How To Keep Fit And Healthy In Croatia

Croatia is a beautiful country, with a rich history, a hot climate and a delectable cuisine. Whether you are living in the country or just visiting, you will find many opportunities to keep fit and well, from walking and hiking to using indoor and outdoor gyms. There are also numerous water sports available along Croatia’s picturesque coastline.Sports are popular in Croatia, with football being particularly so at both a professional and an amateur level. The Croatian Football Federation has about 118,000 registered players. There is also a lot of enthusiasm for handball, basketball and water polo. Tennis is another favoured sport, and Croatia has some top players, such as Marin Čilić and Goran Ivanišević.

You will find that even urban Croatia has some great places for walking and running. Marjan Park in Split, for example, has some stunning views of the Adriatic. You can map out trails through the park and, since it is hilly, you can vary the level of your workout. The park also has equipment you can use, such as suspension straps.

You may also want to visit Biokovo Mountain, situated next to the Dalmatian coast, which is described as “a mountain with roots in the sea and head in the clouds.” It’s a good choice for those who want to split their time between walking and visiting the beach.

The Croatian coastline is so lovely that travellers are sometimes inclined to ignore the mountainous regions further inland, but if you are interested in trail hiking and mountain walking (whether or not you have mountaineering experience), then the interior of Croatia offers some fantastic choices.

You may like to explore Sveti Ilja on the Pelješak Peninsula, as well as Plješevica Mountain and the Plitvice lakes. If you are planning on hiking in the mountains, remember to take plenty of water (and something to eat), as there are unlikely to be options to buy sustenance along the trails. You may also want to bring a light waterproof with you and a jumper, as mountain regions can become suddenly cold, and do not forget to wear suitable footwear. Make sure, too, that you descend before dark, as some trails can be treacherous underfoot.

Croatia offers some fantastic opportunities for trail hiking and mountain walking

If you enjoy winter sports, then you may wish to experience skiing in Croatia. The country has some top ski resorts, such as the Sljeme ski resort, which is not far from Zagreb. The Snow Queen trophy (slalom races for both women and men) takes place every winter. Croatia has produced a number of gold medalists.

If cycling is your thing, then you will have plenty of opportunities in Croatia. You can hire a bike and strike out on your own, or join a local guide for a cycling tour. You can choose to cycle along the more rugged interior terrain, beside the Dalmatian coast or in some of the islands. Biking Croatia can sort out all the logistics for you and can make suggestions for tours based on your cycling experience. You can also combine boat and bike tours.

If you enjoy water sports, then Croatia’s coastline allows for a range of activities you might want to take part in. You can try kayaking, sailing, parasailing, canoeing, rafting, paraboarding and swimming. You might even want to have a go at jet skiing. Make sure that, if you are learning one of these activities, you sign up with a registered instructor (do not be afraid to ask for proof of qualifications). Ensure, too, that your insurance covers you for any injuries – some policies may not cover extreme sports.

Golf is increasing in popularity, and you can sign up for a golfing holiday, on which you will discover some high quality courses. The sport did not used to be popular in Croatia, which for years had only three courses, but it is now being promoted by the tourism authorities, and new courses are being planned for Dubrovnik, Zadar and Split.

Horse riding holidays are also an option, and these can be great for those wanting to see the countryside at a leisurely pace. You will be able to sign up with a tour that suits your particular level.

Croatia’s coastline allows for a range of water sports

You will find a good range of both indoor and outdoor gyms. The island of Hvar hosts fitness holidays, based around running, swimming, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, gymnastics and functional fitness.

Eating healthily in Croatia should not present you with too many problems, especially along the Dalmatian coast. Seafood, vegetables and fruit all feature in the national cuisine, which is sometimes described as basic but with plenty of fresh ingredients. Oily fish, such as sardines and mackerel, play a big part in the Croatian diet, and rice dishes, such as risotto, also feature. Croatia is famous for its oysters. The proximity of Croatia to Italy has resulted in a strong Italian influence on Croatian food, and the country’s olive orchards mean that olive oil is used in abundance. Croatian cuisine is often described, justifiably, as Mediterranean.

Vegan travellers say that it is reasonably easy to access vegan food in Croatia. Non-dairy milk is found in grocery stores, and there are plenty of dishes that don’t contain meat.

If you have a chronic illness, you should make sure that you bring enough medication with you for your trip, and take your medication in its original packaging, in case you need to take it into a pharmacy. Bring your prescription with you, too.

Lastly, if you are resident in the country, make sure you safeguard your mental and emotional health. Monitor your alcohol consumption, make sure you eat properly, get plenty of exercise, and keep in contact with friends and relations. If you are working in Croatia, you will be signed up with the national health insurance scheme, and you must be registered with your local family doctor.

All in all, Croatia is not a difficult country in which to stay fit and well!

How Much Do Health Procedures Cost In Croatia?

Croatia has both a public and a private healthcare sector. If you are an expat and are working in the country, you will need to be registered with the national health insurance scheme, known as the HZZO.National health insurance is mandatory for everyone in Croatia. If you access the public system, therefore, you will be covered to some extent. However, you will need to make some co-pay costs, unless you have supplementary dopunsko insurance, in which case your treatment will often be free at the point of delivery.

