Indeed, visiting Croatia doesn’t need to be expensive, and below our Budget Tips for Travel Croatia may be likely to help you plan better your holidays in Croatia. These Travel Croatia budget tips will come handy whether you travel on a tight budget, or planning to treat yourself to a luxury stay in Croatia.
1. How to save on accommodation in Croatia
We don’t have yet many international hotel chains in Croatia. In Zagreb you’ll find Sheraton, Double Tree, Westin, and Four Points; in Dubrovnik you have Hilton and Radisson Blue; in Split Radisson Blue, and Le Meridien; and in Savudrija there is the Kemponski hotel. That’s it, folks! For frequent teavelers this means little or no savings on member points.
Instead, in each Croatian destination you’ll have one or two major Croatian hotel chains you’ve never heard about, and couple of small family-run hotels.
Our tips on finding the best hotel deals:
- Go on hotel booking site, and start your search.
- Majority of hotels along the coast offer Early Booking Discount. This discount applies on bookings made up until the end of March (but valid for the entire year).
- Look for flexible cancellation policy. The most common flexible cancellation policy allows you to cancel your booking without a penalty up to 48 hours prior to arrival.
- Look for last minute deals. Hotel prices are dynamic; this means that they change with a demand. While in an ideal world this would mean that the prices increase as stay period approaches, unfortunazely it isn’t always the case. You can end up with a much more expensive room than the hotel sells it in the last minute deals. This is where flexible cancellation policy comes in handy.
- Don’t be afraid to book your stay directly with the hotel, either through its website, or its call center. You can always ask for a small discount, or special offer, or even find the deals that you normally won’t find elsewhere.
In short, our first travel Croatia budget tip is to book early, with flexible cancellation policy, and to keep an eye on prices of your booked accommodation.
Private accommodations are great alternatives to hotels. Croatians have been renting out apartments to tourists forever. The apartments to rent are inspected and categorized by a state agency, and the requirements are strict. Have no worries to book them. The apartment prices are mostly stated per apartment, regardless of the number of people staying. This can save you a lot of money (e.g. for four people, it’s way cheaper to rent two-bedroom apartment than two hotel rooms).
Our budget tips on booking a vacation rental:
- Go on a websites specialized in vacation rentals. The most popular websites for vacation rentals in Croatia are Booking.com, AirBnB, and Homeaway. We like Homeaway because it’s the only one of three offering a direct contact with a property owner.
- Choose an apartment in the vicinity of popular tourist resorts, but not directly in the center or by the sea. You can find much cheaper and better equipped apartments, as owners try to compensate the distance from the town with extra services and better prices.
- Look for the apartments that offer free private parking place. Parking fees can really increase a cost of your vacation rental, especially when staying in popular towns like Dubrovnik, Porec, or Rovinj.
- Beware of hidden costs, like tourist tax, and a cleaning fee. Tourist tax in Croatia amounts to about 1€ per day per person, while cleaning fee is anywhere around 25-30€ per stay. However, many apartments have these costs already calculated in a final price.
Campsites are extremely popular in Croatia, and they can be a great option for your holidays in Croatia. They are well equipped, real holiday parks with lots of facilities, services, and activities.
Campsites along the coast are located by the sea and come with their own beach. A pitch for two persons, tent or camper van, equipped with electricity and water will cost you around 35 to 50 euros in high season. In low season it goes as low as 15 euros.
Campsites in Croatia don’t only offer places where you can pitch your own tent, or park a camping van. Instead, you can also rent mobile homes, permanent fully-equipped tents, caravans, and glamping units. They are a good alternative to vacation rentals, although they are generally more expensive than vacation rentals.
Our budget tips on staying at a campsite in Croatia:
- Some campsites charge a one-off non-deductible booking fee (around 30 €) when booking your place in advance. Others charge an advanced payment (around 100 €), non-refundable in case you cancel your booking. So unless you really want a particular pitch on the ground, don’t book a campsite in advance. Anybody who ever camped in Croatia knows that there is always a free place in the campsite, even in a high season, even when reception tells you different. Just drive around and look for that little piece of land you’ll call home for a couple of days.
