Croatia is one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe. It’s the go-to spot for stunning beaches, rugged islands, historic architecture, and all the sailing you could ask for.
While it’s not as cheap as it used to be, it’s still an affordable destination compared to Western Europe. There are countless beaches and resorts stretching along the Dalmatian coast, as well as waterfalls and hiking trails further inland — not to mention plenty of Game of Thrones filming locations.
While it does get crowded in the summer, the country completely lives up to the hype.
This travel guide can give you the tips and tricks for visiting Croatia so you can plan the ultimate adventure without breaking the bank.
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Croatia
1. Visit Dubrovnik
2. Party in Split
3. Explore Plitvice Lakes National Park
4. Visit Rijeka
5. See Lokrum
Other Things to See and Do in Croatia
1. Visit Pula
Pula is a seaside city and home to an impressive 1st-century Roman amphitheater that overlooks the harbor that is used to hold concerts, film festivals, and even a summer festival dedicated to all things Roman. The festival, Spectacular Antiqva, is held at least once per week during the summer. Admission is 80 HRK. While you’re in Pula, be sure to visit the Archeology Museum and spend some time exploring Brijuni National Park (which is made up of a group of scenic islands). There’s also a 14th-century monastery here you can visit as well.
2. Go Island Hopping
With over 1,000 islands, it would be silly to travel to Croatia and not go island hopping. Plan to stay at least a couple of days on one of the islands to step back in time and get the full Croatian experience. The most popular islands to visit are Brac, Hvar, Krk, Cres, and Lošinj. However, don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path and explore some of the lesser-known islands such as Silba, Vis, and Lastovo. Most of the islands have ferries that cost less than 30 HRK each way.
3. See St. James’ Cathedral
Located in Sibenik, St. James is believed to be the world’s largest church built entirely of stone (there are no wooden or brick supports). It’s an architectural masterpiece that was started in 1431 and wasn’t completed until 1536. It’s massive and spacious with a rather dark and grim stone interior that feels very medieval. Some of the cathedral’s highlights are its frieze of 71 heads on the exterior walls, the tomb of Bishop Sizigori, and a 15th-century Gothic crucifix. Admission is 15 HRK.
4. Visit Krka Monastery
This Serbian Orthodox monastery is dedicated to the Archangel Michael and is one of the most important religious sites in Croatia. Founded in 1345, it’s located beside a small and peaceful lake forty-five minutes from Sibenik. Built in the Romanesque style, it boasts a unique mix of Byzantine and Mediterranean architecture. Underneath the building is a natural cave system (known locally as the ‘secret church’) where they have found Christian symbols dating back to the 1st century. The library also has books dating back to the 16th century. Admission is free.
5. Go diving
Thanks to Croatia’s seafaring history, the whole of the coastline is full of shipwrecks. Two of the most popular are Baron Gautsch (off the coast of Rovinj), and Taranto (off the coast of Dubrovnik). Expect to pay 289 HRK for a single-tank dive. Open water certification costs around 3,000 HRK. The best diving conditions are between May and November (September and October will be warm and less busy).
6. Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships
Located in Zagreb, this museum is full of mementos from failed relationships between family members, friends, and lovers. Items on display include clothing, jewelry, handwritten letters, photos, and more quirky items like bellybutton lint and old chocolate bars. Each item has a story attached to it, some funny, some gut-wrenching. The museum offers an honest, unpretentious look at humanity through its failed relationships. Admission is 40 HRK.
7. Explore the Vucedol Culture Museum
This riverside location is home to an archeological dig site where remains from over 8,000 years ago were found. The museum, built on top of the site, is a state-of-the-art representation of the original settlement complete with replica houses. It showcases the culture that was here, which was one of the first in Europe to create calendars and brew beer. It’s super informative. Guided tours cost 105 HRK and are available in English. Admission is 45 HRK.
8. Go hiking
From coastal walks to mountain climbing to hiking the inland canyons, hills, and forests, Croatia has a lot to offer. The most popular coastal hiking spot is Mljet National Park, on the island of Mljet. Inland, the most popular hiking spot is Medvednica Mountain near Zagreb or in Risnjak National Park. Other spots worth visiting are Brijuni National Park (which is home to 14 different islands), Krka National Park (which has beautiful waterfalls), and Paklenica (which has some rugged canyon trails).
