Croatia: Great Destination for a Cruise, but Definitely Not Cheap

Croatia: Lovely, but Not Cheap

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Croatia is another one of those places I’ve been trying to reach for years, but has always been pushed aside for some reason or another: international airfare was too expensive, the season wasn’t right, a better (and cheaper) trip came up in its place. So I was perhaps more excited about Croatia than all the other destinations we’d be visiting on our 11-night cruise.

cruise to Croatia

A bonus is that we had not one, not two, but three stops in Croatia, each for a full day.

Up first was Dubrovnik, the city I knew the most about, primarily through friends’ past trips and other bloggers’ Instagram feeds. Even though it would be the most touristy of the Croatian cities we’d visit, it was undoubtedly the most charming.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Let’s just say that a place is popular for a reason. It may be cliche to love Dubrovnik, but I did; I really, really did. I can’t wait till I get an opportunity to return for a longer stretch of time.

Croatia

In our brief 10 hours there, we found a slice paradise, Sveti Jakov, just on the outskirts of town thanks to my Nashville friend Christina. There, we were able to rent chairs on the rocky beach and order as many beers as we could put away. (And put away beers we did; my family is particularly adept at that skill.)

cruise to Croatia

In Hvar, we talked a boat owner at the dock into taking nine of us out on his boat for two hours for the bargain price of  $200 (or roughly $22 a person). Hvar is a gorgeous spit of land just off the Dalmatian Coast; this is the place, if anywhere, you want to take your catamaran cruise and sail in and out of the inlets surrounding the islands.

It turns out that it’s also a haven for celebrities. On the way back into town, everyone was all atwitter because Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi had just sauntered by. Turns out their yacht was parked right next to our ship! I never actually spotted either of them—though that would have made my trip—but several others from our small ship saw them palling around in town.

Rovinj was the third and final stop and nothing to write home about. I think the entry and the view from the ship was the high point. While cute and quaint—I’m sure it’s a great place to live—there simply wasn’t a whole lot for a visitor to do.

Rovinj, Croatia

Croatia is a lot of things, but what it most definitely is not is cheap. One dinner in Dubrovnik for the six of us? $300. A five-minute cab ride from the center of town to the beach? $25. A local beer? $4. Granted we didn’t venture far from the tourist area, but still.

cruise to Croatia

As my mom said: “Croatia is the cleanest tourist place I’ve ever been!” Beautiful, clean, tasty—those adjectives all sum up Croatia. But cheap it is not. I’m sure there was a time a decade ago, before the throngs of Americans arrive, that it was considered an affordable vacation. Not any longer, folks.

cruise to Croatia

Want a budget European destination? Go to Montenegro or Slovenia instead.

Want a spot with great tourist infrastructure, plenty of dining and lodging options, and an incomparable coastline? Croatia may just be the place for you.

cruise to Croatia

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COMMENTS
  • September 10, 2014

    I’ve been dying to go to Croatia and Slovenia. I want to do an Eastern Europe trip soon. Despite it being pricey, I still wanna go! These pictures are pretty gorgeous.

    • September 10, 2014

      I’d say go in late spring or early fall, and the prices will be far more reasonable. That’s my assumption at least 😉

  • September 10, 2014

    I am leaving for 10 days in Croatia exactly a week from today….I could not be more excited! Amazing pictures!

    • September 10, 2014

      You’re gonna have a blast! And I bet since summer’s tourist season is over now, you’ll find it far more affordable (let me know if that is indeed the case!).

  • September 10, 2014
    Jennifer

    So funny – I visited in Sept 2011 and had a somewhat opposite experience. We found it affordable-ish and the infrastructure lacking! We were starting in Dubrovnik and going up the coast to Split and had to schedule our entire trip around the coastal ferry that (at the time) ran one day a week. The apartments we stayed in were affordable, but the food wasn’t super cheap IIRC (though the food was really good!).

    I wonder if they drop prices off season, if we weren’t paying close attention to costs, or if prices are that much more after a few more years of mega-popularity. Most likely I wasn’t paying close attention to what the beers cost 😉

    • September 10, 2014

      See, that doesn’t surprise me. While Croatia has been growing as a tourism destination for a decade, I feel within the last two years it’s *really* been on fire. And when something is the “it” place, accordingly the prices always fluctuate dramatically. Next time, too, I’m sure it will be better if I go during the shoulder season. June is definitely not cheap anywhere in Europe!