State health insurance costs in Croatia

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that public spending on health per capita grew rapidly between 2000 and 2008 but started to decrease in 2009, due to the recession and repeated cuts to the health budget. Croatia experienced a fall in GDP between 2009 and 2014. The WHO says that over the course of the downturn, reductions in public spending on health focused on enhancing efficiency rather than shifting healthcare costs onto patients. It led to rising deficits for providers, who struggled to meet service costs with lower budgets.

The WHO also reports that poor fiscal management over the last 30 years has been a feature of public healthcare spending. HZZO and hospitals have consistently overspent their budgets and accumulated arrears, particularly when faced with budget cuts. As a result, the WHO says, there were 14 bailouts of HZZO or providers between 1994 and 2017. All of this leads to additional strain on the public healthcare sector.

The HZZO is mainly funded through payroll deductions, but around 8% of its revenue comes from the government budget, in order to cover some of the healthcare costs of non-contributing residents (vulnerable citizens are covered by the HZZO but do not necessarily contribute to it).

The HZZO (Croatia's national health insurance scheme) is mainly funded through payroll deductions

There are three main types of national coverage:

Obavezno zdravstveno osiguranje – public basic health insurance
Dopunsko zdravstveno osiguranje – public or private supplemental health insurance
Dodatno zdravstveno osiguranje – private supplemental health insurance (usually offered by banks as well as insurance companies)

Premiums are currently around 530 Kn (approximately US$78) per month and are deducted from employees’ salaries.

If you are from outside the EU and are enrolling with the HZZO for the first time, you will need to make a one-off payment of 6356 Kn (around US$937), which is treated as a back payment for the previous year. So be prepared to pay quite a steep bill for your health insurance in your first year of residence in Croatia.

If you need to see a doctor, you will not have to pay very much – it costs around $1 for an appointment – but other primary care should be free at the point of delivery. You may need to make small co-payments for specialist appointments, but if you have supplementary dopunsko insurance, this can be negated.

For co-payments in secondary and tertiary care, you may need to pay 20% of the cost of outpatient services, with a minimum payment of 25 kunas ($3 to $4). The fixed co-payment per dentist visit is 10 Kn ($1). For inpatient care, you will be looking at 20% of the cost, with a minimum payment of 100 Kn ($13) per day of hospitalisation. Again, this can be reduced or removed altogether by dopunsko coverage.

How much does treatment cost in the private sector?

If you are visiting Croatia and need medical treatment, your first port of call will be a poliklinika – these are all in the private sector. Medical costs in the country are competitive in comparison to those in neighbouring EU nations, and Croatia is gradually making a name for itself in medical tourism, with the tourist authorities pushing some attractive packages.

Croatia is gradually making a name for itself in medical tourism

Some sample costings are:

• Hip replacement: 53,000 Kn ($7600)
• Knee replacement: 53,000 Kn ($7600)
• Eyelid surgery: 7481 Kn ($1090)
• Facelift: 23,000 Kn to 53,000 Kn ($3280 to $7600), depending on the extent of the procedure
• Abdominoplasty (‘tummy tuck’): 16,000 Kn to 21,369 Kn ($2300 to $3000+)

Some sample dental costs are as follows:

• Descaling: 250 Kn ($38)
• Filling: 230 Kn to 315 Kn (approx. $33 to $45)
• Root canal: 350 Kn to 600 Kn (approx. $54 to $87)
• Dentures: 2000 Kn to 3000 Kn (approx. $295 to $450)
• Metal/ceramic crown: 1200Kn to 1500 Kn (approx. $177 to $218)
• Ceramic crown: 2500 Kn (approx. $400)
• Implant: 4800 Kn to 6500 Kn (approx.$700 to $960)

Some sample costs for optical surgery are as follows:

• Consultation for refractive surgery: 750 Kn ($107)
• Laser surgery: 4500 Kn to 9000 Kn ($645 to $1289) per eye, depending on the type of treatment
• Intraocular lens implant: 12,000 Kn to 15,000 Kn ($1720 to $2150)
• Cataract surgery: 9000 Kn to 19500 Kn ($645 to $2795), depending on type of treatment

Make sure that your chosen clinic accepts your insurance, and contact your insurance provider to check whether you need pre-approval for your procedure. Some Croatian clinics will allow you to pay in instalments if you are a resident of the country and have particular credit cards, but this option is not available for medical tourists. Some clinics will allow you to pay in cash.

How Does Cancer Care In Croatia Compare With The UK / USA?

Croatia, the UK and the USA all have different healthcare systems. However, each is two-tier, with public and private sector healthcare and insurance. Please read on for more information.

Oncological treatment in the USA

If you need to seek cancer treatment in the US, and you are not eligible for Medicare or its sister program, Medicaid, you will need a health insurance policy that covers you for oncological treatment. The care that you receive will be of a high quality.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has conducted surveys, which show that patients are very satisfied with their care in collaborative practice models. David Chan, at the UCLA Oncology Centre, told Forbes that overall survival rates for cancer are better in the USA than anywhere else in the world. This may be due to over-testing and aggressive treatment, caused by fears of litigation from patients. In saying this, some countries beat the USA in regard to certain types of cancer.

