Whilst we strongly believe that the best way to explore Croatia is via boat, the second best way to explore this Adriatic gem is in your very own car. Like any foreign country, it can take a little time to familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations of the roads, but rest assured that the roads in Croatia are safe, well maintained and make for an enjoyable and scenic drive.
Our below guide to driving in Croatia will set out everything you need to know before you depart on your road trip!Table of contents
Driving Zagreb to Split
If you’re heading to Croatia, chances are you will be heading to the coast to join an island hopping cruise once you’ve explored Zagreb. Once you hit the capital city you’ve got the choice of taking the most direct route, or the longer, more scenic route. If you’ve come to the conclusion that driving isn’t for you, there are also plenty of options to fly into Split from Zagreb. The distance between the two cities is approximately 410 kilometers, however depending on your choice of driving route, you can break the drive up across 2-3 days!
The Fastest Route
The most direct route between Zagreb and Split will take you approximately 4 hours via the
The Scenic Route
If you’re more interested in traversing slowly and taking it all in, the D1 route is for you! This route adds an additional 1-2 hours to your journey, but also completely avoids tolls by taking local roads along the way. If you’re taking this route as a part of a longer itinerary, the D1 route conveniently passes through the impressive Plitvice Lakes and the quaint town of Nin (rumoured to be home to the smallest cathedral in the world), before joining a part of the D8 route all the way to split! This route also takes in more of the coast, making for impressive views along the way!
If you’ve got additional time up your sleeve we would highly recommend taking the entire D8 route (Jadranska magistrala or the Adriatic Coastal Road) between Rijeka and Dubrovnik, which is said to be one of the most picturesque routes in all of Croatia!
International road rules also apply whilst driving in Croatia, however one of the most important things to remember (especially for travellers exploring from the southern hemisphere), is that you drive on the right side of the road in Croatia. If you’re heading to Croatia from Europe or the USA, you will already be well versed in driving on the right side of the road, however this simple difference has made for some confused travellers in the past!
Speed limits are all listed in kilometers per hour and the general rule of thumb is that the following speed limits apply, unless otherwise signed:
- Croatian motorways: 130 km/h
- Open roads: 90 km/h
- Inner-city roads: 50 km/h
Drivers License Requirements
A valid driver’s license from your home country is all that is required to legally drive in Croatia. The only exception to this rule is if your driver's license is written in letters other than Latin (i.e. Chinese, Arabic etc.). In this case, you will require an International Drivers License to legally drive in Croatia.
Motorways in Croatia are of a very good standard, and offer well-maintained, safe roads to explore the vast and unique country from. Motorways connect the capital city of Zagreb with most major tourist hubs along the Adriatic coastline, including Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik.
On most major highways you can expect at least double lanes and smooth tarmac, complete with a variety of rest stops and plenty of fuel stations along the way so that you can rest and recharge before starting the next leg of your journey.
All motorways in Croatia operate on a user-friendly toll system. When you enter a motorway, you will be stopped, allowing you to take a ticket from the toll booth machine. Make sure you don’t lose your ticket, as this is proof of where you entered the motorway, and in turn, the fee that you need to pay. Upon exiting the motorway, you will need to provide your ticket to the toll booth operator and pay the fee for the distance you’ve travelled.
Most Toll Booth operators speak some English, however the amount that is due will feature on an electronic board and can be paid in cash (Kuna / Euro) or debit/credit card.
The most up to date Toll rates can be found on the Croatian Motorways website, and these will vary depending on the size and make of your vehicle. To give you a rough idea of prices, the motorway between Zagreb and Split costs approximately 200 Kunas (£23 / €26) one way. It’s important to note that tolls are only payable on motorways, and if you’re driving on any other road in mainland Croatia, tolls are not required.
Road Trip Croatia
If you’re planning on driving to Croatia, you’ll need to decide on your starting point! Croatia sees travellers entering the country via road from all over Europe, however some of the most popular origins include Germany, Italy, France and the UK, purely because of the epic nature of these routes and their international airports as a starting point for foreigners!
Flying to your destination may be the most direct way to get from A to B, however by driving, you can be sure of the comfort and safety of your own vehicle. Our favourite thing about road tripping to Croatia is the freedom this mode of transport affords you, allowing you to stop at different attractions and points of interest along the way, not to mention the ability to take in a completely different route upon your return journey!
