When you are sailing in Croatia, one of the biggest temptations to break your budget is going to be food. Sailing along the Dalmatian coast, you are going to enjoy some of the best cuisine you ever tasted in your life. Seafood lovers will savor dishes like skampi na buzaru and crni rizot (read more in our Guide to Croatian Food for Sailors), while those looking for comfort food will delight in slow-baked peka prepared and served the traditional way. And then there are desserts—makovnjaca poppy cake and fritule doughnuts (read more in our guide to Croatian Sweets).
Croatian food isn’t cheap though—and if you are sailing for a week or more, the costs can add up quickly. So what can you do to save money on cuisine without sacrificing the chance to try a lot of great local food? Here are some ideas.
1. Set a strict budget in advance.
First things first—make sure you actually have a trip budget, and that you split it into categories. Know how much you can afford to spend on food, drinks, fuel, accommodations, souvenirs, tours and so on. Each day when you are on your trip, actually review what you have spent and what you have left to spend.
Try and stretch your budget over the course of your vacation. Do not blow it all in the beginning on one fancy restaurant, or you will have a hard time staying disciplined through the remainder of the trip.
2. Know what is covered by the cost of your Croatia sailing charter.
Depending on the options you select when you book, your charter may or may not include meals served onboard. If meals are included, typically you will be able to eat breakfast and lunch on the boat.
You should definitely take advantage of this! First of all, you have already paid for it, so it will save you a ton of money, which you can then spend on dinner.
Secondly, if you eat out every day, you actually will be missing out on some awesome onboard cuisine. Many charter companies work with amazing chefs, and they can prepare food to your exact tastes and dietary needs.
3. Cook fresh-caught fish yourself.
On that note, even if you do not have a chef onboard, you can still prepare food yourself on your Croatian sailing tour (read our Guide for Cooking on Board and Fishing in Croatia). In fact, one unforgettable way to dine while sailing is to grab a fishing pole and cook your own fresh catch-of-the-day! Aside from a few basic ingredients (herbs and spices and such), there is no cost to this meal at all.
4. Eat at local hangouts.
If you are eating in town, one great bit of advice is this—stay away from the big, fancy restaurants which are overrun by tourists. While these restaurants may look appealing (and probably are great), they are likely some of the most expensive.
Instead, look for the little holes-in-the-wall where you see locals eating. These are restaurants where locals can afford to eat regularly—so that means they are not going to charge an arm and a leg. You can save a ton of money this way while you are on your Croatia sailing vacation—and it is great advice for travelling anywhere else as well!
5. Order family-style meals.
On your Croatia charter holiday, you are going to want to try everything. So why not do it? If you are clever, you can sample everything and save money simply by splitting the food and the costs. Share entrees as a group, or order a bunch of appetizers and split them. Get a carafe when you want to try the house wine.
6. Account for alcohol separately.
Trying to budget for cuisine and alcohol together is a mistake for a couple of reasons. First of all, food is generally included with your charter, but alcohol usually is not. You are expected to pay separately for your onboard tab. It is smart to do this regularly over the course of your trip so you do not lose track.
Secondly, food and alcohol do not satisfy the same needs. So you should have a separate budget for each of them. That way you will prioritize and figure out where you really want to be spending your money to have the best possible experience.
7. Eat a bigger lunch and smaller dinner.
Another trick to keep your costs down (and this is another one that works everywhere, not just in Croatia) is to make lunch your largest meal of the day instead of dinner.
When you are eating out, lunch is almost always going to cost less than dinner. In fact, you may very well be able to afford an incredible gourmet lunch at a restaurant where dinner would be completely out of your budget.
Eating a larger lunch also ensures you are less likely to be famished come dinnertime. As a result, you will be less tempted to go overboard with your dinner budget. You are getting a better deal at lunchtime, so that is where you should spend the bulk of your cash.
8. Travel off-season.
Finally, there is one more way you can save money on food during your charter holiday in Croatia, assuming you have not booked yet—and that is to book outside of the peak season. Think about it. The more tourists are flocking to the restaurants and bars along the coastline, the higher demand is. When demand is high, prices soar.
But outside of that peak season, the demand starts to calm down, and that means that prices drop back down to a more reasonable level. Thankfully this applies not just to food, but also to everything else—even the cost of your charter. So that is a great way to save money on your entire vacation.
Conclusion: Croatian Food Is Not Cheap, But You Can Save Money While Enjoying All the Flavours of the Dalmatian Coast!
Many vacationers to Croatia are surprised by how quickly their food expenditures start adding up—but you do not have to be one of them.
If you budget ahead and follow the recommendations above, you will be able to save a ton of money while still partaking of all the culinary delights that Croatia has to offer!