Chan also notes that new treatments, such as immunotherapy, are more widely available in the US than in nations that have budget-capped national health systems.

However, the US system is under strain, due to the insurance-based nature of American healthcare. Providers noted that payer pressures were at the top of their list of challenges, with oncology practices experiencing issues in day-to-day operations, often related to payment, reimbursement, and competition.

Pain management has become an issue in the US in relation to oncological patients, due to the recent opioid crisis. Cancer survivors report that “anti-opioid sentiment can be pervasive and hurtful.”

Croatia, the UK and the USA all have different healthcare systems.

Oncological treatment in the UK

If you are a British resident who is returning home for treatment, you will still be entitled to this under the NHS.

If you are an overseas expat living in the UK, and you need to undergo oncological treatment, you will need to have resident status in order to qualify for this. However, if you are coming from outside an EU member state, and you are planning to remain in the UK for more than six months, but are not intending to move here permanently, you may be required to pay a surcharge (the Immigration Health Surcharge or IHS) at the time of your visa application.

The standard surcharge fee is currently:

• £300 per year per person for students and each of their dependants
• £400 per year per person for everyone else

The full amount will be paid upfront for the duration of your visa.

Depending on your situation, you may not have to pay the surcharge. For example, you will be exempt if you are the dependant of a member of the forces who is not subject to immigration control.

If you are diagnosed with cancer and are eligible for treatment, you will be fast-tracked by the NHS into your local oncology department, and a course of treatment will be outlined for you by the oncology team. This may consist of surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and possibly immunotherapy, depending on the type of cancer that you have. You will not need to pay out-of-pocket for any treatment that you receive, including for any stays in hospital. Oncological treatment under the NHS involves follow-up care. This means that you will have check-ups with your consultant on a regular basis (e.g. every three months, then every six months, then annually) after your treatment has finished.

Taking out private health insurance will not make a great difference to the quality of your cancer treatment in the UK. Private and public patients receive the same levels of medical care. Private insurance will also not necessarily speed up your access to treatment, since the NHS tends to place a high priority on cancer patients. However, private cover will give you more comfortable facilities, such as a private room in a hospital.

Oncological treatment in Croatia

Croatia has a good standard of both private and public healthcare, although the public sector has suffered cuts, following the 2009 recession, and is currently overstretched. The public health system is regulated by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, and healthcare institutions are run both by the central government and regionally.

There are three main types of national health insurance coverage:

Obavezno zdravstveno osiguranje – public basic health insurance
Dopunsko zdravstveno osiguranje – public or private supplemental health insurance
Dodatno zdravstveno osiguranje – private supplemental health insurance (usually offered by banks as well as insurance companies)

Croatia has a good standard of both private and public healthcare.

National health insurance is mandatory for everyone in Croatia. If you are an EU citizen, or are applying for residency but are from outside the EU, and are working in Croatia, you will have to pay contributions into the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO). You will also need to pay contributions into the scheme if you are self-employed.

Once you have registered, you will be issued with a card, which you must bring with you to all your medical appointments. You will need a GP’s referral if it is thought that you may be suffering from cancer, and you will be put into the care of the local HZZO registered hospital, if you choose to access the public healthcare system.

Although you usually need to make small co-payments for treatment under the HZZO, there is an exemption for treatment of cancer.

In Croatia, around 23,000 patients are diagnosed with cancer every year, and around 11,000 people die annually from the disease. Recent surveys indicate that the cancer survival rates in Croatia are in the lower half of the European rankings. However, it is in the top third of developed countries, in terms of screening, diagnostics and therapy.

Survival rates for children are relatively good, but breast and lung cancer survival rates are lower than in some of Croatia’s neighbours. The government has established a national cancer plan to combat the disease, and is increasing screenings for colon and breast cancer.

The country scores poorly in terms of risk factors and awareness.

You may prefer to be treated in your home nation, whether in the public or the private sector, or to opt for private treatment at a Croatian clinic.

Overall, the quality of your care would probably be best in the USA, but treatment can be exceptionally expensive there. Your cancer care in both the UK and Croatia would still be of a high standard, but would cost substantially less, or could even be free.

Dental And Ophthalmic Care In Croatia: How To Find The Right Options For You

Public health insurance in Croatia covers basic dental care, but does not cover more sophisticated treatments, such as dental implants. The country is currently a destination for dental tourism in the private sector, however, and you may, as an expat, wish to take advantage of this. You can either take out private dental cover, or pay out of pocket. Similarly, with optical care, many expats choose to take out private insurance, or simply to pay up front. As an expat in Croatia, you should experience few difficulties in accessing the care that you need, whether dental or ophthalmic.

How to register with a dentist

When looking for dentists, many expats ask friends or colleagues for recommendations. Do not be afraid to ask for proof of qualifications or testimonials. Dentists in Croatia study at the School of Dental Medicine in Zagreb, but many also train further at dental schools across the world. Practitioners must belong to the Croatian Dental Chamber, the independent and autonomous professional association of doctors of dental medicine in Croatia, and may belong to specialist bodies as well.

