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How to do Croatia on a budget

Photo of Caroline HowleyPhoto of Caroline Howley
By Caroline Howley

1 February 2017 | Updated 7 June 20249 min read

The harbour in Split, Croatia, with small boats moored along the edges, cafes spilling out onto the promenade and the Cathedral of Saint Domnius rising above the buildings

Split Stay beyond Split's Riva waterfront to keep it cheap in Croatia.

Croatia has soared in popularity among travellers over the past decade, with tourists flocking to wander the marble streets of its old towns, party on its picturesque islands and paddle in the aquamarine waters of the Dalmatian Coast.

As its popularity has soared, the price of visiting has jumped too. But, while Croatia boasts its fair share of luxury accommodation and fine dining restaurants in tourist hotspots, there are still plenty of cheap options out there.

Croatia has a relatively low cost of living compared to some Western European nations, with a local beer in bars costing around £2, and hostel accommodation in tourist hotspots starting at around £17 per night.

Do your research, and you’ll be able to enjoy a trip to Croatia on a lower budget than other Mediterranean destinations. Here’s how.

Budget places to stay in Croatia

Croatia’s gleaming old towns are immensely popular with tourists and are generally the most expensive places to eat, drink and stay.

While these walled cities are a must for any traveller visiting Croatia, it’s worth exploring accommodation options outside their ancient boundaries.

Take a bus ride from Dubrovnik’s Old Town and you’ll find much cheaper accommodation in a variety of stunning coastal locations such as Zaton, while the Babin Kuk district northwest of the centre and the area around the marina are good options if proximity to a mixture of restaurants and bars is high on your list of priorities. Wherever you choose to stay in Dubrovnik, it’s easy to access the centre via bus, while ride-sharing apps are cheap if you want to stay out late.

In Split, Diocletian’s Palace forms about half of the old town – look at options outside this area to find cheaper deals. By taking a five-minute waterfront walk along the gorgeous Riva to your accommodation rather than stay slap-bang in the middle, you can shave a lot of money off the cost of your accommodation.

With Dubrovnik and Split towards the south of the country being two of the most popular places to visit in Croatia, accommodation generally becomes cheaper the further north you travel. If you’re working to a tight budget, it’s worth spending some time in Zadar’s old town, which also offers a more authentic Croatian experience than the polished southern cities.

Island-hopping is a favourite activity among visitors to Croatia, and this is where it’s sometimes worth splashing out a little more on accommodation. It’s much harder to get around by public transport on the islands, so staying somewhere central is important to ensure you make the most of your time on Hvar, Brač, or whichever other dreamy island you choose.

Hotel Ani

  • Makarska, Croatia
  • 12 October 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Luton

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

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£576

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Cheap eats in Croatia

Menus in Croatian restaurants largely comprise a combination of spiced meat and Mediterranean options, which can make for some seriously heavy meals. Restaurants vary from traditional Croatian konobas situated on backstreets, all polished wood and hearty food, to high-end Italian joints in the trendy old town areas. As such, there’s also a significant variation in price.

Konoba cuisine

For a taste of authentic Croatia, order mixed grill or seafood at a family-run konoba. These traditional eateries can be found all over Croatia, and are significantly cheaper than restaurants catering to tourists.

In Trogir, Konoba Fortin is a firm favourite, with a warm family-run vibe and a menu packed with low-cost Croatian delights.

Good-value seafood is the star of the show at the Michelin-rated Konoba Fetivi in Split, which is run by a family who have been in the neighbourhood for 300 years – it doesn’t get doesn’t get much more traditional than that!

Elsewhere, Stomorica is one of the oldest konobas in Zadar, having plated up sardines for generations. Now, guests enjoy a wider selection of seafood dishes in a charming, canary yellow courtyard.

International dining in Dubrovnik

As you’d expect, Dubrovnik is packed to the brim with fabulous dining experiences – both local and international – but here you have to look a little harder to find budget options.

One restaurant that couples delicious pizzas with affordable prices is Oliva Pizzeria, which you’ll find in a pretty back alley near the centre of Dubrovnik’s old town.

Located in a pretty 19th century garden, GreenGarden Burger Bar serves up hearty meals from around £12.

The tiny Barba is a seafood-lovers’ haven. Here, friendly staff serve up highly-affordable traditional Dalmatian cuisine in Dubrovnik’s old town.

Street food

When you’re travelling on a tight budget, it’s often best to avoid the extra expense of a sit-down lunch or dinner.

Fortunately, Croatia has plenty of popular takeaways and street food vendors where you can purchase mouthwatering food for very little money.

