Croatia

008 dubrovnik 2 20120409 1229933449Croatia (Croatian: Hrvatska) is a country situated in the Balkans and in Central Europe. It is to the east side of the Adriatic Sea, to the east of Italy. It is bordered by Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the north, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast, Serbia in the east, and Montenegro to the south.


Climate


Northern Croatia has a temperate continental climate whereas the central and upland regions have a mountainous climate. The entire Adriatic coast has a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Spring and autumn are mild along the coast, while winter is cold and snowy in central and northern regions. The average temperature inland in January ranges from -10 to 5°C, August 19 to 39°C. The average temperature at the seaside is higher: January 6 to 11°C, August 21 to 39°C.


Terrain


Geographically diverse; flat agricultural plains along the Hungarian border (Central European area), low mountains and highlands near the Adriatic coastline and islands. There are 1,246 islands; the largest ones are Krk and Cres. The highest point is Dinara, at 1,830 m.


Cities

  • Zagreb - the capital and largest city.
  • Dubrovnik - historic coastal city and UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Split - ancient port city with Roman ruins.
  • Pula - biggest town in Istria with the Roman amphitheater (commonly called Arena)
  • Osijek - capital of Slavonia and an important city.
  • Slavonski Brod
  • Rijeka - Croatia's largest and main port
  • Varaždin - Croatia's former Baroque capital.
  • Zadar - biggest city of north-central Dalmatia with rich history

Other destinations

  • Krka National Park - a river valley near Šibenik
  • Kornati National Park
  • Island of Cres
  • Island of Solta
  • Island of Hvar
  • Island of Brac
  • Island of Krk
  • Island of Solta
  • Plitvice National Park
  • Vrsar
  • Žumberak is a mountainous region that spans the border between Slovenia and Croatia

Language


014 milna 20120409 1475657394Many Croatians speak English as their second language, but German and Italian are very popular too (largely because of the large annual influx of German and Italian tourists). People in the tourist industry most often speak English quite well, as do the younger generation, especially in the tourist areas of Istria, along the coast down to Dubrovnik, and in the capital, Zagreb. Elder people will rarely speak English, but you shouldn't have any problems if you switch to German or Italian. If you know Polish or Czech, you can try it as well, as Polish, Czech and Croatian are partially mutually intelligible (but some words are very different) and in many places, Croatian people are used to large number of Polish and Czech tourists.


Croatian is not an easy language to learn, but the people like when foreign travelers use it for basic things such as greeting and thanking.


Cultural heritage


Croatia has an impressive history, a fact that is best explained through the vast array of sites worth visiting. Most towns have an historical center with its typical architecture. There are differences between the coast and the continental part, so both areas are a must. The most famous is Dubrovnik, a prime example of the coastal architecture, but by no means the only one worth visiting. Equally important is the capital and largest city, Zagreb, with a population of about 1 million. It is a modern city with all the modern features, yet it has a laid back feel. In the east, in the region of Slavonija with it's regional capital Osijek and the war torn Vukovar are awe inspiring. Scattered throughout the region are vineyards and wine cellars, most of which give tours and tastings.


Sailing


012 mali loinj 20120409 1390147870Sailing is a good way to see the coastal islands and networks of small archipelagos. Most charters leave from Split or the surrounding area on the North or the South circuit, each offering its own pros and cons. A good way is to book a package with a company at home, but many Croatian companies also offer both bareboat and crewed charters.


Booking of a charter vessel is basically done in two parts. Fifty percent of the charter price is paid right away, after which the booking is confirmed. The other fifty percent of the charter fee is usually paid four weeks before the charter date. Before the first payment of the charter fee you should request to see the charter contract from the agency where you chartered a boat. Pay close attention to cancellation fees because many times if you cancel your charter vacation you could lose the initial fifty percent you already payed when you booked a charter so take a close look at that in the charter contract. After that you are set for a sailing vacation.


When you arrive to the marina where your chartered yacht is situated you need to do the check in (usually Saturday around 04:00 PM) and you have to do the shopping for the charter vacation. Don't neglect the groceries shopping because the sea is unpredictable and you don't want to get stuck on the boat without anything to eat or drink.


You can do the shopping in a marina (although the prices are much higher there) or you can order from yacht provisioning services who usually deliver the products to your chartered yacht at no extra fee. This is convenient because it takes the load off you and the things you must do when you arrive at the marina for your sailing holiday.


Naturist resorts


Croatia was the first country in Europe to start with the concept of commercial naturist resorts. According to some estimates about 15% of all tourists that visit the country are naturists or nudists (more than one million each year). There are more than 20 official naturist resorts as well as a very large number of the so-called free beaches which are unofficial naturist beaches, sometimes controlled and maintained by local tourist authorities. In fact, you are likely to find nudists on any beach outside of town centers. Naturist beaches in Croatia are marked as "FKK". The most popular nudist destinations are Pula, Hvar and island Rab.


Health tourism


022 rovinj 1 20120409 1206447248Increasingly Croatia is becoming a popular place for health tourism. A number of dental surgeries have experience in treating short term visitors to Croatia. Croatian dentists study for 5 years in Zagreb or Rijeka. Harmonization of training with EU standards has begun, in preparation for Croatia's accession.


Lighthouses


One of Croatia's more "wild" holiday offers are the lighthouses. Most of them are situated on a deserted coastline or in the open sea. The specialty of this is that you are able to cut yourself off from the rest of the world and take the time to "smell the roses". Sometimes the best way to relax is to take part in a Robinson Crusoe style holiday.


Croatia has 11 rent-a-lighthouses along the Adriatic coast: Savudrija, Sv. Ivan, Rt Zub, Porer, Veli Rat, Prisnjak, Sv. Petar, Plocica, Susac, Struga and Palagruza.


