Cheapest Places to Live in Croatia: 7 Affordable Destinations

Zadar aerial view
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One of the safest countries in the world with a gorgeous Mediterranean climate, Adriatic coastline, and Balkan prices, Croatia is a wonderful summer retreat but also a land of low-cost living. There’s a high chance you’ve considered Croatia for a vacation, but if it isn’t on your radar for your move abroad, it’s about to be. 

Croatia is known for its picturesque islands, mesmerizing waterfalls, and historic towns, which helped earned it the honor of being the predominant filming location for the Game of Thrones. Still, it might not be the first European country that comes to mind when you think of relocating and we think it should. 

Our guide looks at the cheapest places to live in Croatia and everything that makes them unique from the spectacular natural scenery to the lusted way of life. Whether you’re hopping the pond to Europe or making a strategic move across borders, Croatia is worth considering. Let’s get into it. 

Osijek, Slavonia

best places to live in Croatia
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Located in the Eastern Croatian region of Slavonia, Osijek is the fourth-largest city in the country with a population of just over 100,000. The Metropole is located just 30-minutes from the Serbian border and less than one hour from Hungary, acting as a gateway to Eastern Europe and a great vantage point for exploring the continent.

Osijek is the cultural and economic hub of Slavonia and the center of Osijek-Baranja County. Slavonia is a thriving winemaking region in Croatia, but Osijek is better known for its sweet delights. Thanks to its Habsburg and Hungarian heritage, the city takes its cakes, pastries, and desserts to the next level. Bakeries are dotted all over town and plates piled high with dainty delicacies are popular with locals and visitors.

The city is also regarded for its 19th-century architecture. European Avenue is one of the most beautiful areas of the city, known for the row of eight Art Nouveau houses that line the street. There’s also the 19th-century neogothic co-cathedral of St. Peter and Paul which stands 90 meters tall as the second-highest church in the country, and southeast Europe on the whole. 

Osijek boasts some of the cheapest living costs of Croatian cities, with estimated monthly spending for one person between €500 and €700, that’s around $520 to $735. That makes Osijek as much as 50 percent cheaper than London, without rent, with monthly accommodation being 85 percent less expensive too. 

You can find a one-bedroom apartment in Osijek for as little as €200 ($211) a month and a three-bed between €350 ($370)  and €450 ($475). If you’re looking to buy, expect average costs between €1,200 ($1,265) and €1,400 ($1,475) per square meter depending on the centrality of the location. 

Karlovac, Central Croatia

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Located in central Croatia, Karlovac is just 56 kilometers southwest of Zagreb and a great lower-cost option for commuters to the capital. With a small population of less than 60,000, Karlovac is known for its slow pace, parks, greenery, and riverfront spots. 

First built as a defensive outpost by the Austrians in the 16th-century, in part from the natural defense of the Kupa and Korana rivers, Karlovac was released to Croatians in the 18th-century. Karlovac is actually the confluence point of four rivers and the six-pointed star shape of the original fortress still surrounds the old town. 

Most of the walls that encircled Karlovac were removed to allow for its expansion in the 19th-century, but well-preserved remnants are still in place, usually in pleasant green areas. The Old Town is also well-maintained, and although quiet, there’s a strong sense of community buzz. Karlovac is home to the castle of Dubovac which rests on a hill overlooking the city, as well as the Kupa River and Kozjaca Forest.   

Karlovac is one of the cheapest places to live in Croatia with estimated monthly living expenses for one person sitting between €550 ($580) and €800 ($845). However, you can expect slightly cheaper rent and property prices than in Osijek, with one-bedroom apartments in the city center going for as little as €200 ($210) a month and suburban housing starting from just €700 ($740) per square meter to purchase.  

Sibenik, Dalmatia

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Located on the Adriatic coast, halfway between Zadar and Split, Sibenik is a dreamy destination for ex-pats and a gateway to the spectacular Kornati Islands. The small city is steeped in heritage and brimming with fascinating sites. Sibenik comes alive with tourists looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Split in the summer months but retains its laidback atmosphere throughout the year. 

