Traveling To Croatia Isn't As Expensive As You Think. Here Are 5 Tips To Get You Started

No need to sell your kidneys, ah.

Traveling across Europe is a dream many people have, but it isn’t always that easy, especially when money is a huge factor

With an estimated population of just 4.1 million people, the Republic of Croatia (Republika Hrvatska) is located in southeastern Europe. Its capital city is Zagreb and the official language is Croatian, which uses a Latin writing system.  

Croatia shares a maritime border with Italy, and is only separated on land by Slovenia. Due to its close proximity to major European business and tourism hubs, the majority of European tourists in Croatia consist of Germans, Italians, Austrians, Hungarians, Serbs, and Bosnians.

Croatia (outlined in red)

Image via Google Maps

Despite being a member of the European Union, Croatia hasn't adopted the Euro as its official currency yet. At the time of writing, RM1 = 1.61 Kn (Kuna), which makes it slightly weaker than the Malaysian Ringgit. Its 'cent' is called the Lipa.

Croatian Kuna & Lipa

Image via Total Croatia News

There are ways to have your dream vacation here without selling your kidneys to fund the trip

Although you won’t be living it up at a five-star hotel, you’ll still be able to have a comfortable stay if you follow these tips and tricks.

For starters, you won't have to worry about language barriers, since most Croatians can speak English (though not all are fluent) and are more than happy to help you along your way!

On the off-chance that you speak German, many Croatians also speak German because the language is taught in schools. Of course, if any local does help you with something, it's always nice to thank them. You can say "hvala", which means "thanks".

Visit these four cities to make the best of your stay:

Ilica Street, Zagreb

Image via Mario Fajt | Flickr

Zagreb
The capital city of Croatia, and one of the most dynamic cities in the world. Zagreb's old European charm is a big draw for tourists that visit. It's also known to have the best of all types of Croatian food.

Pula
A hidden gem, and often missed out by holiday itineraries, Pula is a peaceful coastal town steeped in rich history. With remnants of the former Roman Empire still standing, those who appreciate the past will surely have a great time here. Due to the lower number of tourists, Pula is also a great place to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the temperate weather. 

The courtyard of Diocletian's Palace, Split

Image via VIP Holiday Booker

Split
Often touted as the 'new Ibiza', Split sits along the Dalmatian coast, just North-West of Dubrovnik. Adored for its hot summers and relatively warm winters, Split doesn't really 'sleep' through the colder seasons.

Dubrovnik
If you like big medieval fortresses, old towns, and the ocean all in one place, look no further than Dubrovnik. Of course, any 'Game of Thrones' fan will notice something very familiar about the city walls - King's. Landing.

Daenerys at the House of the Undying in Game of Thrones, filmed at the Tower of Minceta along the Dubrovnik city walls.

Image via King's Landing Dubrovnik

Here’s how you can travel Croatia without breaking the bank:

1. Stay in hostels

Chillout Hostel - Zagreb

Image via Chillout Hostel Zagreb

Though there are a lot of Airbnb options, hostels are often the most cost-efficient and budget-friendly places to stay when you're trying to spend as little money as possible. Don't worry though, hostels in Croatia are generally safe places to be, while being located in close proximity to (or even within) hotspots! 

Here are some of the more popular hostels to check out, based on the major city/hotspot:

Zagreb
1. Chillout Hostel Zagreb - ~RM94 a night, per 2 guests
2. HI Hostel - ~RM81 a night, per 2 guests

Split
1. Old Town Hostel Split - ~RM100 a night, per 2 guests
2. Tchaikovsky Hostel - ~RM121 a night, per 2 guests

Guest House Ljubica, Dubrovnik

Image via Guest House Ljubica

Pula
1. Hostel Step2 - ~RM175 a night, per 2 guests
2. Rock Hostel Pula - ~RM186 a night, per 2 guests

Dubrovnik
1. Guest House Ljubica - ~RM152 a night, per 2 guests
2. Icy House - ~RM152 a night, per 2 guests

2. Take public transport

Zagreb Electric Tram (ZET)

Image via Absolute Croatia

While car rentals in Croatia are generally cheap in comparison to central and western Europe, you'll still face the same problems us Malaysians face every single day - lack of parking.

Think about it this way, even with cheap car rental, petrol and parking rates don't exactly reciprocate the cost of renting. Plus, if you only have a Malaysian driver's licence, you'll also have to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP), which will cost you RM150 yearly to keep, regardless of whether you're actually using it or not.

