Last summer, my boyfriend and I island-hopped along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. We had heard that this European gem, nestled between Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, was an up-and-coming hotspot not only because of the increasing number of beach festivals and boat parties, but also because of its attractively low prices and guaranteed sunshine. We travelled from the walled city of Dubrovnik up to Split, stopping off at a number of islands along the way.
We organised it all independently, which was a challenge at times (admittedly more so for him, proven by his frustrated attempts to fashion a feasible and realistic route from my endless list of places), but so much more rewarding and a lot less expensive. So I wanted to start this series to show that you don’t need to throw all your summer savings at a money-grabbing tour company to travel to the places you want. All it takes is a bit of research, some practical planning and a whole lot of wanderlust! Accommodation
For all of our accommodation, we had pre-booked either rooms or apartments through Airbnb, a site which offers a myriad of abodes all over the world. A gypsy caravan in Cornwall? They’ve got it. A monkey treehouse in Thailand? You’d better believe it. An underwater cave with wifi and room service in the Indian Ocean? That’s just silly. (Although I haven’t actually looked yet…). Whatever type of dwelling you choose, the process is super quick and super easy. All you have to do is sign up, search the location with your preferred dates and budget, and request to book when you know you’ve found The One (when you know, you just know, you know?).
Not only does it give you the chance to experience the area like a local, avoiding the all-inclusive bubble of hotel holiday-makers, it’s also a fraction of the price. It was the best option for us, especially as a couple, because the price you pay is per night, not per person per night, so we were able to split the total cost between us. At one point, we were paying about £20 a night for a large apartment to ourselves, which was cheaper than some of the hostels in the area! So in my mind, if there’s a whole apartment available for the same price as a shared dorm in a hostel, why compromise? Having said that, if you’re an intrepid backpacker who prefers to travel alone in order to find yourself through other like-minded wanderers, then maybe stick to hostels. That is where your wayfaring heart belongs.
Pssst… whilst searching for your dream digs, be sure to look out for how many reviews they’ve had. The more reviews, the more likely your room will look like the photos.
Budgeting and duration
Pretty much all of my savings from last year went towards this trip, but the amount you spend all depends on what you want to get out of the experience. We knew we wanted to have enough money to not stress about eating out now and again, or paying for extra things like renting SUP boards or day trip excursions. So, we decided to cut down on the original (long) list of places and planned a route from Dubrovnik to Split (both on the mainland) visiting the islands of Korcula, Hvar and Brac along the way, over two weeks. This meant we were able to use the money we saved from not travelling to as many places to really make the most of the places we did visit. If you’re the kind of traveller who prefers to get a real feel for a place, rather than making a whistle-stop tour of all the tourist sites, then I would highly recommend travelling in this way.
To decide how long to stay in each place, we researched how big it was and what there was to do there. A three-night stay was generally enough time to explore what each island had to offer, whilst still giving us some time to relax. For example, we stayed in Dubrovnik for three nights because we knew we wanted to fit in kayaking, a trip to Lokrum island and be able to find great places to eat and drink in the city. Whereas Jelsa (on Hvar island) was just a one-night stop-over as we had to take the ferry from there to Brac early the next morning. Overall, I would say do your research and figure out for sure what you want to get out of each place you’re visiting, then work out a realistic budget to loosely follow each day.
This was probably the trickiest part of organising the trip, just because we had to coincide our dates for each accommodation with ferry times, which were sometimes irregular. We bought cheap flights with EasyJet, going from London Stansted to Dubrovnik and then flying back home from Split. Both times, there were airport shuttles which were easy to find and buy tickets for. From Dubrovnik airport it costs 35 Kuna (about £3.50) and takes about half an hour, dropping you off at Pile Gate, the western entrance to the old town. In Split, we bought our bus tickets the day before our flight from the tourist information office, which cost 30 Kuna (about £3) and took around 40 minutes (it felt a lot longer than that, due to the persistently loud eastern European pop music pounding into my ears).
To travel between the islands, we used Jadrolinija ferries . The cost and duration depends on when you are travelling; in high season they will be considerably higher, and in low season they will be less frequent. Each trip cost around 70 Kuna (outward journeys only), and sometimes we had to get a local bus to the ports. It never took longer than two hours; the ferry from Jelsa to Bol took just 20 minutes! They often go early in the morning though, so I would buy your tickets at least the day before.
Right, that’s all the practical stuff out of the way! I will be doing five follow up articles soon with more specific details about the individual places we visited, where we ate and what we did there, so keep your eyes peeled. But if you have any questions in the meantime then please leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to help!
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