Actual Expenses for 2 Months Living in Croatia
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
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We spent months 4 and 5 of our year abroad in the two largest cities in Croatia: Zagreb (which is also the capital) and Split.
We spent 65 days total in Croatia and roughly half in each location. We also took overnight trips to Dubrovnik and Plitvice Lakes.
Croatia has its own unique currency, the kuna. The exchange rate was roughly 6.7 kuna to 1 USD and didn’t vary much during our visit. In the past 90 days the highest exchange has been 6.79 and the lowest was 6.65. We used 7 to make the mental math easier.
Note that things are not 1/7 the price! Instead, listed prices are just 7x what they’d be in the US (but sometimes a little less).
If you'd like to check out some of our other spending reports, here are links to them:
Many people consider Croatia to be “cheap Italy” which we think is a bit unfair to both Croatia and Italy since they’re both such unique countries. However, we did consider Croatia to be budget friendly. Read on for the details!
Teaser: we came in under budget by 22%!!!!!!!!!!
[NOTE: For comparison’s sake we calculated the 30-day equivalent spending (as opposed to a reporting the 65-day total). A monthly total will make it easier to compare to our other month-long stays in other countries and hopefully is easier for you to compare to your expenses at home.]
In category order from highest to lowest spending…
Food & Dining
In Croatia, we found very few businesses that only accept cash, but the exception was a few restaurants and cafes.
Tipping in Croatia is a little different from the US, but not too much. It is typical to tip 10% of your bill, even if there is already a “service fee” added. If service is exceptional, 15% is considered a nice gesture.
Our largest Food & Dining charge was at Dubravka Restoran in Dubrovnik with Megan’s sister and brother-in-law. The bill was $155.89 USD for four people (or ~$40 USD per person) for what we all agreed was a really good meal + beverages. The restaurant was also in a very touristy part of Dubrovnik which probably contributed to the price.
By comparison, the same four people had an amazing meal at a steakhouse in Zagreb, complete with a bottle of Croatian wine, an appetizer, and dessert for a total of ~$100 USD (or $25 USD per person).
Most of our grocery shopping was done at Konzum (20 trips) or SPAR (12 trips). SPAR was familiar to us from our stay in Vienna.
It seemed like we got more rain in Croatia than in Scotland and with that came delivery food! We ordered it more than we’d care to admit (28 times in 65 days!), or roughly one meal every other day. We do have to admit it came in handy when Megan had a terrible cold in Zagreb, on rainy days when we couldn’t go out exploring, or when we just wanted to be lazy (embarrassing but true).
We were in Croatia for both Eddie and Megan’s birthdays so there were a couple of celebratory dinners. Also, it was American Thanksgiving when we were in Split, so we splurged on a home cooked feast that cost more than our usual meals.
In total, we spent an average of $33 per person per day on food (including coffee, alcohol, groceries, restaurants, etc.) which is almost exactly on budget! Whew!
Monthly Budget: $2,000 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $2,010 USD
The monthly rent we received from our tenants was more than enough to cover our mortgage and all home-related expenses in months 4 and 5. Other expenses included our mowing service and the cost of replacement furnace air filters, which should last the next ~6 months.
When we were in Zagreb, we received an email from our tenants letting us know the washing machine wasn’t completing the full cycle. It would stop before draining the water. A quick call to a local appliance repair company and we had a technician sent out for a $59.99 visit fee. After he located an errant baby sock stuck in the pump, all was good again. We’re thankful we didn’t have to replace an appliance while abroad! (*knock on allllll the wood*)
After expenses for the two months, we had a surplus of ~$500 USD from our home in the states (not including the increased equity in our home). This was mostly because mowing has slowed down due to the season and this not being a month when we owe our quarterly HOA dues.
Between our two home base rentals (one in Zagreb and one in Split) we averaged paying $52 per night for accommodations. Both were spacious 2-bedroom apartments in great locations. This was likely the largest noticeable difference in cost when comparing Croatia to our previous stays in France, Austria, and Scotland.
Monthly Budget: $2,000 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $1,320 USD
With Eddie wrapping up his degree in Software Development, we owe four tuition payments in each 6-month term. November was one of the months without a payment due and then we paid the first payment for a new term starting in December.
We also owed our student loan minimum payment for both months, as usual.
Since Eddie has been earning as many credits as he can in each term, he only has SEVEN credits (or two courses) remaining! This means he will technically be a part-time student in his final term and only owe a prorated tuition amount. This will help us out financially the next couple of months.
(You’re soooo close, handsome! You can do it! -M)
Monthly Budget: $1,142 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $674 USD
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Our previous stay had been in Glasgow, Scotland so flights were really our only travel option for getting to Zagreb. We booked a KLM flight for $213 USD per person that included a layover in Amsterdam.
Somehow, we had forgotten to include a checked bag when we booked, but the nice lady at the check-in counter accepted our luggage without charging us. It would have cost an extra $100 USD or so. Thank you, random airline employee! We appreciate you!
During our stay in Zagreb, Megan’s sister and brother-in-law visited us during Megan’s birthday week. (Did we mention we love having visitors??!)
Since they were using precious American holiday time (of which most people get very little) we wanted them to see as much as possible, so we planned a trip to Dubrovnik in southern Croatia. Most people know it best as the filming location for a lot of Game of Thrones. Round trip flights set us back ~$170 USD per person for the ~45-minute trip.
Another overnight excursion was to Plitvice Lakes National Park. The park has great hiking and several connected lakes with waterfalls between. It was like the setting of a fairy tale, even in the fall when there are fewer crowds. We stayed at Hotel Jezero located just outside the park entrance for $98 USD per night which included breakfast.
“Moving” from Zagreb to Split cost us $72 USD for the 1-hour one-way flight including checked luggage.
