Jeanne Oliver, the author of "Lonely Planet Croatia" and editor at croatiatraveller.com, answered your questions.
Jeanne Oliver: Hi everyone! I'm Jeanne and I've been visiting and writing about Croatia regularly for the last 12 years. It's my favorite destination and I hope it will be yours so let's get started!
Birmingham, Ala.: We are planning a trip to Venice and Croatia for sometime in June. I am trying to figure out the best way to get from Venice to Split, Croatia but it is hard to figure this out so far in advance without published ferry or airline schedules. It appears that there is no ferry from Venice to Split? Also no budget airlines from Venice to Split? And would be difficult and long to go by train? Please on advise on the best mode of transportation from Venice to Split, Croatia.
Jeanne Oliver: Several years ago there was a ferry that ran directly from Venice to Split but now travel arrangements are a little more complicated. I doubt whether that ferry will run again and, to my knowledge, there's never been a flight between the two destinations so I wouldn't count on that. There are regular ferries between Ancona and Split (jadrolinija.hr) however and you can always get a train from Venice to Ancona (see trenitalia.it for the schedules) to take the overnight ferry. You can also take a train from Venice to Zagreb and then a train or flight to Split. Your third option is to take a passenger ferry from Venice to Istria (venezialines.com), stay overnight and then rent a car and drive down to Split.
Easton, Pa.: We are four middle-aged women(65)hoping to travel to Croatia in spring, probably March 17, 2009 to April 1, 2009. Any suggestions on how to find a reasonable apartment for a one week rental in one of the major cities? Also where to travel for three or four days before and after the week's rental? We will leave from Newark, fly to Venice or Vienna and take trains from there. We like to hike, do only a few museums and find some off beat sightseeing possibilities. Shopping like a local is fun too so we seek out flea markets. Betty
Jeanne Oliver: Hi Betty! There are a number of agencies that specialize in apartment rentals on the coast. The two largest Croatian agencies that deal with rentals are adriatica.net and adriagate.com. There's also atlas-croatia.com and croatianvillas.com.
I would recommend that you rent the apartment in or around Dubrovnik and then take a few days to travel up the coast to Split, stopping at Hvar or Korcula Islands for some hiking. You'll love the daily market in Split that sells everything from homemade spirits to farm-fresh fruit to kitchenware to clothes.
Albany, N.Y.: I am planning a 2-3 week trip to Croatia and would like to know: can you go slightly off-season, say in April? I would like to start the trip by flying to and from Venice. Can you travel the coast using public transportation, or is it better to rent a car? Can you take a combination of trains and buses and ferries? Again, I would like to start in Venice, travel through Trieste by train, somehow see Istria (short car rental?), and then the major cities of Split, Dubrovnik and the islands in between. My interest is mostly in art and architecture, including historic towns.
Jeanne Oliver: April is a great month to travel to Croatia especially for art and architecture. Plus it's easy on the budget because accommodation and transport is much cheaper. To visit all the places you've mentioned involves a lot of driving. Also, bear in mind that you normally cannot rent a car in Venice and leave it in Croatia.
You could drive from Venice to Istria and then down the coast to Dubrovnik before taking the ferry from Dubrovnik to Bari, Italy and driving up the coast to Venice. Or, if you time it right, you could catch the coastal ferry that runs from Dubrovnik to Rijeka and then drive back to Venice. Otherwise, you could take a bus from Venice to Pula or Rovinj or from Trieste to Rijeka and then work your way down the coast using public transportation. Buses in Croatia are comfortable and reliable for getting from one city to another. It's wise to have a car for visiting the historic towns of Istria as well as for seeing the islands as bus services on the islands and within the Istrian interior are spotty. There's really good ferry service from the mainland to the islands but ferries from one island to another are more difficult to work out. For local ferries the main operator is Jadrolinija at jadrolinija.hr.
Scottsdale, Ariz.: Jeanne, I'm going to Croatia in September '09. I want to take a bus from Zagreb to Split with an overnight stop at Plitvice Lakes. What's the best bus to take, and any idea of a ballpark figure on the cost? Thanks, Al
Jeanne Oliver: Hi Al! There are up to a dozen buses a day that travel to Plitvice Lakes from Zagreb and then go on to Split. You'll find the schedule at autobusni-kolodvor.com. The price depends on the company but I would estimate about $10.
