Living in Croatia as an expat is a great lifetime experience.
With a sparkling sea, historic towns, incredible food, and an enviable lifestyle, Croatia makes a great choice for anyone wanting to experience life in the Mediterranean.
After nearly seven years of living in Croatia as an American, I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on life here. In this post, I’ll be sharing the details of what it’s like to live in Croatia, and what expats should expect when moving here.
I originally decided to move to Croatia to complete my degree. My plan at the time was to stay for the length of the program, which was only one year. However, I quickly fell in love with the country and the lifestyle, and could no longer see myself going back to the US!
As with all countries, Croatia has its pros and cons when it comes to expat life. I’m happy to share the best and the not so great things about living in Croatia so that you can decide whether making the move is right for you.
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Tips for Living in Croatia as an Expat
Pros of Living in Croatia
Life is Chill
One major difference between Croatia and many other Western nations, and perhaps the biggest pro of living in Croatia, is the relaxed way of life.
Croatians really put a lot of value on their own personal free time and spend quality time with family and friends.
You’ll quickly realize that in Croatia, there is always time to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee, no matter what time of day it is.
Affordable Cost of Living
The cost of living in Croatia is relatively affordable, especially when compared to the United States and western Europe.
Depending on where you choose to live in Croatia, the cost of rent will vary.
In Zagreb, the price of a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of the city in an older building will run you around 600 EUR per month.
However, just outside of the downtown area, you can find more affordable options. The further out you go from the city centre, the lower the price you can expect to pay.
As far as living in smaller towns and rural areas, you can expect much lower prices than those in Zagreb.
Rent will definitely be your highest monthly expense when living in Croatia.
Luckily, utilities, internet, cell phone service, and groceries are all very affordable.
By shopping at the local farmer’s market (open daily in most cities), you can purchase fresh ingredients to make an entire meal for two for around $10.00.
Climate and weather
Croatia’s climate is a blend of coastal and continental.
The Dalmatian coast offers a Mediterranean climate featuring hot and dry summer days and mild winters. Central and eastern Croatia experience a continental climate with hot summers and cold and foggy winter days.
Despite the lower temperatures, winters in Zagreb are still pretty comfortable with only moderate amounts of snow.
Location in Europe
For those who want to explore other countries in Europe, Croatia can be an excellent home base.
Its close proximity to central Europe and good connections to other popular European destinations make it a wonderful choice for anyone looking to travel.
Many countries including Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina can all easily be reached by car in just a few hours.
Croatia also offers low-cost airlines and budget bus transportation to major cities all across the European continent.
Although this is a great advantage of living in Croatia, don’t forget to explore the country too. There are incredible places to visit like Istria, Zadar, and Dubrovnik.
📌 Related post: 10 Cheapest Countries to Live in Europe
Croatia boasts over 1,200 beautiful and diverse islands, while 10% of the country’s land is covered in national parks.
Combine that with a sparkling coastline, and endless hiking and biking trails, Croatia is a slice of heaven for nature lovers.
Croatia is a very safe country, perhaps one of the safest countries in the world. As an expat, you will feel totally secure walking around at any time of day or night, no matter if you are in a city, a small town, or in the countryside.
Cons of Living in Croatia
Paperwork is definitely one of the bad things about living in Croatia.
When in Croatia, it may be difficult to get things done. Oftentimes, simple tasks that require government paperwork can easily turn into a lengthy process involving numerous and (seemingly unnecessary) documents.
Be sure to enlist the help of local friends or professionals who can help guide you through the process.
If you are coming from a country like the US or Canada, you will likely be used to a certain level of conveniences such as Amazon same-day delivery, 24-hour stores, or a variety of options when it comes to food and products.
Online shopping in Croatia is still developing, so ordering online is not always possible, and when it is, delivery might take a while.
Croatia also does not have many 24-hour stores, and many stores are closed on Sundays. This can be a minor inconvenience if you do not prepare for it in advance.
These are not necessarily deal-breakers, but they are a few things that you will have to get used to when living in Croatia.
Learning Croatian can be challenging as there are many linguistic differences when compared to the English language.
Luckily, many of the locals are familiar with English thanks to tourism, and most of the younger generation begins learning English at school in first grade.
