Breaking News: Croatia Joins the Schengen Zone in 2023
Have you heard the news about Croatia joining the Schengen Zone? Croatia becoming a full member of the European Union (EU) is not insignificant. The Schengen Zone is made up of countries primarily in the European Union that do not require internal border checks. One change is that the country has replaced the kuna, their former currency, with the euro. This may affect your travel logistics, as might other developments relating to visiting Croatia with a Schengen visa which are covered in greater detail in the FAQs below. Let’s dig in!
From Coastline to Cities: Exploring Croatia
The Republic of Croatia, or, as locals call it, Republika Hrvatska, is a crescent-shaped country in the northwest Balkans. It tapers into Serbia to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the west. Hungary and Slovenia lie to the north, and you can reach Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro by heading south.
The country is small, about a third of the size of Florida, but has consistently punched above its weight. Team sports are popular, including basketball, soccer, and water polo. Croatia came in third at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, four years after taking home second at the 2018 event.
Beautifully preserved historic city centers have made Croatia a destination of choice for the film industry. Both Game of Thrones and its prequel House of the Dragon were shot there. Croatia also boasts an under-the-radar wine scene and Michelin inspectors are making an increasing number of visits to restaurants in the region.
What’s New: How Croatia and the Schengen Zone Impacts You
Croatia flourished in the previous millennium as part of the economic superpower, Yugoslavia. But after a messy breakup in the 1990s, it took time to recover. The turning point was joining the European Union in 2013 after applying ten years previously.
When it comes to the EU, it seems things happen in tens. While the accession to full European Union membership in 2023 has brought further stability to a country ravaged by a twentieth century Yugoslav civil war, it has repercussions for its visitors and citizens relating to the Schengen Zone.
The Schengen Zone began in the 1980s as a cross-governmental agreement between five EU countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Schengen is a village of around 500 inhabitants in Luxembourg, which like the admittedly larger Dutch city of Maastricht, has since become famous because of what was signed there. In the city’s case, the founding treaty of the European Union, and in the village’s, the Schengen Agreement and the Schengen Convention of 1985 and 1990.
These days, the Schengen Zone is the largest free travel area in the world. There are no internal border checks in an area that encompasses 4 million square kilometers that is home to around 420 million inhabitants. Schengen countries include 23 of the 27 EU member states and all members of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).
Traveling to Croatia with a Schengen Visa
One new change is that you can now travel to Dubrovnik without having to go through Bosnia and Herzegovina. This border was a stumbling block to the EU giving Croatia Schengen Zone status. However, a new bridge has been built that links Dubrovnik with the rest of Croatia without having to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a result, Croatia is linked with the Schengen Area.
Getting into Croatia from another Schengen country is also now less of a hassle. But you won’t have as much time to hop across this beautiful country’s 1,000+ islands if you’re a resident of a non-Schengen country because time in Croatia now contributes to the maximum of 90 days within the 180‐day period allowed. One recommendation is to visit during the shoulder season when you’ll experience fewer crowds and the beer-pong-playing hordes are conspicuous by their absence.
Another post-Schengen alternative is to explore the other countries in the region that remain outside the zone. These include Albania, which just made Dua Lipa an honorary citizen, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where bridge jumping is a spectator sport in Mostar, and Montenegro, home to Durmitor National Park, where bears and wolves freely roam.
Croatia and Schengen Zone FAQs
Is Croatia a Schengen country?
Yes. Croatia joined the Schengen Zone as of January 1, 2023.
Do I need to apply for a Croatian visa if I hold a valid Schengen visa?
No. Unless your stay in the Republic of Croatia will exceed 90 days in any 180-day period. If you leave Croatia and visit another Schengen country before returning, you will be adding to your maximum period of 90 days in the Schengen Zone. However, if you leave Croatia to travel to a non-Schengen country before going back, you freeze your Schengen allowance.
Does the 90-day Schengen rule apply to Croatia?
Yes. Croatia joined the Schengen Zone on January 1, 2023.
What happens if I leave Croatia, enter a new country, and then go back?
If that country is a Schengen country, you will continue to run down the allotted 90 days in the Schengen Zone. However, if that country is a non-Schengen country, your time limit pauses.
Ready to Keep Exploring?
Dreams Abroad’s new ongoing Meet the Locals series introduces you to global professionals located around the world who have turned a passion for travel into their way of life. Meet Tea Vukorepa, a tourism professional and avid traveler living in her hometown of Split, Croatia.