Traveling by Train in Croatia: A Complete Guide

Traveling by train in Croatia isn’t really the top choice of travel here, where the more popular choices are taking a bus or even a ferry. Also, since the Croatian train network is limited, there are many touristic destinations that can’t be reached by train.

Also, compared to traveling by bus, trains are much slower and the trains themselves are older and not as nice as you might want them to be. However, I am a fan of train travel and I still use it as a way to travel when I get the chance – especially since for longer distances, it’s a bit more comfortable than the bus.

In today’s article, we’ll learn about everything related to trains in Croatia and how to travel by train in the country if you prefer to do it this way.

The train network in Croatia is more developed in the continental part of the country where trains connect most of the major towns. In the southern parts of Croatia, the train network is pretty much limited, but you still have lines leading to the major attractions of the country.

IMPORTANT: Despite its popularity, Dubrovnik does not have a train station, so you can’t reach it by train. The closest station is some 100km away in a town called Ploce. However, you’re probably going to find better and easier ways to get to Dubrovnik by bus or even by flying.

As you probably imagine, the main train hub in the country is Zagreb, with trains leaving from there to all popular and less popular destinations.

An interesting fact to note about trains in Croatia is that, since the buses have become more and more popular (as well as the faster means of transportation), trains have been reduced in numbers and you won’t have many connections available on most distances, no matter how popular they are.

So even though improvements made recently on the lines and the introduction of faster trains have reduced travel times in many instances by a ton, you will usually have no more than two trains traveling on a route. So plan your trip accordingly.

Trains in Croatia, Classes and Prices

In Croatia, local trains have improved a bit over the past several years, but I wouldn’t say that they are on-par with most Western-European trains. However, it’s not as bad as it used to be and you will generally feel comfortable when riding trains in Croatia.

Many trains still offer second class only, but the main train routes and the faster trains offer first class seats, as well as sleeping cars (as it is the case of the Zagreb to Zadar or Zagreb to Split trains).

Unless you’re trying to save a few kunas, first class is a must-book as compartments are more spacious with more comfortable seats. Also, prices for a first class ticket are still similar to second class prices in Western Europe or just a bit more expensive, so you’re really getting a nice bang for your buck here.

In terms of the trains themselves, you usually have to choose from slower trains, called passenger trains (putnicki) or faster trains like intercity (ICN) or Brzi (translated to “fast”).

Usually, the slower trains have 2nd class only and stop in more stations along the way, while the faster ones offer 1st class cars and have fewer stops. In most cases, unless there isn’t a fast train to your destination, it is better to get the Intercity or Brzi trains as they are not only faster, but also in a better shape.

The best place to check out train tables, see routes that are available and buy tickets online is the official Croatian Railways website, which is extremely easy to navigate and also available in English.

Once you arrive in Croatia you can reserve and buy your train tickets from any train station in Croatia and pay using kuna. In some bigger railway stations, you can purchase your tickets using major credit cards but be prepared at all times with some kuna for your ticket, just to be sure.

Also, since in most cases, the Croatian language will be used on the signs and announcements of the trains, I decided to share a few basic words that you should look out for to help you find your way in the train station.

Remember, if you are lost or can’t really understand the information at the train station, ask locals as most of them (especially the younger ones) will speak English – or, worst case scenario, go to an information office where you will be helped.

polazak – departures
dolazak – arrivals
presjedanje – change of trains
putnički – passenger (slower) train
brzi fast train
presjedanje  – change of trains

Major train routes in Croatia

If you decide on train travel in Croatia, beside Zagreb to Split line, here are some more frequently used train routes in Croatia:

  • Zagreb to Karlovac – with over a dozen daily trains on this route, some daily trains go to Knin where is possible to find a bus to Zadar.
  • Zagreb to Rijeka – there are several daily trains to Rijeka but you must change trains at Karlovac in some occasions, although you do have direct trains as well
  • Zagreb to Osijek – there are five daily trains but it’s more faster to take a bus.
  • Zagreb to Varazdin – with a dozen daily trains this two and half hour journey is a reasonable alternative to the bus.

Traveling by train in Croatia: my thoughts

My wife & son enjoying the Zagreb to Belgrade train.

As much as I love traveling by train wherever I go, I must admit that in Croatia, it might be better to choose a bus instead. Unless your routes are very long and you could use the extra leg room and opportunities to stretch your bones and muscles in the train, buses are usually faster and cheaper or at least similarly priced.

And even though some of the views when riding trains in Croatia are truly breathtaking, the same can be said about buses as well. And since trains are not extremely comfortable – up to plain dirty in some situations, all while offering fewer options when it comes to choosing your next destination, I think that generally, you can say that it’s better to travel by bus.

It’s not like trains are downright bad or extremely slow – or dangerous or anything like that – it’s just that buses usually get you to the destination faster. And usually, that’s all that matters.

However, if you are carrying a bicycle, for example, you will find that taking a train will be the best option for you as most important lines (including some international ones) offer bike-friendly cars, so that you can transport yours easily. You can check out a list of routes where bike cars are available on the official Croatian Railways page here (in English).

But what do you think about trains in Croatia? Do you prefer taking a train or you’d rather travel by bus or find another way to get to your destination?