The 129-year old Zagreb Funicular

Image via Storyblocks Video

Taking public transport in Croatia is actually a breeze once you get the hang of it. With its vast network of trains, inner-city trams, and buses, you'll find that getting around to where you need to go isn't as difficult or inaccessible as it seems.

3. Do touristy things for cheap, or even for free

The Riva Promenade & south façade of the Diocletian Palace, Split

Image via Croatian National Tourist Board

Naturally, you can't do everything for free, even on a budget. However, that doesn't mean you have to shell out your entire bank account just to see the best of Croatia. Here are some awesome things to do that won't hurt your wallet:

1. Marvel at the Pula Arena, Pula - Built at the same time as the Colosseum in Rome, the Pula Arena is a must-see, especially if you're a history buff.

Admission: RM31

2. Take a stroll across the Riva Promenade and into the Diocletian Palace, Split - Pro-tip: Get yourself a SplitCard to gain free admission to some museums and heavily-discounted prices on other museums, restaurants, souvenir stores, tourist excursions, as well as free use of buses in the city!

Cost of SplitCard:
RM25 (Valid for 72 hours)

Ban Josip Jelačić Square, Zagreb

Image via Miroslav Vajdic | Flickr

3. Explore Ban Josip Jelačić Square and the nearby Dolac Market, Zagreb - At the heart of Zagreb is a beautiful central square dedicated to one of Croatia's greatest national heroes - Ban Josip Jelačić. Here you can take some awesome photos and then head to Zagreb's famed Dolac Market, where you'll be able to truly immerse yourself with the locals and browse the various market stalls decked in their signature red umbrellas.

Cost: Free

4. Go on a 2-hour walking tour on the Dubrovnik city walls, Dubrovnik - Get a real feel of Dubrovnik's ancient history by attending a guided walk atop the city walls. You'll get breathtaking views of the Adriatic, as well as the city of Dubrovnik itself.

Admission: RM134

Dubrovnik city walls as seen on Game of Thrones

Image via Watchers On The Wall

Fun fact: The Dubrovnik city walls are also a mainstay in the hit TV show, Game of Thrones.

4. Do NOT miss these local delicacies

Strukli

Image via Esplanade

Of course, not all food is made equal. Some tastes so good but seem to drain your wallet as quickly as you wolf them down. Some others are pretty cheap, but also pretty cheap-tasting. Here's a quick list of foods you absolutely need to try out, and where to find them:

Strukli - Think pastry dough, sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, and salt. Drooling for days. You can find some of the best Strukli in Croatia right in Zagreb. Look for 'La Struk'. 
Cost: ~RM21, depending on the variation of Strukli

Burek - Though technically originating from Turkey, Burek has been adopted by Croatians as an all-day kind of food. It usually has a round shape made up of pastry, cottage cheese, and a meat filling. The best Burek in Zagreb can be found in the Dolac Market, and fittingly enough, the place is called 'Burek'
Cost: RM7

Cobanac - Also known as Shepherd's Stew, Cobanac is a hearty stew that goes well on nights when the temperatures start to dip. You'll find a good mix of tender meats in the thick broth, usually accompanied by various peppers for a tiny kick as well. It can generally be found in most eateries that serve local food, usually with consistent quality. Cost: ~RM10 - RM20

Tkalčićeva Street, Zagreb

Image via Booking.com

Bonus food tip: Most restaurants and cafés in Croatia offer free bread and olive oil, often with unlimited refills. Take advantage of this. Plus, Croatian bread is delicious AF.

5. Flying to Croatia is more affordable during the shoulder season

What on earth is shoulder season?
Shoulder season is split between two phases. The first phase being the months of April through mid-June, and the second phase being September through October. If you travel to Croatia, or anywhere throughout Europe during these periods, you'll often get cheap flight tickets!

Not only that, the weather in Croatia around these periods is relatively cool but not winter-like, reaching average temperatures of 12ºC (low) and 24ºC (high) in the first phase, with 13ºC (low) and 21ºC (high) in the second phase, based on Zagreb alone. Split, Dubrovnik, and Pula are generally warmer by 3ºC than Zagreb throughout both phases (including highs and lows) respectively.

How much will my plane ticket cost?
In the first phase, you can get a return ticket to Croatia with Qatar Airways for as low as RM2,809. In the second phase, return tickets start from as low as RM2,717!

Franjo Tuđman Airport, Zagreb

Image via Zagreb Airport HR

Croatia's largest and busiest airport, Franjo Tuđman Airport (IATA code: ZAG), is only 15km away from Zagreb's city centre. The journey is about 30 minutes by car.

So, when will you be heading to Croatia? :)

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