Renting a Car in Croatia: Things to Know

Renting a car in Croatia is one of the best ways to explore this naturally beautiful country. Opting to do so allows you far more freedom and flexibility than you have if you are depending on public transport. 

Furthermore, there are parts of the country that you simply cannot get to independently. For instance, Plitviče Lakes National Park, and many of the charming hilltop villages in magical Istria are simply not serviced by public transport. 

Accessing them would require a frustrating blend of taking multiple buses, walking part of the way, or taking a cab for part of the journey. All of that in a country where buses seldom run according to schedule is simply a recipe for disaster. 

Renting a Car in Croatia 

Renting a car in Croatia
Sibenik: Renting a car in Croatia

Renting a car in Croatia means better opportunities to get off the beaten track, visit traditional villages, and immerse yourself in true Croatian culture away from the tourist hordes. Driving in a foreign country can be daunting, wherever you choose to travel. 

However, for the most part, driving in Croatia is a pleasant experience. The roads here are well maintained and modern. In truth, you might note that driving in Croatia is not all that different from driving in your home country. 

First thing’s first, if you are planning on renting a car in Croatia, you need to start making plans to do so in advance. Croatia is an incredibly popular tourist destination and its popularity seems to be increasing year on year. 

This is particularly true of travelling during July and August. Hotels in popular places like Split and Dubrovnik often sell out during this time. So too, do car rentals. 

Finding a Rental Car in Croatia 

You can use rental comparison websites to search for the best deals appertaining to your dates. That is, if you don’t have a preferred rental company that you use as standard when you travel. 

Sixt, Europcar, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Avis all operate in Croatia. So too, do national Croatian firms that are equally reliable and reputable. 

As above, you need to make your booking in advance. This is particularly true if you are hoping to rent an automatic car (Hey American readers!). 

Most people in Croatia, like Europe on the whole, drive manual vehicles. It is possible to find automatic car rentals. 

However, they are more limited in number and tend to be booked up quickly. Once again, reserve your Croatian car rental in advance, way before your play touches down in Croatia. 

Finding a Rental Car in Croatia 

The standard minimum age for renting a car in Croatia is 22. However, it is still possible to rent a car if you are below 22. You just have to pay a young driver’s fee which typically weighs in at €25. 

There is no specified upper age limit for renting a car in Croatia. This varies from company to company. However, generally, you will have to pay an additional fee if you are over 70. 

You will need a driving license for renting a car in Croatia and this needs to be presented to the rental company when you pick up your vehicle. You should keep it on you at all times. 

It is unlikely that you will be asked to present it at random but carry it just to be safe. If your driving license is in any language that does not use Roman characters, you should also have an International Driving Permit. 

Collecting Your Rental Car 

Renting a car in Croatia is convenient on all levels. It is possible to pick up your rental car at the airport immediately after arriving in the country. 

It is extremely important to inspect your rental car before you sign any paperwork and start driving, for your own security. Croatians generally are very friendly, hospitable people. 

But that isn’t to say that a minority of scam artists don’t exist practically everywhere in the world. To mitigate even the faintest possibility of finding yourself in the situation where you return the car and there is a dispute about the condition, always inspect the vehicle first. 

Do an inspection while the rental company staff member is there to ensure that everything looks A-ok. You may also want to consider taking photos of the interior and exterior. 

This way, if there is any dispute, you know precisely how the car looked when you first collected it. Similarly, your photos will be time-stamped and you can prove exactly when they were taken. 

Always check the reviews of the rental companies and branches that you are considering using. This type of incident is not common in Croatia but it is always better to err on the side of caution. 

Do I Really NEED to be Renting a Car in Croatia 

One question you need to ask yourself when drawing out a Croatia itinerary is whether you really need to be renting a car. Of course, as a blanket statement, yes, renting a car offers you a lot more flexibility. 

However, it truly depends a lot on your specific itinerary. A common “route” to follow in Croatia is to start in Split and then sail through a handful of islands before arriving in Dubrovnik. 

Alternatively, a lot of people start in Split and then travel up the coast towards Sibenik, Zadar, and Pula. All of these routes are well serviced by public transport. 

The train network in Croatia is very limited and only really exists in and around Zagreb. Buses, although often late, are a good way to get around. 

If you’re following a “common” well-trodden route between major destinations, you may want to consider getting around by bus. This saves money and is better for carbon emissions. 

That is unless there are several of you travelling together or embarking on a Croatia road trip. That way, the divided vehicle cost may be lower than buying individual transport tickets. 

Another choice to consider, particularly if you are a solo traveller in Croatia, is downloading and using the Bla Bla Car app. This is a rideshare app that enables you to hitch a ride with someone else also travelling in the same direction as you. Then, you contribute some money towards gas.  

