Split, Croatia is an up-and-coming destination for digital nomads from all over the world. It’s tempting for many reasons – it’s safe, it’s gorgeous, it’s easy to spend three months here with no visa for Americans and others. I’ve spent months living in Split while working as a freelance writer, and here’s what I’ve learned about life as a digital nomad in Split (spoiler alert: it’s great!).
Truth be told, I came here as a nomad because I needed somewhere to go in Europe during the pandemic that was letting Americans enter – and Split fit the bill. But I’d been pondering spending the spring here anyways, and it turns out I’ve quite fallen in love. The ancient beauty, the layers upon layers of European empires and history here, and the clear blue sea and tempestuous skies have won me over – and I hope it will win you over too.
It’s easy to visit.
Croatia isn’t on the radar of a lot of Americans, and it can be tricky to find flights here from the US in months outside of July and August. But it’s a highly popular holiday destination for Europeans, so if you’re already on the continent, it’s probably just a cheap direct flight away.
One big advantage of spending a few months in Croatia as a digital nomad is that while Croatia is a member of the EU, they’re not within the Schengen Visa zone (yet). That means you can hop over here after three months in Athens or Berlin or Lisbon and hang out for three months visa-free (for Americans and other nationalities who qualify). They even let Americans in during the coronavirus, so I’ve met plenty of other digital nomads from the US here.
And soon it will be even easier to visit for my fellow nomads – a digital nomad visa for Croatia is coming by the end of 2020. I’m excited to see what that will look like!
Related: How I Became a Digital Nomad
It’s easy to live here.
All of Croatia is lovely to visit and travel in – even for solo female travelers like myself. It’s really safe, it has a robust infrastructure for getting around, and the cost is pretty affordable. This is even more true of Split, which is Croatia’s second-largest city and is a great base for getting around the country and out to the beautiful islands.
Most younger people in Split speak at least a fair amount of English, which is super helpful because Croatian is a bit tricky. The weather is mild, the sun is as strong as the coffee (just the way I like it!), and the living is relaxed. You’ll work, sure, but you’ll also spend plenty of afternoons and weekends strolling to one of the many beaches or dawdling at a cafe nestled into the ancient walls of the old town.
There’s history everywhere – the remains of the Roman Empire and medieval villages and Renaissance prosperity in the heart of the old town, which started as the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s retirement palace by the sea. It’s grown up through the ages as an expanding village, and you can roam the tiny, picturesque alleys of the old town and see how it’s evolved and grown.
Outside the old town is a modern, thriving city full of all the conveniences of life in Europe. There’s plenty of outdoor activities on the doorstep too – the stunning beaches of Kasjuni and Jezinac, climbing the Marjan park hills, or day trips off to hike.
It’s the best of all worlds.
It’s not too expensive.
It’s not as cheap as many of the other Balkan countries like Albania or Bulgaria, but it’s still definitely more affordable than much of Western Europe. Prices in July and August can be high since that’s peak tourist season, so if you’re looking for bargains don’t come then.
Croatia is not in the euro zone either, so you’ll pay for everything in kuna. Currently, one kuna is about $.15 but check before you come.
My typical costs:
- A macchiato at a cafe costs 11-13 kuna
- A glass of wine or a beer at a nicer cafe or bar costs 18-23 kuna
- Dinner out at a nice restaurant is about 150 kuna with wine
- An Airbnb is about $800-$1200, depending on when you visit and where in the city you stay (old town is the most expensive)
It’s not super cheap, but it’s possible to have a nice, comfortable life here for less than $2,000 per month.
It’s easy to work here.
For a destination that’s more famed for languid summer holidays than industry, Split is a surprisingly great city to work from. The internet is usually pretty decent (check with your landlord or Airbnb host before you book, though) and free wifi is plentiful. One of my biggest struggles here is getting work done on stunning, late-summer days when I’d rather be at the beach!
While the cafe culture in Croatia is definitely on the Mediterranean side of things – coffee is for sipping over long idle chats as you greet everyone who passes and get the latest news, and maybe pet a cat – they’re also pretty good for working. Almost all of them have free wifi with pretty good speeds and strong coffee.
