Cost of Living in Croatia- $1400 a Month In Europe’s New Hotspot

04/19/2021

Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Cost of Living Trogir e1614178808381

Are you looking for European countries that let you stay longer than 90 days? Croatia offers affordable prices and a one-year temporary residence permit. No property to buy, no business investment, and no expensive "golden visa" required. You can stroll an ancient roman palace during the day, swim in crystal clear turquoise waters in the afternoon, and sip a glass of Croatian red wine on the boardwalk at night. No Schengen visa runs are necessary.

The cost of living in Croatia is more affordable than in the United States. Moving from a medium-cost city in the United States to Zagreb would save you 50%. However, rental prices are more expensive in any of the summer tourist meccas on the coast. Want to relive your Game of Throne fantasies in Dubrovnik during the peak summer season? Expect to pay $2500+ per month between June-August.

After six months living in both the north (summer on the Istrian coast) and south (winter in Split), I have concrete estimates for personal expenses.

Basic prices are much higher in Croatia vs. less expensive countries (Bulgaria or Romania) in Eastern Europe. However, typical prices are still cheaper than in neighboring countries in Western Europe (Spain or Italy). If you are looking to move to Croatia or just reset your Schengen visa days, this sample budget shows how affordable a decent life costs here.

Croatia uses the Croatian Kuna (HRK) for currency. At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 6.38 HRK. For reference, 1 Euro = 7.58 HRK. 

Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Beach

Croatian weather blessed us with short sleeves and sunshine in December. 

What is the cost of living in Croatia?

Total Monthly Expense $ 1,381
COST PER MONTH
Rent Expenses- Furnished Large 2 Bed, 1 Bath, Walkable to the Sea531
Water/Sewer/Garbage-INCLUDED Electric Only59
High Speed Unlimited InternetINCLUDED
Cable TVINCLUDED
Cell Phone- 4 GB Internet Per Month8
Total Housing Expense598
Home Cooked Meals 17 times per week248
Fast Food 2 times per week70
Local Sit Down Restaurant 2 times per week173
Total Food Expense492
Cinema 1 time per month6
Budget Night Out-3 domestic beers at a bar 1 time per week38
Big Box Fitness Club48
Total Entertainment Expense92
Public Transportation Monthly Pass Regular Price61
Uber 1X per week30
Total Transportation Expense91
Travel Health Insurance50
Health Care Expense60
Haircut 10 times per year8
Personal Care Items- Shampoo, Soaps, Etc.20
Household Items- Laundry Soap, Tools, Dishes, Etc.20
Total Personal Care and Misc Expense48
Exchange Rate to $1 USD6.19

Your budget will vary depending on if you stay in Zagreb (the capital), Split (the 2nd largest city), a smaller seaside tourist town, or the summer vacation mecca Dubrovnik. But my experience is prices don't vary a ton unless you are talking about Dubrovnik. The other major cities where expats live only swing ~10%.

Prices vary significantly between long-term vs. short-term. Long-term rentals are significantly cheaper, especially in beach towns. If you try to rent month-to-month during the summer, you can expect housing to triple or more in price.

How much money do you need to live in Croatia?

Comparing monthly expenses: Croatia vs. Bulgaria, Vietnam, and Colombia. 

How do costs in Croatia compare to the United States?

The top 4 essential living expenses in the US are housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average costs in a major city.

Let's dig into some real-life numbers and get some context to the spending. Here is a cost of living comparison between a medium-cost US city (Portland) compared to an expensive city in Croatia (Split).

Key Living Costs

US-

Portland

HR-

Split

HOUSING

$962

$598

FOOD

$313

$492

TRANSPORTATION

$862

$91

HEALTHCARE

$353

$60

Total Average Per Month

$2,490

$1,241

Save 50% on Monthly Expenses

Your 50% savings on consumer prices means lots of geoarbitrage opportunities. Living in Croatia saves almost $15,000 per year on living expenses.

What kind of lifestyle can I afford on $1400 per month?

Forbes quoted Croatia's "very low" living costs as one reason the country cracked Forbes Best Places To Retire Abroad in 2020. The unknown is always what the definition of a "comfortable" standard of living would be.

I combined my experience living 6-months in Croatia with other expats and digital nomads in my network to calculate an average living cost for Croatia. Our estimates for a modest lifestyle in Split ranged between $1400-$2500. 

Even in a big city, the $1400 monthly budget above includes a middle-class lifestyle with four meals out per week, movies, wine, and a gym membership. The best part is that things that make the quality of life in Croatia so high are free. Mild Mediterranean weather, beautiful coastline, beaches, and mountains all come free of charge.

Housing

$598

How much does housing in Croatia cost?