Historical highlights include the 15th-century stone Cathedral of St. James which is decorated with ornately sculpted faces. Nearby is the Sibenik City Museum, housed in the 14th-century Prince’s Palace where you’ll find prehistoric exhibitions being held. The white stone St. Michael’s Fortress is also home to an open-air theater and boasts views of the bay and neighboring islands. 

You’ll find a sea of terra cotta roofed houses here, typical of Dalmatia and quintessentially Croatian. Sibenik is Dalmatia’s third-largest city after Dubrovnik and Split and the oldest Slavic town on the coast, dating back as far as the 11th-century. Its coastal charm is one that appeals to ex-pats and you can do everything from taking a dip in the sea to listening to some live music from the “Klape” choir, a tradition that has rightfully earned a place on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list. 

It might come as a surprise that Sibenik is also one of the cheapest places to live in Croatia. You can get by on €750 ($800) a month and a one-bedroom apartment could set you back just €300 ($316) in rent. Properties on the coast can cost a little more, but you can still purchase outside of the city center for €1,400 ($1,475) per square meter. 

Who knew coastal living could come with such a low price tag? Sibenik shows that you don’t need to sacrifice seaside living and hours of sunshine in order to save a few pennies. 

Velika Gorica, Turopolje

Zagreb suburb in Croatia
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The largest and most populous town in Zagreb County, Velika Gorica is located less than 30-minutes by car from Croatia’s capital making it the perfect option for commuters seeking cheaper living costs. It’s the center of the historic Turopolje region and home to the national airport. 

Velika Gorica is surrounded by lakes and greenery and is a pioneer in sustainable living in Croatia. You’ll find the Lukavec castle in the center of the old town as well as the Turopolka Museum where you can learn about the rich history of the region and the Archeological Park of Andautonija. Velika Gorica is also surrounded by woodland, perfect for weekend explorations, and the small, quiet community is a great alternative to busy city life in Zagreb.

Average monthly expenses for a single individual range between €700 ($740) and €800 ($845), around 30 percent cheaper than the nearby capital. Rent is also much cheaper than in Zagreb, averaging around €300 ($316) a month for a one-bed apartment compared to €500 ($527) in the capital. You can expect cheaper groceries and restaurant prices too, by as much as 10 percent.   

Rijeka, Kvarner

Rijeka in Croatia
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Rijeka is a port city located in Kvarner Bay on Croatia’s northern Adriatic coast and it is known for its lively carnivals and liberal atmosphere. It’s been a shipping and boatbuilding hub for centuries and you can find Roman, Italian and Austro-Hungarian influences lingering in the culture and architecture. 

Rijeka’s main promenade, Korzo, is lined with spectacular Habsburg-era buildings, shops, and restaurants and is where the city’s characteristic rhythm echoes at every time of day. Nearby, you’ll find the 19th-century Ivan pl. Zajc, the Croatian National Theatre, that boasts ceiling paintings by Gustav Klimt. There’s also the hilltop Trsat Castle that overlooks the city. This fortress houses an opulent religious shrine and offers sweeping views of the bay.  

It might not be as lively as Hvar and Dubrovnik, but the northern Adriatic is a vibrant place to settle. Rijeka draws hoards of summer visitors, both international and domestic, but it’s also one of the only places on Croatia’s coast where things don’t die down when the tourists leave. The biggest event in Rijeka’s calendar is the International Carnival held on the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday, usually in early March. This is a great time to be in the city when the Korzo streets come alive with colorful parades and smaller celebrations take place all around the city.  

Rijeka is also a springboard to exploring the nearby islands, Kvarner region, and neighboring Istria and benefits from surprisingly low living costs for how much you can find going on. You can get by on €900 ($950) a month in Rijeka with rent ranging between just €300 ($316) and €400 ($420) for a one-bedroom apartment. 

Rijeka is not a bad place to buy property either with the price per square meter for an apartment averaging around €1,800 ($1,925). 

