In the past nine years of travel, it’s a place we’ve gone back to over and over again, spending months upon months exploring coastlines and islands, fortresses atop mountains, abandoned hotels, and the many hidden corners of Zagreb.
After all that travel, I’m happy to say that Croatia is a pretty dog-friendly place. Not as dog-lovin as some of Western Europe, but much more dog-friendly than the US.
Here are the deets:
Dog-friendly housing in Croatia
Finding dog-friendly rentals in Split, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Plitvice Lakes, and pretty much everywhere else I’ve done has been 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.
My strategy is always to ask owners (rather than trying to filter by pet-friendliness), as many who normally don’t take dogs will take a small, well-behaved, non-shedding one.
Do the locals like dogs?
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. The big, beautiful park just south of Rovinj was also full of dog-walkers. Zagreb’s Maksimir Park is dog central. And people are friendly and often come to say hi to Luna wherever we are hanging out.
That said, Croatia is a little more confusing and less easy-going than Western Europe in several ways. The first: there are no-dogs-allowed signs in a lot of places. 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.
Dog supplies + vet care
Dog supply stores are 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. In Zagreb, the big Pet Centar (Heinzelova ul. 60) has pretty much anything you could need.
We didn’t need a vet in most of our locations, but did use the Veterinary College in Zagreb when Luna had some issues this winter (2021). They’re very busy, so expect to wait a long time even if you have a pre-set appointment, but the care is good and the facilities cover pretty much anything you need.
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. If you’re going to Split, I’d double check to make sure this info is still accurate.
Dogs in transit
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, most of 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.
Dogs in restaurants
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 (unless we were sitting on a patio, which it’s really too cold to do in winter).