Articles Croatia

Empowering Croatian Vacations


The folks over at smartertravel recently listed a fall Croatian vacation as one of ten “empowering trips for women” in a feature. Highlighting Croatia’s relaxed atmosphere and the red roofs that add charm to Dubrovnik’s coastline, the women-only trip hosted by Sights and Soul begins with in-depth cultural immersion and a lesson in the historical context of the area. Further educational and enriching activities—the kind that you’d talk about during a job interview—are scheduled, but eventually the trip does head out to several of Croatia’s islands where travelers can cut loose with some wine tasting and quality beach time.

Articles Croatia

Split Hotels


With high-end resorts neighboring cheap hostels, Split hotels don’t exactly fill the gap of mid-range accommodation for families traveling together or business travelers looking for the nicest hotel they can get their boss to sign off on.

Two recent additions to the hotel scene around Split, however, have started to change that. Le Meridian Hotel, opened last year, is part of the larger chain that stretches across all seven continents with a hotel in most every major city. Although the rooms are a little on the higher side of the price range, there are ways to get a cheaper deal its location outside of central Split keeps the prices down a little bit.

Hotel Park recently added a star to its wall with a renovation in 2000 that updated its 54 rooms and 3 suites to among the finest in Croatia. Winner of the prestigious “tourist flower,” the Park retains its authentic flavor while offering affordable luxury at 103 Euros a night.

Articles Croatia

Zagreb Car Rentals

cars_roofs_skyscrapes_235305_l.jpgWatch out for the Trams

Renting a car in Zagreb can be a confusing task. If arriving in Zagreb by train and hoping to rent a car, you may think that asking at the station’s information desk would be a good idea to get information about a car rental. You would be wrong.

There are a few different information desks in the Zagreb train station and when I arrived, bleary eyed from the overnight train ride from Germany, each one told me a different direction to go to rent a car. I chose to follow the directions that seemed simplest, and after walking a few blocks one way, then a few blocks back the other way, I finally found a car rental agency.

Car rentals in Zagreb are usually booked through the hotel you’re staying in and their offices are often part of the hotel building. If you’re walking the streets trying to find a place to rent a car, your best bet will be to head toward a Sheraton or Marriott. One corner of the building will probably be devoted to cars, the rest of the hotel encased in privacy glass.

Unlike American car rental agencies, you do not have to be 25 years old to rent a car in Zagreb. You do have to have had your driver’s license for at least two years and have a credit card to swipe as a deposit. Lucky for me I got a credit card when I was a wee lad of 18, and a driver’s license years before that, so I was all set.

Except that I had to wait for the car. At these hotel car rental agencies, very few of the cars are on hand. They’re kept somewhere hidden and when you walk in and request a car, they have to tap at their keyboards for a minute before they can tell you whether or not they’ve got what you’re looking for. This process allows time for all sorts of marketing research questions that may or may not influence the rate you are later offered. I chose to play the part of a poor (but automotively responsible) college student, who couldn’t afford to pay the higher prices at the other car rental places. This was mostly true (except for the responsibility part, as you will see shortly) and we agreed on a price. I’m not sure if trying to bargain with them would have gotten me anywhere. Like most things in Croatia, the initial asking price was so low I just accepted it. Still, before he quoted me a price, he buttered me up, telling me that he was going to give me a “special price on this trip.”

I proffered my Visa card, signed the contract and then began to wait. My car was somewhere WAY off-site, so I went out and walked around Zagreb and got the traditional Croatian breakfast of pita, a pastry filled with cheese, in the main square.

I was renting the car for a one-way drive from Zagreb to Split. The trip takes about 7 hours. I asked for five days. My trip, however, was nearly cut short after two blocks. It would have been a grand total of about 45 seconds in the car if not for good brakes, an audible scream and those four-leaf clovers I keep with me at all times.

Which brings us to the most useful advice I can give you about renting a car in Zagreb. When in Zagreb, know that streetcars and trams do not follow the rules of traffic that the rest of the world lives by. They pretty much follow the tracks. Even if those tracks cause the tram to approach from a direction that your eyes aren’t trained to scan before merging onto the street.

I pulled forward from the line, only to realize that I was in the path of an oncoming tram. Swerving and slamming on the brakes, I maneuvered the car so that the train went by about 6 inches from the front bumper. I looked over my shoulder toward the rental agency, but no one had seen the close call. I drove away before anyone could come out and take the keys from me, insurance forms secure in my sweaty palms.

Articles Croatia

Flights to Dubrovnik


Dubrovnik is the most popular tourist destination in Croatia and flights to the historic city are frequent, if sometimes a little spendy. The key to finding cheap flights to Dubrovnik is to start looking early. It can be done, but the earlier you start your search, the more likely it is you’ll find a fare that doesn’t upset your stomach.

Flights coming in to Dubrovnik often originate out of several large European hubs, so searching for an inexpensive flight to one of these hubs and then switching airlines may yield a cheaper overall ticket price. It can be risky to switch airlines on an international or even domestic flight, however, because with one delay or missed connection you may find the next leg of your trip voided for failing to show up on time. It is also a bit of a hassle to claim bags and check in for a flight again, so leave plenty of time between tickets if you do try to save money this way.

Dubrovnik airport (DBV) is served by 16 airlines, with flights to Zagreb four times a day and two daily flights to London. The airport also sends flights to Rome and Barcelona as well as Stuttgart, Cologne and Vienna. The airport is located outside of Dubrovnik, about 12.5 miles south of the city. The airport served over 1.1 million people in 2006 and its traffic, along with Croatian tourism in general, has been rebounding since the Balkan wars in the early nineties. 2006 was the second year in a row that Dubrovnik airport saw more than a million people come through its gates, a number that the airport had not reached since 1990.

You can find a cheap flight to Dubrovnik with bootsnall’s fair finder. Enter DBV for Dubrovnik’s airport code and search for the best travel dates for you. Be aware that the day of the week may influence the price you are quoted and searching for flights on “off” travel days like Wednesday and Saturday may lower the price several hundred dollars.

Dubrovnik also receives four flights from Zagreb each day and flights are often cheaper into the less-temperate capital city. Consider a flight into Zagreb and then finishing your trip to Dubrovnik by train or car. Better yet, add a few days to your trip and see the sights of Croatia north of Dubrovnik on your way down the coast.

Another option is a bus ride from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, which takes about 12 hours. If you want to travel in comfort, consider a ferry from Istria or one of the many port towns along the way. There are also ferries from Italy that are a cheaper but slower option than a flight, but they do offer the chance to stop at several islands along the way.

Weigh all of these options against the amount of time you’ll spend traveling to Dubrovnik instead of enjoying it. The attractions of northern Croatia are often beautiful and historically significant, but once you’ve experienced Dubrovnik in the summer time, you may wish you saved every second to enjoy the clear blue waters and sublime sunshine.