Saturday, July 6, 2024

Eight things it's helpful to know before embarking on a Croatian vacation July 2024


Well, I wrote this while I was still on the plane about three weeks ago, but it doesn't age, so here it goes.

Well, I'm still on this plane and will be for quite a while longer so I might as well plan ahead and see if I can write a bit more. Last year we went to Greece in the height of the heat and the pinnacle of the European travel season.  When we were there, we were surprised by quite a bit but learned a lot, some things particular to Greece and some particular to European travel in general.  These are outlined in my blogpost, "Some Hard and Fast Truths about Greece."   Many of the things noted during our trip to Croatia this year were similar to those experienced in Greece, but here is a list of eight things it helps to know coming to Croatia that stand on their own. Why eight?  Because that's how many I can think of right now.

1)  STAIRS-- OMG.  Stairs, stairs, stairs--stairs, and steep stairs, as far as the eye can see, and then more stairs.

Stairs were a thing in Split, as when climbing to the top of the St Domnius Cathedral Bell Tower or hiking to the top of Mt Telegrin on the Marjan Peninsula.  Stairs worsened in Bol, but were not so bad as Bol was a small city.  Where the stairs truly rolled themselves out to destroy us was in Dubrovnik.  Imagine hauling your fifty pounds of luggage plus your carry on bag/pack/purse, etc. up 80 narrow, shallow, steep stairs in the burning heat of the day after travelling from God knows where.  We saw many suffering faces doing exactly this during our time in Dubrovnik and we did it ourselves.  We think of ourselves as fit people, but dang, these stairs sobered us.  Everywhere we went involved stairs.  Though we figured out more gradual (less strenuous) ways to get to Old Town, the over-reaching reality was that whatever went down had to come up.

I'd be inclined to say that if you had any mobility issues whosoever, you would be completely S.O.L.  Bad knees, bad back, overweight--forget it, you are toast.

Most of the pedestrian passageways, though actual streets with residences, all walled on either side with only a few doors visible. There is no telling what is behind the walls until you peek through the occasional open door, revealing a bar, a cemetery, a residence, or worse, 80 stairs descending to the street below.

Curiously, these alley ways are safe.  We saw no homeless, no creepy characters, and even saw young ladies walking them at night on their own.

Yes, we hauled our luggage up this monster

Goodbye knees....

2)  COFFEE  Coffee in Croatia is a big deal.  There is not a single Starbucks in all of Croatia and, in fact, take away coffee is almost unheard of.  Coffee is expensive, and generally you are going to stay to drink it where you bought it, that is unless you have a better way of making it at home.  Of the five places we stayed, only two had a drip coffee maker, and the grind used to make drip coffee is virtually unavailable.  In Split we were forced to our friend YouTube to learn to make Turkish Coffee on the stove, also warming the milk up on the stove and drinking from very small espresso cups.  This did tend to grow on us and we did get more proficient at it as the days went on.

3)  BEACHES  While the water on Croatian beaches is possibly the clearest and the most gentle I have ever encountered, the beaches are made of fine pebbles, which hurt your feet.  Entry into the water at some beaches is ok, especially if you leave your flipflops at the water's edge so you can get back to your towel without the agony of stepping over the rocks, but at some, like at Banje, Dubrovnik's most well known beach right outside the Old City walls, we just went in with our water shoes on. While sand beaches exist, well never mind, they don't really.  We always wore water shoes to the beach.  Don't go expecting to curl your toes in the sand.

This as you might imagine can definitely impact the experience of laying in the sun, but we managed it. Unlike in Greece, rented beach chairs were expensive, sometimes ranging upward of 60 Euros for two chairs and an umbrella, but, also unlike as in Greece, there was plenty of space on the beach to lay out your towel, and as a matter of fact, this is what most people choose to do.  There is always a bar nearby, you just have to get up and get your beer instead of someone bringing it to you.

Pebbles on Martinica Beach on Brac
Lunch on Kasjuni Beach on the Marjan Peninsula in Split

4)  ICE   Ice is hard to come by, in fact, we did not encounter a single grocery store in which you could just "buy ice."  One of our tri-daily chores was emptying out the single ice tray, some of them making as few as 10 small cubes at a time, and refilling the tray to immeidately make more.  We were constantly low on ice, which made ice water impossible and the sustenance of our gin and tonic habit a struggle at best.

5) HOLIDAYS  Try not to arrive on a Sunday or a national holiday.  The Croatians take these days very seriously so popping into a grocery store for something as simple as a bar of soap may prove to be quite difficult.

We arrived the day before what turned out to be both a national AND a religious holiday.  Both National Statehood Day and Corpus Christi fell on May 30th.  We strolled out in the morning hoping to find a cafe or a grocery store open and found ourselves striking out on many levels, to the point that when we drove to quite remote Plitvice, we feared being able to get any dinner at all.

6)  APPLIANCES and RENTAL CARS  If your place has major appliances, like an oven, dishwasher, or a washing machine, make sure your host shows you how to use it.  If your place has a washer, it will not have a dryer, but it will have a drying rack, so don't wash your clothes right before you have to pack them.  Similarly, if you rent a car, get instructions on the basics.  European models are not the same as their American counterparts.  In the middle of a parking garage in Zagreb, we had to get out our trusted friend YouTube again and learn how to put our rental car into reverse!


There is no bus or train service between Split and Dubrovnik.  If you chose to drive this road, though lovely, you will have to cross the non-EU Bosnian border. We heard the delay here can reach into the hours-long category.  All the ferries we rode were precisely on time, if not a few seconds early.

Seriously like airplane seats!!

Super comfy ride to Hvar..

8)  Several mobile apps can be downloaded to make your life easier, such as the SplitParking App (should you have a car) and the Dubrovnik Bus System app, without which, good luck!

I hope these tips will make your trip to Croatia a little easier!  Hope you enjoyed reading.  Please follow me on Instagram at @templestravel for more frequent travel related tips! Scan the QR code to follow!

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