Driving in Croatia: Surviving the Roads on the Island of Hvar
Leave speed cameras, traffic lights and roundabouts behind when driving on Hvar, but be prepared for some other tests on the island's roads.
Looking to avoid the driving stress of speed cameras, traffic lights and roundabouts? Step back in time and head to the island of Hvar, where such things have yet to be introduced. And while this may be a welcome respite from the daily commute to London, there are regional challenges to be encountered on Hvar that do not exist on the North Circular, such as roaming wild boar.
The Roads on Hvar
The island's road system was not built for heavy traffic and peak season can be a source of frustration for drivers keen to get to the beach. There is one single carriage road which runs from Hvar Town in the West to Sucuraj in the East, a road whose quality declines somewhat after Jelsa. For many travellers arriving at Sucuraj from Dubrovnik, the road to Jelsa is an endearing memory.
While the roads are largely empty out of season with the most regular journey being to the family field, the roads are much busier in season, with a combination of tourists on scooters, holidaymakers with large caravans and impatient drivers providing a recipe for potential problems. Nothing happens quickly in Dalmatia, and visitors who accept this also applies to the driving tend to endure less stress while on Hvar.
Alcohol and Driving in Croatia
After a period of zero tolerance in Croatia (during which one of the more interesting national debates in this predominantly Catholic country concerned the status of priests taking altar wine), the limit is now 0.5%. Police can - and do - stop cars for spot checks and a failed breathaliser can result in an instant fine or something more serious. There is, however, zero tolerance for drivers under 24.
Seat belts, Headlights and Other Requirements
Seat belts must be worn at all times, and the fine for non-compliance is 500 kuna. It should be noted that tourists renting scooters are required to wear a helmet. Headlights must be on for the entire journey in winter (last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March) at the risk of a 300 kuna fine, but the mainland requirement for winter tyres does not apply. This is an island where snowfall is national news.
How to Upset a Local: Parking Spots
If there is one issue likely to upset a Dalmatian in season, it is parking. Tourists looking to avoid car parking charges routinely park up on private property, leave the car and head to the beach. It is a source of more than mild annoyance, and easily avoided.
In Case of Accident
Whether it be swerving to avoid a strolling donkey, a nocturnal head-on with a wild boar (more common than one would imagine, especially on eastern Hvar) or a collision with another car, accidents do happen. Accidents must be reported to the police (dial 112), who must then fill out a police report. This can take a while and requires photographs and measurements - much better not to have the accident in the first place. Emergency road assistance is 987.
Speed limits are 90 km/h on the open road, 50 km/h in built-up areas and best adhered to, not only to avoid police attention, but also because cars are parked at the side of the main road near the family fields, and a speeding car coming round the corner has caught a slow-moving car leaving the field on more than one occasion.
Petrol Stations on Hvar
Motorists arriving via Sucuraj are advised to tank up before they arrive, as the nearest petrol station is more than 50km away in Jelsa. There are three stations on Hvar, one in Jelsa town, one on the main road to Stari Grad just outside Jelsa, and one in Hvar Town, while the marina filling station in Vrboska will sometimes provide fuel to motorists.
In general, driving on Hvar is problem-free, assuming one has adapted to the Dalmatian mentality.