Overview: Living In Croatia
I unexpectedly fell in love with life in Croatia. I didn't know much about the country when I first arrived. After four trips and six months, I understand why expats, retirees, and digital nomads have made Croatia Europe's top moving abroad destination.
Imagine a country that culturally feels like Italy looks like Greece, but with Bulgaria's affordable costs. It's easy to see the upside of immigrating to croatia when you're on a beach enjoying an inexpensive Mediterranean lifestyle with outdoor cafes, 3,600 miles of coastland, and 250 sunny days a year.
Whether you fantasize about your own Game of Thrones adventure (I'm still bitter about season 8's ending ), swimming in the cleanest and clearest waters this side of the Philippines, or exploring ancient Roman ruins, retirement in Croatia has a little something special for everyone.
However, anyone looking for a taste of Mediterranean life in Croatia needs to be aware of the pros and cons. Getting a residency permit here is not easy, and for many American expats living in Croatia, it will be impossible. This guide will walk you through the specific requirements, steps, advantages, and drawbacks of living in Croatia as an American.
Who is this guide meant for?
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What Is Expat Life Like In Croatia?
What is the quality of life in Croatia like?
Quality of Life
With the eye-popping natural beauty of the Adriatic Sea and warm Mediterranean climate, expats in Croatia have a desirable quality of life. The availability of one-year visas and affordable healthcare makes staying in Croatia less stressful than other EU countries, where 90-day Schengen visa rules require uprooting and moving every few months.
Do they speak English in Croatia?
49% of the country speaks English, and most people younger than 40 can communicate in conversational English. Also, anyone in jobs that support tourism can communicate fairly easily. The exception to this rule oddly seems to be any bureaucrat in government offices. This exception means applying for residency visas or any official permits particularly frustrating.
How hard is it to learn Croatian?
The Croatian language is South Slavic and, like all Slavic languages, isn't easy to pick up. The language very little in common with English and ranks as a “Category III” difficulty language by the US State Department. You can plan on approximately 44 weeks (1100 class hours) to reach Professional Working Proficiency 3/3+ or C1 on the CEFR scale.
Is It Safe For Expats To Live In Croatia?
Surprisingly, Croatia is one of the safest countries in Europe—or the world for that matter (“Level One” by the U.S. State Department the safest category). While there is a criminal element in every country, the general public is very friendly and welcoming to tourists and expats.
Croatia ranked 26th in the 2020 Global Peace Index, while the United States came in at 121th.
Tips for Moving to Croatia
Learn Some Croatian Basics- While you can get by only speaking English, knowing a little Croatian will go a long way in making expat life in Croatia easier. Familiarity with some of the basics will help you better navigate everyday situations, and the locals appreciate your efforts.
Here is the "Secret" method that the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military uses to learn new languages quickly and effectively- The Pimsleur Method
Avoid hours doing mindless repetitive vocabulary. Pimsleur focuses on quick, easy-to-digest organic learning to get you conversational as fast as possible.
Firsthand experience living in Croatia as a foreigner
Dealing with bureaucracy when living in Split
<biggest challenges?>. . .just trying to get the simplest of documents signed here. And the background check - almost impossible from Croatia. It sounds simple, but it's been a deal-breaker. Everyone is suspicious and doesn't want to help. It's just not worth it anymore. . .Ugh.
Andrea Woods‧ Canadian Digital Nomad
Living in Croatia as an American
Shopping in the US so much more convenient. Not only can I get pretty much anything delivered using Amazon Prime in two days or less, but there are also several stores in the United States open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, where I can get everything you need in one place. Croatia is not like this, and you will need to go to a few specific stores for several things. Good and bad, there is no 24-hour Walmart where I can get boxed cake mix, a laptop, and a socket wrench at 2 AM.
Rachel S. ‧ US Expat
How Can I Get Visa For Croatia?
Can foreigners live in Croatia? Yes, there are legal ways to stay long-term.
Do I Need A Tourist Visa?
US citizens do not require a visa to enter Croatia. Americans visiting as tourists can enter the country without a visa for up to 90 days out of every 180-day period.
Non-US citizens can visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for their countries' specific Croatian visa requirements.
