’t ask) are more than welcome on ferries, with similar conditions as on the trains: either in pet transporters (smaller dog breeds, birds, cats, guinea pigs, rats, rabbits, and what have you) or on a short leash and with muzzle (bigger dogs). Be aware that there are many larger dogs not wearing muzzles on Croatian ferries and I’ve honestly never personally seen any dog owner asked to produce one, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a muzzle on you, just in case. Often, pets may not enter certain areas on ferries, such as saloons, restaurants and cabins. That said, I’ve taken my cat, Newton, in his pet transporter on the ferry between Split and Supetar many times and nobody has batted an eyelid.

When it comes to public transport in individual cities within Croatia, such as in Zagreb, Split and Rijeka, the whole ‘pet on board’ situation also varies significantly. I know, it wouldn’t kill anyone to just have one single set of rules in place, would it? One can dream...

In Split and Rijeka, your dog or other pet is welcome on public transportation if they can fit inside a pet transporter (meaning that bigger dogs aren’t really allowed), and in the City of Zagreb, you have the option of taking your pet with you and they can board the tram or bus on a short leash (in the case of dogs) or inside their pet transporter. 

As always, it's the owner's full responsibility to make sure animals don't destroy, damage or soil the vehicle in which they’re travelling. Make sure to have water and plenty of bags and tissues with you, and if the animal in question is a dog, it might be wise to take them for a walk or an outdoor play session before getting on any type of public transport, you know, to get things moving and out where they need to be as opposed to on a vehicle’s seat.

Strays in Croatia - What should I do if I come across one?

You’re not likely to see that many stray dogs wandering the streets. Cats? Yes. Especially on the coast. While some of these free roaming felines do actually either belong to someone or are street cats who are looked after and fed by people, others are strays living very difficult lives. Only recently has there been an increased level of awareness of their poor quality of life, and many good-hearted people often get involved to provide them with medical help, spaying and neutering them, and of course - feeding them. Over more recent years, many towns, municipalities and local communities have launched various Catch, Spay and Release programmes specifically for street cats. This has resulted in 1) less cats roaming around and suffering 2) a far better quality of life for the cats which are there 3) more tolerance from locals who are perhaps not exactly cat lovers as they cannot breed so numbers don’t keep on spiralling out of control.

Animal shelters

There are many selfless volunteers running animal rights groups all over Croatia, rescuing animals from the harsh reality of life out on the streets and providing them with shelter, medical care, sterilisation and then finding them suitable homes even outside of Croatian borders. Other kind-hearted people often volunteer to give animals adopted by people in different cities or indeed outside of Croatia lifts in their cars to their new homes. Since 2017, all animal shelters have been no-kill shelters. Before that, sometimes it was difficult for decent people to even think of taking stray animals to shelters, because although they would be cared for and fed, their days there were unfortunately numbered, but thankfully that isn’t the case anymore.

Stray dogs

As I already explained, most dogs in Croatia that have owners are microchipped, so if you do happen to come across a dog in Croatia that looks like a stray (do ask around first, especially in smaller coastal areas where people’s very much loved pet dogs do often take themselves out for a wander and a quick dip in the Adriatic) your first course of action is to take the dog to the local vet.

Once there, the vet will be able to see if the dog is microchipped and scan them to get the owner’s details. They’ll then start the process of returning them to their owners. Although microchipping is mandatory for dogs in Croatia, not everyone does it, and if you come across a dog without a microchip or one that is out of date or cannot be scanned and read by the vet for some reason, there's no way to quickly find out who the dog belongs to. 

In such cases, the vet will take care of the dog while they get in contact with the local shelter in charge of caring for stray or abandoned dogs in the area. Dogs are given the necessary vaccinations, such as that against rabies, when arriving at these shelters. They’re also treated for any obvious diseases (unfortunately, they are usually not spayed or neutered at the expense of the local government unit at this moment in time) and microchipped, so they're ready for adoption. Many tourists who have either found kittens or stray dogs have taken them home with them, so if you're an animal lover, there’s a chance you could head home with a new furry pal in tow. I rescued my cat six years ago after finding him abandoned by his mother as a tiny kitten with his eyes barely open under a bush in Dubrovnik. No regrets. I absolutely recommend it!

