How to be a licensed tour guide in Croatia and open a tourist agency business

Tour guide in Croatia
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LAST UPDATED: 12/5/2021

Not just anybody can be a tour guide in Croatia. There are specific rules that govern tour guides and tourist agency businesses. There are also special licenses that are needed, depending on where you plan to take tourists. These requirements are in place no matter if you tour guide for 1 month a year, or all year long.

In this post, we will cover:

Who is considered a tour guide (turistički vodič) in Croatia

A tour guide (called “turistički vodič” in Croatia) is defined in the law Zakon o pružanju usluga u turizmu (Law on provisioning services in tourism).

The law states:

Turistički vodič je osoba koja pruža turistima usluge pokazivanja i stručnog tumačenja:

  • Prirodnih ljepota i vrijednosti
  • Kulturno-povijesnih spomenika
  • Umjetničkih djela
  • Etnografskih i drugih znamenitosti
  • Povijesnih događaja, ličnosti, legendi o tim događajima i ličnostima
  • Gospodarskih i političkih tijekova i zbivanja.

Which translates too…

A tourist guide is a person who provides tourists with services of showing and professional interpretation of:

  • Natural beauties and values
  • Cultural and historical monuments
  • Art works
  • Ethnographic and other sights
  • Historical events, figures, and legends about them
  • Economic and political happenings

Not everyone who offers professional guide services to tourists is considered to be a tour guide, under the law. If you are considering becoming a tour guide or opening a tourist agency, it is important to know the distinction.

The following types of professional guidance are not considered to be “tourist guides” under the law:

  • Stručno vođenje u muzeju (Professional guidance in museums)
  • Stručno vođenje u galeriji (Professional guidance in galleries)
  • Stručno vođenje na zaštićenim područjima (Professional staff in protected areas)
  • Stručno vođenje na arheološkom lokalitetu i slično (Professional guidance at the archaeological sites and similar)
  • Gorski i planinski vodič (Mountain guide)
  • Speleološki vodič (Speleological guide)
  • Voditelj u ronilačkom turizmu (Guide in diving tourism)
  • Vodič u lovu i ribolovu (Guide in hunting and fishing)
  • Nastavno osoblje obrazovnih ustanova kada izvodi izvanškolsku ili terensku nastavu (Teaching staff of educational institutions when conducting extracurricular or terrain teaching)

If you want to guide a food tour (gurmanska tura), it is enough that you have a title of a tour leader (voditelj putovanja). Tour leader is a person who performs operational and technical tasks in guiding and monitoring tourists during the trip.

To become a tour leader, you don’t have to take a course. You must be a Croatian citizen or citizen of EU/EEA member state with finished high school. If you are offering a food tour within a regular tourist tour, then you must have a tour guide license.

Who can offer tour guide services in Croatia

If you want to offer tour guide services in Croatia, you must have a licenca za turističkog vodiča (tour guide license).

Tour guide services in Croatia can only be offered by those who hold a tour guide license AND are:

  • Croatian nationals
  • Nationals of EEA and Swiss confederation
  • Third-country nationals with prebivalište in Croatia
  • Third-country nationals who live in other countries with which Croatia has an agreement

Tour guides from abroad

Foreign tour guides who do not live in Croatia must obtain approval for tour guide services in Croatia from the Ministry of Tourism. For approval to be granted, the person must have a tour guide license that is valid for use within the territory of the EU. This excludes tours in Croatian protected areas.

Some foreign countries and tourist agencies have agreements in place with the Republic of Croatia that allows their tour guides to operate in Croatia under certain conditions. For example, China has defined specific Chinese agencies that are allowed to guide tourists within Croatia.

The Law states:

Usluge turističkog vodiča može pružati državljanin Republike Hrvatske, državljanin druge države ugovornice Ugovora o Europskom gospodarskom prostoru i Švicarske Konfederacije koji ispunjava uvjete za turističkog vodiča propisane ovim Zakonom.

Iznimno od stavka 2. ovoga članka, usluge turističkog vodiča može pružati i državljanin države koja nije država ugovornica Ugovora o Europskom gospodarskom prostoru i Švicarske Konfederacije koji ima prijavljeno prebivalište u Republici Hrvatskoj i ispunjava uvjete za turističkog vodiča propisane ovim Zakonom.

