Monday, February 20, 2006

Tuesday Column - Croatia Tourism 4: Holiday Apartments


Almost everyone with a spare plot of land in Croatia seems to be cashing in on the burgeoning tourist industry and building an apartment to let. A few buildings have already been knocked down because they didn’t have planning permission and facilities and standards vary greatly. Don't set too much store by the number of stars an owner awards themself! Booking through an established travel agency is probably safer but you’ll pay more and miss out on the chance to find that special apartment in a superb location. If you book direct with an owner then you are taking a measured risk. Most private owners aren’t equipped to take deposits easily and tend to rely on passing trade to fill their accommodation in the summer. Those that have taken advance bookings in the past have, quite often, been let down by visitors finding something better en route. Do therefore make sure that the owner knows you are definitely coming so he isn’t tempted to take the bird in hand. Croatians though, on the whole, are a very honourable race and there are an increasing number of Brits who have properties to let along the coastline and on the islands.

If you wait to find accommodation until you arrive at your destination, you may end up with the perfect choice but could be left high and dry in the height of summer. However, in my view, this is the best option if you are reasonably flexible. The supply outstrips demand and you can do a much better deal face to face, especially if you are staying for over three days in the same place. Be aware that many owners just won’t consider lets of less than three days, whatever price you offer.

Most main tourist destinations have tourist offices that may have some favoured apartments, you’ll see plenty of signs along the roadside and there’s normally a coven of matriarchs with placards, hovering around arriving ferries at the larger towns. My advice is to pick your destination, get there in the morning or early afternoon if possible, and just walk around till you find your favourite spot. There’s bound to be a few apartments to choose from and you can inspect as many as you like before making a choice.

Before committing, check everything works and make sure that there’s air conditioning, if you need it, or some form of heating in the cooler months. Also make sure there are no night clubs near by if you want a good nights sleep. You normally won’t be asked to pay until the end, normally in cash, but expect to leave your passports with the owner.

We’ve stayed in plenty of apartments around Croatia, always had plenty of choice and never had a bad experience, though some have been better than others. Generally the apartments are fully self catering with clean bedding and towels provided, and sometimes changed on a regular basis. You’ll normally get a lot more space for your money than you would in a hotel – up to three bedrooms for €40 a nightin July, though prices are on the up and vary according to the month. Obviously, if you’re travelling with young children, or a large family, you may want to exchange the additional choice and value for money for the peace of mind of a confirmed apartment booked with a reputable company that specialises in Croatia.

Finally, note that the tourist season is still very short and the majority of apartments are not available outside July and August. So don’t expect to find this type of accommodation in the smaller towns in spring and autumn.

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