How much does it cost to explore Croatia?

travel costs croatia

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Croatia was a big tourist destination before the War of Independence in the 1990s. After the war, as tourism slowly returned, it was considered to be one of the more affordable destinations in Europe. But things change. Some places – Dubrovnik and Plitvice Lakes National Park to name just two – are suffering from overcrowding and have become very expensive. So, how affordable is Croatia these days?

If you are planning a trip to Croatia and wonder how much to budget or you’re looking for some cost-saving tips for your upcoming trip, today’s article is for you.

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Travel Cost Assumptions

When reading this article, please keep the following in mind:

  • The costs are based upon a couple travelling together.
  • We are independent travellers, researching and organising our own itinerary using curated travel resources.
  • Our travel style is reasonably consistent wherever we go, which is great when you want to compare travel costs between countries:
    • Accommodation: We usually stay in self-catered accommodation - in our own room and (preferably) our own bathroom, though the kitchen may be shared.
    • Dining and Groceries: We have at least two meals a day at home. We like to eat out at cafes or restaurants every few days.
    • Transportation: Wherever possible, we travel by public transport.
    • Experiences: We pay for some tourist attractions or activities, but are selective as our funds are limited (just like everyone elses).
  • In addition to above expense categories, we also include in the overall daily costs (though only for the period we are in the country) our mail scanning and forwarding service, mobile phone plans and travel insurance.
  • Not considered are the costs for entry or exit transport into/out of the country.
SafetyWing
Krka Crowds at Skradinski Buk

Popularity has driven up prices in places like the Krka National Park and Dubrovnik

What currency is used in Croatia?

While Croatia is a member state of the European Union, it does not use the Euro (EUR). Croatia’s currency is the Kuna (officially HRK or KN as it’s usually labelled in shops and markets).

The currency took its name from a cute-looking but fierce animal, a local representative of the weasel family called Kuna. In medieval times, the fur of these animals was traded for food and lodging, so they became a quasi-currency.

Unlike some places in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we didn’t see Euros being accepted anywhere in Croatia. So, make sure you have HRK when you visit the country.

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Map of Recommended Accommodations, Points of Interest, Eateries, and Transport

Below is the map of the accommodation, points of interest, eateries. and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.

Interested in learning about the countries we explore through entertainment? These inspirational travel movies will allow you to go on your own virtual tour around the world.

Accommodation

We recommend staying at properties where the money remains in local hands and for the most part, that means staying at short-term rental accommodation that is not a hotel chain or property owned by an overseas investor.

The average price of accommodation in Croatia for a couple was EUR42.82.

Whether you rent a private room in your host’s home or opt for a small apartment, staying with locals allows you to stay within budget while not compromising on certain comforts, such as your own bathroom and a kitchen where you can prepare meals. It also allows you to learn more about your destinations through conversations with your hosts.

We recommend the following accommodations at the destinations we stayed at:

Accommodation NameCityTypeCost Per Night in EUR
Fantastic stay - No longer available as short-term rental accommodationZagrebOne bedroom apartment30.35
House Marko - Plitvice Room 2PlitviceLarge studio room with kitchenette and ensuite bathroom57.43
Old Town Bridge Apartment 2 - No longer available as short-term rental ZadarLarge one bedroom apartment40.51
Apartment Maslina 2 Guesthouse PetrovićSkradinOne bedroom apartment45.94
City centre cosy denŠibenikLarge studio room with kitchen and ensuite bathroom40.20
A2DubrovnikSmall one bedroom apartment51.69

How to save money on accommodation

For accommodation, as with any other travel expenses, it’s worth shopping around. When we book accommodation somewhere, we tend to look across a number of booking platforms to find the best value for money option. Wherever you book, do make sure you read the fine print to make sure you compare apples with apples. For example, your stay may incur extra charges (like local tourist taxes or cleaning fees). Some booking platforms include them, while with others, you have to pay them to your host upon arrival.

Nightly rates are generally cheaper outside of peak season. If you can only travel in peak season, look for accommodation options that are a little further away from the main tourist attractions, yet have good connections by public transport.

We use and recommend the following booking platforms.

Agoda logo
Airbnb logo
Booking.com
Expedia logo
hotels.com logo
Tripadvisor logo
Trivago logo
Vrbo logo

Dining and Groceries

Dining can be quite expensive in Croatia compared to other European countries, particularly in the tourist hotspots.