Credit Cards and Insurance 

You must have a credit card in order to rent a car in Croatia. Debit cards are not accepted. 

Insurance matters can be somewhat confusing when renting a car in Croatia so it’s important to check the finer details. Some global credit cards do offer car rental insurance coverage. 

If that’s the case with your credit card, check the small print and make sure that Croatia is detailed as a covered country. You may have European coverage but that may not be inclusive of every European country. 

If you do not have car rental insurance on your credit card, the scenario is as follows. You can either purchase full coverage insurance or you can allow the rental company to authorise your credit card for a security deposit for the vehicle. 

Without insurance, you are looking for a security deposit of up to €3000 depending on the specific vehicle. That is not a small amount and it is obviously not an amount that you want to lose. 

Of course, this is just a deposit. But it is preferable to buy full insurance from a car rental company in Croatia. That way, you are looking at a deposit in the region of just a few hundred euros. 

You should note that there are then additional insurance fees depending on how you use your car. If you are taking your car onto a car ferry to any of the Adriatic islands, you will incur an extra insurance charge. 

This varies depending on the rental company. However, it should not be more than €15-20. 

How Much Does Renting a Car in Croatia Cost?

Rental car costs vary significantly depending on the specific type of vehicle you are renting, and the season that you are travelling in. Most people visit Croatia between the months of June and September. 

So, vehicle costs are at their highest at this time. You can expect to pay, on average, between €40-60 for a car. 

Factor in an additional €15-20 or so if the car is automatic. If you are travelling out of season, expect to pay half that. 

It is absolutely imperative that you reserve your rental car in advance. As your travel dates creep closer, you will note that car rental prices go up and up and up. 

Prices will border on extortionate if you arrive in Croatia in July without pre-booking your car. Worse still, you may find that there are not even any left to rent! 

Car rental prices are not the only things that are more affordable if you visit Croatia out of season. So too, are flight costs, accommodation/hotel prices, and tours. 

While some of the islands may be completely seasonal destinations, many Croatian towns and cities are not. It is pleasant to visit Zadar or Dubrovnik in the Autumn, for example. At this time, the crowds have subsided and you can take excellent travel photos without 12,343 people lingering in the back of them. 

Safety Tips for Renting a Car in Croatia 

Carjacking in Croatia is extremely rare. So too, is any violent crime. 

That being said, follow the same common sense here as you would anywhere else. That means not leaving valuables on display in the car (or anything, really). 

Taking Your Rental Car Across Borders 

Many people enjoy exploring Croatia as part of a wider Balkans adventure. This gorgeous country shares borders with Slovenia, Italy, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary, and Montenegro. 

Different rules apply for crossing the various land borders when renting a car in Croatia. A common route is to cross from Croatia into Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

Many tourists decide to make a brief stop to Mostar and the southernmost part of Bosnia while they are in Dubrovnik. Equally popular is Montenegro. 

Fortunately, these two countries have a “green card” system in place with Croatia. What does that mean? 

Basically, your Croatian rental car company will automatically provide you with a green card when you collect your vehicle. This covers you for entering both Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

You do not need additional insurance for your car if you plan on entering these countries. Similarly, you do not need additional insurance, or to pay any extra fees if you drive your Croatian rental car across to other EU countries. 

By way of the EU countries that border Croatia, that means Italy, Hungary, and Slovenia. So, that then leaves us with Serbia. This is the only country where you will have to pay a cross-border fee. 

Returning Your Rental Car 

There are a few things that you need to keep in mind when it comes to returning your Croatian rental car. First of all, depending on your specific itinerary, you may want to return your vehicle at a different point. 

One Way Rentals?

For instance, maybe you’re hoping to fly into Dubrovnik and then out from Split or Zagreb? It’s important to think about this carefully as many rental companies charge substantial fees if you opt for a one-way rental. 

If you pick up a car in one location and drop it off in another, the rental fee can be as much as double or triple (!) that if you were to drop it off in the same place. This is even true of renowned global companies. 

So, take this into consideration. Similarly, if you are planning on picking up your car in Croatia and dropping it off elsewhere, assess what is possible. 

For instance, some car rental companies may only operate in certain countries and cities. Check the locations of their specific branches and reach out to them to confirm details before committing to the rental. 

Final Checks 

In Croatia, you must return your rental car with a full tank of gas. If you return the car and the gas tank is only half full, you will be charged for an entire tank of gas as if the car was empty!

Carry out the same due diligence when returning your car as you did when you picked it up. Do a thorough inspection of the interior and exterior of the car. 

Make sure that there are no damages, regardless of how small. Then, take photographs so that you have evidence of the state that you returned the car in. That way you have covered yourself if there is any dispute later. 

If Your Vehicle is Damaged 

Sometimes accidents and scuffs happen and you may find that your car gets bumped or scratched. If this is the case, the company will charge you for any additional damage. 