Monthly rent is around $450 - $600 for a city-center apartment walking distance to everything you need, including Croatia's gorgeous beaches. I paid ~$530 / 450 euros per month for my two-bedroom apartment less than 1 mile/1 km from several beaches in Split. Wifi and all utilities, except electric, were included. 

Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Apartment 1
Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Apartment 3
Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Apartment 2
Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Apartment Distance From Beach

Our apartment was less than 1 mile/1 km from a beach.

★ Large (915 square foot or 85 square meter) 2 bedroom, 1 bath, living room, dining room, kitchen, and a beautiful garden with tangerine, lemon, and orange trees.
★ Fully equipped facilities such as sofa, smart TV, air conditioner, washing machine, stove, and a parking space.
★ Located in a quiet location, close to markets and cafes. Only 1.5 miles to Old Town

Cost of a studio or one-bedroom apartment

If you want something smaller than a two-bedroom, you can find a furnished studio apartment or a small 1-bedroom in the city center for about $400 (wifi and utilities included). If you start finding prices lower than $400, there is usually something wrong with the apartment (think small, no sunlight, old furniture).

Cost of Utilities

Many rental rates included utility costs but charged separately for electricity. Our monthly utilities for a 915 square foot/85 m2 two-bedroom with the heat dialed to a comfy 75 F/24 C for 16-hours a day costs us ~$80 / 500 kuna per month in winter.

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 INSIDER TIP : BEST LOCAL RENTAL SITES- Like most cities, Airbnb is the most convenient, but local sites give you the best rates for longer-term rentals. Here are two apartment listing sites to try:

  • https://www.indomio.hr/en/to-rent/property/split-dalmatia-county
  • https://croestate.com/croatia_property/Rent/Apartment/EN

Food

$492

Is it expensive to eat in Croatia?

My actual food costs in Split (Winter 2020) were abnormally low. I only spent $295 per month. That number is 95% grocery bills. Due to the pandemic, we didn't eat out and only rarely had food delivered. If we had a more "normal" ratio of cook vs. eat out, the number would be closer to $500 per month.

Food from grocery showing cost of living in Croatia

Here is an example of what $65 at a grocery store buys you.

  • Boneless chicken breast $4 per pound
  • Milk $1 for a 1-liter bottle
  • Eggs $2 for 10 eggs
  • Local cheese $3 per pound
  • Fresh baked loaf of bread $1
  • Wine $6 for a local bottle of wine. Not pictured in this trip, but is on our regular grocery shopping list.

What are the average restaurant prices in Croatia?

Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Food Cevapi

Budget Meal- Cevapi in Lepinja $5

Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Shrimp Risotto

Mid-Range Restaurant- Shrimp Risotto (feeds 2) $12.50 per person

Nomadic FIRE Croatia Dubrovnik Lamb Peka 1

Nice Restaurant (New York Times Rated)- Lamb under the bell- $25 per person

There is a broad range of options in Split. Budget restaurants ($5-$10) skew toward pizzas and cevapi (skinless sausages popular in Eastern Europe). Situated on the Adriatic Sea, mid-range restaurants dish up locally caught shrimp risotto, ricotta stuff calamari, and fried sardines. The average price for mid-range restaurants is $12 - $20 per person.

My favorite restaurant is in Dubrovnik. On the hills above the city, in a village called Bosana, sits Konoba Dubrava. The views of Dubrovnik alone are worth the price of the meal. Their specialty dish is Peka, which are meals cooked over hot coals under a heavy metal "bell."

Our lamb and potatoes were slow-cooked for hours on coals until the meat was falling off the bone. At the same time, the exterior had the BBQ grilled crunch. The potatoes baked to a crisp in the rendered fat of the lamb. Easily the best meal I had in Croatia. The total cost was roughly $25 per person.

 FOODIE TIP TrufflesTruffles in Croatia are $24 for a 340-gram jar of 12% local white truffles mixed with cheese. Some of the best truffles in the world come from this region, and they taste extraordinary. 


Other Miscellaneous Costs

  • Entertainment $0- I'm going to be honest; this does not indicate what an active social life costs in Split. $0 is the pandemic special, and the special was terrible.
    Based on my previous summers in Pula, $15 is a casual night at a bar.  As the summer coastal cities attract large tourist crowds, you can expect to pay large tourist prices. Budget at least $45 if you are in the mood for a bigger night out at trendier clubs. Keeping your social life low-key? A half-liter of beer will cost about $1.50 at the store.
  • Fitness Club $50- Another regular activity I dropped due to COVID. There was a nice looking big box gym (Olimpijski Centar) near me with lots of squat racks and bumper plates. In normal conditions, it would have been my gym for $50 a month. There are also two CrossFit gyms in Split. A monthly gym membership for 2 X a week is $40.
  • Barbershop $10- I usually get a haircut every two weeks, but the only person that sees me outside the house during the pandemic is my girlfriend. I've gone months without a cut. Christmas tempted me to get a proper barbershop fade done for the holidays. Most men's barbershops here charge between $10-$13 for a fade and scissor cut.
  • Cell Phone Plan $8-  Monthly data only LTE packages cost roughly $8 per month for a 4 GB data SIM.
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 INSIDER TIP : Free Entertainment: Ignoring the pandemic, our monthly entertainment budget here would stay low. Our favorite activities in Split were free. Swimming in the Adriatic, drinking coffee on the beach, wandering Diocletian's palace, and enjoying sunsets along the Riva (a Croatian promenade) doesn't cost a thing. 

