There’s certainly no denying Croatia’s natural beauty, azure seas, long rugged coastlines, backed by majestic mountains. Cities with pristine relics of an ancient time, eight national parks and over 1000 islands. It’s this collection of wonderful sights that has lured thousands of tourists over the last 15 years. In 2016 over 18% of GDP in the country could be attributed to tourism, by far the highest in Europe. According to data from the evisitor system, Croatia welcomed 16.3 million arrivals and 91.3 million overnights, an increase of 11 million overnights on the previous year. So for us although Croatia offers some breathtakingly beautiful scenery and sights, we left feeling “lukewarm” about the country. On our drive north we tried to analyse why, was it the fact that all the campsites were packed out even though it was September and we were squeezed in like sardines, or the was it that the Croatians seem to have mastered the ability to try and get a few extra bucks out of tourists (us included) whenever they can, or simply the fact that everywhere felt and in fact was expensive (and a little too touristy) and so Croatia has ended up as our most expensive country by far. The weather certainly played a part in dampening our spirits, as we endured cyclones, freak thunder storms that brought trees down and more rain then we’ve seen in 18 months! Maybe having to stay on huge commercial campsites didn’t help either (wild camping is frowned upon here although we did do a little). A blend of all of those reasons certainly contributed to our ability not to fall head over heels in love with the place.
Roads & Tolls
Roads are good in Croatia. We mainly used non toll roads as the coastal drive is spectacular and one not to be missed. Village and island roads can be narrow in places, but nothing that we couldn’t manage or hadn’t come across before elsewhere. You don’t need a vignette in Croatia, payment is a toll booths and they accept Euros as well as Kuna although the exchange rate isn’t favourable. We used the toll on our journey south from Slovenia to just north of Ploce, a journey of around 350km’s which cost us 46 €.
Croatia still retains its own currency known as they Kuna. There are around 8 kunas to the pound and 7 to the euro. ATM’s are widely available and money can be changed in the numerous money exchanges although they often make charges and rates vary. The majority of places take cards although we did find some cash only campsites. Certain outlets accept Euros as well as kuna but the exchange rate wasn’t good, so its best to stick to the local currency.
Fuel and Gas
Fuel stations are frequent and we didn’t have a problem finding LPG. Diesel was around 8.74 kuna around £1.09.
Supermarkets & Shopping
There are both Lidl and Kaufland in Croatia, although Kaufland has a larger selection. We certainly noticed price differences in the supermarkets here. Beer was around 21 Kunas for Lidls Argos brand for 4 which is around £2.60. Our average supermarket bill here was around 600 kunas around £75.
Campsites and Wild Camping
Wild camping is frowned on in Croatia (although we know lots of people still do it). We would certainly have chanced our arm more if it hadn’t still been packed out everywhere. We did manage a sneaky night in a parking area, but other than that we stayed on sites. All sites in Croatia charge a reservation fee of €1 per person (this is a one off charge) you will also get a tourist tax on top of the price. The least we paid for a site was around 19€, the most we paid around €28. The standard of sites was generally very good. We pre-booked a site for when my Mum visited and were charged a €25 reservation fee for doing so. As lots of sites are right on beaches, on ACSI sites most of the beachside spots are extra. There’s certainly not a lack of campsites, they are everywhere on the coast and some of the smaller autocamps are a lot more personal.
Water and Waste
Facilities on sites were generally good with most providing grey and black emptying points and lots of water filling points. The water is safe to drink in Croatia too.
The language has a lot of similarities to Slovenian so we felt like we’d got a bit of a head start having learnt quite a few words and phrases whilst there. English is spoken very widely though so we didn’t need to use it quite as much here.
We ate out more than normal in Croatia as my Mum and her friend visited and we ate out daily with them. We certainly didn’t find eating out cheap. Table wine was around £15-£17 a litre, main courses are mostly served without side dishes, average price of a main course was £12-£18 plus side dishes which were around £5 each. We had some very good meals though (although a lot of the menus were similar. If you visit Croatia try and sample a Peka, a Croatian stew, we paid £60 for it for 4 people at camping Rozac near Trogir.
The huge Croatian Peka – Denise’s face says it all!
There are plenty of big bins around which seem to be emptied regularly. There’s also plenty of recycling bins.
Wifi is widely available in bars, restaurants and campsites.We had some of the best wifi connections on campsites that we’ve had anywhere in Europe. Phone signal and 3G operated well too .
Although we found a lot of Croatians to be friendly, we also found that some of them milk the opportunity to make money from you. We had several cases of this, a campsite where our neighbour was paying 160 K and they charged us 200k and someone else 240K. A guy at the side of the road selling mushrooms who wanted €14 a bag! A parking fee that was advertised as 50K but we got charged double. This left a slightly nasty taste in our mouths, after all no one likes to be ripped off.
So as we left Croatia for Italy, it was with mixed feelings for a beautiful land blighted by its success with tourism., which is a shame because the landscape is truly stunning.