Registration with the Croatian national health scheme (the HZZO) is compulsory. If you are covered by it and wish to access public treatment, make sure that you register with a practice that is signed up. You will be charged a maximum of 10 Kn for each visit (about €1), but otherwise should have treatment that is free at the point of delivery.

To what extent does national insurance cover dentistry?

The HZZO covers basic treatment, but not care such as more advanced implants, or other forms of cosmetic dentistry. Currently it covers:

• Dental and prosthetic care
• Dental and prosthetic replacements

You may also be able to access dental care under supplementary dopunsko treatment. This is an additional, semi-public/semi-private form of health insurance, designed as a top up to HZZO coverage, and many Croatians and expats take advantage of it. It includes a range of plans with different levels of cost and coverage.

You may be able to access dental care under supplementary dopunsko treatment.

Accessing private dental treatment

Dental tourism in Croatia is relatively new, but is growing fast, with some high class clinics and competitive prices. The Croatian government is starting to invest heavily in medical tourism, including dental care. It is possible to book dental treatment packages, including flights and accommodation, some of which include a free consultation and cleaning treatment.

Check that your dentist is accredited, and that the clinic has the ISO 9001 Certificate (International Organisation for Standardisation).

Some sample costs are as follows:

• Descaling: 250 Kn (€35)
• Filling: 230 Kn to 315 Kn (approx. €31 to €42)
• Root canal: 350 Kn to 600 Kn (approx. €50 to €80)
• Dentures: 2000 Kn to 3000 Kn (approx. €270 to €406)
• Metal/ceramic crown: 1200 Kn to 1500 Kn (approx. €162 to €200)
• Ceramic crown: 2500 Kn (approx. €338)
• Implant: 4800 Kn to 6500 Kn (approx. €640 to €878)

Medical personnel in the private sector usually speak good English, and many have trained abroad in English-speaking countries.

How to register with an optometrist in Croatia

If you are looking for an optometrist, you may find it useful to ask colleagues and friends for recommendations. You may want to check out some of the expat forums, too. You should have few difficulties in finding an optometrist or an eye clinic for more advanced treatment, such as corrective surgery.

To what extent does national insurance cover optical care?

The HZZO covers basic eye care. Currently, there are around 400 ophthalmology specialists and 35 residents in Croatia. Most of these practitioners work in hospitals and clinics in the public sector, which offer treatments such as refraction and IOP measurement. However, optical care in the public sector, like in many countries, suffers from long waiting times, and many expats choose to opt for private treatment. Most public sector treatment is concentrated in the larger urban centres.

Some private providers used to be contracted into the national health insurance scheme, but this is no longer the case; financial cuts ensured a contraction of this service.

The HZZO covers basic eye care in Croatia.

Accessing private eye treatment

An example of an eye hospital in Croatia is the Svjetlost Eye Hospital in Zagreb, which is affiliated with the local university, and which employs over 40 ophthalmologists. It offers a full range of ophthalmic diagnostic and surgical services, including corneal transplants.

You will find many private clinics at which you can access both basic and more advanced ophthalmic care. Svjetlost has performed over 35,000 cataract surgeries, and can offer multifocal or Symfony intraocular lenses, which will remove the need for glasses.

Some sample costs are as follows:

• Consultation for refractive surgery: 750 Kn (€98)
• Laser surgery: 4500 Kn to 9000 Kn (€590 to €1179) per eye, depending on the type of treatment
• Intraocular lens implant: 12,000 Kn to 15,000 Kn (€1572 to €1965)
• Cataract surgery: 9000 Kn to 19500 Kn (€590 to €2555), depending on type of treatment

Svjetlost Eye Hospital offers instalment payments for some types of credit card, but only if you are resident in the country. Providers usually also take cash payments. Check with your insurance provider if you are covered for optical care; you may need to pay upfront and apply for reimbursement. You may also need to discuss pre-approval with your insurer for some types of surgery, so if you are planning an elective eye treatment, it would be wise to contact your provider first.

There are plenty of optometrists in the country, and you should have no more than a week’s wait for your new contact lenses or spectacles.

Maribeth Theisen, Near Split

Who are you?

My name is Maribeth Theisen. I’m an American married to a British man.I’m a psychotherapist, photographer and travel blogger at MBsWorld.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I’ve actually lived abroad previously; as a child in Germany, a teenager in Vietnam, recently in France, and now Croatia.

I learned so much about life from my early experiences and find my perspectives are broader and richer than they would have been. I am also passionate about learning of the natural history, wildlife, cultures and customs of the regions on this planet. The insular nature of life in the USA felt limiting to me.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The move from France to Croatia was geographically quite easy. Because we bought a furnished apartment, we brought clothing and personal effects in one carload after selling our French house. The rest of it was not so easy.

The smaller adjustments involved are the same in any new place: obtaining bank account, utilities, phone, TV, etc. in a foreign country; and learning what to buy at the supermarket and mall when I can’t read the labels at first. Our local friends have been a godsend in translating documents and even going to offices with us.

