Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Croatia Online - Cost of Living On The Up?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the cost of living in some of the tourist destinations may have risen a little more sharply than the rate of inflation this year. Certainly in our area, around Split and Trogir, we have noticed an extra two kunas (twenty pence) here and there on coffees and beer - an increase of between 20% and 30%. In Croatia’s defence, the prices were probably much lower than other Mediterranean equivalents to start with, but hopefully caution will be exercised until the tourism infrastructure is a little more geared up to measure demand and supply. Sensible entrepreneurs would be wise to take the long term view – locals, on which many establishments depend outside the high season, won’t be impressed by these higher prices, and part of Croatia’s attraction as a tourist destination is that it is good value for money.

The other somewhat disturbing news is the increase in car parking charges in some areas and the appearance of car parking fees where before there were none. Obviously the “Mediterranean that once was” has now caught onto another money spinner, or more generously, needs to regulate the increasing amount of cars. Disappointing for those of us that chose to live here to escape the crowds, clampers and opportunists, and go back in time a little. The march of progress and discovery is obviously gathering speed!

Profiteering is not however widespread in Croatia and I suspect, this year, there is an element of “testing the water”. We’ve read of the odd occurrence of money exchange offices offering rip off rates to tourists but these are isolated and the perpetrators are normally named and shamed in the local press. However it’s always best to change money at a bank or post office. Like anywhere else, the key to a balanced holiday budget is to be armed with some basic information, check out prices beforehand, check your bill, and don’t be afraid to say no to the occasional pushy merchant, accommodation provider or restaurant owner.

Prices vary according to destinations, with Hvar, Dubrovnik and some of the more isolated islands tending to be the most expensive, but rough rule of thumb guidelines for good value elsewhere are as follows:

Exchange rate: 10.5 kunas to a £1
Expresso coffee: 6 kunas
Cappuccino: 7 to 8 kunas
Local Beer – 33cl: 9 to 10 kunas
Local Beer – 50 cl: 10 to 12 kunas
Local wine in a restaurant: 60 to 70 kunas per litre
Beefsteak: 70 to 80 kunas
Fish: 250 to 300 kunas per kilo
A large sea bass or sea bream weighs about 0.4 kilos but it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for the weight of your fish before you pick it.

The tap water is good almost everywhere – ask for “voda iz spina” (water from the tap) to avoid any confusion and steer clear of excess prices on bottled water.

We tend to think we’ve had a good deal on a main course for two, a litre of wine and perhaps a coffee, if we’ve spent less than 200 kunas in total. Still a great deal compared to the western European equivalent!


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