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Croatia in 5 days

My daughter and I will be going to Croatia from Sept. 30th to Oct. 5th we will be flying in and out of Zadar arriving from Dublin so our flight arrives early (11am). This is my plan but I will appreciate any suggestion.
Sept. 30th-arrive in Split at 2pm via bus from Zadar (half day in Split)
Oct. 1st.- All day in Split
Oct. 2nd-Rental car in Split and drive to Dubrovnik (taking our time stopping on Coastal highway towns) Heard this is one of the most beautiful drives in Europe. So hopefully arrive in Dubrovnik early to mid afternoon.
Oct. 3rd- All day in Dubrovnik
Oct. 4th- early drive back to Split (not stopping). Hopefully getting to Split early enough to visit Hvar.
Oct. 5th-morning in Split and then taking bus back to Zadar to take late flight back to Dublin.
My concern:
1. I am worried about driving in Croatia, Have read it's not that difficult and worth the view, but still worried about traffic and two females alone doing it. Should I also drive from Zadar Airport to Split? concerned that will be hard to park in Split but could stop somewhere on the way from Zadar to Split if we drove.
2. Would hate to miss Hvar if we don't have time. Can we do Hvar in half a day and would it be things to do since it's not summer season? Should we fit Hvar Oct. 1st when we are in Split all day and then see the rest of Split the afternoon we come back from Dubrovnik? Or should we skip Hvar all together and do other things like Trogir and Krka waterfalls?
Thanks in advance for any ideas or suggestions.

Posted by
5685 posts

Are you from Ireland or the UK? If so, then you would be driving on the opposite side of the road than you are used to. Otherwise, driving in Croatia is easy, and at the end of September/early October the roads should be pretty empty. With two of you, I wouldn't give safety a second though; Croatia is a safe country in general. If you are from Europe than you should be used to driving a manual shift transmission, which is what you get by default if you rent a car in Croatia; it's more expensive to get an automatic transmission.

I'd either rent a car the whole time or take the bus the whole time. You may have issues parking a car in Dubrovnik's old town; one possibility (what I did the last time) is to stay nearby in Lapad and take the frequent buses to Dubrovnik's old town. Parking may be easier in Lapad.

And I wouldn't split my time in Split. How about going from Zadar directly to Dubrovnik the first day then working your way back north? You will arrive early enough - at least if you rent a car.

If you will have an internet device with you (buy a SIM card in Croatia if you have an unlocked GSM smartphone), you can book places to stay as you go along and figure out where you want to stay in the short time you have. Sobe and hotels should be easy to book without reservations at that time of year.

I'm not sure what you want to see in Split. Some people like Split, some people don't. I didn't like it much. Half a day exploring Diocletian's Palace was sufficient for me. I think I preferred Trogir as a place to stay over - much smaller and quaint. Split does have more of a bar/party scene I think but I didn't explore that at all.

I can't comment on Hvar - haven't been there. I'd check the ferry/catamaran schedules. You would probably have an easier time doing a day trip from Split via catamaran and not having to fuss with a car. Note which town on Hvar a ferry or catamaran drops you at.

Posted by
6113 posts

Driving is not difficult and there will not be too much traffic at this time of year.

Your choice on driving to Split. If your flight arrives at 11, you are unlikely to be in Split as early as 2. You don't need a car in either Split or Dubrovnik and parking in both will be an issue. I think you need to decide if you are going to drive or not and plan accommodation accordingly.

The number of ferries to Hvar reduces significantly from the end of September from seven services a day to three and many of the restaurants close for the winter, although there will be some places open. I would recommend that in the short time that you have that you stick to the mainland. Trogir is worth a visit as are Plitvice or Krka.

Can you fly back from Dubrovnik?

Posted by
3 posts

Andrew, Thank you for all your info. I am American but my daughter lives in Dublin. This is a side trip we are taking while I am in Europe visiting her, so driving on the wrong side won't be an issue. I do know how to drive manual transmission but it's been a while and my daughter does not so I may stick to automatic. The reason I picked Split is because it's midway between Zadar and Dubrovnik so I figured it was a good place to take day trips from, I can definitely stay in Trogir instead because we are not all about partying at night. We would like a good choice of restaurants, cafes and things to do so I'll look into staying at Trogir. As far as driving from Zadar all the way to Dubrovnik. I though about that but the reason I am renting a car is because I read that the drive from Split to Dubrovnik is amazing. The view arriving into Dubrovnik from Split is beautiful so I am not sure if you get the same experience driving it north. I think if I decide to rent a car I may do it the whole time then, since traffic at that time of the year is not bad (if I can figure out the parking). I am just afraid that if I do bus the whole time, we will miss out on the experience of driving the Coastal highway stopping at different places that seem interesting, but driving may not be the best choice. I will also look into the town outside of Dubrovnik. by the way, do they sell the Croatian phone chip at the airport?

Posted by
3 posts

Jennifer, Thanks for the info on Hvar. I think we may skip it and spend more time on the mainland. Krka and Plitvice are definitely on my list to research for day trips. I may take Andrew's advice and stay in Trogir instead. I'm still really debating on the bus versus car. I'll look more into the bus routes from Split to Dubrovnik. I know they stop in different places along the Coastal highway but not sure how long they take or how long they stay at each stop.
thanks for your info.

Posted by
5685 posts

You know, I don't really recall being that enchanted by the drive down from Split to Dubrovnik. Maybe I am a bit spoiled, as I live near the Oregon Coast, but I remember being slightly disappointed driving down (having super high expectations), because I too had heard it was such an amazingly scenic drive. (I've driven it twice now). I don't recall lots of greats scenic pull-offs on the drive down, but there are a couple. I'm a photographer, and when driving in Croatia I always pulled off the road to get pictures if I saw great photo ops and there was a place to pull over. I did see some nice scenery driving down, but you'd see it from a bus too...

The point I was making about Split is that not everyone loves it - but YOU might. Look into it more. We all have different likes and preferences as travelers. Reading Rick Steves's book gave me the impression that Split was some sort of hip cosmopolitan oasis among the tourist spots along the Dalmatian Coast, but I didn't find it that way at all. I had read of others thinking Split being amazing but being disappointed. Because you have such limited time, personally I wouldn't want you to commit so much of your time to it just because you'd read such positive things about it somewhere, without understanding it's the kind of place you'd enjoy.

It is inefficient to split your stays in Split, though.

Plitvice is amazing and wonderful, but given your limited time I wouldn't do both Plitvice and Dubrovnik - you're already taking an extremely fast trip. I'd stop in Krka, instead, because you are almost passing by anyway.

Zadar itself isn't necessarily a bad place to stay over, for what it's worth. Some people love it too. I liked it - more or less as much as Trogir. I've spent a nice in Zadar. Zadar, like Split, has Roman ruins, too, in the old forum. But if you are using Rick's book, you won't find Zadar in there at all.

Posted by
334 posts

The point I was making about Split is that not everyone loves it - but
YOU might. Look into it more. We all have different likes and
preferences as travelers.

Just to add to this, Split was not my favorite place in Croatia, but I understand why some people love it. Places like Dubrovnik have things that cater to multiple traveler types (adventure, culture, museums, outdoorsy, beaches, etc). Split, however, is narrowly focused on ancient history/culture. I am not the ancient history/museum type, so a day in Split was sufficient for me. Split is worth seeing no matter what kind of traveler you are, but how long you stay should be based on what type of traveler you are.