Traveling like a local is the big thing. Choosing private accommodation over hotels, learning about authentic food and wine, mimicking local customs, even having a little crush on a local.
But what about the local law? Do you really have to dig so deep if you’re only visiting Croatia as a tourist?
Yes – especially if you’re set on using Airbnb to score a perfect vacation apartment.
And perfect it will be, because private accommodation in Croatia hits that sweet spot of homely yet elegant comfort for a very affordable price.
There’s just ONE thing you need to know – how to use Airbnb without breaking the Croatian law.
Good news: Airbnb arrives to Croatia
Apartment rentals have always abounded on the Croatian coast. They are small family-run businesses that take great care of their guests. Some apartment hosts have built a loyal list of returning visitors without even having to advertise.
But as Croatia becomes an ever more popular travel destination, there is need for more private accommodation. And the need to advertise to global travellers. This is where Airbnb and Booking.com lead the way.
Airbnb is particularly popular for advocating the sharing economy and allowing local people to earn extra cash. Plus it’s always a good thing for properties not to be left empty and unused.
I use Airbnb both as a host and a traveller.
Here are several reasons why their platform and their values make them stand out:
1 | They allow the host to introduce themselves to prospective guests in a genuinely personal way. You don’t only choose accommodation based on nice pictures, but you opt for someone who can be a great local guide. For example, if you’re into art, booking with a local host who shares your interests means you’ll get great tips.
2 | Having the opportunity to communicate with the host before booking allows you to ask questions, from logistical details to travel recommendations. Airbnb hosts are always happy to help you plan your stay.
3 | Airbnb fosters a sense of community and trust. You can read reviews from other travellers to help you choose a perfect place. A host can write a review of guests too, so there is an unsaid expectation that guests treat a place with respect – which they almost always do.
In the last two years of using Airbnb, I have earned the super host status. This means that more than 80% of my reviews are 5 stars. But the interesting thing is that people value more the way I take care of them than they are concerned with the design of my apartment.
Not surprising – as travellers, we seek relationships with the local culture, not simply a nicely decorated space.
It has never been easier for global travellers to book private accommodation in Croatia. In fact, the number of guests who spent holidays in accommodation rented via Airbnb last year grew by 122% compared to 2014.
So thanks to Airbnb, small entrepreneurs in Croatia are getting enough visibility to boost their businesses. There’s just one slight problem with such global booking platform.
It’s not adapted to local laws. And if, as a traveller, you’re not familiar with them, you might breach them without even knowing.
Bad news: Airbnb in Croatia enables illegal renting
This is not to say that Airbnb is doing it on purpose. It just creates a grey zone that is easily abused by some private renters.
What do I mean by that?
By Croatian law, if you make money with short-term lettings, you need to register as a private renter. This makes you a small business owner with specific obligations and a code of conduct to follow. The regulations help with sustaining a good standard of rented properties.
When you rent from a registered business, it means that:
- the property has obtained electricity, gas, drinking water and noise certificates so that your stay is as safe as possible
- the property has been classified according to the facilities it offers with 2, 3, 4 or 5 stars. If you go for a 3-star accommodation, you know what kind of comfort you’ll get because it has been globally standardised
- the owner is regularly paying state tax as well as individual tourist fee that you incur as a traveller
- the owner is listed with the Croatian Tourist Board
- when you check in, the owner asks for your travel documents and registers your stay with the Tourist Board as well as with the police. They have access to a special web tool that allows them to do that
Running a renting business costs time and money, which is why some people try and do it illegally. They will advertise their properties on Airbnb (or Booking.com) without obtaining certificates, paying tax or upholding to any standards.
They can do that because Airbnb doesn’t require them to follow the local law in order to join the program. When you browse their website, there is no way of knowing who is legal or illegal.
Illegal renters also lower their prices because, without any costs to their business, they can do that. In the long run, they damage legal renters with the price dumping and with offering substandard accommodation.
But the worst news for you as a traveller is this:
illegal renters have no way of registering your stay with the police.
And according to the Croatian law, everyone travelling or staying in Croatia must do so within 48 hours of crossing the border!
Worst news: you are breaking the law when you rent illegally
When you check into a hotel or a registered private property, you automatically get registered with the police. This is great because you don’t have to worry about doing it on your own.
But if you don’t do it and the police stops you in the street:
you could pay the fine of up to 3,000 KN (€400).
The illegal renter you’re staying with could get an ever higher fine: 50,000 KN (€6,650) for not registering their business and 7,000 KN (€930) for not registering you as their guest.
Here is the best way to make sure you are renting legally:
- don’t go for the cheapest properties on Airbnb
- when you find the one you like, start a conversation with the host before booking
- ask them if they are a registered renter
- ask them about the star-classification of their property
- tell them you’ll need to register your stay with the police
- when you arrive to the property, give them your travel documents and insist on being registered
If you’re staying with Croatian friends at their summer house, you still need to register. But that’s easy enough. Just stroll down to a tourist office and fill out some forms.
Paperwork isn’t a problem, but not knowing who you’re renting from is.
Best news: enjoy some amazing Airbnb rentals in Croatia
Croatia has some really stunning rentals that you can book through Airbnb.
And Airbnb has allowed many local people to even switch their careers and become great hosts. Majority will treat you like family and welcome you with traditional food and drinks. They will go out of their way to show you their town or city.
You will never regret staying in a private accommodation because this is the best way to truly travel like a local.
It makes sense then to support them. To help them grow their small but unique businesses and help Croatia develop a regulated sustainable tourism.
So, don’t only rent cheap. Rent legally.
It’s not only about being fined or not.
There’s a bigger picture and you are in it.