The average price of dining and groceries in Croatia was EUR11.80 per person per day.

Our expenses for dining experiences in Croatia ranged

  • from HRK209 (EUR28.22) for lunch at Bazza Bistro, a café in the heart of Šibenik’s Old Town
  • to HRK375 (EUR50.64) for a set menu dinner at Dinner in the Garden, a small patio restaurant near the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
dinner in the garden plitvice lakes

Our meals at Plitvice Lakes were the most expensive during our journey around Croatia but were extremely filling and tasty.

Below is a list of common consumer staples to give you an idea what things cost in Croatia:
ItemPrice in EUR
Loaf of Bread (500g)0.84
Cappuccino (regular)1.47
Local Beer (0.5litre draught)2.03
Milk (regular, 1 litre)0.83
Burek with Cheese2.03

How to save money on dining and groceries?

Dining out all the time can quickly get expensive. We always try and book accommodation where we have access to a kitchen - either our own little kitchenette or the kitchen of our host. That way, we can store food in the fridge and make our own meals. We usually have breakfast and one other meal at our accommodation, and one meal when we're out and about.

Restaurants (even in tourist hotspots) often have special lunch offers (for example, a three-course meal for EUR10). Portion sizes in many parts of the world are usually quite substantial, so we often share a three-course meal. The same applies if you go out for dinner: Order a starter or salad and a main, and that's usually enough for two people. An added benefit: there is less food waste.

As for groceries: every country has more expensive and cheaper supermarkets. Ask your host what the cheaper options are (for example, Aldi or Lidl in many European countries) and avoid convenience stores as much as possible.

Experiencing the local cuisine is one of the reasons why WE travel… Paul and I tend to only eat out once a day (sometimes only once a week), usually at lunchtime. This allows us to try local dishes while taking advantage of awesome lunch deals. It also means we don’t have to roam around unknown parts of town every night in search of a restaurant.

Transport

Flights

If you are flying from a European city to Croatia, you’ll likely arrive at one of these six international airports:

  • Dubrovnik (IATA Code: DBV)
  • Pula (IATA Code: PUY)
  • Rijeka (IATA Code: RJK)
  • Split (IATA Code: SPU)
  • Zadar (IATA Code: ZAD)
  • Zagreb (IATA Code: ZAG)

All of them are serviced by budget airlines from other European cities, so chances are your flight to Croatia won’t break the bank, as long as you avoid the peak summer season (July/August).

How to save money on transportation

Being flexible is what really pays when it comes to transportation and air travel in particular. Travel outside of peak season if you can. If you can't, fares might still be cheaper during certain times of the week and even hours of the day, so check websites like Skyscanner and Google Flights that allow you to see a whole month and all the options on any given date.

If there are several airports in the vicinity of your home (or in the vicinity of your destination) compare the prices between the different options. For example, flying to Mykonos and taking the ferry to Santorini might end up being way cheaper than flying from your home airport straight to Santorini.

We use and recommend the following online travel agents and service providers for our transportation needs:

Busbud logo
Discover Cars logo
Expedia logo
Skyscanner logo
Trainline logo

Airfares

To find good flight deals, we use one-stop travel sites or travel aggregators. Each shows the cheapest airfares on any given day, so you can choose to fly a day/week/month earlier or later, pending your flexibility.

If you find a good deal, book it there and then as prices change constantly. Ideally do your research with your browser in incognito mode, as cookies will show booking sites how keen you are to do a certain trip, which may affect the price quoted – that goes for all online travel bookings (not just flights). The best fares generally go first, so planning ahead is important when it comes to (air) transportation. The same is true if you want to use air points/miles, as there is only a very limited number of seats available for any given flight. We tend to not actually go through the flight aggregators, but book with the airline/s directly. The price is usually the same but we have a direct contract with the airline (rather than with the middleman) in case something goes wrong.

If you plan to travel across multiple continents, you may want to compare passes that offer several destinations as a package (such as around-the-world fares offered by One World or Star Alliance members) vs booking each leg of your trip individually. If you are travelling during peak season those multi-destination packages may be a better deal than booking each leg individually. You can do overland sections on around-the-world tickets too, which means you could supplement your around-the-world ticket with cheap flights, bus and train rides in between destinations.

