Going on a road trip in Croatia? You’re definitely in the right place then! This guide to driving in Croatia covers everything you need to know, from the standard rules and regulations to tips and tricks you can only get from the locals!
Mandatory vehicle equipment, tolls, car rental, and parking tips are just some of the things that are covered in this detailed guide. I’ve also included links to websites and apps that can make driving around Croatia easier and more fun, so just read on!
Just like in most other European countries, you drive on the right side of the road in Croatia. The road signs and traffic signals are universal, so if you’ve ever driven in Europe there won’t be any nasty surprises.
Your headlights must be on at all times, the driver and all the passengers (including the ones in the backseat) must have their seatbelts fastened, and you need to have a valid driver’s license. You must be at least 18 years old to be able to drive in Croatia, and the category of your license must be clearly stated.
Drivers with Class D and D1 licenses must be at least 24 years old, otherwise, their licenses are not considered valid in Croatia.
As for winter equipment, it’s compulsory between November 15th and April 15th. You must have winter tires fitted onto the car, while show chains should be in your trunk.
An unwritten rule is that you’re allowed to park on a refuge island if you leave your hazard lights on. But only for a short time – locals do this if they have to run to a nearby store and if they’re only going to be away from the car for a couple of minutes. You likely won’t be ticketed if you have a rental car, but the police might be more strict on cars with foreign plates.
Certain vehicle equipment is mandatory in Croatia, although in most cases nobody cares whether you actually have it. If the police stop you for a random check, they will rarely check whether you have all the mandatory equipment, unless you give them a reason.
Nonetheless, it’s still a traffic regulation that you should obey, so here’s a list of all the mandatory vehicle equipment in Croatia:
Winter tires and snow chains are mandatory in the winter. Additionally, the depth of your tire treads might also be checked – the minimum tread depth is 4 mm for winter tires and 1.6 mm for summer tires.
Last but not least, the maximum allowed blood alcohol level is 0,5‰ for older drivers. Drivers younger than 24 are not allowed to have any alcohol in their blood, but this rule is specifically for young drivers with Croatian permits. I’m not entirely sure what the rule is for young drivers with foreign licenses, but I know it’s in your best interest not to drink and drive.
The main roads in Croatia are in pretty good condition. There’s the occasional pothole, but in most cases they’re well-maintained. Keep in mind that I said that about main roads – less frequented roads in smaller settlements are usually not in the best condition, but they’re perfectly driveable.
One thing to note is that you should be careful when turning corners, especially if you’re driving along less frequented roads. Locals will often drive in the middle of the road or swerve into oncoming traffic – they’re not trying to kill anyone, they’re just cutting corners.
For current information on traffic flow and road conditions, it’s best to refer to hak.hr. The interactive map shows any recent accidents, road closures because of roadworks, and temporary traffic regulations. You can also check out the live feeds from traffic cams, which are very useful for avoiding traffic jams.
Live camera feeds are especially helpful if you’ll be crossing the border. Border crossings in Croatia get hectic in the summer, and the live feeds give you an idea of how long you’d have to wait at any crossing. It’s always smart to go for the less frequented border crossings since the wait times are much shorter.
In addition to that, fires are a common occurrence in the summer, which is another reason to look for live updates on road conditions.
If you’re driving on the motorway, you’ll have to pay tolls relative to the road section. There’s no vignette in Croatia, and the amount of the toll depends solely on the road sections. If you’re planning to cross many miles in Croatia, you might want to consider using alternatives roads just to save some money.
This is especially true if you’re driving near the coast. Sure, the motorway will get you there faster, but the scenic route is a much better road trip experience, plus it’s entirely toll-free. Most roads in Croatia are toll-free, so you have quite a few alternatives.
In any case, there is a handy toll-fee calculator that can help you figure out exactly how much money you’ll need to pay for the road section you’ve covered. You can pay in cash and with cards, and tolls are charged at exits.
Speed limits are standard in Croatia, and there are usually road signs that indicate what the speed limit is in that area.
You’re not allowed to drive faster than 130 km/h on motorways, and that’s only for passenger vehicles. It’s actually 90 km/h for trailers, motorhomes, and trucks, so keep that in mind.
The speed limit is 50 km/h in settlements and 90 km/h outside built-up areas. On speedways, the speed limit is usually between 90 and 110 km/h, but that depends on the road and the conditions in the area. In any case, just drive as fast as the last road sign you saw said you could and you will be fine.
There are parking zones in most Croatian cities. Higher zone numbers are generally not too close to city centers and have cheaper parking spots.