- Pitch prices vary according to the distance from the sea, and on-site services. The closer to the sea the pitch is, and more services it has, the more expensive it gets.
- The cheapest places in campsites in Croatia are called kamp mjesta (often translated into English as camping plots). Don’t get scared to stay at one of those places. They simply mean that their limits are not clearly designated with greenery of any other type of fence between the pitches. They come with an electricity connection, but lack water connection. However, some of them can be very close to the sea, have great shade, and just feel like top spots for low price.
- When calculating a total costs of staying in any campsite in Croatia, bear in mind that each service is calculated separately. A total cost is a sum of a price of a pitch, a price of a person, etc.
Hostels in Croatia are popular in larger towns, like Zagreb, Split, or Dubrovnik; while in small coastal towns you’ll have much more vacation rentals to choose from, as well as private rooms. Hostels can be a cheap option to stay in Croatia if you travel solo, or if you are a group of friends.
Our budget tips for staying in hostels in Croatia
- Prices of a hostel are based on a price per bed. While this can be really cheap if you travel solo, the costs can quickly skyrocket if you travel as a family. Double check if this is really your cheapest option of accommodation in Croatia.
- Book a hostel ahead of time, especially for a summer season. Just like hotels do, many hostels also increase the price as the season approaches.
- Use sites like Hostelworld, or HostelBookers to compare prices, narrow your search, and book a hostel.
- Check if there are any hidden costs. Some hostels can charge separately for bed sheets, or towels. Make sure you’ve got them included in a price of your stay.
- While many hostels have private rooms with en-suite bathrooms, they also become expensive as the price adds very quickly when you
2. Know when to go
Croatia, when it comes to tourism, has a very seasonal demand. The main season runs from the second week of July until the last week of August. At this time of the year, prices are at their highest levels.
If you are flexible with your travel dates, try to visit Croatia before or after the main season. Prices of accommodation, tours, and activities drop dramatically.
Here are few examples how much you can save in June compared with August
- A double room with a breakfast in a 4-star hotel in Rovinj will cost you 115€ the first week of June, while the first week of August, for the same room, you’ll pay 200€.
- In August, to rent an economy class car will cost you 90€ a day, the same car in September will cost you 30€ a day.
- An entrance fee for the Plitvice Lakes Nation Park costs 110 kn per person in June, but 180 kn per person in July or August.
3. How long you stay in a particular place matters
Trying to squeeze in as many places as possible is not always the smartest thing to do budget wise. Many hotels, and private apartments offer a long stay discounts (long stay is usually considered any stay longer than 3 nights in the shoulder seasons, or stays longer than 5 nights in high season).
A long stays discount can save you up to 30% off an accommodation price. If you’d like to visit lots of sites during your travel to Croatia, consider choosing a centrally located place, and then do the daily excursions.
If you do them on your own, and using a public transport, you’ll be able to save considerable amount of money. For example, if you stay at the outskirt of Split, you can visit Split, Omis, Trogir, islands Brac and Hvar, and Zadaron a day using a public transport.
4. Choose the right destination
Croatia is small, and most of the regions have very good bus network. Stay out of the most popular (often overcrowded, and not always the best) destinations.
Choosing a smaller village, at the outskirts of a famed place, can help you save lots of money. Dubrovnik, for instance, is crazily expensive, way overcrowded, and lacks parking spaces (if you travel by car, this can be a big issue). Instead to stay in Dubrovnik, check out Dubrovnik Riviera, or Konavle region. Small village of Zaton, and Cavtat can be great alternatives to Dubrovnik. And you can easily visit Dubrovnik daily using a local bus.
The same goes for any popular destination in Croatia. Instead in Split, stay in Stobrec, or in Omis. Save on your trip to Istria, by staying in Barbići instead of Porec, etc.
5. Eating out
We all like to eat out, and taste a local food, when we visit a new place. However, this can be expensive, especially if you travel as a family with kids.We don’t say you should completely skip the experience of eating out at the restaurants in Croatia. We just say, you can follow our simple travel Croatia budget tips to avoid an unnecessary costs.
