Zagreb to Split to Zagreb 2021: Bus, Train, Car & Plitvice Lakes

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How to get from Zagreb to Split in 2021, with a stop at Plitvice Lakes: Options by bus, train, plane and car on the motorway and old road.

What is the distance from Zagreb to Split?

It is about 400km from Split to Zagreb, depending on the route you take. Driving along the A1 motorway will take about four hours door to door. However, if you are not in a hurry, the much emptier old road is both relaxing and scenic. Of course, you will trade beauty for time – expect the journey to take 5-6 hours without stops.

Train travel times are 5-6 hours unless you are taking the overnight service which is more like 9 hours. 

The quickest bus connections take about five hours. 

The quickest way is obviously by air, and Croatia Airlines connects both airports in 40 minutes.

2021 Reality – Epidemiological measures

The epidemiological measures put in place to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic have, just like almost everything else, impacted travel from Zagreb to Split. For any travelers between the two cities, the most important aspect are the measures governing the public transportation within Croatia.

Currently, the rules are quite simple for any public transportation: the provider is not allowed to sell more than 40% of their usual occupancy, must clearly state how many passengers are allowed and must make sure that the passengers are able to maintain social distancing throughout the journey. The passengers (as well as any staff on the vehicles) are required to have their facemasks on their faces, put on correctly, throughout the journey.

As of March 1, 2021, the bars and restaurants in Croatia will be allowed to open, but only serve customers on terraces and similar open areas. The gas stations remain open and allowed to sell beverages, including hot beverages to go. So, keep that in mind and plan your purchases along the route accordingly.

Getting from Zagreb to Split by bus – costs and timetables

There used to be almost 50 buses a day, including overnight connections, connecting the two cities. Currently, in the early spring of 2021, the number of the connections is still drastically reduced. The situation will certainly change as the tourist season comes closer and the pandemic gets more under control.

Some buses go straight down the motorway, stopping once for about 20 minutes at a service station, while others either stick to the old roads or combine the motorway with national roads.

Journey times therefore obviously vary. Some companies have free WiFi on board, and even free water. Prices vary between 100 – 170 kuna one way. Luggage costs 7 kuna a large piece in addition. You can see timetables and buy tickets online.

If you are looking for a bus from Zagreb or Split to Plitvice, there are many options between the two cities – just check the link in the previous sentence. The Split bus station has an English-language page, and you can search information for onward journeys. Similarly with Zagreb bus station.

zagreb to split bus

The bus station in Split is located right next to the ferry and train station. Its location is very convenient for any connecting travel, including for going on many islands connected with a ferry or a catamaran. 

Taking the train from Split to Zagreb, including your car

There used to be two trains a day from Zagreb to Split. Currently, there is only one operating daily.

The daytime departure (still operational) leaves the capital at 15:20, arriving in Split around 21:30. The overnight service (currently discontinued) left around 11 pm and arrived on the Adriatic early in the morning. It is unclear if and when the nighttime service will return (we will keep you posted)

Ticket prices are 208 kuna one way and are available online, as well as at the station. 

There are often online promotions, so you should check the official Croatian Railways website for the latest timetable and offers. 

zagreb to split train

One nice service offered on the overnight train between Split and Zagreb was the option to transport your car as well (see above for the loading points for cars in Zagreb (left) and Split (right). You were able to travel in a couchette between the two cities for 77 kuna, and take your car (101 kuna) or motorcycle (51 kuna). Apart from the stress of the drive, it worked out quite a bit cheaper than the motorway, once you take fuel and tolls into account. During the last tourist season, the overnight train was available, however, without the option of taking your car with you. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in 2021.

Could the train journey time be reduced to just one hour between the two cities? TCN reported on those Chinese ambitions

How to include Plitvice Lakes in your itinerary between Zagreb and Split

While many travellers are seemingly always in a rush to get from A to B, there is a gem which really should not be missed between Zagreb and Split. Spectacular Plitvice Lakes has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 and attracts over 1 million people a year. It is gorgeous any time of ear, but check out the video below for this photogenic national park in all its glory. 

The lakes are on the old road from Zagreb to Split, roughly three hours by car from each. If you are looking or a bus from Split or Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes, check the online options. Tour agencies offer organised trips as well, or you can take a private transfer. Visit the official Plitvice Lakes website for more information on costs and attractions of visit this top Croatian tourist destination. 

