Croatia is not just the number one tourist destination in the Balkans. It’s also a popular spot for digital nomads from all over the world. With countless natural wonders, gorgeous Adriatic beaches, and high livability, Croatia is an excellent nomad base. On this basis, here is a comprehensive Croatia digital nomad guide.
Welcome to Croatia: a Land of Mystical Nature, Picturesque Cities, and Pristine Beaches
Today, Croatia is famous for its unique medieval cities, otherworldly national parks, and world-class beaches. Aside from that, Croatia rose to prominence as one of the primary filming locations of Game of Thrones and a hub for electronic music festivals.
What many people don’t know, however, is that Croatia – as a country – has only existed for about 30 years.
The nation of Croatia has been part of various larger states and empires for most of its history. A country named “the Kingdom of Croatia” did exist in the 10th century, but its borders were a far cry from the modern Republic of Croatia.
Throughout its timeline, the Romans, Italians, Hungarians, and Austrians all ruled Croatia before the end of the First World War – when it joined the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In 1945, the Kingdom became the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia was one of the states. The super-state imploded as a result of the 1990s Yugoslav Wars. During those conflicts, Croatia faced its fair share of battle, destruction, and atrocities.
Croatia became an independent country in 1991, but it took until 1995 before hostilities in Croatia and other former Yugoslav states ceased.
After 1995, Croatia steadily increased its efforts to become both a developed nation and a player on the European scene. In 2013, the country joined the European Union, and Croatia will also integrate the Schengen no-border zone in the near to mid-term future.
Croatia is nowadays the most developed country in the Balkans thanks to its booming tourism sector, shipping, and other heavy industries. It’s home to around 4 million people, 86% of whom are Catholic.
Akin to other European countries, the Covid-19 Pandemic caused substantial losses for some of Croatia’s most vital sectors – especially tourism. That’s why Croatia was one of the first European countries to reopen for non-EU visitors, and its entry regulations were less strict than other European countries.
For digital nomads, Croatia is an excellent destination for three crucial reasons:
- it offers a great mix of nature, beaches, and intriguing cities;
- its cost of living is lower than Italy, Spain, Greece, and most other Southern European countries; and
- it’s more developed than other countries in the region.
With all that in mind, it’s time to dive deeper into our Croatia digital nomad guide.
The Best Places to Go in Croatia as a Digital Nomad
When considering the country as a remote working base, you’ll ask yourself where to go in Croatia as a digital nomad.
Having been four times, here is my list of the best places to go in Croatia as a digital nomad. Luckily, Croatia isn’t that large. So if you’re wondering about tourist hotspots that I didn’t include (like Dubrovnik), they won’t be far away.
Keep in mind that the following are the best places to live in Croatia as a digital nomad, not necessarily the best tourist destinations, but some overlap.
Zagreb: the Underrated Capital City
The best places to live in Croatia as a digital nomad undoubtedly include the capital city of Zagreb.
Yes, it’s far inland, and most of the country’s tourist attractions are at least a two-hour drive away.
Nevertheless, Zagreb is one of the most underrated capital cities in Europe. Its eclectic architecture, buzzing cultural scene, and endless culinary options make it a charming place to live, and its infrastructure is the best in all of Croatia.
Better still, you’ll find a young and dynamic population here as many Croatians from all over the country relocate to Zagreb for work or college. Finally, Zagreb has the most coffee shops, coworking spaces, and the highest number of ex-pats and fellow nomads.
Consequently, if you’re looking for a suitable nomad base and don’t mind being a bit further away from Croatia’s top attractions, Zagreb is your best bet.
- read my article on the Best Places to Visit in Zagreb.
Split, Zadar & Rijeka: Coastal Cities With Great Infrastructure and Natural Wonders Nearby
When it comes to coastal cities to base yourself in Croatia, the following three are recommendable.
Split is the second-largest city in the country, with around 250,000 inhabitants. Its location in Dalmatia makes it an excellent base to explore the rest of the region.
Split itself has a picturesque medieval core with a myriad of Roman structures, including Diocletian’s Palace. The city also offers endless options for party animals and food lovers, as well as beaches. Better still, lots of picture-perfect beach towns, natural parks, and islands are nearby.
As such, Split is a worthwhile option for remote workers, even though it doesn’t have as many nomad-friendly coffee shops and co-working spaces as Zagreb. In that same vein, the center is extremely crowded in summer, especially when the cruise ships arrive.
