Croatia on a Budget: How to Save on Accommodation, Attractions and Just About Everything Else – Lonely Planet Travel News | Gmx Pharm

As more travelers discover the delights of Croatia, prices are increasing in line with the country’s ever-growing popularity. You’ll find more luxury hotels than ever before, springing up at a rapid pace, particularly in some of the upscale resorts along the Adriatic coast and on some of the islands. At the same time, however, there is an increase in private apartments and family-run guesthouses, making it more affordable to visit Croatia if you’re on a budget.

One of the biggest expenses will be your flights to Croatia, which can increase to amazing levels once the summer season approaches. But once you arrive, getting around will be surprisingly easy. How to get the most of Croatia when money is tight.

Visit Plitvice Lakes National Park in winter and save money on accommodation and entrance fees © Sorin Rechitan / Getty Images

When booking flights, plan ahead and be flexible

From June, flights to Split will begin to increase. No wonder, as it is the gateway to some of Croatia’s most desirable islands, including Hvar, Brač and Vis. As prices increase to meet demand, you should try different airports like Zagreb, Zadar or Rijeka (which is actually on the island of Krk).

Buses with Arriva from Zagreb to Zadar cost only 95 kuna ($14), and with Croatia Bus you can pay 180 kuna ($27) for a one-way ticket from Zagreb to Split. There is also an option to fly to neighboring countries – Ljubljana in Slovenia, Budapest in Hungary or Trieste in Italy – and rent a car.

Look beyond the summer months

High season in Croatia – July and August and sometimes the second half of June – means high prices. Accommodation is becoming more expensive and many attractions are increasing their prices. Compare Plitvice Lakes National Park admission prices from June to September at 300 kuna ($44) to those in April, May or October at 180 kuna ($26). Better yet, come in winter when Plitvice becomes a snowy magical place, and it only costs 80 kuna ($12).

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A view of Onofrio's Fountain from Dubrovnik's city walls
Consider staying just outside Dubrovnik’s city walls to save money © Vesna Celebic / Lonely Planet

Expand the network to save on accommodation

While it’s tempting to stay in the center of the city, it can often get expensive. You may have to walk 15 or 20 minutes from the center to find cheaper accommodation, but it can be worth the money saved. Dubrovnik is a good example: instead of staying in the Old Town or just outside the city walls, look further to Gruž or Babin Kuk, both of which are easily accessible by bus from the Old Town.

Consider swapping a hotel room for an apartment

In recent years there has been a large number of private apartments in Croatia to meet the growing demand. You will certainly save on catering costs if you can cater for yourself, and some apartments offer the use of a shared barbecue. Others have other useful free services like bikes that you can borrow.

Discover the rail network of Croatia

While it has its limits, Croatia’s national railway company, HŽPP, is an affordable way to get around parts of the country. The biggest catch is that the network could be more extensive. Trains run from Zagreb to Split, but not further south towards Dubrovnik, although the regions around Zagreb and to the north are better served. Fares are cheap: for example, a return ticket from Zagreb to Split costs 199 kuna ($28).

Get to know the national bus networks

If the Croatian rail network is limited, the buses are not – especially along the Adriatic coast. The only problem is finding the service you need among all the different companies offering everything from long-distance travel to coaches. Arriva is a good place to start as it also includes international routes. Check the websites of the main train stations, including Split and Zagreb, for timetables and tickets.

Use the city buses

Croatia’s city buses can be surprisingly cheap, even in the capital Zagreb, where a ticket costs as little as 4 kuna (US$0.60). In general, tickets are a few kuna cheaper if you buy them from kiosks and not from the driver, who only takes cash. If you’re planning multiple trips over the course of a day, a day ticket can – but not always – be cheaper.

The Jadrolinija ferry that enters Drvenik from the island of Hvar
Croatia’s state ferry takes you back and forth between the country’s beautiful islands © Marsan / Shutterstock

Make the most of island ferries

With a little planning, you can easily and inexpensively travel to the inhabited islands of Croatia, both from the mainland and between the islands. The national ferry company Jadrolinija operates both car ferries and catamarans for passengers only. Catamarans are faster but can sometimes be a bit more expensive, especially in July and August. A ferry from Split to Hvar costs 47 kuna ($6.80), but a catamaran costs 55 kuna ($8).

Watch out for unexpected restaurant expenses

Croatia’s seafood is excellent, and in many places you will pay for this high quality. But if you’re on a budget, you might want to skip the grilled fish, which many restaurants sell by the kilo. You won’t know the exact price until the bill comes, and that can be an unpleasant surprise. There will also be other seafood options on the menu that have a set price so at least you know what you are paying.

Also keep in mind that many restaurants automatically charge one envelope — similar to a cover charge — per person, which usually includes a bread basket. It shouldn’t cost more than about 30 kuna (US$4.30) per head. You could try waving the bread away and insisting it’s not charged, but that doesn’t always work.

Get used to the Marenda habit

Marenda is like a Dalmatian version of brunch, a hearty meal eaten before noon, reminiscent of the days when people worked very early in the morning and needed a filling break. Nowadays you will see Marenda menus served only for lunch, offering some of the cheapest restaurants in Dubrovnik.

Burek is a filo pastry that's affordable and hearty
Burek is a filo pastry that’s affordable and hearty © heinstirred / Getty Images

Stock up on burek at breakfast

Picked up from a bakery (pekarnica), these puff pastry pies are a cheap and delicious way to start the day and last until lunch. Burek can be stuffed with cheese, spinach (sometimes both), or meat, and is great cold as a picnic snack.

Don’t be afraid to ask for tap water

Tap water in Croatia is safe to drink, and you can save money and the environment by not ordering bottled water. Ask for a glass of obična voda.

Save on attractions by avoiding peak season

Many of Croatia’s attractions, including national parks, have seasonal prices. Krka National Park charges adults 200 kuna ($29) for July and August, but only 110 kuna ($16) for April-June and September-October.

Find out about student discounts

If you have a current International Student Card (ISIC), the savings can be huge. Instead of spending 200 kuna (US$29) to explore the Dubrovnik City Walls, you will only be charged 50 kuna (US$7.20).

Do your math before you buy a City Pass

While a City Pass that offers free entry to certain attractions, free public transport, and discounts at shops and restaurants may look great on paper, sometimes you have to spend your entire trip visiting all the attractions listed before you start saving any money. The Zagreb Card is an exception because after just three visits to the museum, you’ll already have saved money – and that’s before you factor in free transport.

How expensive is Croatia?

Here are some average daily costs to keep an eye on:

  • Dormitory bed in hostel: 250 kuna ($36)
  • Basic room for two people: 550 kuna ($80)
  • Self-catering apartment for two: 700 kuna ($100)
  • Public transport ticket: City buses can cost from 4 kuna (60¢) to 21 kuna (3$).
  • Coffee: 12 kuna ($1.75)
  • Sandwich: 30 kuna ($4.30)
  • Dinner for two: 500 kuna ($72) for two courses
  • Beer at the bar: 30 kuna ($4.30) for half a liter of Croatian draft beer
  • Burek breakfast piece: 25 kuna ($3.60)

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