14 ideas for traveling in Croatia on a budget


Travelers have caught on to Croatia.

Once a relative bargain, this beautiful country has seen prices creeping up as more and more travelers discover its charms. Luxury hotels have been springing up at a rapid pace, particularly in some of the upmarket resorts along the Adriatic coast and on a few of the islands. At the same time, there’s been a surge in private apartments and family-run guesthouses, which are more affordable choices in Croatia if you’re watching each euro.

Start your budgeting with a large line item for your flights to the country, which can rise to mind-boggling levels as the summer season approaches. Yet once you arrive, you’ll find it surprisingly easy to travel around without spending too much.

Only if you read on, that is. Here are out top money-saving tips for exploring Croatia on a budget.

Expect to spend a few euros on your morning coffee in Croatia © John_Silver/ Shutterstock

How expensive is Croatia? A guide to daily costs

  • Hostel dorm bed: €35 per night
  • Basic room for two: €75 per nigh
  • Self-catering apartment for two: €95 per nigh
  • Ticket on a city bus: €0.50–2.90
  • Coffee: €1.60–3
  • Sandwich: €4
  • Dinner for two: €68 for two courses
  • Beer at the bar: €4 for a half-liter of Croatian draft beer
  • Breakfast slice of burek: €3.30

Be flexible about your arrival airport 

From June onward, flights into Split start to soar – and no wonder, since the city is the gateway to some of Croatia’s most desirable islands, including Hvar, Brač and Vis. But Split’s runway isn’t the only one in the region – and you might be surprised by the fares you’ll find on flights into the airports at Zagreb, Zadar or Rijeka (which is actually on the island of Krk).

Buses with Arriva from Zagreb to Zadar cost around €15; with Croatia Bus you can pay €30 for a one-way trip from Zagreb to Split, with occasional discounted seats for €15. There’s also the option of flying into cities in neighboring countries – Ljubljana in Slovenia, Budapest in Hungary or Trieste in Italy – and renting a car. In this region, you don’t have to drive far to get to an international border.

A view of wooden walkway by waterfalls in autumn, Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park is breathtaking – and far less expensive – in the fall months © Andrew Mayovskyy / Shutterstock

Visit outside of the summer months

High season in Croatia – July and August, and sometimes the second half of June – brings high prices, with accommodations and many attractions raising their prices in accordance with demand. Entrance fees to Plitvice Lakes National Park from June to September, for example, run around €40; the same experience is €25 in April, May or October. Even better yet, Plitvice in the winter becomes a snowy, magical place, and entry costs only around €10. Similarly, Krka National Park charges adults €40 for visits between June and September, but only €15 for April and May and €20 for October – with the best bargain of all being found January to March, November and December, when it costs just €7 to visit. 

Save money on accommodation by staying a little further out

While it’s always tempting to stay in the center of town, such convenience usually comes at a premium. But a (very pleasant) walk of 15 or 20 minutes from a town’s center will usually snag you lower-priced accommodation options. Dubrovnik is a good example: rather than stay in the Old Town or just outside the city walls, look further out toward Gruž or Babin Kuk, both of which are easily reached by bus from the Old Town. 

Swap a hotel room for an apartment

In recent years, the inventory of short-term apartment rentals in Croatia has swelled to meet growing demand. You’ll certainly save on the cost of food if you can do self-catering; some apartments offer the use of a shared barbecue. Many also include other useful free services such as bikes you can borrow.

Commuter train of Croatian Railways Hrvatske Zeljeznice in Kaštel Stari, Croatia
If you can, hop on a train to save money on getting around in Croatia © Markus Mainka / Shutterstock

Croatia’s rail fares are a great value…

While it doesn’t reach the entire country, Croatia’s national railway company, HŽPP, offers an affordable way to get around parts of it. The regions around Zagreb are well connected, and trains do run from Zagreb to Split – though not further south, toward Dubrovnik. Still, factoring in a train leg for at least part of your journey will help keep costs down, given how reasonable the fares are: think €34 for a round trip between Zagreb and Split.