Turistički vodič državljanin druge države ugovornice Ugovora o Europskom gospodarskom prostoru i Švicarske Konfederacije može privremeno i povremeno pružati usluge turističkog vodiča na području Republike Hrvatske sukladno posebnom propisu kojim se uređuju uvjeti za priznavanje inozemnih stručnih kvalifikacija za pružanje usluga turističkih vodiča, osim na ili u zaštićenim cjelinama (lokalitetima).

Which translates to…

Tourist guide services can be offered by a citizen of the Republic of Croatia, and a citizen of the member state of the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation who meets the requirements for a tourist guide defined by this Act.

As an exception, tourist guide services can be offered by a citizen of a state that is not a member of the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation who has registered prebivalište (residence) in the Republic of Croatia and meets the requirements for a tourist guide defined by this Act.

A tourist guide who is a citizen of a member state of the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation can temporarily and occasionally provide tourist guide services in the Republic of Croatia according to special regulations that define the validity of foreign professional qualifications for offering tourist guide services in Croatia, except in protected areas.

How to get a tour guide license

There are several steps someone must take to get a tour guide license within Croatia including:

  1. Taking a course and passing an exam
  2. Getting confirmation of course completion and requesting an official decision
  3. Getting your tourist guide card

Taking the course and passing the exam

To become a licensed tour guide in Croatia, you must take a course and test. People who finished Croatian high school with a program of hotelijersko-turistički tehničar (hotel and tourist technician) are exempt from taking the tour guide course and test.

You can enroll in a tour guide course at one of the Croatian universities or institutions that offer this program.

The Law says…

Članak 71.
(1) Stručni ispit za turističkog vodiča polaže se pred ispitnom komisijom pri odgovarajućem visokom učilištu koju rješenjem imenuje ministar, uz prethodno mišljenje ministra nadležnog za obrazovanje.

(2) Odgovarajuća visoka učilišta iz stavka 1. ovoga članka su ona koja izvode najmanje stručni ili sveučilišni studij na preddiplomskoj razini u području turizma ili imaju smjer ili nastavne predmete iz područja turizma.

(6) Ministar pravilnikom, uz prethodno mišljenje ministra nadležnog za obrazovanje, propisuje ispitni program stručnog ispita za turističkog vodiča, broj nastavnih sati, sastav ispitne komisije, uvjete koje mora ispunjavati nastavno osoblje te način polaganja ispita.

Which translates as:

(1) The professional tour guide exam shall be taken in front of the examination commission at the appropriate higher education institution defined by the decision of the Minister, with the prior opinion of the Minister responsible for education.

2) The appropriate higher education institutions from paragraph 1 of this Article are those that conduct at least professional or university study at the undergraduate level in the field of tourism or have a specialization or classes from the field of tourism.

(6) The Minister, with the prior opinion of the Minister responsible for education, prescribes the examination program of the professional tour guide exam, the number of teaching hours, the composition of the examination commission, conditions that teaching staff must met and the method of taking the exam.

Here are a few schools that offer this course:

You can find all the available courses in your city by googling “tečaj za turističkog vodiča” + “your city”.

There are certain requirements a person must meet to enroll in this course.

The requirements are:

  • Ability to work
  • Finished high school
  • Active knowledge of at least one foreign language

Tour guide courses usually consist of lectures, seminars, practical classes (tours), and exams that take several months to complete. The final step of the course is taking the tour guide professional exam, which is performed in front of the professional commission. Once you pass this exam, you will receive your tour guide license.

Tour guide courses contain 2 parts:

  1. Opći dio stručnog ispita (general part of professional exam) – After passing this part of the exam, tour guides can offer their services anywhere on Croatian territory, except in protected localities.
  2. Posebni dio stručnog ispita (special part of professional exam) – After passing this part of the exam, tour guides can offer their services everywhere in Croatia, including protected localities.

View the list of protected localities in Croatia ordered by Croatian counties here. Croatian national parks and Croatian parks of nature are included in this list.

Exam prices depend on the university or institution. The approximate cost of the tour guide exam is 4.000 kuna. The approximate cost of the special part to guide in protected localities is 1.600 kuna. If you don’t pass the exam the first time, every next exam will cost you 400-800 kuna.

Confirmation of course completion and requesting your Rješenje (decision)

Once you pass the exam, you will receive Uvjerenje (confirmation) from the university or institution. The next step is to request your Rješenje o odobrenju za pružanje usluga turističkog vodiča (Decision on approval for provisioning tourist guide services).

