Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Top Ten Tips for Traveling Coastal Croatia - August 2017

With picturesque red-roofed towns dotting its nearly 2,000 miles of coastline, the south central European country of Croatia has become a hotbed for tourists over the last decade.

Flying, busing and sailing in from all corners of the globe, Croatia now welcomes more than ten million visitors annually and intends to double that number by the year 2020. While the influx of foreigners means big bucks for the travel industry, not everyone is smiling.
If Croatia tops your list of holiday spots, take heed of these travel tips to ensure an optimal visit.

1. Chat up a local. Whether you're coming to soak up the history or the rays, your stay will be more enjoyable if you take an interest in the local culture. Did you know that Croatia was once a part of former Yugoslavia? How about that the popular dog breed, Dalmatian, hails from the region? While the majority of people under age 40 or in the tourism industry speak English, try out "zdravo" which means "hello," and "hvala," Croatian for thank you, to show respect and appreciation.

2. Keep your shirt on. Remember those ten million tourists who descend upon Croatia each year? Unfortunately, not all have had the reputation for being courteous and polite. After mounting tensions between locals and tourists, the popular island destination of Hvar enacted several purse-lightening laws to help morally-confused visitors. As a result, sleeping in public will get you slapped with a 700 euro fine. Shirtless while walking through the city? 500-600 euro fine. Drinking in public? That will cost you another 700 euro and the list goes on. Know the rules and honor the local customs.

3. Beware of tourist fatigue. Is it that too many locals are tripping over drunken, unconscious tourists on their way to church? Or possibly because the techno music echoes through the old city walls until 3 a.m.? Whatever the trigger, there is a serious case of tourist fatigue blanketing Croatia. Symptoms include a surly demeanor, impatience and a permanent scowl plastered across the face. Tread carefully.

4. Shoot for the shoulders. Peak tourist season in Croatia is July and August. During this time you'll have to push through crowds and clutch your belongings while navigating alleyways and waterfalls alike. Depending on your interests, check the weather and explore options to visit in late spring or early autumn when there are fewer visitors and more breathing room. And, as an added bonus, prices tend to fall during these times as well.

5. Count your kuna. Just because Croatia recently gained its independence in 1991, doesn't mean the country didn't learn quickly how to attract and exploit tourists to make an easy buck, or kuna in this case. It's not uncommon for taxis in Croatia to charge triple the local fare and restaurants and shops in popular areas to ask significantly more than you're used to back home. Look at prices before committing and if you can, get off the beaten path to find more reasonable options.

6. Uber on water. This summer UberBoat launched on the Croatian coast offering speedboat service between coastal towns and islands. While UberBoat is a bit pricey for most budgets, there are other more economical options including traditional water taxis and ferries. Plan accordingly, however, when using Croatian public transportation as ferries and buses are notoriously tardy and ticket sales often exceed seating capacity.

7. Slurp up the seafood. Oysters anyone? Boasting a far-stretching Adriatic coastline, Croatia's selection of fresh fish and shellfish is top rate. The local cuisine also favors its Venetian past with menus rich in pastas, risottos and pizza. While you are at it, try some of the local wine made from grapes grown in some of the country's 300 distinct regions.

8. Sleep in someone else’s bed. For those of you who are kuna-conscious it may be hard to stay in or near the old cities in many popular destinations. Unless renting a car or public transport is part of your plan, a viable option is staying in a home share or hostel. In Split check out options in the Veli Varos neighborhood steps away from Diocletian's Palace, or the areas of Ploce and the Lapad peninsula adjacent to Dubrovnik's Old Town.

9. Stop and smell the flowers. In Croatia you don't have to actually stop because you can't escape the fragrant scent of lavender swirling as you walk past sidewalk vendors hawking everything from oils to petal-stuffed puppets. Not into the purple stuff? Other popular Croatian souvenirs include olive oil, items made from Brac island's white stone and Game of Thrones merchandise.

10. Don't skip the top spots. Croatia is a large country by European standards and it's nearly impossible to see it all in one visit. A few of the top spots include: the well-preserved 16th century Old Town of Dubrovnik where much of the Games of Thrones series has been filmed; the city of Split which contains a Roman palace and sprawling beaches; the party island of Hvar with its hilltop fortress; the Dalmatian coast city of Zadar claiming the world's only sea organ; the historical county of Istria where truffle hunting is a popular pastime; the coastal villages of Ston and Mali Ston home to a world renowned variety of oysters; and Zagreb, Croatia's capital city with its Gothic-inspired and Austro-Hungarian architecture.

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