Veterinary services

Nobody wants to think of their pet becoming unwell or injured, but it happens, especially if your cat is practising their ‘nine lives’ theory or if your dog has decided to try and make friends with a bee. The Croatian Chamber of Veterinary Medicine has a list of veterinary practices on their website, although, as with most things in Croatia, you shouldn’t count on the list being fully up to date. Google is your friend here, and a quick search of the word ‘veterinar’ (vet) or ‘veterinarska ambulanta’ (vet clinic/practice) and your location will give you the results you’re looking for, as well as reviews and opening times.

In larger veterinary practices, such as at Zagreb’s famous Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, which is part of the historic Zagreb University, you'll be able to have blood tests, ultrasounds, scans and an array of other diagnostic workups done for your pet if necessary. The prices for basic veterinary services and medicines are quite affordable in Croatia, especially when compared to Western Europe, where even pet insurance usually doesn’t get your bank account off the hook completely.

Rabies and other serious transmittable diseases in Croatia

Rabies (Lyssavirus)

Rabies is a death sentence for all those who are infected and not vaccinated with a post-exposure vaccine as soon as possible. There is no cure once symptoms begin to show. Post-exposure treatment (ironically known as PET) using a rabies vaccine with or without human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) is extremely effective in preventing rabies from developing in humans if given correctly and as quickly as possible after exposure to the virus.

Animals exposed to rabies, even if they are already vaccinated against it, require revaccination as soon as possible. As diabolical as rabies is, it is very easy to prevent.

Luckily, there is no terrestrial rabies (known as dog rabies) in Croatia. This is primarily thanks to vaccination against rabies being mandatory and good controls on animals entering the country. Contrary to popular (and mistaken) belief, that does not mean that rabies may not be present in other animal species, this is especially true of wildlife that could be reservoirs of rabies. This is particularly the case with bats, as it is all over the world. Croatia is an EU country and as such has numerous protocols in place for the prevention and control of rabies, but it does border non-EEA countries, and a case of rabies was confirmed in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2020. So, while one can never be too careful when it comes to something as dangerous as rabies, the risk of coming into contact with it in Croatia is very, very low indeed.

Dog beaches

Croatia has several dog beaches, and they are a fantastic way of bonding with your furry friend while also keeping them active and cool at the same time in the hot weather. Most dogs adore playing in water and swimming, and the calm Adriatic waves (if you can even call them that, coming from the UK and watching the North Sea in action, I struggle) are the perfect and safe watery playground for dogs of all abilities. There is even a dog beach bar up in Kvarner! 

The concept of dog beaches has become a hot topic, as it highlights the need people have to spend time with their dogs having fun on the beach, and that while to some they’re ‘just’ animals, for the vast majority of people - they’re family members and deserve to be treated as such. You can also take your cat of course, although I highly doubt they’d be appreciative of the idea.

Most dog beaches are located further north up the coast, and in Kvaner and on the gorgeous Istrian peninsula there are several of them. Here’s a list of just some of them:

Punta Kolova (Opatija)

Zaton Holiday Resort (close to Zadar)

Cvitačka beach (Makarska)

Šimuni beach (Pag)

Portić and Premantura beaches (Istria)

Zaraće beach (Hvar)

Podvorska beach (Crikvenica)

Privlaka’s dog friendly beach (near Zadar)

Foša beach (Zadar)

Stara škola (Šibenik)

Supetar’s plaža za pse (dog beach) - Brač

Brajdica, Mikulova, Igralište - Kostrena, Rijeka

Duilovo beach (Split)

Kašjuni beach (Split)

Kaštela beach (near Trogir)

Vartalac beach (Vis)

Danče beach (Dubrovnik)

Bi Dog beach (Fažana)

Hidrobaza beach (Štinjan near Pula)

Bol’s plaža za pse (dog beach) - Brač

These are just some of the main dog-friendly beaches along the Croatian coast and on the islands. It’s worth noting that all of the beaches in Slano near Dubrovnik are dog-friendly, and all campsites in Poreč have areas of the beaches where dogs are permitted. The Marina Frapa resort in Rogoznica also has part of their beach where dogs are allowed. 

As I mentioned, there is even a dog beach bar up in Kvarner, a region known for its progressive stances on the whole. To be honest, this particular beach is easily the most dog-friendly beach in all of Croatia and possibly even in all of Europe - Podvorska beach. Located in Crikvenica, this beach has been designed specifically for people with dogs, with impressive infrastructure created and installed just for our canine friends. There’s even a dog-friendly bar where your dog can get an ice-cream or a beer. No, really. Even the New York Post was impressed by it. They also now have a second location on the island of Rab in Northern Dalmatia.

