32 Ways To Travel Croatia On A Budget & Save Money

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Post author SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

Traveling to Croatia doesn’t have to break the bank – and you don’t have to be a budget traveler to need to make your money go further. As someone who’s lived in this stunning country for 11 years, journeying from the northernmost points to the southern tips, I’ve witnessed firsthand the evolution of Croatia as a travel destination.

Over the last 18-24 months, food and accommodation prices have surged by 30-50%, making budget-conscious travel more critical than ever. But don’t worry, I can help you save money.

In this guide, I’ll share insider tips and strategies to help you save money while still enjoying the best of Croatia – from its fantastic weather and friendly people to its breathtaking natural beauty.

With an increase in budget flights from across Europe, Croatia remains an accessible and attractive option for savvy travelers. Let’s dive into how you can experience popular tourist destinations in Croatia without overworking that credit card!


Cost Of Items In Croatia (As Of Feb 2024)

  • Coffee (at a café): €2 – €4
  • Beer (local, at a bar): €3 – €5
  • Pizza (in a restaurant): €7 – €14
  • Sandwich (from a bakery or café): €4 – €6
  • Ice Cream (per scoop): €2 – €2
  • Seafood dish (at a restaurant): €11 – €30
  • Gelato (per scoop in a tourist area): €2 – €3
  • Pasta dish (in a restaurant): €8 – €17
  • Bottled Water (0.5 liter): €2 – €3
  • Soft Drink (in a café or restaurant): €2 – €4
  • Local Wine (per glass in a restaurant): €4 – €7
  • Cocktail (at a bar or nightclub): €6 – €12
  • Petrol: €1.50 per liter

Transport Travel Budget Saving Tips

Croatia Bus Information

So, you need to get from point A to point B. So, how do you do that traveling to Croatia on a budget, as transportation costs add up fast?

1. Use The Extensive Buses Network In Croatia – The Cheapest Way To Travel

Croatia’s extensive bus network is a traveler’s dream, especially if you’re on a budget. With countless bus lines weaving through the country and even beyond its borders, getting around on local transportation has never been easier or more affordable. Forget the old image of crowded, uncomfortable buses. Today’s Croatian bus service is all about modern comforts and convenience.

These coaches come equipped with amenities that make road travel a breeze. Free WiFi? Check. Electric plug-ins? You got it. This means you can stay connected, charge your devices, and share those travel moments in real-time. The buses are designed with passenger comfort in mind – think headrests for a quick nap, more legroom (which, trust me, is a blessing), and ample space for your travel bags. Air conditioning keeps the summer heat at bay, and on-board toilets mean fewer pit stops.

Plus, most bus drivers speak English, so you’ll have no trouble getting tips or directions. Whether you’re hopping between major cities or venturing into lesser-known regions, Croatia’s bus network is a reliable, comfortable, and cost-effective way to travel.

So, grab a seat on the bus, enjoy the views, and let the road take you to your next Croatian adventure!

The best part for me is that taking the bus allows you to relax and soak in all the beauty Croatia has to offer, and it’s the best option for budget travel in Croatia.

2. Find Budget Car Rental In Croatia

Of course, buses are not for everyone. Car rental can be inexpensive if you know two things.

  • Are you looking to rent a car in Croatia without overspending? It’s definitely doable, and here’s how. First up, timing is critical – book your rental car early. Just like snagging the best seats at a concert, early booking often means better deals and more options to choose from. The early bird really does get the worm in the car rental game
  • Now, about the car itself: think small. Smaller vehicles are not only more affordable in terms of rental costs, but they’re also more economical when it comes to fuel consumption – a win-win for your wallet. However, don’t forget to consider luggage space. Those charmingly compact cars are great until you realize your suitcase won’t fit. So, do a quick check to ensure there’s enough trunk space for your bags. This way, you balance cost-efficiency with practicality.

