Croatia was never on our original bucketlist. But recently, it's become a tourist hot spot and after googling pictures of the Dalmatian coast and Dubrovnik's city walls, it's easy to see why (plus it's out of the Schengen zone, but that's for another blog hehe).
While the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the Adriatic sea was the clearest water we've ever seen, traveling to Croatia was full of surprises compared to other European destinations:
1. Parking is horseshit-like worse than Butler University parking. It took us over an hour to find a spot on an obscure hill 20 minutes from our Airbnb. FYI there are different parking zones (not clearly marked) that cost different amounts. Some machines don't have card readers, so you have to find a newspaper stand-usually not anywhere near your spot-to buy a ticket. The lady working couldn't speak a lick of English, so our second resort was to pay 60 kuna...in coins. Of course, NOT ONE STORE is willing to exchange your bills for small coins-what a wonderfully effective system. At this point, we ended up buying random items at the grocery store to raise the full amount.
2. English is not commonly spoken. This was by far the toughest country to communicate in. Considering these cities flourish on tourism, it was surprising how few people spoke English and that almost no signs were translated in English either. Lots of hand gestures and translators were used to get around.
3. Customer service = aggressive yelling. Seeing as how customer service is a #1 in most U.S. businesses, it was quite the experience buying food and attraction tickets. Interestingly, we had more issues in Split than Dubrovnik. The most overwhelming experience was picking an island excursion. All along the bay, there are different companies that offer the exact same package deal for the exact same price. There were absolutely no differences, leaving us to ask "Where's the competitive edge? How do they sell to their customers?" Through aggressive yelling, that's how. While we appreciated the brutal honesty, their harsh tones and constant pressure of "What do you want lady? They're all the same," left us intimidated and unsure which company to pick.
4. You'll have anxiety giving someone a 50 bill for just a few pieces of candy. Budget traveling has been such a priority, that handing over such a large number made us cringe. But don't worry, 50 kuna actually translates to about $8.00. It can be tough keeping up with how much your actually spending, so keep a log and download a currency converter.
5. The beaches don't have sand. Maybe we've been spoiled by Siesta Key's white sand, but we were not expecting rough stones to accompany the beautiful Croation beaches. On our island tour, we stopped at Stiniva beach on the island of Vis (also named the best beach in Europe)-which is hidden in this alcove and stunning from a distance. But not being able to lay on the shore without stones stabbing into our backs took away from its beauty. So enjoy the water, but skip the shore.
6. If you don't watch Game of Thrones, you should start. While we've never gotten into the series, the city really capitalizes off of the show's success. There are tours, official shops, etc. Seeing all of the fans geeking out about how Khalessi kept her dragons in Split's underground market actually made me want to give the show a try.
7. Croatia is a must see destination. While these surprises defintely threw us some curveballs, the country's gorgeous landscape, preserved history-how Diocletian's palace & Dubrovnik's city walls have lasted so long is beyond us-eastern european vibe and coastal influence made it a standout trip.