Croatia lies where Central- meets Southeast Europe. It 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.
Most expats live in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, or Dubrovnik. However, thanks to the growth of the tourism industry, more and more people move to Croatia to set up businesses along the coast, as well as in smaller rural areas.
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.
Still, overall, the cost of living in Croatia proves refreshingly affordable for many expats – particularly in terms of education and healthcare.
Primary and secondary school in Croatia is free – though private and international schools, concentrated in Zagreb, do charge high tuition fees. Additionally, expats can access the universal healthcare system, which is on par with European standards. The country is also seen as a burgeoning medical tourism destination.
Of course, there are challenges to living here. Public transport is not as extensive as in other European countries, and in some areas, may operate on irregular schedules.
Expats may also find that work opportunities in Croatia are limited. Maximising on personal connections is more likely to land a job seeker employment than applying through the usual channels. Red tape proves a hassle for entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses. However, 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, especially since the end of the Croatian War of Independence in 1995. Meanwhile, the tourism industry capitalises on all things nature and culture.
Croatia is home to a Mediterranean climate and a spectacular Adriatic coastline as well as thickly forested mountains. Expats are treated to a host of leisure activities, from museums and art galleries to hiking and mountain biking. The Plitvice lakes are a must-see, with its system of waterfalls cascading into stunningly clear pools. Expats can also enjoy their free time by diving or exploring deep caves.
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 alternative, low-cost lifestyle and natural beauty that this Balkan state has to offer.
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.