Croatia Driving Guide 2021

Since gaining independence in 1991, Croatia has focused on infrastructure and motorways. Driving the roads of Croatia is generally pleasant and efficient between the largest cities, particularly since the introduction of the national motorway network. Get an international driving license and rent a car to explore this.

Updated Apr 9, 2021·9min read
Driving Guide

Since gaining independence in 1991, Croatia has focused on infrastructure and motorways. Driving the roads of Croatia is generally pleasant and efficient between the largest cities, particularly since the introduction of the national motorway network. The major roads and motorways are smooth, new, and relatively safe. While smaller roadways present their challenges, they are also relatively safe when proper caution is taken. It is particularly important to take caution among those who have truck driving jobs in Croatia, as they can be quite aggressive drivers. But don’t let that stop you from driving around the beautiful country.

Croatia is quite long and thin with a reverse crescent shape and the southern tip cut in two by Bosnia. The northernmost part meets Hungary, with Serbia to the east, and Slovenia to the west. Its maritime border in the Adriatic Sea is met with Italy. There is a total land area of 56,594 square km (21,851 square miles), or about the size of West Virginia.

Tourism is booming in Croatia just as in other parts of Europe. The country is visited by nearly 20 million tourists per year, which has been continuing to grow each year. With a mere population of just more than 4 million, you will be sure to encounter other travelers on your trip, though the mild winter months favor a very small number of visitors who visit Croatia. The most popular areas are the long and winding roads along the coastline and the larger cities. Daring and adventurous travelers enjoy hiking the low mountains, discovering one of the 1,100 islands, or some of the 30 miles covered by 26 rivers.

The best way to experience the beautiful Adriatic coastline is to drive the winding roads and venture through the small towns and villages. Just remember to have confidence, keep your seat belt on and your cell phone down, and use the Croatian Automobile Association (HAK) app along your journey.

During the summer months, you will have to vie against the tourist season; however, late spring and early fall make for easy driving on the main motorways. If you simply cannot resist summer travel, consider the earliest and latest dates possible. Then consider taking the old highways as you get closer to cities and towns. These old roads are usually barren and offer grand views of the countryside.

Fortunately, our digital age is a perk when it comes to getting information on traffic in Croatia. There is the HAK website to obtain traffic, ferry, train, and border information and to view webcams. More recent and up-to-the-minute information is available through the Croatian Motorways website. Additionally, the HAK traffic app will come in handy providing traffic information and an extensive list of places of interest. This is particularly great for local sightseeing interests and finding grocers, pharmacies, restaurants, or a place to stay.


Drivers do not need an international driving permit if their driver’s license uses Latin typefaces. However, to make you confident in your trip, getting an international driving permit in Croatia is advisable. It’s easy to get it because its online accessibility. If you’re going to ask what the legal driving age in this country is, the legal driving age in Croatia is 18 years old, regardless of your originating country’s laws. Additionally, to drive legally in Croatia, you must carry any valid driver’s license, driver’s insurance, your passport (as a form of identification), and your international driver’s license or permit. So, driving in Croatia with a foreign license is perfectly acceptable, including driving in Croatia with an American license.

If you intend to stay in Croatia for a long time, there is a need for you to get a Croatian’s driver’s license. To obtain one, you should get yourself enrolled in a driving school for you to know how to apply for driving a license in Croatia.


A Note About Aggressive VS. Defensive Driving

While locals tend to be aggressive drivers, do not fall into the aggressive behaviors and attitudes that may provoke aggressive driving in yourself, including:

  • Ignoring speed limits, not using your blinker, running through red lights or stop signs, or not giving right of way.
  • Tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic while ignoring the proper passing lane, and changing lanes with little room between vehicles.
  • Extreme horn honking, rapid braking, and flashing of headlights.
  • Becoming so frustrated that you fight for road domination.
  • Expressing your frustration inside your car by yelling, swearing, or using obscene hand gestures.
  • Driving under the influence, not using headlights in the dark, or driving without a seat belt.

The real secret is to be confident in your driving ability and use defensive driving techniques such as:

  • Control your speed, keeping it appropriate for the road and traffic conditions.
  • Expecting the unexpected while driving, including other drivers and pedestrians.
  • Staying alert and remaining distraction-free.
  • Act respectfully towards other drivers.
  • Maintain a safe distance between you and other vehicles.


