Backpacking Croatia on a Budget

Backpacking Croatia on a Budget


Thinking about heading to Croatia? With its naturally beautiful coastline and national parks, you are not alone. Tourism in Croatia has grown over the past 20 years.

The high season falls during the summer months of July & August, with only a slight taper in May, June, September, and October. Known for their “sea and sun” tourism, people flock for a dip in the Adriatic Sea.

According to a HostelWorld search, a 7.5+ rated dorm room in Split starts at $10/night during September. The same search in July starts at $26/night. There is a significant price difference across the board during the two peak months for travel and daily essentials; including taxis, restaurants, and grocery stores.

If you are looking for fun in the sun and are strapped for cash, then the “shoulder” season months are the time to go. The weather is warm enough to go swimming, and the shops are open.

Where in the World is Croatia?

Croatia was a part of the former Yugoslavia until the mid-1990’s.

Located in Southern Europe along the Adriatic Sea across from the east coast of Italy.

Croatia Map

Travel Europe Croatia on European Map
Croatia on a European map

Croatia on a World Map

Travel Europe Croatia on European Map
Croatia on a world map

Travel Croatia

Dubrovnik is the most recognizable name in Croatian tourism, but if you want to see a few locations, then look at Split.

Croatia Island Hopping on a Budget

Airfare directly into Split is expensive and seasonal. For cheap airfare, fly a low-cost airline like Vueling, RyanAir, or EasyJet into Dubrovnik, Zadar, or Zagreb. Trains lines from northern cities end in Split. Whereas, busses continue south to Dubrovnik.

Croatia’s two most popular islands Hvar and Vis are accessible by ferry from Split.

Kings Landing, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Kings Landing, Dubrovnik, Croatia

PassportJoy did a travel Croatia blog post about an island hopping itinerary. You can read the post here: Follow Matt on Twitter (@mattjavit), Nikki on Instagram (@nikkijav), or both of them on Facebook (PassportJoyTravel).

Top 8 Places to Visit in Croatia

  1. Dubrovnik

“The pearl of the Adriatic,” provides a mix of history, sun, and sea making it a popular tourist destination year-round. The small alleyways in the marble-clad Old Town (Stari Grad) are dotted with cafes and bars and encased within the city walls.

Located in southern Croatia, the easiest way to reach Old Town is by plane. The nearby Dubrovnik airport has several direct flights from around Europe.

Game of Thrones fans will want to check out this website for specific filming locations and tours:

Climber Monkey’s Abroad wrote a travel Croatia blog post about their Game of Thrones inspired trip to Dubrovnik, How to Spend 48 Hours in Dubrovnik, Croatia on a Budget. Follow them on Instagram or Pinterest.

  1. Split

Known for its crystalline waters and white sandy beaches, Split attracts nature-lovers interested in water sports and outdoor activities.

The ancient city walls enclose a rich architectural history. Roman emperor Diocletian chose Split as the building site of his palace at the turn of the fourth century. Today it's about half of Old Town and was used in the fourth season of the Game of Thrones.

  1. Vis

Vis, an island off of Split, can only be reached by ferry. The stand-in for Greece in the movie Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. The island was used as a military base from the 1950s until the end of the Yugoslavian wars, leaving the island untouched by the outside world until 1989.

  1. Hvar

Another island off of the coast of Split, Hvar is another popular destination for beachgoers. It’s the sunniest location in Croatia with an average of 114 days of sunshine a year. Hvar Town’s upscale hotels attract the yachting and young party crowd alike. Venture into the interior of the island, and you’ll discover vineyards and lavender fields.

  1. Plitvice Lakes National Park

If you’ve seen the pictures of Croatian waterfalls and lakes with walking paths over them, then Plitvice Lakes National Park is where you want to go. A UNESCO heritage site, the park is made up of 16 uniquely turquoise lakes.

It’s located roughly halfway between Zadar and Zagreb near the Bosnia & Herzonvna border. The park is an easy day trip from Split or Zagreb by bus. Inside the park there are ferries and trains to move you around, which are included in the entrance fee.

Unfortunately, swimming has been banned since 2006. Head to Krka waterfall National Park in Dalmatia to take a dip in turquoise lake water.

  1. Istria

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, Istria might be the place for you. It’s a popular destination for Central Europeans, but still undiscovered by most of the world. Istria is the peninsula at the border with Slovenia.