Dalmatians do actually come from Dalmatia

As ridiculous as that sounds, as the name should give that away and it would appear obvious, many people don’t actually realise this. These popular spotted, clownish dogs which became famous for almost becoming Cruella DeVil’s coat are Croatian. While Pongo might be the most well-known Dalmatian of all, their history dates back a very long time, and there is an altar painting located in Veli Lošinj depicting what looks exactly like the Dalmatian dog we know and love today from back in the early seventeenth century. The first mention of the Dalmatian’s name was in the early eighteenth century in the continental town of Đakovo, far from the Dalmatian coast, where in the archives of the Archdiocese of Đakovo, Canis Dalmaticus is mentioned.

Several other, lesser-known breeds also originate from Croatia, including the Posavac (pronounced Posavatz) hound, a hunting dog from the Posavina region, the Istrian shorthaired and coarse/wire-haired hounds, the Croatian sheepdog (or shepherd dog), which is jet black with a course, curly coat and has reportedly not changed at all since the fourteenth century, and, the brave, mighty mountain dog - the Tornjak.

One now sadly extinct breed of dog, the Old Croatian Sighthound (sometimes called the Old Bosnian Sighthound), also originated from the territories of modern day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having allegedly descended from sighthounds bred by the Celts, this hound closely resembled the greyhound-like hunting dogs depicted on coins from the fifth century BC.

For more on How to Croatia, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Roads, Laws, Alcohol and Car Rentals - How to Drive in Croatia

October the 18th, 2022 - When it comes to the question of how to drive in Croatia, you'll need to pay attention to several road rules and laws that might differ slightly to those of your own country, such as keeping up with traffic updates on road closures due to strong winds like bura on the coast.

People always laugh at me when I go on about how good Croatian roads are, but they really, really are. Compared to British roads anyway. The further north you get in the UK, the more track-like they become. The amount of potholes in the roads where I come from would soon dislodge any kidney stone, they might take a filling or two away, as well.

To say that Croatia is for the most part a very rugged, mountainous land, with the exception of the Eastern part of the country, the roads are absolutely outstanding. The new motorways built not so long ago make everything easier and the country is extremely well connected, but what about actually driving on them?

You drive in Croatia on the right and all overtaking is done on the left. Seat-belts are of course compulsory, and the use of mobile phones or any other device while driving is banned. The police are very much on the ball with this type of thing, more so than in other countries. This is especially the case during the busy summer months, when there is more traffic in general and unfortunately - more accidents also.

The motorway speed limit is 130 km/h, 90 km/h on national roads, and 50 km/h in urban areas.

Winter tyres and headlights during the day are requirements during the winter months, from around November the 15th to April the 15th.

Croatia's motorways are relatively new, fantastically built and very, very expensive. They will likely remain looking brand new for a while to come yet, as for the most part, the newer sections are rather empty, apart from during the peak tourist season when they’re packed with cars and motorhomes with foreign licence plates all heading down to the coast. Because of the sudden increase in traffic, traffic jams, long queues at the country’s various land border crossings and bottlenecks are frequent occurrences.

During these times of heightened tension, sweltering heat and the endless ‘are we there yet’ on repeat from the back seat, it makes sense to consider taking the old road from Zagreb down to Split, which is usually fairly empty (unless everyone has had the exact same idea, of course), but also stunningly beautiful. You’ll see parts of Croatia’s absolutely jaw dropping coastline that you otherwise would completely bypass, and with the amount of cars on the road during summer, there’s no guarantee you’d have reached your final destination much faster anyway.

Toll prices are expensive and can be paid for by cash (kuna) or by credit/debit card. Non-residents have always been able to pay for this service in euros, which of course will also be the norm as of the 1st of January, 2023, when Croatia becomes the newest Eurozone member and adopts the single currency. Prices are reduced by 10% in winter, and to work out the costs of your road trip, there is an interactive motorway map and toll calculator available if you visit www.hac.hr/en/interactive-map.

If you live in Croatia and you plan to become a regular motorway user, you can apply for the ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) scheme, which has the dual benefit of offering a discount on toll prices, as well as a separate toll booth (the special booth will be marked with the letters ENC). This is usually less busy. The downside is that the service is a prepaid one, but if you’re a regular, you’ll be glad of it.