Finding outlets is a challenge in cafes (and sometimes in apartments in the old town since they’re… well… 1600 years old). But you can order one macchiato and sit for hours working away, and no one will bother you or think it strange.
Coworking spaces have been popping up in Split as well to meet the demand from arriving digital nomads. Saltwater Split is right near the old town and also offers colliding and housing options, and is expanding across Croatia too. They’re a bit pricey for my taste (check out more coworking space info) since I can just hang at a cafe for much less, but if you need more structure or faster internet it might be a good investment.
It’s lively all year round.
Sure, other spots in Croatia are beautiful to visit in the summer – Dubrovnik, Sibenik, Zadar, and the other coastal towns. But once the summer crowds leave, those cities shrink noticeably and start shutting down pretty significantly.
Split is a popular tourist spot, but it also has a large local population who pack into the cafes and restaurants of the beautiful old town all winter. Buses keep running, cafes and bars stay open, and the vibe stays vibrant – it’s perfect.
This is especially great because the shoulder season is the best time to visit Split – September-November is still pleasant and warm, and same with April-June, while the crowds of tourists are much smaller and prices are cheaper.
Croatians aren’t super outgoing people, but once you get to know them they are warm, friendly, and very hospitable. And there’s a growing community of digital nomads who are very social, so it’s pretty easy to meet people here.
The Logistics of Living in Split, Croatia as a Digital Nomad
So now that you know why you should consider Split as a digital nomad option, let’s talk about the details you need to know before you come.
Where to Stay
I stayed in the old town when I was living in Split as a digital nomad – it’s so central, it’s really beautiful, and it’s also insanely noisy on weekends. If you get a place with good, solid windows, this isn’t usually a problem, but it’s good to know.
The old town is scenic – I have a view of the ancient palace walls and the nuns from the nearby 14th-century convert who hang their laundry on them, and on windy days I can smell the sea and hear the ferries honk as they depart the harbor.
The old town is pricier than the rest of the city though – you’re paying for that historic and central location. In the off-season, my old home is very reasonable and highly recommended, as it comes with all the essentials for a long stay – washing machine, kitchen, and more. But finding those kind of apartments is harder in the old town, which mostly has accommodations for short-term summer tourists.
Just outside the old walls is Varos, which is almost as scenic and much quieter (and a bit cheaper too). You can also save money by staying just a 10-minute walk from the old town in any direction – Split is a lovely, safe city so anywhere central is safe and nice.
How to Pay
One big thing to be careful of in Split (and all over Croatia) is ATM fees. If you’re not careful, you can get charged $10 for one withdrawal! It’s insane. I use OTPbanka for mine because they’re one of the few without huge fees.
Most of the larger and more expensive places in Split take credit cards, like fancier restaurants, supermarkets, and bigger chain bakeries. But smaller, local-run places like cafes and gelato shops usually take only cash. I pay with my credit card whenever possible, but keep some kunas on hand for the little spots.
What to Do
If you’re looking for activities to fill your time on days and weekends off, you’re in luck. Split has so much to do even in the fall and spring, you’ll never be bored. Check out my suggestions for 3 days in Split for a few good ideas (so much art!).
There are also plenty of great day trips you can take – to the little ancient walled city of Trogir, to the beauty of coastal Makarska or Dubrovnik or Sibenik too. You can also go spend a weekend in the islands, like party-obsessed Hvar and quiet, stunning Korcula, for a break. Or head out to see Sarajevo in Bosnia or Kotor in Montenegro. Split’s central location means that the options are pretty much endless.
Where to Work
There are countless tiny, cozy cafes in the old town for working or relaxing. I love the no-frills but friendly local vibes of Caffe Bar Kala and Teak Coffee, the more upscale cafes KaKantun and D16 which are nomad hotspots for working, and Basta on the river for a more decadent working experience with a sea views.
Why You Need to Try Digital Nomad Life in Split, Croatia
The clear sunshine, the relaxed pace of life, the innumerable cafes and bars to hang out and get work done (or not)… Split has it all for digital nomads. It’s no wonder so many are making the trip over here to try it out for themselves – and you should too!