Spontaneously, I travelled to Dubrovnik, Croatia back in October 2017 for my second solo adventure of the year. Prior to travelling to Naples in June, I had never experienced what it was like to be truly ‘alone’ in another country… I had wandered and taken time astray from family & friends in Australia, America and across Europe, but never travelled truly alone.
I’m sure anyone who has will tell you that it is daunting at first, and easier for some than others; whilst spending time alone in a completely new environment can be a culture shock, it can be among the most rewarding and self-engaging experiences out there. Whether you’re travelling the world, back-packing a continent or simply enjoy habitual, solitary weekend stints… There’s so much you can learn and embrace from everything & everybody around you!
Other than an ‘announcement’ post back in September – “My next solo trip: Dubrovnik, Croatia” I haven’t really spoken about my 4 day jaunt in the phenomenal Game of Thrones hot-spot, other than on Instagram. So this post will act as a Dubrovnik holiday breakdown, tip/advise on the destination and photo log.
So, what better way to break down my experiences in the infamous Old Town and surrounding settings than w/ a top “10 tips for Solo Travellers in Dubrovnik, Croatia” / “Solo Travel Guide: Dubrovnik, Croatia” – filled with precious information on where to visit and what to do (as many travel only for the Old Town itself… which can be completed in a day!), when/why you should visit and plenty more must read tips for anyone planning to visit the Dubrovnik.
Alternatively, if you’re not planning on solo travelling, nor are you visiting Dubrovnik/Croatia in the near future… feel free to flick through the post, read what you must but the images alone should tell the story of my trip.
When I first mentioned to family and friends I was travelling to Croatia, many associated the country with negativity from recent wars and grimaced at the idea of travelling there alone… but after many nights of thorough research, with a list of other potential destinations on the cards.. I narrowly concluded that it was the perfect destination for me. I wanted to travel to a place which had no limits, at a time of year where it would not be flooded with tourists. Contrary to most millennial’s outlook, Dubrovnik today is completely geared towards tourism and attracting lost souls, whilst also catering for them and keeping them safe.
1. “When should you visit Dubrovnik?”
For any solo travellers who are untied to school holidays, the best time of year to visit Croatia is during it’s “shoulder-season” – in the months of May – June and September – October.
This time of year you can still expect sunny days ideal for swimming in the calm Adriatic Sea, hiking the mountainous region and enjoying all of Dubrovnik’s glory; with tourist facilities still up and running but without the swarming crowds.
My flight itinerary can be seen above, I chose to travel for 4 days, 3 nights from Monday-Thursday in my typical travel scheme. This means arriving in the destination early morning (10:00 am) and flying back home in the evening (7:00 pm) – allowing me 4 entire days in Dubrovnik. I done the same when travelling to Naples, again booking through SkyScanner. Whilst the air travel for me was only £30 each way, therefore £60 total… I ran into an issue when the Air company ‘Monarch’ decided to go bust, just a month before my trip which wasn’t ideal!
My anxious self feared that the trip was over, since my departing flight was no longer flying and I lacked the mental capacity AND funds to re-book (without an instant refund, which took 3 MONTHS by the way). But my wonderful Sister came through clutch and re-booked my departing flight for the same day & time, but from London Stanstead instead, via EasyJet.
Despite this ordeal, tickets to Dubrovnik usually vary from £70-£150 return, even in the ‘shoulder seasons’ which I was travelling in. So bargain nonetheless to begin with!
Personally I experienced no bad weather whilst in Dubrovnik during late October, nothing but sunshine rained upon me. Obviously weather will always be changing with climate, global temperatures etc but I believe strongly that the ‘shoulder season’ remains the best time to travel.
But don’t expect no crowds at all, especially in the Old Town, which from my experience was an American hot-spot! Hundreds of (mostly elderly) Americans wandered the streets on tours, ate at expensive cafe’s lining the cobbled roads and swarm the local beaches during the day time. But on a much smaller scale than the high season months I guarantee that!
2. “Croatian KUNA (HRK) or Euros (EUR) in Dubrovnik?”
Advice on how best to organise your travel money for Croatia is often conflicting and thereby confusing… So coming from a Solo traveller who has been and spent greenery in Croatia, you have my word on the information below!
