Staying in private accommodation has been a popular option along the Croatian coast for decades. You could even say that Croatians pioneered the "sharing economy"! With their financial well-being heavily dependent on tourism, it made sense for residents along the seaside or on islands to build an extension to their house and rent it out to tourists. Some built extension after extension or bought houses to divide up and rent out as villas or hostels. From Istria to Dubrovnik, there's an abundant choice of rooms, villas and apartments. For tourists, the good news is that locals are frequently multilingual and highly experienced in playing host.
The value for money is excellent in private accommodation and you may have the choice of a room, an apartment or a villa which can be a great deal for families and small groups. It's a great way to meet locals and have a more genuine experience of life in Croatia.
For solo travellers however, staying in an apartment can be isolating unless the arrangement is more familial with the owner living nearby.
What to Expect
Private accommodation in Croatia is heavily regulated, categorized and rated. Rooms and apartments are awarded one to four stars depending on size, amenities and service (although the one-star category is being phased out, now applying only to older accommodation units). The goal is to enforce a certain standardization and to coordinate apartment categories with hotel categories. That is, a three-star apartment should roughly correspond to a three-star hotel.
Whether you book private accommodation online or opt for on-the-spot accommodation, it helps to know what to expect. Consider the following:
Size certainly does matter when you're on holiday and the difference between the categories is significant. The following is for two-person studios:
Two-star: minimum 19 sq m. (204 sq feet)
Three-star: minimum 22 sq m.
Four-star: minimum 25 sq m
For three and four-person apartments, add another 5 sq m per person.
Bed linen is always included and is changed for each new guest (thank heavens!). You can request extra pillows in three and four-star accommodation. In two-star rooms and apartments the linen is changed once a week. In a three-star apartment, linen is changed every three days and in four-star accommodation every other day.
All studios and apartments come with basic dishes, glasses, silverware, pots etc. plus at least a two-burner cooker and a fridge. A four-star unit will provide an oven, microwave or grill plus a cooker hood.
An en-suite bathroom is required. Although a hair-dryer is only required at the four-star level, as a practical matter, you'll find it at all levels. Soap is provided but shampoo and a shower cap is only required at the four-star level.
Satellite TV with international channels is not required for two-star apartments but nearly always provided. Fortunately, foreign movies and tv shows are always in the original version with subtitles.
Air-conditioning along the coast is also fairly standard for all apartments although not required. Note that even if an apartment advertises air conditioning it may be only in one room. It's best to clear that up during the booking process.
Nearly all rooms and apartments, whatever the category, provide free wifi. A telephone line is not provided; it is highly advisable to arrive with a mobile phone. Breakfast is rarely included.
Payment is always in cash--even if you reserved online with a credit card (unless you book through AirBnB; see below)
Airport transfers can often be arranged with the owner--for a fee
Meals may be able to be arranged for an extra fee.
Finding Private Accommodation in Person
Well, you could just show up and hope for the best! In summer, locals ("sobe-ladies") line up at the ferry stop or bus station proposing their lodging. For many years, this was the only option for owners but the explosion of online booking options has given owners and visitors so many new ways to connect that the ferry-stop-meet-and-greet is less used. In high summer season popular destinations such as Dubrovnik or Hvar Island, can fill up completely. If you show up without a reservation you'll have to take whatever turns up which may be poorly located. Also, you obviously will not have a chance to read reviews which is a popular feature of online booking sites. Read more about finding on-the-spot accommodation.
Finding Accommodation Online
Many people prefer the peace of mind that comes with reserving their room or apartment in advance and here there are a wealth of options. It's important to keep in mind that most owners list their rentals on a several sites. Jumping from one site to another is likely to turn up the same properties.
The vast selection of rooms and apartments (all owner-handled) have often attracted dozens of reviews which makes selection easier. Each listing displays the official star rating so you know what you're getting. Plus there is free cancellation on many properties.
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