Car rental in Croatia: tips, my own experiences and how to find cheap car hire

If you're still looking for a sunny holiday destination for the summer, where you have an ideal mix of nature, culture and gastronomy... Then Croatia is the country you are looking for! This pearl near the Adriatic Sea also has countless assets. To fully benefit from these, it is best to arrange car rental in Croatia. Why? Read on and you will discover the answer!

car rental croatia

Car rental in Croatia: cost

A rental car in Croatia (one week) only cost me €120, of which €40 also went to car insurance (note: car insurance is mandatory in Croatia!). That is barely €17 per day! Moreover, I booked my car only a few days before I set foot in Croatia. If you look at comparing websites such as RentCars you’ll immediately notice that renting a car in Croatia can be even cheaper. Below are some price examples:

Zadar

Book one month in advance (Via RentCars):

  • Renting a small car for one week (Volkswagen Up) costs €48.10 or €6.88 per day.
  • Renting a big car for one week (Opel Astra Sedan) costs €94.68 or €13.53 per day.

Split

Book one month in advance (Via RentCars):

  • Renting a small car for one week (Volkswagen Up) costs €48.10 or €6.88 per day.
  • Renting a big car for one week (Opel Astra Sedan) costs €94.68 or €13.53 per day.

Dubrovnik

Book one month in advance (Via RentCars):

  • Car rental in Dubrovnik, Croatia for one week (Chevrolet Spark) costs €46.61 or €6.66 per day.
  • Renting a large car for one week (Opel Astra Sedan) costs €94.68, or €13.52 per day

For insurance you pay between €5.5 and €11 per day extra. Insurance can be booked either online or on the spot. I advise you to also immediately book your insurance online, because you pay more when you only do so on the spot. The same is true for a rental car that you only book on the spot: it will definitely cost you more.

car rental croatia holidaycars

Why would you choose car rental in Croatia?

You don’t necessarily have to rent a car in Croatia, you can also drive with your own car if you’re living in Europe. From the capital of Europe, Brussels, Zagreb is located about 1,300 km further and you can do this road trip in about fourteen hours if you drive non-stop. Before you consider this, you should know that car rental in Croatia doesn’t cost much money. Flights are also very advantageous because Ryanair offers cheap flights to several places in Croatia.
The financial aspect therefore doesn’t really weigh in (and certainly not if you compare it with the cost of gasoline!). If you only have a limited holiday time, I don’t think you should lose two days with just being on the road.

As far as public transport in Croatia is concerned, it’s mainly the buses that you should focus on. The country has a rail network that connects the major cities up to Split. To Dubrovnik there are no trains, just like there are no train connections to any of the smaller charming coastal towns or the magnificent islands.
Buses are fortunately more frequent, but the disadvantage of this is that you are dependent of their time schedule and route. In most cases, the bus also takes detours before you reach your destination.
So, if you only have one week or ten days off, then you should seriously consider renting a car in Croatia. This way you can fully enjoy this beautiful country.

Which car should you hire for Croatia?

In itself it doesn’t matter very much what car you’ll be renting in Croatia and thus the choice depends mainly on your personal preference and the number of vacationers. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t rent a minivan if you’re only traveling with two and it’s also logical that you can’t put five people in a Mini Cooper. Of course it would be very nice and idyllic to drive along the Adriatic coast with a convertible car, but keep in mind that this will cost you a lot more money.

The roads are in any case in excellent conditions, so you don’t need a 4×4 or SUV. Try to make sure that your vehicle has air conditioning when you drive in the summer. All in all, you can definitely choose the cheapest model when renting a car in Croatia. I never had any difficulties with my tiny car, so why would you have them?

renting a car in croatia

If you use comparing websites, you can rent dirt cheap cars in Croatia!

Which sights are easier to reach with a rental car in Croatia?

The short answer to this important question is simple: all of them.
If freedom and convenience are essential for your holiday, then you certainly shouldn’t think twice about having a car rental in Croatia. A private vehicle will always be faster than the train or bus and may even be cheaper (depending on the number of passengers).

An example to demonstrate this:

If you want to visit the beautiful Plitvice Lakes, you can take the bus from Zadar. Both local bus companies and the well-known Flixbus offer this route. A single ticket costs between twelve and fourteen euros and it takes you an hour and three quarters to two hours to reach the national park. A car costs you much less on gasoline (especially if you travel with several people) and you’ll arrive fifteen minutes faster on destination. In terms of time this may not matter much, but at the end of a holiday many quarters of an hour get to be many hours. Moreover, bus companies need to stick to a certain time schedule and believe me… You don’t want to hurry around the beautiful Plitvice lakes!

The real time difference betwen public transport and your own car will really be noticed during longer drives. If you choose for a holiday in Croatia, then Dubrovnik is definitely on your wish list. After all, you want to see King’s Landing with your own eyes and start looking for Ser Jaime or Cersei (for those who don’t understand this gibberish: Game of Thrones).
Most travelers visit this beautiful city after Split, from where it takes about three hours and fifteen minutes to get to Dubrovnik. With the bus it’ll take four and a half hours at least. On the other hand, you will not lose any money on parking, which has steadily been rising since the huge influx of tourists.

