Visiting Croatia doesn't need to be expensive, and our travel Croatia budget tips will help you better plan your holidays in Croatia.
The 32 best travel Croatia budget tips
With these simple money-saving tips we show you how to travel in Croatia on budget. These tips aren't only for frugal travelers, but for everybody who likes to avoid unnecessary costs whether you travel on a tight budget, or planning to treat yourself to a luxury stay in Croatia.
Use the exchange rate to your advantage
Croatia doesn't yet use Euro, we have our own currency instead. We call it Kuna, or for short Kn. At the moment of this writing, 1 € equals 7,6 Kn, 1 $ equals 6,8 Kn, and 1 GBP is 8,4 Kn.
Check the exchange rate in your country, and if more favorable bring some Kuna already with you. If you decide to buy some Kuna in Croatia, shop for the most favorable exchange rate. There are many currency exchange offices, and not all have the same rates. Ask locals to save time!
Avoid paying in Euros, or USD, because you will get your change in Kuna and the rates are the worst.
When paying with a credit card, always choose charges in a local currency
When you pay with a credit card in Croatia, at many places the cashiers will ask you if you prefer to be charged in your country's currency or local currency. This is a tricky one, as it is counterintuitive to choose the local currency. But you better do if you want to save money! The banks use something they call Dynamic currency exchange, and it is just a fancy name to take you a few extra euros from your account.
Know when to go
Croatia, when it comes to tourism, has a very seasonal demand. The main season runs from mid-June to the first week of September, but the peak time is from the last week of July to 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 a few examples of how much you can save in June compared with August
- A double room with breakfast in a 4-star hotel in Rovinj will cost you 150 € the first week of June, while in the first week of August, for the same room, you'll pay 250€.
- 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 180 Kn per person in June, but 300 Kn per person in July or August.
How long you stay in a particular place matters
Trying to squeeze in as many places as possible in a short time is not always the smartest thing to do budget-wise. Many hotels and private apartments offer 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 public transport, you'll be able to save a considerable amount of money. For example, if you choose Split for your base, from there you can easily visit Omis, Trogir, islands Brac and Hvar, Krka Waterfalls, and Zadar for a day, and even using public transport.
Choose the right destination
Croatia is small, and most of the regions have a very good bus network. Stay out of the most popular destinations. They are often overcrowded, more expensive, and not always the best.
Choosing a smaller village in the vicinity of a famous place can help you save lots of money. Dubrovnik, for instance, is crazily expensive, way overcrowded, and short on parking. Instead, check out Dubrovnik Riviera, or the Konavle region. The 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 Rupeni instead of Porec, etc.
Cross to the islands on foot!
It is convenient to travel by car, but when it comes to visiting the Croatian islands, the costs of taking a car across on a ferry become ridiculously expensive.
For example, ferry-crossing from Split to Stari Grad on the island of Hvar costs 39 Kn (5,2 €, 5,8 $, 4,6 GBP) per person. But if you decide to take a car on a ferry, that will set you back an additional 250 Kn (33 €, 37 $, 30 GBP). Crazy, no?!
Use loyalty points where available
We don't yet have many international hotel chains in Croatia, but we have some, and where available you can save money using your member points.
In Zagreb, you'll find Sheraton, Hilton's DoubleTree and Canopy, Westin, Best Western, and Four Points. In Dubrovnik, you have Hilton, Sheraton, and two members of the Leading Hotels of the World; in Split Radisson Blue, and Le Meridien; in Savudrija there is the Kempinski hotel.
Rovinj features two Leading Hotels of the World and one Design Hotel that belongs again to the Marriott group. There is a number of Relais & Chateaux hotels in Istria, Korcula, Zadar, Opatija, and Peljesac.
Member hotels of the Small Luxury Hotels you'll find in Sibenik, Dubrovnik, and Split.
Some Croatian hotel chains, like Valamar Hotels & Resorts, and Maistra, also offer Loyalty program benefits and sometimes already on a sign-up. Check them out, you might be able to save some money or obtain some perks!
Book your hotel before the end of February
The majority of hotels along the coast offer an Early Booking Discount. This discount applies to bookings made up until the end of February, sometimes mid-March (but valid for the stays during the entire year).
Choose the right cancelation policy
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. It also gives you an option to cancel your booking should you find a cheaper price at the last minute.
Check for the last minute deals
Look for the last-minute deals. Hotel prices are dynamic; this means that they change with demand. While in an ideal world this would mean that the prices increase as the stay period approaches, unfortunately, it isn't always the case. You can end up with a much more expensive room that you booked at the early booking discount than the hotel sells it at the last minute. This is where a flexible cancellation policy comes in handy.
Check the non-refundable rates the sooner your travel date is
Many hotels offer a non-refundable or advanced purchase rate at a discounted price. This way the hotels try to minimize the risk of cancelations. We never book these rates when our travel dates are far ahead because travel plans can change. But once our travel date approaches, we always check the available rates and if we find any that is cheaper, we cancel our original reservation and rebook the same property but for a cheaper price.
Don’t be afraid to book your stay directly with the hotel, vacation rental, or a campsite. You can do so 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. Hotels often offer exclusive value-added packages or web-exclusive deals if you directly through their websites.
Rent an apartment for your stay in Croatia
Private accommodations are great alternatives to hotels. Croatians have been renting out apartments to tourists forever. You should 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 a two-bedroom apartment than two hotel rooms).
Be mindful when choosing your location
Choose accommodation in the vicinity of popular tourist resorts, but not directly in the city center or by the sea. You can find much cheaper and better-equipped accommodations, as these properties try to compensate for the distance from the town with extra services and better rates.