By following these simple tips, you can enjoy the freedom and convenience of having a car in Croatia without the high prices. Drive through the country’s beautiful landscapes and explore hidden gems at your own pace, all while keeping your budget in check.

3. Use The Ferry Network

Exploring Croatia’s stunning coastline and islands doesn’t have to mean splurging on a sailing cruise or renting a yacht – which, let’s be honest, can really stretch your budget.

A wallet-friendly alternative?

Hop on a ferry!

Not only are ferries significantly more affordable, but they also offer a relaxed and scenic way to travel between islands. While a private yacht might give you luxury and exclusivity, ferry rides offer their own charm with the chance to mingle with locals and fellow travelers. Plus, you can’t beat the feeling of the sea breeze on your face as you travel from one beautiful destination to another.

Ferries in Croatia are efficient and well-connected and offer a range of routes covering the most popular islands as well as some hidden gems.

The experience is straightforward – buy your ticket, hop on, and enjoy the journey. You’ll get to see the Croatian coastline from a different perspective, and who knows, you might even stumble upon a quaint coastal town you hadn’t planned on visiting.

This way, you get the essence of the Croatian maritime experience without the hefty price tag of a private charter. 

So, grab a ferry schedule, plan your island-hopping adventure, and get ready to explore Croatia’s islands in a way that’s both budget-friendly and full of local flavor!


4. Go The Scenic Route On Your Road Trip

Embarking on a road trip through Croatia? Here’s a savvy tip: skip the motorways and their tolls, and instead, embrace the scenic local roads.

Sure, they might add a bit more time to your journey, but trust me, the views are worth it. Plus, they’re 100% free, which is great news for your budget.

Croatia’s local roads snake through picturesque landscapes, quaint villages, and along stunning coastlines, offering a more authentic and immersive travel experience.

So, why rush on the motorway when you can take the road less traveled? It’s an opportunity to see Croatia through a different lens at your own pace. Plus, saving money on tolls means you can splurge a little more on experiences and treats along the way.

Grab a map, plot a course (for example, the old road from Zadar to Split), and get ready for a road trip filled with memorable sights and experiences – the Croatian way!

5. Take A Private Transfer

Taking a private transfer in Croatia might sound like a luxury option, but it can actually be a savvy, money-saving move, especially if you’re traveling in a group.

Think about it – splitting the cost of a private transfer with friends or family can often work out to be as affordable, if not cheaper, than buying individual tickets for public transport. And let’s not forget the added benefits that come with it.

First off, private transfers offer a level of comfort and convenience that public buses can’t match.

The convenience factor is a major plus. Say goodbye to the hassle of dragging your luggage to bus stations and puzzling over bus schedules. And then, there’s the often-overlooked detail of getting from the bus stop to your hotel.

In many cases, this means hailing a taxi (and getting ripped off!), which adds extra cost and time to your journey. With a private transfer, these worries vanish. You get a direct, comfortable ride from your pickup point straight to your hotel door.

Private transfers offer a relaxed, air-conditioned journey, minus the overcrowded buses. They’re tailored to your schedule, providing the flexibility that public transport can’t match.

So, for a group exploring Croatia, opting for a private transfer can mean more time enjoying your trip and less time (and money) spent on navigating the logistics of travel. It’s a smart, stress-free way to move around and make the most of your Croatian adventure.

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Croatia Accommodation Budget Travel Tips


Finding the perfect place to stay in Croatia doesn’t have to drain your wallet. After years of exploring this beautiful country, I’ve learned that while hotels are great, there’s a whole world of budget-friendly accommodation options out there that help your tight budget.

From cozy local apartments to unique homes on Airbnb, these alternatives not only save you money but also offer a more authentic Croatian experience.

It’s true that Croatia isn’t overrun with international hotel chains, but that’s part of its charm. The ones that do exist tend to be on the pricier side. So, if you’re traveling on a budget, it pays to be savvy about where you stay. Hunting for deals on specialized booking sites early on can lead to some serious savings.