The Competent offices are state administration offices in Croatian counties and the administrative body of the City of Zagreb that are in charge of tourism. In Zagreb, this office is called “Odjel za gospodarske djelatnosti i rad” – visit it here.

Names of the competent offices vary depending on the county/city. It is best to google Ured za turizam + name of the county/city. Our recommendation is to call them before going there to check if it is the correct office for your needs.

Requirements for getting this Rješenje are:

  • Proof of completed high school program
  • Completed form – Download an example here, but note that each county has their own unique form
  • Proof of passed tour guide exam
  • B2 certificate in any foreign language in which you plan to guide tours (other than Croatian)
  • Sufficient knowledge of Croatian language

After the Rješenje is issued, the competent offices will contact Agencija za komercijalnu djelatnost – AKD (Agency for Commercial Activities) on your behalf. AKD will make the iskaznica turističkog vodiča (a tourist guide card) for you to pick up.

Iskaznica turističkog vodiča is visible proof that you are a tour guide. During tours, tour guides must wear iskaznica on a visible place such as on the ribbon around the neck or attached on clothes. Iskaznica is valid permanently until it is damaged or lost. In these cases, it is re-issued.

Rješenje will cost you 70 kuna. Iskaznica turističkog vodiča will cost you 45 kuna.

Opening a tourist agency

If you decide to open your own tourist agency, you will be able to:

  • Organize and sell tourist services
  • Mediate between companies and clients
  • Offer services related to the travel and stay of tourists

A licensed tourist agency can operate within the following branches:

  • Seoski turizam (rural tourism)
  • Aktivni i pustolovni turizam (active and adventure tourism)
  • Lovni turizam (hunting tourism)
  • Ribolovni turizam (fishing tourism)
  • Cikloturizam (cyclotourism)
  • Nautički turizam (nautical tourism)
  • Kongresni turizam (congress tourism – for meetings and seminars)
  • Zdravstveni turizam (health tourism)
  • Iznajmljivanje vozila (car rentals)
  • Turističko ronjenje (tourist diving)

Tourist agencies are allowed to:

  • Operate in a physical office
  • Operate online

To open a tourist agency, you must employ a business manager called “voditelj poslova” who passed a professional business manager exam.

The Law says:

Članak 16.

Turistička agencija mora imati najmanje jednog zaposlenog voditelja poslova, u punom radnom vremenu, neovisno o broju poslovnica odnosno poslovnih prostora.

Which translates as:

The travel agency must have at least one full-time manager, regardless of the number of branches or business premises.

Before opening a tourist agency, check out the types of businesses in Croatia to see which is the best match for you.

When opening your tour agency, you can choose one of the following types of business structures:

  • Obrt (a trade business)
  • Trgovačko društvo (Limited liability company)

You can see the differences between these types of businesses here.

Aktivni i pustolovni turizam (Active and adventure tourism)

To offer services from the branch of active and adventure tourism, it is necessary to possess certain certificates.

To see the list of appropriate certificates and special conditions required to perform certain activities of active and adventure tourism, click here. This list includes both Croatian and foreign certificates that are sufficient to perform active and adventure tourism activities.

Aktivni i pustolovni turizam (active and adventure tourism) includes these activities:

  • Kanuing (canoeing)
  • Špiljarenje (caving)
  • Slobodno penjanje – sportsko penjanje, višedužinci, deep water solo (free climbing – sports climbing, long distance, deep water solo)
  • Biciklizam (cycling)
  • Planinarenje (hiking – walking, hiking, trekking, ferrata)
  • Jahanje (riding)
  • Kajak po rijekama (river kayaking)
  • Kajak po moru (sea kayaking)
  • Veslanje na dasci (stand up paddling)
  • Rafting and INLineRaft
  • Kanjoning (canyoning)
  • Zipline
  • Adrenalinski parkovi (adrenaline parks)
  • Padobransko jedrenje and parajedriličarstvo (paragliding and parasailing)
  • Kitesurfing and kiteboarding
  • Skakanje s užetom (bungee jumping)
  • Services on motor vehicles with a guide – buggy, quad, jeep riding

More information for foreign guides

We already mentioned that foreign tour guides can operate in Croatia. However, there are some requirements that they must meet depending on their situation.

