Of course, you could spend your entire holiday in Croatia by the hotel pool or on the beach. But that would be a pity, because the country on the Adriatic Sea is incredibly diverse and offers many unusual discoveries, especially beyond the tourist coast. So it is doubly worthwhile to plan a holiday in Croatia by car from the UK. Even though it’s a long drive down the Adriatic sea.
Travelling overland is much cheaper than flying, especially for families, and when you get there you can use your own car for excursions. For example, if you are planning a bathing holiday on the Makarska Riviera, you can take day trips from there to famous coastal cities such as Dubrovnik and Split, or a detour to neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Alternatively, you can plan a short round trip that first takes you north via Istria to the relatively unknown province of Slavonia inland, before ending the trip on the Adriatic coast. But before we give you some route tips, we’ll first tell you what you need to bear in mind when holidaying in Croatia with a car coming from the UK.
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Croatia: Planning a holiday with a car
It’s a whopping 1250 mile-ride from London to Split. Unfortunately, the gods have placed the Tauern Autobahn (A10) in Austria before your eagerly awaited holiday in Croatia by car. The almost 200-kilometre-long motorway between Salzburg and Villach is one of the most important transalpine routes and the fastest connection to the Adriatic Sea. On summer weekends, there are regular traffic jams here. In addition, the Austrian motorway vignette (the Pickerl) is only partially valid here. You pay extra to drive through the Tauern and Katschberg tunnels. Austria is a good place for a stop-over, even if it’s only for a night. If you’d like to combine your Croatia holiday with a couple of days in the Austrian Alps, the twon Schladming might be a good choice. I recommend a stay at the hotel TUI BLUE Schladming because it’s right in front of the cable car station.
A worthwhile alternative if you want to see as much of Croatia as possible on holiday by car is to take the Pyhrnautobahn (A9) via Graz and the Slovenian town of Maribor to the often underestimated Croatian capital Zagreb. From here, the route continues to the famous Plitvice Lakes and on to the Adriatic Sea. There are also two tunnels on this motorway that are subject to special tolls, the Gleinalm and Bosruck tunnels.
Within Croatia, holidays by car are no longer a problem. The best thing to do is to download the Croatia Traffic Info App of the Hrvatski autoklub (HAK), the Croatian version of the ADAC. The app can also be set to English and has traffic information such as traffic jams and closures in real time, petrol stations and parking spaces throughout the country, and emergency numbers.
Other points for entering Croatia:
- Identity card is sufficient at the border for EU citizens, UK citizens require a passport
- Driving licence and vehicle registration certificate are sufficient for the car
- Automobile clubs recommend taking the International Insurance Card
- The blood alcohol limit in Croatia is 0.5 (for drivers under 25: 0.0! )
- The speed limit on the motorway is 130 km/h, on motorways 110 km/h (under 25 years 100 and 120 km/h respectively)
A sad note that unfortunately cannot be ignored: Especially in the border areas with Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, thousands of mines from the Yugoslav war still lie in the ground. If you want to explore the Croatian hinterland, look out for triangular signs warning “Ne prilazite” and stay by car on secured roads.
Various Croatia – Holiday by car as a round trip
If you really want to get to know the country and its people in detail, you can plan a round trip and round it off with a few relaxing days by the sea. While international tourism focuses mainly on Istria and Dalmatia, Slavonia, the eastern part of Croatia, is a largely blank slate.
However, after a stopover in the capital Zagreb, you can experience a real natural wonder here: The National Park Kopački Rit, a huge marshy area at the mouth of the Drava into the Danube. If you are interested in recent Croatian history, you can also take a detour to Vukovar. The city was heavily destroyed during the war and then partially rebuilt. Memorials remind you of the past.
Then we head back to the coast and the most famous of all Croatian national parks: Plitvice Lakes. As Croatia gets narrower towards the south, you can also drive through Bosnia-Herzegovina on the way there, where Mostar with its famous Old Bridge (Stari most) is especially worthwhile.
With this, you can tick off another UNESCO World Heritage Site before you reach the two biggest highlights in Croatia: Dubrovnik in the far south and Split further north. Here you’ll also be on your way back north, where you can finish your Croatia holiday at the TUI BLUE Medulin hotel on the Istrian peninsula, for example, and visit other attractions such as the Roman amphitheatre in Pula.
On the road in Croatia: holiday by the sea by car
Alternatively, choose a nice hotel on the Croatian Adriatic coast and take day trips from there in your car. This way you can always take a relaxing day at the beach in between. The hotels on the centrally located Makarska Riviera are highly recommended, such as the popular TUI BLUE Jadran hotel in Tucepi. From here you can take a great road trip right along the coast from Tucepi to Split to see the popular city with its imposing Diocletian’s Palace from Roman times. Picturesque Trogir is also worth a day trip.
Adrenaline junkies head to Omiš halfway between Makarska and Split, the new adventure capital of Croatia. Here you can book rafting tours on the Cetina, go kayaking or canyoning through the gorges along the shore – including getting wet. An unforgettable experience is the zipline, where you fly free like a bird over the Cetina.
Good to know: If you want to go on holiday in Croatia by car, find out in advance about parking and any parking bans for non-residents (e.g. around the car-free Old Town in Dubrovnik). Especially in the tourist centres on the Adriatic, parking providers often charge horrendous prices far above those of the official car parks. Of course, the usual precautions apply: Always choose a guarded car park and do not leave any valuables in the car!
How uncomplicated Croatia is: holidays made easy by car
Generally, Croatia is a country that is very easy to travel around in your own car. The roads are well developed and unlike some other countries, Croatia is not stingy with signposting. So look forward to a flexible holiday where you can organise every day according to your wishes!