It’s a question that every backpacker faces – whether to do a tour or work out how to do it on your own? With the Europe summer fast approaching my inbox is being flooded with early bird Sail Croatia deals…. oh so tempting!
With several itinerary options – some starting in Dubrovnik and others in Split, some are round trips, some visit the islands to the south and some do the islands in the north. You would be hard pressed not to find the perfect itinerary for you. They also offer a number of styles – for the under 35s backpacker, luxury cruises, sail and cycle and there is even one for young professionals.
Yet with all of these great reasons to do the Sail Croatia experience (or one of the many other companies that offer the same thing) I am still dubious. There are some major drawbacks – the obvious being stuck on a boat with 12 people who could potentially annoy the crap out of you. Having to go and see things that are on the well trodden path (though there is a reason that those places are so popular so it’s not necessarily a bad thing). If you really like a place you can’t stay and get to know it better and if you really hate a place you still have to spend time there. For all the ease that a tour can give you it does take away some of your freedom.
So whats the alternative? Especially in Croatia where there are so many beautiful islands that you want to see? And what if you have limited time and funds? How can you see and do as much as possible without resorting to a tour?
There are some great pros to doing a tour, and yet every time I think of Sail Croatia one memory comes flooding back. I was in the town of Hvar, having a quick beverage before dinner with some friends I had just met, the bar tender was joking with us as well as a few locals who were also having a quick drink on their way home. Suddenly the barman gets a call, after he hangs up he heaves a great sigh and pulls out a tray filled with shot glasses which he proceeds to fill. Before he had finished the place was packed with a boat load of sweaty, obnoxious 20 somethings from the Sail Croatia boat. We decided to leave in search of dinner… the locals did the same. On the way out I saw a girl who looked about my age (not quite 30), hanging back with resignation as cheers erupted from the bar – I pitied her. After dinner we walked back past the bar which was now quiet (the Sail Croatia crowd had moved on) we re-claimed our seats and continued to laugh with the barman.
Getting around Croatia in a short period without resorting to a tour is easy and cheap. Here is the quick itinerary based on the same amount of time as the Dalmatian tour companies.
Day 1 – Split
- Accommodation: Silver Central Hostel – 17 Euros per night peak season. Close to everything, clean and with great helpful staff.
Do: There is a free walking tour that starts by the harbour every day – the guides are funny and informative, great way to orientate yourself and get a little of the history. Or you could go swimming and watch people play Picigin – or have a go yourself! There are also loads of great shops and restaurants – indulge yourself.
Day 2 – Split to Hvar
- Transport: Jadrolinija runs a ferry to Hvar for about 12 Euros – but check the schedule as it changes
- Accommodation: Dink’s Place – a fun family run affair! 28 Euros per night
- Do: Walk around the old town, eat some amazing food and go swimming… anywhere its all amazing
Day 3 – Hvar
- Transport: Hire a car or a scooter if your game! We negotiated a great rate of 32 Euros a day
- Do: See the other towns of the island such as Zavala and Stari Grad. Stand in a Lavender field, go wine tasting, eat plenty of fresh olives and swim in one of the hundreds of secluded coves you will drive past.
Day 4 – Hvar to Korchula
- Transport: Jump on the Jadrolinija ferry to Korchula for 15 Euros
- Accommodation: We stayed at Dragan’s Den – It was quite far out-of-town, but the staff were amazing, the house was amazing (had a pool!) and the walk was actually a great way to walk off any alcohol that may have accumulated when you were dragged out be the afore mentioned staff on a random night out! It was just 20 Euros per night
- Do: Hire a bike for 3 Euros and ride along the coast – there are some amazing sights as well as some great spots to stop and enjoy a sneaky wine and a swim.
Day 5 – Korchula
- Do: Walk around the town, climb the old bell tower, drink great coffee, climb over the walls and go for a swim, check out the art galleries (Korchula is known for culturing many young artists)
Day 6 – Korchula to Dubrovnik
- Transport: You can catch a ferry and then a bus (pretty much every travel agency on the island can arrange this for you) or you can catch a ferry straight there however check the timetable as these only run on certain days even in the peak season. Bus and Ferry for 20 Euros
- Accommodation: Hostel Villa Angelina Old Town – a bit more expensive at 24 Euros but once again great staff and clean light dorms.
- Do: Walk explore the lane ways, try pancakes at La Dolce Vita, eat dinner at Lady Pi Pi’s, go on a free pub crawl.
Day 7 – Dubrovnik
- Do: Get up early and climb the walls to beat the crowds and see the sun come over the terracotta roofs. Visit the Cliff bar for a cocktail and some cliff jumping – though maybe jump off the cliffs before the cocktail!
Accommodation: 178 Euros for one person
Transport: 47 Euros for one person
When you add everything up it only equals 225 Euros! Much less than 469 Euros for Sail Croatia.
Of course there are always extra incidentals such as sneaky ice creams and emergency sun cream – but you would buy these on a tour as well. If you are heading to Croatia for a short break this summer make sure to do your research and see if you can do it on your own – you might be pleasantly surprised at the money you will save but also the freedom it gives you to make new friends and fall in love with new places.