The real challenge is trying to accomplish administrative tasks. My expat friend told me he is happy if he accomplishes three items on his five-item ‘to do’ list in a day. I do find that it tends to take about three visits to resolve government tasks— like registering a vehicle, for example. It took 18 months to buy our apartment, though buying a boat happened seamlessly. And after two years of dead ends we hired an attorney and finally got residency.

The hard challenges resulted with me feeling we had made a mistake and we should back out of the home purchase. Now that we’ve been enjoying our lifestyle and friends in Croatia, I’m happy we stuck it out.

How did you find somewhere to live?

When we fell in love with Croatia and returned to Hawaii (my other home), I made a beeline for the dive shop. I recalled one of the scuba instructors reminiscing about fun times on a friend’s sailing yacht and in his home in Croatia. I shared that we wanted to buy a home and sailboat in Croatia and he said, “My friend is selling his apartment and his boat.” That’s how it all began. We now live in that apartment and sail on that yacht.

Are there many other expats in your area?

We live about an hour from Split. In our village we are the only expats. There are one or two Americans and a Canadian in the nearby town of Omiš. But there are many expats in Split and it is an active community with meet-ups around fine wine, dining, exercise, book swaps, photography, day trips and other activities.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

We are lucky to have many local friends, with whom we go to the beach or meet for a coffee or a meal. My husband enjoys visiting with the men who work in the boatyard. Our friends help with documents and phone calls, which we appreciate.

We’ve been honored to be invited to pick olives, which is a big event with a picnic at lunch and a big feast that night. And, we get to have some of the freshest olive oil you’ve ever tasted! The Croatian people are generous and loyal friends when you get to know them.

What do you like about life where you are?

We enjoy sailing and the beach. Split has great restaurants and malls, as well as a cinemas which include American films. There are also museums and a grand old opera house where theatrical arts are still performed. The old town with Diocletian’s Palace is unique, historic, and architecturally fascinating.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I miss the conveniences and excellent customer service of the USA. I tire of the hour-long visits to the bank, the three visits to administrative offices, hearing that something I can usually ‘ take for granted ‘ is ‘impossible’ and the hassles of daily life.

Living away from the city, it is harder to make friends and to meet up with them. Sometimes it is difficult to connect because during summer tourist season residents often work two or three jobs, while expats travel a lot and are gone.

I am interested in alternative health and spirituality. These are very new areas locally, so I have not found services nor friendships I would enjoy that include them.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

On the positive side, life happens at a slower pace. If you meet someone for coffee you can expect it is a three-hour event, which may then lead to cocktails and dinner. The emphasis on enjoying life and spending time with friends and family is wonderful. The slower pace is a downside when offices close for coffee breaks, long lunches, or mid-afternoon for the day.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

The food in Croatia is fresh. Produce, fish, meats are all locally sourced. The cooking is simple and wholesome. I love the eggs, which are so rich the yolks look orange. I love the olive oil—best in the world! The cherries and figs are off the charts! Many of the wines are fabulous. The California Zinfandel’s DNA is actually from nearby here. My favorite red wine is Dingač—so rich and bold.

It is difficult to find specialty items, but it is getting easier with time. If you’re on a special diet like Keto or gluten-free, you are going to have a problem. I tend not to eat chicken at restaurants where it is sliced as I prefer to eat a piece of chicken like a thigh or breast.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

1. Rent for a year and see if you like day to day life. After a year you will also know what areas you might wish to buy in.
2. Get a lawyer immediately, especially if you are making a large purchase or involved in administrative hassles.
3. Get to know your neighbors. Make friends with locals and learn about holidays, events and customs.

What are your plans for the future?

Because I’ve missed long-time friends and family, I would like to balance time spent in Croatia with time in Hawaii. We will keep sailing and living in Croatia for years to come because we love it!

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

How To Find A Job In Croatia

Croatia has been increasingly in popularity as a destination over the last decade and if you are planning on relocating to this EU member state, you will find a number of opportunities. However, salaries in the region are not high in comparison to other EU nations, and the cost of living is high as well.The country has been struggling economically and currently has a high rate of unemployment. This may affect you as an expat if you are intending to look for casual work, for instance in the tourism or hospitality sectors. Service industries in Croatia currently account for 70% of its GDP.

You are more likely to have success in your job search if you concentrate on the cities, on the north, and on coastal areas. However, from 2018, the Croatian government started a program of heavy investment (around €336 million) into employment in the country.

If you are a non-EU national, you will need a contract from a Croatian company before you are allowed to apply for a work permit. If you come from another EU member state, you are likely to find this an easier process as you are already entitled to work in the country, but note that Croatian companies have been legally obliged to try to employ Croatian nationals first. The quota system itself, however, will be discontinued from 2020.

The exception to this is if you are an Austrian citizen: you are not allowed to work in Croatia without a work permit (this is due to restrictions that the Austrian government has placed on Croatian nationals).