While the region is not known for sandy beaches, it’s loved by foodies and adventure-seekers. If you’re looking for a discounted Italian experience, Istria is the answer. Most residents speak Italian, and they are proud of their prime white truffles, fresh seafood,  olive oils, and wines. Adventure lovers spend their day rock climbing, diving, and paragliding.

Travel Europe Rovinj, Croatia
Rovinj, Croatia

The top towns to visit: Rovinj, Vrsar, Porec, Groznjan, Umag, and Pula.

For more insights to the area, read Miriam Risager’s travel Croatia blog post, 12 highlights of Istria – Croatia’s most amazing region. Follow her @Adventurousmiri on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

  1. Zadar

The earliest evidence of a population dates back to the Late Stone Age, making Zadar Croatia’s oldest city. With a hodgepodge of history, Zadar is a lively city and transportation hub at the top of the Dalmatian Coast.

Taking a stroll along the waterfront promenade to the northwestern tip of Old Town and you will find an art installation known as the Sea Organ.

  1. Zagreb

The capital of Croatia is made for people who prefer to walk. There are three primary areas to the city; including Upper Town (Gornji Grad), Lower Town (Donji Grad), and New Zagreb (Novi Zagreb).

Novi Zagreb rests between the train station and the Sava River. This is primarily high-rise buildings with little to offer tourists.

The historical highlights of the city are found in Upper Town. Wander around the little streets between Gradec and Kaptol. For something a little different, checkout Gric Tunnel, a World War II bomb shelter running between Radiceva and Mesnica.

Many of the hotels and apartments for rent are in Lower Town, which is home to the business, art, and parks of the city.

Travel Europe Croatia

The Dalmatian Coast

Croatia is inexpensive compared to its neighbors to the north and west. If it is the landscape you’re seeking and not the nightlife, then you can save money by visiting one of the smaller islands, towns, or the country of Montenegro that lies south of Croatia.

The Dalmatian Coast starts at Rab Island between Pula and Zadar and continues into Montenegro where it ends near Kotor.

Split, Croatia
Split, Croatia

Croatia Budget Accommodation Tips

If you are on a strict budget, avoid July and August. Use or HostelWorld to find the best deals. Airbnb is popular enough, but is the most popular platform.

International budget hotel chains don’t really exist in Croatia. So, don’t waste your time looking for your budget standard.


Throughout the decades renting an apartment (apartmani) was the cheapest way to travel. You can find bachelors to multi-bedroom with the prices ranging just as wildly.

If you’re traveling alone or with a group of people, this might be the best “bang for your buck.” Make sure you read the descriptions and understand what is included with the price. A lot of owners still operate the same way they did two decades ago, so it is not unusual to find sheets or electricity are an additional cost.

Apartments average $50/night in the “shoulder” season (May, June, September, and October). However, this average is based on the rental options available. As an example, a two-bedroom in the center of Split’s Old Town with a kitchen and washer runs a solo person $36/night and a group of four will pay $63/night.


Hostels are gaining popularity outside bigger coastal towns and Zagreb, but they are still a relatively new idea in Croatia. Not that long ago, the only hostels were run by the Croatian Youth Association.

Hostels are priced per bed, and no you can’t share a bed. The cheapest option is a bed in a dorm room. Dorm rooms can be for men or women only, or mixed. You need to double check the type of dorm you’re booking and the amenities the hostel offers. Some do not include bedding.

Croatia Sandy Beach

Budget Travel in Croatia

You might dream of traveling Croatia by train, but the more logical option is the bus. The buses are modern, air-conditioned, and sometimes provide WiFi. The trains are in the process of being upgraded. The first new train began operation in 2016, and the last train is expected to be updated within the next few years.

The ten-hour bus ride from Zagreb to Dubrovnik costs about 30 Euro on This site searches multiple bus lines, shows you how many seats are available, and allows you to book or reserve your seat.

The Croatian railway ends in Split. To continue down the coast, you’ll need to take the bus or ferry. A ticket from Zagreb to Split is about 30 Euro. As of 2016, you can purchase them online or through their app. For more information visit the HZPP official website.

Want to upgrade your travel style?

Check out our other articles on Croatia:

Finding Luxury in Croatia

How to Get to Croatia

Peter Shaw

I was top 5 #digitalnomad influencer, but now living the #expat life.
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