Despite Croatia now being part of the European Union, it has agreed to commit to the single currency (EUR) in the future, likely 2022 – but at this present time remains the Kuna (HRK). For this reason you will find that you can pay for some items with Euros (since it’ll be widely accepted in the near future) – such as private accomodation, some taxi’s, small restaurants and tourist agencies might accept the currency, but it is not guaranteed. NO business/individual is required to accept them as payment.
It is highly recommended that you use cash as much as possible, this way you are fully aware of the exchange rate being offered and hence not subject to bank fees. Furthermore, be sure to carry the Croatia Kuna at all times. Which when I travelled equated to £50 GBP = 420 HRK.
I had this benchmark in my head when exchanging my English currency, since I opted to exchanging £100 worth of Kuna’s initially before travelling. Then carrying £200-300 worth of English cash to exchange in the Bank / Post Offices in Dubrovnik. NEVER exchange money in street-side cafe, shop or business establishments who wouldn’t usually offer foreign currency exchange. As the likelihood is that the only reason they are doing this is to extort money from naive tourists, who are unaware or not fussed of the exchange rate received… (rich Americans)
Many of such establishments have large, hindering signs enticing tourists to exchange their foreign cash, or advertise ATM machines that charge extortionate prices to withdraw. The risk of ATM scanners is also prevalent in Croatia, so safer to make Credit/Debit transactions with Croatian Bank ATM’s only!
Although if changing money in a Croatian bank, be sure to bring your passport. It is a legal requirement, and upon entering the bank you must digitally log your entry and wait in line. I watched as infuriated elderly tourists were refused entry for not having a passport, armed guards had their eyes pinned on me, unsure why but it was a very strict experience. But a few awkward stares, questions and a couple of electronically registered signatures later I had my cash!
3. Accommodation – save money with a Hostel!
Dubrovnik is home to a wide variety of traveller accommodation, ranging from beach houses to Air B&B dorms, Villa’s to multi-million pound Estates only the world’s elite can afford to stay at… the growing epidemic of cheap hostels spreading across Eastern Europe has hit Croatia hard! As Dubrovnik boasts world fame for its historic heritage, city walls, museums and great surrounding nature (not to mention top GoT filming spot) – it can be difficult to find cheap, yet cheerful accommodation.
If travelling alone, Hostels are 100% the answer… unless you’re seeking luxury.
“Hostel 365 For U is brand new hostel situated in the utmost centre of Dubrovnik. The hostel offers accomodation in modern designed rooms for moderate prices. Guests will find a 24-hour reception desk, as well as lockers and a shared lounge area with satellite TV. You have free wi-fi access and air-condition. We are waiting For U.
All modernly furnished rooms are soundproofed and feature a wardrobe, as well as a seating area. Shared bathrooms comprise a shower.”
I can verify that travel to and from the Old Town was easy, offering either a 10-15 minute walk past a phenomenal ocean lookout point/cliff drop; or alternatively a 5 minute bus. Centrally located in Dubrovnik allows easy access to not only the Old Town, but other neighbouring regions such as the Port that will be covered later in the article.
Whilst 1 night cost between £15-£20, this hostel is a little pricey compared to others; but for this you get everything to the best standard. The beds are comfy, with actual duvets not just sheets, there is enough space between the beds to allow privacy and the bottom bunks have curtains, with large lockers provided. The showers are a dream after travelling they are powerful and clean. The kitchen facilities are basic but the space is clean and organised. The common room is open plan and on a good spot where a lot of people will be passing through, most times entering the hostel I was greeted by the staff members on my way past the common room and to my bed.
Fortunately, upon arriving staff members gave me choice of ANY bed in the hostel, since I was one of only two people in the hostel that week. Although a few turned up the next day unexpected, the hostel wasn’t buzzing with atmosphere like I had maybe expected in the shoulder season, but nonetheless the staff were very inviting and friendly. Providing next to expert local advise on Dubrovnik, what to do, where to eat and day excursions. Underneath, yes underneath the hostel is a small Supermarket with all essentials, just up the road is a 24hr petrol station.
Below is a map of Dubrovnik, with the hostels location pinpointed:
As you can see, there is one main road in Dubrovnik which Bus routes utilise, running from one side of the coast to the Old Town directly. Hostel 365 4 U is location slap bang in the middle (ish), which is one of the reasons why I fell upon the gem. It’s location is perfect if you are looking to explore Dubrovnik in full, not just visit the Old Town.