Your starting point will determine your route, the length of your journey and the must-visit destinations along the way! If you’re planning on flying into a European city before hiring a vehicle and driving to Croatia, below are some example routes to help you decide on the best starting points!
Munich - Zagreb
The route between Munich and Zagreb is relatively direct, and can be completed in one day by sharing the driving with another traveller. If you’d prefer to stop overnight along the way, you have the option of spending the night in Austria or Slovenia, both equally beautiful locations with plenty of accommodation options! Along this route you’ll drive through some magical alpine locations in the Alps, with breathtaking scenery and impressive views at every turn. If you’d rather while your days away in nature, the Alps are an exceptional spot to do so, making it the perfect location to add some additional days to your itinerary.
Distance: approximately 552 kilometers (340 miles)
Driving Time: approximately 6 hours and 19 minutes, without stopping
- Day 1: Munich - Slovenia (approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes)
- Day 1 Overnight Stay: Ljubljana
- Day 2: Slovenia - Zagreb (approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes)
- Day 2 Overnight Stay: Zagreb
Venice - Zagreb
The route between Venice and Zagreb can be easily managed with one days driving, however can also be broken up with an overnight stay in Slovenia if you’re looking to explore more of the area along the way. This route follows well maintained highways and takes in some impressive sea views near the border of Italy and Croatia. If you’d like to extend your road trip itinerary, this route allows you to detour and take in the stunning areas around Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park.
Distance: approximately 377 kilometers (234 miles)
Driving Time: approximately 4 hours and 25 minutes, without stopping
- Day 1: Venice - Zagreb
Paris - Zagreb
Driving from Paris to Zagreb requires a minimum of 3 days to be completed and crosses anywhere between 5 and 8 countries, depending on the route you choose to take. The most direct route departs Paris and travels through Germany, Austria and Slovenia before arriving in Zagreb, traversing through the Alps and some impressive wineries along the way. You can easily take it at a slower pace and extend your itinerary by spending a few days exploring the numerous passes and alpine areas unique to the Alps, or stopping at some of the wineries offering boutique accommodation along the way.
Distance: approximately 1,392 kilometers (865 miles)
Driving Time: approximately 14 hours and 27 minutes, without stopping
- Day 1: Paris - Strasbourg (approximately 5 hours and 7 minutes)
- Day 1 Overnight Stay: Strasbourg
- Day 2: Strasbourg - Salzburg (approximately 5 hours and 38 minutes)
- Day 2 Overnight Stay: Salzburg
- Day 3: Salzburg - Zagreb (approximately 4 hours and 57 minutes)
- Day 3 Overnight Stay: Zagreb
London - Zagreb
The longest (and the most exciting, in our opinion!) route involves traversing half way across Europe between London and Zagreb! This route can be completed in 4 days, however we would highly recommend making it a part of your vacation and allowing between 7 and 10 days to complete the journey. If you’re looking for the quickest itinerary, the most direct route travels through the UK (including a trip on the Eurotunnel connecting the UK and France), France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia, before ending in Croatia. If you have some more time up your sleeve, we would recommend tailoring your itinerary to overnight in key cities along the way, taking in the alpine regions surrounding the Alps or spending some time exploring the varied countryside you’ll come across on this route. You can easily break the trip up further to ensure you’re not driving more than 2-3 hours per day, leaving the rest of the day to explore each location at your leisure!
Distance: approximately 1,690 kilometers (1050 miles)
Driving Time: approximately 17 hours and 40 minutes, without stopping
- Day 1: London - Reims (approximately 5 hours and 13 minutes, including a 35 minute journey on the Eurotunnel)
- Day 1 Overnight Stay: Reims
- Day 2: Reims - Stuttgart (approximately 5 hours and 23 minutes)
- Day 2 Overnight Stay: Stuttgart
- Day 3: Stuttgart - Salzburg (approximately 4 hours and 7 minutes)
- Day 3 Overnight Stay: Salzburg
- Day 4: Salzburg - Zagreb (approximately 4 hours and 57 minutes)
- Day 4 Overnight Stay: Zagreb
Croatia is a hidden gem that is perfect for exploring from the comfort of your very own car. Whichever route you choose to take, Croatia is ready for you to discover!