Austrian citizens need permits to work in Croatia

If your employer applies for a work permit for you (or if you are self employed), and you are not an EU national, you will need all or some of the following documentation:

• a copy of your passport
• proof of your health insurance
• proof of sufficient funds to support yourself
• a contract of employment or other proof of work
• proof of your qualifications
• proof of registration of your employer’s company in Croatia (this should not be dated more than 6 months prior to your application)
• a consular fee if the application is submitted at a Croatian diplomatic mission/consular post or a revenue stamp of 20 HRK if the application is submitted in Croatia itself

Expats resident in the country warn, however, that the bureaucracy is constantly changing, so it is wise to keep an eye on any new regulations and if necessary ask the Croatian immigration authorities.

Employment contracts must be made in writing and issued prior to the commencement of employment, and there are heavy fines for employers who violate these conditions.

As an expat, you will have the same rights as a Croatian national.

You may have some success in more professional sectors – for instance, international education and medicine.

The typical working week in Croatia is 40 hours long

Typical working hours are 40 hours per week over 5-6 days (Monday – Saturday). Most businesses are open from 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. You will be entitled to overtime if you are working beyond these hours.

If you are working a 6 hour day, you are entitled to a 30 minute break. You will be eligible for 4 weeks’ annual leave, plus the 14 Croatian national holidays.

You are entitled to flexible working hours, which can be negotiated with your employer (this might apply if, for example, you are working from home).

You will be given 18 days of annual leave (most Croats take their holidays in July and August).

The Croatian minimum wage is currently €505.90 per month and is recalculated every year. Wages will obviously depend on the sector that you are in – a doctor, for example, could expect to earn up to €3500 per month; working in a supermarket, you could expect about €400.

It is compulsory to take your maternity leave in Croatia

If you are pregnant you will have to take compulsory maternity leave for 28 days before the birth and up to 70 days after the birth. You will be eligible for additional leave up until the child is 6 months old, and you can transfer this leave to the child’s father.

Your spouse will be able to seek employment without a work permit if they are also an EU national (with the exception noted above). However, if they are not from an EU member state, they will need to apply separately for a work permit. Casual work may be difficult to find, due to the high rate of unemployment in the country.

Job Vacancies

Speculative applications to Croatian companies are common and you will not be discouraged from doing so. However, you are likely to have more success if you submit your CV/resume and any queries in translation into Croatian, as a large number of Croatian companies are not English-speaking.

There are a number of well established Croatian job portals. The Croatian national press also lists job vacancies. A number of recruitment agencies also cover Croatia including several public employment agencies. You should be able to register as a job seeker.

Applying For A Job

It is advisable to have your CV/resume and any covering letter translated into Croatian, particularly if you are applying to a local Croatian company rather than an international one.

Having your application translated into Croatian will increase your chances

During the application process (including your job interview) an employer is not allowed to ask any questions that are not immediately related to employment: for example, information about your personal life, employee’s religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political preferences, pregnancy and other information as defined in the Anti-Discrimination Act.

However, you will be expected to inform your prospective employer about any illnesses which could affect your capacity to carry out your job and you might also be required to take a medical test.

Qualifications And Training

Employers will ask for proof of any relevant qualifications and it is advised that you have these both translated into Croatian and apostilled.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Phil And Katya, Sibenik

Who are you?

We are Phil and Katya, the couple that travels and moves from country to country looking for a new experience and exploring our wonderful world. Together we’ve been to seven countries and some more before we met each other.We decided not to waste hundreds of pictures we bring from our trips and recently created an Instagram account missy_n_mister_abroad, where we share our best moments with other people and try to inspire them to travel.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Our last destination has been Croatia. We moved here a month ago.
It was love at the first sight; we fell in love with this country and decided to stick around longer.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The most complicated part when you move abroad is always documents: visas, work permits etc. The rest are little worries that usually bring you only pleasure.

How did you find somewhere to live?

Phil’s parents retired in Croatia so we stayed with them temporarily.

Are there many other expats in your area?

There are quite a few expats living in Croatia, although in Sibenik, where we are, not too many of them.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Local people are very friendly, but they will treat you much better if you speak their language. We already started working on it ☺

What do you like about life where you are?

Life on the coast is always peaceful and leisurely, people don’t rush, there’s no stress and hustle. You feel life, you notice all the beauty around and enjoy little things.

These are the best advantages of living in Croatia.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I would say we are generally happy with everything because this is our lifestyle; we can’t stay at the same place for a long time. The only thing that bothers you is that your family and friends are far away.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Croatia is a European country so there are no big differences that shock you. It is just lazier a little bit and there are more traditions from the past that are still alive and very important for locals. People here sing Croatian folk songs at weddings, play them in the bars and even private parties…

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country?

Well, Phil is from Bradford, UK. So he misses his curry and spicy food as local food is very plain ☺

Croatian cuisine is very similar to Russia, where I’m from. But it also has Italian influence so I’m even happier here as I’m a pizza lover!

What are your particular likes or dislikes?

As I mentioned we’re both into pizza, pasta, beefsteaks and local baking. Basically, everything that makes you chunky! Dislikes…hmm. We just like food so no dislikes!