Car rentals

As one would expect for a major tourist destination, Croatia has a wide selection of car rental options available, from large, well known companies to smaller agencies which might be more flexible in what they offer should you need that. These vehicles can be rented from airports and delivered to hotels, and the concept of one-way rental is commonplace all over the country. Some of the more enterprising island-based car rental companies, for instance, offer one day rental cars with collection taking place at the ferry terminal itself. This allows tourists to come and sample a given island in one single day without the added expense and stress of two ferry tickets. I’ll talk more about this in the ‘Getting Around’ chapter.

Up to date traffic information in English 

You can easily find the latest road information in English language on the HAK website (as well as current information on ferries, trains, and borders). The website you’ll need is the following: www.hak.hr. Additionally, the Croatian Motorways website has a section with the very latest updates. Additionally, you can download the HAK traffic app, which gives you all the latest information in English, as well as help with roadside assistance should you need it, which hopefully you won’t. There is also a comprehensive database of 15,000 places of interest, spanning everything from national parks to healthcare facilities. We hope you’ll be making more trips to the former than the latter.

Don’t consume any alcohol if you’re getting behind the wheel in Croatia

Croatian law has a zero tolerance policy for drivers under 25 which means that their blood alcohol level (BAC) limit is a very strict, very clear 0%. The BAC limit for drivers over 25 years old isn’t much different, at just 0.05% (or 0.5 g/l). It is never worth it to drink and drive, wherever you are, but the rules here are very strict and the police are very active during the summer months. If you're going to drive in Croatia, just put the Karlovacko down unless you want to end up with a headache far stronger than beer could ever give you.

Webcams

HAK has a good network of webcams located all over the country for motorists looking to keep an eye on the latest situations on various roads. These include several locations on each or Croatia's motorways, ferry terminals, important bridges, national roads, and border crossings.

Driving and ferry crossings

A drive in Croatia is never quite complete without a trip to some of the country's stunning islands, which is a very popular activity, especially in the summer. While the car ferry service generally works well, it won’t hurt to keep a few things firmly in mind before you embark: Firstly, buying a car ticket doesn’t guarantee you entry on the ferry. It seems a bit illogical I know, but boarding a ferry with a car is carried out on a strictly first come, first served basis, and if you want to ensure you make the ferry with your car, you should get there with plenty (and I mean plenty) of time to spare during the peak tourist season when many ferries are packed solid. If the ferries cannot handle the sheer amount of human (and car) traffic, there are often additional ferries put into function on various busy lines in order to reduce the waiting times. Don’t count on this, however, just get there with some time to kill. If you’re interested in ferries, catamarans and how they work, I’ll get into that in the ‘Getting Around’ chapter as well.

Parking

I’m sure that Diocletian could never have imagined that in a few centuries time, people would be lining the narrow, ancient streets of the city in which he chose to build his remarkable retirement palace (Split), with Ford Fiestas that have been reversed into and scratched by scooters a few dozen times. Parking in Croatia is, to put it bluntly, a complete and utter pain in the backside, especially in the bigger cities. You might get lucky now and again, and outside of the summer season, you do get lucky more frequently, but technology has had to step in and come to the rescue of many a frustrated driver. One of the best examples of this is the SMS parking service which is now available in most bigger Croatian cities.

Once you’ve parked, you just need to dial the number on the parking info sign which will be easily located and seen where you’ve parked, enter your licence plate, and your payment will be added to your phone bill. Innovative!

Do be aware, however, that street parking in the City of Zagreb is limited to 2 or 3 hours in the very centre. So, if you do manage to find a spot and think you are there for the day, think again. There are various garages and other parking options where you can freely leave your car, however. They can come at a bit more of a cost, but the peace of mind is worth it.

Electric vehicles

Croatia is the birthplace of the genius Nikola Tesla, who was born in Smiljan (which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in Western Lika on the 10th of July, 1856. The name ‘Tesla’ is now synonymous with the electric cars which we’re seeing more and more frequently on the roads, in spite of their expense. 

A modern-day genius from Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mate Rimac, has been keeping Nikola’s desires alive in this country. This doggedly determined Croatian entrepreneur and passionate lover of cars has been continuing the Croatian mantle of electric innovation, and doing so beyond successfully. His company Rimac Automobili produces the fastest electric supercars in the entire world, and it is doing so in a country with no other automotive industry to even speak of. Sometimes described as Europe's very own Elon Musk, Rimac is the protagonist of what is by far modern day Croatia’s most successful entrepreneurial story.