Choose accommodation with free parking space
Look for the accommodation that offers free private parking place. Parking fees can really increase the cost of your vacation rental, especially when staying in popular towns like Dubrovnik, Porec, or Rovinj.
Avoid hidden costs
Beware of hidden costs, like tourist tax, and a cleaning fee. Tourist tax in Croatia amounts to about 1€ per day per person, while the cleaning fee is anywhere around 25-30€ per stay. Check before you book if a property has these costs already calculated in the final price.
When staying in a hostel, make sure the price includes bed sheets or towels, as some hostels charge them separately.
Decide what perks are worth the money, and ditch the rest
Some room types are more expensive than others. Sometimes the difference between the two is obvious and worth the money, like a room with a sea view or a balcony.
But sometimes, it's completely worthless to pay more. For example, paying extra for a room with a plunge pool in April or May when it's cold enough not to be able to use the pool makes no sense.
Some hotels add simple in-room amenities, like a bottle of water, or a fruit basket, and they call that room Deluxe and charge you extra. It's still the same room as the cheaper basic hotel room.
And the worst rip off when it comes to room types is when a hotel charge you extra for a seaside room. You notice the nuance – side not a view. This often means that your room is facing the sea, but because of all trees, the view is so obstructed that you don't even see the sea.
Before you pay extra for the seemingly better room type, make sure these extras are worth the money.
Go camping in Croatia
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 the low season, it goes as low as 15 euros.
Don't book a campsite in advance, simply walk-in
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 at the campsite, even in a high season, even when reception tells you differently. Just drive around and look for that little piece of land you'll call home for a couple of days.
Vacation rentals in Croatia are often cheaper than hostels
Hostels in Croatia are popular in larger towns, like Zagreb, Split, or Dubrovnik; while in small coastal towns you'll have many more vacation rentals to choose from, as well as private rooms. And, vacation rentals are often cheaper than hostels.
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 add if you travel as a family. Double-check if this is really your cheapest option of accommodation in Croatia.
Many hostels have private rooms with en-suite bathrooms. However, a private room in a hostel can cost you as much as a room in a proper hotel.
Use large booking sites to compare the prices of various properties
Use the big booking sites to compare the prices of different accommodation choices. This way you can narrow down your search, and then decide where to book your accommodation of choice: on the booking site or directly on the property's website.
Use metasearch to compare rates of the same property across multiple sites
Sometimes the same room is sold through various distribution channels including Expedia, Booking.com, hotel's own website, etc.. Metasearch websites like Kayak, Google Hotel Search, Trivago, and alike are good to compare rates across multiple sites and pick up the cheapest.
Before you decide with whom to book the accommodation make sure that the rates are actually comparable. For example, sometimes Expedia doesn't calculate tax into the rate but adds it later. Ther seemingly cheaper rate can suddenly become more expensive.
Not all hotel rooms are distributed on all channels. Make sure you compare the price of the same room type.
Skip dinner, eat lunch instead
We all like to eat out, and taste 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 in various restaurants in Croatia. We just say you can follow our simple travel Croatia budget tips to avoid unnecessary costs.
However, many restaurants in Croatia offer lunch menus for a fixed price. Restaurants are often less busy during lunchtime (people are at the beach, or it's too hot to eat anyway), and they run specials, like a full meal for 10 € a person.
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 to 7 euros. Don't expect haute cuisine, just a simple, hearty meal that will keep you full for a good part of the day.
Get a dessert on the house
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 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 for 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.
Stay at hotels offering a half-board
The majority of hotels in Croatia have a half-board as their basic service. And the half-board will usually cost just a few euros per day more than a simple bed & breakfast. This means that you can get dinner for as little as 3 € a day. Do your research, and compare it. Look for the cheap half-board options. Some hotels build their reputation around an excellent buffet they offer, in particular Valamar Hotels & Resorts.
Cook your own meals
An excellent way to save on food when in Croatia is to rent a private apartment with 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 a few days in a row of eating at the restaurants, my stomach doesn't feel right, and I just long to cook something simple. I also like to shop at the farmer's markets and feel like a local.
Book your flights as early as possible
If you plan on traveling to Croatia by plane, try to book your flight with a low-cost carrier as early as possible. The same goes for car rental and some activities.
Fly low cost
Many low-cost carriers, like RyanAir, EasyJet, Norwegian, or Eurowings, fly into Croatia seasonally from April to October. These companies offer really cheap rates especially off-season and the earlier you book. The busiest Croatian airports when it comes to low-cost carriers are Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, and Pula.
Consider package holidays to Croatia
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 TUI UK, 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.
Use buses in Croatia
The cheapest way to travel around Croatia is by bus. The Bus network in Croatia is pretty good, buses are comfortable, modern, and reliable, and they are very frequent to and from the major resort towns in Croatia.
The entire Dalmatia can be explored on the 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 the majority (if not all) of bus companies.
Avoid highways, travel on state roads instead!
If you travel by car in Croatia, keep in mind that highways have tolls. The highway toll from Zagreb to Split is 200 Kn (approx. 27 euros). However, if you would like to avoid road tolls, you can use local roads. They are in good condition, although they can be winding (particularly along the Dalmatian coast), and slow considering the speed limits. Since the new highways have been built, the local roads get much less traffic and are not as bad as before to drive.
We hope our budget tips for travel in Croatia helped you save money on your next Croatian trip. If you have any questions, or suggestions leave them in the comments below.