A Comprehensive Guide to Being a Digital Nomad in Croatia
If you haven’t dreamed of spending a few months working on a Croatian beach or cliffside overlooking the Adriatic, well you probably just haven’t seen the pictures. Croatia has everything a digital nomad could want, vibrant cities and secluded beaches. Quiet seaside villages and charming central European towns.
Of course you can’t ignore that Croatia is also home to King’s Landing from Game of Thrones (or more accurately Dubrovnik, where it’s filmed), has more than 1,000 islands, and a currency named after a rodent. Really, there’s just no place like it.
Oh and great internet, affordable prices, alright, I’m getting ahead of myself. This guide breaks down not just why you should consider Croatia for your next remote working trip, but all the essential info you’ll need once you get there.
The Basics: Everything You Need to Know
Whether you’re a battle hardened digital nomad or just considering how you can become one, you’re always on the lookout for your next (or first) destination. Besides that, traveling is one of the best things that you can do for your health, with many travelers saying it’s also excellent for the soul.
Croatia is a member of the European Union, but no the Schengen Zone. That means for EU citizens, you can generally work up to 90 days without a permit. Most other countries can stay in Croatia for 90 days within a 180 period. You can reference this guide for more detailed information on visa types.
Want a mediterranean climate, easy, just head to the coast. Prefer your summers more continental, just head inland. Croatia’s unique shape gives it plenty of both. Besides that you get everything you’d expect, hot dry summers and mild wet winters along the 6 278 km of coastline (that’s almost double that of the US’ East Coast).
You also can’t leave out the higher mountains, where even in the depths of summer you can enjoy fresh air and cool temperatures. Not to mention breathtaking views.
Language and Culture
Good news, 81% of Croatians speak English, so getting around and communicating for foreigners, particularly in areas frequented by tourists for generations, could hardly be simpler. Their other language is of course Croatian. It’s a slavic language which is very similar to Serbian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin, but if you speak any Slavic language you’ll be able to understand a fair amount. It’s written in latin letters so reading is easy.
Croatian culture is influenced by its Catholic faith and long European history, but there are also significant regional differences. Slavonia, Istria, Dalmatia, and the Central Areas each have their own history, cuisine, dialect words, and feel. But no matter where you go you’ll find warm, friendly people ready to crack a joke and share a meal.
Throughout Croatia you can find apartments for long or short term rental, your typical hotels and hostels, as well as Airbnb. You should be able to find all of these up to typical western standards without a problem. Do remember though that prices will be quite different between the tourist high season and the rest of the year.
Personally, one thing I’ve always loved about Croatia is its brilliant mixture of heart central european cuisine from its inner regions and Italian influenced mediterranean fare from the coast. So whether you love cabbage and pork or fresh seafood and outstanding wine, you won’t be disappointed. Besides the local fare, large supermarkets carry an ever-increasing variety of foreign foods if you ever manage to tire of the fresh local stuff.
Getting Around Croatia
Within Croatia there are a lot of options, planes, trains, buses, and rental cars. Here’s what you need to know about each:
There are internal flights in Croatia, though due to the country’s size, they really only make sense if you’re traveling from one extreme end to the other. For example, from Zagreb to Dubrovnik. Considering the stunning vistas you’ll see from the roads or rails, there’s no reason to fear other forms of transport.
An important lesson about the Balkans in general is that buses and trains are a bit flipped. Whereas in most of Europe the trains are faster and less expensive, in this region it tends to be the reverse. As such, buses are often the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable way to get around. Plus you can book tickets easily online.
Less commonly used, there are three main rail lines in the country: Zagreb-Split, Zagreb-Rijeka and Zagreb-Osijek. If you’re travelling between any of those destinations, a train can be a relaxing way to travel. The trains are operated by the national carrier HŽPP. Note, if you’re going to Dubrovnik, know that there is no rail connection. There are also rail passes available.
With so much coastline, it’s no surprise that Croatia has an extensive system of ferries and catamarans connecting its islands and coastal cities. Jadrolinija is the main provider and you can see schedules and ticket information on their site.
The Best Places to Be a Digital Nomad in Croatia
There’s a good reason 5 Croatian cities made it on the Nomad List of places to live and work remotely in Europe. And that doesn’t include the smaller towns strewn throughout the country
Being a Digital Nomad in Zagreb
Croatia’s capital and largest city, Zagreb is a typical Central European city in terms of architecture and feel. Originating in two medieval settlements, Gradec and Kaptol which flourished for centuries on opposite hills. Zagreb’s written history dates back almost a millennium.
Personally, Zagreb is one of two cities in Europe I’ve ever considered for a permanent home. That’s for good reason, it’s relatively small size mixed with its grand architecture makes it always feel like home. But a kind of fancy home where you spend your vacation.