  • September 10, 2014

    I thought as much, it seems Croatia was summer’s coolest destination. So Croatia will have to wait until my finances improve. Always wanted to go to Montenegro though so silver lining and what not!

    • September 10, 2014

      Yes! Loved Montenegro, and we only scratched the surface. I’m sure April/May or September/October are more affordable in Croatia. We were there in June!

  • September 10, 2014

    Croatia is one of my favorite vacation spots! The beaches there are beautiful! However, I do agree with you that it has gotten more crowded and expensive which is unfortunate. We went to Montenegro this summer as well and I think it is an excellent alternative, just a beautiful but not as pricey:)

    The 20-Something Project

    • September 11, 2014

      Glad you agree! I am smitten with Montenegro!

  • September 10, 2014

    I was in Croatia in 2006 and thought I was going off the beaten path only to find hoards of tourists and no vacancy signs. Can’t imagine the cost of things now!

    I do hope to get back there next year though. Better start saving!

    Shaun

    • September 11, 2014

      Ha! Exactly! It’s such a pretty place, you can see why it’s a big tourist spot.

  • September 11, 2014
    Domi

    Hi, Croatia here, well I have to say that I like you all here “love”my country and that you all have had a nice time during summer..I must say that compering prices with other countryes, paying for a beer by the see with cristal wather with stuning view is maybe not that expensive, especially when you know that in country like France, Germany or other places you have to pay for everithing, for using toilets they charge 1 euro! The problem with prices is maybe because turist like you do not look at restorans, coffe shops, or other places just a little bit further were prices are so much lover! Example, the beer on the picture was payed 4 USD but you could have bought it in the store for 1,50 USD! The food in the old town (that is the term for the center of Dubrnovnik) restorants is of course more expensive than the restoraunts that are not in the city center! I remember I have had a lunch (hamburger and coke not MCD) for about 6 USD in the center of Dubrovnik, but in the street that is not main tourist interest and the price for same food at other restorants go way up . I am shore that restorants in Manhattan are much expensive than those in Madison! The Towns like Hvar and Dubrovnik are elite as tourist destinations, a lot of rich people go there so the prices that high! I suggest other places for you that you shoud visit, lower prices, beautiful nature, great people, a lot of history since the Roman empire …island Vis, island Brač, island Mljet, island Lastovo, island Brijuni(national park), Plitvice lakes, towns- Zagreb, Split, Makarska, and all those little islands on the coast that are authentic and slightly changed in history! If you have any questions or need help I am here for you! Hope you will come and visit us again and recomend Croatia to your friends!

    • September 11, 2014
      Domi

      Please excuse the mistakes in the text I am writing on the mobile phone and I see I left out some words but I am shore you will understand!

    • September 11, 2014

      Oh yes, and I have a huge desire to go back and explore all those places you’ve mentioned! We were on a cruise, so unfortunately, we had no control over where we stopped (and the 6 to 10 hours we had in each town didn’t allow for really getting outside of the tourist area). So this was just a first (quick and not too in-depth) taste of Croatia for my family.

      When I say it’s expensive, I mean comparatively to, say, five or 10 years ago. Of course NYC is pricey—one of the most expensive cities in the world, in fact—and people know that going in, but Americans often have this mindset that Croatia is a great “budget beach destination,” and I was merely trying to point out that while there are SO many great reasons to Croatia, don’t go there expecting it to be dirt cheap like neighboring countries such as Montenegro. But that happens to every country once it gets “discovered” by throngs of tourists, right? The prices quickly begin to rise. And thank God Croatia doesn’t charge for toilets! You’re right: That’s one of the worst things about traveling in Western Europe.

      Great recommendations for affordable places that travelers can see in your country, though. Much appreciated! Can’t wait to return =)

      • September 11, 2014
        Domi

        I know but you are wrong about “discovered”, for a 100 years or less tourist come to Croatia, the only tourists that discovered Croatia are Americans , in Europe we are wery well known , even in Japan and South Corea lately …i suggest that you rent a private accomodation to all of you, it is cheaper and you can meet the locals…most of tourist dont just like nature and history, often we can here them say that Croatian people is what they like…to bad you were on a cruise, you could see more if you would travel by car and the haywasys are great, new and not that expensive!