Above is the easily walk-able route from the Hostel to the infamous Old Town. Taking between 10-20 minutes, the short trip is scenic and on a hot day you can travel down a footpath leading to extraordinary views. Vise versa walking the other direction will take you to Lapad, the Port or anywhere else in Dubrovnik. Seriously, I must have walked this route atleast 6-8 times a day, travelling to and from my hostel after my adventures. Some pictures of the scenic walk to Old Town can be seen below:
My point here is that hostel accommodation in Dubrovnik, (and anywhere in Europe for that matter) is much cheaper and often you experience a far more engaging atmosphere solo travelling. I highly recommend Hostel 365 4 U if travelling, especially in the shoulder season to Dubrovnik. I experienced a second to none experience, receiving nothing but kindness from staff members/other travellers and most importantly I felt safe in my environment.
I heavily advise using Hostel World when searching for Hostels in ANY location across the world, to ensure that they’re verified; allowing you to see reviews, ratings and prices upfront. There are hundreds (literally) of other Hostels alone found in Dubrovnik. Click the image below to search them all!
4. Public transport is cheap and so easy! (Buses in Dubrovnik)
I vaguely touched on public transport when talking about my hostels location, but I’m just going to throw the map of Dubrovnik back up; with a few key areas highlighted…
The red area (bottom right) is the Old Town, at the foot of which before the castle gates; day passes and bus tickets can be purchased. The two light blue ovals indicate points where buses change routes. Bus lines can be seen below:
Getting around Dubrovnik by bus is a breeze and in fact the best way to experience the town in full. Traffic around the Old Town can be a nightmare, with parking being expensive and difficult. As a solo traveller, who has no idea of how to drive a moped let alone a car… public transport for me is vital. Thankfully in Dubrovnik all of the neighbourhoods are linked by a series of buses that run anywhere from every 10 minutes to every half an hour. The buses kick start the morning at 5am, and do their final run around midnight. A single fare is merely 15Kn if you purchase a ticket from the driver (with exact change only), but only 12Kn from the Kiosk mentioned outside Old Town.
The best thing to do is purchase a “Day Card” with unlimited rides for 30Kn. This way you can travel Dubrovnik in entirety without risk of getting stuck on one side of the City.
Dubrovnik’s vast bus network can be seen below:
If you’re travelling to Dubrovnik, get used to this map because you’ll be seeing it everywhere. Personally I travelled on the 1abc, 3 and 6 most often. Travelling to and from Babin Kuk to Lapad, Lapad to my Hostel and back to the Old City (known as PILE on all local transport). Funnily enough upon exiting the castle gates it is literally a pile of traffic, tourists, students and locals!
I’ve always neglected public transport, in-particularly buses abroad until I travelled to Dubrovnik and experienced first hand just how much easier it makes everything. This same bus network runs to and from GRUZ, the Central Bus station and airport.
Alternatively, for those who despise buses in general (as I know they exist) – taxis are also a cheap way of travel. Price lists are often found at taxi ranks so you know you’re not getting ripped off, and the same rules apply as any other eastern European country
- Only get in a Taxi if it’s running a Meter
- Licensed taxis only (location specific)
Taxi’s from the airport to Dubrovnik however are extremely expensive and not worth the hassle it saves. The shuttle bus that runs to and from the Old Town hourly is the cheapest option, and although sometimes you may have to wait around at the airport… it’s like 20-30Kn as opposed to 100-150Kn. The distance is definitely not walk-able, trust me… I considered it.
5. Don’t waste your money on the ‘Cable Car’ everybody talks about…
Don’t get me wrong, the Cable Car is a great form of tourism for those who are physically not able to hike Mount Srd. Whether this be because of age, arthritis or any other factor which isn’t pure laziness… I highly advise EVERYONE who visits to do so.
My hike up Mount Srd to the war memorial and breathtaking views is my most prized memory from Dubrovnik. Having stumbled upon the path on a lean adventure, I had no idea what I had led myself into… nor any idea how long it would take before I could indulge in a bottle of water… Before I explain more, here are a few pictures from the journey:
Bare in mind this unexpectedly took up half of one of my days in Dubrovnik… but turned out to be the most valuable and rewarding experience in the city.
