The Dalmatian Coast is not a cheap option, with prices comparable to those in Greece, and the Croatian National Tourist Board is actively encouraging a “quality rather than quantity” approach to tourism. However, there are a few ways you can avoid unnecessarily wasting money.
Eating and drinking
In summer, a picnic lunch on the beach is a good way to go – buy fresh bread from a local bakery, some cheese, salami, and tomatoes and fruit from an open-air market. And bring a pen-knife.
Many informal eateries offer budget merenda through the morning – a sort of fisheman’s brunch, intended for those just back from a hard night at sea. The dishes on offer will be hardcore local fare – fažol sa kobasicom (homemade beans and sausages) or tripica (tripe). They are cheap and filling, though not to everyone's taste.
Dalmatia does great pizzas, which are cheap, cheerful and tasty - even Italians admit they’ve got it right. So skip a pricey seafood dinner and go for pizza once in a while. Read about my favourite pizzerias on my Dalmatian Coast Cafés and Restaurants page.
Buy some burek (Bosnian filo-pastry pies filled with either cheese or meat) from a local bakery instead of having a sit-down lunch.
Drink local brews rather than imported beers - Kaltenberg and Karlovačko are the most popular in Dalmatia. The same goes for stiffer drinks – try local rakija (a potent spirit) rather than drinking expensive imported whisky.
Buy local wine ‘on tap’ from wine shops – take an empty bottle and they’ll fill it up for you.
If you buy beer from local shops, remember that glass bottles are refundable – keep the receipt and take it back with your empties.
Some hotels offer good half-board deals, so you get dinner included, though personally I think you lose out on the fun of eating in local restaurants.
Use public transport (buses) rather than renting a car. It’s cheap and fun, and gives you more of an insider’s view of the country and the people. Read more on my How to get around Dalmatian Coast page.
Use Jadrolinja state-run ferries rather than fast catamarans, which generally have a mark up price. Again, if you’re without a car, ferries are cheaper as you won’t have to pay for the vehicle.
Sights and attractions
Local tourist offices give out excellent free maps and town plans.
Just strolling around the car-free old towns is a pleasure in itself - my favourites are Split and Hvar old town.
Remember that some museums and galleries are closed on Mondays – check in advance to avoid disappointment. Take a look at my recommended attractions and their opening times on my Dalmatian Coast Things to do page.
Churches are free. Just make sure you’re suitably dressed – legs and shoulders preferably covered for both men and women.
Beaches are free though you’ll have to pay extra if you want a sunbed and umbrella.
Most beaches are pebbly, not sandy. Forgo the sunbed but invest in a rubber roll-up beach mat to put under your towel if you don't like lying on stones.
Especially round the islands, you might come across a number of black spiny sea urchins in the sea (it's a sign of clean water) - if you find them scary, invest in a pair of rubber beach sandals. If you do step on a sea urchin, the best way to 'disinfect' the wound is to urinate on your foot (honestly).
Dalmatia is well known for its nudist beaches, which are marked ‘FKK’ (from the German, Freie Kunst und Kulture). In secluded bays it’s also acceptable to bare all, but on crowded family beaches you should definitely wear swimming trunks or bikini bottoms.
Other useful tips
Try to come in shoulder season (May-June or September-October) for better deals on hotel rooms. Read more on my Dalmatian Coast Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Dalmatian Coast page.
Many hotels and b&bs offer better prices if you stay for more than three nights.
Remember that Dubrovnik is way and afar Dalmatia’s most expensive destination – consider combining a few nights here with a few nights somewhere else.