Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exploring Croatia In The Summer – Itineraries, Travel Costs and Cost of Living

Croatia Online - Sucuraj Sign

When we set out on our Croatian summer trip, we knew roughly what we had to cover but took our own advice (see previous posting) and didn’t plan the itinerary too rigidly. We were lucky enough to be able to make a base with friends on Čiovo Island, near Trogir, for the duration so explored much of the mainland from there and then bored our mates in the evening with all our new discoveries!

We chose to fly with Ryanair from Stansted to Zadar (see our earlier posting Getting There And Back) and though the basic cost of the ticket was only £59.99, by the time all the extras had been added (1 case check in, taxes, etc, the total cost was £145.73. In fact the flight is the cheapest part of the trip as the real expense on this sort of exploration is car hire at around £200 per week, and accommodation.

For the first few days we caught up with a few old friends and covered the mainland from Zadar to Šibenik and we’ve reported on most of that already in our previous postings. It could be said that some of this area (not of course Šibenik and Zadar themselves) is perhaps the least interesting part of Croatia’s coastline but, again we followed the tips in our previous posting and visited each destination with an open mind.

The next phase of our Croatian journey was to explore Hvar and Brač (or Hvach and Brar as they became after a couple of glasses of wine too many one evening!). With not even an idea of where we were going to stay, we got on the car ferry from Split to Stari Grad (cost 286 kunas for the car and 42 kunas for one person) and drove into Stari Grad (a long walk from the ferry – there’s a bus for foot passengers) where we spent some quality time with the Stari Grad tourist board Director. At that point we decided to make our base in Stari Grad on the grounds that the other main settlements on the islands were mostly in easy reach by car, Hvar Town would be way outside our budget, and Stari Grad is a comfortable size for a lone explorer. We’ll tell you more about these places in subsequent postings but we found a great double room in Stari Grad, with ensuite bathroom and private balcony, for €20 per night.

After two nights in Stari Grad, the days spent exploring Hvar town, Jelsa, Vrboska, and a few places inland, we drove the length of the island to lovely, photogenic Sučuraj. We toyed with the idea of getting the ferry back that evening, staying with our friends on Čiovo overnight and heading back to Split for the ferry to Brač the next day. However that seemed to be cheating and a bit of a waste of time so we had a half hearted look around Sučuraj for a room without much success and ended up in the one and only hotel. It didn’t look too promising from the outside, but the extremely helpful and friendly receptionist offered us a room and breakfast for the night for 220 kunas which seemed an even bigger bargain once we’d seen the large, clean and comfortable room.

The ferry next morning  from Sučuraj (95 kunas for the car and 13 kunas for one person) took us to the little known, and fast upcoming, holiday resort of Drvenik and we’ve got plenty of news to report on that. And from there we explored most of the Makarska Riviera, including Makarska itself, before getting another ferry from Makarska to the town of Sumartin on Brač (140 kunas car plus 30 kunas per person). Again we hadn’t really thought about accommodation but decided to head for Bol and make that our base. There’s almost too much accommodation to choose from in Bol but, by chance, we ended up stopping in one street behind the main town, full of apartments, and told the lady on the corner we were looking for a room. She tried (genuinely we think) to phone her friend next door but after waiting a few minutes said she had a studio apartment available for a couple of nights. Thinking this would be way outside our budget, we were even more convinced that it was when we saw it. A huge modern studio apartment with every mod con, it’s own terrace, luxurious bed and bathroom, etc. It was late, we were tired and ready to agree to anything reasonable. How much? €30 a night. Deal!

There were a couple of disappointments on Brač of which more when we get to them, and partly because one of them took up so much time, there are a few places that we didn’t get to see but already know well. Having said that, there were a couple of highlights too. In any event, three days later we were back on the ferry to Split from Supetar (140 kunas plus 30 kunas) and back with our friends ready to knock off a few remaining destinations – Trogir, Omis, Zadar and most things in between.

Cost of living comments? Not much has changed from our earlier reports - Croatia Online - Cost Of Living Update except for the ever diminishing rate of exchange. Hvar Town remains at least 50% more expensive than most other places but that’s the price of its celebrity status. We were pleasantly surprised by the reality of accommodation prices and the fact that room, villa and hotel owners appear to be far more flexible than of old in terms of letting for one or two days at a time. Food and drink are up just a little but the overall price depends on where you go. Also good was the fact that, on the whole, the ambience was good with those in the tourist industry somewhat relieved that the season had not been as bad as they feared.

The price of the first ferry ticket was a bit of a shock for some reason but after taking a few more, you realise what a wonderful ferry network Croatia has (state company Jadrolinija) . The ferries are mostly modern and spacious, reasonably priced (especially for foot passengers), pretty frequent and generally always on time. We were early for all of them (about an hour ahead of departure time) as the first ferry from Split turned a few cars away, but after that there was plenty of space. Above all, they’re very “easy” – well organised, cafes on most of them – and you could do worse than spending most of your time catching as many as possible to find new destinations. It’s a much better way to travel than by car on a steamy summer day!

Postings on the most exciting parts of our trip are yet to come so keep reading….

4 Comments:

Blogger Assono said...

Prices are a bit off, but generally right

11:09 pm  
Blogger Jane Cody said...

Thanks for the comment Assono - if you have time, let me know where you think the prices are off and I'll have another look.

11:56 am  
Blogger Robin said...

Thanks for all the great info on your blog. I am planning a trip to Croatia, including Brac, in May and was wondering what the ferries were like.

2:55 am  
Blogger Jane Cody said...

It's a pleasure Robin and thanks for your comment. The ferry service is brilliant from Split to Brac (Supetar) and Hvar (Stari Grad). Brac is under an hour away and there are regular ferries for cars and foot passengers. You can also get to Brac (Sumartin) from Makarska (a little less frequent) and there's a foot passenger service from Split to Hvar town and another car ferry to Hvar Island (Sucuraj) from Drvenik. The website for the national ferry service is www.jadrolinija.hr and that has all the itineries and timetables though probably not for May yet. The number of ferries increases as the season progresses so don't pay too much attention to the current winter schedule.

2:17 pm  

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