Currency


Croatia's official currency is the kuna. Although many tourist business owners may accept it, Euros are not legal tender in Croatia. Any amount of kuna you have left at the end of your stay can be converted to euros at a local bank or exchange office.


Prices are around 10% to 20% lower than most EU countries. Touristic destinations and articles are much more expensive.


ATMs (in Croatian bankomat) are readily available throughout Croatia. They will accept various European bank cards, credit cards (Diners Club, Eurocard/Mastercard, Visa, American Express etc.) and debit cards (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa electron etc.). Read the labels/notices on the machine before using.


Tax-free shopping


017 orebi 20120409 1671550720If you buy goods worth more than 740 kuna you are entitled to a PDV (VAT) tax return when leaving the country. Note that this applies to all goods except petroleum products. At point of purchase ask the sales person for a PDV-P form. Fill it out and have it stamped on the spot. On leaving Croatia the receipt will be verified by the Croatian Customs service. A PDV refund in Kunas can be obtained within six months, either at the same shop where you bought the goods (in that case the tax will be refunded to you immediately), or by posting the verified receipt back to the shop, together with the account number into which the refund should be paid. In this case the refund is dealt with within 15 days of receipt of the claim. There is another, much easier way to receive the refund. Buy your goods in shops with a "CROATIA TAX-FREE SHOPPING" label. This label is displayed on the shop's entrance, usually next to the labels of credit and debit cards this particular shop accepts. Using an international coupon, refund is possible in all countries-members of the TAX-FREE international chain. In this case the service charge is deducted from the tax refund amount.


Croatia now uses the Global Blue system. They will do the refund and take a commission off the price. You can do this at the airport or post it once you get home.


Natural cosmetics


The ingredients used (herbs, olive oil, etc.) are grown in Croatia. In comparison to some world famous beauty products, Croatian natural cosmetics present real value for the money.


Ulola manufacturers soaps, bath salts, body butters and more. It's all natural and comes in combinations like: orange and cinnamon, goats milk and almond oil, etc.


S-Atea manufacturers soaps, shower gels, body butter and more. Seaweed, olive oil, rosemary and lavender are some of their main ingredients.
Brac fini sapuni (Brac quality soaps) manufacturers a wide range of natural soaps, the lastest addition to their bath line is Aurum Croaticum made from virgin olive oil and thin leafs of 23 carat gold!!!


Croatian clothing designers


015 motovun 20120409 1924151621There are many Croatian designers and clothing specialists.

  • Etnobutik "Mara" (designs by Vesna Milković) offers a range of really unique clothing and accessories inscribed with "glagoljica" (glagolitic script; old Slavic alphabet). Some of her designs are protected as Authentic Croatian produce.
  • I-gle Fashion Studio by two female designers Nataša Mihaljčišin and Martina Vrdoljak-Ranilović. Their clothing is sold in Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge (London).;
  • Nebo ("Sky") is a fashion house that makes really nice, funky clothes and shoes.
  • Nit ("Thread") is definitely not widely known even among Croats but is definitely worth visiting as they have some "funky and arty but serious" clothing items that are "value for money".

Safety


During summer make sure you use adequate SPF to protect yourself from sunburn. There are no ozone holes over Croatia but it's fairly easy to burn in the sun. If this happens make sure you get out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids and rehydrate your skin. The locals will often advise covering the burnt spot with cold yogurt bought from the supermarket.


In case of an emergency you can dial 112 - responsible for dispatching all emergency services such as fire departments, police, emergency medical assistance and mountain rescue.


Since the hostilities ended in 1995, there remain an estimated 90,000 landmines in Croatia. However these are not to be found in areas visited by tourists. If you plan to hike consult locals before you go. The mine suspected areas are marked with 16.000 mine warning signs.


Do not stray from marked roads or known safe areas. 


Watch out for bora wind danger signs. Bora is known in Velebit area, can blow up to 200 km/h and is known to have thrown lorries on the sides.


Avoid strip clubs at all costs. They are often run by very shady characters, and often overcharge their guests. Recent cases include foreigners that were charged 2000 euros for a bottle of champagne. These clubs overcharge their customers to the extreme, and their bouncers will not have any mercy if you tell them you are unable to pay. You will soon find yourself in a local hospital. Using common sense is essential, but due to the nature of the clubs this may be in short supply, and you may be better advised simply to steer well clear of these clubs.


Health


011 land 20120409 1362680688There are no vaccination required to enter Croatia.


If you're going camping or hiking in continental Croatia during summer, you should be aware of ticks and tick-carrying diseases such as encephalitis and lyme-disease. Approximately 3 ticks in 1000 carry the virus.


In Eastern Slavonia (particularly around the Kopacki Rit near Osijek) wear long sleeves and take insect repellent.


Tap water in Croatia is perfectly safe, and in some areas considered the best in the world. However, you can still choose from several brands of excellent bottled water (Jamnica being the most popular, and Jana, several times awarded as the world's best bottled water).


Respect


Keep in mind that 1990s marked with Serbian aggression and Croatian-Serbian bloody and brutal war is still a painful subject, but generally there should be no problem if you approach that topic with respect. Visitors will find that domestic politics and European affairs are everyday conversation subjects in Croatia.


Socially, displays of affection among the younger generation are the same as Western European standards, but the older generation (over 65) still are quite conservative.


When driving on rural roads, particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel.


Most Croats will respond to "thank you" with something along the lines of "It was nothing" or "not at all" which is equivalent to English "Don't mention it".

Based on the Wikitravel article on Croatia.