As long as you have your driver’s license, IDP, and payment card, you will find that the mechanics of renting a car in Croatia are practically identical to renting in the US. You will even see the same companies, especially if you rent a car from the airport. These include Avis, Hertz, Budget and all the rest.}>

There is a wide variety of rental options in Croatia including major companies such as Avis, Hertz, and Budget. The main options are to obtain a rental from the airport, at the car rental property, or to deliver the car to your hotel. As with most rental agencies around the world, it is common that you must be at least 21 to rent or drive a rental vehicle. In Croatia, the minimum age is 22. However, for a surcharge, the younger driver may still rent a car. It is also common for those over 70 years to have a surcharge for extra insurance when renting. Otherwise, driving in Croatia with US insurance, or insurance from another country is acceptable. Simply remember to bring a copy of your current proof of insurance card or letter with you. If you have your car shipped in, then you can happily drive your US car in Croatia, or your car from any other country as well.

Most rentals available are likely to be diesel-fueled and manual transmission. However, electric cars are available in some locations and charging ports are becoming more commonly available. Automatic transmissions are not as readily available, so early reservations are critical to ensure either an automatic or electric car. Fuel stations are available from around 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 or 8:00 P.M. in smaller cities and towns. Larger cities and along the motorways have 24-hour stations. The main caution here is to remember the type of fuel your rental requires. Accidentally pumping the wrong type of fuel will be a costly and time-consuming mistake!

If your plans involve mostly larger cities, the days spent in the city do not require a rental since public transportation is very good. It’s best to plan and decide when a rental is necessary to save money, time, and frustration of parking in busy downtown areas. On the other hand, if you plan on staying in small towns, especially on the coast, a rental car is a perfect option.

Rentals and Island Hopping

Another common rental practice on the islands of Croatia is daily rentals with the ability to leave the rental at the ferry terminal. In fact, this is a perfect option if you plan on island hopping, rather than risking not making the ferry ride with your rental. The additional charges of ferry transportation are also a consideration; though it may take away some time from your overall experience, you may save money better spent on experiences. As with most islands, you won’t need transportation every day, and some islands are only accessible via catamaran. Expand your horizons and take advantage of one-way rental options. If you’re not comfortable with these options, there are many who have driving jobs in Croatia and are happy to get you where you are going to.

Additional Tips About Rentals

The best time to visit Croatia is from September to June. During these months, rental prices are the highest because of demand. Ensure a great price and availability by reserving your rental plenty in advance of your travels. Rentals in the other 10 months of the year are likely available on-demand and prices up to 60 percent lower. The best practice here is to also book your rental early to obtain the best prices.

Add-ons to your rental such as an automatic transmission, child seat, GPS, or mobile hot spot can compound the overall cost. Be certain they are critical add-ons like an automatic transmission if you are not comfortable with a manual transmission. If you plan on utilizing one-way rentals, be sure to understand any associated fees with that option. Some rental companies are willing to negotiate the fee or may waive it.

Speaking of negotiating with the rental company, be sure they are not upselling for products you do not need, such as:

  • Cross border insurance. Even if you cross into Bosnia or Montenegro, you do not need this added insurance as the green card for the rental will verify the minimum insurance coverage is in the car.
  • GPS. Keep in mind that GPS is rarely needed in Croatia, especially if you are on major roads, as signage and markers are very clear. Locals are generally very helpful as well, just be sure they are locals and not fellow tourists. Many travelers report that Google Maps is an efficient means of GPS solution in Croatia. If you opt for this, be sure your cell roaming charges are reasonable.

Size does matter in Croatia and the smaller the car the better off you are. If you will be doing a lot of city driving, a sub-compact or compact car is a plus in locating a parking space. Depending on your height and number of passengers a mid-size rental is a great choice for traveling longer distances yet still allows for easy maneuvering.

As with any rental situation ensure the following steps are taken for your best interest:

  • Reserve your needs early for the best prices.
  • Ensure plenty of time for pick-up and drop-off so you are not rushed to complete paperwork.
  • Obtain receipts and a contract before driving the vehicle.
  • Inspect the car for any damage and note them on paper before you leave and when you return the car (taking photos of the vehicle is a good idea too).
  • If you see any damages, discuss them with the rental office personnel.
  • Fill the tank before dropping off the vehicle. Rental companies often charge 2 to 3 times the cost of fuel as a refueling surcharge.
  • If you return the car in person, ask for a return receipt statement.
  • When you pick up your rental, be sure to ask the rental agent about local tips for the best routes to your destination(s), and any road signs or construction that you should be aware of.


The main difference for Americans in Croatia is that a honking horn is not just about being upset. It is very common for locals to use their horn as a greeting. While you should always be aware of honking horns, don’t let them get on your nerves in Croatia.

While driving in-town or in-city, exercise caution and be observant, as the local drivers can be a bit unsettling. Local drivers will take corners wide, ignore speed limits, and often speed around tourists and their comrades even on the narrowest mountain roads. While driving in the dark take extra precautions as most streets are unlit.

