Disclaimer: This amount doesn’t include flights, and I only spent £30 of the £300 on a deposit for a hostel in Dubrovnik- the rest came out of other money.
I was talking to some ‘friends’ (long story) last summer and somehow we ended up talking about the very riveting topic of rent deposit. I mentioned that I’d gotten all £300 of mine back about a week before and they were all gobsmacked that I hadn’t spent it on pointless crap yet. I decided that, partly because of that conversation and partly because I’d just had a relaxing yet unsatisfying trip to Tenerife I would spend it on an adventure.
That adventure was a three week solo trip around Croatia and Slovenia.
Like I mentioned in my disclaimer at the top, this £300 didn’t include flights or my hostel (besides the deposit) in Dubrovnik. Neither did it include what I spent in Slovenia. My flight to Dubrovnik from Birmingham, England was £39, and my flight from Ljubljana to London Luton was around £90. I also went at the end of August so, whilst things like accommodation were still being sold at summer prices, once September hit the prices went down ever so slightly.
On this trip I started in Dubrovnik, which is notoriously the most expensive place in Croatia- but that doesn’t mean budget trips aren’t doable! I did everything I wanted to do; I went out for dinner with my new Canadian friend every night, went for drinks every night, did a boat trip to a nearby island, walked the walls and even did a Game of Thrones tour. Yes, I could have done that without the guide but I’m a strong believer in not missing out on things that you want to do to save a bit of money.
I then headed to Split, where I went out for dinner and drinks with new friends every night. I even went out for breakfast one morning. Then I headed off to Zadar, where it was slightly easier to save money as most things of interest are free. That being said I didn’t not do things that cost money either; I climbed the bell tower, which some would say is a pointless expense, because I wanted to.
I ended my trip in Zagreb. As it’s the nation’s capital I expected it to be expensive but it was actually the cheapest place I visited! Food was cheap, both in restaurants and in the bakeries, and, again, a lot of the things I wanted to see were free. The only thing that added up in Zagreb was museum entry fees.
I noticed it was easier to save money the further north I went as things became considerably cheaper.
I wanted to go to Plitvice or Krka but because I changed plans and stayed longer in places I didn’t have the time. I was also a little bit worried about running out of money but that was me being overly paranoid- not going was more to do with time than money.
SO HOW DID I DO IT?
By being savvy in other areas I saved enough to do what I wanted when it came to having fun.
Travelled on coaches instead of trains or boats– Trains are notoriously expensive in pretty much every country you visit these days so a bus is usually the better option. In Croatia buses are also more likely to get you directly to where you want to go than trains are anyway.
Another popular way of getting around Croatia are boats, as there are quite a lot of islands and all of the popular places on the mainland are on the coast. However, boats are usually more expensive than coaches (especially in the summer as they know they become very popular) and they usually run at obscure times, or only a couple of times a day.
The only thing to watch out for on buses in Croatia is that they charge you to put you bags on the luggage rack below the bus- but they don’t tell you there’s a charge until the bag is on. In Dubrovnik this was 8 Kuna, in Split it was 7, in Zadar it was 2 and in Zagreb it was free (see, cheaper up north!)
Didn’t get a coach at a popular time– I think this is pretty common knowledge but at peak times coach prices go up in price. In Croatia they seemed to run pretty frequently (i.e a few times per hour) in the summer so, unless you have really specific plans, you could easily wait a while for an obscure timed bus and pay less.
Stayed in hostels– I know a lot of people have an issue with hostels but they’re really not that bad- in fact I’ve stayed in some hostels that were nicer than some hotels I’ve stayed in (shout-out to HI NYC!).
Before I arrived in Croatia I planned on staying in the nicest hostels I could find as I’d heard horror stories about hostels in Europe, but that went out of the window as soon as I arrived; I put in where I wanted to go in Hostelworld and booked the cheapest. It worked out okay for the most part (except for the one in Zadar). I even ended up staying in one of the nicest hostels I’ve been to in Zagreb (Palmer’s Lodge if you’re interested) and only paid around £30 for two nights.
You also meet some great people in hostels.
Apps, apps , apps!- Apps for cheap stuff are life-savers when you’re abroad- and generally in life to be honest. I had apps for cheap flights, for cheap accommodation, and for free walking tours. I also screenshot blog posts, map locations, and information that I might need about the city I’m in so that I can access the information when I’m out exploring without needing to use data. Skyscanner, Expedia, Airbnb, Hostelworld, GPSmycity are all great to have.
Made use of supermarkets and bakeries– Stock up on cheap fruit and snacks in supermarkets so that you’ve always got some healthy food on the go. Croatia is also full of farmer’s markets where you can get cheap fruit, and there’s a bakery on every corner. I made use of bakeries for breakfast as they sell a wide range of delicious pastry based goods. You don’t need to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in a café/restaurant, and, buying breakfast from a bakery frees up money to have dinner at a nice restaurant.
Filled up water bottles around town– I loved Dubrovnik for this. They have a fountain just outside of Pile gate, and one just inside the old town, where you can fill your water bottle up with water straight from the bay. The fountains are round, and they have lions heads carved around the outside in stone and the water comes out of the lion’s mouths. I was apprehensive at first thinking it’d make me ill, but the water was fresh and cold. I bought one bottle of water in Dubrovnik and that was it. Split and Zadar also have fountains dotted around- you just need to do a little bit of searching but it can save you a lot of money.
Walked or used local buses instead of using trams or taxis– Okay, this wasn’t in Croatia but I walked for half an hour through the town with a heavy bag on my shoulder to get to my hostel in Ljubljana. Once I got used to the heaviness and the heat it was a cute walk. It also helped me to get my bearings more so than taking a taxi would have done.
Taking the Atlas shuttle from Dubrovnik airport to the old town cost me 40 Kuna as opposed to 200 Kuna for a taxi. Walking through Split’s Riva saved me money and I got to see the nice part of town. In Zadar, the bus to the old town cost around 10 Kuna instead of a taxi which would have cost more. Trams are frequent in Zagreb but at 2 Kuna for a one way journey it was cheaper to walk everywhere. Of course, 2 kuna may not seem a lot but if you take lots of tram rides then it adds up.
I’d love to add a little breakdown or infograph of exactly how much I spent on what just here but, unfortunately, I’m not that organised when it comes to tracking money. All I know is that I used £30 of my £300 rent deposit to pay for a hostel deposit, withdrew the rest, changed it into Kuna, and only spent that. I’m going to try and do a breakdown of average prices I paid soon and add it to this post soon. So watch this space!
Has anyone else done a super budget trip before? Do you have any other money saving tips or do you do any of these things listed? Let me know in the comments!
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