  • September 11, 2014

    It looks gorgeous! Croatia is showing up a lot on blogs and instagrams, I fee like it’s the new hotspot destination that is separate from the usual Amalfi Coast and south of Spain/France. I hope to visit someday soon, it’s good to get a good overview of the cities that you were able to see!

    http://www.charactersandcarryons.com

  • September 14, 2014

    So glad you finally had a chance to visit Croatia. We too love Sveti Jakov beach in Dubrovnik. It’s never overcrowded as it is a bit out of the town. You are right that Croatia isn’t cheap, but also Dubrovnik and Hvar are two most expensive destinations in Croatia. So while Croatia is still pricey compared with Montenegro and Slovenia, the rest of the country is way cheaper than Dubrovnik and Hvar. Your photos are amazing. Thanks for sharing, Kristin!

    • May 30, 2017

      Croatia sucks and everything is super expensive compare to other countries in Europa and rest of fucking world.I came back yesterday from Croatia by staying there for almost 14 days and spending over 3000 dollars for what.Even a bottle of regular water in regular store cost about 1.25 dollars and that the same bottle of fricking water in U S A cost about 0.25 dollars or 25 cents.Anything you touch is overpriced.For One night in Hotel Continental For Family Of Four In Rijeka City,Croatia cost over 220 dollars per night with only breakfast included.With that kind of money I can visit Nevada,Lake Tahoe and Beautiful City Of Reno and stay there for three nights with breakfast included.When I told lady in other hotel Neboder right above hotel Continental that hotels like Neboder and Continental are expensive her response was If You Do Not Like Go Somewhere else and I did Explained to her that with that kind of money we pay for one night we can go in Las Vegas and stay there 3 nights with space over 70 square meters on 50 floor of hotel she was stunned with sweaming pool,sauna and Jacuzzi in hotel room for family of four and full access to all other free activities.On A Top that this place has master state of art stainless steal kitchen where you can cook for your self and have full access to all other entertainments available to you.By The Way Hotel Continental In Rijeka,Croatia claims to be four star hotel and does not have even a sweaming pool Like Hotel Neboder Above Hotel Continental that has small bathrooms and shower stalls and very simple furniture and rest of staff.Never Again I will go with my family on vacation in Croatia.People I met there are rude,impolite,unconsidered,mean and have 0 respect for tourist.They smoke and drink everywhere–all over public places–very in considered.Us-era Ram-ova.

  • September 16, 2014

    Loved reading your post and Croatia looks amazing! I’ve never really considered visiting there and now I think a trip needs to be planned. Looks out of this world!

  • September 16, 2014

    I want to go to Croatia, but I didn’t know it was expensive. I will save some extra money before I make this trip happen. Thanks for sharing and I love your pictures!

  • September 21, 2014
    Croat

    Coca Cola in restaurants is not 18 USD it is 3 USD I have made a mistake!

  • September 21, 2014

    Things definitely are getting pricier in Croatia these days. I’ll still go there, but save the long stays for spots like the Budva Riviera in Montenegro…!

  • October 21, 2014
    Daniel

    I have visited Croatia a few times. One of the most beautiful places in Europe. I’m from Australia and I’m always surprised when people say it’s not cheap. Most things are at least twice to three times cheaper than Australia. I guess a lot of backpackers expect Bali or third world prices when they go to eastern Europe. It’s not that cheap but definitely affordable and a lot cheaper than England, France, Italy etc. Many places where you can get pasta for 7 dollars and pizza for approx 8 dollars. Mixed grill for two normally sets you back 30 dollars. So much meat , potatoes and vegetables you can barely walk after consuming it all.

    • October 21, 2014

      Yeah, but I mean more expensive as compared to what Americans think it is (many are under the assumption it’s the budget travel destination you’ll find in Thailand or Bali). I know it’s long been a favorite vacation spot for Europeans and Australians, but it’s just been within the last five years or so that Croatia has really reached the collective consciousness of American travelers, so I wrote this post merely as a “Croatia is not the cheap travel spot you think it is,” rather than straight up lumping it into the “expensive destination” category with much of Western Europe.

  • August 26, 2015

    I love Croatia but I have to disagree on the expensive point. We visited Split this year in May/June and were paying approximately €2 per beer and could easily go out for a two course meal with wine for two for 250 kuna ~ €30 I believe. Great post though, and you should definitely return, and check out Krka National Park if you have time!

