Monday, September 14, 2009

Croatia – Getting There And Back

Croatia Online - Zadar Airport

We’ve now been back in the UK a couple of days from a real “visitors” trip to Croatia, unlike our normal wander around as a “nearly local”. That sort of a trip is a real joy – going with the flow, checking out all the hotspots, roaming from place to place with no fixed agenda, behaving like a tourist…., but more of that later. This posting is about getting there and back with Ryanair to and from Zadar Airport.

On the plus side, given the time of year (just after the high season) the flight was relatively cheap, we arrived at both ends more or less on time, the staff were delightful, and the departure and arrival processes were relatively painless. Weighing against that are:

1. The very strict and miserly baggage limits  - 15kg for hold luggage (for which you pay extra) and 10kg for hand luggage. Whilst you might get away with a few extra pounds in the hold, you will be swooped on at the gate if you have more than one piece of hand luggage. Duty free, laptops, newspapers, etc must all fit inside this one bag and all weigh under 10kg. We saw a number of people fall victim to this and, in Ryanair’s defence, they do make it very plain on booking emails, boarding cards, etc, but many of us are used to more flexibility and may not pay attention. We did but had to repack a number of times before leaving home and left our laptop behind (which had some benefits!), together with plenty of other work/travel paraphernalia. Gathering literature on the way as we do, we also had to post a number of parcels back to the UK en route. A number of others paid the excess and Ryanair wins in two ways - firstly it makes a little bit of extra money at the gate and secondly, there’s a strong incentive to buy your duty free on the plane rather than at the airport.

2. Zadar Airport, cosy at is, was struggling to cope with the number of passengers in departures with three Ryanair flights leaving within half an hour of each other. Many people queue as early as possible with Ryanair to get a good seat, otherwise it would have been difficult to sit down at the airport.

3. Smokers should get their cigarettes outside the airport. The Croatian brands such as Walter Wolf and Ronhill are around 18 kunas a packet, Croatian duty paid. The airport doesn’t seem to stock local brands and the cheapest duty free price was around 21 kunas a packet.

4. Don’t be alarmed to see blue flashing lights on the ground as you take off or land. The runway crosses a road which has to be closed for take offs and landings.

5. From Zadar, if you are brave enough, ignore the first yellow sign to the airport which takes you along the old road. The next one takes you on the newer faster road though it’s a bit unnerving to find yourself heading for the sea and then following a hairpin bend back inland.

6. If you’re hiring a car you won’t find a fuel station in the immediate vicinity of the airport so fill up in Zadar or on the motorway.

7.  Ryanair arrives in Zadar quite late at night so many people are looking for a one night stop nearby. Hotel Bastion is the main option in Zadar (see Croatia Online - Hotel Bastion, Zadar's Newest Hotel) but those travelling on a lower budget will find their money goes further in nearby Sukošan (again, more later).

8. Parking – it seems that Stansted parking (if you book ahead on the internet) is cheaper than Zadar!

9. Like at all airports, refreshments are not cheap at Zadar airport (18 kunas for a small beer compared with the normal 10 kunas) but probably cheaper than on the plane.

Hats off to Ryanair though for making Croatia affordable in the summer and adding to the choices, and to Zadar airport for coping relatively well with its new found popularity.


Today’s photo is the departure lounge in Zadar airport. If you need to sit, either get there early or late!


Coming up – our travels in all their detail – Dalmatian mainland, Hvar and Brač. However in our next posting we’ll try and give you a feel for the ambience this year and how Croatia seems to be faring amongst global economic doom and gloom.


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