9. Visit the Blue Cave of Bisevo
The Blue Cave (or Blue Grotto) is a natural sea cave accessible only by boat via a narrow passageway. Inside, the water almost glows and has a bright otherworldly color to it. Access to the cave is restricted to one boat at a time. The cave itself is located at the Balun Cove on the eastern side of Komiza. The best time to visit is between 11am-12pm as this is when the light is at its most beautiful. Expect to pay around 750 HRK for a full-day tour (and expect crowds).
10. Listen to the Sea Organ
The Sea Organ is tucked away beneath a set of steps that lead down to the water in the seaside town of Zadar. The organ consists of 35 tubes played by the wind and the sea. Designed by architect Nikola Basic, the music sounds similar to whale calls. Come here at sunset to soak in the picturesque views and listen to the captivating sounds of the sea.
11. Go sailing
Croatia is one of the world’s best sailing destinations. With calm winds, short distances, and a coastline littered with islands and historical sites, it really does make for a great place to explore by sea. During the high season, prices rise dramatically, but if you time your visit right and visit during the shoulder season you can find some great deals. If you don’t want to join a tour you can charter a boat. Charters can get pricey though, as a 7-day trip starts at 13,000-15,000 HRK. If you’re in the mood for partying, Busabout has hop-on-hop-off boat tours. I did one a few years ago (you can read about it here). For a 7- or 8-day trip, expect to pay 8,700 HRK.
12. See Zagreb
Zagreb has a charming Old Town reminiscent of cities like Prague and Budapest. There is lots of green space, a couple of nearby lakes, and tons of historic architecture. Be sure to visit the massive Neo-Gothic cathedral and the medieval Old Town Gate where you can find an 18th-century painting of the Virgin Mary thought to be miraculous as it survived the city’s Great Fire of 1731. There are also tons of museums (don’t miss the Mimara Museum) as well as the Medvedgrad fortress that overlooks the city.
13. Experience the Yacht Week
If you want to splash out and spend a week partying on a yacht, check out The Yacht Week. They host week-long parties and festivals with DJs and events throughout the summer. You can book a full boat to share with friends or just a cabin on one if you’re traveling solo. They have destinations all around the world, including routes in Croatia. “Yacht Weeks” occur from May-August. Prices start at 1,500 HRK per person. It’s one of the biggest things of the summer and it’s a wild, wild, WILD party.
14. Visit Hvar
Hvar is a picturesque island off the coast of Split that’s known for its lively nightlife. It’s popular with younger travelers looking to dance and drink the night away. However, there are also lots of scenic coves, lavender fields, vineyards, and secluded beaches you can enjoy if you visit during the day. While a lot of people come here as part of their sailing trips (or as a day trip from Split), I recommend spending a couple of nights here. It’s one of the best places in the country. It’s also the sunniest, with over 274 days of sunshine each year.
Croatia Travel Costs
Accommodation – Hostels start at 70 HKR per night for a 6-8 bed dorm. For a private room, prices start at 190-450 HKR. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels have self-catering facilities. Only a few hostels include free breakfast.
Budget two-star hotels start at 455 HRK per night. Most include breakfast and have standard amenities like TV, AC, and a coffee/tea maker.
Airbnb is available around the country with private rooms starting at 190 HRK per night. For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay at least 375 HRK per night. Prices double in July and August.
For anyone traveling with a tent, there are lots of campsites in Croatia (most of which are scattered down the coast). For a complete list of campsites in Croatia check out Camping Hr. Prices vary depending on how close to the sea you are as well as what season it is. During peak season, expect to pay 220-405 HRK for a two-person plot with electricity and water. During the low season, prices drop to 140 HRK.
Food – Croatian cuisine has influences from Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans. Seafood is a prominent staple along the coast, with scampi and octopus salad being two local favorites. Tuna, cuttlefish risotto, squid, and breaded catfish are other common fares. Sausage and schnitzel can be found at most traditional restaurants as well, as can a variety of pasta dishes (usually with a creamy mushroom sauce or minced meat). Stews are also common, especially goulash.
Traditionally, the main meal of the day is lunch. If you have a sweet tooth, Croatia is a haven for pastries. Be sure to try savijaca (apple strudel).
An inexpensive meal of traditional cuisine costs around 60 HRK. Fast food (think McDonald’s) is closer to 45 HRK while ethnic food like Thai or Chinese costs around 85 HRK. For a three-course meal of traditional cuisine and a drink, expect to pay around 135 HRK.
