This Time Croatia!

Busy people’s one-week getaway

I keep saying that I love traveling, but I have limited time and money to do so. This is one of the many reasons why I started this blog. I wanted to share my useful information and traveling experiences with all of you busy travelers, so that you get the best out of your travels. I hope after you’re done reading my posts, that I have inspired you to go and explore more of the world!!

With that in mind :) here I start with my most recent travel to Croatia while my memories are fresh.

Aren’t these colors of the Adriatic Sea wonderful or what!? — Hvar, Croatia

When starting travel plans, probably like everyone else, I think about the efficiency of travel routes from many perspectives — budget, distances between places, accommodations, as well as my energy level. For example, when to take it slow and rest or when to be really energetic and move around.

Anyway, that is what I like to do generally before travel, but what really happened here was that my friend and I did not do detail planning or make proper reservations at all. Only planning decision we made was which city to enter and depart in Croatia — Zagreb in and Dubrovnik out, and that meant moving from North to South. I will talk in my other post about our almost heart-sinking experience because we did not make reservations! We anticipated too much about freedom that we would have with a car (I thought I could walk-in any hotel I like). But in reality, during the most of intercity travels, one of us was driving, and the other one was searching Internet to make a last minute reservation!

Croatia is in a relatively linear shape

Croatia is in a relatively linear shape, so once you choose the entry and exit point, it is fairly easy to set a main route. We started from Zagreb, moved from north to south and ended this journey in Dubrovnik. According to Google, Zagreb is Croatia’s northwestern capital, and Dubrovnik is a city in southern Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea, which is the best known city in Croatia for the most travelers. Personally, I think entering Zagreb is a better choice as Dubrovnik feels richer, so save it for your latter days of journey.

Zagreb — Rastoke — Plitvice Lakes — Split — Hvar — Dubrovnik
3 major cities, 1 municipality, 1 national park, 1 island in 7 days

I did some research about transportation for the intercity travels, and decided to rent a car this time. For me, it was the first time to rent a car for almost an entire journey while traveling in Europe. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea because some countries in Europe are famous for their smaller cars with higher speeds an narrow winding roads. However, renting a car turned out to be a good choice! It made for some really interesting stories!

A couple of tips:

  • If you drive at night, make sure your gas tank is at least a half tank! Many gas stations close at 9pm.
  • Like in many places in Europe, if you can drive manual transmission, you can save a lot compared to renting an automatic transmission.
  • Just be aware that driving at night might be dangerous — even though my friend and I did all intercity driving at night and it is generally OK, but you should always be careful.
  • Some hotels felt overpriced (in my opinion): there are many good B&Bs.
  • Many places accept only cash, Croatian Kuna(HRK), not even Euros(also, if they do accept Euros, the exchange rate is bad) — if you do not have much cash in your pocket, check if they accept credit cards before you sit down at the restaurants.
  • Get a Data SIM card in Croatia. It is fast and cheap — LTE 3GB was 50 Croatian Kuna (=7~8 US Dollars). No need to rent an additional navigation system as you can use the data. I read from some other blogs before this travel, that you can buy Data SIM card at Tisak, which is a small store that looks like a newspaper stand. There are a couple of Tisaks nearby the Ban Jelačić Square, the central square in Zagreb, BUT they didn’t sell the SIM cards at all. I bought one at Tele2 store near the square. (FYI, Tele2 AB is a major European telecommunications operator.)
Tisak looks like this. (Source: www.tisak.hr)
Finally, here are some of my earlier planning notes:

1. Departure-Arrival routes?
I had a couple of options to get in and out of Croatia except for direct flights, but I could stop over any close-by cities in Europe. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should take flights going through Istanbul considering the recent incidents even though the flight time was the best from the point of my departure. So, my friend and I stopped over a night in Vienna and took a bus to Zagreb. Zagreb was our first stop in Croatia.

Vienna International Airport to Vienna International Busterminal (VIB)

2. Taking a bus from Vienna, Austria to Zagreb, Croatia
I found two bus companies and timetables, Bus Croatia and FlixBus. We planned to take the 8am bus the next day — which was a very early time for us — , so we stayed at a hotel close to the Vienna International Busterminal (VIB).

If you plan to use buses for intercity travels, check out these sites. They have other service routes.

3. Which places to stop by?
We moved from north to south, starting from Zagreb, the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. Then we stopped by Zagreb — Rastoke — Plitvice Lakes National Park — Split — Hvar — Dubrovnik for seven days. Difficult to pronounce? I thought so, too!

4. How to move around?
Public transportation is also available for intercity travel, however, we rented a car to be more flexible with our time. We rented a car in Zagreb and dropped off it in Dubrovnik. The total driving length was around 800km (about 500 miles) including some detours we made. I think renting a car was a good call — it made our travel more enjoyable, and easier.

To be continued for daily itineraries and activities…

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