Capital City: Zagreb
Climate: Warm and Rainy
International Dialing Code: +385
President: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
Croatia’s natural beauty is undeniable… pristine turquoise sea, dramatic sloping vineyards, picturesque cobblestone streets, historic churches and castles, all surrounded by fields of grapes, olives, and lavender. Undiscovered by most North Americans, it’s a hidden gem on the Adriatic Sea that offers a luxurious Mediterranean lifestyle at a fraction of the usual cost.
Croatia also boasts an attractive modern side… vibrant nightlife, trendy cafés, restaurants, and hotels. This place has something to offer just about everyone and might just be the answer to those who “want it all.”
Located at the northwestern edge of the Balkan Peninsula, Croatia is a small country bordered by Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Croatia has over 1,200 small islands off its coast, the majority of which are uninhabited.
Croatia has had a colorful history, passing between the hands of the Hungarian and Austrian Empires before being under Yugoslavian control. When communism broke down in Eastern Europe in the 90s, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, resulting in a bitter civil war between the Serbians and the Croatians. Since the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed in 1995, Croatia has enjoyed peace and established itself as a democracy.
Today, Croatia is a popular sun holiday destination amongst Europeans for its low prices and dazzling blue coastline. It also draws crowds during the winter season to the country’s many snow resorts. A relatively new destination for North American expats, those who have settled in Croatia are enjoying a sunshine-filled retirement along the sparkling Adriatic Sea.
Life in Croatia can be very different from region to region. Croatia is a diverse country with different landscapes and climates. In the Pannonian plains, a continental climate provides cold winters, often below freezing, and hot summers. The mountainous Dinara Region in the center of the country has an alpine climate. Out of interest to most expats, the Adriatic coast enjoys a Mediterranean climate, of mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers.
Luckily for foreigners, Croatian is a phonetic language, so learning to pronounce what you’re reading is easy. Of course, understanding what you’re reading or hearing is a different story. You can easily survive in Croatia’s tourism hotspots speaking only English. However, if you venture into rural Croatia, you will need to have a phrasebook handy, as it is unlikely you will find English speakers here.
Counting on Western expediency is an unproductive mindset for a move to Croatia. After all, the Mediterranean is the low-key, laidback part of Europe. People here don’t sweat the small stuff. There is a mañana attitude prevalent throughout the Mediterranean, not unlike the relaxed attitude most Americans associate with the Caribbean.
The number of expats in Croatia is small, and the setting is intimate enough that incomers of all kinds find each other and connect easily. The hospitality of the locals and the outgoing nature of the relatively small expat community make Croatia a place where you can have your privacy and tranquility but know there’s always someone to connect with just down the road.
In recent years, Croatia has gained traction as both a holiday destination and an expat haven, inevitably resulting in an increased cost of living. That said, prices are still much lower than in Western Europe and the States, just not the cheapest found in Eastern Europe.
Real estate in the bustling cities of Split, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb will be top of the price list. You will be rewarded with a much smaller price tag if you explore outside of these areas. If you are planning on renting, rental prices can skyrocket during the summer season along the coast, so maybe consider a winter retreat in Croatia if you are on a budget.
Like all expat destinations, imported goods from the U.S. will be expensive in Croatia. Better to adopt the local customs and do your weekly grocery shop at the local farmer’s markets, where the produce is incredibly delicious and at lower prices than you will pay in the supermarkets.
When you become a resident in Croatia, you will need to start paying into the Croatian Health Insurance Fund, or HZZO, which will give you full access to the public health service. Once you pay this insurance, any doctor’s visits, medical procedures, and prescriptions will be heavily subsidized by the HZZO.
The public health care system in Croatia is run to a high standard, yet as with most public health systems, long wait times can be an issue. To avoid this problem, you can opt for private health insurance. Private clinics in Croatia are world-class, and you will easily find an English-speaking doctor here.
In the past, flying to Croatia from the States involved two or more connecting flights. In 2021, United Airlines and Delta Airlines introduced direct flights arriving in Dubrovnik, one of Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations. With a nine-hour flight time, now Croatia is closer than ever… the grandkids are only a hop, skip, and a jump away.
When it comes to transporting your belongings, you will find hundreds of companies online ready to offer their help in making the transition to your dream retirement destination as smooth as possible. If pets are a part of the equation, you needn’t worry. It’s no problem as long as they pass a brief examination before entering the country. The screening involves ensuring electronic/microchip identification, a rabies vaccination, and a pet passport or certificate issued by a veterinary surgeon.
Locals proudly refer to Hvar as “Croatia’s premier island,” and out of 1,200 and more islands, that’s saying something. Hvar offers the expat dream; sunshine, stunning coastline, ancient architectural ruins, tranquility, a buzzing social scene, and a long list of outdoor activities… from kayaking, cycling, sailing, and hiking to olive and grape harvesting. Hvar is also the sunniest island in Croatia, boasting over 115 days of sunshine per year.
If it sounds like paradise, it is… and not just for tourists. Hvar is home to some 11,500 residents—some part-time, some full-time. Real estate and general expenses here can be pricy but remain cheap compared to U.S. and Western Europe standards. For all the information you may need check out our Overseas Haven Report on Hvar here.
One of the oldest cities in Central Europe, Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, is bursting with the charm of the Old World. Bordered by the Sava River on one side and the Medvednica Mountain on the other, Zagreb is a metropolitan city located in the northwest of Croatia.
Zagreb is an ideal location for expats who prefer city life to beachside living. Boasting a wealth of historical and cultural sites, Zagreb should satisfy any culture vulture. Zagreb also has some of Croatia’s best health care facilities, an international airport, and a super efficient public transportation system.
We live in a great big beautiful world that is bursting with opportunity around every corner.Please believe me: The life you want is waiting for you out here...You just need to get up, get moving, and seize it for yourself.Where in the world might be best for you?After more than 35 years covering this beat, I have thousands of miles of boots-on-the-ground reconnaissance, decades of experience, and countless feedback from retirees to draw from as I work to help you...Read more