The enormous hill that hosts Mount Srd (known as Srd Hill) is a backdrop above the city. Also home of the Imperial Fortress, (famously build by Napoleon) now a must see war memorial in Dubrovnik. It taught me all I needed to known about the Croatian War of Independence from 1991-1995, just before I was even born and cost only 20Kn to enter. EVERY traveller to Dubrovnik will visit the fortress, but the question begs how to get there? Hike to the top for 0Kn – or take the 30s Cable Car for 300Kn…
Stairways leading to Srd hill beneath the cable car are pretty easy to find, but only if you stumble across them. Since they’re so small in comparison to the hill. The stairways climb up the hillside throughout a residential area and then abruptly stop. It then forces you on to the beaten, barely visible path up, through the hillside, into the forests and out onto the open plain of Mount Srd. At this point it gets pretty hot and I began to regret having to ration my single bottle of water…
My choice of wear was also peak – brand new vans slowly began to wear in, my legs were completely exposed to potential snakes and bugs… It wasn’t a well planned hike at all, but with a little preparation I’m sure you could make an entire day out of it!
Ultimately the main attraction of Mount Srd is the view… as seeing Dubrovnik from above is definitely worth the price of the Cable Car ticket up there. The scene at the top, war memorial, shop and resteraunt wasn’t too crowded, maybe due to the time of year. 415m above the ground, the overlooking rails is where most tourists will be grabbing their selfies and heading back down the cable car 5 minutes later. The restaurant at the top is called the ‘Panorama Bar’ – simply because of it’s gorgeous panoramic view of the city. Whilst the food is a little pricey, thankfully they did sell bottled water (10 Kn) for those weary hikers; which was a HUGE relief. I also purchased a nice chequered Croatian t-shirt souvenir for 150kn from the shop!
Hiking this trail is simply un-missable for travellers heading to Dubrovnik, more information on routes up and back down the mountain can be found here @ https://www.venturists.net/ – I wish I had read their article before setting off myself!
6. Visit Lokrum island!
Everybody visiting Dubrovnik, whether it be for just a few days or weeks, should set aside some time to visit one of the many islands dotting the coastline. One of the most popular and easiest to reach is ‘Lokrum’ island. As it takes just 15 minutes to get there via the Taxi-boat, that runs trips from the old harbour every half an hour, from 9am-7pm daily. The price per ticket is 35HRK/Kn / 6.30€ – which includes entrance to the Island and it’s Nature Reserve. 100% value for money!
Thankfully, the island is small (less than 1 mile wide) but half a day is all you need there to see it’s sight’s and glory. The beautiful forested island is host to a large variety of tree’s, providing an ideal escape from the urban side of Dubrovnik. It’s a popular swimming spot for locals too, as the woman I purchased trunks/goggles off in the Old Town said she goes there every morning for a swim. Lokrum island boasts rocky beaches end to end, and even has a secluded area for nudists to hang!
The main hub of the island is it’s large medieval Benedictine monastery, which houses a restaurant and a display on the island’s history and the TV show Game of Thrones, which was partly filmed across Dubrovnik.
The ‘Iron Throne’ reproduction remains here, whilst the island of Lokrum was used by GoT production as a stand-in for the city of Qarth near the Jade Sea, which is visited by Daenerys Targaryen in season two. Some of the garden scenes were filmed in the botanical gardens on Lokrum and in the Former Benedictine monastery.
(NOTE: Tour Guides charge 200Kn for this same information)
Beware though, as it is said that the Benedictine monks put a curse on the island thousands of years ago meaning that noone can inhabit the island overnight. For this reason the last ferry departs the island at 7pm everyday, and only the wildlife remains on the island.
Surprisingly, another one of the island’s unique features is that it’s ONLY inhabitants are peacocks. Brought over from the Canary Islands over 150 years ago, these exquisite yet exotic birds have adjusted to life on the island. So don’t be alarmed if you are joined by one on the beach!
There’s much more you can do and see on the island, which I will portray with these images:
Lokrum Island took me back in time and abolished all stress in my life. It nearly enticed me back for another day, as I woke up late and only spent 1pm-7pm on the Island… Alongside the Mount Srd hike, visiting Lokrum Island was also a top notch experience which overtook Carpi (Italy) as my favourite coastal Island in Europe!