But there’s more to budget accommodation than just snagging a good deal. Here are some essential tips to help you find a great place to stay in Croatia without breaking the bank. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or planning your first Croatian adventure, these insights will guide you to comfortable, affordable stays that enhance your travel experience.

6. Opt For Local Apartments Or Homes

While hotels have their charm, consider the more budget-friendly option of local apartments or homes available on platforms like Airbnb. If you are with a group, a two-bedroom apartment will cost way less than two hotel rooms.

These accommodations often provide a more authentic and cost-effective experience, allowing you to live like a local and save money. They come in all shapes and sizes, catering to different needs and budgets, and often include amenities that hotels charge extra for.

7. Search For Deals On Specialized Booking Sites

Croatia may not boast a plethora of international hotel chains, but the ones present can be pricey. To snag a deal, turn to specialized booking sites and keep an eye out for sales. These sites frequently offer discounts and special rates that aren’t available elsewhere.

8. Use Incognito Mode For Hotel Searches

A little-known trick: browse for hotels in incognito mode. This prevents dynamic pricing tactics from hiking up prices based on your search history, potentially leading to better deals.

9. Book Hotels Early

Many hotels offer early booking discounts, so get in there as soon as your travel dates are set. While these discounts are often available until the end of March, you might also stumble upon last-minute sales throughout the year.

10. Book Directly With Hotels

Don’t overlook the benefits of booking directly with a hotel. Contact them via their website or phone and inquire about discounts or all-inclusive options. Direct bookings sometimes unlock special rates not advertised elsewhere.

11. Stay Outside The City Center

Consider accommodations slightly outside the central part of the city. These areas often offer more affordable options and can give you a glimpse into everyday local life. Plus, a short walk or public transport ride easily connects you to the city’s main attractions.

12. Embrace Camping

For the more adventurous, camping is a wallet-friendly alternative to hotels. Croatia’s natural beauty makes it an ideal place to camp, offering a unique experience close to nature.

13. Stay In Hostels

Hostels aren’t just for backpackers; they’re a great way to save a lot of money and meet fellow travelers. Croatia’s hostels range from basic to boutique, catering to different comfort levels and budgets.


14. Try Housesitting

For a longer stay, consider housesitting. It’s a cost-free way to enjoy accommodation, often in exchange for looking after the property or pets. This option lets you live like a local and truly immerse yourself in Croatian culture.

Skip The High Season & Save Money In Croatia


Planning a budget-friendly trip to Croatia? Timing is everything. Take a moment to step back and consider when you’re visiting because the season can make a massive difference to your wallet.

Tourism in Croatia has a distinctly seasonal rhythm. Peak season, running from July through August, sees prices skyrocketing. Everything from accommodation to activities can cost significantly more during these months. Even we locals tend to avoid traveling within our own country during this time due to the steep prices.

15. Come In The Shoulder Seasons

However, there’s a sweet spot for budget-conscious travelers: the shoulder seasons. Spring (April, May, and June) and autumn (particularly September) are ideal times to visit. Why? Firstly, you’ll sidestep the inflated costs of peak season. Accommodation rates drop, and you’ll often find great deals on activities and dining, too.

But the benefits go beyond just financial savings. Spring in Croatia brings warmer weather and fewer tourists, offering a more relaxed atmosphere. You can explore the country’s stunning landscapes and historical sites without the crowds, experiencing Croatia as the locals do.

September continues to charm with its pleasant weather, perfect for beach lounging and swimming. The sea is still warm from the summer sun, making it ideal for water activities. Plus, with fewer tourists around, you’ll get a more authentic feel of Croatian life.

So, if you’re looking to experience the best of Croatia without straining your budget, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons. You’ll enjoy moderate weather, fewer crowds, and, most importantly, a more affordable and authentic Croatian adventure.

