Croatia was the first country we biked through. See how we found cycling in Slovenia, the second country on our adventure!
We spent four weeks travelling from south to north in Croatia and we found it a beautiful, friendly and very underrated country to bike tour in. It is reasonably cheap to travel and although there aren’t many Warmshower hosts, wild camping was never a problem for us inland. Remember that the closer your proximity to the coast, the more expensive everything becomes. Campervans and holidaymakers are the main source of business along the coastline and the industry caters for them accordingly.
Value for money (general living costs): ★★★☆☆
Supermarkets are not incredibly cheap, nor is the price of restaurant food. Campsites, should you need them, were well-priced in June.
Road surfaces: ★★★☆☆
Generally very good asphalt, except for some very lightly-used roads which were in a bad state of repair. No need for tires with MTB treads here.
Weather in June: ★★★★☆
Very few rainy days; if anything, already a little too hot for bike touring in the afternoon sun.
At the end of the day we were often invited to sleep in a garden on private property. Locals away from the coastline are not accustomed to cycle-tourists, so this is to the cycle-tourer’s advantage.
Importance of speaking local language: ★★★★☆
This is hugely dependent on whom you encounter. Young people will speak English, often very well. With the older generations you will usually be out of luck, so make sure you know a few stock phrases!
Our trip started here! We flew to Dubrovnik’s airport (in Čilipi) and were over the moon to see our bike boxes still intact as they arrived at the luggage carousel.
After only a couple of hours of sleep the night before, as you can imagine, we didn’t bike far the first day. We paid 120kn (Kuna, Croatia’s currency) at a campsite just off the D8 and were saddened to discover we had not purchased a compatible gas canister for our MSR stove. If you have a gas stove you can find the simple butane/propane (non-Campingaz) canisters in most petrol stations throughout Croatia. This is incredibly useful as finding a petrol station is often much easier than a specialist camping store. Gas stoves themselves are not so common however, so make sure you test yours before your departure day. We learnt that lesson the hard way!
The dreaded D8
I should start by explaining how we go about bike touring; we’d rather spend an extra day getting from A to B if it involves less traffic and safer roads. The D8 is direct, the scenery is still stunning, but you may be seeing it whilst flying through the air after being rammed up the behind by a big ol’ truck. It’s not that unsafe; we did not have a single accident in Croatia. The drivers are often impatient, however, and are not afraid of pressing hard on the horn.
It took us a grand total of 2 days before we were sick of sharing the road with oversized trucks and tourist buses, whizzing past us on windy hilly roads and, after seeing Dubrovnik, we decided to leave the coast to ride the bumpier, quieter roads of Croatia. WORTH IT.
Croatia’s vistas are magical: you work hard to see them, but it is worth it every time.
The Island of Korcula
We wanted to explore one of Croatia’s islands and take the ferry to Split to miss some of the D8 and to see another beautiful side to Croatia. Many people talk excitedly about Croatia’s islands and while island-hopping might not be ideal for the bike tourer, the quieter roads and dramatic scenery make it almost worth the hassle and cost of travelling by ferry.
A bike counts as a person?! We took a small passenger boat to Korcula from Orebic without a hitch. However, upon arriving on the island we were told we would have to pay 4 passenger fares to transport us and our bikes to Split; this is apparently normal for foot-passenger ferries. There was an alternative, however: “there is also a car ferry, if you bike across the island to that port you will only have to pay the passenger fare” we were told by a helpful man at the ticket office. This worked out great as we ended up seeing the entire island, rode a few more hills and saved ourselves some cash along the way.
When we arrived in Split we were overwhelmed with the manic city traffic and so, with pollution rapidly gathering in our lungs, we pedaled away into the hills. Croatia’s cities may be beautiful places, but without a place to leave the bikes and preferring to see everything that nature has to offer on our trip, we passed up opportunities to see the cultural and historic centres of Croatia. Destinations for another day, perhaps!
The Magic Letter
Good evening, we are Katie and Chris, two people from the UK who are biking around the world. We are from London but started our trip in Dubrovnik. We need a place to sleep for one night and wondered if it would be okay to put our tent in your garden? We will not leave any mess and will leave early in the morning. Thank you for reading this message!
We learnt this little trick from Rob Lillwall’s adventure, Cycling home from Siberia. We translated the note on our phone and it had over a 90% success rate with unsuspecting Croatians in their gardens! Learning to speak the note so that you can be understood is certainly more appreciated and even if people are not able to have us stay in their garden, they have often gone out of their way to point us in the right direction. This is how, after a week of staying in campsites, we left paid-for accommodation behind and began to have exciting experiences with local people in the Croatian countryside.