It should be relatively easy to communicate in English, however, the locals do appreciate it when foreigners try to at least learn a few words in Croatian.
3 Top Tips for Moving to Croatia
1) Research Your Visa
When coming to Croatia, you will need to consider the amount of time you plan to stay in the country.
Depending on what country you hold a passport in, you will be eligible for a visa that allows you to stay in Croatia for 30 or 90 days.
If you plan to stay longer, you might want to consider applying for the Digital Nomad Visa, which is actually a residence permit.
This is something that Croatia just recently announced, which should make staying in Croatia for an extended period of time much easier. This new visa allows foreigners to stay in the country for up to a year.
2) Find Your Accommodation in Advance
It is important to note that if you plan to move to Croatia, you should scope out your accommodation in advance.
This is especially crucial if you are planning to arrive during the summer season when tourism is at an all-time high, and most units will not be available.
3) Learn the Basics
As mentioned earlier, knowing a little Croatian goes a long way. By learning some of the basics, you will be able to more easily navigate everyday situations and the locals will appreciate your efforts.
Best Places to Live in Croatia
For those who are considering moving to Croatia and are looking for a thriving expat community, then Zagreb and Split are the best places to live.
Here’s what you can expect from each city:
The best place to live in Croatia as an expat as far as conveniences, year-round entertainment, and connections to the rest of Europe go, is definitely Zagreb.
With a population of around 400,000 people, Zagreb is Croatia’s largest and busiest city.
One of the reasons I personally chose to live in Zagreb is that it is a city that has everything. It’s the perfect blend of a relaxed Croatian lifestyle with modern amenities.
Zagreb is a city that is buzzing with activities and events throughout the entire year. Things slow down a bit in the summer as many of the locals flock to the Dalmatian coast to enjoy the sea and sunshine, but there are still plenty of things to do in the city.
One of the best things about living in Zagreb is the vibrant cafe culture. While you will find this all throughout Croatia, Zagreb offers some of the best cafes that can be enjoyed all year round.
As mentioned earlier, Croatians really enjoy their free time, so you will rarely see someone working on a laptop at a cafe. Cafes are mostly reserved for socializing and enjoying time off work.
Another great option for expats looking to move to Croatia is the city of Split.
It is the second-largest city in Croatia with just under 200,000 inhabitants.
This beautiful seaside town is what you might picture when you imagine living in the Mediterranean – a stunning medieval city built into an ancient palace, glittering stone streets, and marvellous stone buildings all situated beside the Adriatic Sea.
Split is an excellent choice for those who want to enjoy amazing weather, yet still have access to western amenities like large shopping centres, movie theatres, etc.
One thing to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to live in Split is the fact that the town slows down quite a bit when the summer season ends and the tourists return home. This is the same throughout the majority of the Dalmatian coast as well as on the islands.
Of course, there are plenty of other options to consider if you are in search of a slower-paced lifestyle or don’t need to have a large expat community nearby.
Some beautiful places that might be of interest to you include Samobor, Istria, Zadar, and Dubrovnik.
If you have any questions or want any advice about moving abroad, reach me by email at cristina[at]mylittleworldoftravelling.com or on Instagram at @creina.diary. I’m always happy to help.
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Frequently asked questions about moving to Croatia
Is Croatia a good place for expats?
Yes! If you love the laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle, you will love Croatia. The country is great for expats as it has a low cost of living, it’s surrounded by nature and culture, and it’s the perfect base to travel to other European destinations.
Where do most expats live in Croatia?
Zagreb. It’s one of the top places for expats as it has all the things you need, year-round entertainment and the best connections to the rest of Europe.
Can you survive in Croatia without learning the language?
It’s possible to survive in Croatia without learning the language but this mostly applies to travellers. If you plan to live in Croatia, you’ll need to learn the language as not everyone does speak English, and the locals will certainly appreciate your efforts to learn the language.
About the author
In 2014, Olivia left her home in the USA to move to Croatia for what was supposed to be a short stint.
Six years later, she is still living in Zagreb, Croatia, and absolutely loving it!
She began Inspired by Croatia to provide local tips and exclusive insight to discovering Croatia off the beaten path.
She is also a huge advocate for digital nomads coming to experience life in Croatia and use it as a base for exploring the rest of Europe!
Not sure where to move? Have a look at these expat guides