While part of the European Union, as of 2020, Croatia still falls outside the Schengen zone. This loophole allows you to stay in the EU for more than the standard 90-day period. I make 3-month "visa-runs" to Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, or Cyprus to avoid the 90-day Schengen limit for Americans.
Do I have to register with the police when staying in Croatia as a tourist?
Yes, even if you are in the country for a short-term stay, everyone must register within one day of your arrival. Usually, your accommodation, hotel, or Airbnb will register for you, but you should confirm. Also, if you are staying with friends or family, you will need to register.
You can register in person at the local police station or using their online system.
INSIDER TIP : EU Citizens registration in Croatia- The police need to record everyone, including EU and EEA citizens staying in Croatia. EU Citizens can stay as long as they want, but the Croatian government needs to know when you arrived, which address you are staying at, and when you plan on leaving.
Does Croatia Have A Retirement Visa?
With visa-free entry, it is simple for American expats to move to Croatia short-term. However, for a country actively trying to recruit retirees and digital nomads, Croatia makes it insanely difficult to stay longer than 90-days.
Expats or digital nomads moving to Croatia can apply for a temporary residency permit that allows expats to live in the country for up to one year. But Americans looking to retire in Croatia don't have many options. Immigrating to Croatia long-term requires either:
- EU or EEA citizenship
- Croatian Parents or Grandparents
- Purchasing real estate, but that investment only allows temporary residency up to 9-months
- Academic studies or Scientific research at a Croatian University
- Becoming an unpaid volunteer
- Starting up a new business, which requires significant investment and hiring local employees
- Getting a job sponsored by a Croatian employer, or
- Pre-paying for a one-year apartment lease
- Generating income outside the country (i.e., Digital Nomad visa)
Compared to the other options, if you are looking to immigrate to Croatia, the last two possibilities look enticing. But, as many expats moving to Croatia have found, there are caveats.
Requirements for Temporary Residence in Croatia by leasing an apartment
The specific justification on the Minister of Foreign Affairs website for your move to Croatia is "for other purposes." The conditions state you can stay long-term if:
- You have valid travel documents
- Have a clean background check from your home country
- You are not allowed to work (this is NOT the digital nomad visa)
- *Prepay rent for one year
- **Can financially support yourself
How Much Does It Cost To Move To Croatia As An Expat?
*One Year Prepaid Apartment Lease
$530 x 12
**Proof of financial support
$385 x 12
1 Year “back pay” Croatian Health Care
$75 x 12
Biometric Residence Permit (i.e., an ID card)
Various Legal Costs and Real Estate Commissions
Total Upfront Payments
"Actual Cost" net Deposits = ~$2,500
**How much money do I need to show for "proof of financial support?"
A bank statement showing sufficient funds deposited:
- Single Person- $4,624 USD / 28,880 HRK
- Married Couple- $6,550 USD / 40,800 HRK
- Each Dependent- $1541 USD / 9,600 HRK
Disadvantages To Temporary Residency In Croatia
There are significant caveats that expats and retirees need to understand:
- A Temporary Residence Permit does NOT qualify you for citizenship or even for permanent residence
- The permit cannot be renewed
- After the permit expires, you need to stay out of the country for 90-days
- You need to wait for at least six months before reapplying for another permit.
The restrictions above boil down to this- There is no way for a typical expat retiree to stay in Croatia for longer than one year straight.
Can I Live In Croatia For One-Year?
Yes. While the restrictions above are a dealbreaker for long-term expats, there is a bright side. Croatia is a rare outlier; few EU countries allow temporary stays longer than three months.
However, you can live in the country for up to one year. But one year is all you get. There are no extensions; Croatia's Temporary Residence Permit is precisely that- temporary.
If the one-year limit doesn't restrict your retirement plans, you can download the Temporary Residence Permit Application Form here.
Can I Apply For A Visa In Croatia?
Yes, you can apply for both the Temporary Residency Permit and the Digital Nomad Visa after you arrive in the country. However, note that if you did not start to gather the documents required back home, it WILL BE VERY DIFFICULT. For example, getting a Criminal Background from the US requires certified fingerprints, which are near impossible to get in many cities in Croatia. Some states in the US require certain documents like marriage certificates, adoption papers, or birth certificates to be requested in person, which is difficult when you are 5000 miles away.