While accidents are commonplace, the past decade has shown an amazing improvement in accidents resulting in death. Dropping by nearly one-third in ten years, the rate of road-related deaths is 8 per 100,000; whereas, in the U.S. the rate is 10 per 100,000

The ins and Outs of Tollways

Depending on where you live, you may be familiar with tollways. There are many motorways that have tolls, some of which can be at least 30$. Other potential tollways include bridges and tunnels. Fares can be paid by kuna, credit/debit card, or euro (non-residents only). As similar to other toll routes, a prepaid electronic toll account can be set up but is meant for regular motorway users. On motorways, you will take a ticket from a booth upon entering, then when exiting, you’ll give the ticket to the toll agent and pay the toll.


Have you ever paid for parking using an app? Welcome to the birthplace of SMS and app-based parking. Quite a simple concept, as you simply text or put the parking station phone number and your license plate into the app or via SMS. You will even receive a text confirming payment and another text when your parking is about to expire. In the app, it can also send you a message or alert.

As with most large cities, parking can be frustrating and difficult. Be sure to look at the Total Croatia News parking guides for larger cities such as Dubrovnik and Split. Some areas are limited to 2 or 3 hours for street parking, while some parking garages are all day and have little or no fees. If you park on the street, be sure to understand which parking zone you are in and how long you have, as fines can be quite pricey, may involve a wheel clamp, or your car may be towed away.

Parking areas are marked with white lines and a sign with a large P. Spots marked with a yellow dot are reserved for people with disabilities. Access to disabled parking is available in Zagreb and some larger cities and an EU Disabled Parking Permit is required.


If you are not familiar with roundabouts, be sure you have a good understanding of the ins and outs before traveling. While they are meant to increase traffic safety and improve visibility, they can lead to confusion and near misses if used wrong. Traffic is meant to flow counterclockwise in a circular dance of vehicles. If there is a car in the roundabout, they have the right-of-way.

A trickier concept is the multi-lane roundabout. It is common on larger roadways to run into a two-lane roundabout. To navigate these, simply remember the right-hand lane is for the next immediate exit turning out of the roundabout. The inner lane should be used until you are past the exit just before the turn you wish to take. If there are no roundabouts in your area, be sure to view a video or two online to get a better idea of how the multi-lane roundabout works.


In our modern world, most people are already familiar with the most important driving rules in Croatia, including the driving laws in Croatia:

Driving Sober, or Near Sober

If you plan on drinking alcohol and are over 25, the blood alcohol content limit for driving is 0.05%. For those under 25, there is a zero-tolerance policy, literally meaning the blood alcohol content must remain at 0% when driving. If you’re not sure how much 0.05% is, it really is not much. A glass of wine, a pint of beer, or one shot of hard alcohol within two hours can read at 0.05%. A lot will have to do with the person’s metabolic rate, if the food was eaten, and if they are in good health or on any medications. The best practice here is if you are going to drink at all, do not drive.}>

Hands-Free Cell Phone Use

As known in most countries, statistics continue to suggest nearly 50 percent of road accidents are caused by distracted driving. Most countries have implemented some form of cell phone restrictions simply because cell phones are one of the biggest distractions drivers regularly use. Croatia has also implemented a law about cell phone use while driving. Unlike other areas of Europe, Croatia does allow the use of hands-free devices.
Seat Belt Requirements

If you plan on drinking alcohol and are over 25, the blood alcohol content limit for driving is 0.05%. For those under 25, there is a zero-tolerance policy, literally meaning the blood alcohol content must remain at 0% when driving. If you’re not sure how much 0.05% is, it really is not much. A glass of wine, a pint of beer, or one shot of hard alcohol within two hours can read at 0.05%. A lot will have to do with the person’s metabolic rate, if the food was eaten, and if they are in good health or on any medications. The best practice here is if you are going to drink at all, do not drive.}>

Additional Driving Laws

Considering driving a motorcycle or moped in Croatia? Be sure to have the appropriate safety helmet, as they are required for all drivers and passengers.

Current driving laws require the use of headlights during the day and winter tires from November 15 through April 15. Furthermore, if there are more than 2 inches of snow or black ice, cars must have snow chains and a shovel.