Sonoita, Ariz.: We are three ladies, aged 48-54, traveling next spring, will be in Rijeka on April 18, 2009 and need to be in Dubrovnik by April 25. We would like to take a ferry and make our way down the coast. Can you make any suggestions or recommendations as to which ferries we should use and which islands/towns we should visit?
Jeanne Oliver: There's only one ferry that runs down the coast from Rijeka and that is the coastal ferry run by Jadrolinija (jadrolinija.hr). It only runs twice a week but if it fits your schedule, you could take it to Split which is a great town to visit. You can even do a day trip to Brac Island. If it fits your schedule, you could then hop on the next coastal ferry to Dubrovnik or you could easily take a bus from Split to Dubrovnik.
Oakhurst, N.J.: Is there enough to see to spend more than one night at Plitvice when we are trying to see as much as possible of Croatia in 12 days ??
Jeanne Oliver: I think that one night in Plitvice is usually enough particularly if you get there early enough to have a full day at the lakes. It's splendid but there's so much to see in Croatia!
Advance, N.C.: What is the best and least expensive way to get from Split to Dubrovnik and return, or vice versa?
Jeanne Oliver: The best and least expensive way is to take a bus. There are buses almost hourly and prices are reasonable. It takes about 3 1/2 hours.
Bradenton, Fla.: We are a group of 4 travelers, all in our 60's and in good health. We will be making port in Split, Croatia in May, 2009. We only have a maximum of ten hours before leaving port on our cruise. What would be your recommendation of must do's in and around Split? Two of us have been in Croatia in 2006 when we drove to a number of places in the northern part (Zagreb & OP and Zadar, etc.) For two of us it will be all new. Do you recommend ship's shore excursions as the best bet or would you recommend sort of an ad lib or ad hoc type of adventure? I strongly recommend Croatia as a fabulous tourist oriented adventure. That's why we chose a cruise that included Croatia even in a somewhat limited fashion.
Jeanne Oliver: Split is a fascinating city and you don't need to take a shore excursion. Your cruise boat leaves you quite close to the historic center of Split; it's a nice walk along the harbor to Diocletian's Palace, the World Heritage Site. Just walking the streets of this ancient palace is a history lesson. And it's especially easy because there are panels on nearly every street that explain the sights in English. Naturally you'll want to see Diocletian's mausoleum, the Peristil, Sphynx, Vestibul and other remnants of this great site. After exploring the historical center, keep walking along the harbor until you come to Marjan hill. On your way up the hill, stop at the Mestrovic Museum devoted to the works of this great sculptor and then wind your way up the hill to get great views over Split.
Flanders, N.J.: My wife and I plan to spend a week in Croatia starting on 9/25/09. We thought we might drive around, spending a night in various towns, or rent a villa for a week in Istria and do daytrips. Which would you recommend?
Jeanne Oliver: Well, it depends on where you'll be entering Croatia and whether you prefer active or relaxing vacations. There's certainly enough in Istria to keep you busy for a week. If you rent a villa in central Istria amid the rolling hills (say around Pazin) you're no more than an hour's drive from Istria's main attractions which would include Rovinj, Pula, Porec, Motovun, Groznjan, the Beram frescoes and the Lim Channel.
Croatia: When is the best time of year to go to Croatia for nice, warm (not hot or rainy) weather? Thanks.
Jeanne Oliver: It can be hot along the coast in summer and rainy in winter but it's hard to predict. Generally you would be safest going from April to June and from September to mid-November.
McLean, Va.: Would you please identify the best value seafood restaurants in Split and Dubruvnik?
Jeanne Oliver: In Split, you can't go wrong at Nostromo. It's right on the fish market! In Dubrovnik, the best value fish and seafood usually appears at Proto but for an inexpensive and filling plate of mussels everyone loves Lokanda Peskarija, right on the port.
Greenfield, Mass.: What are the transportation options for getting to Osijek? All flights go to Zagreb, Istria, or the seacoast. Are there any flights into Osijek? Perhaps from Zagreb?
Jeanne Oliver: The Osijek aiport was basically demolished during the war in the early 1990s. As I understand, it is currently under re-construction. Why not take a train from Zagreb? It's only four hours.
Jacksonville, Fla.: What are the "must sees" in Croatia? I am looking for a tour, but I am confused by what is perhaps the most well liked places to go/see.
