Croatia Online - What Global Crisis?!
It was only a matter of time before the after shock of the west-led financial crisis hit Croatia. Though there's been a certain amount of anxiety since the more serious events unfolded, on the whole morale has been good till now. That seems about to change as the tourist season approaches - after a couple of bumper years, latest reports suggests bookings are 30% down. Now of all times is the moment for Croatians, particularly Dalmatians (most of whom have some interest in tourism), to keep their heads. Croatia has a lot going for it, it's still barely spring, and a bit of steel nerve, and a sensible strategy could reap huge rewards.
The UK newspapers are full of Croatia as a good value holiday destination. It's not in the Eurozone (but the Croatian kuna is strongly linked to the Euro), and it's just a two and a bit hour flight from the UK, with increasing numbers of low cost airlines choosing to provide routes. What's more there's a huge choice of destinations and a wide range of options to suit all budgets. OK, a new car or house might be shelved for a year or two but, in current times, people still need to cheer themselves up with a holiday, and in Croatia you can do it in style or on the cheap.
An article in the Sunday Mirror in January includes Croatia as one of the best budget breaks around and quotes the Post Office as saying it's one of the ten cheapest holiday destinations in the world. It's perhaps a little unfortunate that the new emphasis on value for money coincides with Croatia's focused drive to take its tourism offer upmarket. However the two are far from incompatible and the great thing about Croatia is there's something for everyone, if you know where to look and who to ask.
Top ten tips for budget travellers:
1. Avoid the already developed towns like Dubrovnik and Hvar - though they have plenty to recommend them, these two cities have largely gone for the upscale traveller and the cost of living can be 50% higher than neighbouring places.
2. Be flexible and open minded - you can have just as much fun in a small village, or perhaps inland by a river, than you might have in a developed resort.
3. Avoid the high season if you can.
4. Try going inland in Dalmatia - you're never that far away from the coast.
5. Go camping - Croatia has a good network of campsites - perhaps not the deluxe style that you'll get in France, for example, but it could be fun for a change.
6. Check out Slavonia - Osijek, Varaždin, Kopački rit, etc - it's a continental climate rather than a Mediterranean one, and can get very hot in the summer, but there's just as much to discover and it's fairly quiet as most of the inhabitants will be down on the coast.
7. Try a sailing holiday - if you weigh up the cost of accommodation and the other expenses of a land based holiday, and compare that to chartering a boat with a skipper, you might get a pleasant surprise, particularly if you can get together the right size of group. Or one of the wooden cruise ships.
8. Research carefully and shop around - a few phone calls could save you a fortune and you'll get a lot more information than you would by email.
9. Consider arriving on spec - you can drive a harder bargain if you stand outside an empty apartment to let with a wad of notes in your hand.
10. Make a local friend and find out where the best value restaurants and bars are.
Croatians have really only just come to terms with the resurgence of the country's popularity as a holiday destination and there are still just a few with their heads in the sand (or more accurately pebble). You will therefore find some very isolated cases of profiteering, but if you shop around they'll be quite easy to spot. On the whole, accomodation prices have remained quite stable over the last three years and several new apartments have been built which the owners will be anxious to fill. The long standing private tourist agencies are generally excellent and will help you find the right apartment for your budget as well as assisting with all your other needs.
Don't skimp on the summer cheer - you're money will go a long way in Croatia if you do your research properly.