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Dubrovnik on a Budget: Our Guide

Popularized by the hit show Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is a gorgeous seaside city in Croatia, most known for its walled Old Town. One of the more affordable destinations in Europe, there are a multitude of things to do in Dubrovnik, especially for someone who doesn’t mind getting active on vacation.

Getting to Dubrovnik

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The view from our plane.

We flew in on a Norwegian Airlines flight that had a layover in London-Gatwick. The flights cost about $300, which is pretty crazy considering how long of a distance that is. Keep in mind that Dubrovnik has a pretty small airport, so there will not be that many flights going in or out on a given day. Most likely, you will not be able to score a direct flight from anywhere outside of Europe.

My favorite site to compare and book flights: https://adioso.com/

Transportation

There is an airport shuttle you can book to get you to certain spots within Dubrovnik, a couple of which are near the Old Town.

We went the route of calling an Uber, which will run you about 180 kuna (about $28USD) to get from the airport to outside Old Town. The price is not too bad considering the convenience, and we got lucky with a very nice driver.

Lodging

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You can stay in an Old Town apartment like this one!

A big thing to know about the Old Town is that no cars are allowed inside. So if you book lodging within the city walls, you will be walking at least from one of the two gates to wherever you are staying. Most likely, you will be encountering some stairs on the way. If this is something that sounds like a nightmare to you, I would recommend booking a place outside the city walls, but close enough that you can easily walk to the Old Town. If this sounds like a fun challenge to you, then go ahead and stay inside the walls! We did, and while it was a minor inconvenience when we were moving luggage, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I would not recommend the place that I stayed, so I won’t tell you what it is, but I do recommend looking for somewhere independently-owned, rather than a big hotel. Support the locals and stay in a more authentic lodging. We stayed in an apartment in the Old Town, found listed on Booking.com, but you can also find some good places on Airbnb.

Food

We stayed in Dubrovnik for four days, so we got our fair share of sampling the food. Unfortunately for Connor, a seaside town in Croatia is all about the seafood, and as he puts it, he “doesn’t eat crustaceans”. Fortunately for us, Dubrovnik had many options to offer, and we ended up finding some really great places for what we were looking for. Here’s some recommendations:

Pricier end (about $40/person):

Poklisar: Right by the water on the main port area. Delicious food, live piano, relatively pricy.

Panorama restaurant: Located at the top of the cable car ride. Can’t beat the view, and they even have heaters set up and blankets for every seat. Relatively pricey.

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Panorama restaurant, found at the top of the cable car.
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Time it right and you can see this amazing sunset view.

Moderate (about $20/person):

Bota oyster & sushi bar: Walking distance from the main street, Stradun. Our favorite place we ate. Recommend the sushi, the spring rolls, and the teriyaki beef & chicken.

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A glass of wine and sushi in Croatia – who could ask for more?

Snacks & Late Night Food (about $5/person):

Peppino’s: Ice cream parlor with the best ice cream or gelato we tasted on our trip; 34 kuna for a scoop (about $5).

Burger Tiger/Pasta Lab: Late night pizza & burgers; pretty much the only food place we found open after midnight.

Surf n Fries: More pizza, burgers, fries.

Things to Do

We spent four days in Dubrovnik, which left us plenty of time to explore and do everything we wanted to. I would recommend taking at least one day to explore the main sights, such as walking the Old Town city walls, exploring Rector’s Palace, and visiting the Monastery (also all sights you may recognize from Game of Thrones). To save money and see all of these in one day, you can purchase the Dubrovnik 1 day card, which grants you admission to these three and several other landmarks in Dubrovnik. It’s only 190 kuna each, which is only 40 kuna more than entry to the walls anyways, so as long as you visit one other place you’re saving money.

Also definitely worth a visit is the cable car up the hill to oversee Dubrovnik. It’s 140 kuna per person for a round trip pass. If you time it right you can be the first ones onto the car and position yourself right at the front, to see the whole journey with an unobstructed view. However, the best pictures will be once you get to the top anyways, so don’t be too worried if you get a less-than-ideal spot. We chose to make a dinner reservation for the restaurant at the top, and got some gorgeous views of the sunset. It’s definitely pricey, but for us, it was worth it. Note that you can also hike up and down the hill instead of taking the car.

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The cable car ride leads to an observation deck with these views of OId Town & Lokrum Island.

Our favorite thing we did while in Dubrovnik was a sea kayaking tour. You can book them online ahead of time, but we found it cheaper and easier to book them in person with one of the guys promoting them at a booth by the Ploce Gate. It was 250 kuna each, which is about USD$40 each. We met at Banje Beach and took off in double kayaks, making our way around the entire island and ending with a sunset viewing on the water. It was an absolutely gorgeous sight to see.

On our last day, we took the ferry to Lokrum Island, which cost 96 kuna roundtrip, or about USD$13.50. There’s lots to see and do on Lokrum Island; our favorite spots were the Game of Thrones exhibit, which holds the actual Iron Throne, and the hike up to Fort Royal, which holds some of the best views of Dubrovnik.

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The view from the top of Fort Royal.

Overall, Dubrovnik is one of our favorite cities we’ve visited, with lots of beautiful architecture, unique sights, and a Mediterranean feel. Fall was a fantastic time to visit, due to the lack of crowds but still perfect weather.

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