Dreamy cerulean sea gently embraces hundreds of islands speckled along the coast, while cobblestone city centers and fairytale medieval towns beg to be explored. This is what awaits you in Croatia. Croatia is an underrated European destination for a multitude of reasons, but the most prominent is how inexpensive it can be to travel there. It’s the perfect budget destination for every kind of traveler – backpackers, honeymooners, solo female travelers – you name it. But there are still some ways you can slip up that will cost you, so these tips to travel to Croatia on a budget are essential in your trip planning.
Visiting Croatia on a budget can be achieved in a variety of ways depending on what your priorities are.
For example, if you want to road trip Croatia and explore far and wide, then renting a car is a convenient, budget-conscious decision for your type of trip.
If you are planning to sit on a beach for a week and enjoy amenities at a nice resort, then you’ll save money on transportation and excursions to afford a nicer hotel.
For this guide, I’m covering how you can explore as much of Croatia as possible while spending as little as possible.
This is a guest post by Michela Sieman, blogger at She Goes The Distance.
Typical Budget for a Trip to Croatia
Croatia is an inexpensive to mid-range budget travel destination. Certain areas of Croatia, mostly inland, are extremely cheap in terms of accommodation and food.
Popular tourist areas like the coast are more expensive, but there are still ways to get great deals and explore this area of Croatia.
An ideal amount of time to road trip and visit all the main areas of Croatia is about 10 days. However, you can easily create an itinerary around something shorter, like a week, or visit for as long as two weeks to really make the most of your trip.
With food, transportation, accommodation, and activities together incorporating all these budget-friendly tips, you could spend as little as 60-70 dollars a day in Croatia for one person.
You can’t talk about budgeting for a trip without thinking about currency.
Croatia uses the Kuna as its currency. If you are visiting anywhere from Western Europe or North America, the prices at first glance will seem incredibly expensive, but really 1 USD equals just over 6 Kuna.
So, a pizza that is 50 Kuna is really 8 dollars.
Most areas on Croatia’s Adriatic Coast, as well as major cities like Zagreb, will accept credit cards. However, there are some very rural parts of Croatia that may only take cash, so have cash on hand in case of an emergency.
In city centers, you may see currency exchange shops that look like a tourist trap – that’s because they are. They charge higher rates and are not as safe.
The safest place to exchange currency in Croatia is at the post office!
How To Save Money Traveling in Croatia
Rent a Car
The easiest way to explore and enjoy Croatia is by renting a car. It can seem expensive at first to rent a car, especially because there are other costs to consider, i.e., parking fees or tolls.
However, a budget road trip is the best way to see Croatia. You can create a completely flexible itinerary with a car at your disposal.
The other cheapest way to travel in Croatia is by bus. Of course, you are restricted by bus schedules, but it can be less expensive than renting a car.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about finding parking (which can be a bit of a nightmare in major cities.)
Choose Accommodation with Parking Included
If you do opt to rent a car, make sure to filter your search for accommodation to include only those that have parking included.
Parking fees can get out of control, especially if you are staying in Croatia for a week or more, and it’s much more cost-effective to pay just a bit extra for a hotel or Airbnb with parking available.
Besides saving money with this trick, you’ll also reap the benefits of avoiding trying to find parking in city centers. Especially on the coast, space is limited, so you’ll just be wasting precious time of your trip seeking out a place to park.
Travel on State Roads
Highway tolls are quite expensive in Croatia (up to 25 euros) but traveling on a state road when possible is an easy way to avoid this.
This budget fix is as easy as typing in your destination to Google Maps and avoiding the routes with tolls!
Often the routes will take the same amount of travel time, but there will be other destinations where you must take the scenic route.
Even though it’s a longer drive, it means you get to explore more of Croatia and see parts you wouldn’t have if you just took the highway!
Travel During the Off-Season
The prices of nearly everything – from national parks to food to transportation to tours – dramatically change based on the tourist season.
Croatia’s peak visitor times are the months of July and August, as it’s a major summer vacation spot for Europeans.
The best way to travel to Croatia on a budget is to travel in the shoulder season of May-June or September. You will still get nice weather, but the price of most attractions goes down by nearly seventy percent.
For example, if you are visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park in July, a ticket costs 200 kunas. If you are visiting anywhere from September to March, it costs 80 kunas.
Visit Less Touristy Cities
Split and Dubrovnik are beautiful cities, but they are not easy on the wallet whatsoever.
The price of food and accommodation in these areas is nearly triple what it is in central Croatia. Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is a perfect city break for a budget traveler looking to experience a new culture. I recommend visiting around Christmas time when you can catch the Old Town Christmas Market (and avoid the high season!)
However, saving money doesn’t mean you have to go inland and still can’t enjoy the sea.