Jeanne Oliver: Here are the top sights in Croatia—at least according to my own subjective criteria!
Lake Forest, Calif.: Hi! I am planning a trip to Croatia next summer and looking for a company that rents small sailboats on a budget. I found some larger companies online, but am wondering if there is a smaller family rental business that may offer smaller and cheaper boats.
Jeanne Oliver: Hi Lake Forest! I think that renting sailboats is more of a big business in Croatia rather than a small, family business. If you're just looking for a daily rental of a catamaran, you will find what you're looking for once you're on the ground at any of the larger coastal resorts.
Diamond Bar, Calif.: Croatia looks like a great place to take a family with active teenagers. Is it?
Jeanne Oliver: If your teenagers are sporty, they'll find lots to do in Croatia. From Dubrovnik, there are a number of companies that organize kayak trips out to the Elaphiti Islands. For windsurfing, the best spots are Viganj on the Peljesac peninsula, Bol on Brac Island and Cikat Bay on Mali Losinj. For hiking and rock-climbing, Paklenica National Park is the place but there are also climbing opportunities outside Rovinj. Scuba diving, you say? You have many, many opportunities at nearly every coastal or island resort. I hope you can keep up with them!
Summit, N.J.: Hello. I am booked for a two week trip next July flying in and out of Venice with the intention of spending the bulk of my time in Croatia and Slovenia. I'm concerned about logistics. Should we rent a car? How should we map out our time there? Might you have any suggestions? Thanks much. Melissa
Jeanne Oliver: Hi Melissa! I think that renting a car for the entire trip is your best bet in order to see the most. I would not plan on driving as far down as Dubrovnik though. In two weeks you could see most of Slovenia and the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. For a more hectic trip, you could drive as far south as Zadar and then return to Venice via Zagreb but it would be a lot of driving.
Tallahassee, Fla.: Is the language barrier a problem in Croatia? I am a solo female traveler, age 44, who will be visiting Croatia in May 2009. I only know English and a few Croatian phrases. Thanks!
Jeanne Oliver: Don't worry. You'll get around just fine. The entire Croatian coastline is multi-lingual and English is widely spoken by anyone your age and younger. Older people on the coast usually speak Italian as a second language. In the very north of Croatia, the people are not so used to English-speaking tourists so getting around is more of a challenge.
S Dartmouth, Mass.: We are going to Croatia in early April. We will visit Plitvica National Park, Split, Dubrovnik, Pula and Porec and Rijeka. I would love some ideas for restaurants in each place, and information on food specialities. Thanks, Diana
Jeanne Oliver: In Plitivce, the specialties are hearty and generally meaty. The best restaurant is Licka Kuca—touristy but excellent. In Split, the style is more Mediterranean with an accent on fish. Sperun is a good, reasonably-priced choice for family-style cuisine; Nostromo is great for fish and the pizza at Galija is wonderful. In Pula—well, a little outside—is one of Croatia's best restaurants, Valsabbion. It's most sophisticated. The Rijeka dining scene has never thrilled me but not even a half-hour out of town is Plavi Podrum in Volosko—another celebrated Croatian restaurant. And in Porec you have Konoba Ulixes where you can taste Istria's famous truffles.
Reston, Va.: We want to drive from Salzburg, Austria, through the Grossglockner Pass, and down through Croatia. I'd like to do it before the crowds start but after the Grossglockner pass is open. We have about 3-4 weeks to do this trip. Can you give a range of dates when this can be done around March/April/May to avoid the Pass being closed and before the crowds start...and the weather is better? And would you list the recommended towns that would be good to stop at in Croatia? This would help us design a route. Thanks, Gary
Jeanne Oliver: Hi Gary! I'm sorry but I know nothing about the Grossglockner Pass as I never enter Croatia from Austria. Alas. But if you're coming from the north, I would certainly plan a stop in Varazdin, a most underrated and untouristed place full of baroque architecture. And do explore Zagreb!
Jeanne Oliver: Thanks so much for writing in. I'm sorry I wasn't able to respond to everyone. Do check out my site, Croatia Traveller (croatiatraveller.com) for tons of information that will help you plan your trip to Croatia. It's got advice on everything from ferry schedules to suggested itineraries to my favorite accommodation. You can leave questions in my forum and subscribe to my blog to get the latest Croatia travel news.
Have a great trip!