Pizza is available pretty much everywhere (with seafood being the preferred toppings). A medium pizza costs around 47 HRK. Expect to pay 20 HRK for a beer and 11 HRK for a latte/cappuccino. Bottled water is 10 HRK.
If you are planning to cook your own food, a week’s worth of groceries costs around 210-230 HRK for staples like pasta, seasonal vegetables, and some fish.
Backpacking Croatia Suggested Budgets
If you are backpacking Croatia, my suggested budget is 205 HRK per day. This assumes you’re staying in a hostel dorm, cooking all of your meals, limiting your drinking, doing free activities like hiking and free walking tours, and using local transportation to get around. You’ll need to budget more if you’re visiting in the summer or if you plan on drinking.
On a mid-range budget of 670 HRK per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb or private hostel room, eat out for all your meals, have a few drinks, take some guided tours, go diving, take the occasional taxi to get around, and visit more museums and attractions
On a “luxury” budget of 1,590 HRK per day, you can stay in a hotel, rent a car to get around, do private guided tours, eat and drink as much as you’d like, and visit as many museums and attractions as you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Prices are in HRK.
Croatia Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Expenses in Croatia can add up quickly — especially if you take a lot of tours, do a few boat trips, and eat out a lot. Here are my tips on saving money when you visit Croatia:
- Visit during the shoulder season (or low season) – Prices in Croatia can double during July and August. If you want to make sure your money goes further here, visit during the low or shoulder seasons.
- Take a free walking tour – Both Dubrovnik and Split have free walking tours. They’re a great way to get familiar with the cities and their culture. Just be sure to tip your guide! Check out Dubrovnik Secrets for more information.
- Travel with Flixbus – Flixbus is budget-friendly way to get around the country (and region). They have Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and decent enough seats for long-haul journeys.
- Cook your own meals – Many hostels here have kitchens. While buying your own groceries may not be as glamorous as going out to eat, it will definitely save you money!
- Stay with a local – Staying with a local via Couchsurfing is a great way to save money and meet a knowledgeable local who can help you better understand the country and its people.
- Get the Croatia Pass – If you’re visiting between June-September and plan on seeing a lot of attractions, consider the CroatiaPass. It offers discounts on tons of attractions and will save you some money if you’re doing a lot of sightseeing. There are passes for several cities/regions including Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik (as well as passes that cover multiple regions). Prices vary per region (and for how many attractions you want included) but most will save you at least 250 HRK.
- Walk everywhere – Most of the major cities in Croatia are walkable. Skip the public transportation if you’re on a tight budget.
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your reliance on single-use plastic. LifeStraw makes a portable filter that will keep your water clean and safe.
Where to Stay in Croatia
During the high season, hostels book up fast so be sure to book in advance — especially if you want to stay at one of the more popular party hostels. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Croatia:
How to Get Around Croatia
Because of Croatia’s slightly unusual geography, traveling around the country can take a little bit of extra planning. The easiest way to get around is by a mix of buses and ferries.
Public Transportation – Public transportation is fairly inexpensive, with most tickets costing between 4-11 HRK. Both Dubrovnik and Split have day passes that cost around 30 HRK for a 24-hour pass and 75 HRK for a 72-hour pass. Buses and trams are the main ways to get around Croatia’s cities.
Bus – To get around the country, Flixbus is the most budget-friendly option. Croatia has heavily invested in improving its roads over recent years and traveling by bus is fast, cheap, and comfortable. Most buses have free Wi-Fi, reclining seats, sockets, and AC.
The cross-country trip from Split to Dubrovnik costs 124 HRK and takes 4 hours while the 2.5-hour trip from Split to Zadar costs 124 HRK.
Train – The train lines in Croatia have been neglected in favor of improving the roads. Therefore, trains are slow and infrequent. They also don’t run along the Dalmatian coast, making them more or less useless for most travelers. I wouldn’t recommend the train here.
Ferry – Ferries in Croatia are efficient and affordable, however, figuring out the confusing schedules can be tricky. You may want to ask your hostel/hotel staff for help finding the most up-to-date schedule as departures change based on the season. Additionally, many ferries go down the coast between cities on the mainland (not all ferries are just to the islands).
Most ferries in Croatia are owned by the national carrier Jadrolinija and are large car ferries (so you can bring a vehicle). There is also a network of catamarans that link many of the smaller islands. Most smaller ferries cost start at 30 HRK during the low season and 100 HRK during high season.