Anyway, with my travel experience I can say that I would always choose for a rental car in Croatia. This way you can also opt to stay outside the cities. There you can enjoy a barbecue near the Adriatic Sea in peace, without having to share it with thousands of tourists. The landscapes around Dubrovnik are also breathtakingly beautiful.

plitvice lakes car rental croatia

The Plitvice lakes in Croatia are phenomenally beautiful!

Where should I rent a car in Croatia?

Brac is particularly beautiful and the historic center is wonderfully authentic, but this island is located a bit out of the way. After all, you’ll be spending a few hours with traveling back to a city on the mainland.
Dubrovnik is probably also on your schedule, and the airport is barely thirty minutes away from the magical city center.
If you prefer to end up on the other side of the Croatian coast, then Split might be ideal. With your car rental in Croatia you can easily drive from Split to Dubrovnik (or vice versa), and on the way you’ll encounter lots of beautiful places too.
Moreover, during this road trip you can also regularly take a ferry to explore one of the islands. For example, Hvar and Brac are one to two hours (with the ferry) from here. From Split it’s also only a two hour drive to the Plitvice lakes.

Finally, you can also choose to fly to Pula and fly back via Zadar and deliver your rental car at a different location. This might cost more money, but it’s certainly worth considering!

hire car croatia

Wherever you rent your car, if you book in advance you’ll always find some cheap rates.

Traffic rules in Croatia

Like in most parts of Europe, Croatians drive on the right side of the road. Wearing a seatbelt is also mandatory at all times, just like you’re not allowed to use smartphones (or any other cell phone…) behind the steering wheel.
The roads are in excellent condition, making it very pleasant to drive. If you at least leave some of the crazy drivers out of consideration. However, don’t let them stop you from renting a car in Croatia, just be careful. Just like in every other country, there always need to be some people who think that they’re driving on a racetrack.

Alcohol and Croatia is not a good combination either, because the government has a zero tolerance in regard to drinking behind the steering wheel for young drivers. You can’t even drink a single drop of alcohol if you’re younger than 25 and are still going to drive. Drivers older than 25 may have 0.5% promille alcohol in their blood. But best is of course to not drink at all. In any case, I don’t think drunk driving is OK. You’re not only endangering yourself, but also others!

With regard to the maximum speed, these are the limits:

  • Within the built-up area: 50 km/h
  • Outside the built-up area: 80 km/h
  • On motorways / toll roads: 130 km/h

Note that these are the speed limits for cars. Different speed limits apply for campers and buses.
If you want to start racing, remember that 1) this is incredibly stupid and 2) the fines are quite high. There are both speed cameras and local controls. If you get a speeding ticket, it’ll be sent to the car rental company first. They will deduct the fine from your credit card and add an additional administrative charge on top of that. And that can get unnecessarily expensive.

When you’re driving on a toll road, make sure that you always keep the toll road card with you, because you only have to pay when you leave the toll road.
From October to March it’s mandatory to always drive with your lights on.

Merciful Samaritans should also be on their guard, because sometimes there are people pretending to have car trouble. Unsuspecting tourists who stop along the road to help them are then robbed. Although this type of crime isn’t very frequent, it might be good to know.

Parking regulations in Croatia

Parking in Croatia is fairly easy. Either you opt for a paid parking, or you park where you see white road markings and a large P-sign on the pavement. A yellow dotted line means that the parking spot is reserved for disabled people.
In the cities there is also a color system: in red zones you can park for a maximum of one hour, in a yellow zone two hours and in a green one three hours. You probably already get that the red zones are closest to the center.

car hire croatia

Driving in Croatia isn’t difficult, as long as you stick to the rules.

Rent a car in Croatia online

Because most tourists choose for car rental in Croatia, prices can quickly rise. So make sure you book your car well in advance, your wallet will thank you. Booking a rental car on the spot is -in my opinion- a terrible idea. Unless you’re one of the people for whom money isn’t a problem and you want to rent a Porsche 911 cabrio. But most travelers are more economical and for them websites such as RentCars is an excellent website to book rental cars. Don’t forget that you’re required to have car insurance if you’re going to rent a car in Croatia.

As an 18-year old you can drive here, but most car rental companies insist that you’re at least 21. An international driving license is fortunately not necessary.

So if you’re still looking for a fun way to spend your summer, then a car holiday in Croatia is an excellent idea. More and more tourists are starting to discover this pearl near the Adriatic Sea, so you better be quick. That way you can buy the T-shirt “I used to go to Croatia before it was cool”. And in fact, it’s not only a perfect destination for hipsters, also families can have a great time here.

croatia car rental

One thing is certain: the landscapes you’ll get to see on the way are breathtakingly beautiful!

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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