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2 Week Croatia Trip

I'm planning a roughly 2 week trip I'll be taking to Croatia in early-mid January. I am 22M and fully vaccinated so I'm not expecting Covid to be an issue as a US traveler. This will be my first ever solo trip (although I've traveled a fair amount to Europe before) so I'm hoping to meet a lot of people through social/party hostels. Is it fair to assume that a lot of other young/student travelers will be visiting and that social/party hostels will be active with a lot of people?

My budget is roughly $2,000 for the 2 weeks (excluding flights), is that enough? I plan on starting in Dubrovnik and working my way up the coast seeing places like Korcula, Bol, Hvar, Novalja, and flying out of either Split or Dubrovnik. Additionally, how do people typically get around Croatia since a few of the places I'd like to see are islands. Do most people take buses, trains, rent cars, etc.? I've looked on Kayak and it seems like renting a small car is pretty cheap so I'm leaning towards that option.

This is going to be my first solo trip and I'm super stoked so I'd love to hear any tips, additional recs on places to visit, social/party hostels to stay at, and things to do in these towns!

Posted by
169 posts

Imo fly into Dubrovnik, and rent a car for the entire trip.

Public transport is almost non-existent in Croatia compared to Western Europe. My wife and I just spent 3.5 weeks in Croatia and the places you’re talking about would be, imo, almost impossible without a car. Or at the very least, extremely frustrating.

We rented a car for 23 days and it was only like $400, we however paid another $400 to drop the car off in a different location. So if you can to the circle back to Dubrovnik it’s probably well worth the savings imo.

I posted this in another thread as well as my trip report but imo, the trip is recommended to anyone going to Croatia the first time now that we spent almost a month there is one of these 2 loops:

Split - Hvar/Korcula (or both) - ferry to Drevnik or Ploce - Dubrovnik - loop back up to split.

There really isn’t that much to see in split, or at least, it’s not really a place imo you should be spending extended periods of time at given the amazing islands so close by.

Or you do the other way around starting in Dubrovnik. There are like 10 different rental car companies at the Dubrovnik airport so prices are always competitive.

Not to be a wet blanket however but I think your wanting to meet people and be in a more lively atmosphere may be a bit dampened by the time of year you’re travelling. We were in Croatia from the beginning of October and the weather was still amazing, 24-26 degrees, swimming in the ocean every day, etc. however, it was clearly shutting down for the winter in almost every spot we went. Hvar town, which is known as a party spot was very quite (which we honestly preferred as everything was still open but not busy)

All the beach clubs were closed, night life wasn’t open for the most part etc. I’d expect the same or worse in January.

I’m not a “beach” person persay nor am I am party person who needs sun and surf, but imo I wouldn’t go to Croatia unless I was in the ocean and the sun we just enjoyed it so much in that form

Posted by
6113 posts

Sorry, but forget the islands in January - many places will be closed for the winter and the boats are at risk of being cancelled if there are storms and high seas. I know a Croatian family who live on Hvar, but they move to Split for the winter. I was on Hvar in late September and everything was getting ready to close and the weather had broken - lots of rain.

I have always hired a car when I have visited Croatia - it’s far more expensive to do so than in say Spain or Portugal, but I have only been in the summer. Taking a car to the islands can add significantly to your budget and check that your hire company would allow travel on ferries.

There aren’t any trains serving Dubrovnik - there are buses or ferries. There are trains north from Split.

Flights to Croatia are much reduced in the winter - London Gatwick to Split flights only resume in late March following the winter break, which gives an indication of how few fellow travellers you are likely to meet.

Your budget depends on how you get around (car or bus) and particularly the standard of accommodation. Croatia is joining the Eurozone 1 January, so there is likely to be some inflation if it follows the pattern of the rest of Europe. Look at Booking.com for an idea of prices. Food is reasonable value.

Posted by
8122 posts

If your trip's still on for January, you might want to regroup and go elsewhere.

We visited Venice once in January, and the weather was cold, rainy, windy and pretty miserable.

Consider Budapest and Vienna if you're into the party scene.

Posted by
3815 posts

I have to agree with the other posters. January is not the best time to go. If it is the only time you have, I would definitely rent a car. I would travel to the larger cities, like Zagreb and Ljubljana (I know it is in Slovenia but very close). You could fly into Dubrovnik to Split then drive to Ljubljana then Zagreb to fly home. Istria is not a choice either as the coast cities (Rovinj, Porec, etc) would be closed down too.

You have some research to do - most ferries to the islands are on a very modified schedule - the locals still need transportation. You could put together a nice itinerary with a car. Mostar, Rijeka, Plitvice are a few other places you can read about.

Posted by
1596 posts

As everyone else has suggested, I would not travel to Croatia in January. Friends of ours visited in late April and early May and had a mixed bag of weather, warm, sunny, rainy and chilly. The islands will be closed down in January. Can you postpone your trip to May? We visited in September and it was warm and sunny and very lively. I think May to September is the best time to visit Croatia for nice weather and night life.