First of all, avoid touristy restaurants at the prominent locations that most of the time serve tourist menus with little value for your money. You’ll spend money, and you won’t have an exceptional experience you want to reminisce about when you come back home. But you are a savvy traveler, so you’ve probably already known this travel Croatia budget tip. Just reminding you! However, many restaurants, including the mediocre ones, offer lunch menus at the fixed price. Restaurants are often less busy during the lunch time (people are at the beach, or it’s too hot to eat anyway), and they run specials.
Another suggestion is to eat where locals eat. Many restaurants offer “marenda” or “gablec”. These are special meals prepared for local businessmen and workers for their lunch breaks. Those meals are usually offered from 11 am to 3 pm, and the full meal (main course, side, salad, and sometimes even a dessert) cost around 5 euros. Don’t expect haute cuisine, just a simple, hearty meal that will keep you full for a good part of the day.
Many restaurants in Croatia (in Istria particularly) offer a dessert or a local liqueur on the house at the end of the meal. Dessert usually includes a traditional dry cakes, like fritule, krostule, or apple, cheese or walnuts filled pastry. The quantities are not large, but hey, if you’ve already had a great meal, just a little sweet bite at the end that comes free of charge, can save you on dessert. The same goes with a local schnapps. Just skip the last drink, and ask the waiter for your complimentary liqueur. They usually have a variety of schnapps on offer: honey, walnuts, herb, cherries are the most common.
If you travel with children, you might consider staying at the hotel that offers either a half-board or a full-board meal plan. Very few hotels in Croatia are all-inclusive. Majority of hotels in Croatia have a half-board as their basic service. And the half-board will usually cost just few euros per day more than a simple bed & breakfast. Do your research, and compare. Look for the cheap half-board options. Some hotels build their reputation around an excellent buffets they offer, in particular Valamar Hotels & Resorts.
Excellent way to save on food when in Croatia is to rent a private apartmentwith a fully-equipped kitchen. This way, not only that you save on accommodation, but you also can cook your own meals, and get your groceries at the local market, and supermarkets. I personally, when traveling, love to try local restaurants, and eat out. But after few days in a row of eating at the restaurants, my stomach doesn’t feel right, and I just long for preparing my own food. And besides, it gives me a feeling of being local.
6. Save on transportation costs
Transportation cost is a large part of any trip. Mode of transport rarely add up to the experience of the trip, it’s mostly necessity to get you from point A to point B. If you can save on transportation cost, you can have more money to spend on experiencing the actual destination you visit.
If you plan on traveling to Croatia by plane, try to book your flight with a low cost carrier as early as possible. The busiest Croatian airports when it comes to low cost carriers are Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. All the big companies, like RyanAir, EasyJet, or Germanwings, fly into Croatia seasonally from April to October.
If you are planning on flying to Croatia and staying at the hotel, particularly from the UK, you can check hotel package holidays with large tour operators like Thomson, Jet2Holidays, or booking through Expedia. These companies usually offer better deals for certain destinations than if you book your flight and a hotel room separately. This is an important travel Croatia budget tip.
The cheapest way to travel around Croatia is by bus. Bus network in Croatia is pretty good, buses are comfortable, modern and reliable, and they are very frequent to and from the major holiday destinations in Croatia. Entire Dalmatia can be explored on bus. If you plan on exploring Istria (especially inland Istria), Croatian islands, or you stay at the small and remote village anywhere in Croatia, then we suggest you to rather rent a car, than rely on bus transport. For the rest, you’ll be fine using this mode of transport. Don’t forget that students and senior citizens have a discount with majority (if not all) of bus companies.
If you travel by car in Croatia, keep in mind that highways have tolls. The highway toll from Zagreb to Split is 174 kn (approx. 23 euros). However, if you would like to avoid the pay-tolls, you can use local roads. They are well maintained, but can be winding at the some places (particularly along the Dalmatian coast), and slow considering the speed limits. Since the new highways has been built, the local roads get much less traffic, and are not as bed as before to drive.