To apply, go to the Ministry of Police (MUP) to begin the visa application process. Having Croatian with you to translate will be very helpful (see language section about government agencies).
Be wary if you happen to get someone in a bad mood that does not want to be helpful. My advice to people is don't get angry or argumentative. It doesn't help. Just suck it up, leave and try again another day.
Does Croatia Have A Digital Nomad Visa?
To attract remote workers and their spending money, Croatia created a highly anticipated Digital Nomad visa effective January 1, 2021. You can find the details on the Ministry of the Interior website on the Temporary stay of digital nomads.
Can I Get Citizenship
Here are some of the ways to get citizenship in Croatia:
- Jus sanguinis (Latin for Right of Blood)- If at least one of the parents is Croatian, you may be eligible by descent.
- After 5-years as a permanent resident, you can apply for Croatian citizenship. The trick is getting a permanent residence is highly unlikely unless your immediate family is Croatian (parents or spouse).
Note: Neither the Temporary Residency Permit nor the Digital Nomad Visa have an upgrade path to permanent residence or citizenship.
What Other Visas Are Available?
Working and Holiday Visa- Canadians and New Zealanders between the ages of 18-30 have the unique opportunity to work and study in Croatia for up to one year. Canadians utilize the program until they turn 35 years old.
What Is The Cost Of Living In Croatia?
Do you want a realistic guide of monthly costs in Croatia? Here are examples of real-life expat budgets.
My monthly budget as an expat living in Split, Croatia, was between $1200 - $1500 per month
A comfortable expat life in Croatia, including rent, will on average be 50% LESS than living in the US. For reference, Zagreb's living costs ranked 152th out of 210 cities globally.
My Cost of living in Croatia is equivalent to 981 Euros or 848 Pounds.
How expensive is Croatia in comparison to other countries?
Although Croatia is a popular tourist destination and boasts a high quality of life, living in Croatia can be inexpensive for expats from North America and Western Europe. Croatia becomes very affordable for expats earning more than the average Croatian salary (roughly $1,200 per month), especially if your income comes from USD, GBP, or EUR.
Croatia’s cost of living index is the 12th lowest in the European Union; more expensive than known low-cost hotspots (Bulgaria or Romania) in Eastern Europe. However, basic prices are still cheaper than in neighboring countries in Western Europe (Spain or Italy).
Total Monthly Budget
Cost of Living in Croatia vs. The USA
The cost of living in Croatia is much more affordable than in the US. Look at the chart above; moving from a medium-cost city (Portland, OR) in the United States to Zagreb would save you over 65% in living expenses.
Is it expensive to live in Croatia?
Coastal cities in Croatia have a lot in common with all European countries with beautiful beaches and Mediterranean weather- prices peak on the coast during the busy summer tourist season.
You can find some great one-bedroom apartments within walking distance to everything you need in the major cities for around $500– but summer rental prices get shockingly expensive at any of the tourist destinations on the Adriatic coast. Want to relive your Game of Throne fantasies in Dubrovnik during the warmer months? Expect to pay $2500+ per month between June-August.
Rental rates will also vary between long-term vs. short-term. Long-term rentals are considerably cheaper, especially in beach towns. Renting month-to-month during the busy summer season can triple your housing costs.
If you spend the peak season living like a tourist, sailing to different beaches, eating out at waterfront cafes, or cruising the nightlife on the celebrity islands, life can get expensive fast.
Detailed Monthly Budgets For Major Cities In Croatia
Average Salary and Minimum Salary In Croatia
You are unlikely to be reading a blog about financial independence and making a minimum salary. However, knowing Croatia's average salary gives you a good benchmark for the country's real cost of daily life. Logically, if your monthly income is greater than or equal to the average salary in Croatia, then you can afford a middle-class lifestyle in any of the major cities.
Given the minimum income requirements to get a residence permit, an expat living in Croatia will automatically have a standard of living higher than the average Croatian.
What are the average salaries in Croatia?