…As are the many long-distance bus services

Particularly along the Adriatic coast, Croatia’s bus network is as extensive as its rail network is limited. The only problem is trying to find the service you need among all the different companies, which provide everything from long-distance travel to tourist coaches. Arriva is a good place to start, as the company also offers international routes. Check the websites of the main bus stations, including those in Split and Zagreb, to get more information on timetables and tickets.

City buses are the cheapest way to get around town

Croatia’s urban buses can be astonishingly cheap: in Zagreb, a ticket can cost as little as €0.50. Generally, tickets are a few cents cheaper if you buy them from kiosks rather than the driver, who will take only cash. If you plan multiple journeys in the course of a day, a daily ticket can be – but is not always – cheaper.

Picturesque view of Jadrolinija ferry on the way to Supetar. Jadrolinija
In Croatia, the bigger the ferry, the lower the passenger fare © Darios / Shutterstock

Passenger tickets on car ferries are slightly cheaper than catamarans

With a bit of planning, you can travel to Croatia’s inhabited islands easily and affordably, both from the mainland and between islands. The national ferry operator, Jadrolinija, runs car ferries as well as passenger-only catamarans. Catamarans are faster but sometimes more expensive, particularly in July and August. A regular car ferry from Split to Hvar costs around €6 per passenger, yet a catamaran would be over €7. If you plan on island hopping, these savings can add up.

Fresh catch of Mediterranean sea fish on fish market stall on Mali Lošinj, Croatia
Croatian seafood is superb – and if you’re not attentive, it’ll cost you © Veronika Kovalenko / Shutterstock

Look out for unexpected restaurant charges

Croatia’s seafood is some of the best in Europe – and you should expect pay a premium for such high quality. If you’re on a budget, you might want to pass on the grilled fish that many restaurants sell by the kilo. You won’t know the exact price until the bill comes – and this can be an unpleasant surprise. There will be other fish and seafood options on the menu that have a set price, so at least you’ll know what you’re paying. 

Also bear in mind that many restaurants automatically charge a couvert – rather like a cover charge – for each diner, about €4 a head. This usually includes a basket of bread. You could try to wave away the bread and insist not to be charged for it, but this doesn’t always work.

Make a marenda one of your meals

Marenda is like a Dalmatian version of brunch, a hearty meal eaten before noon that harks back to the days when people would have been working since very early morning and needed a filling break. Nowadays, you’ll see marenda menus that are served only at lunch – some of the cheapest meals to be had in Dubrovnik.

Shop display of mini burek at a bakery counter, Zagreb, Croatia
Local bakeries in Croatia will be a friend to any budget traveler © Shutterstock

Snack on burek from local bakeries

Picked up from a bakery (pekarnica), these filo pastries pies are a cheap and delicious way to kick off the day and keep you going till lunch. Burek can be filled with cheese, spinach (sometimes both) or meat, and taste good cold as a picnic snack. 

Drink the tap water

Tap water in Croatia is perfectly drinkable, and you can save money as well as help reduce waste by avoiding bottled water in stores and restaurants. Ask for a glass of obična voda.

People walk on the city walls and look out at the roofs of the Old Town, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Students can wander the city walls of Dubrovnik for less than half the price of adults – one of many student discounts offered at major Croatian attractions © Todamo / Shutterstock

Ask about student discounts

If you have an up-to-date International Student Identity Card (ISIC), the savings can be huge. Rather than spend €35 to walk Dubrovnik’s city walls, for example, you’ll be charged only €15 if you present your card when buying a ticket.

City passes don’t always provide good value

While a city pass that offers free entry to certain attractions, free public transportation and discounts in shops and restaurants can look good on paper, sometimes you’ll need to spend your entire trip visiting all of the listed attractions before you achieve any savings. Do the math before you invest in any multi-site pass, as ofen à la carte tickets come in cheaper.



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