There are no non-stop flights from Istria to Zagreb, but there are about 10 buses per day from Rovinj to Zagreb, ranging in length from 3.5 hours to 7 hours, depending on routing and number of stops, and around $30. They are run by 5 or 6 different bus companies, and the only website I found with the all of the option’s was the Zagreb bus station site. Tickets on the shorter routes weren’t available online. Since I had no idea if they would sell out due to high season, I had picked up my bus ticket for one of the shorter trips at the bus station the morning before, as it was on the way from the hotel to the old town, about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. My concerns about Croatian bus travel were misplaced, though, and it was a pretty easy experience.
My bus was scheduled for 1:45pm, and I got to the station – really just an overhang with a ticket office, minimart, and lottery office – about 30 minutes before. About twenty minutes before our scheduled departure, the bus driver sold tickets for luggage – an extra 9 kuna ($1.50) per piece held in the hold.
The bus was pretty new, though it lacked any particular amenities. Given that it was about a quarter full, it wasn’t really a problem. The trip had two legs, one from Rovinj to Pazin, and one from Pazin to Zagreb. At first I thought the empty bus would pick up more passengers in Pazin, but actually we dropped off one and picked up none. I should have realized a bus from the beach to the city on a Friday afternoon isn’t likely to be super crowded. It seemed that most people on the bus were Croatian, and very few were tourists.
As we neared Rijeka, which is kind of the armpit of Croatia on a map, located where the Istrian peninsula meets the Croatian mainland, the ride got really pretty – riding along the coastline. In Rijeka, we got on the modern Rijeka-Zagreb highway, which was boring but smooth sailing.
About two-thirds of the way, we pulled off at a rest stop. The driver announced the length of the stop in Croatian, which didn’t do me very much good. But I figured if I was back at the bus in 10 minutes or less, I would be fine. The rest stop was spotless, and, unlike in Austria, the bathrooms were free. I grabbed a snack, and made it back to the bus with plenty of time. From there it was a relatively uneventful drive to the Zagreb Central Bus Terminal. Although there was no traffic, we still didn’t get into Zagreb until almost an hour after our scheduled arrival — not crazy, though. At the bus station, I bought a tram ticket at a newspaper stand before heading to my hotel, the Westin.