7 Ways to Not Really Pay for Anything in Croatia*

Adventure Travel, Croatia — By on August 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By Kathryn Robinson
LG Contributor

*The opinions presented here are of purely circumstantial nature and do not reflect the views of The Lost Girls; they are merely a set of strange incidents that occurred while island hopping in Croatia. Kathryn does not own a yacht and will not own one in the foreseeable future.

1. Take a weird night ferry from Italy to Split, Croatia and realize once on board and cashless that you cannot pay for anything with a credit card. The ferry itself, called the “Jadrolinija,” was incredibly inexpensive, but we’d gotten rid of most all of our Euros since we were headed to a country where the currency was different (in Croatia the currency is the Kuna). Unluckily for us, this 10-hour night ferry only took cash. Whoops. We spent whatever money we had on strange sandwiches and beers to help us fall asleep in one of the “lounges” for a few hours.

2. Travel everywhere by foot in the off-season (and then meet a nice group of old men excited to talk about America. That sounds weird). When we arrived in Split one of the first things we did was make a beeline for the water. We walked miles of beautiful beach. In all the photos I took you can’t even tell where the water stops and the sky begins. There was NOTHING, literally nothing to tempt us because nothing was open (the peak times to go are June, July and August). We were desperate for a drink or some food and saw some old men picnicking outside a beachside restaurant. We discovered the restaurant was closed but the men ended up being the most generous, hospitable people we met on our travels, welcoming us into their picnic like old friends. They gave us soda, wine, strawberries, fresh bread, cheese, prosciutto and melon, and the food just kept coming. As it turns out we were sitting with one of the most famous soccer stars in Croatia but that’s a story for another time…

3. Find a hotel and pretend to be a guest. OK, I can’t say this is the most advisable idea, but after wandering miles of beach for hours we came across a gigantic hotel hidden away in an oasis-like part of the island. We went in with the intention of seeing if the concierge (under the impression that we were guests) would seek out a kayak service for us. When this didn’t work out (his friend never showed up, but we were close), we wandered down to the hotel’s beautiful infinity pool nestled by its private beach and acted like we were meant to be there,  although the place was nearly deserted. Remember, no matter where you are in Croatia you can probably get a tan for free. It’s also important to remember that if almost all of your bloodline is from Ireland, you will be turning lobster red while your olive-skinned friends get browner by the minute. Other tips in this case: retreat to the equally nice indoor pool, or pretend one of the yachts docked humbly near the harbor is your own.

4. Take people up on their kindness but don’t take it for granted. After Split we travelled to Hvar and realized that the place we had booked to stay was a woman’s house, where her 40-year-old son lived with his family. It was by far one of the most inexpensive places we stayed but since we were traveling during the off-season, they let us in on the “secret” that the few restaurants open on the small island would be overly expensive.

For only a few kuna, the woman and her son offered to cook us a meal, and it was by far one of the nicest parts of our stay. The exchange rate is ridiculously cheap so of course we gave them more than they had asked for and showered them in thanks as much as we could. The same man offered to drive us completely out of his way across the island so we could make our ferry, which we’d poorly planned to catch.

5. Hitchhike. Wait, no, we didn’t really do this. But we almost had to. I recommend always checking bus schedules in advance or just trying to have the crazy swings of luck and misfortune that we did.

6. Borrow things but make sure to return them! For my sun-loving friends who wanted to “lie out” (see above for advice on “lying out” for Irish folks), the beach chairs at a closed resort caught their eyes and they simply couldn’t stay away. Of course, I got some free sun protection by lying in the shade of their chairs.

7. Make sure your flight is extremely delayed and then cancelled and let EasyJet put you up in a five-star hotel.

By now you may have realized that this piece isn’t really about saving money in Croatia. And if you do travel there I hope your flight home to wherever isn’t cancelled. But if it is… for gods’ sake, you’re in Croatia! I was headed back to Edinburgh to write final exam essays due before I knew it, so this cancelation was a bit inconvenient, but our airline pulled through big time and put us up in a lovely hotel (and we took full advantage of the provided lunches. Mm.)

This is all to say, traveling is about being open to the ups and downs, and rolling with the punches. And who knows, you might get some free stuff out of it and meet wonderful people along the way!

All photos by Kathryn Robinson.

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