Last week I ticked another country off my bucket list – Croatia! I’ll let you all in on a little secret – I was planning to cancel my trip and miss out on visiting this beautiful country all because I was going through some thangs! But boy am I glad that I listened to the sound advice of my friends and pushed myself to go because I had such a great time in Croatia, it was absolutely stunning!
It ‘s absolutely crazy how tourism in Croatia’s has grown and continues to boom each year. The country has so much to offer including its history, national parks, music festivals, sailing weeks, islands and most importantly Game of Thrones filming sites (for all you GoT fans out there).
Whilst I had a great time in the country, one thing I must say is that Croatia was a little pricey (compared to other European countries). Croatia is definitely doable, and you definitely don’t need to break the bank – you just have to be flexible and budget (e.g. maybe visiting during ‘off-peak’ season instead of ‘peak-season’. I challenged myself to make this trip as budget-friendly as possible and will share all with you below:
1. Flight costs
I decided to visit two cities in Croatia – Zadar & Split. Originally, I wanted to visit Dubrovnik and Split but the ticket prices were a bit ridiculous and remember we’re not trying to bankrupt ourselves just to go round the corner in Europe.
- Flight cost: £51 return (Ryanair, London – Zadar)
- Bus cost: £25 return (Flixbus, Zadar-Split)
The best time to BOOK cheap flights to Croatia is in August/September to fly out at the end of September/October which is ‘off-peak’ season and the weather is still quite warm. I got lucky this year with a Ryanair deal and managed to book my ticket in June for the end of September – other airlines at this time were still quoting flights for £100+
2. Accommodation costs
It wouldn’t be a budget-tale without mentioning ‘Hostel’ or ‘Airbnb’ would it? So, I only went and stayed in both!
Zadar: Downtown Boutique Hostel in a 4-bed mixed dormitory (pictured above)/ Price: £55.00 (£18.33 p/n) booked via Hostelworld
Split: Airbnb 1-bed apartment/ Price: £56.98 (£28.49 p/n) booked via Airbnb
Both Airbnb and Hostel were great for me – they were conveniently located in and by the city centre.
3. Best time to visit
May & September – these are the months just before and after the peak season. The weather is still lovely & not greatly overcrowded.
However, if you plan to experience a music festival or a major event it is very likely this will take place during PEAK season (June-Aug). If you visit Croatia during this time it is still fine but the cities will be more crowded and you’ll find that a lot of tours, activities, & hotels have an inflated ‘peak-season’ price.
4. What to see & do
Both Split and Zadar are relatively easy to get around with most attractions being minutes apart from each other which is great as you will not need public transport (provided you are staying near the city centre)
- Riva Harbour (Split)
(Pictured above) Riva’s promenade/harbour is lined with beautiful palm trees and filled with many restaurants, bars and gift shops! (I wouldn’t recommend eating on the promenade as it’s tourist trappy)
- Sea Organ & Sun Monument (Zadar)
The sea organ uses the waves of the ocean to create music and it is so calming you may never want to leave! The actual organ looks like a set of steps but there are chambers and pipes situated underneath which creates music as the waves come in. Also just a hop and skip away is the Sun Monument – it is the blue circular glass plate situated in the ground. The monument uses the daylight energy from the sun to transform it into electricity and produce a light show in the evening!
- Diocletian’s Palace (Split – GoT)
A UNESCO world heritage site built by Roman Emperor Diocletian and if you’re a Game of Thrones fanatic this palace was used to film a few episodes! The Palace is beautifully designed and has an underground marketplace as well as people living there!
- Bacvice beach (Split)
Bacvice beach is a 15-minute walk away from the centre of Split and Riva Harbour. Whilst it is not the best beach Croatia has to offer, it is very conveniently located and also has a few decent restaurants and bars (offering happy hour too!)
5. Where to eat
- Crazy Pizza (Zadar, £) – a local hole in the wall serving cheap Pizzas by the slice for 12kn ~ £1.50 approx! It’s definitely a hit with the locals and always pretty busy.
- Malo Misto (Zadar, ££-£££) – Malo Misto is a sit-down restaurant (outdoor) specialising in seafood dishes and the popular Cuttlefish Risotto. It’s more on the pricier side and you can end up paying about £15 or more for a meal (pictured above).
- Kantun Paulina (Split, £) – Another local hole in the wall serving up a traditional Croatian dish ‘Cevapcici’, which is a minced grilled kebab served in a soft pitta-type bread with tomato sauce and onions. It costs 22kn ~ £2.60 approx for a small size.
- Buffet Fife (Split, £-££) – Buffet Fife is a budget traditional Dalmatian restaurant not far from Riva and the old town. They serve many traditional dishes including Cevapcici and Pasticada (beef stew). The restaurant is also very cheap with meals starting at 45kn and side dishes at 10kn. One thing to note is that whilst the food is good the service isn’t the greatest!
6. Day trips
Please do not leave Croatia without doing a bit of island hopping or a day trip out of the city – the country has so many beautiful sights and landscapes outside of the main cities. I visited:
Krka National Park
Information & Tips:
- Price: 110kn for adults (Off-peak season). Student discount is also available for Krka National Park, just show a valid form of ID
- DO NOT book a tour for this national park – it is a waste of money and time. You can make your own way to Krka and find your own way around the national park.
- Book your coach tickets to Krka in advance as they sell out quickly. Websites/coach companies to book with:
- The closest city to this national park is Zadar, roughly 1-hour journey time. It is also accessible from Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik but it is likely to take a little longer to get there
- Bring a swimsuit/towel as you can swim in the lake
Other popular day trips/islands to visit include: Plitvice Lakes, Hvar, Bol, Pag
7. My experience travelling solo and as a black woman?
I felt extremely comfortable as a black female solo traveller in Croatia. I didn’t experience any awkward stares from locals, no looking back at me twice, and no pointing or asking to take pictures of or with me. I must say, it felt awesome and less awkward for me too! There are MANY tourists in Croatia all throughout the year so it won’t feel like you’re entering a new universe where no one looks like your or speaks like you.
One thing to note is that both Split and Zadar have a lot of alleyways and side streets to get to the main streets. They are pretty safe to walk through, just be street smart and vigilant of your surroundings.