Croatia may be one of the continent's youngest countries, but this unassuming sovereign state is culturally rich and geographically diverse. From historic forts and basilicas to azure waters and scenic nature reserves, it’s easy to see why Croatia is growing in popularity as both a tourist and expat destination.
Living in Croatia as an expat
Most expats live in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, or Dubrovnik. But thanks to the growth of the tourism industry, more and more people are moving to Croatia to set up businesses along the coast, as well as in smaller rural areas.
Expats may find that work opportunities in Croatia are limited. An endless amount of red tape also proves a hassle for entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses, and expats should be wary of officials who promise to speed up bureaucratic processes, as corruption is widely reported throughout the country. Despite this, the government’s liberal attitude towards business has served to attract foreign investment and cross-border trade. Meanwhile, the tourism industry capitalises on all things nature and culture.
Favourable property prices and the availability of idyllic locations and uninhabited islands have made Croatia a hotspot for those looking to retire on its sun-soaked shores. Parts of Croatia's Istrian Peninsula have been dubbed ‘New Tuscany’ because of its status among holiday goers, not to mention high-profile celebrities. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by a sharp increase in property prices.
Public transport in the country is not as extensive as in other European countries, and may operate on irregular schedules in some areas. The most popular mode of transport is buses, with routes that cover cities at reasonably low prices. Trains and trams are also cheap, comfortable and service large parts of big cities. Driving is relatively easy here, but winding mountain roads, sheers drops and foreign signage may cause some expats anxiety. We also recommend filling up on petrol when taking long journeys to small towns.
Croatia offers subsidised healthcare and the quality of public healthcare is relatively high. Both locals and expats can access the universal healthcare system, which is on par with western European standards. The country is also seen as a burgeoning medical tourism destination.
Cost of living in Croatia
Overall, the cost of living in Croatia proves refreshingly affordable for many expats, particularly in terms of education and healthcare. Zagreb is listed as 146th out of 227 cities on Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living survey.
Expat families and children
Primary and secondary schooling in Croatia is free. The overall quality of education is excellent and the country boasts high literacy rates. Expats also have the option of private or international schools. These are mostly concentrated in Zagreb and charge high tuition fees.
With a spectacular Adriatic coastline as well as densely forested mountains, Croatia offers a raft of spectacular outdoor activities, as well as city-based attractions such as museums, theme parks, art galleries and lovely beaches. The Plitvice lakes are a must-see, with their system of waterfalls cascading into stunningly clear pools.
Climate in Croatia
Croatia is home to a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures around 78-86°F (26-30°C) on the coast, 71-78°F (22-26°C) in the continental region, and 59-68°F (15-20°C) in the mountains. Winters are cold and often snowy, but temperatures around the coast rarely drop below 41°F (5°C). The interior, on the other hand, can drop to below 32°F (0°C) and snow is fairly common.
Croatia is a young country full of potential. As such, many new arrivals are willing to ignore the areas where the country falls short and take advantage of the low-cost lifestyle and natural beauty that this Balkan state has to offer. Expats with a taste for adventure can find myriad exhilarating things to see and do, and the country can make for a brilliant new home.
Population: About 4.1 million
Capital city: Zagreb
Neighbouring countries: Croatia is bordered by Slovenia to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the southeast, Montenegro to the southeast and the Adriatic Sea to the southwest. Italy and Croatia also share a maritime border.
Geography: Croatia has over 1,000 islands and islets scattered along its coastline, only a fraction of which are inhabited. The geography of the mainland is characterised by lowland plains to the north and mountainous territory towards the south.
Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
Major religions: Roman Catholicism
Main languages: Croatian. Many citizens speak at least one other foreign language.
Money: Kuna (HRK), subdivided into 100 lipa. ATMs are plentiful in Croatia and it should be easy for expats to open a bank account.
Tipping: Tips are generally expected in Croatia, even if it's just a few kuna as a symbolic gesture. For small amounts rounding up is appropriate, and in restaurants, a standard tip is around 10 percent.
Time: GMT +1. GMT +2 between March and October
Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Plugs with two round pins are used.
Internet domain: .hr
International dialing code: +385
Emergency number: 112 can be dialled in all emergencies
Transport and driving: Buses are the main form of public transport in Croatia, with ferries being used for transport between the mainland and islands. Trains are infrequent but can be useful for regional travel. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road.