    Poppy

    • August 28, 2015

      You’re right, I was largely basing this on Dubrovnik. We spent most of our day in Split out on a boat so I’m not sure how it compares price-wise. But I was shocked by the prices in Dubrovnik! That said, looking forward to spending more time there in the future; it really was gorgeous =)

  • January 23, 2016

    I am agreed that prices in Dubrovnik and Hvar are very high because they are destinations for rich people – mainly celebrities and Hollywood stars. On other parts of coast you can find a perfect beautiful small places with low prices. For example, one the richest men in world mr. Bill Gates rather go to small medieval town of Skradin located near the Krka river and at the entrance to the Krka National Park, 17 km (11 mi) from Šibenik.

    • January 23, 2016

      That’s great to know! I’d love to explore more of your gorgeous country, but definitely need to find those less expensive places 😉 We’ll be stopping through Vukovar later this year on a river cruise—any must-sees there?

  • January 23, 2016

    Vukovar is a beautiful baroque town who was totaly destroyed in war 1991. and renewed. I suggest to see a old town, special castle Eltz manor and connection of river Vuka and Dunav and Museom of anciant Vučedol culture. Also, I can suggest you to visit a Ilok (few km from Vukovar) and famous Winery “Iločki podrumi” (basements of Ilok). This winery is located under the castle and you can see the largest barrow of Europe and tasted a realy good wines… and fell like Meg Ryan in “French Kiss” 🙂

    • January 23, 2016

      Excellent—thank you so much! And I will bookmark your site for when we get to planning more in detail =)

  • October 26, 2016

    Thanks for this big list! We are planning to visit Zlatni Rat and Rajska Plaza beaches next year! Do you have any suggestion for a travel agent who can help us?

    • October 26, 2016

      You can try Stephanie@GroupTrekTravel.com. She’s a travel planner for individuals and families—not sure if she knows that area of Europe, but it’s worth reaching out!

  • April 3, 2017

    I love Croatia! It is the country where I want to retire and enjoy the beautiful culture and nature surrounding me from all sides.
    I went there in early 2016, and I really enjoyed my stay in Dubrovnik. The city just fills your heart with joy thanks to how colorful it is and how friendly the locals are.
    There are many historical sites to visit and learn about. I went to the beautiful beaches and neighboring islands. It is a real pleasure having the Mediterranean sea as your beach destination.
    As for food, it was awesome to try locals dishes such as Sonska Tarte and Zelana Manestra.

    I really would suggest a trip to Croatia for any traveler. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made as a traveler myself.

    Enjoy!

    • April 3, 2017

      I totally agree with you! It’s a great city indeed, one of my favorites. I just don’t necessarily think it’s as cheap as Americans make it out to be! In my country, there’s very much a “want a cheap European vacation? go to Croatia!” mentality. While I definitely recommend going to it, it’s not the cheapest place I’ve ever visited =)

  • May 30, 2017

    It is true that private accommodations are cheaper but a service is very poor compare to hotels.Anybody who tells that Croatia is affordable they are not telling you a truth.If you do not believe go out there and see for yourself just like I did with my family.A lot people in Croatia are too arrogant to admit a truth.A Truth Hurts In Long Run.Usera Ramova.

  • November 8, 2017
    Phil

    Croatia is too close to Western Europe to be super cheap. We met many Italians, Germans who drove over for a couple weeks for August vacations. Having said that, Croatia has spectacular old seaside towns and coastal scenery. The summer weather is perfect. Very little rain if any. It is cheaper than the French and Italian coasts especially if you’re not in Dubrovnik or Hvar.

    Don’t dismiss Rovinj so fast. A lovely, historical Venetian town the small city carries an ambiance of Italian culture mixed with its Croatian heritage. This is a great place for foodies to experience Istrian white truffles and wine. A drive in the Istrian countryside will expose you to charming walled, hilltop towns reminiscent of Tuscany. The bonus is it’s not as touristy and crowded as Tuscany. Not yet! While Dalmatia is dry and sunny. The Istrian peninsula is lush and green.

    • November 10, 2017

      This is great, Phil! Definitely bookmarking your tips for next time I make it back to Croatia. I do like me a non-touristy Tuscany 😉

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