Nomadic FIRE Croatia Split Palace

Free entertainment includes wandering Old Town and exploring historical sites built in the 4th century AD.

What does transportation cost in Croatia?

Transportation

$91

Split has a well-developed public transportation system. $2 covers a bus ride to most of the city. A monthly pass for unlimited rides is less than $60. But Split is a very walkable city with wide sidewalks and EU traffic rules. None of that SE Asia chaos to deal with walking around here. If you need to grab an Uber, $4-$5 will take you almost anywhere you need to go.

Transportation costs inside the country are reasonable as well. As an example, the train from Split to Zagreb takes about 6 hours and costs $17. Need to get there quicker? Croatian Airlines takes 45 minutes to fly to Zagreb and costs $55. 

How much is Croatian health care?

Healthcare

$60

Especially for an American retiring in Croatia, health care coverage is an always present question. The good news is expat residents are eligible for public healthcare. Woohoo!

First, you will need to have private health insurance to cover you while you are in Croatia applying for the permit. Travel health insurance satisfies this requirement.

When your application is approved, you are required to have Croatian Health Insurance (HZZO). There is a one-time fee equaling 12 months "backpay" of health care contributions. After your buy-in, then you are charged monthly for coverage. Your premium will vary, but most expats and early retirees should budget ~$75 per month.

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 INSIDER TIP : Croatian public healthcare includes a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), medically covering you anywhere in the European Union. If you only plan on traveling in the EU, you can cancel your travel health insurance to save money.

Will I have to pay taxes living in Croatia?

Non-residents are liable for taxes on Croatian-source income. But if you are a resident permit holder or stay over 183 days in Croatia, *TAH DAH* you are considered a tax resident. Croatia taxes residents on worldwide income. Consult with an expat tax expert to confirm your specific situation. I partnered with a firm that provides 30-minute free consultations. Check the URL below.

National Income Tax Rates

  • 20% up to HRK 360,000.00 (up to 30,000 kuna per month)
  • 30% above HRK 360,000.00 annually (above 30,000 kuna)

International Tax Treaties

Check this list to see which countries have a taxation agreement with Croatia to determine your tax liability

Local Income Tax 

Local areas may also charge additional income tax based on their size:

  • Communes: up to 10%
  • Population up to 30,000: up to 12%
  • Population over 30,000: up to 15%
  • The city of Zagreb: up to 18%
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 INSIDER TIP : Croatia does NOT have a double taxation treaty with the United States. You may be subject to paying tax to both the United States and Croatia. Speak with a tax accountant to understand what this means to you. 

Taxes For Expats Logo

Get A Free Tax Consultation and $25 off your US Expat Tax return

What is Not Included In The $1,400 Budget? Taxes!

If you stay in the country for more than 183 days, you are considered a tax residency. Taxes for expats are extremely complicated and the fines for getting them wrong are expensive. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with Expat Tax Specialists and will offer a FREE 30-minute consultation to advise on your tax situation. 

Full Disclosure, this is an affiliate link. If you use the link, I earn a commission from the company at no additional cost to you. You get the benefit of $25 off your return and a FREE 30-minute consultation with a Tax Advisor.  

How much does it cost to move to Croatia?

Immigration costs for US citizens to live in Croatia for three months are cheap. As in $0. Being in the European Union, they do not charge US citizens to enter the country. Americans can stay in Croatia up to 90 days out of 180 days visa-free. 

For other nationalities, you can look up specific visa requirements here.

Croatia is in the EU but not currently a part of the Schengen agreement. They have applied to be part of the treaty, but as of 2020, they are still outside the Schengen zone.

Being outside the Schengen zone makes Croatia, along with Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, a great way to refresh your 90-day allowance for Schengen while staying in a European country.

How to retire to Croatia from the United States?

Retiring or living long-term in Croatia is a different animal. If you want to stay longer than 90 days, but not more than 1- year, Croatia has a temporary residence permit available. If you are from the US and not already a citizen or permanent resident of the EU or EEA, there are some narrowly accepted reasons to stay long term:

  • Croatian heritage or immediate family are Croatian citizens
  • Real Estate Investment- only good for 6-9 months
  • Scientific research or University education
  • Volunteering- must be unpaid contract work
  • Business Investment- involves substantial start-up costs and requires employees
  • Work, but then you're not really retired
  • Lease an apartment for one year

Yes, you read that last one correctly. All the other choices are terrible if you're looking to retire in here. That last option looks like a winner, but there is a catch.