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Be brave and don’t have any regrets. Experience is priceless whether it’s positive or negative. Try to socialize and learn the rules of the place you plan to go to. Show respect to different peoples and their traditions, then you will be accepted.

What are your plans for the future?

So far we don’t know exactly. We like being in Croatia, we’re even having thoughts of settling here for good but our adventurous spirits can push us into a new journey at any moment!

You can get in touch with Phil and Katya via email or on Instagram.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Rod Young, Gornji Karin

Who are you?

Rod Young. From the UK.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

Moved to Gornji Karin near Zadar in March 2017.My partner Cheryl and I had been coming here by motorcycle for many years on holiday. Five years before we moved, we decided to change our lives, stop chasing the money and stop working so hard by moving to beautiful Croatia for a better quality of life, and also because of the Croatian people, whom we love.

What challenges did you face during the move?

None, it was easy. I packed the van up and did four trips over to the house we had bought here five months before we moved. People say we were brave, but it’s not bravery, it’s just a decision made and a house move.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We bought a house after deciding we wanted to live on the coast in Zadar county. That was easy too.

Are there many other expats in your area?

There are a few others living here in the village, probably many more in Zadar. Our village is a good mix of locals, holiday homers from all over Europe, and a small number of us permanent expats. We don’t seek out other expats, we prefer to integrate as much as we can with the Croatian people.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Excellent. We made friends with people as soon as we got here. Everyone is so welcoming in Croatia. We’ve never had a problem with the locals.

What do you like about life where you are?

Everything. The climate, food, people, quality of life, the sea, the countryside around us. It’s perfect.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Learning the language is a challenge, we find it very difficult but are determined to get there.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

The slightly old-fashioned attitudes towards women can be interesting, but we understand that it’s a different culture.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

It’s generally excellent, we love all the Croatian staples like pork on the spit, cevap, sarma, etc. The variety is a bit lacking: as English people we are used to a huge variety of world food which just is not available. However we do enjoy the fact that all the food here is locally produced, fresh produce is amazing.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Don’t think about it too much, it’s easier than you think. Carefully research before you buy a property as it’s really a big commitment since homes do not sell fast here.

What are your plans for the future?

We’ll be staying here for the rest of our lives.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Tina Donovan, Istria

My name is Tina Donovan and I am Australian with dual nationality (UK). I am living in Istria, in the north west of Croatia, and have now been here for ten months.

For many years I have wanted to live in Europe. I visited Italy many times while still living in Australia and loved it. In some way it just resonated with me – I felt, right from my first moments on Italian soil two decades ago, that this should be my home. I always say that I have a European soul!My former partner and I talked about moving to Italy to live together, and this would have been easier than my eventual journey because he speaks Italian and holds Italian citizenship. When we separated, about five years ago, I assumed that my dream of living in Italy was over. However, I continued to travel there each year, on my own, and after a couple of years I started to think that maybe I could still live in Italy – perhaps I was strong enough, brave enough to do it alone.

I started to make some early preparations, such as finding out more about visa requirements, exploring the cost of living, and making some changes to my financial arrangements in Australia. It was clear that the only way I could get a longer term visa for residency was through my UK citizenship. Then the bombshell hit – Britons voted to leave the European Union. This brought my timetable forward by at least two years, as I needed to be settled and holding temporary residency before 29 March 2019. I set my departure from Australia at July 2018 to give myself plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements.

In January 2018 I was on holiday in northern Italy with my son and grandson and we decided to drive from Venice to Pula as I was interested to see what Istria was like. The weather has cold and rainy and not particularly conducive to sightseeing but somehow the region wove its magic anyway.

The thought occurred to me that I could live in Istria instead of Italy. The cost of living is lower; it is quieter and less chaotic than Italy; it blends wonderful aspects of Croatian and Italian culture; the people seemed more welcoming; and after all Italy is only 75 kilometres away. This thought quickly took hold and by the time our holiday was over I had decided that I would live in Istria, not Italy.

Moving here was very straightforward as I only brought clothes and basic essentials with me, leaving most of my possessions in storage back in Australia.

My first challenge was to find a house or apartment to rent, and I started my search while I was still living in Australia. This proved to be more difficult than I had expected because most property owners do not let their properties on long-term leases, preferring to make them available for tourists in the relatively short summer season. During the time I was searching there were only four properties for long-term rent in Pula. I had found a Facebook page called Expats in Istria so I placed a post on there asking for advice or recommendations for good websites to find a property to rent, and a member of the group offered me the opportunity to rent part of his house long-term. It was located in a small town not far from Pula called Vodnjan. I decided, after some discussion, to take it and it was the best decision I have made.

After arriving in Istria in August 2018, it was time to start the process of getting temporary residency. I had heard that this was complicated, bureaucratic and time consuming. The visa gods must have been smiling on me because, as an EU citizen, the requirements were pretty straightforward but it did take a couple of months to collect the necessary documents. By December, I was granted temporary residency for five years and I knew that my dream to live in Europe was now a reality – an amazing feeling.

I then set about the next tasks on my list: getting a Croatian driver’s license, obtaining national health insurance, buying a car and making friends.

