Drop by in June or September and you can expect cheaper accommodation prices and fewer crowds. April, May and October can also be nice but the weather is less predictable.
Spend time on the continent
Croatia isn't just about the coast. You can also have fun in its continental parts and save some money on accommodation. For example, hilly Zagorje region is close to Zagreb and can be a great base for castle chasing, wellness, wine tasting and hiking.
Travel by train
If you aren't in a hurry, consider a train ride. It's the cheapest means of transport and there are also special offers from time to time. Just bear in mind that only a few coastal places can be reached by train.
Don't buy bottled water
Croatian tap water is clean and of high quality (except maybe on some islands where it's difficult to obtain freshwater) so don't spend your money on bottled water. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up every now and then.
Avoid expensive hotels and look for more affordable apartments. Some have accounts on Booking and AirBnB but we also use a local website to find accommodation: Apartmanija.hr.
Find some coupons
There are numerous websites that give you access to special discounts and offers for experiences and services all around Croatia. On Dajsve.com you can find a large collection of them all. Check them out and see if you can find something for yourself.
Even though it's small, Croatia has so much diversity to offer - mountains, rivers, lakes, the coast, you name it. With its numerous protected nature areas, you won't be disappointed whichever direction you turn to.
While you're at it, think about all the different perspectives how you can savour nature - for example, you could go rafting down the Cetina river, visit an adrenaline park at the foot of Velebit mountain or go diving or snorkelling in Kornati NP.
Visit an island or two, or more!
Some island-hopping sounds great, doesn't it? Brač, Hvar, Vis and Korčula can all be reached by ferry from Split. Krk, Rab, Cres and Lošinj belong to the Kvarner bay. I have only scratched the surface here and it's so hard to choose between so many options. Wherever you end up going, you won't be sorry. You can expect a more laid back atmosphere compared to the mainland as well as crystal clear sea.
Indulge your tastebuds
The offer might be different depending on the region where you find yourself but the general rule is that Mediterranean cuisine based on fish and seafood should be sampled on the coast and grilled and other meat dishes on the continent. Pair this with local wines to get the full experience.
Rejoice in local festivals
Most of Croatian towns and cities have their own summer celebrations and festivals. The ones that we visit almost every year are Špancirfest in Varaždin and Zvjezdano ljeto in Karlovac. Both offer concerts, open-air plays and cinema, art exhibitions and much more but Špancirfest is special for the interesting street performers it hosts and Zvjezdano ljeto also includes a superb folklore festival which hosts dance groups from all over the world.
Capture the beauty of coastal towns
Crooked narrow streets and stone houses or those with colourful facades provide an excellent background for your photos and can be found in many charming towns on Croatian coast. I'll name just a few visually appealing locations and leave it for you to choose: colourful Rovinj, elegant Opatija, historic Šibenik, medieval Trogir, romantic Primošten...
Sometimes it was other people's fault but most of the time the problems we have stumbled upon while on the road could have been avoided had we prepared better. We bring you a list of our travel mistakes so you can learn from them and use our experience to your advantage.
1 LET'S JUST GO
Imagine a destination that you have wanted to visit since forever. Have you already been there or are you still fantasising? For us, this was London. In our English classes at school, and later on - because we studied English - London was an unavoidable topic. Gradually it became obvious that we would visit it someday, it was just a matter of time when. So, prior to the trip, we already knew WHAT we wanted to see and do but we didn't consider enough HOW, WHEN and WHERE this was going to happen. In addition to that, mobile internet was extremely expensive at the time and we could only rely on the hostel wifi. Consequently, when we arrived we felt a bit lost and spent a lot of time deciding what we were going to do next or travelling from point A to B. On our first two days we didn't manage to see much and the last two days were packed.
Now that we know better, we always plan ahead with the assistance of Google maps. I check which attractions are close to each other and arrange a day around a zone or two.
2 I WANT IT ALL, AND I WANT IT NOW
When you finally arrive at a place you have been dreaming about and saving to travel to, you want to see it all, don't you? But the cruel reality is, you only have a limited amount of time at your disposal. Once again, our London trip can be used as an example. We had accumulated a bunch of booklets, guides, maps, travel advice and must-dos and top 10s, and we tried to fit it all into 4 days.
