Here are some things I wish I’d known about Croatia before I visited …
1. Service is slow(er than we’re used to)
Coming from Australia, and even after living in England, I’m used to pretty quick service. In countries like ours, we always seem to be in a rush. And so when I visit places like Croatia, where they slow down and take the time to appreciate their food more, it can seem a bit incongruent to my everyday life.
Take your time. Chew your food. Don’t go to a restaurant if you want a quick bite. There are plenty of take-out places around Croatia and if you need something pronto, they’re your best bet!
2. When they clear your plates in restaurants, ask for the bill
I was warned about this before I went to Croatia however it completely slipped my mind. But if you want to leave straight after your meal, make sure you ask for the bill when the waiter is clearing your plates. Otherwise they’ll assume you want to sit for a while and maybe order another drink and won’t bother you for at least half an hour.
3. In Dubrovnik, there are cold-water drinking fountains
These fountains are scattered intermittently around the city and they’re the best thing ever. Not only are they a cost saver during the middle of summer when you’re drinking a few bottles of water per day, but they’re also cold water (brilliant) and a good place to wash your hands or face as well to cool down.
4. Showers don’t have brackets for the head
This was really weird to me. When you shower, it’s probable that you’ll have to hold the head. This can be really awkward when you’re not used to it and I found myself turning the water on and off to prevent the head from soaking the bathroom.
5. Everything is expensive (and I’m from Australia!)
Croatia is often compared to Greece. Friendly people, good food, nice beaches. But Croatia is also more expensive than Greece (particularly Dubrovnik, which knows how to cash in on the Game of Thrones franchise).
Scout around to find the cheapest restaurants and shops by avoiding the main squares and streets. That said, the food is all amazing. Their food is mainly meat and seafood, but most restaurants and cafes will also sell Italian food as well due to Italy being so close.
6. Watch out for sea urchins
Particularly on the islands, these are a huge issue and not something you want to step on due to their sharp spines. Many tourist shops sell reef shoes for this purpose, or you can risk flip flops or barefoot. You can generally see them wedged in rock crevices so just be aware.
7. Sunbeds are not free
This is probably self-explanatory if you’ve been to any other tourist hot spots, particularly ones in Europe. But sunbeds are generally not free, even if there’s no sign advertising the price. If you decide to risk it and sit down anyway, you can guarantee that within five minutes, a Croatian man will sidle up to you and ask you to pay. At this point, you can either leave or pay.
8. You can book accommodation when you arrive (probably)
Croatian locals will accost you at airports and ferry terminals the second you arrive, waving flyers with pictures advertising accommodation. If you’re willing to risk not booking until you arrive, you may find a hidden gem or make a new friend.
9. Dubrovnik City Walls have a student discount
The student discount on the city walls is not advertised at the ticket offices, however you will pay only 30 Kuna (AUD$6) as a student, as opposed to 120 Kuna (AUD$23) as an adult. Children are also 30 Kuna. Bargain!
10. Don’t expect sandy beaches
You won’t be disappointed with the gorgeous swimming areas in Croatia, but don’t expect sandy beaches. The majority of beaches and swimming spots in Croatia are either rocky outcrops with pool ladders to climb into the water, or rocky/pebbly beaches.
The water is warm and crystal clear, but as mentioned before — reef shoes can be a good idea to protect your feet.
This article was written by me for Escape.com.au and the original can be viewed here!