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Car rental/Croatia - Istria to Dubrovnik - a few queries

Hi all.

My wife and I are renting a car in Istria (1-week rental) this May, driving around that region for a few days (because food) and eventually down to Dubrovnik w/ stops in Zadar and Split. I've done a number of cross-country road trips in the U.S., so this is more exciting than daunting to me, but the horror stories surrounding car rentals are a little disconcerting.

I have a few questions:

1) If I reserve an "automatic" transmission vehicle online (some of the bigger corporate companies, e.g. Hertz, allow for this), how likely is it that my rental will actually BE automatic? Having rented before, I've found that what you ask for (and even "reserve") isn't always what you receive. Does anyone have direct experience with this in Croatia? Broadly speaking, can one expect to get the "features" s/he reserves online? Or should I not bank on this?

2) Are there any companies/agencies/consolidators you would completely avoid?

3) Any recommendations for lodgings (generally, we prefer affordable and clean to 5-star, but we occasionally splurge if the place is worth it) in Rovinj or Bale, Zadar, and/or Split for people with a vehicle? I know parking can be complicated and expensive.

Thanks in advance. Happy travels!

Posted by
3167 posts

In Rovinj, we stayed at Casa Alice, which is affordable and clean; but has charm, as well. The rooms are large and attractive. There is free parking on the premises. A very nice breakfast is part of the deal; and if I'm remembering correctly, we were greeted with a glass of wine. The owners are very friendly and helpful. Could not recommend more highly.

Posted by
1631 posts

Renting a car in an Eastern European country is not easy and can be very expensive. There is often an additional daily surcharge and a restriction on the type of vehicle you can rent because of high theft. I prefer AutoEurope which I believe you need to call directly for rental in Eastern Europe.

Posted by
4895 posts

I have only hired a manual car, as this is what I am used to in the UK, albeit they drive on the "wrong " side of the road in Europe, I have never had any problems. I use Holiday Autos, a consolidator and have never had any issues. You will have to pay a one way drop off fee with your proposed route and you will need to ensure that you are permitted to drive through Bosnia. Some don't permit this and others just charge a bit more. I haven't found car hire in Croatia to be that much more than expensive than elsewhere in Europe, but automatics will be dearer. The month of rental has a huge impact on prices.

You are trying to squeeze in a 2 week trip into 1 week by the sound of it, so something will have to give. Most Europeans would spend a week in Istria, then visit Plitvice Lakes and/or Krka (a day in each), Trogir and Split for a few days then at least 2 full days in Dubrovnik.

The coast road isn't bad and there is a quicker motorway slightly inland.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks for the responses, all. I was leaning towards renting directly through a company with American offices (e.g. Hertz, Enterprise), though the consolidators like AutoEurope look a bit cheaper. Would it not it be easier to deal with these companies directly (in the event of problem) on our return?

Posted by
28 posts

re: Jennifer

We are actually planning a 2-week trip, but the car rental will only comprise 1 of those weeks. We hope to fly into Venice and spend a day or two there before taking the bus or ferry to Pula or Rovinj. We then will spend several nights (3-4) in Istria, picking up the car for the last couple of days. Then we drive from Istria to Dubrovnik, with a night in Zadar and 1-2 nights in Split, dropping the vehicle off immediately upon arriving in Dubrovnik and spending 2-3 nights there. We will fly home from Dubrovnik. So, while the coastal road trip is a big draw for us, we'll have some "down" time in Istria and Dubrovnik to relax.

Plitvice and the islands are left out of this plan, so I suppose that's where we've been selective. This is not etched in stone, mind you...

Posted by
4700 posts

No, renting a car in Croatia is not overly expensive or difficult - I've rented twice there and costs were average or even cheap. Last May, I rented a car in Istria with a company called Oryx, drive to Dubrovnik and down to Montenegro, then back up through Bosnia to Zagreb. I used a company broker website called EconomyCarRentals to book it (you don't find out the name of the rental company til you have booked with your credit card, but it is completely refundable if you cancel up to 48 hours before car pick-up - and I did make some changes so I know it is refundable). I think I paid about $13 USD per day plus a bit more for insurance (that was for a manual transmission not automatic). You may also get other companies like Fleet - local companies. If you stick with an American franchise company like Budget, you should expect to pay a little more, and you might be limited to where you can pick up the car (e.g. Pula airport). I picked mine up from Oryx in Rijeka, though I could have picked it up in Rovinj directly - thing is, I was coming from Ljubljana and it was easier for me to take the direct train to Rijeka from there and pick up the car. I could taken a longer direct bus from Ljubljana to Rovinj and just picked up the car there, but I don't care for long bus rides and love trains.

Besides EconomyCarRentals, you can also try other brokers like Auto Europe and Kemwel - should be similar rates and policies.

You CAN reserve an automatic car with many of these websites but expect to pay more of course.

Do expect to pay extra if you want to drive into Bosnia or Montenegro - probably a one-time fee of about 40 Euros give or take (depends on the exact car company. FYI, if you drive from Istria to Dubrovnik, you ARE driving through a tiny sliver of Bosnia along the coast (Neum - find it on a map), which means technically you are driving in Bosnia (leaving the EU) even if only for a few kilometers. One trick to avoid this (if you can afford the extra time and inconvenience) is to take a ferry down the coast without technically driving through Neum. Check with your rental car company before you get over there to make sure you understand their fees and policies, so you aren't surprised.

Posted by
1118 posts

Just my 2 cents….

We rented a car from Sixt in Zagreb for 2 weeks and dropped the car in Dubrovnik.
1. They were the cheapest by far
2. They were extremely easy to work with, and we even were able to drop the car in Dubrovnik at the Hilton instead of at the airport, saving lots of time !

I would use them again.

You noted that for this trip you were heading to Zadar and Split (up to 3 days) and bypassing Plitvice. We drove to Plitvice, spent a night and toured the falls in the morning, and drove down to Split for 1 night. We LOVED Plitvice - it was the highlight of our 6 week trip in Europe.

I would definitely consider swapping the day in Zadar for a day in Plitvice !

We loved Casa Garzotto in Rovinj - they meet you, help you drop your bags, and then park your car in a safe location.

Posted by
28 posts

THANK YOU for the detailed responses, everyone - I really do appreciate the help/advice.

I reserved a car through Economy Car Rentals - best price and relatively clear terms.

Posted by
28 posts

@ Carla

You aren't the first to push for Plitvice. Truth be told, I'm having an increasingly difficult time omitting it from our itinerary. I'm a big national park fan here in the States, so I don't doubt that I'd love it.

Trying to extend the trip by a few days. Choosing is hard : )

Posted by
1118 posts

We haven't been to Zadar, but friends of ours were underwhelmed.

So we opted to go to Plitvice and down to Split to catch the ferry for Hvar.

We felt we made a DELIGHTFUL decision ! And it rained while we were in Plitvice - and it still was a highlight !