Vehicle rental (including relocations)

Unless your trip takes you across oceans, another way to save on transport is to look for vehicle/motorhome relocations. There are websites in many countries offering massively discounted one-way rates (often including fuel and/or insurance) to those driving a vehicle/motorhome from A to B within a certain period. These deals are fairly last minute, and A and B are usually bigger transport hubs, but if that’s an option just search for vehicle/motorhome relocation at your destination.

Speaking of vehicles: If you are planning to hire a vehicle at your destination, it also pays to shop around. We use and recommend Discover Cars, an aggregator website that allows you to search across major car rental companies at once. And you don’t have to pay for the hire until you pick up the car.

DiscoverCars.com is used and recommended by the team at Minimalsit Journeys

Hitchhiking

A final option to save on transport costs is… to hitch a ride. While Paul and I did it safely in Dominica on a public holiday (when there was no other option), and we have taken plenty of people along in our campervan in New Zealand, there are many countries we wouldn’t feel safe hitchhiking. Judge for yourself where and when you can and can’t do it.

Bus Services

Croatian cities are well-connected by bus. Intercity bus travel is generally cheap, but the service quality of the bus operators can vary quite a bit.

Note that in addition to your bus fare, you are usually also charged:

  • a bus station fee (usually around EUR1 per person), and
  • a luggage hold fee (as the name suggests, for luggage going into the hold of the bus – usually around EUR1 for a regular suitcase).

You can save the latter if you travel with a travel pack or bag that you take with you on board.

In Zagreb, bus and tram tickets can be purchased at newsstands and from the driver, however, purchasing from the driver is generally more expensive. Zagreb Public Transport is free with ZagrebCard.

zagreb light rail

Zagreb has an extensive and efficient public transport network

Uber and Taxis

Croatia is the only Balkan country where Uber is available, which is a great thing, especially given the negative reputation that taxis have with tourists. You know the price of the ride before you hop into the vehicle. In general, we prefer not to take taxis, especially when travelling from the airport to our accommodation.

Train Services

Croatia’s train network isn’t the most extensive, unfortunately. The most popular routes are those between Zagreb and Split, and Zagreb and Rijeka. We took the train from Šibenik to Split and found it to be comfortable and on time. Ticket prices are relatively low compared to most Western European countries.

Ferry Services

Croatia has an extensive ferry network along the Adriatic coast. We decided to take the ferry from Split to Dubrovnik – both to circumnavigate a double-border crossing (as Dubrovnik is an exclave sandwiched between Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro) and to experience the gorgeous coastline from the sea. It took a bit longer than the bus but was way more comfortable and enjoyable.

ferry in split

Why not take a ferry between Split and Dubrovnik? It is very scenic and saves you two border crossings.

Experiences

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to tourist attractions and activities in Croatia:

  • from National Parks like Plitvice Lakes, Krka, the Kornati Islands or Telascica, which all require you to pay entry fees
  • to stunning Roman and Medieval Old Towns that can be explored on foot, self-guided or on free/low-cost walking tours, and
  • gazillion other options in between.

Croatia’s Free Museum Night, where museums and galleries in the major cities are open free of charge, usually happens at the end of January. So, if you happen to be in Croatia around that time keep an eye out for it.

And if you are interested in some other activities, here are some curated options we think are appropriate from our friends at Get Your Guide.

How to save money on experiences

Free activities or experiences

Many activities (and some of our most treasured experiences) are free or cost very little. On our journeys, we have

  • Visited many museums free of charge (including the Colosseum and Forum in Rome which are free on the first Sunday of the month)
  • Joined Al Green’s Baptist Church Service in Memphis (rather than pay the exorbitant entry fees at nearby Graceland)
  • Attended free guided walking tours around the world (you pay a tip at the end based on your budget and how much you liked the tour)
  • Did countless self-guided walks and used public transport to get to know a city
  • Hiked in the Andes in Ecuador and climbed volcanoes in the Caribbean
  • Swam and snorkelled at countless beaches, using tree shade rather than paying for parasols; and
  • Attended free performances and danced with locals in Cuba.

Just search for free activities in your destination and chances are someone has made a nice list for you already.

