While Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and now James Bond are all contributing to Dubrovnik’s rise to fame, this small seaside town is simultaneously gaining a reputation for being the most expensive destination in the Balkans. However, visiting the “Pearl of the Adriatic” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay the price.
It’s just as feasible to visit Dubrovnik on a budget as it is to splurge. You can still indulge in the best of the former republic’s culture, Dalmatian cuisine, and coastal landscape for a fraction of the cost you’d pay visiting many destinations in the US or the UK. In fact, budgeting may even be a better way to experience a more authentic side of Dubrovnik.
1. Visit during the off-season.
The most effective way travelers can save money in Dubrovnik is by avoiding the peak tourism season of June-August. Not only is it scorching hot, it’s also the busiest time of the year for cruise ships, tour buses, and Game of Thrones fanatics. Thus, the cost of accommodation, transport, and food/drinks can increase two-fold.
Prices during the shoulder season of March-May and September-December are reasonable if you’re on a budget. You’ll actually be able to find accommodation for less than the equivalent of $50 a night and meals for two less than $40. Also, it’s cheaper to visit the Dubrovnik city walls and take the cable car to Mount Srd during this time. Not to mention you won’t find yourself lost in a sea of tourists along Dubrovnik’s Stradun.
2. Stay in the Zupa area of Dubrovnik.
If you’re only looking for accommodation inside the Old Town, you can expect to pay up to three times as much. Many tourists make the mistake of ignoring the surrounding Gruz, Lapad, and Zupa areas of Dubrovnik. The latter will be the most affordable for budget travelers.
The Zupa region encompasses several coastal villages, such as Mlini, Plat, and Srebeno, and is only a 15-minute bus ride from the city center. With several restaurants, a shopping mall, and the new Sheraton and One Suite hotels, this is also Dubrovnik’s up-and-coming area of town.
3. Always pay in Kunas instead of Euros.
Though Croatia is committed to eventually transitioning to using the Euro as part of the EU, they are still using the Croatian “Kuna”. 1 USD is about 6 Kunas, and 1 Euro is about 7.5 Kunas.
Some shops, restaurants, and attractions will also accept Euros for simplicity, but you’ll lose money in the process. For example, walking the city walls cost 70 Kunas, or 10 Euros, which technically translates to about 75 Kunas. You’ll also find some restaurants with “specials” menus in Euros. If you aren’t sure, always ask, as you don’t want to end up spending 75 Euros instead of 75 Kunas.
4. Ask for a cash discount on souvenirs.
Haggling and asking for discounts in Dubrovnik is a bit of a cultural faux pas. However, it’s quite common that many souvenir shops do offer a discount if you pay in cash. You’ll see this especially for more expensive items like jewelry, paintings, or handmade items.
This is because when you pay by card, shops have to pay a percentage in tax. They usually will up the price to make up for this. Paying in cash can get you a discount by up to 20 percent, depending on the store.
5. Take the airport shuttle bus instead of taxi.
One of the easiest ways to burn a hole in your wallet in Dubrovnik is by taking taxis to and from the airport, which is located 25 minutes from town. Before jumping in a cab, make sure you wait around a few minutes for the airport shuttle bus.
The problem is that many tourists miss it since the service isn’t well advertised. However, the shuttle bus comes after any flight lands, picks you up at the airport and drops you off in several locations throughout the city for $10. You can also take this going back to the airport for the same price. It does take about 30-40 minutes, but you’ll end up cutting your transport expenses in half.
6. Rent a scooter instead of a car.
You can rent a car in Dubrovnik for as little as $40 a day. However, the cost of renting isn’t the problem; it’s the cost of parking and fuel that can really add up. If you have experience driving a scooter or motorcycle, this is a more affordable and efficient solution to getting around town.
You’ll be able to park the scooter along many of Dubrovnik’s side streets, instead of having to pay over $5 an hour for the various parking lots in the city center. You can rent a scooter for as little as 27 Euros a day, with fuel costing around $5 a tank, enough to last up to two days of transport.
7. Explore the outdoors for free.
While walking the city walls, having a drink at Buza Bar, and listening to live music along the Stradun are all quintessential experiences to have in Dubrovnik, make sure you also schedule ample time to explore the outdoors, which doesn’t cost you a thing.
For example, you can hike to the top of Mount Srd for free instead of paying to take the cable car. Instead of paying an entrance fee to luxurious beach clubs, you can find tons of hidden beaches if you do a little exploring along the coast. There are several hiking spots in the Konavle region, which has a completely different climate than the coast. Dubrovnik is one of the easiest places to stumble upon hidden beaches, coves, and panoramic views.