A Small Dog’s Guide to Croatia (Split & Rovinj)

Jan 20, 2014    /    luna the traveling pooch

With the clock running out on our time in the Schengen Zone, after petsitting in Paris, Luna and I took a series of trains down to sunny, seaside Split, Croatia, where we spent a month in a charming, exposed-stone studio exploring Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.

Then, after a lovely month of mostly warm winter weather and delightfully affordable living, we headed north by bus and spent a week in Rovinj, Croatia, one of the more picturesque cities in the region of Istria.

With stays in several Croatian regions, I’m happy to announce that Croatia is a pretty dog-friendly place. Not as dog-lovin as Western Europe, but much more friendly than the US.

Luna on Solta

First, I’m happy to report that finding a dog-friendly rental in Split, Croatia is incredibly easy. Almost every single apartment I wrote to either already accepted dogs or was willing to make an exception for a small, well behaved dog. We settled on a lovely, pet-friendly apartment near Diocletian’s Palace, but had about 10 options to choose from, all well-located and beautiful.

In Rovinj, we had similar success (though a few less options, possibly simply because Rovinj is a bit less lively in the winter and seems to have less options overall) and eventually decided on a top-floor apartment full of sunshine.

Luna in Istria

I’m also happy to report that Croatians seem to be a dog-loving people. The Split Riva (the walkway along the harbor) is constantly full of people walking their dogs. And the big, beautiful park just south of Rovinj was also full of dog-walkers. People were very friendly and often came over to say hi to Luna while we were exploring.

Dog supply stores were also easy to come by. In Split, I found a really great one (with hypo-allergenic dog food!) at Prvanova Ulica 3, Split 21000, walking distance from my apartment. In Rovinj, I had to go a little farther to find a supply store, but it also seemed well outfitted. The Rovinj shop was next to the Mercator Shopping Center.

Luna blends with the scenery

That said, Croatia is a little more confusing and less easy-going than Western Europe in several ways:

The first (and this is the confusing part), there are no-dogs-allowed signs everywhere. They’re in the parks, on the doors of the ferry sitting area, on many of the beaches. And here’s the confusing part: everyone completely ignores them. The Croatians are constantly walking their dogs on the beaches right next to the signs. And when I asked someone about it, he waved me away nonchalantly, saying that those signs were only for the very busiest parts of the season. For the most part, he said, the signs aren’t even enforced in the summer…and they definitely aren’t enforced in the off-season.

Ignoring the signs made me nervous, but it seems to be a cultural norm and I eventually gave in with no ill consequences.

The main place that I ignored the no-dogs signs was in the ferry sitting area. Dogs ride free on the ferries and in the winter it’s too cold to sit outside on the deck (where there are no signs). So Luna and I settled in the indoor ferry sitting area – and no one batted an eyelash.

Luna the sailor

The second less-dog-friendly thing was the Croatian bus system. If you want to take a long-distance bus in Croatia, you can’t buy a ticket ahead of time because it is up to the individual bus drivers whether they allow you and your pooch onboard. For planners like me, this can be a bit annoying, especially since the trains in Croatia barely go anywhere and buses are often the only option.

Luckily, both the bus drivers we encountered were fine with a small, quiet dog in a carrier. But I still don’t love the you-must-wait-till-the-last-second system they have in place.

Luna in Istria

And the final not-so-dog-friendly thing is the restaurants and bars. For the most part, you don’t see dogs inside them (unlike Western Europe). On the island of Solta, we found one darling, family-owned restaurant that made an exception for Luna, but generally I was told to leave the dog at home.

That said, Luna and I had a great time in Croatia. Her particular favorite part? Exploring the quiet, pretty island of Solta (where most of the photos above came from) off leash.

Finally, while we never needed to use it, here’s the info I was given for Split’s emergency vet: located at Sibenska 9. Phone: 385-21 56 9804 or 099 216 99 61.

Luna in Istria

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9 Comments
  • Heiko
    January 21, 2014

    Try Bulgaria sometime. A beautiful country, laughably cheap. The dog was allowed almost everywhere. In restaurants staff almost invariably came out to give little treats to Eddie the Beagle. Hotels were generally welcoming.
    Heiko recently posted…Happy New Year from Northern IrelandMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      January 21, 2014

      Thanks for the suggestion. We will eventually get to every European country I hope. :)

  • Helena
    May 30, 2016

    Hi there,

    Im happy to hear you had a pleasant experience while in Croatia. Im taking my dog with me to Rovinj this summer. Hopefully, everything is going to be fine just as you described it. Though, I wonder if there are lot of stray dogs in Rovinj? Im little worried about that.

    • gigigriffis
      May 30, 2016

      I didn’t notice any, but it’s been a couple years, so I guess there could be. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. We ran into lots of strays in places like Mexico, but never in Croatia.

  • Andrew Darwitan
    July 30, 2016

    Awwww… this is just too adorable for words! =)
    Andrew Darwitan recently posted…Greece Day 5: Scenic Hiking in Santorini, from Fira to Oia [28-Photo Highlights]My Profile

  • Ksenia
    August 11, 2016

    Great post! I’m going to be traveling with my cat all over Croatia and Montenegro and have been having the worst time trying to figure out if they’ll let us on the bus! Which bus company did you end up using? Did you have to just show up, present your dog and wait for approval from the bus driver?! I’m a planner myself and that sounds like a nightmare. Thank you!

    • gigigriffis
      August 11, 2016

      I don’t remember the name of the bus company (I think there was only one bus running to the place I wanted to go, so didn’t note the name) and, yes, it was up to the bus driver. I don’t know about Montenegro.

      You may already know, but another important thing to note about Montenegro is that to come back intro Croatia, you need a titre test, as Montenegro is considered high-risk for rabies.

  • Morgan Young
    May 13, 2017

    Do you happen to remember which bus you took into Croatia? We are in a similar situation (time running out) and I have a small dog like Luna. We would be coming from Italy, though. The idea of taking a train to the border and then being told no is a little scary to me

    • gigigriffis
      May 13, 2017

      I actually only took a bus out, not in (I took trains into Zagreb to get in both times I’ve been). Unfortunately, there are no overarching policies for any of the bus companies that I can find. It’s up to each individual driver. :( Most of the time, the drivers say yes, but the one tricky thing about Croatia is that there is that small chance they’ll say no. If you’re nervous, consider taking the train instead. No one even glanced twice at Luna when I entered by train (both two years ago and a couple months ago).

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