Previous to the birth of low cost carriers, Brits that searched around for a holiday rarely looked at anything rather than America, Italy, France and Spain. Only on the odd occasion would somebody from the United Kingdom anybody visit anywhere as ‘daring’ as Central Europe. For decades, a common misconception among Brits was to view central-eastern European countries as cold and unwelcoming. While some Brits have stayed on their relaxing beach retreats, plenty are exploring previously ‘unvisited’ countries like Croatia. In this guide, we will look at Croatia in a bit more detail to work out if it is an ideal retreat for the majority of Brits.
Croatia (formally the Republic of Croatia), is a country in Central Europe situated on the Adriatic Sea. The capital and also the largest city of Croatia is Zagreb. Countries bordering Croatia include; Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary and Montenegro. In 1991, (for the first time), Croatia became an independent state when it parted from Yugoslavia.
Croatia is famed for its wonderful scenery, crystal clear lakes and magnificent rolling hills. The country is also well-known for its national and nature reserves. The weather in Croatia differs depending on where you are located in the country, as sections of the country offer Mediterranean climates, where other sections are more continental. On average, Croatia offers its visitors 11 hours of sunlight per day in the summer months (June-August). From June to August the temperature is often in the region of 25 degrees, even though it has been known to go to 30+, and temperatures do not usually drop under 20. In the winter months temperatures are mild when compared to the United Kingdom, averaging 10 degrees in the daytime and rarely dipping under freezing at night time (even though it has been known).
The population of Croatia is just under 4,500,000, and 9 out of 10 people are Croatian. The main religion of Croatia is Roman Catholic as 9 in 10 people follow this religion. An amazing 49% of Croatians speak English as a second language, which means that you do not need to worry when it comes to translation. However, it should be noted, it is usually the younger Croatians that speak English, while the older generation speak German.
Over 14 centuries, Croatia has built up plenty of history, and this is a focal point to some visitors of Croatia. In total there are seven world heritage sties and eight national parks throughout Croatia. Therefore, if it is local history and natural culture that interests your group, then Croatia will not disappoint.
Over the last decade, Croatia has built up an international reputation through their success in a variety of sporting events. Many football fans in England would have no doubt been aware of the small ‘rivalry’ between the two countries in the group stages of Euro 2008, a battle which Croatia won. Croatia also has plenty of current and retired successful football players in the premiership, including Luka Modrić (of Tottenham), Niko Kranjčar (of Tottenham) and Nikola Klasnić (of Blackburn). Apart from Football, Croatia also boasts a wealth of success in; handball, basketball, water polo and tennis with players like Ivan Ljubičić (a previous world number 3).
One of the main reasons why now is a popular time to visit Croatia is because flying to Croatia can be extremely cost effective, due to the drop of prices with low-cost carriers. Currently, cheap flights into the country can be obtained through a variety of airlines including, Easyjet, Ryanair and Thomas cook. If you intend to visit Croatia in the summer months then flying from London to Split in early July can cost as little as £70 return per person, which is a terrific deal considering the flights are 2 and a half hours each way. Flying to Croatia in the winter months will cost you roughly the same price; however, it depends on when you book, and with which airline you decide to travel.
Croatia has five main airports, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, Pula and Zadar, which are spread around the country; which is good because it means you are never too far from your destination. All of these airports offer private transfer services for a reasonable cost, the majority of them also offer bus transfer services for next to nothing (in terms of cost). Due to the distance between the two countries, flying into Croatia is probably the only viable option. However, (if you have more than one driver) you can drive to Croatia. Nevertheless, the time and cost need to be taken into account, as the average driving time is over 25 hours (non-stop).
A Few Hints and Tips
Like any country you will find that small but important things differ from your own country, and it is often extremely annoying if you are ill prepared for something.
- The cash machines in Croatia offer good exchange rates. You may even find that their exchange rate is better than some of the local currency convertors. However, if you do decide to use a cash machine you may have to take into account fees that your bank will charge.
- Taxi (private transfer) price from Split airport to Split is about £20
- The local markets accept that travelers will often barter. Also some shops will accept bartering.
- Alcohol and cigarettes are cheaper in the shops than they are at duty free. A 1 litre bottle of branded Vodka will cost just under £8, while a pack of twenty cigarettes often cost under £2.50 (brand depending).
- If you are ordering a steak, then well done and medium are understood ways to cook a steak in Croatia. However, few restaurants understand the term rare. The majority of restaurants call it ‘English’ because we are the only people that order steak rare.
- Holiday resorts usually close down in mid September.
- Locals often appreciate if you try to communicate with them in Croatian. Therefore, try and learn some words even if they are basic.
- Many tourists have mentioned that they have come back with sunburn, because the sun is deceptively hot. Therefore, always make sure you wear a high factor sun cream at all times in the day.