Yeah, we were really inexperienced back then. However, this one isn't one of those mistakes that has never ever happened to us since. Actually, quite the opposite - it's extremely difficult to leave out some experiences knowing we may never again have the opportunity to participate in them. But we have learned a lot along the way: hey, we've been to Ireland without seeing the Cliffs of Moher.
3 WHY DON'T WE TAKE THE LONGEST ROUTE?
How to spend the first half of a day in Ireland if your flight leaves from Dublin in the afternoon? - Well, you can go to Howth. - And when you arrive there, which trail should you take? - The longest one, of course!
We are just kidding, don't do that. Yes, you can go to Howth but by all means, don't take the purple loop trail if you don't have enough time to enjoy it. Howth is indeed beautiful and consequently, it was impossible to walk for continuous five minutes without stopping to marvel the view and taking loads of photos. When we reached the point where the trails separated, we decided to take the longest one because we wanted to get closer to a lovely lighthouse that could be seen in the distance. But this was a mistake, primarily because we had to catch our flight later that day. Apart from the lighthouse, the rest of the route didn't have that much more to offer compared to what we had already seen in the first part (we went clockwise) AND, with our time running out, it seemed endless. Realising we better hurry, we spent the last hour or even more marching as fast as we could through the grassy landscape.
4 DEAR WHEELS
It would seem you have to rent a car at least a few times before you pick up all the tricks not to pay through the nose. Prior to our trip to Romania, we didn't book a car in advance because we didn't think we could without a credit card and we had also hoped we could get a better deal in person. However, when we arrived, it turned out that there was only one office that accepted debit cards AND had a car on disposal. Consequently, their last-minute price was much higher than what was advertised online. Two years later, on our trip to Santorini, we thought we were smarter. We booked a car in advance and then found the office website where we made sure that they accepted debit cards. Unfortunately, we didn't read the fine print - they did accept debit cards but only for bookings made through them directly. In the end, the man in the office on Santorini airport allowed us to take the car for the same price but on top of that, we had to pay extra for the insurance that had already been included in our original booking.
Both of our mistakes could have been avoided had we owned a credit card. Personally, I don't see a reason why credit cards need to be imposed but I guess we'll need to get one before our next trip, even if it means cancelling it after we get back. My advice to you is to read carefully and call or send an email to the rental office if you are not sure.
5 MONEY, MONEY, MONEY...
If you're travelling to a place that uses a different currency, you will probably need the services of an exchange office or you'll want to use an ATM. In Budapest, Hungary, we found out the hard way it wasn't the best idea to enter the very first exchange office one comes across at the train station. We did leave the office with thousands of forints but a bit of math soon revealed the number wasn't quite right. A few years later, in Side, Turkey, there were almost no ATMs and we had to go to a sort of a makeshift exchange office that used credit card machines. If we wanted to withdraw an amount in euro, they would charge the card in lira and give us cash in euro (taken from an under-desk drawer). When we wanted to withdraw lira, they charged the card in euro. The conversion, fittingly, included a substantial fee.
No matter where you travel to, don't forget to check beforehand which exchange offices have a fair exchange rate or which companies to avoid.
6 EXCUSE ME, DO YOU KNOW...
There were so many occasions when complete strangers saved our day by pointing us in the right direction. But this text isn't about that. At times the information given to us by locals was so wrong that it almost ruined our stay. Either they misinterpreted our question or we misunderstood the answer or they simply didn't know the correct answer. For example, in a tourist office in an Irish town, we inquired about the timetable for buses going to Dublin the next day. They listed a few options (e.g. 5.25) but failed to mention all of them were a.m. When the bus didn't show up at 5.25 p.m. and neither did the one we thought should appear at 5.55, we asked around only to find out that the last bus for Dublin had left at 2 p.m. Similarly, in Norway we wanted to check whether the Norway in a Nutshell bus was leaving from the bus stop on the main road. The person working at the reception of our accommodation confirmed but later on, upon witnessing a dozen of them just passing by the bus stop where we stood without even stopping, we realised we had made a huge mistake and there was no more time to correct it.
Well, this one is difficult to avoid. You are bound to stumble upon misinformation or confusing tips sooner or later. As with everything, it's always a good idea to google as much as possible and to double-check everything while you're still at home.
7 LOCAL SCAMS
Imagine yourself having a relaxing massage when the therapist suddenly points out that there is something worryingly wrong with your spine and you need a specialist treatment that he can provide for an extra fee. He also hints your boyfriend has just agreed to a similar deal. Well okay then, bring it on... They are playing it smart in some of the Turkish Hamam establishments. They separate you from your group and then blackmail you with your health. Instead of relaxing, the experience turned out to be irritating and overpriced.
Before travelling to Morocco we made sure we got acquainted with possible local scams. One of the advice was not to ask locals for directions to your accommodation or wherever you had to get to. Immediately after we got off the bus in Marrakech, one of the scammers spotted us and kept insisting he can show us where our accommodation is and wouldn't stop walking along with us. On the other hand, we kept saying we didn't need his help and knew how to get there until someone accidentally revealed the name of the place where we were staying. And that was it - he immediately started to walk a few metres in front of us and every now and then signalling with his hand we should follow him. When we arrived, he stretched out his open hand waiting to be paid for his "services".
We may have fallen for some scams but luckily, thanks to common sense and getting informed during the planning phase, we managed to avoid the majority of them.
8 WHAT'S THE TIME?
This one could be very problematic and we could have missed our flight back home had we not become aware of the glitch a few days before. On the morning of our third day in Marrakech, Morocco, we arrived at the bus station wanting to buy tickets for Essaouira. We thought we arrived early enough (more than 30 minutes before the departure) and tried to buy the tickets for the 7.45 bus. When the ticket clerk told us that that bus had left, we insisted this could not be the case. And then she asked the most important question - What's the time? - 7.10, we answered. - No, it isn't, she said and pointed at the big clock on the wall behind us, where the small hand pointed at 8. At that moment we realised there was something terribly wrong. Our time was an hour late compared to Moroccan time. A Google search soon revealed what had happened (BTW Google itself also reported the wrong time). After we had landed, all of our phones automatically switched to what was supposed to be Moroccan local time. However, it turned out that the program that manages this switch wasn't updated with the change Moroccan government had made earlier that year: they put Morocco's clock on permanent Daylight Savings Time.
Our advice here would be to be extra careful. Immediately when you land, restart your phone and then compare the time on it to the real local time. You can try to find a clock or ask a local. If the times don't match, turn off the automatic time zone on your phone and set the clock to match the local time. Undo the changes and perform the same check when you get back home.
9 LOCAL HOLIDAYS
Usually, it's a positive surprise when you unexpectedly happen upon a local festivity. In most cases, it turns out to be a bonus to your experience of a place. It's still smart to check before you go since local holidays can also negatively affect your stay. For example, you could get stuck in a traffic jam at the beginning of a long weekend when everyone sets off to the seaside, or be left hungry if all the grocery stores turn out to be closed on a seemingly random Wednesday. In our case, it was a national holiday in Slovenia that spoilt our spa experience a bit. First, we had to wait for quite a long time to even be let in and therefore we didn't have that much time inside as we hoped. Secondly, the ticket price was steep, to begin with, and now even more so due to the weekend and holiday price being imposed. Finally, we had difficulty finding a place to park our car and it was also somewhat crowded inside. Fortunately, the spa is actually huge with a large number and variety of saunas so it wasn't difficult to find a tucked-away nook.
10 I WAS SURE IT WAS THERE
This one is obvious but it doesn't hurt to emphasise it because making a similar mistake could mean having to cancel your whole trip and losing money in the process.
Our first couple's getaway should have been to Germany. We had already bought the plane tickets only to realise that one of us had lost their passport. We searched everywhere but it was nowhere to be found and time was running out. In the end we didn't go so we lost the money spent on the tickets. Luckily, it was a budget price so it didn't hurt as much as it could have.
Do you need a passport or a visa to visit a specific country? If yes, do you know where it is? When does it expire? If you don't have one, how long does it take before you can obtain it? Check all those things BEFORE you buy your tickets.
There you have it - all of our blunders revealed. To err is human, as it is said. Has something similar happened to you? Or can you add something new to our list so we can also put your experience to good use? Go ahead and write it down in the comments section.
Private rooms and apartments are really budget-friendly. You won't have a hard time searching for something affordable. We managed to book a 20eur apartment in a cobblestone street in the centre of Sibiu.
When in Romania one doesn't need to worry about the amount on the bill after a tasty dinner. It was our first trip where we ate in a restaurant once a day every single day of our stay and at the same time managed to stay within our budget.
Oh well, if I really made a list of how you can save money while in Romania, it would be an endless one. There is so much to see, do and buy without leaving you broke. So use this to your advantage and, if possible, prolong your stay to take in as much as you can.
Indulge in local delicacies
Hand-picked blackberries, home-produced honey, smoked sausages, all sorts of cheese, boiled corn on the cob, different sweets and other delicacies can be found on stalls scattered around, or sold by grannies you might come across while wandering through the mountains.
Feast your eyes on beautiful castles
I'm not sure where to start here. Wherever you turn, you'll discover another beautiful castle. The ones we have visited are definitely worth checking out: the gorgeous Peles castle, the intriguing Bran castle (setting of Bram Stoker's Dracula) and the impressive Corvin castle.
Immerse yourself in colourful towns
If you like colourful streets that also look splendid on photographs, then you'll adore the charming Romanian towns. Visit the Medieval Sighișoara to find the house where Count Dracula was born. Stroll through the streets of Sibiu but don't get startled if it seems the houses watch back at you. 🙂
Rent a car for your whole stay
It's easy to budget in Romania so you can invest in renting a car and make better use of your time there. It will probably cost a lot but it will be worth it, especially if you decide to follow my next advice.
Escape into the mountains
Cross the Făgăraş Mountains on the Transfăgărășan and find out if it's truly the most beautiful road in the world. While you're there, spend a night or two at Balea lake and explore the spectacular surrounding mountainous scenery.
Along the way
When you are already on the road, you will more often than not drive through beautiful nature and tranquil villages. Don't hesitate to stop and rest along the way. Explore a bit and take in the character of your surroundings.
This is a village at a walking distance to Fira. You won’t get to enjoy your breakfast with a mesmerizing view on Caldera but you will save significantly on the price of your accommodation.
Go off season
This will also make a big difference when it comes to the price of your accommodation. Not only is it more affordable but there are also more options to choose from. Santorini is packed in Summer which makes it hard to find a place to stay provided you haven’t booked well in advance.
Use local buses
From the bus station in Fira, they will take you almost everywhere. And the price is reasonable (€1,80 Fira-Oia).
Fira - Oia hike
Embark on this scenic walk as an alternative to driving. You'll discover beautiful vistas, interesting rock and cliff formations and excellent photo opportunities. It took us 6 hours with numerous photo stops and a picnic break along the way.
Buy bottled water and take it everywhere
It isn’t safe to drink tap water so hit the nearest supermarket and stock up on bottled water. Always have enough of it with you because it can get really hot in Greece and you don't want to have to stop in a cafe every 30 minutes and spend all your money on their expensive refreshments (e.g. €7,50 for a beer in Oia).
Gyros on the go
Famous gyros can also be nibbled on in numerous fast food establishments all around Fira. You can also get souvlaki and many other goodies.
Don't leave Santorini without a visit to one of their wineries. There are numerous options you can choose from in Santowines, the most well known and biggest one. The 6 wine flight was perfect for us!
A must in Oia is their famous sunset. The experience itself isn't as glamorous or romantic as you would imagine since the spot where you can get the best view from is PACKED at that time of day but you do get a nice photo.
Rent a car for two days
This was just enough for us to visit and explore some places that we didn't reach on foot or by bus, like the Faros Lighthouse or the Red Beach.
Walk on a volcano
There are different cruises you can take from the Athinios port (Fira) and some of them also take you to the active volcano island. You won't see lava but check out some interesting vegetation and rock formations. Be sure to take enough water with you - there is almost no shade!
Marvel at the scenery
Having expected the typical images of white and blue houses that we were used to seeing online, we were pleasantly surprised by how much more Santorini has to offer in terms of natural beauties. Cliffs, volcanic rocks, red and black beach, caldera - so much variety on such a small island!
Pyrgos on Good Friday
Try to plan your stay around Greek Easter holidays, specifically Good Friday. Go to Pyrgos on that day and have one of those once in a lifetime experiences: witness the town going ablaze in the evening - literally!
Dinner with a view
Choose a restaurant in Fira that overlooks caldera and have dinner there. The colours of sky at sunset will ensure an enchanting atmosphere.
Besides being much cheaper, travelling to Morocco in winter will bring about many other benefits. There will still be many visitors to touristy places but a great deal less than in other parts of the year. Winter is also great because there should be no sandstorms in Sahara before March. A downside of travelling in winter is the fact that (even though the day temperatures are pleasant) the nights tend to get really cold and Moroccans don't have such good heating devices.
Drink mint tea
Sometimes you'll get it served without even ordering it. Don't miss sipping a few cups during your stay because it's both cheap and a big consistent part of their culture.
Don't drink alcoholic beverages
On the other hand, alcohol is frowned upon and cannot even be found in most establishments. It's pretty expensive due to this fact so save some money and just give up on it while you're there.
Find your own way
Asking for directions in the streets of Marrakech will usually cost you money. And don't tell anyone where you're going. We unintentionally revealed the name of our riad to a passerby and ended up being guided to it without even asking for directions. Come prepared or, if you really don't know your way, ask the sellers at the stalls.
Do your homework and read about possible scams you might come across. Learn how to recognise and avoid them.
Bargain for souvenirs
There is no shopping in Marrakech without bargaining. You'll usually end up paying half or even less of the initial price after taking part in this ritual.
DIY Sahara experience
We were so glad we chose to go to Sahara on our own instead of with a guided tour. We got to choose and save on our accommodation as well as places to eat and buy groceries at. We ended up staying for 3 nights and paying a similar price we would for the 2-night-tour.
Stay in a riad
Riads are traditional Moroccan houses. While the outside walls are usually plain and windowless, you will find rich and colourful courtyards on the inside. Whether you enjoy your breakfast on the roof terrace or laze around next to a pool downstairs - staying in a riad will be a tremendous contribution to your Moroccan experience.
Visit Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech
It took 40 years for this botanical garden to be created. Walking around it will take much less but take your time while you're there. Enjoy the shade of tall palm and orange trees, explore the bamboo labyrinths and marvel at the huge cactuses.
Buy a lantern
...or a scarf, or an ottoman, or whatever. The vibrant souks in the medina of Marrakech are not to be missed. You will be bombarded with colours, smells, sounds and chaos all around you. You might get lost, baffled or uneasy at times but hey, it's all part of the experience.
This town on the Atlantic coast is much more peaceful than Marrakech. Enjoy a walk along the long sandy beach or around the wide and narrow medina streets. Take some photos of the ramparts with seagulls flying around. Find a small cafe in the street and take in the vibe.
Spend a night in Sahara
Orange sand, camels, sunset above sand dunes and Berber tents - this adventure was the highlight of our week in Morocco.
Rent a car for the Sahara trip
If you have enough time, definitely go for this option. It will allow you to stop wherever you want along the way - be it to take stunning photos of the gorgeous scenery, have a coffee in one of the shabby towns along the route, or spend a night in an interesting place the tours usually neglect.
Listen to Berber drummers
You can move to the rhythm of Berber drums if, come evening, you find yourself on the Jemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakech. Another, more intimate way to enjoy their music is among the dunes in Sahara.
Enjoy natural wonders
North African scenery with its colours, shapes and (lack of) vegetation is so much different from what we were used to. You can pay a visit to the Atlas mountain, Dadès Gorges and Todgha Gorges, to name some of the options on your way to Sahara.
As Norway is quite pricey in general, one needs to use every opportunity there is to save money. Staying with a local is one of them and we found some excellent deals on AirBnB for our stay.
Buy your groceries and cook
You can expect €20-30 for a main dish in a restaurant or around €10 for street food. So if your accommodation has a kitchen you can use – go for it. You might end up saving some.
This is a budget supermarket chain. Look for their own-brand products with the "First Price" label a well as special discounts close to the closing time for groceries that have to be sold on the same day. Bear in mind that you might not find everything you need this way, though, like bread. A bucket of potato salad saved the day for us one evening. 😀
Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages
Alcoholic drinks - even beer and wine - are ridiculously expensive. Most of them can't be bought in regular grocery stores either. Our advice - just stay away from alcohol while in Norway and drink water instead.
DIY Norway in a Nutshell tour
This is a great tour but also a quite expensive one. However, you can save some if you decide to do the planning by yourself. Just don't miss the train back to Oslo as we did!
Buy train tickets well in advance
To give you a concrete example, the train tickets from Voss to Oslo that we bought in advance cost us 300 and 400 NOK per person. The ones we had to buy at the station (because we unfortunately missed our train) cost us 700 NOK per person.
Either on foot or using the efficient public transportation network, take some time to get to know the Norwegian capital. I wouldn’t miss the Frogner Park and the Akershus Fortress. You might also stumble upon a fierce lion as you walk around the train station.
Photoshooting on Oslo's Opera
Yes, it’s possible to climb on the roof of the Opera. Go there at sunset to get some fancy photos.
Find out more about Vikings
A visit to the Viking Ship Museum is an excellent choice if you fancy launching yourself back in time and come face to face with genuine Viking ships and other treasures.
Cruise through some fjords
It’s difficult to imagine a visit to Norway that doesn’t involve a fjord or two. Head to the west coast in order to enjoy a hike or a boat ride between steep cliffs.
Norway in a Nutshell tour
The name says it all. You’ll experience bits and pieces of this majestic country – all packed in a few days. You can hop on the train in Oslo or Bergen and enjoy all kinds of marvels along the way.
Cod and Salmon in Flåm
How about lunch with a view on a beautiful fjord? We had some extra time in Flåm before catching a boat to the next stop on the route so we nibbled on some salmon and cod not far from the port and definitely recommend it. Don’t forget you’re paying for the view as well, though!
Camp in Gudvangen's cute huts
Definitely stay in Gudvangen for a night. There is a charming camp dotted with red huts scattered at the foot of rugged mountainous scenery.
Eat berries along the path of a fjord
Use the morning in Gudvangen to explore the town and the fjord on foot. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to stumble upon sweet berries on your way.
Soak up the scenery on two wheels. We chose this option for the Gap of Dunloe. We tweaked the route a bit and saved both on money and time.
Stay in a hostel
Accommodation can be quite expensive in Ireland. We opted for hostels which proved to be the most budget-friendly option at the time we were there.
Buy your groceries and cook
Some of the hostels have a kitchen that travellers can use. I regret not exploiting this opportunity more often during our stay because groceries in Ireland are very affordable. You can buy oven-ready meals in a supermarket and finish them in your hostel.
We found some great deals on the Irish Groupon page. Using their coupons we saved 50% on our Kinnity castle stay and had a tasty lunch in Dublin.
If you are willing to sacrifice a bit more time in order to save money or if you cannot rely on public transport, maybe you should try hitchhiking. Ireland is an excellent place if it's your first time - after a day of driving around with locals, we got a deeper perspective on the country and its people.
Take a free walking tour of Dublin
We like to do these kinds of tours on the first or second day of our stay to get a basic idea of what the place has to offer and to find our way around more easily.
See the cliffs - on Howth
You don't have to travel all the way to the west coast if you are staying in Dublin and want to see some cliffs. Feast your eyes by taking a short train ride to Howth peninsula and hike around it.
One of the first things that come to my mind when I think about Ireland is its breathtaking scenery. We planned our stay around visits to several beautiful places: Gap of Dunloe, Killarney NP, Dingle Peninsula and Howth.
Spend a night in a castle
A week in a country dotted with castles cannot be imagined without seeing a few of them. How about staying in one of them for a night? We definitely recommend it!
Indulge in the food
Don't leave Ireland without ordering at least one portion of fish and chips and one of the beef steak. Fresh cod and high-quality beef result in yummy dishes.
Visit cute small towns
Catch the vibe of colourful little towns scattered around the island. Dingle, Killarney, Birr and Howth are all worth checking out.
Generally speaking, whiskey is not our thing. But we did like Jameson! For an informative guided tasting experience head to the old Jameson Distillery. You will leave cheerful, I guarantee.
Get lost in the streets of Dublin
Explore Dublin in and out and discover its secrets - be it about the famous buildings or monuments, a tour around Dublin will be both funny and educational.
Drink beer while listening to live Irish music
Follow the tunes of fiddles into a pub full of smiling faces, cheerful music and positive atmosphere. In Dublin, we chanced upon The Celt and had a great time there.