During our stay in Split, we didn’t do any overnight excursions but did take day trips to nearby Trogir and Omis. In general, we found plenty to keep us entertained in Split and didn’t think that adding an overnight trip into the mix would add much.
Monthly budget: $900 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $670 USD
The above four categories make up almost 80% of our spending in months 4 and 5.
Here are the remaining categories (from highest spending to lowest):
5. Health & Fitness:
This is for the cost of our global health insurance plan + 5-day gym pass we used while we were in Zagreb. We’re lucky that we have HSA (Health Savings Account) balances from our full-time jobs we left in the US that we can continue to use if we have medical expenses such as cold medication.
Monthly Budget: $503 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $394 USD
6. Fun Money:
We transfer a small amount of money to each of our fun money accounts on a monthly basis which allows us to splurge on something for ourselves without having to justify it. We had a minor mistake with a “free trial” subscription that didn’t get cancelled in time, hence the slightly higher spending.
Monthly Budget: $200 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $205 USD
7. Bills & Utilities:
Our cell phone plan via Google Fi falls into this category. We pay off our current devices in the next month or two, at which point our monthly will be lower. This category also includes a small personal articles insurance policy in case we bust a laptop during a close flight connection (it hasn’t happened yet though!)
One surprise this month was almost being sent to collections for not returning our wireless router to our ISP when we moved (which we thought we owned and actually were never invoiced for). Out goes an unplanned $117, making us lucky to come in just under budget!
Monthly Budget: $200 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $197 USD
Our 3-year-old bernedoodle, Mr. Miles, has been staying with Eddie’s super gracious aunt and uncle back at home. We still cover his expenses though. He’s high maintenance and needs to be groomed every 10-12 weeks and then there’s food, pet health insurance, and renewal of his chip. We miss this dude so much!
Monthly Budget: $235 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $177 USD
9. Shopping & Gifts:
This is the first year we haven’t traded gifts with our 20+ family members and close friends. It feels a bit strange but also nice to not have the holiday be about consumption and who bought who what. We have much more than we need and would gladly help out a family member if they needed it…Christmastime or not. We paid ~$50 USD to send personalized Christmas cards via Postagram which we thought worked out great! (hopefully they were all delivered) A couple of Kindle books, one new sweater for Megan, and we came in well under budget!
Monthly Budget: $350 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $120 USD
10. Moving Expenses:
This category is for the cost of our storage unit at home. Luckily, when we rented the unit there was a promotion that would give us month’s 1 and 4 for free (random, but we’ll take it!) This meant we were only charged for the unit once during all of months 4 and 5.
Monthly Budget: $202 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $84 USD
We have subscriptions to Netflix, Spotify, and CBS All Access (for American football, of course). We also occasionally rent a movie on Amazon. We went to two movies during our two months in Croatia (“Last Christmas” and “Ford v Ferrari”).
Monthly Budget: $300 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $42 USD
12. Auto & Transport:
Not having a car has been great for our bank account! No gas, insurance, registration, car washes, or monthly payments! Both Zagreb and Split proved to be very walkable, so we hardly used public transportation either. We’re really big fans of pedestrian-only areas of town anyway.
Monthly Budget: $400 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $38 USD
13. We Be Trippin:
We pay for blog hosting, a music service (for our YouTube videos), and this month we added a graphic creation subscription. We certainly didn’t intend for this category to grow as we got further into our trip but we’re enjoying creating and sharing content.
Monthly Budget: $15 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $36 USD
14. Personal Care:
This is for personal hygiene and bath items you just can’t go without (nor would we want to). Sometimes our hosts provide sufficient shampoo, conditioner, soap, and whatnot and sometimes they don’t. Or we prefer a different brand. When you’re traveling full-time, it can be the little things that make it feel more like home. Also, Megan doesn’t like to be without dry shampoo and Eddie needs to keep that beard in check.
Monthly Budget: $50 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $22 USD
Generally, very few things fall into the Miscellaneous category, but ATM fees are one of them. Since we didn’t manage to open an account with a different bank before our trip started, we pay the minimal fees Chase charges as “foreign exchange rate adjustment fees” which are 3% and really don’t account for much since we use a credit card whenever possible. For example, during months 4 and 5 we paid only $20 USD total in fees which we just think isn’t anything to get too upset about. Combine that with the other random things that end up in this category, and we hardly spent anything.
Monthly Budget: $0 USD
30-Day Equivalent Spending: $16 USD
A Final Note About Cost of Living
If you’ve made it this far in the post, it must be clear by now that we have certain expenses that are unique to us. We include 100% of our expenses in a given month just to give you an idea of what that might look like, but if you’re wanting to estimate your own full-time travel budget you should exclude categories (or specific expenses) which don’t apply to you.
Here’s the full category breakdown for our time in Croatia:
It's important to note that our true estimate of the cost of living for full-time travelers to Croatia includes only the following categories:
Accommodations - you need a roof over your head
Food/Dining - you’re gonna have to eat (out or cook at home)
Entertainment - if you live (or travel) somewhere, you will do entertaining things
Transportation - gotta get around (public transportation costs)
Personal Care - you know...for good hygiene and stuff
Spending for only these categories: $3,431 USD
For the two months we spent in Croatia, we came in 22% under budget! This translates to ~$3,700 USD in our pockets that we didn’t expect to still have at this point. Phew! What a relief!
You may look at this and say “hey, you guys are really bad at budgeting” but we would always rather budget conservatively (i.e. plan for worst case) and come out under budget than overspend and have to head home earlier than planned.
You also have to consider that we created a general budget for each month of our trip. We didn’t tailor it specifically to each country since we have never been to most of these countries and weren't quite sure how our spending would pan out.
Coming up next month we’ll review the cost of living in Sorrento, Italy!
Eddie & Megan
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