Paid Experiences

Paying for experiences or activities can add up quickly, especially if you're travelling as a family. Make use of family passes (if available). Look out for special deals and discount coupons. If you travel in a group, it may also pay to book a private tour and share the cost. Shop around - here are some of the service providers we have used and can recommend:

Bookme logo
Cookly logo
EatWith logo
Expedia logo
G Adventures logo
Get Your Guide logo
Klook logo
TripAdvisor logo
Viator logo

Miscellaneous

There are always expenses that don’t quite fit the major expense categories we talked about above. There include

  • the cost of your travel insurance
  • the cost of visas you may need to enter a country
  • foreign exchange-related fees, and
  • tips.

When you plan your trip, always budget (at least) an additional 10% for miscellaneous expenses on top of the big four items of accommodation, dining and groceries, transportation and activities. Budget more if you have the habit to buy souvenirs and trinket gifts for your loved ones (or yourself).

Withdrawing cash overseas can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. We can show you how to avoid unnecessary fees and make your travel budget stretch further.

How do you determine which card is best for your overseas trip? Using the right one can save bank fees and make your travel budget stretch further.

Ever been caught out by the bad FX rates and exorbitant commissions charged by FX bureaus? These tips allow you to minimise these charges in future. We also recommend XE Money Transfer to keep more of your money when you complete a transfer.

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How much should I budget for a trip to Croatia?

Below are our travel costs when we visited Croatia. We spent a total of 25 nights in the country: 7 nights in Zagreb, 3 nights at Plitvice Lakes National Park, 5 nights in Zadar, 3 nights in Skradin/Krka National Park, 5 nights in Šibenik and 2 nights in Dubrovnik.

Our daily travel expenses in Croatia were USD54.59 / EUR48.26 per person per day, slightly above our general budget of USD50.

CategoryEUR per person per day
Accommodation21.73
Dining and Groceries11.80
Transport3.40
Experiences7.50
Miscellaneous3.82
Total per person per day48.26

Do I need to tip for services in Croatia?

As non-Americans, we are not used to tipping for services, whether in a restaurant, taxi or anywhere else. And while it is not expected to tip for café or restaurant services in Croatia, it is always appreciated. Don’t do it out of habit, but if the food and service exceeded your expectations.

A lot of websites recommend leaving a 10% gratuity, but in the end, give what you feel is appropriate. If you do decide to leave a tip for excellent service, and you pay with a credit card, there is a good chance you won’t be able to add it to the payment process. Leave cash instead.

dubrovnik restaurant

A tip is not expected in Croatia, but it is always appreciated

Save money using the Airalo eSim

Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store that solves the pain of high roaming bills by giving you access to eSIMs (digital SIM cards). More than one million people are already using Airalo's eSIMs.

With eSIMs from Airalo, you can download and install a digital data pack for over 200 countries/regions and get connected anywhere in the world as soon as you land.

Benefits

With Airalo's eSIMs, you can access the Internet from virtually any country on the planet and don't have to pay excessive roaming charges. You don’t need to waste your time looking for a local plastic SIM card. The eSIM can be activated either immediately after installation or upon arrival at your destination. A wide range of eSIMs are available for different countries and regions. You do not even have to buy a card for a specific country. If you intend to travel, you can buy a regional eSIM on Airalo. For example, there are eSIMs available for the entire continent of Europe.

The support team is available 24/7/365 and is happy to offer prompt assistance via chat on the Airalo website, social media, or email.

This brings us to our final point.

How much cash do I need in Croatia?

From a safety point of view, we like to have as little cash as possible on us, yet enough to not feel uncomfortable.

Of the expenses incurred in Croatia, we paid 28% in cash. The biggest cash amount was a payment of HRK1,500 (EUR202.55) for five nights of accommodation in Zadar.

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How much did it cost you to explore Croatia?

We wrote this Croatia travel cost guide based on our own peronal experiences. If you have explored Croatia recently and you have something to add about your travel costs, please feel free to contact us. If you liked our travel cost saving tips and found them helpful, we would appreciate it if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.

Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulryken/" target="_blank">Paul Ryken</a>

Author: Paul Ryken

Paul Ryken is a goal setter, goal achiever, never tell him he can't do anything kinda guy..a grandfather, a husband, practising minimalist who makes sustainable, ethical purchasing decisions. His lives a values-based, quality over quantity lifestyle. For fitness and mental health, he runs six days a week and is on a mission to complete a marathon on every continent before the age of 60. As a digital nomad with carry-on luggage only, he chooses experiences over material items. He primarily writes about sports, travel finances and technology.