For the 4.5-hour ferry between Dubrovnik and Split, expect to pay at least 220 HRK.
Budget Airlines – Croatia Airlines is the domestic carrier here and offers flights between Zagreb and other airports within the country, including Dubrovnik, Split, Pula, and Zadar. Prices are relatively comparable between all the destinations, with tickets starting at 405 HRK for one-way flights.
Car Rental – Car rentals can be found for around 81-211 HRK per day. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is required before you can rent a car (it’s usually not enforced, but it’s better to be safe than sorry).
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in Croatia is safe and you generally won’t have to wait long for a ride. Having a sign helps, and you’ll generally find more rides along the coast. Hitchwiki is the best website for more hitchhiking info.
When to Go to Croatia
The best time to visit Croatia is during the shoulder-season between May-June or September-October. During these months, you can expect great weather and fewer crowds. This is also the perfect time for outdoor activities like hiking, boating, and kayaking. Expect temperatures around 22°C (71°F).
During the low season (November-April) it will be a lot cheaper, making it an affordable place to escape for anyone on a tight budget. However, many places (including hotels and restaurants) close for the winter due to the lack of tourists so your options will be much more limited during this time.
During the peak season (July and August), expect to pay double what you would in the low season. Dubrovnik is especially busy (and expensive) during this time. The coastal resorts will be packed with families and cruisers. Temperatures hover around 30°C (86°F) though so the weather is at its best.
How to Stay Safe in Croatia
Croatia is a safe country to visit. Violent crime against tourists is rare. Pickpocketing and theft can occur in busy areas in Zagreb and Dubrovnik so be sure to keep an eye on your belongings (especially while on crowded public transportation or at a bus station).
Croatia’s bars and nightclubs are known for overcharging so be vigilant and check your bill before paying. It is also important to watch your drink and never leave it unattended. Drink spiking has been known to happen at nightclubs in Zagreb, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. It’s rare, but it never hurts to be extra careful.
Although the war has been over for a long time (the Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991-1995) there is still some residual political tension. It is advisable to avoid political discussions as well as any public demonstrations as they can turn violent.
While out hiking take care not to wander far off the beaten path as there are still some regions in Croatia with unexploded landmines. If in doubt, ask locals for advice or hire an experienced guide.
If you experience an emergency and require assistance, dial 112.
You can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Croatia!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Croatia Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Croatia. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Eurail – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B in the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, and boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and luggage storage.
- BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers. You simply request a seat, pay a small fee, and off you go! It’s more interesting than traveling by bus or train!
- Stoke Travel – If you’re looking for a fun, young, party-focused tour company then check out Stoke. They have tons of amazing tours and festival trips all around the world aim at the youth market. They’re great and, if you use code NOMADICMATT, you can save 10% off your next trip!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Croatia Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Croatia Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Girl at War: A Novel, by Sara Novic
Girl at War is a powerful and gripping coming of age story. In 1991, when the civil war broke out across Yugoslavia, Ana’s childhood was altered beyond recognition. As an adult, she is trying to come to terms with the trauma and memories of war by facing her ghosts. The book jumps back and forth through time as the story of Ana’s early years living in Croatia weaves with modern day Ana living in New York City.
A Traveller’s History of Croatia, by Benjamin Curtis
This book is the perfect travel companion for anyone wanting a concise and relevant history book on Croatia to put the country into its historical context. It tells the story of Croatia in a conversational tone without the heavy academic slant most history books have. It’s insightful, accessible, and informative.
Mother Tongue: A Saga of Three Generations of Balkan Women, by Tania Romanov
Mother Tongue follows the lives of three generations of women over a 100-year period as they live their lives in refugee camps as exiles in strange new countries. They travel through countries that dissolve and reform, through the rule of the fascists, Nazis, and nationalists. The story is about identity within the context of history and how the places we go — and the struggles that we encounter — impact and shape us.
Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History, by Robert D. Kaplan
Balkan Ghosts was chosen by The New York Times as one of its books of the year and was hailed as “the most insightful and timely work on the Balkans to date” by The Boston Globe. If you want a book that is going to really put into context the politics of the wars in the Balkans since World War II, this is it. The new edition also contains six opinion pieces written by the author Robert Kaplan about the Balkans.
Croatia Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Europe and continue planning your trip: