There’s a growing choice of accommodation in Croatia, but summer-season prices are growing too: travelling in July or August will not yield any bargains. There is an increasing number of well-equipped four- and five-star hotels but a relative shortage of boutique hotels and B&Bs. For the moment, the apartments and private rooms offered by local families represent the country’s best-value accommodation. The Adriatic coast is well provided with campsites, and hostels are increasingly evident in the major centres.
The tourism boom of the 1960s and 1970s gave Croatia an impressive number of large seaside hotels. Most of these have been renovated and upgraded in the last decade or so, and recent years have also witnessed the building of new, top-range hotels in key resort areas.
Croatian hotels are classified according to the international star grading system, although some of the grades might seem a little generous – many of Croatia’s four-star hotels would only qualify for three stars in Western Europe, and so on down the scale. Generally speaking, one-star hotels (of which there are hardly any left nowadays) have rooms with shared WC and bathroom; two-star hotels (also increasingly rare) have rooms with en-suite facilities but little else; three-stars have slightly larger en-suite rooms and, most probably, a television; four-stars correspond to comfy business class, and will have plush carpets, bath tubs in most rooms and a range of other facilities (such as gym or swimming pool); and five-stars, most of which are in Zagreb or in and around Dubrovnik, are in the international luxury bracket.
There’s a small number of small family-run hotels aiming to conquer the mid-range market, offering the comforts and level of service of a good three-star hotel but in cosy, informal surroundings and at a slightly cheaper price. They don’t crop up in all parts of the country, but we’ve recommended them throughout the Guide wherever they exist.
In addition, a growing handful of establishments deserve the “boutique hotel” tag, most of which occupy restored houses and palaces on the Dalmatian coast and islands.
Seasons and prices
Croatian hotel rooms are priced according to season. In high season (usually July and August, although it may cover June to September in the more popular areas) prices are at their highest and standards are at their lowest – hotels are crowded at these times and the staff are overworked. Spring and autumn frequently offer better value for money, when prices may be 30–50 percent lower. Dubrovnik and Hvar are currently the most fashionable – and consequently most expensive – parts of the country. Many hotels on the Adriatic coast are closed from November through to April, although there is usually at least one hotel open all year round wherever you are.
In two-star establishments you can expect to pay 450–600Kn for a double in high season, but it’s worth bearing in mind private rooms and studio apartments offer similar comforts for less money. Three-star hotels are the hardest to predict, both in terms of quality and price, and you’ll pay anything from 600Kn to 1200Kn, depending on whether it’s just a glorified two-star with an extra lick of paint, or a genuinely comfortable and well-managed outfit that meets international standards. Rooms in four-star hotels will normally go for around 1000–1600Kn, while a five-star will cost you 1400Kn a double and upwards.
Many of the hotels on the Adriatic also offer full-board (pansion) and half board (polupansion) deals for a few extra kuna, but bear in mind that you’ll be eating bland, internationalized food in large, institutional dining rooms.
Private rooms and apartments
The vast majority of tourist accommodation in Croatia comes in the form of private rooms and apartments. They might be located in a family house where the owners still live, or in a separate building built or renovated specifically for this purpose.
Private room (privatne sobe) standards vary widely, but rooms are usually grouped into three categories by the tourist association in each area. Category I rooms are simple affairs furnished with a couple of beds, a wardrobe and not much else, and you’ll be using your host’s bathroom. Category II rooms have en-suite bathrooms, and category III rooms will probably come with TV and plusher furnishings, as well as en-suite facilities. In high season prices start at around 150/200/250Kn for a category I/category II/category III double in a smallish resort, rising to about 250/330/400Kn in relatively expensive places like Dubrovnik, Hvar Town and Korčula. Prices in spring and autumn can be thirty percent cheaper. Many families don’t let out rooms over the winter, although local travel agencies will probably come up with something, providing you contact them a week or so in advance. Prices are subject to a 30–50 percent surcharge if you stay for fewer than three nights. Single travellers usually have to pay the full price of a double room.
As well as the price of the room itself, you will be charged a fee of about 10Kn to cover the cost of registering you with the police (see Crime and personal safety), and a residence tax (boravišna pristojba) of 7–10Kn per person per night, which is the local tourist association’s main source of funding.
Apartments (apartmani) usually consist of a self-contained unit or floor of a house with its own kitchen and bathroom, maybe a small lounge and possibly a terrace for sitting outside. Two-person apartments often provide much more convenience, comfort and value for money than a double room in a hotel, and even single travellers – who will have to pay the price of a double – may find apartments favourably priced compared to bland hotel rooms. For those travelling as a family or in a group, apartments offer excellent value, providing that sleeping quarters are not too cramped – check how many beds are crammed into a single bedroom before accepting.