Around two hours north of Split, Zadar is another recommendable option on the coast. Much like Split, it has beautiful architecture and beaches. It might be less spectacular, but it’s nonetheless a charming place to stay. It’s also less crowded than Split, but it’s still a tourist hotspot in summer.
Finally, Rijeka is the third coastal city that’s among the best places to live in Croatia as a digital nomad. Out of the three, it’s probably the least crowded, and it’s a gateway to various islands.
Rijeka has a lovely historical center and served as the European Capital of Culture until April 2021. On the minus side, it’s not as centrally located as Zadar or Split on the Croatian coast.
All three are worthwhile options for remote workers if you want to be on the coast. Keep in mind that they become relentlessly busy in July and August, so the best months to stay here as a digital nomad are May, June, September, and October.
Makarska, Trogir & Šibenik: Beach Towns
The best towns in Croatia undoubtedly also include some beach destinations.
Makarska is one of the largest beach towns in Croatia, and it has a buzzing nightlife scene. Located between Split and Dubrovnik, it’s a solid option at any rate.
Trogir is a magnificent town right next to Split. If you want a small, authentic beach village close to the hustle and bustle of Split, Trogir is an excellent choice.
Finally, Šibenik is situated right in the center of the Croatian coastline. It’s a bit larger than most beach towns, and it has a charming medieval core, including several Game of Thrones filming locations.
These three locations don’t have the infrastructure of larger towns. Nevertheless, they are among the best places in Croatia for digital nomads thanks to their beachfront location and proximity to bigger cities.
The Islands: Hvar, Brač, and Krk
If your top priorities include peacefulness, pristine nature, and remoteness, Croatia’s breathtaking islands can be recommendable options.
Croatia has hundreds of beautiful islands, but these three are the ones with the best infrastructure.
First, Hvar sits off the coast of Split, and it has more of a high-end vibe. Right next to Hvar, Brač is a more family-friendly island. Lastly, the northern island of Krk – off the coast of Rijeka – is a recommendable allrounder.
All three have enough infrastructure to work remotely, gorgeous beaches, and charming medieval towns. They can suffer from over-tourism in summer, and you might run out of things to do after a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, if you’re a remote worker looking for typical medieval towns and unspoiled nature, these islands will enchant you.
Cost of Living
Croatia is by no means an expensive country, but prices have risen considerably in the last decade. As such, Croatia is now on par with other Southern European destinations but still more affordable than Italy, Spain, and France.
Here is a breakdown of my nomad budget for one month in Croatia:
- Airbnb in Zagreb (one bedroom right in the heart of the city): 750€ per month;
- Food and drinks: 450€;
- Transport: 50€;
- Local gym: 25€ per month;
- Tourist activities like national parks, museums, and sports: 125€;
- Miscellaneous: 100€.
You could save a lot on accommodation if you use a local agency or stay on the outskirts. Nevertheless, in terms of spending a month in Croatia with weekend excursions and 2-3 weekly nights out, this is the sort of budget you should expect.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
Croatia’s infrastructure has caught up to most of Europe in the last decade. Roads are now in excellent condition, and the toll highways make it easy to drive all across the country. Zagreb has an efficient public transit network, but other cities rely more on taxis.
There are currently six international airports in the country. The largest ones are Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, and Zadar.
If you’re exploring the northern coastal region, Zadar is your best bet. Split serves all of Dalmatia and several islands. Dubrovnik is the gateway to the southernmost part, below the Bosnian corridor.
Internet strength in Croatia is decent but not exceptional. On a global scale, Croatia ranks 20th for mobile speed and 64th for fixed broadband.
All in all, it’s safe to say that Croatia has the best infrastructure in the Balkans.
Accommodation, Sim Cards, and Transport
When it comes to places to stay in Croatia as a digital nomad, you can find tourist apartments (called “apartmani”) everywhere, even in the smallest towns. They range from 20€ per night for basic accommodation to luxury condominiums with swimming pools and gyms in cities like Zagreb and Split. The easiest way to find short-term rentals in Croatia is via Booking.com or Airbnb.
It’s also possible to go through conventional rental agencies or via word of mouth. You’ll pay less, but it will take much longer to find something, and many landlords won’t rent their places out for less than six months. Njuškalo.hr is the largest online portal, but it’s only in Croatian. If you’re in Zagreb, RentinZagreb is another resource to find an apartment.
You’ll also find lots of hotels and guest houses, but these are usually more expensive. In addition to that, the Croatian coast isn’t brimming with modern resorts. Most towns retain their authentic architecture, so the hotels are generally smaller than in other European countries.
