Photo by Shutterstock
Photo by Shutterstock
With coronavirus precautions in place, Croatia is inviting back travelers from around the world.
Croatian officials have confirmed that with a negative coronavirus test result or quarantine, leisure travelers from anywhere in the world—including from the United States—are allowed to visit Croatia.
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When we started seeing reports that Croatia was allowing Americans to travel to the beautiful Mediterranean country, we had to blink a few times—and then we had to confirm all the details to make sure we weren’t being led down yet another path of coronavirus-related false hope.
As it turns out, it’s true.
In late June, European Union leaders announced that when Europe opened its external borders on July 1, U.S. travelers would not be allowed to enter due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis stateside. Currently, only travelers from this list of 14 countries are now permitted to enter Europe.
But that decision wasn’t a legally binding one. When the announcement was made, EU leaders said that member countries should not stray from the list so that the lifting of travel restrictions could be done in a coordinated manner. But there have already been some deviances, including Germany, which is only allowing in 8 of the 14 countries on the list, and now Croatia.
While Croatia is a member of the European Union, it is not yet part of the border-free Schengen area, meaning travelers cannot cross Croatia’s borders into other European countries without being subjected to border controls. That means that travelers who enter into Croatia will not be able to easily or automatically enter other European countries.
“There are no diplomatic repercussions for Croatia for allowing U.S. travelers to come into the country. The country’s tourism industry stakeholders have taken every possible precaution,” says Ina Rodin, North America director for the Croatian National Tourist Office, a division of the Croatian government’s national tourist board.
For return travel—entering the United States from Croatia—it’s worth noting that a U.S. presidential proclamation restricts travelers from the European Schengen area, but the Schengen area does not include Croatia. Nevertheless, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asks all travelers coming to the United States from abroad to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival.
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On July 10, the Croatian Institute for Public Health came to the decision that non-EU citizens, including those from the United States, who enter Croatia as tourists, business travelers, or as students can do so freely as long as they provide evidence of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test (also known as the nasal swab test) for COVID-19. The result must have been procured within 48 hours of arriving at the Croatian border. Otherwise, there is a mandatory 14 days of self-isolation (at travelers’ own expense), which can be shortened to one week for travelers who take a COVID-19 test within 7 days after entering into Croatia and who receive a negative test result. COVID-19 testing in Croatia costs about $230 and the results can be expected in 1 to 2 days, according to the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb.
The embassy also cautioned travelers that Croatian health authorities are monitoring and enforcing quarantine orders, and they are authorized to fine individuals who violate the orders anywhere from 8,000 Croatian kuna (about US$1,200) for a first violation up to 120,000 Croatian kuna (or US$18,000) for repeat offenders.
Prior to arrival, visitors must fill in a travel form that is available online. On that form, they must provide evidence of their confirmed hotel or accommodation booking. After filling out the form, travelers will receive confirmation that it was submitted, and they will get instructions regarding the rules and regulations for traveling to and within Croatia at this time.
There are no direct flights to Croatia, but there are connecting flights through major European hubs, including Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Vienna, Warsaw, Zurich, Berlin, and Oslo. The European Union’s travel restrictions include an exception for passengers in transit. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter the United States from European Schengen countries, but they must fly into one of 13 U.S. airports when they do so, according to guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Connecting flights from the United States to Zagreb are available on American, Delta, United, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, and other carriers. The majority of airlines now require travelers to wear a mask during their flight.
Croatia began easing its coronavirus-related restrictions on April 27. Since then, restaurants and bars have reopened with outdoor seating allowed, and public facilities such as beaches, swimming pools, national parks, and nature reserves are open with social-distancing protocols in place. Attractions like the famous Dubrovnik city walls are also welcoming visitors with social-distancing measures implemented.
Currently, there are 395 campgrounds and 786 hotels open throughout the country. Among them is the ultra-luxe 186-room Kempinski Hotel Adriatic Istria. The property is situated on the Adriatic coast, with two pools, a 30,000-square-foot spa, and an 18-hole golf course. At Kempinski hotels, staff wear gloves and masks, and enhanced sanitation and social-distancing measures have been put in place. Another option is the Maslina Resort, a sustainability-focused boutique property that is opening its doors on Croatia’s Hvar Island on August 10. With 33 rooms, 17 suites and 3 villas, the luxury seaside resort features olive groves, terraced vineyards, and views of the Adriatic Sea.
Regardless of where travelers are staying, the Croatia Institute of Health recommends that citizens and visitors maintain social-distancing measures, wear face masks on public transportation and in indoor areas, and frequently wash their hands. Social gatherings should be limited in size and scope. Those who work in the hospitality industry and those who serve or prepare meals and beverages are required to wear masks.
Visitors who develop symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to remain in their accommodation and contact a doctor.
As of July 15, Croatia had registered a total of 3,953 coronavirus cases, and 120 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
According to Rodin, the fluidity of the coronavirus pandemic means that decisions can always change, and that new restrictions affecting travel to Croatia could be put into place. But Rodin is hopeful that the current entry requirements and conditions will remain in place in Croatia for the foreseeable future.
“We hope for the best because things are looking up,” says Rodin. “The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus has posed tremendous challenges to the entire world. The virus will be endangering our lives until a vaccine is found and, in the meantime, we have to learn how to live with it.”
Croatia welcomed 20.6 million travelers in 2019, and 655,000 of them came from the United States. The beautiful Adriatic destination has been a rising star on the travel scene as a growing number of globe-trotters have discovered its charms, including the UNESCO World Heritage site old city of Dubrovnik, the charming Dalmatian Coast and Istrian peninsula, and the country’s arts and culture hub Zagreb.
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