Thanks to both Nikola and Mate, the electric vehicle revolution is being drip fed into Croatia much like it is everywhere else, and Tesla charging stations are on the increase. There are now hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations across the entire country, and their numbers will just keep on increasing as electric cars grow in popularity.

I’m a resident of Croatia with a foreign driving licence, do I need to exchange it?

Short answer, yes, but not everyone does. 

If your driving licence has been issued by another EEA member state

An application for the issuance of a Croatian driving licence needs to be submitted at (you guessed it) an administrative police station which deals with the issuance of driving licences. Once you’re there the clerk will fill in the application form for the issuance of a Croatian driving licence and you as the applicant will need to confirm the accuracy of the data the clerk has entered by signing the application form.

You’ll need to provide the following:

Proof of your identity (a passport, government issued ID or your Croatian residence permit)

Your driving licence issued by another EEA member state

A 35x45 mm photograph of you

Proof of you having paid an administrative fee for the procedure. This payment can be made using a paper payment slip or via internet banking.  The payment should be made to the Croatian state budget’s bank account, the details of which are as follows:

IBAN: HR1210010051863000160, model: HR64, reference number: 5002-713-OIB, purpose of payment: ‘državne upravne pristojbe’

Proof of you having paid for either a standard procedure, an accelerated procedure, or  an urgent procedure for the issuance of a Croatian driving licence. Choose a standard procedure if you’re in no rush to get the document, and the latter two if you are, obviously.  You can pay with a paper payment slip which can be collected at the administrative police station, with a general payment slip or via internet banking. 

You’ll need to pay into the Croatian state budget’s bank account, the details of which are as follows:

IBAN: HR1210010051863000160, model: HR65, reference number: 7005-477-OIB

If the date of first issuance for each category of vehicle the licence allows you to drive isn’t specified on the driving licence issued in another EEA member state, you’ll also need to enclose a certificate from the competent EEA member state authority confirming the date of first issuance for each category.

If your driving licence has been issued by a third country (a non-EEA member state)

The process and where you need to go (to an administrative police station which deals with the issuing of driving licences) is the same as is detailed above, but the documents you’ll need varies slightly. You’ll need the following:

Proof of your identity

Your foreign driving licence issued in a non-EEA member state

A translation of that foreign driving licence if the categories for which the licence can be exchanged are not evident, or if it isn’t evident whether the foreignlicence is still valid, or if it expired more than six months ago

A medical certificate confirming you can indeed drive a vehicle. This certificate can’t be older than six months

A 35x35 mm photo of you

Proof of you having paid an administrative fee for the procedure in the amount either with a payment slip or using internet banking. The payment should be made to the Croatian state budget’s bank account, the details of which are the following:

IBAN: HR1210010051863000160, model: HR64, reference number: 5002-713-OIB, purpose of payment: ‘državne upravne pristojbe’

Proof of you having paid for a standard procedure, an accelerated procedure or an urgent procedure. The payment details are as follows:

IBAN: HR1210010051863000160, model: HR65, reference number: 7005-477-OIB.

If the date of first issuance for each vehicle category is not specified on your licence, you also need to enclose a certificate issued by the competent foreign authority confirming the date of first issuance for each category.

Things to note

There is no need to enclose a photo of you if, over the last five years, you’ve been issued with a biometric passport, an e-ID card, or an e-driving licence issued after September the 4th, 2017, for the issuance of which a photo was enclosed, provided that your appearance hasn’t changed significantly.

Just like anywhere else, Croatia has some excellent drivers and some absolutely terrible ones. Sometimes, the driving leaves a lot to be desired in more rural areas, so do take care and always abide by the national rules if you want to drive in Croatia, whether you be in a selo (village) or a grad (town or city). As I mentioned before, the police tend to be much more on the ball when it comes to traffic offences here, especially during summer.

For more on How to Croatia, which we'll write each week, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 23 October 2017

How to Open a Business in Croatia Online: No Waiting, Some Legwork, Plenty of Stress

If you open a business and a venomous clerk wasn't around to make your life miserable, did you really open a business?

Thursday, 12 May 2016

How To Get A Work Permit In Croatia

Different countries, different rules. Basically, if you are EU citizen, it should not be a big problem, but for others, there is a different procedure.

Page 1 of 2

Search