Croatia is often regarded as Europe’s best kept secret. Despite being less famous than some of its European neighbours, it is the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. It provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education for its citizens. It has stunning natural beauty, gorgeous coastlines, nature preserves, caves, and amazing cities to explore. It’s even the birthplace of the necktie, originating from a cravat worn by 17th century Croat soldiers. Croatia is a fascinating blend of the cultures and civilizations that surround and have influenced it throughout its history.
A Bit of Background
The country that is now Croatia was part of the Habsburg Monarchy and Hungary-Austria from 1538 until 1918, when it entered into union to form Yugoslavia. This lasted until the Republic of Croatia was born on October 8, 1991, and it is now a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic, with an elected President (currently Ivo Josipovic) and appointed Prime Minister (Zoran Milanovic). Located in central and southeastern Europe, Croatia is bordered by Slovenia, Hungary, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. The 4.3 million citizens live in 20 counties, along with the capital city of Zagreb, that make up its roughly 56,000 square kilometers.
Visas and Immigration
Citizens of approved countries can enter Croatia without a visa for a period up to 90 days. A visa is required for everyone else entering the Republic of Croatia, and tourist visas must be obtained at the nearest embassy or consulate. You may be required to present a letter of guarantee if someone has invited you to the country. This can also be the case if you are going to Croatia for business reasons. You’ll need to provide proof of your finances, address in Croatia, and reason for travel.
If you are planning on staying longer than 90 days, and if you plan or want to legally work in country, you must apply for a Temporary Residence Permit, which is good for one year, and is easily renewable. Once you have lived in Croatia for at least five years, you can apply for the Permanent Residence Permit. Typically, a work permit will be applied for on your behalf by your Croatian employer.
If you entered the country without a visa (as your home country is one the approved list), you can still apply for a temporary resident permit at the nearest Ministry of the Interior.
There are many options available throughout Croatia with regards to housing. Apartments, condos, and beautiful seaside homes are there for the taking, as either a rental property or to purchase. But be aware that foreign nationals can only purchase and own property in Croatia if Croatians are able to purchase and own property in their home country (a reciprocity agreement). Real Estate Croatia, Adriatic Property Services, and Broker Real Estate Agency are all full-service housing solutions, with plenty of rental and purchase listings to peruse. They are sure to provide something for every taste, location, and budget.
The main government provides free primary and secondary education to all Croatian citizens, with thousands of primary and hundreds of secondary schools located throughout the country. While the main language of instruction is Croatian, there are schools that cater to recognised minority languages including Czech, Hungarian, Italian, Serbian, and German. Additionally, Croatia boasts 92 schools for disabled children, 74 schools for adults, and eight universities among other institutions. Education is a high priority, and as such, the literacy rate is virtually 100%. International schools with an English curriculum include the American International School of Zagreb, and the British International School of Zagreb.
The country features moderate warm and rainy continental (mean average temperature of -3’C in January and 18’C in July) and Mediterranean (along the Adriatic coastline) climates. Croatia has 1000+ islands on its Adriatic coastline (beautiful and popular). The country boasts varied geography, from the hilly north and flat plains in the east, to low mountains and forested highlands. About half of the country is Karst topography. Plentiful lakes and rivers abound, and the average rainfall in Croatia ranges from 24 to 140 inches depending on the area. Overall, the winters can be cold and snowy, and the summers can be quite warm.
The Adriatic Sea coast has plenty of sun, sand, and islands to explore, and is a major tourist draw for the country. Croatia is world famous for its naturism (aka nudism) support and resorts (the first in Europe), attracting over one million visitors per year. Croatian cuisine varies widely depending on region, with heavy influence from Italian, Mediterranean, Austrian, Hungarian, and Turkish culinary styles. Locally produced beer and wine are excellent and very popular with the citizens, and should be on your “to try” list.
Sports are incredibly important, with over 400,000 active sportspeople in the country. Association football, including the Croatian Football Federation and the Prva HNL, is by far the most popular spectator sport. Chess and contract bridge also enjoy relatively high membership.
Diocletian’s Palace, located in Split, is an amazing example of Roman ruins. SKY satellite television packages are available in most areas of Croatia, so long as you don’t tell SKY you’re not in the United Kingdom! Internet is also widely available, with little to no evidence of restriction, censorship, or monitoring. Also, Croatia is located in Europe, making many other countries within driving or train distance. An entire continent ready to explore!
Croatia has quietly become both a tourist draw (a huge part of the economy), and a popular destination for expats looking to relocate. It has a great blend of history and modernity, making it the best of both worlds. It has cities, towns, and peaceful seaside areas to match anyone’s preferred locale. It’s Europe. It’s old world. And it just might be perfect.
Photo by Glen Scarborough
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