The first tasks were relatively easy as long as I followed the bouncing ball step by step through the bureaucratic process and took advice from people around me. Making friends also was not too difficult but I soon discovered that if I did not reach out to the expat group in istria I would be quite lonely.

It takes time to make friends with locals. They already have full lives which includes their family and friends and they don’t need me. I need them more! Slowly, I am winning the trust and friendship of the people who live in my village. In the meantime I have created many new friendships with fellow expats. There is quite a strong and active group in Istria, all living within about 50 kilometers of me. My life is now very busy with social activities meaning that I have not even started to look for some volunteer work, something I intended to do months ago. I am just too busy enjoying myself!!

I love everything about my new life. Every day brings a new experience. It has given me the opportunity to extend and test myself, as I have made this move alone so can only rely on myself to solve problems. I can honestly say that there is nothing that I dislike about living here, except for the fact that too many people smoke which makes taking a coffee indoors on a winter day less pleasant than it might be. Apart from that, how could I not love this amazing land and seascape, the fabulous Istrian food and wine and the welcoming warmth of the people of Istria?

I do not know how long I will stay here, but it will be at least five years and probably much, much longer. I have decided to buy a home here because I cannot imagine living anywhere else.

If you have a dream to leave the comfort zone of your own country and move abroad to live, my advice would be to just do it! There will always be other expats who have gone before you and who are overwhelmingly generous in providing support and advice. And the happiness and sense of fulfillment that the experience brings far outweighs any short-term challenges that you may face.

Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

Should You Rent In Croatia Before Becoming A Citizen?

There is an endless list of things to plan when it comes to moving house, let alone country! Expats who are planning a move will almost all be thinking about where to live, and some may also be concerned with citizenship. It’s not often that these two subjects go hand in hand, so the question of whether you should rent in Croatia before becoming a citizen may initially seem counterintuitive but is relevant for this country. We’ve created this guide to answer this question, and also show how you can potentially achieve Citizenship in Croatia through renting.Firstly, you don’t have to become a citizen to rent long term in the country, but renting can help you become a citizen in Croatia. Most nationalities will be permitted to stay as tourists for up to 90 days, depending on the agreement between your country and Croatia. If you want to stay for a longer period than this, you will need to apply for a temporary stay or long-term visa.

Different Types Of Visa

A long-term visa will be based on your work prospects, employment, education, family situation and whether your spouse or immediate family already reside in Croatia. In contrast, a temporary stay visa can be granted by the local authorities – the police in this case – for up to a year.

The options for obtaining a temporary visa in Croatia are as follows:

A) Buying a property in Croatia, which may not on be the cards for everyone
B) Establishing or investing in a company in Croatia, which again may be challenging for many
C) Getting a maximum one year stay with the lease of an apartment in Croatia, which is more affordable than buying

This begs the question of whether you can achieve permanent residency in Croatia through the means of a long-term lease. Theoretically, yes you can. You can apply for up to five temporary stay visas, each of which will be for a year. However, the process for the second temporary stay and onwards is usually more difficult and has additional requirements compared to the initial visa. These requirements usually entail possessing a non-payment work visa such as a volunteer visa under humanitarian grounds.

After five years in Croatia, providing you haven’t left the country for a stipulated amount of time, you can apply for permanent residency. The stipulated time may vary depending on your nationality; as it stands, it looks to be no more than six months at one time, or 10 months within the five-year period. For non-EU expats, it may be stipulated that a trip outside of Croatia during this period of time cannot be greater than 30 days, so it is best to read the government guidelines or consult with a local lawyer who can advise you.

You will also need to have a valid passport, health insurance and proof of means to support yourself – although this doesn’t apply to retirees over 65 – as well an understanding of the Croatian language. Further to this, Croatian citizenship can be applied for after you have been living in the country continuously for eight years.

This may seem like a long game, but it entirely depends whether your goal is to live in Croatia, and eventually obtain permanent residency and citizenship there, as well as what your situation is in terms of the other visas available.

The Downside

Whilst this all may seem great there is – unsurprisingly – a catch. You must pay for the lease in its entirety, meaning you’ll need a whole year’s rent up front. This could of course lead to the fear that you will pay the money, sign a lease, and then get rejected for the temporary stay visa. This is why it is highly advisable to enlist the services of a local English-speaking lawyer who can guide you through the process and advise you on the best course of action and proceedings. To do this, you will need to pay a commission which of roughly one month’s rent.

The Process

Once you have found a suitable apartment and agreed on the lease with the owner, it will need to be notarized in the government office (for a cost of 85 Kuna) and the rent will be need to be paid in full. The lease can then be used in your application for temporary residency with the local authority, which is often the police. You will also need a Croatian ID number, which can also be obtained from the government office.

In Conclusion

If you have a different visa from the temporary stay or voluntary visa, renting isn’t necessary for you to stay in the country but will boost your credentials and will help towards your application for citizenship.

So should you rent in Croatia before becoming a citizen? The answer is, it entirely depends on your personal (and financial) situation, what your plans are for Croatia, how long you want to stay, and your visa options.

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