What do Croatian laws say about drinking alcohol in public? Will you be fined if you drink outside in Croatia? Are there any exceptions?
- Drinking alcohol outside of restaurants and bars is NOT ALLOWED in most, if not all, Croatian cities.
- However, the way local authorities across Croatia sanction drinking in public may differ. The fines range from issuing a warning, over 30€ to as much as 700€.
- Some public areas have traditionally been associated with drinking alcohol, so the authorities might even turn the blind eye on that practice under certain circumstances.
What does this mean? What will happen if I’m caught with a bottle of beer in my hand in Split or in Dubrovnik? Let’s find out!
What Does The Croatian Law Say About Drinking In Public
Croatian Law rather ambiguously prohibits drinking alcohol in public. It can be interpreted as sanctioning ongoing practice of binge drinking (or, in Croatian, “odavanje pijančevanju”) outside of designated areas (restaurants, bars, pubs).
So, who determines if the practice is ongoing or incidental? Do you need to be caught on a number of occasions before being fined? And what if you’re drinking, but you are not drunk (yet)?
Apparently, this vague definition of drinking in public has not been effective enough.
Consequently, LOCAL AUTHORITIES have regulated drinking in public for their respective communities.
One by one, Croatian cities have made more precise decisions concerning drinking outside of bars. They have introduced fines and strict regulations, These are implemented by means of municipal services monitoring officers or wardens (“komunalni redar”), not the police.
As a result, every city in Croatia has its own approach to drinking in public.
Most cities clearly indicate what is their policy on certain activities, including drinking in public.
Pay attention to information displays and notice boards.
BTW, drinking in public places is usually restricted and fined.
So, if you ignore these signs, the monitoring warden (komunalni redar) may approach you.
The Way Local Authorities Across Croatia Sanction Drinking In Public May Differ…
…and it may change over time and be dependent on quirkiness of respective civil servants or the absence thereof…
The following examples are in no way supposed to encourage you to drink in public or engage in any illegal activity. Always act in a mature and responsible way. Better safe than sorry.
Drinking In Public In Labin, Istria
If you drink beer in front of the store where you bought it (a very common practice in rural parts of Croatia, the popular “zidić” (little wall)), it will cost you 505 kunas (70€), of which 5 kunas for the beer, and 500 kunas (70€) fine in accordance with the amendment to the Decision on Municipal Order of the City of Labin adopted at the City Council of Labin on July 14.
The penalty applies to all alcoholic beverages consumed within 50 meters from the store, as well as on public areas, except when these areas are used with the approval of the competent authority in accordance with the act governing the provision of public space for use. Compliance with this provision will be monitored by the municipal warden.
“The purpose of banning the consumption of alcoholic beverages in public areas is to reduce material damage as a result of vandalism of alcoholic citizens aimed at destroying and damaging city property and public areas in general, as well as a positive impact on noise, ie disturbing public order and peace at these gatherings” , as was stated in the explanation.
Drinking In Public In Hvar
For two years now, Hvar has been known for draconian penalties for tourists walking without a shirt or getting drunk, and they were recently supplemented by a ban on sleeping on the streets.
With the message to tourists that it is better to pay for accommodation than a fine of 400 euros for sleeping outside, new signs have sprung up in Hvar. The fine for drinking alcohol in a public place is 700 euros, walking in a bathing suit or panties 600, and without a T-shirt in shorts 500 euros.
But the secret of these boards is that they are just a trick. Neither the municipal wardens nor the police actually charge these amounts, nor can they charge them. Because they have no basis either in law or city decisions.
In the two years since the warnings were posted, inappropriate behaviour has decreased by 80 percent. However, Hvar has no basis for such fines, so when they are issued, they are mostly symbolic, around 200 kuna (30€).
Drinking In Public In Dubrovnik
“So far (2018)(and this has probably changed in the meantime), our communal wardens have not collected any fines because they always go to the extent of trying to warn first,” says Marijana Aksić, spokeswoman for the City of Dubrovnik.
However, in 2020, the Dubrovnik City authorities decided to fine each person drinking alcohol in public with 1,000 kunas (130 euros).
Drinking In Public In Split
“Perpetrators found in a public area with an alcoholic beverage will be fined 200 to 800 kunas . Communal wardens will be authorised to collect a mandatory fine of half of that amount, and those who refuse to pay it will be issued a mandatory misdemeanour order with the instruction that they can pay it 8 days from the commission.
In 2019, the city of Split introduced a campaign to inform tourists about inappropriate behaviour.
Drinking in public is fined from 200 to 800 kunas.
Interestingly, EXCESSIVE LUGGAGE PULLING is listed among the illegal activities, the same as urinating and camping on the main square. Fortunately, there is no fine prescribed for the transgressors.
What About The Exceptions?
You cannot imagine playing boules, a beloved sport in Dalmatia, without beer. And it’s not just the spectators who drink. PLAYERS drink as well! It’s viewed as essential to “Mediterranean lifestyle and spirit” and “traditional”.
In fact, at the photo above, one of the most popular beers is being advertised.
Generally speaking, drinking alcohol at boules might be one of the exceptions to the ban.
Other exceptions might (I use might because things can change over night) be drinking at certain “traditionally accepted” locations, like the Matejuška harbour area or the park at Obala Ante Trumbića in Split.
Anyway, just use your common sense and observe the locals. They may even be delighted to have you join them in their “tradition”!
But what is the legal age to drink in Croatia? Is Croatia strict at drinking age? What can help you find a better way of dealing with your emotions than drinking? You can find useful tips in this article I wrote.