For digital nomads, it boasts a lot cost of living (Nomad Lists estimates around $1,800 a month, but you can manage for quite a bit less), and a small but vibrant startup scene. When you want to meet them and get a bit of work done yourself, you’ve got a choice of dozens of beautiful cafes with free wifi or coworking spaces like Impact Hub Zagreb and the Hub 385.
Once you’re there, there are small local restaurants serving hefty daily menus (called a gablec) for around 5 euros, bars from the very new to the very old, craft beer, and a vibrant club scene. It’s not surprising considering the city is home to around 75,000 students.
While you’re there, check out:
- St. Mark’s Square – a small square hosting Croatia’s parliament in its historical old town. It’s dominated by the unforgettable St. Mark’s Church with its colorful tiled roof. It’s one of the most atmospheric places in Zagreb.
- Dolac – Since 1930, this fruit and vegetable market has been selling produce from around the region from its prime location between the upper and lower towns of Zagreb. Today here and around you can also find fresh meat, spices, fresh baked bread, and some of the best burek (meat or cheese filled pastries) in the city.
- Medvedgrad – Perched on a hill near Zagreb, this fortress was originally built after a 13th century attack by none other than the Mongols. Today, it offers the historic ‘altar of the homeland’ dedicated to Croatian soldiers as well as stunning panoramic views of Zagreb.
- Medvednica – Skiing and snowboarding fans will be delighted to hear that a quick drive or bus ride from Zagreb is the Medvednica mountain and nature park. Included in the area is the Sljeme winter sports center, which has hosted major winter sporting events in recent years.
- Advent in Zagreb – Speaking of winter, this is also a fantastic time to work for a few months in Zagreb. Besides the cozy atmosphere of the old town and easy access to winter sports, Zagreb offers fantastic Christmas markets (even winning the top prize for them in 2016).
- The INmusic Festival – Held every year in late June since 2006 on an island in Zagreb’s Lake Jarun, this festival has hosted the likes of The Black Keys, Placebo, Arctic Monkeys, and many more.
Being a Digital Nomad in Split
Ever heard of Diocletian, the Roman Emperor who first split the empire into Eastern and Western halves? Well, you could be a digital nomad living within the walls of that very palace. Split lies in the heart of the central Dalmatia region and is a crossroads for anyone traveling around the southern Croatian coast and islands.
The city is know as the “Mediterranean flower” owing to its beautiful architecture, history, and climate (2,800 hours of sunlight per year). So, it’s not surprising that over a million tourists pass through every year, though if you like your cities quiet you can always come in the winter when the city goes fairly quiet.
But for the rest of the year, from Spring to late October, the city is alive with music and people. You can enjoy the famous Dalmatian talent for music (and strong personalities) by spending your warm summer nights with a sea breeze in your hair and a traditional cappella song in your ears.
It’s also an absolute paradise for seafood lovers, whether you want to catch something fresh yourself or enjoy something lovingly prepared in a local restaurant. Just watch out, here the daily lunch menu is called a Marenda and sounding like a local is much appreciated.
For digital nomads in Split, there are three great options for coworking spaces complete with views of the sea, good coffee, and friendly environments. Check out Amosfera and CoCreative in particular.
While you’re there, check out:
- Diocletian’s Palace – as mentioned, the entire central part of Split has been built out of what was one the palace of the great Roman Emperor Diocletian. He loved his palace so much, he refused a call for him to return to being Emperor, instead proclaiming that he’d rather tend to his beautiful cabbages.
- Bacvice Beach – The most famous beach in Split is an easy walk from the center. Here you’ll find crystal clear adriatic waters and plenty of locals enjoying a game of Picigin, a Croatian specialty where one tries to keep a small ball from touching the water.
- Marjan – When you need to get out of the city and enjoy some greenery, this hill positioned on a peninsula outside Split is covered with beautiful old villas and pine forests. It’s perfect for a picnic or just some time to enjoy the views.
- The Ultra Europe Festival – July 15th-17th, this electronic music festival moves all over Croatia during late July bringing amazing beats from over 150 acts.
- A Hajduk Game – You can’t walk around Split without catching a glimpse of a sign proclaiming loyalty to Split’s local football club: Hajduk. Created in 1911 and named after the famous Balkan bandits from Ottoman times, this team’s fans and skill on the field are not to be missed.
Being a Digital Nomad in Rijeka
Croatia’s biggest port is positioned just between Istria and the rest of the country with easy access to the islands, Zagreb, and other picturesque port towns like Opatija and Pula. Besides that, you’ll find many of the same benefits as Split, but at slightly lower costs.
Rijeka is known for its liberal, open-minded atmosphere and alternative culture. Just about anyone can feel at home in its bars, nightclubs, and cultural centers. All of this makes it a fantastic place for a digital nomad searching for a place to express creativity without fear of judgement, to be embraced for thinking differently. This is because, much like many more famous European cities, what was a town defined by heavy industry has become a happening place.
