Is Croatia good to live in?
This is one of the first questions expats and digital nomads ask when they consider moving to this beautiful country. Even though Croatia is part of the European Union and Schengen zone now, there are still quite a few things to consider when making the decision. In this article, I dig into the pros and cons of living in Split, Croatia. Hope you will find my insights useful for your decision.
Pros of Living in Split:
1. Mediterranean Climate - but is it enough?
Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Split has a Mediterranean climate characterized by mild winters and warm summers. This sets the stage for a comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle, encouraging outdoor activities throughout much of the year. It is still one of the places in which you can experience all four seasons. Winter is the strongest through February and March, while summer would last until the end of September in recent years. Rainy days are mostly expected between October and April, but it never rains for days, and it usually rains short and hard. On those days, you can expect lighting 'shows' and hard wind. Speaking of wind, the northern wind, called Bura is the strongest, and because of it many winters will be sunny but freezing. Still, don't expect anything below 10 degrees. On the other side, summer temperatures can go even up to 35 degrees. Swimming season usually starts in June and lasts until the end of September, although don't be surprised to see people swimming before and after the mentioned months.
2. Affordable living - but expect EU price ranges
Although many will complain about the prices and recent inflation, working as a digital nomad, being an expat who works remotely or retiring in Croatia can be cheaper depending on your background. The biggest housing issue is during the summer season. Many landlords rent daily between June and September, looking for tenants (usually students) between October and May. Having said that, there are still apartments to find between 400 and 600 EUR plus utilities that you can rent long-term. Comparing these prices with some other Western European countries it can be considered affordable, but the average salary is 1300 EUR in Split, and there are not many English-speaking job positions to start with. Grocery prices are comparable to those in Germany, for example, and you can choose between different supermarket brands such as Kaufland, and Lidl or more regional ones like Tommy and Studenac. Here is a brief overview of the prices, and cost of living. From my point of view, a Salary of 2000 EUR can provide a solid mid-class lifestyle.
2 room apartment (cca. 55 m2)
Monthly utilities (without the Internet)
1.5 EUR per ride or monthly 45 EUR
Restaurant main dishes
Beer in a bar
3. Quality of Life - Depends what you are looking for.
Even though it's the second largest city in Croatia, Split is a small city compared to other European cities. With only 160.000 citizens it still has a mentality of slower pace and relaxed lifestyle. People enjoy spending time outdoors doing sports, shopping and drinking coffee. To most points of interest, you can get by foot within 30 minutes, although the city is expanding to the East rapidly in recent years, so this might not be true if you want to go from the City center to one of the shopping malls in the East. The food quality is still much better compared to some other European countries. Local meat and vegetables can be found in food markets at the same price as those in supermarkets. Restaurants will offer weekly lunch menus at affordable prices (5-7 EUR). In your spare time, you can find many museums, restaurants, and sports events throughout the year, as well as modern cinemas and malls for shopping. Having said that nightlife is a bit slow, especially during winter. Although they exist compared to Zagreb, Split cannot compete with the number of music concerts, theatre shows, exhibitions and other events or meetups that happen during winter.
4. Digital nomad & Expat friendly
Split, among other places in Croatia, is known for its hospitality and friendliness. Mostly everyone has a conversational level of English skills, and finding friends will not be an issue. With the Digital Nomad Visa application being available for almost 5 years now, you can expect to find many Internationals currently living in Split or the surroundings. In the city, you will find many co-working spaces, and occasional Expat meet-ups, mostly organized through Facebook and Whats app groups. What I find interesting for people who don't speak Croatian is the fact that foreign TV shows and movies are in the original language. Therefore you will be able to watch many movies and TV shows in English without any trouble.
5. Outdoor Activities
The region surrounding Split offers an array of outdoor activities, from mountain hikes to water sports along the coast. There are many organized sports activities that you can join. To name just a few: swimming in a 25m or 50m swimming pool during winter, covered and open futsal playgrounds during the day and night, tennis courts (mostly clay), jogging, yoga, badminton, and many others. Split also has a nearby hill Marjan with a trim track and a natural steep mountain 'wall' ideal for climbers. Speaking of climbing, around Split you can find many places for climbing and hiking, as well as organized clubs that allow you to meet new people and explore beautiful places. For more details check my guide How to spend a weekend in Split as a local.
As you can see Split is a modern but relaxed city. It is ideal for people who are looking for more quiet time and beautiful sightseeing than for expanding business opportunities, growing careers or experiencing an active nightlife. Of course, nothing is black and white, and there are many successful expats in Split, but opportunities rather need to be created than grabbed.
Cons of Living in Split:
1. Bureaucracy - old-fashioned side of Croatia
There is a lot of paperwork still required for the majority of things you plan to do around here. When buying a property, or car or simply registering in the city, expect to wait in lines, gather different papers, and invest a lot of hours if not days into preparation. The same is true for the locals, so the language is not the biggest obstacle. Because of this (and other reasons) expect that many will try to offer you to avoid legal paperwork, and base agreements on trust, for example with renting an apartment.
2. Language Barrier - but we do like digitalization
Language barriers will arise with official documentation and bureaucratic processes. Not many papers will be in English (if any). Other contracts will also not be in English, as well as many providers' websites won't have an official English version of the website. Don't expect to have an easy time. Bank staff will be able to provide you with information in English, but again not everyone will have adapted to English. The silver lining in this is the fact Croatia invests a lot of effort into digitalizing many processes to cut the queues, so translating will be easier with online tools.
3. Tourist Crowds - and it doesn't seem it will slow down
During the summer months, the historic city center of Split will become overcrowded, making it challenging to enjoy a relaxing day on the beach, having a coffee or simply going out for those summer nights (parties). Split is a very popular destination among younger travelers, and many restaurants and cafes know this, so they are adjusting their menus and prices for tourists. Because of this, it's very uncommon to see citizens of Split hanging out in the city center during summer. I already mentioned the challenge of finding an apartment for long-term rent in Split, and this is true. Daily rental prices are usually around 80 EUR.
4. Parking - pro tip: use a Scooter
In case you own a car, finding parking space in Split is a challenge. As public transport is not a service that many people in Split use (apart from students and elderly) it is very common that every apartment has at least one car in their household. Parking in most parts of the city is still free or very affordable, so even the closest parking spots in the city center are almost always full. The same is true with the parking spots in front of the neighborhood buildings. In many cases, if you come later at night home you will have to circle until you find a spot. Having said that, the City authorities are building multi-level garages in different neighborhoods, which will ease a bit of the pressure, but unfortunately, it will not solve the problem in most cases.
5. Limited Work Opportunities - outside summer season
Despite increasing popularity among remote workers, the local job market will be limited. Job seekers who are looking for a summer job will have an easier time finding a job, especially in hospitality and tourism-related fields of work. However, finding a job in other branches, and only with English is a much harder task. Still, some startup companies would be willing to consider your application, but don't expect to find many of those through a year. In case you are interested in learning more about How to find an English-speaking job in Split, check the following article: https://www.lifeinsplit.com/post/english-speaking-jobs-in-croatia
I hope these 10 pros and cons have given you a better understanding of what to expect from Split. Please feel free to write me in case you have any questions about this or any other related topic. I am sure you will have a great time living in Split - welcome!