5 Things You Should Know Before You Get Sick in Croatia

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April 14, 2018 – Croatian doctors are quite caring, quite professional and excellent at their jobs… but we all know our health system comes with a couple of quirks. Some well-meaning advice brought to you by Josip Šore, a young doctor in making

While crawling through TCN and imagining your ideal Croatian holiday – acting like noble(wo)men on Game of Thrones locations, exploring the wilderness of traditional Dalmatian kitchen, or playing briškula with some aliens in the Pag Triangle – it is always wise to plan for the worst. What if you or your child get sick?

It seems that each and every health system has its own quirks and tricks. Knowing them before things get real can really help navigating the complex labyrinths of staying alive when travelling.

Here’s five facts to keep in mind when visiting Our Beautiful Homeland:

1. The Doctors are deities on Earth.

While Croatian people are known for their nominally Catholic majority, many would agree that in real-life the true deity is the doctor. Whether it be the village GP or the chief of cardiology, the doctor expects to be treated with respect and sometimes, awe. The most evident example of this lies in the rural areas where no person enjoys greater respect than the local doctor. Even the priest respects him. We recommend learning the phrase “Gospodin Doktor” (The Lord Doctor).

2. Travel insurance is a must.

While Croatia is known for its free health care, driven to the edge of the abyss for its generosity and complete lack of critical thinking when it comes to economics, unfortunately it’s like that only for the citizens. On numerous occasions have my eyes witnessed some poor tourist who stepped on a sea urchin, has endured the painful ordeal of needle extraction, only to be granted not the relief of a pain-free world, but the bill for the full services of the aforementioned Gospodin Doktor. It’s debatable whether the poor guy’s eyes were wider when he made contact with the urchin, or with the bill.


3. The ER is a fun place.

One of the worst things about Croatian health care is that there’s no consequence for coming to the ER for no reason, so it often turns into a sanctuary for all the people who are simply in need of company. My favourite – a nice lady who couldn’t decide whether this whole independence thing was worth it since it was much better under Tito anyway, and her knee pain started back in the days when Tito died. While it’s true that this is kind of sad, maybe the ER shouldn’t be the right place to seek company or help for the pain that started in 1980.

So, when in the ER, get ready for some long waiting times… except if you’re dying. I heard time passes pretty quickly in that case.


4. MC Hammer is a wise man.

Unfortunately, our history made us very isolated from the most of the western civilization, up until the nineties when Croatia became independent. One of the many consequences of such isolation is an almost complete lack of English knowledge in senior generations.

The point is, most doctors won’t exactly be able to understand you when you start speaking. Now, it’s entirely up to you to decide which risk is greater – being ill, or trying to get the right kind of help by impersonating MC Hammer at the doctor’s.

5. The doctor still wears white.

It must be said – those four points are true… in most cases. But they are also cynical exaggerations of the truth for the added comical value. As a young doctor-to-be, I can guarantee you that Croatian doctors are quite caring, quite professional and excellent at their jobs. After all, they’re not becoming one of Croatia’s top export products for no reason!


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