If you don’t have an EU mobile plan, you’ll want to buy a SIM Card in Croatia. T-Hrvatski Telekom and Orange have the best deals for foreigners. You can find them in official stores, convenience stores, and sometimes supermarkets.
If you want to travel to national parks, small towns, or remote locations, renting a car is advisable. Most big international rental companies are present in Croatia. If you want a cheaper deal, AvantCar is a recommendable local agency.
Croatia Digital Nomad Guide: Remote Working Locations
Most Croatian cities have bespoke remote working spaces catering to digital nomads. Some of them are on the expensive side, but they offer top-notch amenities.
The following are some of the best co-working spaces in various Croatian cities:
- Klub mladih Rijeka: a hybrid between a coffee shop and co-working space that’s popular among digital nomads and locals alike.
- Amosfera Co-working Split: a purposely designed coworking space with sea views that local entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and NGOs use as their office.
- Saltwater Workspace: a chain of co-working spaces that’s present in Split, Zagreb, Zadar, Hvar, and Dubrovnik.
- BIZkoshnica and HUB385 in Zagreb: two well-equipped co-working spaces in central Zagreb for local entrepreneurs, creatives, developers, and remote workers.
Aside from co-working spaces, most Croatian towns have great coffee shops that work well as remote working locations. Starbucks isn’t present in the country, but there are lots of local alternatives. In Zagreb, Booksa and Brokenships Café (inside the Museum of Broken Relationships) are suitable places in this regard.
Culture and People
Today, Croatia is a proud nation that found its place on the European stage. Croatia’s eventful history left traces of many different cultures. By and large, you could say that the country reflects a mix of Roman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslav heritage.
Even though Croatia has only existed as a country for 30 years, the national identity dates back many centuries, creating unique traditions that people uphold today. In addition to that, regional identification is an essential part of Croatian culture.
You’ll see young people singing traditional folk songs in modern nightclubs and entire villages celebrating rural traditions. To sum this point up, Croatians have a strong bond with their region and national identity, creating a vast panoply of cultural festivities, customs, and events.
Croatia Digital Nomad Guide: FAQ
Is Croatia Safe?
Yes. Croatia is a tourist haven. Pickpocketing and scams do happen, but common sense will suffice to deal with those.
Apart from that, a minority of football fans (especially rivaling Hajduk Split and Dynamo Zagreb fan groups) have a tendency for violent confrontation. Keep that in mind when games are on.
Is There a Croatia Digital Nomad Visa?
In late 2020, the Croatian government announced that they would create a special residency permit for people who work remotely for a non-Croatian company or their own business. Consequently, it’s not a Croatia digital nomad visa but a 6-month residency permit.
The model is still in its infancy, and many points (for example, how often you can renew it) aren’t clear yet.
As of 2021, you can apply for a 6-month residency permit as a remote worker. The conditions are the following:
- you need to work for a foreign company or have your own non-Croatian business;
- you cannot perform any services to Croatian clients or work for a Croatian company;
- you need health insurance; and
- you need proof of sufficient funds/income to sustain your Croatia digital nomad lifestyle.
As such, it’s not a Croatia digital nomad visa but a residency permit for non-EU nationals who work remotely. Find more info here.
Many digital nomads will continue to choose the visa-free tourist option. The policy allows them to stay for up to 90 days for leisure purposes.
As in any country, tourist visas don’t allow you to work for an employer in Croatia, but they don’t explicitly prohibit you from performing “home-tied work” on your laptop. Find out more about Croatia’s visa policy here.
How Are English Levels in Croatia?
English levels have improved significantly over the last ten years. When I first visited in 2012, there weren’t many English speakers outside of the main tourist hubs, but that’s not the case anymore.
Today, the younger generations are often proficient, and the older generations have tried to adapt to the tourism boom, even in smaller towns.
Nevertheless, knowing a few Serbo-Croatian phrases is still recommendable as people also speak the language (or a very similar dialect) in neighboring Bosnia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Montenegro.
Are There Many Fellow Nomads in Croatia?
With the introduction of the residency permit, nicknamed “Croatia digital nomad visa,” the number of digital nomads in Croatia will undoubtedly rise over the coming years.
Today, many digital nomads set up shop in Split, Zadar, and Zagreb. Those three cities are the most suitable places to live in Croatia as a digital nomad, and there are sizable communities of remote workers, especially in Zagreb.