Requirements to apply for Croatia Temporary Residence Based on leasing an apartment for one year

The temporary residence permit requirements can be found on the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs website. You are technically applying for a long-term stay using the "for other purposes" justification with the following conditions:

  • You must prepay rent for one year
  • You are not allowed to work
  • There is no path to permanent residency or citizenship
  • You need to leave the country for 90-days after your permit expires.
  • There is no renewal.
  • There is a six-month waiting period before being allowed to apply again.

OK, those last two are the catch. There isn't a path to stay longer than one year without leaving the country for at least three months. This "Temporary Residence Permit" is not a "retirement visa" per Spain or the Philippines. But, if you want to live in a European country for a year, then the Croatian Temporary Residence is an excellent option to live in the EU long-term. 

For your convenience the Temporary Residence Permit Application Form can be download here. 

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 INSIDER TIP : Digital Nomad Visa- To attract remote workers and their spending money, Croatia created a highly anticipated Digital Nomad visa effective January 1, 2021. However, in practice, the details such as costs, duration, qualifications, and requirements are still being finalized. Unofficially, the soonest the government will likely start offering this mid-year.

Sign up for updates when additional details on the Digital Nomad Visa are released. 

How much does it cost to live in Croatia as an expat?

To stay for one year, you will need:

IN USD

One Year Prepaid Rent

$530 x 12

$6360

*Proof of sufficient funds

$385 x 12

$4,624

1 Year “prior year pay-in” Croatian Health Care 

$75 x 12

$900

Permit Fee 

-

$56

Biometric Residence Permit (i.e., an ID card)

-

$46

Various Legal Costs and **Real Estate Commissions

-

$1500

Total Upfront Payments

-

$13,486

"True Cost" net Deposits = ~$2,500

*How much money do I need to show for "Sufficient Funds?"

You will need to show a bank statement with the following amounts deposited:

  • Single Person-  $4,624 USD / 28,880 HRK
  • Married Couple- $6,550 USD / 40,800 HRK 
  • Each Dependent- $1541 USD / 9,600 HRK 

You may need to hunt for a long-term apartment you like. Many landlords prefer to keep leases short to rent their flats during the busy summer months. Don't fall in love with something you find on Airbnb because you will unlikely get the same rate during the warmer months.

Check here for local apartment rentals. The listings will state expressly if the apartment is available year-round (look for the term dugoročno).

**If you use a Real Estate agent, know that in Europe, is it normal for the renter (i.e., you) to pay the agent a 1-month commission for finding you an apartment. 

Can I extend a temporary residence permit?

No. You cannot. That is what makes this not a "Retirement Visa." You can stay one year; then, you cannot reapply for another permit for another six months.

As of 2020, Croatia doesn't really have a mechanism for Early Retirees or FIRE expats. Maybe when the Digital Nomad visa comes out, there might be more wiggle room, but right now, you get one year in Croatia. It sucks, but it is still more than the 90 days that most of the EU gives you. 

Key Takeaway: Is Croatia a good value for the money?

$1400 buys you a relaxing life here. Normally, I like to give a High and Low range when discussing monthly costs, but Croatia is a bit of an anomaly. There isn't a street food scene to lower food costs. Cheaper apartments are hard to find because of the summer peak period. Living here for less than $1400 would be uncomfortable.

At the same time, I'm not sure if spending more has value. We had an above-average apartment 15 minutes from the beach for only $530 per month. You could always spend more on rent, but there is a point of diminishing returns.

Croatia isn't Medellin or Da Nang cheap, but it is more affordable than the US or even Spain. With the fantastic quality of life, $1400 makes sense for me here. A lot of what makes the country unique is free. You don't need to pay to swim in the Adriatic Sea or a hike in the Dinaric Alps. The temporary residence permit may only allow you one year in Croatia, but European beach living for less than $1,500 a month is a tradeoff worth signing up for.


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About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

  • I did not know about Croatia’s one year residence permit but I will surely keep that in mind! Croatia is on my 2020s travel wish list, so this post was really helpful since I’d absolutely want to spend more than just a week or two there. The rent is a lot cheaper than I expected it to be given the location and how nice the place looks. Also interesting to see the cost comparisons with Vietnam and Colombia since I lived in Saigon for a year and would like to eventually do a long-term stay in Medellin.

    • Marco Sison says:

      Even better, they just released a Digital Nomad Visa in January. If you want to work online (teaching English) and live in the country, there is a legal way to do it. I’ll be releasing my post about that visa soon.

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