RTW Budget: Balkans
The Balkans are one of the most affordable regions of Europe. Tourism may have erupted on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, but countries like Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are still recovering from the war in the 1990s. In spite of this recent troubled history, the Balkans are absolutely safe for travelers and home to some of the most hospitable people in the world. Having access to inexpensive lodgings and food meant I could spend more on cool things like castles, kayaking, hiking in Plitvice Lakes, and all the beer! See exactly how much I spent on over three weeks in the Balkans below.
Table of Contents
1 vaporetto ticket $8.49 Bus from Venice to Ljubljana $16.75 Urbana card and bus fare in Ljubljana $6.49 Bus from Ljubljana to Zagreb $10.05 Bus from Zagreb to Split $26.81 Bus from Split to Dubrovnik $19.43 Local bus fare in Dubrovnik $12.54 Taxi to hostel in Dubrovnik $14.95 Bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor $21.82 Bus from Kotor to Mostar $39.84 Bus from Mostar to Sarajevo $11.78 Taxi to bus station in Sarajevo $5.74 Bus from Sarajevo to Belgrade $24.76
3 nights in a 10-bed dorm at Bit Center Hostel in Ljubljana $46.36 1 night in a 6-bed dorm at Atomic Bunker Hostel in Zagreb $10.05 4 nights in an 8-bed dorm at En Route Hostel in Split $134.29 4 nights in a 14-bed dorm at Hostel Center Dubrovnik $94.46 4 nights in a 6-bed dorm at Old Town Hostel West in Kotor $72.60 2 nights in a 3-bed dorm at Hostel Dada in Mostar $15.74 2 nights in a private room at Ljubicica Hostel in Sarajevo $33.80 3 nights in a 3-bed dorm at New Hostel in Belgrade $27.04
groceries at Studenac Market in Dubrovnik $16.14 groceries at Konzum in Sarajevo $5.74 groceries at Shop & Go in Belgrade $9.21 1 breakfast at Petkovsek in Ljubljana $3.84 1 breakfast at Dubrovica in Zagreb $1.36 1 breakfast at a gas station near Split $4.06 1 breakfast at Da Liste Probali in Sarajevo $1.72 1 lunch at Ljubljana farmers market $2.49 1 lunch at Petkovsek in Ljubljana $6.23 1 lunch at Ciprianis in Split $2.26 1 lunch at Bobis in Split $4.48 3 lunches at Pekara Stari Grad in Kotor $9.71 1 lunch at Pekara Mamma Mia in Kotor $1.12 1 lunch at ADK Doner in Sarajevo $1.15 1 lunch at Aurelio in Belgrade $1.55 1 dinner at Julija in Ljubljana $14.37 1 dinner at Ciprianis in Split $2.26 1 dinner at Bobis in Split $4.51 1 dinner at Vila Vebite near Plitvice Lakes $12.33 1 dinner at Pronto in Kotor $2.24 1 dinner at Caffe Stari Grad in Mostar $6.73 1 dinner at Pekara Edin in Sarajevo $0.86 1 dinner at Dva Jelena in Belgrade $13.22 3 gelato at Cacao in Ljubljana $5.43 snacks from hostel vending machine in Split $3.61 1 coke at Split bus station $1.05 snacks from market in Kotor $2.23 4 gelatos from street stall in Kotor $4.48 1 ice cream from Dolce in Mostar $2.24
Ljubljanski Grad $11.31 craft beer tour with Taste Ljubljana $39.61 St. Domnius bell tower in Split $3.01 Plitvice Lakes day tour $83.88 City Walls Dubrovnik $17.94 sea kayaking tour with Adventure Dubrovnik $34.37 donation to Divers Club in Mostar $2.24 tip for free walking tour guide in Belgrade $0.91 Tesla Museum $4.56 drinks at Black Turtle Pub $3.65
various gifts/souvenirs in Ljubljana $17.41 replace sunglasses in Ljubljana $17.29 ticket printing at Internet Cafe in Split $2.09 missed bus to Dubrovnik $15.69 baggage check on bus to Dubrovnik $1.05 restock toiletries at Studenac Market in Dubrovnik $4.93 gifts/souvenirs in Dubrovnik $22.42 replace sandals in Dubrovnik $38.86 baggage check on bus to Kotor $1.20 replace soap and shampoo at pharmacy in Kotor $17.50 baggage check in bus to Mostar $1.12 gifts/souvenirs in Mostar $8.97
Total: $1,117.28 Average Spent Per Day: $48.57
For comparison, this is actually about $4 more per day than I spent in Italy, but over $20 less per day than I spent in Barcelona. I did spend a touch more than I originally planned due to a few mistakes along the way. I failed to think about the currency conversion when replacing my sandals in Dubrovnik and spent way more than I should have done. I mixed up my travel dates in Croatia and missed a booked bus, so had to buy a new ticket. I left my soap and shampoo in a hostel shower and had to replace both at my next stop. These things add up.
How I Saved
- Eating at bakeries Throughout the Balkans, you can find burek, a traditional savory pastry filled with meat, cheese, or sometimes spinach. They only cost 2 or 3 euro apiece and are basically Balkan fast food. There are pekara or bakeries on every corner of every town, so it’s really easy to grab a burek, a slice of pizza, or a cheap sandwich and make your food budget next to nothing.
- Making sacrifices Because I had to spend so much money replacing all the crap I broke or lost on the road, I knew I risked going over budget at the end of August. So I ultimately decided to skip a day tour of Montenegro and instead relax at my Kotor hostel. The 30-some euro for the tour might not have ruined me, but with no food and drink or entry fees included, I could tell the price for the whole day would skyrocket. Sigh. Another time, Montenegro.
- Staying almost exclusively in dorms You’ll see a lot of hostel dorms on my accommodation list. Prior to entering the Balkans I had spent nearly two full weeks in a private Airbnb in southern Italy, so I was ready for socialization. Surprisingly, many of the places I stayed weren’t full, especially as we entered the shoulder season of September. So I paid for a 14-bed dorm that turned into a 4-bed one, an 8-bed that turned into a 3-bed, and even a 4-bed that turned into a private room!
- Walking as much as possible Finding cheap accommodations often means staying far from the city’s main tourist attractions. My hostel in Ljubljana was about an hour long walk from the city center. But it was an hour walk down one straight road with sidewalks and a couple parks, so I often made the hike instead of riding the bus. One of the shops I passed had a precious black retriever who started to recognize me in the mornings and want to play. I would have spent more and missed more had I always taken public transport.
- “Splurging” in less expensive destinations Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is super popular with cruise ships, so it’s not the best place to enjoy a sit down meal. Cities like Belgrade and Mostar, however, are far less expensive, so you can get much more bang for your buck. I spent a full afternoon in Mostar downing an entire pizza margherita while chatting occasionally with the bartender and spent just $6. In Belgrade, a fancier historic restaurant in one of the most touristy areas still cost me less than $15.
Want more info on how much it really costs to travel around the world? See what I spent on five days in France.