7. Old Town sunset Kayak tour!
Another phenomenal experience I took part in Dubrovnik was the Old Town sunset kayak tour. As someone who is extremely afraid of the vast sea and what is below it, I never dreamt of setting afoot on a Kayak tour. But a newbie tour salesman called ‘Kyle’ took my off my feet outside the city walls, leading me off on a half day adventure out on the Adriatic sea. This was the day after hiking Mount Srd, so my legs were already jelly and my arms were not prepared for what they were about to endure…
The tour sets off on a small bay beneath the Old Town, and costs only 150Kn. For a half day excursion I thought this was relatively ok in terms of price, as they provided snorkelling equipment, packed lunch and a glass of wine at the end. Accompanied with English speaking instructors (tour guides) who were extremely funny, my tour set off around 3pm with a group of lovely lasses from Scotland enjoying their hen-do. They prolonged the journey with their hilariously slow and drunk paddling, but I didn’t complain at all; as the views were immense.
First we set off to explore the beautiful caves dotted around Lokrum island, where instructors parked up and gave us time to cliff jump and snorkel. After paddling around the island you paddle across the bay until you reach a hidden beach called Betina, only accessible via the kayak tour. A longer break is had here, where you have lunch and more snorkelling. Which I never truly embraced until this tour, I’ve snorkelled in Australia, America and Morocco but never dove deep and took in the ecosystem around me. Here you enjoy a private and unique view of the city walls with the rich Adriatic sea at your disposal.
When the sun starts to set around 5pm, and your arms no longer feel attached to your body… you begin to take in the breathtaking views of the Pearl of the Adriatic from a different perspective, the Old Town seems to glow orange as the sun sets and you paddle back towards the bay.
I cannot express the beauty I witnessed on this tour through photos and imagery alone, but I will definitely be kayaking again on future ventures. You experience the city and everything around you from a whole new perspective, everything seems minuscule to the vast and open space around you. Including yourself, which was scary at times but the fear adds to the excitement!
8. Footwork. Wander the battered paths…
Potentially my greatest advise for anyone visiting Dubrovnik in the summer months, is to wander the beaten and battered pathways and embrace wherever it leads you. Most of my holiday was spent on foot, either hiking up mountains unintentionally or walking from one region (Babin Kuk) to another (Old Town). I captured some intense photographs and graphic memories whilst doing so, close encounters with snakes in the middle of nowhere, excited youth in the streets of lapad at 1am and some I can’t even post online!
The Old Town is the perfect place for leg mileage, as it is strictly pedestrianised. Much like Lokrum island, which is a peaceful escape from the busy city life. The Old Town takes a day maximum to take in and explore entirely, tanning up on the hidden cliff-top bar, hitting up the markets or enjoying the vast array of street entertainers. There’s so much to indulge in, but don’t get caught up as everything is so expensive and repetitive…
On the other side of Dubrovnik, you can view one of many ports which paint the coastlines. Exploring this side of Babin-Kuk, Lapad, etc can all be done from the bus lines starting at the Old Town PILE, and take you to a whole new setting.
Dubrovnik has many sides to it and I’m proud to have ventured across them all. Allowing myself 4 days in one region alone at first was a regret of mine, as I could’ve made the trip to Split. But the extra period of time in one location was well explored and over 30,000 steps were procured on my mobile tracker each day! The greatest amount was the final day (45,000) when I hiked up ‘Old Numancija’ mountains before taking my final coach to the airport. This light expedition quickly turned out to be me, in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by nothing but snakes and mountainous desert, as can be seen in the following gallery:
Click on the image below to read on the many Mental Health benefits of travelling solo, or travelling anyhow in that matter.
As I draw this article to a conclusion, it all seems a mess as it’s been over 6 months since I travelled to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I feel I have more to add to this guide, so will continue to do so throughout May before I announce it finalised. Funnily I began writing a “10 top Tips for Dubrovnik Croatia” in December – which quickly turned into a generalised guide for solo travellers heading to the destination throughout the months. So forgive me if this post jumps context from time to time… Anyway, I hope this article serves purpose to anyone planning a trip to Dubrovnik, or even simply wanting to start their solo travel adventure! I can announce that this year I am travelling to Thailand for 4-6 weeks in November! It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime, which i can’t wait to share on this platform. My writing techniques and ability to construct a post are set to improve, so feedback is greatly appreciated!
If you would like any more information, have any questions or have been to Dubrovnik yourself… be sure to drop a comment and I’ll get back to you!
Happy travelling all.