The 2021 minimum income a Digital Nomad must show to live in Croatia is $2,738 per month. To put that salary in perspective, the average salary in Zagreb is under $1,200 per month.
Median Monthly Salary In Zagreb
- C LEVEL EXECUTIVE- $2,451
- FINANCE MANAGER- $1,809
- SOFTWARE ENGINEER- $1,675
- WEB DEVELOPER- $1,373
- ZAGREB LIVING COSTS- $1,307
What is the minimum salary in Croatia?
To locals living in any of the major cities, relative to Croatian wages, Croatia is an expensive country. Consider the average cost of living in Zagreb is $1300 per month, and as of 2021, the minimum salary in Croatia is $550 per month (net) or $670 (gross). A minimum wage here does not even cover the basic cost of living. This minimum salary is even an increase of 4.61% from last year.
What Are The Must See Places In Croatia?
Get the highlights of the best things to see and best cities to live in.
What Are The Best Cities To Live In Croatia?
As Croatia's capital and largest city, Zagreb is the beating cultural heart of the country. There is an energetic city center, with a great mix of old and new, and a strong cafe and restaurant scene. The city has a long and rich history, but the fact does not weigh it down. The modern city of Zagreb is a youthful, energetic, and cosmopolitan capital.
Dubrovnik, the mythical Kings Landing from Game of Thrones, is definitely one of the most stunning cities in all of Europe. With its UNESCO-protected Old Town, Old Harbour with its formidable walls, and its picture-perfect location on the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
Even as the 2nd largest city in Croatia, Split remains overlooked. Yet, Split is my favorite expat city in Croatia.
Another UNESCO Heritage Site and Game of Thrones film location, Split, has one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture outside of Italy. The heart of the city's Old Town is the impressive Diocletian's Palace, built in the 4th century.
While Split is the jumping point to ferry to many of Croatia's fantastic islands, the city should not be considered a simple waypoint. Surrounded by its picturesque beaches and home to a vibrant Riva seaside promenade, Split is an excellent expat destination for those looking for an affordable Mediterranean retirement.
Rovinj is a smaller but charming town located on Croatia's Istrian Peninsula. Surrounded by beautiful beaches and a picturesque town center, this town is perfect for anyone who wants to live a relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle without the hassles of a big city.
Once a part of Italy, eating out in Rovinj's city center, with its strong Venetian roots and abundance of fresh Adriatic seafood, is an exceptional treat. While plates of seafood, gelatos, and pastas are a delight, the star delicacies of the Istria region are the white and black truffles. There is even an annual Truffle festival held at nearby Livade.
What are the Top 5 Things to See and Do In Croatia
If you live in Croatia, you'll be Split (no pun intended) between living near the Roman ruins and UNESCO sites of the mainland or sail to one of Croatia's famous islands. The good news is life in Croatia can include both. If you get tired of city life and bored of the historical monuments, head to the Adriatic coast, jump on a ferry, and check out the Croatian islands of Hvar, Brac, Krk, Rab, or Korcula. Croatia is a beautiful country with loads to do that don't keep you cooped up in a city. Here are my Top 5 Must-See Attractions that aren't in major cities.
- Trogir- Only 30 minutes from Split, Trogir is perfect for day trips. Trogir is a picturesque UNESCO heritage site and was the filming location for Qarth city in Game of Thrones.
- Pag- the island has a little bit of a party reputation, but there are more than just Zrce beach bars and party yachts. You can explore over 200 miles of gorgeous coastline. Plus, Foodies will love sampling Pag's cheese, brandy, and lamb.
- Klis- Another Game of Thrones film location, initially built in the 7th century, this fortress was a central defensive position for the Dalmatian coast against the Ottomans.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park- this gorgeous national park, home to 90 waterfalls, is one of the best reasons to leave the coast and head inland. Especially during winter, where the park's higher altitude makes for dramatic wintertime pictures.
- Hvar- The view from the 6th-century Hvar Fort (Tvrdava Fortica) down the lavender-covered mountains, past the Old Town, to the Paklinski Islands and turquoise blue waters of the Adriatic coast is one of the best views in the country.
What Is Healthcare Like In Croatia?
