Croatia currently has a low incidence of COVID-19. As at 3 May 2020, 2096 confirmed cases and 79 deaths. The impact has been less than in the other principal European Mediterranean destinations such as Spain, France, Italy, Turkey or Greece. Croatia closed its borders to foreign travellers and restricted internal movement at an early stage but now, from 28 April, has started a stepped reduction in lockdown restrictions. Government officials have given indications that its borders could be opened to foreign travellers later in the year.
Latest Updates to this post:
3/5/20: latest national staistics
1/5/20: reports that Croatia hopes to open its border with Slovenia before the end on May.
1/5/20: incidence of COVID 19 by region
TRAVEL ADVICE FROM THE UK FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issed a COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice on 17 March advising British nationals against all but esssential overseas travel. The FCO noted that any country or area might restrict travel without notice. The latest FCO advice on travel restrictions to Croatia due to coronavirus can be found on this webpage: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/croatia/health.
Additional information and advice can be found on the TravelHealthPro website which comprises the travel health resources of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) set up by the Department of Health in 2002 with the broad aim of Protecting the Health of British Travellers. Its website is: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/country/59/croatia#CIoutBreaks
CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION ISSUED BY THE CROATIAN GOVERNMENT
The Croatian website https://www.hzjz.hr/priopcenja-mediji/koronavirus-najnoviji-podatci/
has a daily update on Coronavirus in Croatia and a useful summary of the situation within Europe and worldwide. It is written in Croatian.
The report for 3 May is:
Number of patients in Croatia: 2096
Number of deaths in Croatia: 79
Incidence of COVID-19 by region
(data as at 1 May 2020)
The heaviest incidence of the virus has been in the capital city Zagreb where there have been 466 cases and 20 deaths and in Split, Croatia’s second city.
The coastal regions and most of the main holiday resorts (with the exception of Split) have had very low exposures to the virus.
Istria county (includes the coastal resorts of Pula, Rovinj and Porec): 90 cases and 2 deaths
Primorsko-Goranska County (incudes the city of Rijeka and the coastal resort towns of Opatija and Lovran and the islands of Rab and Krk): 82 cases and 1 death.
Licko-Senjska County (includes much of the coastline between Rijeka to Zadar and the Plitvice Lakes National Park): 20 cases and zero deaths.
Zadarska County (Zadar City and surrounding coastal towns): 85 cases and 1 death.
Sibensko-Kninska County (includes Sibenik and Primosten on the coast and the Krk National Park): 86 cases and 1 death.
Splitsko Dalmatinska County (includes Split and Makarska and the central Dalmatian islands): 488 cases and 28 deaths.
Dubrovacko-Neretvaska County (includes Dubrovnik, Cavtat, the Peljesac peninsula and the Neretva delta): 108 cases and 7 deaths.
RELAXATION OF LOCKDOWN IN CROATIA
The Croatian government has announced an initial three step relaxation of lockdown measures. With effect from 28 April small shops have been permitted to open and public transport is once again in operation. From 5 May it is intended that other service providers, such as hairdressers, will be permitted to open. The third step intended to come into force from 11 May will allow shopping centres, kindergartens, national parks and nature parks to open. Meeting of up to 10 persons will be permitted and cafes and restaurants will be allowed to operate if customers are served outside.
Free movement of people within Istia county and within Dubrovacko-Neretvaska county is now permitted. Previously offcial permits were required to move between towns and villages. These permits are still required in other parts of the country.
Internal flights between Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split restarted on 2 May and flights from Zagreb to Pula will restart on 11 May.
TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS ON ENTRY TO CROATIA – WHEN WILL THE BORDERS OPEN?
Croatia has closed its borders to foreign tourists. Foreigners who exceptionally are permitted to enter Croatia may be required to go into 14 day quarantine and if that is the case they will be responsible for covering their own costs in the quarantine facility they are sent to. The only external flight operating is one flight a day on the Zagreb/Frankfurt route.
Croatia’s economy is highly dependant on tourism and it will certainly wish to capture some of the 2020 summer season. A goverment offcial has been reported in the German press as saying “”We expect that a tourist season is still possible in the summer, i.e. in the high season, since there are many accommodation options in Croatia where it is practicable to keep the distances between guests,” It is expected that at the end of May Croatia will publish updated travel regulations that will allow borders to be opened to at least some foreign tourists. It is possible that entry will be restricted to citizens of countries that have sucessfully limited the spread of the virus or to individuals who have been granted a permit. The head of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, stated recently that in view of the coronavirus pandemic, special measures for hotels and tourists would be introduced for this year’s tourist season. He said, “If the situation in other countries changes, foreign tourists may be allowed to come to Croatia this summer”,
Travel from Germany
The German foreign minister has recently explained Germany’s position as to whether it will advise its citizens to travel abroad as follows:
“We will have to decide after talks with European countries and travel destinations how the situation in the summer will be. Only then can it be decided whether summer holidays are possible or not. We might possibly have to differentiate between individual countries, depending on how the situation in the country is.”
Germany has extended its global travel warning to its citizens until June 14 and advised its citizens if they travel to a destination that is subject to a travel warning they may not be able to re-enter Germany.
The border with Slovenia may be one of the first to open. The Croatian government is currently considering opening the Croatian borders with Slovenia in the middle of May. More specifically on May 18, 2020. Croatian minister of tourism, Gari Cappelli, has said that Croatia “would strive to reach an agreement with Slovenia in the next two weeks”. He stressed that by the end of May it was hoped that the borders with Slovenia would be open but all would depend on the agreement of the epidemiologists.
