Millions of tourists every year visit Croatia, to marvel at the historic cities, laze on the beach or in fact to attend a congress. But this year, is no normal year for travel. This is a COVID-19 restricted year of travel and to say the least it’s causing headaches for the travel industry. Many people, we know we receive a mailbag full of questions every day, have already booked their vacation in the Adriatic sunshine and are wondering “what now?” It would be an understatement to say that the travel situation is fluid, almost on a daily basis new information is released, new travel restrictions imposed and airlines changing their schedules as Carrie Bradshaw changed her outfit.
So let’s first deal with what we actually know at this time, and these aren’t in any particular order, basically the questions you have been asking us in a sentence.
What’s the COVID-19 situation like in Croatia?
Starting with the actual COVID-19 situation in Croatia. As of today, Saturday the 9th of May, there are 2,176 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country and 1,726 people have made a full recovery and 87 people have died due to the virus. Over the past few weeks the number of new cases has been steadily declining, apart from a slight spike yesterday, and this has meant that the government has introduced a three-phase plan, the third phase comes into effect on Monday the 11th of May, to ease COVID-19 restrictions. It must be said at this point that the restrictions introduced in Croatia were extremely strict, with experts at Oxford University stating they were the strictest in the world, and the population were generally well-disciplined, which all lead to a relatively positive situation.
Are there easing of restrictions in Croatia working?
The first two phases included the reopening of shops, hairdressers, public transport, museums, etc. The third phase to reignite the economy concerns the reopening of restaurants, hotels, café bars and air transport throughout the country. This easing of restrictions also involved the e-pass system. A limitation of travel and movement in the country, as citizens were limited to travel only in their borough unless they obtained a special pass. This system has been eased and now citizens can travel around the county they reside in. Since the first phase was introduced on the 27th of April there has still been a steady decline in actual COVID-19 cases, although there has been a slight spike in the past two days. But generally cases are still on the decline proving that the easing of restrictions hasn’t had an impact on new cases.
Are the Croatian borders opening?
Short answer, yes but with special conditions and not for everyone. The Interior Minister, Davor Bozonvic, announced today that firstly these e-passes could soon be a thing of the past, but more on that when we have more details. But what he did confirm was that Croatian borders would reopen, but with special conditions, and not yet for tourists. In what could be called the first wave of border openings the minister announced that Croatian citizens are allowed to enter Croatia and go abroad, and when there are business reasons or other economic interests, foreign citizens will be able to enter Croatia, as well as foreign citizens who travel for urgent personal reasons. So clearly not for tourism, yet. But he did touch on the fact that a similar model might be used later down the line for tourists, when that might be is still one of the many unknowns.
Is Croatia in the EU travel ban?
Again short answer, yes. On the 16th of March this year the European Commission recommended a non-essential travel ban over the whole European bloc for a month. This was then extended for another month until the 15th of May, and yesterday the Commission recommended a further month-long extension. And on a European Union level the situation is just as fluid. However, we do know that yesterday the European Commission recommend that the external borders of the EU remain closed until the 15th of June. So this will mean that borders inside the EU can reopen between states but the EU as a whole will remain closed until at least the 15th of June. And the Interior Minister stated that “The European Union has made a recommendation to all member states and we will adhere to it in terms of extending the ban or the recommendation that citizens of third countries cannot enter the EU until the 15th of June.” Making it clear that if you are coming from outside the European Union, such as the UK or USA, then travel is going to be even harder.
This is what the EU travel ban looks like
The EU bans all travel from 3rd countries to the Schengen Area.
EU member states have decided to restrict all non-essential travel from third countries into the Schengen Area for 30 days, in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
The exemptions from this ban are -
All EU citizens and citizens of the Schengen associated states; and their family members.
Third-country nationals who are long-term residents under the long-term resident’s directive and persons deriving their right to reside from other EU Directives or national law or who hold national long-term visas.
The ban should not apply to other travellers with an essential function, such as -
- Healthcare professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals
- Frontier workers
- Transport personnel engaged in haulage of goods and other transport staff to the extent necessary
- Diplomats, staff of international organisations and military personnel in the exercise of their functions
- Passengers in transit
- Passengers travelling to attend a funeral or wedding of a family member or travelling for other imperative family reasons
- Persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons
Are there any flights operating in Croatia?
An easier one to answer. From the 11th of May, so on Monday, internal flights between Croatian cities will start again. Meaning flights between Zagreb and Dubrovnik and Split in the first phase followed by flights to the rest of the country. All flights will be operated by Croatia Airlines.
When I arrive will hotels, cafés and restaurants be open?
If you are arriving after the 11th of May then again a short answer is yes. All of these hospitality objects are allowed to reopen in the third phase of easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Croatia. But, there is always a but, they will all have special restrictions placed on them, and special cleaning and disinfecting procedures to follow. Of course if there is no demand then hotels will not open, and at the moment at least this seems to generally be the case. There are some exceptions, and this article might help.
If I can’t come to Croatia as a tourist now do you know when I will be able to?
Yes, you currently can’t come to Croatia as a tourist, which is why in the previous question these hotels are catering for domestic tourists. All people entering Croatia are subject to a 14-day quarantine, or a home isolation order. Again this is a fluid situation. The Minister suggesting today that tourists might also be included in this new open border policy is promising but there is nothing definite. The second part of the question is harder to answer. There is currently no timetable, at least no timetable that has been made public, as to when the borders could open to foreign tourists and indeed what the travel restrictions will be. There is however lots of speculation. There are plans and ideas to open some kind of safe air and road corridor to tourists from neighbouring countries with similar low levels of COVID-19 infections, possibly with passengers travelling with special doctor’s certificates showing that they are not infected. However, as yet this is only speculation and nothing has been announced. But as we now know that EU borders will be closed that clearly limits the nations that could possibly travel to Croatia, at least until the 15th of June.
Are there any international flights landing in Croatia?
Only one. Every day a Croatia Airlines flight takes-off and lands between Zagreb and Frankfurt. This flight was designed to repatriate Croatians who were stuck abroad when the COVID-19 pandemic began. And as Frankfurt is a major international hub this would make sense. This, as of today, is the only international flight operating to Croatia.
When will international flights start flying to Croatia?
Again this is a changeable situation but as far as flights from the UK are concerned, so British Airways, easyJet, Jet2, etc. they have all announced that their new schedule to Dubrovnik will start around the 15th of June. One complication with UK flights is that the UK government have announced that all passengers returning to the UK must be in a 14-day quarantine. But again flights from the UK will depend largely on when the EU lifts the travel ban. Yes, we weren’t to notice that flights from the UK to Croatia are planned to resume after the ban is lifted. The odd thing is that these airlines announced their flights schedule before the EU announced the extension of the travel ban. Croatia Airlines have also stated that they are planning international flights from Amsterdam, Vienna and London, once again these are still in a holding pattern.
Can I go to the beach?
You can if you maintain social distancing. Or as the Civil Protection Directorate stated – there will be no towel to towel or deck chair to deck chair.
There are many more questions, but more importantly there will hopefully be many more answers coming soon. And as soon as we know you’ll know. Keep your questions coming. All above details were correct and from reliable sources at the time of publishing.