Businesses registered in EU/EEA or Swiss confederation

Tour guides that have a registered business in the EEA member states or Swiss confederation can provide occasional and temporary tour services in Croatia. The good news is that they don’t have to register their business in Croatia.

Their obligations are:

  • To send the announcement about provisioning tour guide services to the Ministry of Tourism via this email
  • To send a report to the Ministry of Tourism that includes information on the frequency and the number of days that they offered this service in Croatia in the previous year (if applicable) via this email
  • To complete the course and pass the professional exam for protected localities if they want to lead tours at protected localities – They must take lessons and the exam under the same conditions as Croatian nationals.

More information about this is available here.

Businesses registered in EU/EEA or Swiss confederation that offer active and adventure tourism

Tour guides that have a registered business from the domain of active and adventure tourism in the EEA member states or Swiss confederation can provide occasional and temporary tour services in Croatia. They don’t have to register their business in Croatia.

Their obligation is to send the announcement about provisioning tour guide services via this form.

Other details about special conditions are available here.

Tour guides that are nationals of EU/EEA or Swiss confederation

Tour guides who acquired their guide qualifications in or outside the EEA member states or the EEA member states must submit the request for offering tour guide service in Croatia.

This includes:

  • Submitting the form before offering the service in Croatia to the Ministry of Tourism
  • Including personal data to the request
  • Submitting the form for each additional year

Other details are available here.

Tour guide managers that are nationals of EU/EEA or Swiss confederation

Tour guide managers, i.e. managers of tourist agencies who acquired their guide qualifications in or outside the EEA member states or the EEA member states must submit the request for offering tour guide service in Croatia.

This implies:

  • Submitting the form before offering the service in Croatia to the Ministry of Tourism
  • Including personal data to the request
  • Submitting the form for each additional year

More information is available here.

How to request permission to be a foreign tour guide in Croatia

If you have a tourist guide license that was issued from a foreign country and you wish to provide tourist guide services in Croatia, you must first request permission from the Ministry of Tourism. This means that all foreign tour guides who got their tour guide qualifications outside of Croatia must ask for this permission. This request involves submitting certain information.

When applying for the first time, you must enclose this documentation:

  • Completed form – Download it here
  • Confirmation that the guide has a business outside Croatia, confirmation of their profession, and confirmation that there is no work ban*
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Proof of professional qualifications
  • If this profession isn’t regulated in the foreign state, provide proof that the guide has performed the profession for at least 1 year during the last 10 years

*Work Ban – This requirement means that you don’t have any bans or restrictions from the police regarding your business and work, that the business works according to the law, and that business isn’t closed.

Documents can be either originals or copies, but must be translated to Croatian and notarized. Proof of citizenship doesn’t have to be translated – a copy is enough.

Each subsequent application only needs to include a statement on the frequency and number of days of provisioning tourist services in the Republic of Croatia in the previous year.

Documentation can be delivered by:

  • Email to [email protected]
  • In person at Ministarstvo turizma, Prisavlje 14, 10 000 Zagreb

More information is available here.

Click here to see the complete Pravilnik o priznavanju inozemnih stručnih kvalifikacija turističkog vodiča i voditelja poslova turističke agencije (Rulebook on the recognition of foreign professional qualifications of a tourist guide and manager of a travel agency).

What do you think about this guide? Let us know in the comments.

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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2 thoughts on “How to be a licensed tour guide in Croatia and open a tourist agency business

  1. Vercoustre Ines
    September 24, 2021 @ 10:45 am

    Dear,

    Thank you for this article. You said that there is the possibility to have the title of tour leader (voditelj putovanja), but you do not explain how we can obtain the title. Do you know how ?
    Also you write ” To open a tourist agency, you must employ a business manager called “voditelj poslova” who passed a professional business manager exam. ”

    But, if you are alone creating the company and working for the company you don’t have to employ someone ?

    I explain, I am half french/half croatian and I am planning to open my travel agency based in Zagreb for French tourist. Also, I want to open via obrt.

    Thank you in advance for your very useful website.

    {reply}

    • Marija Tkalec
      October 14, 2021 @ 4:13 pm

      Hi Ines,

      Thanks for your question. To become voditelj putovanja, you have to take a seminar. If you don’t plan to hire more people, you have to take the role of voditelj poslovanja in your agency. If you need more information or professional help, you can set up a consultation session with us here: https://www.expatincroatia.com/sara/

      Warm regards,
      Marija

      {reply}

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