If you are from the US, you will find Croatian healthcare refreshingly affordable. Here is information on the cost and quality of care available.
Croatia’s health care system ranks 43rd out of 191 countries by the World Health Organization. For reference, the US ranks only 6 spots higher at 37. A more recent study by the Lancet medical journal ranked Croatia 30th out of 195 countries, one spot below the US at 29.
How Much Is Healthcare Coverage In Croatia?
Americans moving to Croatia will need private healthcare coverage during the initial residency application process, but travel health insurance meets that requirement.
However, once an expat becomes a temporary or permanent resident, they can access Croatia's public healthcare system.
Private Health Insurance For Expat Residents- It is mandatory to enroll in Croatian Health Insurance (HZZO) to complete the residency application process. Access to medical coverage requires a one-time "prior year pay-in" fee equaling 12 months of health care premiums. Monthly premiums vary, but most expats should budget roughly ~$75 a month per person.
INSIDER TIP : Bonus Healthcare Savings For Expats- Croatia's public healthcare comes with a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). EHIC provides expat residents medical coverage anywhere in the EU. With Croatia health insurance, you can cancel your travel insurance if you stay within the European Union.
Money and Taxes In Croatia
If you plan on being in Croatia for longer than six months, then there are some things you need to know about Croatian taxes.
Croatia uses the Croatian Kuna (HRK) for currency. At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 6.16 HRK. For reference, 1 Euro = 7.51 HRK.
- $1000 = 6,164.50 HRK
- €1000 = 7517,72 HRK
- £1000 = 8756,06 HRK
INSIDER TIP : Don't get confused, but the Kuna is shorted to HRK at banks and currency exchanges, but you will likely see the abbreviation Kn in markets and stores.
Foreign exchange and international wire transfers play a crucial role in expats' daily lives. It’s important to understand how foreign exchange works and the effects international transfer fees can have on your cost of living.
Getting paid in USD, but paying bills in a foreign currency can kill your local buying power, especially if your bank gives you crappy exchange rates and charges you foreign transaction fees or international wire transfer fees.
Wise.com is the easiest banking solution I've found for living abroad
Receive money as if you were still at home.
You don't need to hassle with multiple bank accounts. Receive your rental income, salary, pension, etc., using your Wise banking details.
Move your money between countries.
You can send money to more than 70 countries, always with a low and transparent fee. With Direct Debits in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada, paying your bills and subscriptions across currencies is easier.
Spend in local currency with your card.
Don't worry about currency rates when changing money. You can use a Wise debit card to always get the best exchange rate and avoid sneaky bank foreign transaction fees.
Save even more for big-dollar transfers.
Need to show a large cash reserve for a visa requirement? Maybe you are buying property or a business. If you need to transfer large amounts of money abroad, Wise is about 5x cheaper than major US banks. And with tiered pricing for large amounts, you get an even lower fee on any transfers over 100,000 GBP or equivalent in USD (~$141,000).
Do I Pay Taxes If I Live In Croatia?
Expats living in Croatia must pay taxes on any Croatian-source income. In addition, foreigner resident permit holders or anyone who lives in Croatia over 183 days are considered tax residents. Croatia taxes residents on worldwide income.
Consult with a tax accountant to understand your specific liabilities. I partnered with a firm specializing in expat taxes.
National Income Tax Rates
- 20% up to HRK 360,000.00 (up to 30,000 kuna per month)
- 30% above HRK 360,000.00 annually (above 30,000 kuna)
International Tax Treaties
See which countries have a taxation agreement with Croatia to understand your tax liability.
Local Income Tax
Local areas may also charge additional income tax based on their size:
- Communes: up to 10%
- Population up to 30,000: up to 12%
- Population over 30,000: up to 15%
- The city of Zagreb: up to 18%
INSIDER TIP : American Expat Taxes- The United States does NOT have a double taxation treaty with Croatia. US citizens living in Croatia may be liable for income taxes to both the US and Croatia. Speak with an accountant to understand your expat tax requirements.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Living In Croatia?
Since its introduction of the Digital Nomad Visa, Croatia's popularity as a tourist destination has zoomed to "it" destination status. But expats moving to Croatia need to be aware of the downsides of living here. It's not all sunsets and beaches. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of living in Croatia that isn't immediately obvious.