A night out in Zadar is not complete without a late-night trip to student favourite, Crazy Pizza. A jumbo pizza here costs just £13, and you can buy a massive slice for only £3.40. Not only is the food here extremely cheap, making it perfect for travellers on a budget, but it’s plentiful and delicious.

At Take Away Dubrovnik, you’ll find tasty treats from burgers and wraps to kebabs and Ćevapi at surprisingly low prices for the old town.

Meanwhile, Old House Street Food in Split plates up a menu of hearty burgers to eat on the go.

Free (and cheap) things to do in Croatia

There are so many things to experience in Croatia that it’s hard to pick out the highlights. But it’s easy to pack in plenty – even on a budget.

Old towns

A visit to Dubrovnik’s old town should be top of any traveller’s itinerary, yet this is easily the most expensive place in the country, so careful planning is essential. Walking the city’s ancient walls is a real ‘must-do' but can be expensive at peak times – the two-hour experience will set you back £30 during the high season (until November) but drops to around £12.90 in the low season. Luckily, getting lost in the labyrinthine backstreets is free.

While Dubrovnik is certainly Croatia’s star attraction, there are plenty of slightly quieter but equally pretty old towns to explore in Croatia, including Split, Trogir, Zadar, Hvar and Korčula.

Local bars

Croatia is famous for its lively bars, which are often set against charming old town scenery or the glittering backdrops of the Dalmatian Coast. If you opt for local beers such as Karlovačko or Ožujsko, you can enjoy these nightspots on a tight budget.

Incredibly popular with locals, Dubrovnik’s Buzz Bar is known as one of the cheapest establishments in the old town. Serving craft beers, wines, and cocktails, it’s situated on a busy street ideal for people-watching with a tipple.

Elsewhere, in the heart of the magnificent Diocletian’s Palace, Split’s famous Charlie’s Bar is a hit with the backpacker crowd thanks to its super cheap prices, live music, and bouncing atmosphere.

Sightseeing and beaches

Many of Croatia’s highlights can be cheap to explore – though you’re more likely to sightsee for less in the low season.

Plitvice Lakes National Park boasts endless aquamarine lakes and fairytale waterfalls. If you’re visiting in the off-season, tickets start at just £8.60 per person, rising to £34 in the summer months. Entrance includes free bus transport throughout the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the most famous sights in Zadar is completely free. As the sun goes down, visitors gather to listen to the waves play the city’s iconic Sea Organ. Zadar’s Roman ruins are another free site worth visiting in this city.

The islands also boast a range of glorious pebble-and-sand beaches perfect for a low-cost day out, with Brač’s pin-up Zlatni Rat – often called the ‘Golden Horn’ beach – the most famous.

Alkar Hotel

  • Sinj, Dalmatia, Croatia
  • 3 September 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Luton

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

Prices from

£395

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How to get around Croatia on a budget

Croatia is a relatively small country, and it’s possible to drive from Dubrovnik, in the south, to the northern capital of Zagreb in just eight hours. As a result, car hire is a great way to explore Croatia. This is not the thriftiest of options, however, with the car hire, insurance, petrol and green card to drive through Bosnia and Herzegovina all to be paid for, but it is an incredible way to see the country if you can stretch to it.

If you don’t want to splash the cash on a hire car, the bus is perhaps the best option for exploring the country. Buses are usually modern, comfortable and inexpensive, and – unlike the train line – keep largely to the coast road. If you’re venturing up to Zagreb, you could also make use of the train network, which will get you to your destination more quickly.

When island-hopping, opt for ferries over fast boats. Not only are ferries safer and more frequent, but they’re also much cheaper than the speed boats you’ll see idling at the harbours.

Insider tips

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, look out for camping opportunities. There are plenty of campsites all over Croatia, which offer a much cheaper alternative to staying at large hotels.

Wherever possible, opt for accommodation with free transfers and free bike rental. Both features are common in Croatia, and will save you a significant amount of cash when it comes to getting around. Even if they’re not advertised as part of your deal, it’s worth asking – if a concierge has a spare few minutes they’ll likely give you a lift whether it’s officially part of their job or not!

Croatian food can be a bit heavy. If you want to experience the culture while cutting the cost – and the calories! – stock up on a few bottles of the famous Brač olive oil, some crusty bread and Croatian wine, find a picturesque location and sit down for a delicious picnic.

Students can often get a good deal on their food, drink, transport and accommodation in Croatia simply by flashing their student card – if you have one, ensure you take it with you so you don’t miss out.

Bear in mind that if you’re travelling in a group on a shoestring budget, privately-owned apartments will almost always be the cheapest accommodation option. Solo travellers should look for low-cost hostels.

Komodor

  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • 5 April 2025
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Gatwick

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

Prices from

£597

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