Housing prices spike in the summer. Avoid short-term rentals during the peak season to save money.
The best things in Split are FREE. Visit ancient Roman ruins, swim in the sea, or just chill out at the beach.
You could spend more living in Split, but there is diminishing value in spending over $1500 per month.
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.
Quick Tips On Croatia
Don't use Euro. The best way to save money in Croatia is by using Wise to transfer money and make payments in Croatia Kuna. Wise offers you the best exchange rates and lowest bank fees.
Do Get Travel Health Insurance. Your home insurance will not cover emergency healthcare overseas, but you can find affordable travel insurance for less than $50 that will cover your medical bills in Croatia.
Do learn some basic Croatian phases. 49% of Croatian people speak English. Learning some basic Croatian language helps. Get a FREE Language Lesson using the same learning technique used by the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military.
Household Items- Laundry Soap, Tools, Dishes, Etc.
Total Personal Care and Misc Expense
Exchange Rate to $1 USD
Your budget will vary depending on if you live in Zagreb (the capital), Split (the second-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 rentmonth-to-month during the summer, you can expect housing to triple or more in price
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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 three apartment listing sites to try:
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.
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?
Budget Meal- Cevapi in Lepinja $5
Mid-Range Restaurant- Shrimp Risotto (feeds 2) $12.50 per person
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 : Truffles- Truffles 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.
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.
Free entertainment includes wandering Old Town and exploring historical sites built in the 4th century AD.
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?
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.
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.