Pros- benefits of LIFE in Croatia
CONS-Problems with LIFE in Croatia
Expat Resources And FAQs
This section is a one-stop resource of essential links to immigration and expats services, FAQs, foreign consulates, and embassies.
Resources for Working and Living Abroad
Start Speaking A New Language In 30 days
Pimsleur is the best method I have found to get to "Survival-Level" quickly when learning a new language. With Pimsleur, I can ease the stress of arriving in a new country and start speaking with people in my neighborhood. Ordering food, getting directions, haggling prices, and making friends is 10X easier when you can communicate in the local language.
Achieve better results using Pimsleur's short classes and organic learning methodology vs. the mindless repetition, endless verb conjugations, and tedious memorization of other language courses.
Transfer Money Internationally
For expats and nomads, Wise offers an International Bank account for your money transfers. It's an easier and cheaper alternative for paying your bills while overseas.
Looking to buy property abroad, Wise has a Large Transfer Rate for even bigger savings.
Get A Free International Household Moving Quote
Figuring out how to move your stuff overseas is both exciting and nerve-racking. Partnering with a one-stop shop international moving company simplifies the hardest part.
Suddath provides you the peace of mind in knowing a relocation specialist is personally managing your international move every step of the way.
Get Your US Expat Tax Questions Answered
US Expat taxes are the most complex in the world. However, living abroad comes with potential tax advantages, but mistakes are very easy to make. It is no wonder many expats are frustrated.
Avoid complications, penalties, and fines, Taxes For Expats is here to help.
Protect Your Health While Abroad
Your home health insurance is unlikely to provide coverage for you while overseas. Get premium health insurance designed for expats and digital nomads that protects you anywhere you are in the world, even during a pandemic.
Use A Virtual Mailbox To Keep A Permanent US Address And Receive Important Documents and Packages
Get a US street address you can use while you are overseas. Use a digital mailbox with a REAL physical location to receive mail from USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
A virtual mailbox can receive and forward all your important documents and packages, replace credit cards, maintain state residency, get checks deposited, or file business and tax applications. Prices start at $6.
Travel Tools and Resources
Skyscanner- My favorite airline search tool to find all the cheapest flights in one place.
Airport Pick-Up Service- Arrive at your destination stress-free with a private car cheaper than most taxis.
Loctote- My favorite day pack. Secure your belongings while walking around town.
First Time Moving Abroad? Check Out My Advice For New Expats
Useful Official Croatian Websites
- Local Apartment Rentals and Long-Term Accommodation Search
- Police registration form for everyone entering Croatia
- Ministry of the Interior- Temporary Stay of Third Country Nationals information
- Temporary Residence Permit Application Form
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs- Diplomatic Missions and Consular Offices of Croatia
- Digital Nomad Visa Online Application Form
- Ministry of Tourism- Croatia For Tourist
- Croatian Embassy In Washington, DC
- US Embassy in Zagreb
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Croatia does not have a retirement visa, so the short answer, no. Not in the "retire for the rest of your life" sense. If you mean a nomadic retirement, where you are off on another adventure after one year, the long answer is yes; the country has two ways for Americans to stay longer than 90 days: A Temporary Resident Permit for a prepaid one-year apartment and the Digital Nomad Visa.
Otherwise, unless you are an EU or EEA citizen, have immediate family that are Croatian citizens, or marry a Croatian, you will not be able to stay longer than one year.
Expatriate life here is affordable, especially on an American salary. The monthly cost for a single person averages $1200 to $1500. The budget covers your basic cost, plus weekends socializing, enjoying the cafe culture, and lounging on gorgeous beaches on the Adriatic coast.
Regrettably no. You get one year maximum; then, you need to leave the country. After six months outside of the country, you can reapply for another permit.
Croatian people are warm, welcoming, and friendly. After an adjustment period, you can survive here on English alone, but you will run into bouts of extreme frustration. Going to any Administration Office to deal with a bureaucratic process while not being able to communicate will stress your patience.
Taking the effort to learn a few Croatian phrases is always appreciated by locals.