Important Phrases and Words

While most police know some English, or you have a handy language app, the following list from Rhino Car Hire is helpful:

  • Osiguaranje = Insurance
  • Ulaz Zabranjen = No Entry / Do Not Enter
  • Bezolovni benzin = unleaded super 91/95 gas/petrol
  • Benzin = petrol
  • Dizel = diesel
  • Ulaz = entrance
  • Izlas = exit
  • Lijevo = left
  • Desno = right
  • Autocesta = motorway
  • Brzacesta = expressways
  • Autocesta = highways
  • Državna cesta = State roads
  • županijska cesta = country roads
  • Cesta namijenjena isključivo za promet motornih vozila = Roads dedicated for motor vehicles
  • I have broken down = Ja sam oborio
  • Where is the police station? = Gdje je policijska stanica?
  • I have a flat tyre = Imam guma
  • I have been in an accident = Ja sam bio u nesreći
  • Where is? = Gdje je?
  • Where can I buy petrol? = Gdje mogu kupiti benzin?

Safety and Emergencies

Any time you feel a bit out of control or extra nervous, simply slow down while staying near the speed limit. To maintain safety there are five main considerations:

  • Be aware of local motorcyclists who drive too fast and seemingly come out of thin air. Be sure to regularly check your mirrors. Keep your calm and simply take your foot off the accelerator pedal then regain complete composure and continue driving.
  • Stay on established roads. Off-road driving presents the possible threat of hitting landmines from the war with Serbia. Most mined areas are marked with the international warning sign indicated by skull and crossbones in an upside-down red triangle. However, if you are in a known conflict area, it is best to stay on established roads and vested driving paths. Avoid driving in ditches, open fields, or onto unmarked roads. Demining is still underway in affected areas but will likely take many years to complete.
  • Do not stop for people who appear to need help on the side of the road. There have been too many occurrences of reported theft and crime stemming from ‘stranded’ motorists. Often, it will appear like a legitimate accident or broken-down car. Once you have pulled over and approached to help, the thief will pull a knife or gun and rob you before taking off in their car.
  • Smaller roads can be hazardous, even on clear and overcast days. On the coastline, many smaller roads lack guardrails and less maintained than major roads. Around the low mountainside areas, be sure to look out for falling rock and rocks on the road and remain alert if you should need to slow down or stop without much notice.
  • Keep abreast of weather conditions.
  • Wind gusts can get up to speeds of 90 km/h (56 miles per hour) and higher; however, roads aren’t closed until winds exceed 140 km/h (87 miles per hour). Slow down on straight stretches and even more when you are changing lanes or going around curves.
  • Rain is rare on the coast during the summer months; however, in the off chance it is rainy, it will mean significantly more cars on the road. Smaller roads tend to become quite slick when wet, so slow down and take caution around bends and curves.

If you have an emergency while driving, you call the Croatian Automobile Associations number in 1987 (if calling from a foreign number dial +385 1 1987). If you happen to have the HAK app, you can also access roadside assistance information there.


Croatian road signs are easy to understand as they follow international standards. This includes the use of the three-colored traffic light along with other conventional signage. A light difference is that right turns at all traffic lights are only allowed if a light is green. Always look before you go with a green light. Many locals simply ignore red lights and will speed through them.

Motorways have the motorway logo and the letter A followed by two digits.
State roads have the letter D followed by four digits.
Country roads have the letter Z followed by four digits.

Major Motorways

  • A1 is a toll road considered the easiest way to travel south.
  • A3 heads east from the Slovenian border through Zagreb to the Serbian border.
  • A6 travels to the west from Zagreb.
  • A8 Rijeka with Kanfanar.
  • A9 is between Pula and Kanfanar.

Major National Roads

  • D1 travels inland through Knin, then down the coast to join D8.
  • D8 (older maps indicate E65) travels the coast from Rijeka to Dubrovnik.
  • D66 is the most popular national coastal road known for a scenic but curvy drive popular for motorcycle riders.

Rush Hours

The largest cities in the Croatia area always busy. However, the heaviest traffic times in cities tend to be 7:30 A.M. to 9:30 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. to 6:30 P.M.


Speed limits throughout Croatia are standard around the country 130 km/hr on the motorway, 90 km/hr on national roads, and 50 km/hr in urban areas (80/55/31 miles per hour, respectively). On curvier roads or other precarious road conditions, other speed limits may be posted. It is important to follow the speed limits as police regularly patrol all areas.

Be aware there are both mobile and fixed red light and speed cameras throughout Croatia for which you will receive a fine. Many of these cameras do not have signs or warnings, they are simply there. If you are driving a rental expect to see added fees to process that fine as well. If you like to be in the know, there are a few sites out there that list the locations of these cameras.


Police cars are clearly marked and have a light bar on the top of the car, much like standard police cars in the United States. When Croatia became an independent country, the new central government focused on police reform. They were once considered corrupt, but it changed, the police’s public service has greatly improved and continues to progress.

