Money & costs
Croatia is more expensive in the summer than it is from September to May. Accommodation, boat fares, car rental and anything else relating to tourism skyrockets in summer, reaching a peak in July and August. In the high season, a double room costs about 300KN in a private residence and 500KN to 1500KN in a three-star hotel, depending on the destination. Rooms in Zagreb, Split and Rijeka are about the same all year. Private owners usually add a 30% to 50% surcharge for private rooms rented for less than four nights and some insist on a seven-night minimum in high season. Hotels usually have no minimum-stay requirements.
Concert and theatre tickets and museums are cheap (concert and theatre tickets run from about 60KN to 200KN and museums are about 15KN, except in Zagreb where they are slightly more expensive); boat transport is also cheap unless you take a car on board in which case you’ll pay around 120KN for a short ride. The average intercity bus fare ranges from 40KN to 80KN. You can easily get a pizza for 30KN, and a plate of pasta costs about 50KN even in the more expensive restaurants. Fish, meat and produce are about the same price as elsewhere in Europe.
Backpackers who stay in one place can plan on spending about 200KN a day. Staying in nicely appointed private rooms, eating in moderate restaurants and travelling along the coast costs about 400KN per day and at least double that to stay in the best hotels and eat at the best restaurants. Families are better off renting an apartment than staying in a hotel. A one-bedroom apartment sleeping three costs 375KN to 600KN per night along the coast.
In a good, moderate restaurant expect to pay about 35KN to 55KN for a starter and 80KN to 120KN for a meat or fish main course. Bread usually costs extra and a few restaurants tack on a service charge, which is supposed to be indicated on the menu. Fish and shellfish are more expensive and usually charged by the kilogram. An average portion is about 250g, but sometimes you’ll be expected to choose a whole fish from a selection, making it more difficult to estimate the final cost. Squid runs at about 300KN per kilogram, but for fish and shrimp you’ll pay from 320KN to 380KN per kilogram.
Croatia has emerged from a rocky period that reached its height with a series of corruption and privatisation scandals in the late 1990s. While corruption remains a problem, the government has made progress in investigating and prosecuting corruption cases, which reassures international investors. Croatia’s prospective entry into the EU has also brought increased investment, especially from Austria and Italy in banking, Germany in telecommunications and Hungary in the oil industry. Several Croatian companies have high brand-recognition throughout former Yugoslavia. Pliva (pharmaceuticals), Podravka (food processing) and Croatia Osiguranje (insurance) are valuable exports. Naturally, there’s tourism, which accounts for about 20% of GDP.
From the point of view of the average Croat, life is tough. Unemployment is high (18.3%), pensions for retirees are ridiculously low, unemployment compensation isn’t much better and the cost of living continues to rise. About half a million Croats, mostly in rural areas, live below the poverty line. How do Croats get by? They rent rooms and apartments (often illegally) to tourists, relatives with farms provide produce, and sometimes their parents give them an apartment they bought during the flush prewar years.