Two-person apartments generally cost around 350–500Kn per night in high season. Where available, four-person apartments cost around 450–800Kn, six-person apartments 600–900Kn. The higher the price, the more likely you are to get a central location, TV and a parking space, should you need it.
Finding a room
Bookings for rooms and apartments are traditionally administered by local travel agencies, who normally have several properties on their books. Agencies are usually very happy to take advance bookings for rooms and apartments by phone or by email, although they will probably ask you to pay a deposit by bank transfer or to provide your credit card details as a guarantee. In cases where there is no established travel agency, the local tourist office will help out by providing a few relevant addresses and telephone numbers, although they are unlikely to make bookings on your behalf.
An increasing number of room and apartment owners have registered their properties with well-known international internet booking sites – with the result that many rooms and apartments are listed as “hotels” on hotel booking sites, and as “hostels” on hostel booking sites. This is especially true of popular destinations such as Dubrovnik, where the role of the local travel agency has all but disappeared. There are no inherent risks in booking private accommodation online – providing you read the descriptions and customer reviews carefully.
If you arrive in your destination without a reservation, it is frequently easy to turn up a private room by asking around or looking for “sobe” or “Zimmer frei” signs posted up outside local houses. You may also be offered rooms by landladies waiting outside train, bus and ferry stations, especially in Split and Dubrovnik. Rooms obtained in this way sometimes work out significantly cheaper than the agency-approved ones, but equally leave you prone to rip-offs. There’s little chance that your hosts will be passing on registration fees or tourist tax to the relevant authorities (they’ll charge you for them, then pocket the cash themselves), and they may exploit your naivety by inflating these additional costs, or inventing new ones of their own. However you find a room, it’s acceptable to have a look at it before committing yourself.
B&Bs, rural homestays and pensions
The development of B&Bs in Croatia has been held back by red tape. A lot of private-room owners are dissuaded from serving breakfast by the amount of paperwork it requires, and only a small number of people have registered their properties as B&Bs, although a much larger number of private-room owners provide breakfast facilities on an unofficial, optional basis. Surprisingly perhaps, B&B culture is most developed in the rural areas of inland Croatia (such as inland Istria, the Zagorje, the Plitvice Lakes, Lonjsko polje and the Baranja), where an increasing number of rural homestays offer family accommodation and locally produced food and drink. A pension (pansion) is somewhere in between a B&B and a small hotel: usually (though not always) family run, equipped with a breakfast room and maybe a reception desk.
In all of the above cases prices are slightly more than those in private rooms and apartments, and (naturally) include breakfast; half- or full-board arrangements featuring home-cooked food are often available for an extra cost.
There has been a boom in backpacker-oriented accommodation in Croatia over recent years, and major centres such as Zagreb and Split now offer a wide choice of hostels offering dorm beds and frequently a handful of private doubles too. A double in a hostel will probably be around the same price as a double private room, except in a handful of boutique hostels (such as Goli & Bosi in Split) where it might be more similar in style and price to a hotel room. Be aware that many popular hostel-booking websites list an extraordinary number of establishments in Croatia that call themselves “hostels” but are really private rooms in disguise. If you want the genuine backpacker experience then it’s probably a good idea to read our reviews first. Per-person prices hover between 140–200Kn in high season (June–Sept), falling to around 100–120Kn in winter.
There’s also a small network of HI-affiliated youth hostels, run by the Croatian Hostelling Association (Hrvatski ferijalni i hostelski savez; t 01 482 9291, w hfhs.hr). Some of these are a bit old-fashioned and institutionalized in comparison to the new generation of backpacker-oriented places, but they are still habitable and friendly on the whole.
Campsites (autokamp) abound on the Adriatic coast, ranging from large-scale affairs with plentiful facilities, restaurants and shops to small family-run sites squeezed into private gardens or olive groves. Check out w camping.hr, a comprehensive resource for the best Croatian campsites. Sites are generally open from May to September and charge 30–80Kn per person, plus 30–80Kn per pitch and 30–50Kn per vehicle. Prices are significantly higher in fashionable destinations such as Dubrovnik. Electricity in the bigger sites costs a few extra kuna. Bear in mind that the stony ground of the Adriatic coast often makes it difficult to hammer in tent pegs – spare rope comes in handy to fasten your canvas home to nearby rocks and trees. Camping rough is illegal, and the rocky or pebbly nature of most Croatian beaches makes them uncomfortable to sleep on anyway.
Naturist campsites are a common feature of the northern Adriatic resorts, with big, self-contained complexes outside Rovinj, Poreč and Vrsar in Istria, and Krk, Baška and Punat on the island of Krk.