We often get these questions - Is Croatia expensive? Is Croatia cheap? Seems like there is a bit of confusion when it comes to budgeting your trip to these parts. Being in the travel industry, I often read what travel magazines say about prices in Croatia. The curiosity is, there is mixed information out there and it's not easy to get an idea of what to expect once you hit the Croatian ground.
The Big Picture
Croatia changed a lot in the past 30 years, and has been struggling economically. Because it used to be part of the socialist republic of Yugoslavia, it was branded as cheap and affordable, being a number one summer destination among Europeans back in the 80's. Huge amounts of people would visit the country, often staying in then state-owned three-star hotels, B&B's and campsites.
After Croatia went through a war for independency during the early 90's, it started re-gaining popularity as a popular travel destination. Still, there were very few Americans who would visit, and those who did were mostly persuaded by fellow Croatian-Americans who emigrated to the States long time ago. The reputation of a war-thorn country was still predominant amongst American travelers.
We dare to admit that this set of circumstances benefited Croatia to become a hidden jewel, a true gem of intact nature, unparalleled food, amazingly diverse culture, rich also for its warm and hosting people.
Thankfully , the situation has changed and Croatia is a 100% safe country, with a constant rise in GDP, nowadays taking over majority of the nautical tourism in Europe. As of 2013., Croatia became part of EU, and has partly joined the Schengen zone- free of any kind of border control between its 26 members.
For starters, you need to get there, and most importantly you need to fly there - except for if you're truly adventurous and wish to embark in a three weeks sailing adventure across the Atlantic (It's on our list!). The capital, Zagreb is the city with the biggest airport, well connected, but without direct flights from the U.S. Your flight will most likely be connected through any of the major European airports like London, Frankfurt, Munchen or Istanbul, lasting approx. 10.5 hours, including layover. As an effort to establish direct flights between the two countries, American Airlines launched a direct flight connecting Philadelphia to Dubrovnik, three times a week between June and September.
Recommended flights to Croatia
Flying to Zagreb: As mentioned, the capital is well connected to other European airports, and offers a range of different transportation towards all parts of Croatia. It is certainly a very charming city to visit, so opting for this flight could add up nicely to your itinerary. The cost of flying from from New York would be $500, and $700 on average from a major city on the West coast.
Flying to Split: Somewhat pricier, the flight to Split will cost you approx. $1.000, with one stop. This option is more convenient when traveling to Dalmatia and taking a sailing trip on the coast. All major marinas are in the area, and Split is the second largest city thriving in cultural sites with plenty beaches in proximity.
Flying to Dubrovnik: For those wishing to start their journey on the southernmost point and sail upwards, flying directly to Dubrovnik is a great option. Known as the Game of Thrones capital, Dubrovnik is so much more than that, offering a stunning townscape of once the richest city-state and a powerful trade mecca for over five centuries. The flight will cost you $1.000 from New York or Philadelphia, and approx. $1.500 from LA.
Flying to Venice: We recommend this option for those wishing to explore first the beautiful peninsula Istria in the Northern Adriatic, and move towards Dalmatia. Istria is a true heaven for foodies and wine lovers. This low-key and not yet taken by tourists peninsula will give you everything: rich history, amazing landscape, food and wine. Plus, it is always a good idea to stop in Venice. Another, similar option is flying to Trieste - a beautiful and not so hyped city of northern Italy, only two hours drive from Croatia.
Accommodation options in Croatia
Croatia is not limited to one, leading type of accommodation, but it's rather a diverse combination of available spaces to rent. These of course have their ups and downs, read all about it below:
1. Hotels & Villas I've heard some people commenting that the offer is just not there yet. This is completely legitimate up until a few years ago, but investors started opening up and renewing hotels at a flashing speed. The once socialist buildings with many rooms and not so many amenities are almost disappeared, and new, beautiful boutique hotels and luxury resorts are taking place. If you missed to find adequate accommodation last year, you might want to check again because the hotel offer is booming. The top-notch, all-inclusive villas can be found mostly in Istria and around Dubrovnik. The average price for a 5* hotel for a room in peak season will be $350, but this can widely vary on whether you'd like a private suite or a room.
2. Apartments and rooms
A very popular way when traveling on budget with plenty options all along Croatia. If you book on time (meaning at least six months in advance), you will find luxury accommodation at reasonable prices. There are plenty apartments out there and it's highly possible that you'll find something available even without booking, but we certainly don't recommend this as the best ones are gone first. On average, you can book a one-bedroom apartment or a twin room in a B&B for $50 per night. These prices can change depending on the time of the year.
3. Camping & Glamping
We love being out in the nature.Camping and glamping are both great ways to detach and recharge under the pine trees, only steps away from the sea. Croatia is just perfect for this type of traveling. With so many islands, you'll find lots of sites for a reasonable price of $80. Glamping is not so common yet and again, the leading region would be the peninsula of Istria - you'll learn fast that these guys are ahead with hospitality compared to other parts of Croatia, but when it comes to boats, southern Croatia or Dalmatia, is the place to go.
Finally. You just can't beat the feeling of being on a boat and effortlessly hopping the islands, with quiet mornings in secluded bays just for you and your group. We've done it too many times to not sound too involved & in love with the sea. True, the weather is unpredictable and you can find yourself in the middle of a summer storm, but this is all part of the experience. It may be a bit pricier than the average accommodation on land, but it's totally worth it. Luxury hotels will satisfy you with all the amenities but the multiple locations you'll visit while actually enjoying the traveling in between, is the boat's no.1 advantage. Prices can be hard to determine, but for one week of sailing in a high-tier boat your expenses will be somewhere around $2600. Opting for a motor yacht will significantly increase the expense.
Food & Transportation Costs
As this hugely depends on the region, I will still focus on the Croatian coast. The average dinner in Croatia with a glass of wine will cost you between $60 and $100 for two. It is worth mentioning that you won't get the same quality and service for the same cost everywhere. Restaurants that tend to charge more for a not-so outstanding meal are the one located in the waterfront. Before choosing where to eat you should try to take an advice from a local person. Our favorites are small family-run restaurants with limited number of tables who will give you all the attention and freshest ingredients. If you have the chance to get groceries in a supermarket on the land, it will certainly save you money compared to buying in small local stores on the islands. Try farmer's markets and look for the smallest stands, you will never want to leave.
As for a taxi ride., it is probably safer to go with an Uber, as the seasonal drivers can get a little out of hand with their fares. Bus tickets can vary and it is way safer to buy these in advance. Ferry and boat rides are mostly affordable and as low as from $10 per person.
Croatia and especially its coast is constantly changing and upgrading, and you should not expect a low-cost and on-budget destination. It could be perhaps a bit more affordable than Italy, but pricier than Greece or Turkey. Places such as Hvar, Dubrovnik, even Split or parts of Istria can easily compete with other luxurious summer-destinations in Europe such as St. Tropez, Ibiza or the Amalfi Coast.