However, it’s not exactly the same in every city. The cities that are more popular with tourists usually have more zones, with exorbitant parking prices the closer you are to all the action. The best example of this is Dubrovnik – the city has a “0 zone”, which is parking lots closest to the old town. It’s 40kn (5.3EUR) per hour and an outrageous 800kn (100EUR) for an entire day. Also, the prices change depending on the season and parking is the most expensive during the height of the tourist season.
Then there’s the town of Zadar that also has a “0 zone”, but it’s only 12kn per hour during the height of the tourist season. Zadar has four additional parking zone, with “Zone 4” being the cheapest option at just 2kn per hour.
You can google the parking situation for each city you want to visit, or you can download a very helpful app that will give you all the information you need. It’s called PayDo, and I’ll tell you a bit more about it in a later section.
In any case, it’s absolutely worth it to check out the parking zones before you drive into the city. Also, a lot of people will just park in shopping mall garages, since it’s usually cheaper than parking in Zone 0 or Zone 1.
You can pay for parking with cash, text messages, via phone apps, and at parking meters. Some parking places will also accept cards, but this is not always the case.
There’s no lack of gas stations in Croatia and you can usually see the location on the closest one on Google Maps. The largest gas station chains are INA, Lukoil, and Petrol, and they’re considered the best gas stations in the country.
There are both full-service and self-service gas stations throughout Croatia, but you can always ask for help from clerks. You must go inside to pay after you’ve refueled.
The gas stations on highways and speedways are usually open 24/7, while those in the cities often close sometime in the PM. One thing to note is that gas stations on the islands and peninsulas are few and far apart, so it’s best to refill the tank before getting on a ferry.
Car rental is very popular in Croatia, and several larger car rental companies allow you to rent a car in one city and return it to a different one. Your best option is to use autoeurope.hr site, since it lists all the available car rental companies for a given period, and highlights the most affordable options.
You need to be at least 18 years old to be able to rent a car in Croatia, but everyone under the age of 24 is considered a young driver. That means that car rental is slightly pricier, as is optional insurance. Additionally, young drivers are usually not allowed to rent anything other than cars from the Mini or Economy category.
You can rent a car regardless of where your driver’s license is issued, as long as it is in the Latin alphabet. Foreign and international driver’s licenses are valid in Croatia, and the only requirement is that the class you’re certified for is clearly visible on the license.
Car rental is very affordable in Croatia. The cheapest option is only some 12EUR per day for a small car and about 30EUR per day with insurance. Insurance is 18EUR per day, and it’s recommended to get it despite the cost.
Some companies allow you to cross to border and go to different countries, but you need to make that intent clear before you reserve the car. In any case, it is important to check with the car rental company – they usually have GPS trackers in the car, and if you take it out of the country when you were not supposed to, they will likely send the police after you.
Car sharing is becoming more and more popular and Croatia and it’s a good option if you’re in Zagreb or Dubrovnik. It’s only available in those two cities at the moment, via SpinCity and Avant2Go apps.
This is a good option if you just want to get around the city quickly, and you want to skip public transport. You pay by the minute and it’s generally cheaper than relying just on taxis. The system relies entirely on apps – you select a car that’s closest to you, you unlock it with your phone, and you pay with your phone as well. You can leave the car in one of the designated zones once you’re done with it, or you can lock it with the key if you need to run out and want to use it again later.
The cool thing about the car-sharing system is that you don’t have to pay for parking. It is entirely free in zones 1, 2, and 3, which is very convenient. What about the fuel? Well, you will have to pay for fuel if the tank runs out, but you will be refunded the money in the form of bonus driving minutes.
However, keep in mind that this is only good for driving short distances within these two cities – car-sharing services are not suitable for traveling outside the city, so this is not a good option if you want to go on a mini Croatia road trip.
There are a few apps that will make getting around Croatia easier, so be sure to check them out before you hit the road.
Google Maps is the best app for getting around Croatia. It is very accurate, so if you’re trying to reach a place that you’ve never been to before, just use driving instructions from Google Maps. The app has the advantage of allowing you to download offline maps, so you’re able to use it even if you do not have access to the Internet.
PayDo is the only parking assistant you need in Croatia. It lets you pay for parking, extend your parking, and you’ll get a notification if your paid parking time is about to expire. You can sign up for the app or you can log in as a guest.
When you log in, you just select the city you’re in, and the app shows you a map with all the different parking zones in the city. You can then buy a ticket for as many hours as you want directly from the app, which is very convenient.
MyPatrol is an app that displays the location of all stationary speed control cameras as well as police patrols. I’m not entirely certain if it is still as popular as it was a couple of years ago, but it’s certainly worth checking it out when you’re in Croatia. The app is free to download and if it’s still as widely used, it could provide you with some valuable information.
Additionally, be sure to check out the map of all stationary speed cameras in Croatia before you hit the road.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.