Choosing The Right Location To Save Money In Croatia

Cable Car in Dubrovnik
Cable Car in Dubrovnik

16. Opt For Less Touristy Towns Over Hotspots Like Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, with its stunning Old Town and Game of Thrones fame, is a magnet for tourists, leading to higher prices. To keep your expenses in check, consider staying in areas outside the Old Town, such as Cavtat or Ston. These places offer the same captivating beauty but at a fraction of the cost.


17. Explore Affordable Alternatives To Split

Split is another popular destination, but nearby towns like Trogir or Omiš offer a more budget-friendly base.

These charming locations are less crowded and more affordable, yet close enough to Split for convenient day trips. Alternatively, Zadar, a lesser-known gem, provides a budget-friendly alternative with easy access to famous spots like Plitvice Lakes National Park. Use my Croatia travel guide to explore ideas for smaller towns around your desired destinations – these often hold the key to significant savings.

18. Stay Longer In Fewer Places

To keep your budget in check while traveling in Croatia, consider reducing the number of destinations on your itinerary. Constantly moving from town to town not only adds to travel stress but can also inflate your expenses.

19. Take Advantage Of Long-Stay Discounts

Many accommodations, ranging from hotels to private apartments, offer discounts for longer stays. By spending more time in one place, you can tap into these savings. This approach is particularly beneficial for budget-conscious travelers looking to reduce their accommodation costs.

20. Choose Strategic Bases For Exploration

Cities like Zadar, Zagreb, or Split make excellent bases for exploring smaller cities. These strategic locations allow you to cover a lot of ground with day trips. You can experience the diversity of Croatian landscapes and culture without the need to pack and move constantly.

21. Experience More By Traveling Less

Staying in one place for longer not only saves money but also lets you delve deeper into the local culture and lifestyle. You’ll have the time to discover hidden gems, form connections with locals, and truly immerse yourself in the Croatian way of life.

22. Be Efficient At Travel Planning

Plan your travel routes efficiently. By choosing nearby attractions and destinations for your day trips, you can minimize travel time and costs. This focused approach allows you to see more without the added expense of long-distance travel.

By embracing the ‘less is more’ philosophy in your travel plans, you can enjoy a richer, more relaxed Croatian experience while keeping your budget in line. This approach emphasizes quality over quantity, ensuring you get the most out of your Croatian adventure without overspending on transportation and accommodation.

Island Hopping In Croatia On A Budget

Heart shaped island of Galesnjak in Zadar archipelago

Are you dreaming of island hopping in Croatia’s Dalmatia or Kvarner Region? It’s more achievable than you might think. Contrary to popular belief, island hopping here can be done on a budget. The trick is to plan your itinerary smartly. Start by picking islands that match your interests and budget. The off-the-beaten-path islands often provide a more authentic experience at lower costs.

23. Set Your Own Itinerary

Flexibility is your friend when it comes to island hopping. Decide which islands you want to visit and for how long. This way, you can avoid the tourist traps and find hidden, more affordable spots.

24. Travel Necessities

Before you embark on your island-hopping adventure, ensure you have all the travel essentials. This means doing a bit of research and planning ahead to avoid last-minute purchases or rentals that can add unexpected costs to your trip.


25. Use Ferries Wisely

Ferries are a cost-effective way to hop between islands. Look for passenger tickets only, which are usually cheaper than bringing a car. 

26. Consider Off The Beaten Track Islands

While everyone flocks to Hvar and Korčula, islands like Solta, Vis, and Mljet offer a tranquil escape at a lower cost. These lesser-known islands can provide a more intimate experience of Croatian island life.

By choosing your location wisely and planning your island hopping with a budget in mind, you can enjoy the wonders of Croatia without spending a fortune. Whether it’s finding a quaint town near a major city or charting a course through Croatia’s beautiful islands, there are plenty of ways to save while soaking in the country’s stunning landscapes and rich culture.