As you should be anywhere in the world, follow the law and the officer’s orders. From the time you see the flashing lights, start to slow down, and look for a good place to pull over with enough room for the police to park behind you. Switch off your engine, put your window down and keep your hands resting on the steering wheel. Once the officer approaches you, be sure to express that you cannot speak Croatian and tell them your native language. At least 80% of Croatians are multilingual and about 80% of them speak have studied English.

Police can carry out random tests but are required to carry out tests for any car accident. Tests can include breath, saliva, blood, and/or urine samples. Should you refuse to take a breath test it is considered an admission of driving under the influence in Croatia. If you are detained for any reason, request that your country’s embassy is contacted.

On-the-spot Fines

If you are receiving a fine on the spot you do not have to pay immediately. Instead, it is likely that your passport will be confiscated until the fine is paid. Be sure to have a copy of your passport in your baggage for backup purposes. Typical fines for speeding run from 45 to 2,148$ (40 to 2,000 Euros). Driving under the influence can be fine around 2,148$. dollars or up to a 60-day stint in jail.

While you are not required to pay the fine on-the-spot, there is usually a 50% discount if you can manage it or if you pay at a nearby postal office. If you do pay on the spot, be sure to get a receipt. Best practices are not to speed or drive under the influence.

If you have been pulled over for a minor offense, being courteous and kind will go a long way. Depending on the officer, they may simply give you a verbal warning or a reduced fine. When driving in Croatia with a US license, or from any other country, be sure you keep the car’s paperwork and your driver’s license within easy reach, rather than scrambling to find them during a traffic stop.

Where to go in Croatia to experience its unique landscapes?

There are many advantages to driving through Croatia. You’ll see the amazing countryside, plains, and low mountains on the coast. Many who have traveled on the Pacific Coast Highway along the California coast compare those sights to the coast of Croatia (though it’s reported Croatia’s coast is more breathtaking). There are many lists and suggestions regarding best places to go in Croatia for road trips, and what to do in Croatia, and these include:

  • Zagreb, the capital city, is different from many other parts of the country. Enjoy the starting point of your trip in a very charming and walkable city with very old town streets. The most popular sights are the National Theatre and Museum of Broken Relationships. During the Christmas season, the Christmas market is becoming a popular destination for off-season travelers.
  • Plitvice Lakes is an extremely popular destination with 16 inter-connected lakes sporting waterfalls and low mountains. Be sure to check the weather forecast before stopping, as rain and fog will kibosh the picturesque views of turquoise water.
  • Zadar is a great place to wander the marble streets to view a variety of roman ruins, beautiful architectures, fortresses, and city walls that lead to a modern waterfront area. The Monument to the Sun (Pozdrav Suncu) will please romantics and children at heart with the nightly light shows powered by the sun. Nearby at the promenade, actually under the promenade, is the Sea Organ which turns waves into music.
  • Krka encompasses a 100 square kilometer (62.2 square miles) of amazing plants and animals of over 800 species. Another popular spot is the Skradinski Buk pools and waterfalls for swimming and relaxing. If you enjoy hiking or bicycle riding, there are many trails, caves, and lakes close by that are easily explored.
  • Split is a major transportation hub including access to ferries to explore nearby islands. This is also a popular place to seek souvenirs, as there is a multitude of shops. The main pedestrian street is also packed with restaurants and cafés sure to satisfy any appetite. Other must-see sights include the central square of the palace, Peristyle, and the interworked architecture of Roman, medieval, gothic, and Renaissance buildings. From the relaxing park and Marjan hill overlooking the city to the city’s zoo and bustling marina, there are a variety of activities for all ages and interests.
  • Brac, Hvar, or Korcula Islands are the easiest islands to access by ferry while being conscious of the time required for travel. It’s suggested to research the different islands and current ferry schedules before deciding which one (or more) island to visit. Brac is known for its’ white pebble beaches and thick pine forests. Hvar is a historic harbor town dating back to 1530. Korcula is known for the dense forests and medieval churches, palaces, and houses that remain intact today. If you feel the need to visit two islands, there is a ferry connection between Hvar and Korcula easily traveling back to the mainland in one day.
  • Dubrovnik has become very popular for its’ appearances in Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of the TV series, then be sure to research and take your own tour or take one of the tours readily available on most corners in the old part of town. The Dubrovnik Bay is particularly breathtaking with a lush forest, fort, natural beach, and botanical garden.

The vast types of cities, towns, villages, ancient architecture, abounding natural beauty, and an array of activities along your road trip will truly be an adventure to remember. So, whether you’re a resident European or a US Citizen driving in Croatia, keep alert, stay calm, and enjoy the amazing landscape!for

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