Dobar Dan, Croatia! [Part I]

Abroad Croatia

 

 When you’re feeling blue 

It’s time to explore that hue

Pack your bags and take that journey

To a country

Where all your inner cyan, cerulean and azure

Gets captured in this wonderful creation called Nature

 

When you catch your first glimpse of Croatia, the impact on your senses is the vastness of the Adriatic Blue that you see, and the immediate effect is enthrallment and excitement. All you want to do is just dive into that blue and let it engulf you. When you come around doing it, that mysterious blue gives you a sense of calm and peace. For us, Croatia was a wonderful setting to get rid of all our feelings of frustration and anger of our daily lives.

Croatia dots the Eastern flank of the European continent, and has a vast coastline along the Adriatic Sea. It has a good mix of activities ranging from adventure-based activities to cultural activities, and of course, is home to several locations of the recently popular Game of Thrones show. Here’s some useful information about Croatia:

 

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Best time to visit:     End of May to September

 

Most of the activities and attractions open to tourists only by end of May to beginning of June, so June would be the best time to visit as there are fewer people and the weather starts getting better. July and August is peak time, with a lot of tourists and the highest prices. September is a good time for those who love to hike. By October, Croatians start packing their bags and preparing for winter.

 

Visa requirements:              Schengen / Croatia visa

 

Although Croatia is part of the European Union, Indians planning to travel exclusively to Croatia have to obtain a separate Croatian visa, by filling out its online application form (https://crovisa.mvep.hr/default.aspx?langId=en) and submitting it at a competent Croatian Embassy or Consulate, visa centre or accredited travel agency (http://www.vfsglobal.com/Croatia/India/contact_us.html).

 

Indians planning to travel to European countries that are part of the Schengen Area Member States (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-countries-list/) need not obtain a separate Croatian visa. All you have to do is apply for a multiple entry Type ‘C’ visa (tourism visa) (http://www.vfsglobal.com/Croatia/India/Tourist.html) and entry into Croatia is permitted upon obtaining the Schengen Visa. Please read the rules carefully on the links provided above.

 

Please also note that obtaining a multiple entry visa is preferred because a lot of routes within Croatia require you to travel through Schengen countries – for instance, the road connecting Dubrovnik and Split passes through Bosnia. At the border, the Bosnian police check your passport. They normally don’t stamp the passport if you are just crossing through Bosnia to get back into Croatia. So while it seems that having only a Croatian visa may not be a problem, I advise getting a Type C multiple entry Schengen Visa just to be safe. It also enables you to go to the nearby countries of Slovenia, Bosnia, Italy, Austria, etc. in case you decide to do so after going there. [We went from Dubrovnik to Split by bus. When our bus stopped at the border, the police personnel entered the bus and checked every person’s documents individually. We had a Type C Schengen visa.]

 

Currency:      Croatian Kuna

 

The best way to get Kuna is to carry Euros from India and exchange them at a local bank in Croatia. Most of the tourist-heavy places are dotted with exchange bureaus called ‘Mjenjacnica’, but in our experience, they don’t offer a better rate than banks there (in the first week of June 2017, the exchange bureaus were offering Kunas @ HRK7.1/Euro, while OTP Bank gave us Kunas @ HRK7.4/Euro). Alternatively, you can check with your credit card company about their commissions for withdrawals, and withdraw money from the ATMs there. Typical ATM withdrawal fees would be around Rs.300/- per withdrawal. It would also be worthwhile to check with your bank about whether withdrawal on your card is permissible in Croatia or not.

 

Getting there:          

 

There are no direct flights to Croatia from India, but lots of options to major cities in Europe. Usually, the flights from India to Turkey (Istanbul) are preferred for access to Eastern European countries, but given the instability of the region at present, alternative options include Austria (Vienna), Germany (Munich) and Greece (Athens). We found a lot of connections that suited our timings from Munich to Dubrovnik, so we went by that route (New Delhi-Munich-Dubrovnik). Alternatively, if you wish to visit only Croatia, you can start your trip from Zagreb for better flight connectivity from India (no direct flights here as well), but from our experience, we’d recommend starting from Dubrovnik and then going north from there.

 

Apart from the major European carriers, some options to access Croatian cities include Eurowings, Lufthansa, Air Berlin and Croatia Airlines. You can also opt for buses (www.autotrans.hr; www.flixbus.com; www.buscroatia.com) or trains from the city you land in to the city in Croatia. Croatia has excellent bus connectivity and can be a great way to see the landscapes of the city. However, avoid travelling by bus for more than 5-6 hours, as it can get pretty strenuous.

