It is safe to state that Croatia is a solid starting point for someone with the travelling bug. It is easy on the American pocket with the average exchange rate of 6.7 kunas to a dollar. Most items are about the same in equivalency until you get to the big purchases like cars and rentals, where you can see drastic savings accumulate.
I love the fact that it is centrally located a few hours away from Italy via train or ferry and even shorter distances by plane. This means Venice, Milan, or even Rome is roughly the same distance as my home town of Birmingham, AL to Atlanta, GA. You also have Germany, Austria, Romania, France, and even the U.K and Spain in easy access by train or plane.
If you choose to visit Croatia during Advent, which is the time period a few weeks before and after Christmas, then you are in luck for some wonderful discounts to adjoining countries and cities such as Budapest, Ljubljana, Vienna, and even Salzburg. At any given time you can find one to two day trips going to these areas for as cheap as 15o kunas, which is the equivalent of 20 euros. The benefit of travelling from Croatia to these locations is the currency rate. Most of these locations have adopted euros as their national currency and you may not find the same deals as leaving Croatia.
I took a day trip in December to Bled and Ljubljana Slovenia for only 150 kunas and this included the bus and a tour guide. We left Zagreb at about 7am from the main bus station and came back around 10 pm. There was private time given in the time frame and I spent about 3 hours in Bled, visiting the castle. There is also an island with a chapel and lovely eateries along the lake.
Then I went to Ljubljana, which also has a medieval castle as well as top of the art shopping experiences along the riverside. It is a very romantic setting and came alive during the night with festive lights and mood setting cheerfulness. Most everyone speaks English in both Slovenia and also Zagreb because of it being a tourist attraction.
So if you are in the mood for a cheap and romantic Anniversary or Honeymoon destination around Christmas, this would be a pleasant place to begin.
Zagreb is also very beautiful during Advent, and it has an international airport so that you can get a flight directly into the city from the U.S, Canada, or other places in Europe without the hassle of hopping around cities to get to your vacation destination.
It is a medium sized city that has a lot to offer for the mono travelers also. They have a wide array of hostels and bars that line the walkways. You can find Pole dancing, Burlesque, Salsa, Bachata, and Kizomba in the downtown area. Massages can run you around $30 for an hour. Movie theatres are also cheaper, on average being about the equivalent of $6, which is a steal compared to the norm in the U.S of close to $9. Of course the snacks are the same as everywhere else, expensive.
You also may have to get used to the ice less beverages(at the movies and most places in Croatia and also France), but at least they sell alcohol which I have never seen in the U.S. There are a lot of wonderful theatres and opera houses for all tastes and genres. Before I initially traveled to Europe I was concerned with the ease of accessing my funds in the U.S and thought that I needed Travelers Checks to be safe.
Turns out that all you need is your debit card and you can pull out money as needed, which is safer than walking around with a large amount. Of course it is always good to have a stash for emergencies, but don’t fear using your card in Croatia, Italy, or France. I had no issues and actually received a better exchange rate in Croatia as opposed to exchanged cash. On average I could pull out about 700 kunas for around $105 dollars with no charge for the ATMS I was using. If I had $100 dollars and exchanged it then I would get, depending on the rate at the time, about 640 kunas.
There is consistent and reliable public transportation with the tramway, trains for local and out of town use, and also the bus lines.But just in case you are in a hurry, a cab is always just a step away. Croatia is deeply rooted in traditional delicacies, and you can find a new taste from the vendors arraying the sidewalks from good home cooking like Buncek sa Zeljem (tasty!) , Goulash, or even warm red or white wine mixed with cinnamon and sugar and other fixins called Kuhano Vino.
Tamuriel L. Dillard