Travel in Croatia
May 23, 2005 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Want to go to Croatia in September. Have questions and need some advice.

So everything I hear about Croatia is wonderful, and I'm also going to try to hit Slovenia. Here are some questions I have:

1) I've heard you cant fly directly into Croatia from the States, so I'd like to fly to Budapest and take a train to Zagreb. Is this a good idea? If so, how do I schedule such a thing?

2) Should I use a travel agent or do it all myself on the web?

3) Any hotel recommendations or should I try to stay with citizens? I thought I had heard that many Croatians will rent rooms in their houses.

4) Besides Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, where else should I go? Should I rent a car or use trains?

5) I'm going by myself. Do you think this will be a problem safety wise or no? What is the level of English and Russian fluency there?

6) Anything else I should know? I remember there was an AskMefi question back in the winter about someone going to Croatia...if you are out there, how did it go and is there anything you want to pass on?

posted by spicynuts to Travel & Transportation around Croatia (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Go see the park in Plitvice. I went there before the civil war (beginning of the nineties), and although I'm not a nature lover, it's absolutely stunning.
posted by NekulturnY at 9:36 AM on May 23, 2005

I took the train from Zagreb to Budapset (and back) last year. It is about 7 Hours as I recall, and nothing spectacular. The train was grimey and crowded. ended up sitting beside a 4 year old who was quite a handful. Cute for the first hour or so, but....
If you have no intention of visiting Budapset, I would recommend flying straight to Zagreb. You should be able to get a connection through Germany or something. This will save you 2 days of train travel, so even if you have a bit of a layover it is worth it.
It is a beautiful place, and I am sure that you will enjoy it.
Not much to offer in the way of advice. Croats are a nice people, and many of them speak english. Just learn the basics, Hello, Please, How Much?, 1-10 etc. Once you make an effort to communicate in the local language they are generally more than happy to switch to english.

Have fun.
Also, I recommend the island of Vise. You can get there from Split, and it is beautiful.
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 10:41 AM on May 23, 2005

My buddies and I drove from Switzerland to Croatia last summer. We hit Zagreb, Hvar, Novalja, Makarska, Split and Dubrovnik. I highly recommend renting a car and driving down the Adriatic coast. It is beautiful, and the highways down the coast, especially to and from Split and Dubrovnik seem brand new, and HUGE. We were there last July and there were maybe 2 other cars and moped on the 7 lane highway. We did not take trains anywhere, so I don't what that is like, but I can tell you that driving was awesome. Besides Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, I highly recommend Makarska and Hvar, and the island of Pag is nice too. You can get by on just English, but thefeatheredmullet is right in that if you put in a little effort trying to speak serbo-croatian, people will be more open to helping you. Finally, not far from Zagreb, is Ljubljiana, Slovenia, which is a beautiful city and one of our favorite stops on our trip.
posted by AceRock at 12:00 PM on May 23, 2005

Train from Salzburg to Zagreb is spectacular. Sit on the right hand side of the train and do whatever you can to get a window. Oh, and go during daylight.

You'll find people in bus and train stations with rooms in their homes to rent. I always had great luck and was much more comfortable than I would have been in hotels (quieter and cheaper, too).

Hike up the hill alongside Split, for the view. Skip the zoo -- it's horribly depressing. Find a ferry that goes to an island with a name that's not in any of the guidebooks and go there for a day.
posted by Framer at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2005

We holidayed in Croatia last year - did a two-centre trip, the first week in Cavtat (a short hop south of Dubrovnik) and the second week on an island called Korcula, up nearer to Split.

It's a totally amazing place - very little evidence of the war remains - and the people, the food, the scenery, are all fantastic!
The north is, from what I can glean, somewhat more tourist oriented than the south, so it all depends on what you want...

As has already been mentioned, it's worth learning a word or two - or at least trying out some phrases; one of the hotel receptionists looked like a cartoon-esque stereotypical eastern-European cold-war era army sergeant, or something - tall, broad, brusque, cold - until we asked whether we were pronouncing "dobar dan" correctly, and why some people said "dobro jutro" to us. She was all smiles and chatty after that :-)

There's some photo's from the holiday on my website if you're interested!
posted by Chunder at 12:20 PM on May 23, 2005

Ljubljana is great for walking and cafes and friendly people. The coastal Slovenian town of Piran is a wonderful place to rest up for a few days on a diet of grilled squid. The Karst area of western Slovenia has wonderful caves. Any of the offshore islands of Croatia are cool -- Hvar has great restaurants, Korcula is slower and rural. The coastal ferry from Hvar to Dubrovnik is like a mini cruise.

Dubrovnik of course is wonderful.

Keep going past Dubrovnik to another Venetian town -- Kotor, in the Bay of Kotor, only fjord on the Mediterranean. Spectacular landscape and a cute town nestled into the rock. That's in Montenegro, so check the visa requirements. Drive up to Cetinje and back for the incredible landscape. If you end up going south, go to Lake Ohrid in Macedonia-- one of the most spectacular places in the world.

Second the stay in houses (Pensiones) comment.
posted by Rumple at 12:22 PM on May 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So for these "Pensiones" you basically just walk up to anyone in the train/bus station? That's completely safe? Would it be unwise to completely rely on this and not bother with hotel rev's or should I have hotel as a backup?
posted by spicynuts at 12:52 PM on May 23, 2005

They have such sexy accents there....
posted by matildaben at 1:28 PM on May 23, 2005

September will be just past high season so probably no problem with Pensione availability. My experience is that the proprietors often meet the buses and trains to solicit guests. A number of these are also listed in guide books and in government tourist brochures, offices, etc. I have never heard a story of an unsafe Pensione, although I have heard a few about slightly substandard facilities -- which is also true in hotels there, mind you. Travel light so you aren't a slave to your bags & taxis.

Regarding your other questions: I think you should be completely safe -- keep your money and pasport under your clothes, avoid obviously shady areas at night, etc: it is the balkans so expect a few rough edges. There are tons of flights to Ljubljana from all over Europe -- I have flown there from Heathrow and Frankfurt. I imagine there would be even more to Zagreb. English fluency is pretty good, moreso in Slovenia than Croatia in my experience. German is also an important second language there, as is Italian. I doubt you will find much Russian spoken - it was never behind the iron curtain.

A "friend of a friend" told me he had several great days on the Croatian Islands by walking up to fisherman (getting up very early, or arranging from the night before), paying them a suitable sum, and going out on their boats to catch sardine, octopus, etc -- just sitting on the boat, watching the fishing, soaking up the sun, etc. Can't vouch for it myself but there are dozens of small fishboats in every port and the sum might not be too great.

At least one mefi regular is from Slovenia and perhaps could be contacted in advance.
posted by Rumple at 4:17 PM on May 23, 2005

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