 

Where to Stay:                      Hotels, Hostels and Airbnb!!

 

While the traditional way to stay in any foreign country is to book your hotel (booking.com / hotels.com), Croatia has a bustling hostel and Airbnb scene. Check out www.hostelworld.com and www.airbnb.com (Tip for Airbnb: look for ‘Super Hosts’ while booking, and if you’re backpacking, look for houses that provide a washer/dryer) for some great deals. The latter is a great way to experience the country like a local. A big plus is the warm hospitality of Croatians; we came across wonderful hosts who really helped us with our way around the cities!

 

How to connect:        Local sim cards

 

While Matrix and your service providers have their own deals for international roaming, for cheaper options, look for a local ‘Tisak’ (their paanwala) to get a local sim card (the service provider is VIP), or to a local service provider there (T-Mobile, for instance). At a Tisak, you can choose between a calling card or Internet card, with options to top up (ask them for ‘credit’ on phone) in case you run out of balance. We took the Internet card (as you could see from my crazy photo dumping on social media)- it costs about HRK 80 for one week of 4G speed (up to 20GB of data, after which the speed slows down), and top-ups range from HRK 16.5 to 75. However, try using local Wi-Fi service wherever you go (at your accommodation, restaurants, bus, train/bus stations, etc.) as your top-up can run out pretty quickly!

 

Packing essentials:

 

European weather can be pretty tricky – one day it is bright and shining, and the next day it can rain! Make sure you check the weather forecast before stepping out every day (https://weather.com / www.accuweather.com). Carrying an umbrella would be prudent in May and June. We also swear by our all-weather jackets, which can work as a windcheater with a light fleece lining. Many travellers also carry water shoes to Croatia for two kind of protection – to save their feet from getting hurt by the rocky beaches and sea urchins!

Apart from this, being a country with abundant sun, shine, and sea, carrying a strong sunscreen lotion/spray, sunglasses, hat, walking shoes and rubber chappals is a must!

 

Survival tips:

 

  1. Water in Croatia is potable. If your immunity is strong (being an Indian has its advantages), then find the nearest tap and fill up your bottle! You need not waste your money on bottled water, which often can be more expensive than wine!
  2. Good news! Your chargers and plugs will work in Europe! There is no need to carry travel adapters to Europe.
  3. Find the nearest tourist information centre – don’t hesitate to ask your questions and pick up the brochures.
  4. Croatia’s vista is best seen from the top, and they have some great viewing points at forts atop every city. Try going during sunrise or sunset.
  5. Contrary to popular belief, Croatia is not all that cheap for meals. A good way to fill your stomach is to have the burek, croissant or other baked items at local bakeries. You can also shop at local supermarkets for groceries and prepare a meal instead of going out.
  6. Eat fruits! I promise you, they’re amazing! You can find them at the supermarket or local bazaars.
  7. Raise your hand if you’re a vegetarian! Restaurants in Croatia are heavily influenced by Italian cuisine, so your pizzas and pastas will be found everywhere! And in case you don’t find a vegetarian option on the menu card at any restaurant, you can always ask the server to make something vegetarian (specify: without meat), I lucked out a couple of times doing this!
  8. Be fit! Be healthy! You’ll have to walk everywhere, and often climb lots of staircases.
  9. Have time to kill? Plant your derriere at the local cafes and sip on some coffee or beer! I love that about Europe!

 

Speak Croatian!

 

While most people speak and understand English in Croatia, it’s always polite (and sometimes a surprise) to greet the locals in their own language! Here are a few words we learnt there:

 

Good day        –           Dobar Dan [‘d’ pronounced as ‘the’] (used for saying hello!)

Thank you      –           Hvala ti

Good bye        –           Doviđenja [pronounced as dovi-jenya)]

Our route:                 Munich – Dubrovnik – Split – Hvar – Plitvice – Zagreb

 

We preferred going from south to north to save time and costs, as our next destination after Croatia was Slovenia (which is north of Croatia). Usually, the route from North to South (starting from Zagreb) is preferred, but from our experience, since Dubrovnik and Split have a lot of activities to do, we could utilize all our enthusiasm and initial energy at those places first. Plus, going against the crowd is always fun 🙂

 

I now proceed to write about our detailed itinerary, check out this link for it!

P.S.: If you are interested in creating a detailed itinerary customized to suit your needs, feel free to contact me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp or Bagpackerbear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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