The region of Istria is an amazingly underrated part of Croatia. The peninsula is in the northwest corner of Croatia, near Italy and Slovenia. In towns like Pula and Rovinj you can pay as much for a week’s vacation in Split and still enjoy gorgeous beaches on the Adriatic.
Make One City Your Home Base
One of the best ways to maximize your time and money in Croatia is to use one place as a home base.
This will give you more flexibility for choosing a budget accommodation, rather than having to rely on finding somewhere inexpensive and available in every city you choose to visit.
Hotels and vacation rentals also typically offer discounts the longer you stay.
Cities like Zadar, Sibenik, and even the popular Split are great cities to make your home base while traveling in Croatia.
If you are looking to stay in Split, since it is near to many of Croatia’s most popular destinations, then opt to stay on the outskirts of the city center to save money. It is easy to reach the marina and beaches by walking.
From your home base, you can then create a flexible itinerary and explore many sites, instead of creating a convoluted itinerary and switching from room to room.
Plan Day Trips
One of the budget advantages to making one city your home base is to be able to take day trips.
You can either take buses for cheap between local towns (like Split to Trogir, for example) or use that rental car to its full advantage and venture off into further areas.
Do your research on day trips before you arrive in Croatia to get an idea of how much you’ll be spending for parking or in transportation to reach that place.
Little costs add up, so by knowing these factors ahead of time, you can narrow down which day trips fit into your budget.
Stay in an Airbnb
When traveling to Croatia on a budget, I would absolutely recommend prioritizing experiences and exploring over your accommodation. There are so many beautiful places to see that I guarantee you won’t be spending much time in your room!
That’s why I would opt to stay in an Airbnb or some type of apartment stay, like through Booking.com, for example. They are often more inexpensive than hotels.
Plus, if you are making one city your home base for exploring Croatia, then you can usually get a long-stay discount if staying over a week.
There are also typically more options both in and out of city centers to fit into your budget.
You could also consider staying in hostels or even couch surfing if your budget is really tight.
Another advantage of staying in an Airbnb or apartment is that you will have access to a kitchen!
Cooking was one of the best ways I personally saved money in Croatia. Since I was staying for two weeks, eating out for every meal would have cost me a fortune.
Grocery shopping in Croatia is easier than you might think, plus groceries are typically more inexpensive in comparison to Western Europe and the US.
Just be sure to have a translator app on your phone while you shop to help with any words or food you don’t recognize!
You won’t want to cook every meal and what is a trip to a new country without tasting their cuisine!
Eating in city centers, and especially in scenic areas like the Split Marina, is going to cost you way more than if you were to walk a bit inland and choose a more unassuming restaurant.
Warning signs for a tourist-y and overpriced restaurant are usually these two things:
A waiter is standing outside trying to grab your attention and get you to eat there.
The menu is super long with a million different options – aka they are trying to do every dish to appeal to you instead of doing a few dishes that are amazing quality.
Pro Tip: It is not common to tip at restaurants in Croatia, so you don’t have to worry about leaving anything for the waiter!
Take A Group Tour
Group tours can be an effective way to see a lot of places in just one day for a fixed price. An example of this is the Five Islands Tour in Split, which is a general tour that is operated by several different companies.
For about 120 dollars, you’ll visit five surrounding islands including Hvar and Vis, and some incredible places like the Blue Cave and Stiniva Cove.
These destinations are otherwise hard to reach from the mainland. Some islands can be reached by ferry, but most of the places on a tour such as this can only be reached by boat.
In this case, if you chill and explore on your own for some days to save money, you can then use one day to spend on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
DIY Island Hopping
If you want to see Croatia’s islands but don’t want to pay for a tour, you can still plan your own island-hopping itinerary using Croatia’s ferry networks.
The main ferry line in Croatia is Jadrolinija. It can connect you to main islands off the coast, so there will be more limited options to visit if not traveling by private boat or tour.
However, you can pay to take your car on the ferry and then use your car to get around larger islands like Brac and have more freedom to explore.
This is quite costly, so I recommend keeping it budget-friendly and opting to explore the islands on foot.
DIY island hopping will take more planning and researching to make sure you understand the timetables and find the destinations that work with the time you have.
Some of these tips will have a small impact on your plans to travel to Croatia on a budget, while others can make a major difference in how much money you save. The top tips to keep in mind when planning your trip to Croatia and to save the most amount of money are:
Traveling during Croatia’s low season, anywhere from October to June.
Taking advantage of long-stay discounts and maximizing your time in Croatia with day trips.
Staying in an Airbnb or apartment-style accommodation to save money and be able to cook some of your meals.
Hopefully, these budget travel tips for Croatia can help you save money while still enjoying everything the beautiful Mediterranean destination has to offer.
About the author
Michela is a female travel blogger at She Goes The Distance, empowering young women to travel through curated resources and tips. Now based in Bergamo, Italy, she loves to share hidden gem places, budget travel guides, and travel photography tips.