Croatia is extremely popular in summer and good places book out well in advance in July and August. It's also very busy in June and September.
Hotels These range from massive beach resorts to boutique establishments.
Apartments Privately owned holiday units are a staple of the local accommodation scene; they're especially good for families.
Guesthouses Usually family-run establishments where spare rooms are rented at a bargain price – sometimes with their own bathrooms, sometimes not.
Hostels Mainly in the bigger cities and more popular beach destinations, with dorms and sometimes private rooms too.
Campgrounds Tent and caravan sites, often fairly basic.
The tourist season generally runs from Easter to October. However, along the coast in particular, accommodation is usually priced according to four seasons:
Jul & Aug The absolute peak period, with the top rates and the highest occupancy – book ahead. Many establishments enforce minimum three-night stays or add a surcharge for shorter bookings (around 30%).
Jun & Sep Once the shoulder seasons, these are now busy months in their own right, so expect high prices.
Apr, May & Oct The new shoulder seasons, with rates towards the middle of their range.
Nov–Mar Many places close but for those that are open, these are the cheapest months.
Registration & Sojourn Tax
Accommodation providers will handle travellers’ registration with the local police, as required by Croatian authorities. To do this, they will ask for your passport when you check in. Normally they will note the details they require and photocopy or scan the relevant page, and then hand your passport straight back.
Part of the reason for this process is so that the correct ‘sojourn tax’ can be paid. This is a small amount (usually around 10KN) that is charged for every day you stay in Croatia, no matter what type of accommodation you're staying in (including on boats). It's quite normal for this to be additional to the room rate you've been quoted.
Over 500 campgrounds are scattered along the Croatian coast, ranging hugely in terms of facilities and quality. Most operate from mid-April to mid-September only, although a few are open year-round. In autumn, winter and spring, it’s best to call ahead to make sure that the campground is open. Don’t go only by the opening and closing dates given by local tourist offices, travel brochures or even Lonely Planet, as these can change.
Types of Camping
- Many campgrounds in Istria and the Kvarner are gigantic ‘autocamps’ with restaurants, shops and rows of caravans, but in Dalmatia they’re often smaller and family owned.
- If you want a more intimate environment, the town tourist office should be able to refer you to smaller campgrounds (but you may have to insist upon it).
- Naturist campgrounds (marked FKK) are sometimes among the best because their secluded locations ensure peace and quiet.
- Wild camping is officially prohibited.
- See www.camping.hr for camping information and links.
The way that camping prices are calculated varies enormously and is often complicated. Some places will add up how many adults, children and pets are in your group, and then add a charge depending on whether you have a vehicle (and how big it is), how big your tent or campervan is, and whether or not you require electricity. Other places will include the vehicle and/or tent in an overall pitch charge, but add on a per person rate at the end.
However it's calculated, expect to pay between 200KN and 400KN for two people with a smallish tent and a car in high season.
Croatia's hostel scene is evolving at pace, although it's still mainly limited to the bigger cities and most popular destinations. The best choice is offered in Zagreb, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Hvar Town, while Šibenik and Dubrovnik both have a couple of good options.
The Croatian YHA has hostels in 11 centres, the best of which is in Veli Lošinj; some of the others aren't up to much. Membership costs 60KN and provides discounts at YHAs worldwide. Nonmembers can collect a stamp per day on a welcome card; six stamps entitle you to membership.
Many of the independent hostels are small, character-filled affairs that offer communal activities such as barbecues and pub crawls. In the cities some are run out of converted apartments within larger blocks.
Not all hostels are open in winter and most aren't staffed all day. It’s wise to call in advance.
Croatian hotels are of an international standard, ranging from small family-run places to the mammoth formerly state-owned resorts on the coast. The vast majority of rooms have their own bathrooms, air-conditioning and TV, and most offer free wi-fi.
Breakfast is often included and some places, particularly in more remote locations, also offer half-board (breakfast and dinner).
In summer there may be a surcharge for short stays (fewer than three nights) along the coast and on the islands.
The star-rating system for Croatian hotels is inconsistent and not very helpful.
Private accommodation providers are an integral part of the local tourism industry and are often the best (and sometimes the only) option in more remote destinations. For budget and midrange travellers, they provide a lot more choice, especially if you're travelling in the peak season. On top of that, many of the owners go out of their way to be hospitable and some even offer the option of eating with them, which is a great way to get to know the culture.
There are two main types of private accommodation: apartments (apartmani) and rooms (sobe). Apartments always have their own bathrooms and basic cooking facilities. Rooms may share a bathroom with other guests and/or the owners.
The days of choosing your accommodation from a scrum of old ladies at the bus station are on the way out. These days you can view most options online on the websites of local tourist offices and travel agencies. Many of the best places are also listed on the big international booking websites.
Prefer on-the-fly travel? Once you’ve arrived in your destination, call into the tourist office or a travel agency and ask what's available. Rates are usually fixed and don’t vary from agency to agency, though some agencies may not handle rooms in the cheapest category, and some only handle apartments. Stays of fewer than four nights will usually attract an agency surcharge of at least 30%; some will insist on a seven-night minimum stay in the high season.
Agencies can handle complaints (often in English) if things go wrong, but you can also deal directly with proprietors by knocking on the doors of houses with sobe, zimmer or apartmani ('rooms available') signs.
Tips for Private Accommodation
- If you decide to book with proprietors at the bus or ferry station, or those holding signs at the side of the road, get an exact location first or you could find yourself stuck way out of town.
- If you've decided to door-knock until you find a room, leave your luggage in a garderoba (left-luggage office) before heading out – you’ll be more comfortable and in a better position to negotiate a price.
- Clarify whether the price is per person or per room. Don’t hesitate to bargain, especially if you’re staying for a week.
- Avoid a surcharge by specifying the exact number of days you plan to stay and what time of day you plan to check out.
- If you land in a room or apartment without a blue sobe, zimmer or apartmani sign outside, the proprietor is renting illegally (ie not paying sojourn tax). They will probably be reluctant to provide their full name or phone number and you’ll have absolutely no recourse if there's a problem.