Money Saving Tips For Food

Croatian food - what to eat in Croatia

27. Eat Like A Local

One of the best ways to save on food in Croatia is to eat where the locals eat. Avoid tourist-packed restaurants and, instead, find those hidden gems – we call them “konobas,” where traditional Croatian cuisine is served at reasonable prices. These places offer an authentic taste of the country’s culinary delights.

28. Embrace Marenda

Many local restaurants offer ‘marenda’ or ‘gablec’ – a fixed-price meal typically including a main course, salad, a side, and sometimes dessert. These hearty meals are designed to keep you satisfied throughout the day and are a great way to enjoy delicious Croatian dishes without overspending.

29. Cook Your Own Meals

Utilize local markets in each town, which are overflowing with fresh vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients. If you’re staying in an apartment or a hotel with kitchen facilities, cooking some of your meals can be a huge money-saver. It’s also a fun way to immerse yourself in Croatian culture by trying out Croatian recipes like mine.

30. Smart Supermarket Shopping

Your budget can stretch further by shopping at supermarkets. Consider eating breakfast at your hotel or preparing it yourself, and pack picnic lunches for your day trips. This strategy allows you to save money for a more indulgent dinner, where you can savor the diverse flavors of Croatian cuisine.

31. Street Food and Bakeries

Don’t overlook street food and local bakeries for quick, tasty, and inexpensive meals. Items like ‘burek‘ or sandwiches are perfect for on-the-go eating and offer a cheap yet satisfying option.

32. Drink Croatia’s Tap Water

One often overlooked but significant way to save money in Croatia is by drinking tap water. It’s not just a cost-effective choice; it’s also a safe and healthy one. Croatia boasts exceptionally high standards of water quality. In fact, the quality of tap water in Croatia meets or exceeds all international safety standards, making it perfectly safe to drink.

Drinking tap water in Croatia means you can avoid the extra expense and environmental impact of bottled water. Almost everywhere you go, from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, the tap water is not only drinkable but also tastes great. This is especially handy during the hot summer months when staying hydrated is crucial.

So, remember to pack a reusable water bottle on your Croatian adventure. You can refill it throughout the day at any tap or public water fountain. This simple act not only saves you money but also contributes to reducing plastic waste, helping preserve Croatia’s natural beauty for future visitors.

Embracing tap water in Croatia is a smart, sustainable choice that’s good for both your wallet and the environment. Cheers to staying hydrated in a cost-effective and eco-friendly way!

6 Free Things To Do In Croatia 

While some major attractions in Croatia require you to pay a fee, there are still several amazing things to do for free.

Here are some suggestions for budget-friendly activities in Croatia:

Explore Croatia’s Best Beaches

A breathtaking aerial view of a beach with glistening sand and crystal-clear water, showcasing the serenity and beauty of things to do in Nin.

One of Croatia’s biggest draws is its beautiful beaches. What is the best part? They’re free! From the pebbly shores of the Adriatic Sea to the hidden coves of its islands, you can spend endless hours basking in the sun, swimming in crystal-clear waters, or simply enjoying the scenic beauty without spending a dime.


Hike Through Breathtaking National Parks

Beautiful Skradinski Buk Waterfall In Krka National Park, Dalmatia

Croatia’s national parks are a haven for nature lovers and hikers. While some parks may charge a nominal entrance fee, it’s a small price for the immense natural beauty you’ll experience. Trails wind through lush forests alongside cascading waterfalls and offer stunning views – perfect for those seeking adventure and tranquility alike.

Wander Historic Towns

Old Istrian town in Rovinj, Croatia.

Every Croatian town has a story to tell, and exploring these historic gems is absolutely free. Meander through the winding streets of ancient towns, soak in the architectural marvels and indulge in people-watching at bustling town squares. Each town offers a unique glimpse into Croatia’s rich history and culture.

Discover Local Markets

People on the food market in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Local markets are not only great for picking up fresh produce but also for experiencing the vibrant local culture. Browse through stalls, sample traditional delicacies, and soak in the lively atmosphere – all without spending much.