Posted by
17835 posts

Tyler, $17 a day to rent a car! Please PM me that company. How much did you spend on gas. I am guessing I would do about 400 miles or maybe 20 gallons or $120: does that sound about right? Did you ever have to pay to park it? I think I will budget $300 over 3 weeks? Sound right? Were there any toll roads? Do you think $50 will cover that?

Appreciate the help.

Posted by
5687 posts

woods.slight.0d , you can get everywhere you want by public transportation - busses or ferries mostly. Renting a car is convenient, too, though I'm not sure how being under 25 limits that for you. There are car ferries running between all the islands and they go in all kinds of weather. (Passenger catamarans may not.) But you are still going to have to deal with parking and gas. Taking buses and ferries will save you some money, no doubt.

As others have said, though, January might not be the best time to go to the Dalmatian Coast, especially as a young person looking to meet others. The islands will be pretty quiet. The days will be short.

(Although there are no Covid entry restrictions for Croatia, simply being vaccinated doesn't mean you don't have to worry about Covid, FYI - breakthrough infections are common even if you are vaccinated. It's up to you if you wish to take any precautions. Few people in Croatia even wear masks anymore.)

Posted by
4036 posts

Well, having spent 4 weeks there last September, I will add my experience for what it’s worth.

  • 2 1/2 weeks of car rental with drop off in another city: $526; tolls (very few), gas & parking $250 (rounded up). Nearly half your budget. But that was for longer than you would actually need the car - and a lot of miles.
  • I didn’t find lodging or food to be terribly expensive.
  • check ferry schedules. https://www.krilo.hr/en/sailing-schedule/ & https://www.jadrolinija.hr/en/ There ARE busses - but I don’t know anything about them.
  • Hostels are a great way to meet other young people - and I doubt there is a complete lack of people, even in January.
  • I found a very helpful Facebook group. And TripAdvisor was also very useful.
  • It won’t be the same trip you would have in summer, but neither would it be a complete waste of time in cities. We don’t know if that’s the only time you can go or if you have the option to go a different time.
  • And nothing wrong with a different location, if it works better for that time of year. Try Budapest. It will be cheaper than Paris, London, or Rome.
Posted by
3815 posts

Also, an FYI, many hotels on the islands and coast close for the season. We were in Zadar late October and the hotel we were staying was closing the day after we left.

Posted by
17835 posts

For an inexpensive party trip in January I would do Prague or Budapest. Good prices, everything open and plenty of like minded people.

Posted by
169 posts

Re: rental cars

We booked our rental car through a referral link we got when we booked our flight on Ryanair from Dublin to Dubrovnik. It used rentalcars.com I believe which is a system much like Kayak that gets quotes from multiple companies and lists them all out for you.

We ended up using the company “AddCar” which worked out great, they have good reviews and the service was pretty great (we contacted them multiple times to change our drop off location due to our plans changing and they easily accommodated us)

If you’re driving all through the interior of Croatia ie. up from Dubrovnik to say, Plitvice etc. there are numerous tolls you will pay but they are cheap compared to everywhere else we’ve rented a car in Europe. I think the most expensive tolls we paid were between Rijeka and Pula and those were like $14 euros I think? The rest seemed to be 2-3 on the newer highways in the south. We very rarely paid for parking because when looking for accommodations we always booked somewhere that had parking included. Sometimes in places like Hvar Stari grad you buy parking but again, it’s like 5 euros for the day.

Gas is pretty expensive comparatively to Canada which is Canadians always seem to think it pricey. I believe it was somthing like 1.70 euro per litre. Over the 1400 km we drove we probably spent about $200 in fuel? We had a little fiat panda hybrid which seemed very good on gas so that helped. When we booked it gave the option to book a hybrid and it’s essentially the same price as the full gasoline vehicle so it was a no brainer (this is not a plug in hybrid it just charges a battery under breaking etc.)

And sorry, but I gotta laugh at the Covid comment above. If you’re still worried about Covid, I recommend not travelling to Europe period. Europe has moved on from the hysteria and pretty much across the continent masks are gone. You’ll hop onto trains and public transit, airports and transfers all full of people hacking with chest coughs etc. so if you’re still worried about it, I wouldn’t bother stepping on a plane. They’ve all come back to their senses for the most part.

Posted by
17835 posts

Thanks guys, best I could find was $300 for 3 weeks + $155 for full insurance on the car (not required) and no, zero, liability coverage. So if I hit a person or a car, that's out of pocket. But what are the odds of that happening?

Posted by
169 posts

So I’ve rented a car 4 times on this current trip and it seems like rental car companies have gone completely away from even trying to do the old scam of additional insurance coverage etc. as I think most people had credit cards which covered them

So now in every case we rented a car the company just does a pre-authorized charge of 1200 euros on your card as collateral.

When we rented the car in Croatia through the referral link i mentioned we added additional coverage for like $120 total through rental cars.com as they had great reviews in insurance claims.

But if I ever got into anything serious I’d probably just eat that 1200 euros and turn the car back in