Reciprocal or bilateral arrangements
While the EU will be seeking to put in place rules and procudures to enable cross border movement for EU citizens many countries, including Croatia, are conducting bilateral discussions to find a way to safely open their border to some tourists. It seems that we may be heading towards a gradual opening of borders with reciprocal arrangements made between countries where the virus is under control. In this way a country allows its citizens to travel to a destination where the low risk of being infected will enable the citizen to return to their home country and the destination will be prepared to receive tourists from that country as they will be considered to carry a low risk of bringing the virus into the destination. Another possibility is the pre testing of travellers before departure and if they are virus free allowing then to travel by specified ‘safe’ routes.
So far there is no official information yet available on the dates when Croatia’s borders might reopen even on a limited basis.
EUROPEAN HEALTH INSURANCE CARD
Before travelling to Croatia UK citizens should obtain a European Heath Insurance Card (EHIC). But note that after 31 December 2020, a UK-issued EHIC might not be valid. The card entitles you to free health treatment while holidaying in Croatia under a reciprocal agreement with the UK. If you are in Croatia and you have lost your EHIC or do not have it with you, you can contact the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
We always advise taking out travel insurance at the time you book your flights or accommodation. It is all the more important now to check the small print of your policy to be sure what cover you have in case you have to cancel your holiday due to coronavirus. Many but not all policies will cover you for the cost of your accommodation if you cancel because the FCO (in the case of British citizens travelling from the UK) or other official bodies in other countries, have issued advice not to travel to Croatia other than for essential reasons. Your travel insurance will need to have been purchased before the advice was issued. If no such advice has been issued by the FCO but you are disinclined to travel you will not be covered for cancellation costs unless you have a policy that specifically provides cover for these circumstances. On 17 March the FCO issued an Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice advising British nationals against all but esssential travel to Croatia and to all other overseas destinations.
Su Crown, a spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers, has been quoted as saying “In general, cancellation or travel disruption cover will activate when the FCO advises against all travel or all but essential travel to an area. Travel insurance is not designed to cover ‘disinclination to travel’ where the FCO advice has not changed to advise against travel.”
Since the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a worldwide pandemic on 11 March 2020 many travel insurance companies have withdrawn cover for any claims relating to coronavirus on any new policies that they write. If you have taken out insurance before that date most policies will still cover you for cancellation if the FCO have advised that you should only travel to Croatia for essential purposes. Check your policy terms.
PLAN AHEAD FOR A HOLIDAY ONCE THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS IS OVER.
If travel restrictions are relaxed later in the year Croatia will be a popular destination given its low incidence of COVID-19 particulary in the coastal regions. Furthermore for Germans and many other central Europeans it is the closest warm water coastline that can be reached by car. Some people have already cancelled their 2020 bookings for July and August but these dates are likely to be snapped up quckly if the borders open. It will certainly be necessary to book very early for a 2021 holiday. If the virus has been defeated and it is safe to travel we expect there to be a shortage of accommodation. Croatia will be promoting itself as a low risk destination as far as COVID-19 is concerned.
Besides showing your ID at the border, which is safe and necessary almost anywhere you travel these days, your next encounter with people will be at the charter company, where you usually have to do a lot of paperwork. Working with several charter companies, almost all of them are reducing this and switching online, so that contact will be reduced to a bare minimum or may even be avoided. Check in is usually done by someone from the charter, but there are companies that work with charters that give you detailed video instructions on how to operate the boat and what is where. The boats are cleaned very well, but this year they will certainly be disinfected. Food delivery to boats was introduced years ago, and now they work flawlessly, and you can skip the supermarket entirely. If you really want to eat out in the restaurants, you are in luck. 90% of the summer restaurants are out in the open anyway, and most of them don’t have rooftops at all. They will all have to conform to recommendations of authorities regarding minimum space between tables, but having no walls will certainly help. Outside dining goes with good weather, of which Croatia has plenty of, Hvar for instance has more than 2.700 hours of sunshine a year, putting it in top 5 in Europe. You can avoid people entirely by staying at the anchors all of the time, but if you need to dock, you can reserve and pay ports and marinas through Porthop application and avoid human contact entirely. On Porthop, you can even book restaurants with 3-4 buoys and as many tables in secluded bays. They are family owned restaurants, and there are plenty of them to choose from.
While sailing, you can swim, sail, sunbathe, relax, explore more or less remote locations, visit ancient towns, and explore the unseen or untouched by tourism. You can be kind to our environment and use sails to get to your new destination, you can be in contact with yourself and nature. You can do all that by protecting yourself and others, by staying on your boat, your little home away from home.
Boats for rent these days are spacious, and accommodate from 2 (mini) to 12 people – perfect for two families. Prices vary, but the average price point is almost certainly below the price of 4 star hotels. The prices will certainly drop because demand will drop as well. Wind and seas in Croatia are a playground, we rarely get wind stronger than 20kts, and all bad weather is rare.
We know sailing is great, because we are doing it all the time, but being in a situation like this, we realized that it’s even more awesome now. I cannot imagine a place, as beautiful, as safe, as isolated as being on a boat in some secluded bay in Croatia. I hope we gave you some hope and some good ideas. If you never considered a boat holiday, then this would be the time 🙂