Private transfers between Zagreb and Split, with or without Plitvice Lakes

For anyone who likes to travel stress-free and in style, a private transfer is what you’re after. Forget hot sweaty buses, and rolling the dice with taxi drivers. With a private transfer, the transport is booked in advance, with a fixed price at an agreed time so you can feel secure that your transport will arrive. 
So, why book a private transfer?

  • Door-to-door service: Fixed rates with no hidden costs
  • Total flexibility. You decide the pick-up time and any stops you would like to make between Zagreb and Split.
  • A professional English speaking local driver.
  • Brand new vehicles with complimentary wifi and water.
  • COVID-safe approved transport

Contact Octopus Transfers for a free quote from Zagreb to Split. Prices start at 365 Euro/2373 Kuna

Private transfer prices rise considerably if you are looking for a speedboat or helicopter transfer. An additional benefit of a private transfer is the ability to arrange some stopping off points along the way. Transfers are often requested with a stop at Plitvice Lakes, which is located roughly halfway between the two cities on the old road. 

Flights between Zagreb and Split

It is possible to fly between the two cities, and Croatia Airlines has several daily flights. Plan and book via Croatia Airlines.

zagreb to split motorway

Driving from Split to Zagreb – the motorway route

The quickest way to drive is along the A1 motorway. The motorway starts with the toll booth at Lučko, and you exit at Dugopolje, about 12km north of Split. There can be lengthy queues at these toll booths in season. It is about a 15-minutes drive from there to the centre of both cities. Driving time is about 3.5 hours, depending on the traffic.

Croatia operates a toll system. The cost of using this motorway section is 200 kuna in the summer, 181 in the winter for cars. 

You can keep in touch with the latest traffic reports, meanwhile, by checking the English-language service offered by HAK

zagreb to split sveti rok

IMPORTANT – While the motorway has brought much better journey times, it is susceptible to the weather, especially the famous bura wind. When the northern wind is in full flow, the section by the Sveti Rok tunnel gets closed and a diversion in place. This will add an extra hour at least to your travel time, although the views are great. You will most likely rejoin the motorway near Zadar, about 140km from Split. 

Please note also that there are often very long queues at Sveti Rok during peak season. I no longer use the motorway at the height of the season, because there is a much more relaxing (and cheaper) alternative, which will actually get you there quicker in most cases. The old road between Zagreb and Split. 

Why the old road between Zagreb and Split is worth it

It is easy to forget how much the A1 motorway changed life in Croatia. Before its opening, all traffic between Split and Zagreb went along the national road.

Today, that road is almost a ghost road, and there is very little traffic. 

Which makes it a perfect option during peak season. Here was my experience, when I rediscovered it in mid-July a couple of years ago

The drive, without breaks, is probably about 6 hours in total, which is basically quicker than you are likely to manage on the motorway in peak season. 

What tourist attractions are there between Zagreb and Split? 

zagreb to split knin

While Plitvice Lakes is the biggest tourism draw, there are plenty of other sights (and views!) to take in. Among them is Knin Fortress, which is the second largest in all Europe. Nature lovers will wonder at the beauty of Lake Peruča, and the historic town of Sinj lies 30 minutes from Split. Sinj is the home of the last knights’ tournament in Europe. The recently-opened Sinj Alka Museum is well worth a diversion.

In addition to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, the A1 motorway passes quite close (see the map) to Krka National Park (read our article on Krka), Paklenica National Park and Sjeverni Velebit National Park. If you’re into nature, there are many detours you could take and enjoy between Zagreb and Split.

And if you are a Game of Thrones fan… Meereen lies just outside Split, where the original magnificent Klis Fortress proudly stands as the gateway to Dalmatia. You can visit Klis even if you are taking the motorway. It is just 10 minutes out of Split.  

Car rental options from Zagreb to Split

There are many car rental options in Croatia, and a one-way rental from Zagreb to Split is a popular way to make the journey. Simply contact any and ask for a quote. 

Car sharing options between Zagreb and Split

zagreb to split ride share

An increasingly popular way to travel between Zagreb and Split, especially for students, is by car share. Services such as BlaBlaCar work in Croatia, but you can also find dedicated Facebook pages and websites (usually in Croatian only), where drivers and passengers alike post their travel plans and try and connect.  Keep in mind that in 2021, obviously, the epidemiological measures are enforced in those as well.

Looking to get the best out of your time in Zagreb and Split now that you know how to get there? Follow our dedicated portals, Total Split and Total Zagreb


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