Today, Rijeka’s waterfront is lined with boats, clubs, restaurants, and bars. It’s that classic look and feel of a mediterranean city you would expect. That includes its authenticity. Rijeka is only just becoming known as a tourist destination and as such the city feels like it’s far too busy being itself to be too concerned with selling cheap souvenirs or building English pubs everywhere. It’s, as a famous Croatian tourist campaign once proclaimed, “the mediterranean as it once was.”
Digital nomads in Rijeka can expect a small but vibrant startup scene based around the city’s Startup Incubator.
While you’re there, check out:
- The Maškare Carnival – Coming just after the New Year when most cities are returning to work, Rijeka celebrates with a carnival. Not just any carnival either, it’s the third largest following Rio de Jainero and Venice. There’s color, dancing, excellent wine, and plenty of food. Perhaps a quiet month or two working during an Adriatic winter won’t be so quiet after all.
- The Student Day Festival – Held every year to celebrate student day in late May, this festival features a variety of activities, musical performances, and chances to live it up with the locals.
- Summer nights of Rijeka – Throughout June and July, places all over the city are transformed into stages on which everything from modern drama to classical music are performed.
- Fiumanka – In mid June, this event mixes a regatta with concerts and other events, bringing 2,000 sailors and 20,000 others to watch and participate.
Being a Digital Nomad in Osijek
Often overlooked by travellers as it lies far inland in Croatia’s less visited Slavonia-Baranja region, but if you want a bit more of a Central European vibe and rock bottom prices, it’s a great option. The city and its environs have beautiful continental architecture with more than its share of stunning baroque churches, towers, castles, and spas built on natural mineral springs.
One thing which makes this part of Croatia so interesting is its delicious food (I’ll still never turn down a plate of Sarma). Slavonia´s golden fields are the main source of food in Croatia. It’s not a recommended place for vegetarians, as Osijek is home to Croatia’s famous “Kulen” sausage in addition to plenty of meat heavy regional dishes. When travelling through Slavonia you’ll also want to experience that unique form of hospitality: a nice meal and a Croatian “Rakija”.
But besides that, the startup community may not be well developed, but you’re well positioned between Zagreb and Belgrade for that. In fact, if you’d like to position yourself to move around a bit through the Northwestern Balkans, you could hardly do worse for a home base.
While you’re there, check out:
- The “Tvrđa” (Citadell) – Just next to the city, this classic example of an 18th century Habsburg “star fort” brings together a beautiful array of baroque buildings and fascinating military architecture.
- The Church of St Peter and St Paul – This neo-Gothic co-cathedral (meaning it shares its seat with another city) was built in 1898. Since then, its multi-tiered 90-metre spire has become a symbol of the city, towering over everything around it.
- Kopački Rit – Home to more than 250 bird species and the largest and most attractive preserved wetlands in Europe, this nature park is something to behold. It’s just northwest of Osijek where the Drava and Danaube rivers meet.
- The vineyards of Ilok – Home to the largest vineyards in Croatia, a country which truly loves its wine. It’s a fantastic region to explore, vintage by vintage, home-cooked meal by home-cooked meal.
Being a Digital Nomad in Hvar
If you came to Croatia to truly experience small town mediterranean life, Hvar has it in spades. The island has been famous for its rosemary, lavender, and wine for centuries. There’s seafood swimming, and like most places in Croatia, good wifi. You can base yourself in one of the small villages throughout the island or in Hvar city (population: just under 4,000).
But really, Hvar, like most Croatian islands, is perfect for anyone who dreams of working from an ancient stone house, eating fresh olives from the grove and smelling the rosemary as it grows wild outside their window. Then, you can enjoy food and wine prepared as it has been for centuries. It’s like stepping back in time, minus your laptop of course.
As with all the summer destinations on this list, prices will fluctuate significantly, but even in the depths of winter, Hvar is a sunny (like 2843 hours a year sunny) and beautiful place to lick back and get some work done.
Being a Digital Nomad in Brac
Similar to Hvar, Brac is one of the largest islands in the Adriatic and is dotted with small, stunningly beautiful towns looking out over the sea. You can choose to have a few thousand or a few dozen neighbors depending on what kind of environment strikes you.
Digital nomads in Brac can find good connections via the island’s airport flying to Zagreb and with charter flights to four cities in Austria.
On this island there is Croatia’s most famous beach in city of Bol called “Zlatni Rat” (Golden Cape).
Being a Digital Nomad in Krk
The most populous and largest island in the Adriatic, Krk is undoubtedly the best all around option for a digital nomad looking to work from an island for a while. This is not only due to the services which come from a larger population but from the high quality fiber optic internet currently being installed on the island.
Questions? We’ve Got Answers!
Are you considering being a digital nomad in Croatia? What are you most excited or worried about? If there’s anything you’re still wondering about, or just need a little encouragement to take the plunge, contact us. Otherwise, why not book your ticket? Croatia is waiting!