Taking Free Walking Tours In Croatia

Balkan Trip: One Month In The Balkans Itinerary - Marjan Hill overlooking Split Riva

A fantastic and budget-friendly way to explore Croatia’s rich history and culture is through free walking tours. Offered in many Croatian cities, these tours are led by knowledgeable local guides who are passionate about their hometowns. While the tours themselves are free, it’s customary to tip the guide at the end, making this a great way to save money while still enjoying a high-quality tour experience.

Enjoy Free Cultural Events

A group of people with swords at Korcula sword dance festival in Croatia.

Keep an eye out for free cultural events, especially during the summer months. From open-air concerts to street festivals, there’s often something happening that showcases Croatia’s rich cultural heritage.

Relax In Public Parks And Gardens

Croatia’s cities boast beautiful public parks and gardens, ideal for a leisurely stroll or a picnic. These green spaces provide a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

By focusing on these budget-friendly or free activities, you can enjoy the essence of Croatia without putting a strain on your finances. From its natural wonders to its historical and cultural richness, Croatia offers a plethora of experiences that don’t require a big budget.

Wrapping Up: Smart Budget Travel In Croatia

Traveling to Croatia on a budget is not only possible, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. The key is in the planning. By thinking ahead and being strategic about your choices, you can enjoy the best of Croatia without stretching your wallet too thin. Remember, it’s the smart choices, like when to travel, where to stay, and how to get around, that makes all the difference.

As you wrap up your plans for a Croatian adventure, keep in mind a few additional tips:

Embrace Public Transport

Croatia’s public transportation system is efficient and cost-effective. Buses and trains can take you across most of the country at a fraction of the cost of car rentals or flights.

Seek Out Local Advice

Don’t hesitate to ask locals for advice on where to eat, what to see, and how to get around. They often know the best deals and hidden gems that aren’t in guidebooks.

Travel Light

A lighter suitcase not only makes your journey easier but can also save you money on luggage fees for domestic flights or buses.

Be Flexible

Sometimes, being flexible with your travel dates and plans can lead to unexpected savings. Last-minute deals on accommodations or activities can offer great value.

Prioritize Your Experiences

Decide what’s most important to you. If you’re a foodie, save on accommodation so you can splurge on meals. If history is your thing, choose cheaper dining options to afford those museum entries.

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean missing out. It’s about making informed choices that enhance your experience. Croatia, with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and friendly locals, offers a wealth of opportunities for budget-savvy travelers.

So go ahead, plan wisely, and get ready to explore this beautiful country without breaking the bank.

What are your top tips for traveling on a budget? Share them, and let’s make budget travel in Croatia an adventure for everyone!

Comments (14)

  1. Very informative article. Travelling on budget is a very hard. After reading this article one can easily travel on budget. thank you very much for writing this article. It will help medium status people to travel and enjoy best places in world. :)

  2. Awesome tips! Specially for the transport, you gave great options. I didn’t know about the discount when buying tickets online!

  3. Looking at the sailing itinerary via ferry that you posted and a few days in Zagreb to go to the park. Is it better to stay on the islands for a couple of nights at each island or go back to Split and just do day trips?

    1. I would always recommend staying on the islands, it’s that way you get to know the island, and the people, food etc. And, of course spend less time in transit, and more time relaxing.

  4. Your link to a 35 Euro discount for air b n b doesn’t work. It takes you to Justpack which is useless!

  5. Hello,
    Thankyou for this brilliant article. As we ended up having an expensive summer holiday last year we were unsure that we’d get to take our boys out of the UK this summer holiday but your inspirational article has given me some hope! Do you have any recommendations for a destination that would keep two teenage boys happy (10 & 13)? Somewhere out of main expensive cities and somewhere for an adventure? 😁

    1. YES! Croatia, like many countries, has experienced periods of inflation and rising prices and with the change over to euro it is now very different than a few years ago.

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