Looking for accommodation in Croatia? Some thoughts on hotels, hostels, villas, private accommodation, camping, glamping, and the legals.

Accommodation in Croatia – an introduction

Accommodation in Croatia has undergone seismic change in the 15 years I have been living here. The Internet has the changed the rules completely, as well as the emergence of a surge in quality accommodation for the more discerning traveller.

Where once all you needed was to have a ‘Zimmer Frei’ sign outside your apartment, today the rules are different. Booking agencies, Adwords, keywords, quality furnishing and great photography are the order of the day.

Although progress is not as quick as some would like, more luxury hotels are now opening, particularly on the coast. The top hotel brands may still prefer Montenegro (find out why) but higher quality hotels are now springing up. Egyptians are investing more than a billion dollars into one project in Montenegro. By contrast, the biggest hotel investment in Croatia, in today’s dollar terms, happened almost 50 years ago.

There has been an explosion of hostels in recent years as well. So much so in some destinations that the profile has changed. But these are good times for backpackers on a budget to visit.

Private accommodation remains the biggest player in the Croatian accommodation market. But the bad news for today’s renters is that the quality (and the competition has increased considerably). Zagreb now has more private rooms for tourist rent than London, for example.

Another big new player on the accommodation in Croatia scene is the luxury villa, often with swimming pool. This has been a major growth industry in recent years, and destinations such as Imotski have managed to completely reinvent themselves as a result.

Camping has always been popular in Croatia, and many campsites have considerably upgraded their offer in recent years. Not least in the arrival of a new camping option on the horizon – glamping.

Registering your stay and tourist tax

You must register stay with the authorities upon arrival in Croatia. In practice, this will be done for you by your accommodation provider. Expect to surrender your passport while they go through the registration process. This is now a simple online process.

You must also pay tourist tax fo each day of your stay in Croatia. This costs 1 euro a day. Almost all hotels and private accommodation will include this in the room price, but not always. If the tax is excluded, it will be stated. If the accommodation provider will not pay the tax for you, you can do so at the local tourist board.

Hotels in Croatia

Croatia has hundreds of hotels all over the country. These range from the very basic 2-star variety to an increasing number of opulent 5-star hotels.

There are still many prime hotel locations in ruins after the regional conflict in the 1990s. The main problem is unresolved ownership from the Yugoslav era.

Luxury boutique hotels are a very welcome addition to the Croatian hotel scene. The very best of them can be found under one roof – meet Stories Croatia.

Despite the arrival of new hotels in the more luxury sector, demand far outstrips supply. You should book as early as possible to avoid disappointment, as well as taking advantage of early saver discounts.

Hostels in Croatia

Nowhere has the accommodation sector changed as much than the availability of hostels. The first official hostel in Split opened in 2004. By the end of 2018, there were more than 110 in the city.

Similarly in Hvar Town, which has seen its tourism dynamic transformed by the party scene in recent years. The first hostel opened in Hvar in 2008, and there are now 30 to choose from.

Some destinations are taking action against the spread of hostels in an effort to maintain the quality of the destination. These include Stari Grad on Hvar, where the Mayor recently banned any new hostels from opening.

Inside the world of luxury villa rentals

There is some truly exceptional luxury villa accommodation in Croatia. But again the demand outstrips supply. Friends in the industry say that business has never been better. Looking to splash out next summer? Let me hand you over to the orginal luxury villa specialists since 2009.

Private accommodation in Croatia

Private accommodation, especially apartments, is where most of the summer action is, however. Many apartments have not been upgraded in years, and owners are struggling to keep up with the change in the market.

Whereas once bookings were guaranteed, these days there is much more competition. The battle for guests is now played out on the Internet and not at the bus station.

One thing which is VERY important to check when booking is whether or not your dream accommodation has a rental licence. Tourism rentals have been a very grey market economy for decades, but the authorities are tightening up the rules. There have even been cases of inspectors evicting guests staying in illegal rentals. You have been warned.

There is now a huge oversupply of private accommodation in many locations in Croatia. With the tourism boom, people assumed they could not fail by converting properties into tourism rentals.

Perhaps this oversupply can be best explained by the Ultra Europe Music Festival. When it started in Split in 2013, there were just two rooms available for those nights for last-minute booking. The cheapest was 200 euro a night.

accommodation in croatia ultra europe

Fast forward 5 years, and you can see the situation at Ultra Europe this summer on the day of the festival. A lot more availabilty (and this is just Booking.com – AirBnB was not around 5 years ago). If you are not full in July during Ultra Europe, when will you be?

The end of ‘Sobe, Sobe, Zimmer Frei’

The signs have mostly gone, and the old ladies no longer frequent bus, train and ferry terminals in the same numbers. Cardboard signs offering ‘Sobe’ (the Croatian word for rooms) have all but disappeared. But their era contributed to one of my favourite ever stories about Croatia – tourists complaining about the ugliness of Croatian prostitutes on Hvar.

Camping in Croatia

Camping has been a very important accommodation option in Croatia for decades, particularly in Istria. With its close geographical location to Germany, Austria, Italy and Slovenia, it is little wonder that the Croatian coast is so popular with campers.

The Croatian Camping Union does a much better job than I ever could at providing an overview of camping in Croatia.

The rise of glamping

Glamping is also on the rise in Croatia if you are looking to upgrade your camping experience. Keep up to date with the latest arrivals on the glamping scene.

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