Pula, Istria 

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Pula is a seafront city and the largest in Istria, located on the tip of the northern peninsula. Pula is best known for its protected harbor, beach-fringed coast, and Roman ruins. The city has been inhabited since the prehistoric era and has long been valued for its strategic location. Destroyed, occupied, and rebuilt, Pula has been through it all, and the Romans, Ostrogoths, and Venetians have all left their mark on the city.

Istria itself crosses three countries, Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy, making Pula a great vantage point for exploring central Europe. Pula is located beneath a valley of seven hills with sweeping views of the Adriatic. The multitude of ancient Roman buildings is perhaps what Pula is best known for, with the Pula Arena, one of Europe’s best-preserved Roman amphitheaters, being an undoubted highlight – second only to Rome’s Colosseum. 

The city is also a major seaport, industrial center, and economic hub for the region, with the area having long traditions in fishing, shipbuilding, winemaking, and tourism. So conveniently located to Italy, just two hours from the upscale city of Trieste, it’s a surprise that Pula and its lusted Mediterannean style comes at such a reasonable price.

You can get by on less than €900 ($950) a month, with the average apartment rental costing between €350 ($368) and €550 ($578). And if you’re looking to buy, property could be a good investment generally costing less than in Rijeka between €1,600 ($1,685) and €1,900 ($2,000) per square meter.    

Zadar, Ravni Kotari

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Sat on Croatia’s northern Dalmatian coast, Zadar is a fascinating city and the oldest continuously inhabited one in the country. It’s best known for the Roman and Venetian ruins that jut out into the Adriatic on the city’s peninsular Old Town. You’ll find Venetian gates dotted along the city walls and the 11th-century St. Mary’s Convent surrounding its Roman forum housing religious art from the 8th-century.

Don’t forget the 12th-century St. Anastasia’s Cathedral and the spherical pre-Romanesque Church of St. Donatus which dates back to the 9th-century. Still, Zadar is more than its historical ramparts with its own picturesque white-sand beach and vibrant art scene. 

The city is truly one of the most unique resorts along the Dalmatian coast and a monument in itself. With a romantic and passionate spirit, it’s a popular destination for tourists, but ex-pats can enjoy the energetic vibe all year round with bustling farmers markets, exhibitions, shows, and live music events taking place most days of the week. 

A single person can get by on €700 ($737) to €1,000 ($1,050) a month, while a family of four can budget around €2,500 ($2,630) for the month. Property is more expensive to buy here, costing between €2,300 ($2,420) and €3,200 ($3,367) per square meter. Still, you could get a great deal on rent with one-bedroom apartments going for less than €500 ($526) a month in the city center, and from just €1,000 (1,050) for a three-bed.  

Is it cheap to live in Croatia?

Croatia is up there with the most expensive countries to live in Eastern Europe, but this doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. It’s cheaper than more than 50 percent of countries in the world when it comes to the cost of living and you can get by on as little as €600 ($630) a month in more rural parts of the country and just €800 ($840) on the coast. It can be very cheap to live in Croatia. 

Where do most ex-pats live in Croatia?

It might not be one of the cheapest places to live in Croatia, but nowhere in this Balkan nation will cost a fortune and every region is considerably cheaper than in Western Europe, hence Dubrovnik is the most appealing location for ex-pats. Surveys show that Dubrovnik has experienced the biggest population growth in recent years, partly attributed to the influx of foreigners to the city, with 62,000 ex-patriots relocating here in the last three years.

Can a foreigner live in Croatia?

If you’re coming from outside of the EU, you’ll need a visa to stay in Croatia for longer than 90 days. These vary from temporary working visas to retirement visas, but most will need to be accompanied by a temporary resident permit that you can apply for through your closest Croatian Embassy or Consulate. Spouses of Croatian citizens can also stay for four years before qualifying for permanent residency and if you’re an EU citizen you can live and work in Croatia freely.

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Esmé is an English literature graduate and freelance writer. Originally from London, Esmé is lucky enough to call Bali home. Her travels have taken her from the far corners of the East to the islands of the Caribbean. When she's not writing, you'll find her lying on a beach somewhere, lost in a crime novel.