Historic seaside towns, national parks filled with waterfalls, and a number of beautiful islands await those who travel to Croatia. It’s an ideal mix for many travellers, but, surprisingly, Croatia has only recently become a popular travel destination.
The demand for the country has jumped in recent years since Game of Thrones and Star Wars were filmed there, but the real question is how much does it cost to go to Croatia? Well, you are about to find out as I break down the costs and share tips on how you can save while travelling through Croatia.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to suggest a 12-day, 11-night itinerary through Croatia that will hit the main highlights along the Dalmatian Coast: Zadar, Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik. If you are travelling as a couple, make sure to double these estimates (except for hotels).
|Food and drink||$540|
The above estimate is in American dollars, so please use XE.com to find out the average costs in your home country.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Platinum Card gives you a signup bonus of up to 85,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $850 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees and it comes with airport lounge access.
One of the first things you need to know about Croatia is that it is a very seasonal destination which means that airfare prices can get pretty high, especially during the summer months. Booking during the months of April-June and September-October will get you the best deals when flying direct to Croatia (and also fewer crowds). Even then, you can expect to pay about $1,000 roundtrip.
Another option to consider is to fly somewhere cheaper in Europe such as nearby Italy or even a major hub like Paris or Amsterdam, then book a short flight with a budget airline to Croatia. This is ideal if you have a little more time off, especially since you can then fly into Zadar airport and out of Dubrovnik (or vice versa) which means you don’t need to waste your time by backtracking.
If you’re doing a backpacking trip in Europe, most people enter the country via bus or train from Slovenia or Hungary.
Accommodations can be pricey in Croatia, especially if you want to stay in the prime locations which are normally within the old towns. One of the best bets to help save is to book well in advance in the hopes of getting an early bird type of deal. Or, to choose a location that isn’t quite as central. Please note that the estimate given for this article is based on the cost of a mid-range hotel in a central location. However, you can find cheaper (or more expensive) options to better suit your budget or taste.
My preferred booking site is Booking.com since it lists hotels, apartments, B&B’s, vacation homes and inns. In addition, they price match and you’re not required to pay until after your stay for almost all accommodations. After five bookings, you become a member of their Genius program which gets you an extra 10% off on selected properties. If you haven’t tried booking.com for accommodations, use my affiliate link now to get $25 CAD off your first stay (this applies after you complete your stay).
Looking for recommendations? I suggest:
- Hostel: Boutique Hostel Forum
- Mid-range hotel: Teatro Verdi Boutique Hotel
- Luxury hotel: Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel and Dépendance
- Hostel: Design Hostel Goli & Bosi
- Mid-range hotel: Villa Domina
- Luxury hotel: Villa Split Heritage Hotel
Insider tip: To stretch your budget, I recommend planning your time in Dubrovnik to avoid the weekend since it’s the busiest time. It’s probably the most expensive city in Croatia and, not surprisingly, weekend prices are significantly higher than mid-week.
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn up to 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and $200 back at U.S. restaurants as a welcome bonus.
Canadians should consider the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you up to 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $500. There’s also the BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* since it typically has a sign up bonus worth more than $200 and the annual fee is normally waived for the first year.
Getting around the cities in Croatia is pretty easy; they are very walkable and, really, the best way to enjoy these historic places is on foot. That being said, you will need to get between cities which can easily be done by local bus and/or ferry.
Croatia’s buses are safe and trustworthy but can get quite busy so I do recommend going to the station early in the morning or the day before to purchase your ticket in advance. Note that you will have to pay for your seat, as well as for any larger suitcases that need to be stored below.
There are two types of buses in Croatia: the fast bus which runs along the highway and offers more direct routes, or the slow bus which makes lots of stops but runs along the coast and is much more scenic. The slow bus is also a cheaper option, but may not be the best choice if you are short on time.
You will also want to make use of the ferries and boats in Croatia. You will need to take a ferry from Split to Hvar and then again from Hvar to Dubrovnik. I recommend booking these in advance as well. While staying in Hvar, you may also want to go to one of the beach clubs at the nearby islands for the day. Lots of smaller boats can be found in the port area with signs of where they are going for the day. When they have a large enough group of people, they will leave.
Travellers should also know that the cost bus and ferry journeys may vary depending on the time of day as well.
One of the best things about Croatia is that the towns and islands that you are staying in are the major attractions. Of course, there are a few paid things that you will want to take advantage of such as the Walls of Dubrovnik and the national parks including Krka National Park and Plitvice National Park, but you can actually get to these places yourself (from Zadar or Split) to help save money.
That said, many people book day trips to these sites to make their lives easier. Other tours worth considering include:
- Ljubljana and Lake Bled day tour
- Island hopping speedboat trip and Blue Cave visit
- Montenegro day tour
- Bay of Kotor tour
For attractions, I recommend budgeting a minimum of $150, but this assumes you’re doing the attractions on your own. If you’re doing multiple day trips, you’ll need to budget more.
Food and drink
Croatian food is delicious. There is so much fresh seafood that paired along with the influences from nearby countries such as Greece and Italy, makes for truly delicious plates. Of course, finding those plates at an affordable price can be a bit tricky.
As with other popular travel destinations, Croatian cities have a fair share of restaurants that target tourists with their prime locations, multi-language menus, and high prices. Do your best to bypass these places and instead ask at your accommodation where a good local place is. The food is better and the prices are reasonable.
For a day’s worth of eating out in Croatia, you can expect to pay the following:
- Breakfast – $7
- Lunch – $13
- Dinner – $25
Which is equal to about $45 per day. This price can be further reduced if you make use of the local markets and grocery stores or street-type vendors such as a sandwich shop. Please note that it is customary to tip about 10% when dining out in Croatia.
Chances are that if you budget accordingly for the other areas, you won’t need much in terms of random spending. That being said, it’s good to have an extra $100 or so to pick up a souvenir or two, or maybe even indulge in an ice-cream or cold drink in the afternoon. Croatia is also known for its beach clubs and nightlife so you may want to keep a little extra aside for a night out or a day at one of the beach clubs.
So how much does it cost to go to Croatia? Based on my estimates, you can expect to spend around $3,540 USD for 12 days. However, using some of the tips and tricks above, you can probably further reduce those costs. Remember, Croatia is a very seasonal destination and travelling during the shoulder season (spring or early fall) rather than during those prime summer months can really save you money. Need more inspiration? Read my guides on Rome, Amsterdam, Dubai, Egypt, Hawaii, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and Iceland.