Getting to/from the US to Split, Croatia in June?
March 6, 2015 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning to travel to Split this June and would like some advice on air travel logistics from people who've been there recently. There seems to be a steep premium on direct itineraries, so I'm trying to decide if there's a better way. Specific questions on traveling through Rome-FCO or Zagreb inside.

I'm trying to get to Split, Croatia (SPO) from the DC area (IAD, likely) for a week in early June. Direct itineraries for my dates seem to be around ~$1,350, but looking at Google Flight Search, it appears that there's a pretty steep premium on flights actually terminating into Split.

I'm tempted by some sort of mixed itinerary: I can get a roundtrip ticket into Rome (FCO) for at almost $500 less, which would seem to be far more than the cost of a FCO-SPO roundtrip ticket on Vueling. But I've never flown Vueling or traveled through Rome-FCO, and I noticed that this itinerary doesn't show up on Google, ITA Matrix, or any other search engine. So that makes me suspicious that perhaps it's a Bad Idea for some reason. Presumably I'd have to clear customs and then go back through security in Rome, because there's no way to have my bags checked through? Is that likely to take many hours?

Reading past AskMes, the other popular way to get to Split is by flying into Zagreb (ZAG) and then taking the train. Can anyone who has done this recently weigh in on how much trouble it is? Having never been to Zagreb, I'd be interested in hearing how hard it is to get from the airport to the train station, plus any relevant details about the train service. It would seem to have the benefit of not messing around with an additional country's customs, but the savings is only about $300 and if I'm reading the schedules correctly it appears there are only one train per day.

If there is some other clever way to get to Split via land or sea that is likely to be advantageous, either in cost/time/"interestingness" terms, I'd be interested to hear about them, too.

In general, I am not trying to pinch every single penny; I'm willing to spend money if it's definitely worth it in terms of convenience, or if it makes the trip much better in some way. But $300-500 for an extra stopover seems like a decent enough tradeoff that it made me wonder whether I was passing up an opportunity to do this better.
posted by Kadin2048 to Travel & Transportation around Split, Croatia (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My wife and I did our honeymoon in Croatia a few years ago, including spending time in Split. We flew from Boston to Dubrovnik with a layover in Munich, then took a bus from Dubrovnik to Split. I'm not generally a fan of busses, but this was fantastic. Beautiful four-hour ride up the coast, including going into Bosnia for a bit of the ride. The bus tickets were $15-20 each, so very inexpensive.

(If you have any other Croatia travel questions, feel free to email me and I'd be happy to help.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:00 PM on March 6, 2015

Yeah - what's wrong with going in and out of Dubrovnik? For various stupid reasons, I know they have flights in and out of there from at least Munich, Zurich, and Nice (the latter probably not helpful when flying from the US). Probably Rome too, given how close it is. Just fly from IAD to Dubrovnik through one of those and take the bus. From there to Split is probably much easier than Zagreb due to the fact that both are on the coast, and you don't have to cross over the mountains. If the schedule is inconvenient, add half a day or a day in Dubrovnik's old stone town (the set for kings' landing in Game of Thrones!) and call it part of the adventure.

Presumably I'd have to clear customs and then go back through security in Rome

Yes, that will certainly be an issue wherever you connect - leave time to re-clear security and customs when you schedule your flights.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:38 PM on March 6, 2015

We flew to Zagreb and took a bus to Split.

There are tons of buses and it was a fairly comfortable ride as I recall.
posted by vacapinta at 1:39 PM on March 6, 2015

This was July 2013, but when I went to Croatia I flew Delta from Minneapolis to London, then booked a low cost carrier from there to Split. I came back via Dubrovnik to London, then on to MSP. I took an overnight layover in London both ways. I am pretty sure one flight was EasyJet and one was Monarch Airlines.
posted by cabingirl at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2015

The bus ride between Split and Zagreb is very easy and cheap. I was booked for a train from Split to Zagreb but they ended up putting us on a bus because of track work. I love trains but it seems like in Croatia the bus is the more popular and convenient transit option. One of the fun things of ground travel between the two cities is that you can watch central Europe change into the Mediterranean culturally and geographically before your eyes.

I didn't fly into or out of Zagreb, though, so I can't speak to the difficulty of getting to the airport -- but I can't imagine getting a taxi is too hard, and it's really not that big of a city.

(If you have an extra day or two, you can stop at Plitvice Lakes National Park, which I hear is beautiful and is on the way between Zagreb to Split.)
posted by goingonit at 1:57 PM on March 6, 2015

Response by poster: I have nothing against Dubrovnik, it's just $100 more than Split as a place to fly into, so I hadn't given it a lot of thought. One of the items on the to-do list for the trip is to rent a car and drive down the coast, though!

Great information, please keep it coming everyone.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:07 PM on March 6, 2015

I echo the others in saying that the bus in Croatia is an inexpensive, frequent and not-unpleasant way to get around. I can also assure you that Plitvice is a beautiful place, and worthy of a stop.

I'm not endorsing so much as describing a hypothetical, but you could take a train from Rome to Ancona, then a ferry across the Adriatic to Split. Trenitalia says the train is ~3 hours and 40 euros; Jadrolinija says the ferry is overnight and ~120-150 euros for a single person. But that's a lot of balls in the air, and there is only one ferry per day (and not even every day).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:04 PM on March 6, 2015

We flew Chicago to Dublin as a round-trip on Aer Lingus (IME that flight is almost always the cheapest transatlantic route from Chicago), then did an open-jaw (also on Aer Lingus) to Dubrovnik and out of Venice (a terrible mistake; more on that later). This was pretty inexpensive when we did it in July 2013. Easy and pretty to get from Dubrovnik to Split on the bus, as others have said.

Do not fly into or out of an Italian airport. All of the rumors are true.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:00 PM on March 6, 2015

We spent two weeks in Croatia last year (Dubrovnik > Split > Plitvice > Istrian Peninsula > Venice jaunt > Pula) and I think the Zagreb > Split journey by car would be lovely, mainly because Plitvice is on your way and you totally want to see the lakes. They weren't just the highlight of our (very lovely) trip, they were the highlight of pretty much any holiday I've ever had. Such a stunning, unique place! You could do them in a day.

One thing to just flag is if you're planning to go to/from Dubrovnik by car, the only way to get there is through Bosnia - the main road (and any other road) cuts through Bosnia. Croatian car hire places are really on top of this and will explain what paperwork you need, but I didn't really believe it until I saw it, so just wanted to say - it's true! You go through a checkpoint then back out again within around half an hour.

Whatever you end up doing, you'll have an amazing time - Croatia is such a special place and everyone is incredibly accommodating and friendly there.
posted by ukdanae at 7:22 AM on March 7, 2015

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