This process essentially works the same way as with any insurance claim. You must then submit the details to your insurance company (whether that be your credit card company or somewhere else). This is then assessed and the funds are reimbursed excluding any excess. 

Always make sure that you have read the small print when renting a car in Croatia. Sometimes you may be charged additional fees for cleaning the vehicle that can range anywhere between €30-50!

Check your credit card statement after renting the car. If any surprise fees show up, you can always contest them.

If there are damages, you are entitled to full visibility on the entire process of repairing the car, the costs, etc. You ought to be provided with photographic evidence of the damage in question. 

Then, you should see itemised receipts of the repair costs. If there is anything that you don’t agree with? Well, that’s precisely why you need to check and photograph everything during both the car’s collection and return. 

Additional Tips and Considerations for Renting a Car in Croatia 

Driving in Croatia can be a pleasant experience. Part of the joy of heading out on a road trip here is found in making random, impromptu stops at Croatian towns and villages. 

Highlights of a Croatian adventure can easily be the places that weren’t even on your radar, to begin with. Roads here are well-built and modern. 

That is of course, with the exception of a few dirt trails on some of the islands. Generally speaking, you are better off renting a small car in Croatia. 

Most European countries use smaller vehicles anyway. Narrow Croatian streets were simply not built for large 4×4 type cars. 

Croatia can become relatively pricey during the peak summer months. This country is certainly not as “cheap” as many western tourists assume. 

It would appear that prices are only going to increase in coming years as Croatia becomes more and more popular. One big perk of renting a car in Croatia is that you can opt for accommodation slightly out of the city centres. That way, you can enjoy much more affordable rates. 

Driving in Croatian Old Towns 

Driving is not permitted in some old towns and historic districts of Croatian towns and cities. For instance, the old town of Dubrovnik and certain parts of Motovun and other Istrian villages.  

These places can be pleasantly explored on foot. It is just important to be aware that you will need to find a place to park your vehicle outside of the old town. 

Parking in Croatian cities does not present the same types of headaches as, say, renting a car in Greece. Most places are not overly congested and it is typically not difficult to find a parking spot. 

The only exception being, perhaps finding a place to park in a bustling nightlife district on a Friday or Saturday night. The same could essentially be said of any country.  

Navigating Croatian Roads

People drive on the right-hand side in Croatia. This is the same as much of Europe. 

Many countries may measure speed in miles per hour. However, in Croatia, this is kilometers per hour. 

Dials and speed limit signs will always display the limits in terms of kilometers per hour. Towns and cities see speed limits between 30-50 km/h. 

Open roads have speed limits of 90 km/h. Meanwhile, toll roads have maximum speed limits of 130 km/h. 

Fines are enforced if you are driving over the speed limit. There are also speed cameras scattered throughout Croatia. 

Fines can be substantial and increase depending on how much over the speed limit you were. They can go as high as 1000 kuna (circa 113 GBP/$154). 

Be mindful of your speed. You don’t want to arrive back home and find you’ve accrued some Croatian speeding fines. 

Road Rules in Croatia 

Road rules in Croatia are no different from what you see elsewhere across Europe. You should not text or use your phone while driving, and you should always wear a seatbelt. 

It is not uncommon to see Croatian drivers on the phone while they’re driving – even on winding, questionable mountain paths! Be mindful of your surroundings and other people’s driving and always drive carefully. 

It is compulsory to wear a seatbelt at all times in Croatia. The same is true whether you are a driver or a passenger. 

The fine for not wearing your seatbelt here is 500 kuna (56GBP/$77). Croats are generally very respectful of this rule. 

GPS and Navigating in Croatia 

Most rental cars in Croatia are not fitted with a GPS. You can pay extra to rent one but you can also use your phone. 

If you have a European phone plan, you will not incur any additional charges for roaming in Croatia. With the exception of driving in very remote islands like Vis, or rural areas, the signal is generally pretty good. 

So, consider using Google Maps to navigate from A to B in Croatia. Maps Me is another excellent alternative map app. Failing that, roads here are very well, and extensively, signposted. 

Tolls in Croatia 

Tolls do exist along roads and highways in Croatia. If you are covering a long distance, for instance, from Istria to Zagreb, or Rijeka to Zagreb, these can mount up. 

Fortunately, Croatian toll booths do generally accept cards as well as cash. Generally speaking though, it’s always a good idea to have plenty of change on you just in case. 

There is also a prepaid SMART card that drivers can use. This offers a 10% discount on tolls. However, it only really makes sense to apply for this if you visit Croatia very frequently or you are embarking on a long trip of more than several weeks. 

Parting Words 

Have any additional questions about renting a car in Croatia or planning a Croatia trip in general? Feel free to comment in the box below. 

I’ll get back to you ASAP. Hvala! Melissa xo


Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

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