In this guide we will tell you all about travelling in Croatia on a budget, including what to see, where to stay and how to get there.
Croatia is an increasingly popular destination in Europe and it’s not hard to see why: the country is absolutely stunning. The postcard perfect islands of Hvar and Korcula, the Game of Thrones backdrop and wild night-life of Dubrovnik, the laid back vibe of Zadar and the beautiful old town of Zagreb bring backpackers to Croatia in droves.
Sailing along the spectacular Croatian coastline and visiting a few of the many islands that lay off the coast should be top of your to-do list. Offering everything from teenage booze cruises to ultra-luxury yachting, there are plenty of companies offering boating trips along the coast. It is also possible to hand-pick a few islands and arrange ferry transportation from the mainland and between most of the major islands. Popular destinations include Brac, Hvar and Korcula. Croatia Ferries has timetable information.
TRAVELATOR TIP: Save yourself a bucket load of cash and sail Croatia during shoulder season. Prices in September and October drop dramatically but the weather is still likely to be incredible.
The laid-back, easy-going vibe of Zadar makes it a surprising highlight. The main tourist sites are on the small peninsula within easy walking distance of most hostels in the city. The winding cobble stone lanes, amazing restaurants, cheap ice-cream shops and watching the sunset from the famous Sea Organ make Zadar worth a look.
TRAVELATOR TIP: Zadar is a great spot to do a day trip to the stunning Plitvice Lakes. You will see plenty of travel agents offering to take you, but it is also possible to hire a cheap car locally and make the drive yourself. During the summer season, there are also quite a few direct buses from Zadar to Plitvice Lakes. Check out the bus timetables here.
Split is the launchpad for most island cruises, but you should definitely schedule a few days to relax here before your cruise. Spend some time wandering Diocletian’s Palace and check out the Cathedral of St. Domnius. Set aside some time to feast on seafood along the promenade, or simply grab a couple of beers and watch the sun set.
TRAVELATOR TIP: Make sure you set aside a day for a stroll around the Marjan Forest Park in Split, which offers amazing views of the city. Make sure you pack your swimmers so you can have a dip at one of the secluded tiny beaches scattered throughout the park.
One look at the ancient walls surrounding Dubrovnik will make you realise why this is such a popular town for tourists. The Old Town is where most tourists flock to walk the city walls and explore the winding alleyways. Outside of the Old Town, a trip on the cable car will offer amazing views of the entire town. The rocky beaches are also great spot for an afternoon picnic.
TRAVELATOR TIP: When looking at accommodation, expect to instantly pay double for anything inside the Old Town without the quality to match. Saying outside of the Old Town is much cheaper and quieter! Don’t worry about location – a free shuttle bus runs people along the foreshore to the Old Town.
Where To Stay
We stayed in some great value places in Croatia, but it was a while ago so a couple have unfortunately closed. Here is one of our favourites:
- Split – Hostel Apinelo – location wise it does not get much better than this, being just a 5 minute walk from the main promenade of Split as well as the bus station. The staff are incredibly helpful (especially for places to drink), the dorm rooms are large and it has a great kitchen.
Lovers of seafood will have the time of their lives in Croatia! The seafood is fresh, cheap and the range is amazing – anything that swims in the sea is available. Our favourite spots to try seafood were in Split and Dubrovnik.
Cevapi (or cevapcici) is a small skinless sausage made out of mince meat, usually beef or lamb. They can be found pretty much every where and are absolutely delicious when served up with some flatbread, onion and a sauce made from minced red capsicum and salt.
For those familiar with burek or gozleme, this is their Croatian vegetarian cousin and is equally delicious. Soparnik is a thin pie usually full of spinach and cheese then cooked in an open fire oven – great for a quick snack on the run.
Aside from the time you find yourself cruising along the Croatian coast on a yacht, you will do most of your internal travelling by bus. Buses run throughout the whole country and are cheap and easy to organise. Speak with your hotel/hostel or simply visit your local bus station to arrange your tickets. In peak season (May to August) it pays to be organised and book your buses a few days ahead as they can book out. You can find schedules at Bus Croatia. Trains are not a popular option as there are limited routes.
Croatia is also a great spot to hire a car and explore the country by road. Local companies offer cheap car hire, the roads and safe and easy to navigate but we would definitely recommend having some form of GPS with you.
Getting In and Out
From outside of Europe, Croatia can be quite difficult to get to with Zagreb being the only airport that is serviced by major airlines flying in from Asia or the Middle East.
If you are already in Europe then your flying options are far better. Croatia is connected well by flights from all over Europe, with a lot of budget airlines (such as easyJet, WizzAir and Ryanair) now offering dirt cheap flights if you book well in advance. Rijeka, Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik airports operate international flights mainly during the summer season.
There are plenty of bus connections from countries across Europe, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia and Hungary. Eurolines bus company has a good selection of routes.
There are direct train connections from Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary and Slovenia.
USD$100 (for a couple) will cover your food, accommodation in nice hostels, bus transport and even a cheap week-long cruise along the coast.
Best Time to Visit
As with the rest of Europe the most popular time to travel is during summer (June to August). It is worth mentioning that the Mediterranean can get very hot during these months and may not suit all travellers. Croatia’s idyllic weather also suits travellers looking to avoid the blistering heat and save some money during shoulder season (April to June, and September to October), which offers fantastic weather, fewer tourists and cheaper prices.
Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.