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Expat-Planning: Croatia Reconnaissance Tour

I have never been a traveler. Alas. And now, at a healthy almost 70, I'm planning to retire as an ex-pat in about two years and have fallen in long-distance love with Croatia, from Split to points north, probably along the coast. I like cold weather and rain in the winter, and prefer rocky beaches to sand. I do not speak Croatian but could pick up Italian without too much difficulty (I think). While I'm not wild about tourist crowds, I grew up in a tourist town and know how to hunker down and wait for winter.

My supportive boss has given his blessing for a month-long vacation in a year--sometime NEXT September/October. I figure that will provide me with a solid three weeks in Croatia (and a side-trip to Sofia with my Bulgarian travel companion). Before I hunt up a Rick Steves travel consultant for fine-tuning, I'd appreciate advice on which towns to settle into for 3 or 4 nights, to get a feel for the local environment: the people, food, day-to-day environment. I'd like to be able to explore the countryside around each location.

Does anyone here have itinerary suggestions--a special "must see" place for someone wanting to settle in?

Thanking you in advance . . .

Posted by valadelphia
472 posts

Unless you are looking to "get away from it all." I think you will likely want to stick to the typical itinerary, as the population is quite low and concentrated in the main towns. From Split north, that could be Split/Trogir, Zadar/Sibenik/Primosten, Rijeka/Opatija/Lovran, Pula/Rovinj/Poerc, and Zagreb.
Are you interested in islands too, or just the mainland?

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8563 posts

I haven't been to Pula, but the rest of Istria (which I really enjoyed) felt pretty small-town-touristy. It's not where I'd want to live, as opposed to visit, but I agree that you should see the area.

Zagreb isn't along the coast, and it's possible the winter weather is less mild there, but it's a real city with a lot to do, and the one with by far the best connections to the rest of the world. It's only about 2 to 2-1/2 hours to Ljubljana by public transportation, for example. If you plan to have a car, a reasonable partial-day's drive would get you to Budapest, Belgrade, Vienna, Bratislava, etc. Zagreb seems to have a very good city bus/tram system. It has a large and very attractive old town, plus a lot of museums.

During your visit to Bulgaria, I hope you'll have time to see at least Plovdiv and ideally also Veliko Trnovo. Sofia is really not the most enticing destination in the country for most tourists; actually, I think that's a bit of an understatement.

I'm sure you know that--though it is not currently part of the Schengen Zone--Croatia requires some sort of visa if you wish to stay more than 90 days within any 6-month period. Such visas can take quite a long time to arrange, what with the typical requirement to provide proof of assets, income, medical insurance, etc.

Posted by KWM OP
Moses Lake, WA
5 posts

Valadelphia ~ Thank you. Good advice. I'm used to living in "small towns" by USA standards but recognize there's a literal world of difference between here and there. For future-living plans, I expect I'd prefer to stay mainland and visit islands once I'm ensconced.

Acraven ~ I'd been debating Zagreb. I think you put it on the map. And many thanks for the Bulgaria seduction. My friend's apartment is in Sofia. We may do some sightseeing this trip. But I'm also looking at Bulgaria as a possible future residence because it's far less restrictive than Croatia. Or so I've been led to believe. I'm fortunate to have made a life-long friend out of a former housemate. He'll be my tour guide.

Posted by valadelphia
472 posts

Yes let us know how it goes. It is actually my dream to retire in Croatia or Italy, and I have even done some initial perusing of the laws--so good luck sorting that bit out! I guess it is a good thing that Croatia is not letting foreigners buy up its gorgeous coast and turn it into the costa del sol or something similar.

Posted by KWM OP
Moses Lake, WA
5 posts

I'll do that, Valadelphia. I'm a lawyer--a prosecutor--so I plan to hire counsel to help with immigration issues regardless of where I eventually park myself. I'm also interested in the criminal codes of various countries, from a (mostly) sociological perspective. What is and is not legal behavior is an illuminating window into a culture. But I'm also aware from my own experience that not all local prohibitions make sense to outsiders. Heck, we got that as part of our law school curriculum.

Posted by Frank
Wilmington, DE
1987 posts

Might be too soon, but you may wish to review the residency requirements on the Croatian embassy or LA consolate website. My recollection is that a basic understanding of the Croatian language is required for a residency permit. However, English is widely spoken in Croatia, especially in Split where a large number of people who's families emigrated to Australia have returned.

Posted by KWM OP
Moses Lake, WA
5 posts

That's excellent advice, Frank. An ex-pat site to which I subscribe has links to the various agencies, including those within Croatia, but I hadn't gotten started on that. Going through a consolate in Los Angeles seems far less daunting, somehow.

Posted by Paul
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
882 posts

If you do get some advice about immigrating into Croatia, could you post it here? I am somewhat interested in that myself.

Posted by KWM OP
Moses Lake, WA
5 posts

I'll do that, Paul. This quest seems a bit overwhelming at times.