14 things to know before you go to Dubrovnik

Magnificent Dubrovnik combines a UNESCO-listed heritage with green nature, a beautiful coastline with fascinating villages, an exciting history with game of thrones-pop culture oriented and a plethora of options with a laid back vibe.

In the far south of Croatia, Dubrovnik is cut off from the motherland by a small corner of Bosnia and Herzegovina which cuts the Croatian coast in two, and it is also the last city in the country before Montenegro. Within these international borders, Dubrovnik was once an independent republic, and today it is the beating heart of an exciting region that demands more than just a mini-break.

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Climb Srđ Hill for dazzling panoramas that showcase Dubrovnik beyond its historic center © Samantha Ohlsen / Alamy Stock Photo

Plan to see more than the Old Town and spend some time

Many visitors to Dubrovnik make the mistake of thinking that there is nothing more to the city than the whitewashed walled city. This Unesco World Heritage Site is the symbol of the city and a must-see for travelers from all over the world.

Spend a day or two exploring the network of stone streets and admiring the fascinating sights, from palaces, towers and churches to the backdrops of King’s Landing. Marvel at the carpet of terracotta roofs of the city walls, then head up Srđ Hill for dazzling vistas that showcase Dubrovnik beyond its historic center.

In Gruž Bay, the port, you can browse the green and fish markets, travel back to Yugoslavian times at the Red History Museum and dance to DJ beats at Dubina Club. Watch colorful sunsets from the Lapad Bay waterfront and snorkel at one of the many pebble beaches.

Board a ferry to the neighboring island of Lokrum or venture to the serene island of Mljet and its forested national park. Sip a bold red in the vineyards of the Pelješac Peninsula and learn about the folklore of the Konavle Valley, while indulging in the laid-back local lifestyle.

A red car driving on a winding road with the red roofs of Dubrovnik in the distance
To avoid hassle and disappointment at the border, start your planning by checking entry requirements first © Dallas and John Heaton / Getty Images

Beware of borders

If you’re driving from Split to Dubrovnik, or if you’re planning to visit the Ottoman gem of Mostar, you’ll need to cross the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina, and visiting beautiful Kotor requires crossing the border into Montenegro.

Keep in mind that Croatia is a member of the EU, but not of the Schengen area, so your Croatian visa will not allow you to enter the Schengen countries or its neighboring countries. To avoid hassle and disappointment at the border, start your planning by first checking the entry requirements.

For a hassle-free trip from Split to Dubrovnik, consider swapping the wheels for a catamaran like Krilothen from island to island along the way.

Have fun sorting your wallet

Although a member of the EU, Croatia does not use euros. The local currency is called Kuna (meaning “martens”) and the cents are called lips (elderberry). You can withdraw local currency at the many ATMs around Dubrovnik and exchange at banks, post and exchange offices and at the airport.

But if you plan to visit Montenegro, bring euros – it’s not an EU member, but Montenegro has been using the currency since 2006.

Beachwear, non-slip shoes and diapers are the key to smart packing

The people of Dubrovnik dress casually, but stylishly. Your suitcase should contain summer classics, from airy shorts and dresses to everything sun and beach related, from swimsuits and flip flops to hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. Don’t forget to pack a light scarf and rain jacket for windy evenings and summer showers.

In September and October, layers that account for wind and rain are the way to go. At all times, bring non-slip shoes, as the shiny limestone streets are notorious for being slippery in the slightest drizzle.

Book accommodation and restaurants in advance

Arriving in Dubrovnik spontaneously and hoping to find accommodation in high season is almost a recipe for disaster. Small and popular, Dubrovnik is easily busy and fully booked, especially in luxury hotels and popular private accommodation.

Ditto for popular restaurants: if your palate yearns for a certain spot, book a few days in advance to avoid disappointment, except for the Michelin-starred 360°, which must be booked a month in advance.

Summer scene of the main street (Stradun or Placa), with locals, tourists and a woman eating an ice cream cone
Swap the drive for a walk – compact and scenic, Dubrovnik is very walkable © DarioZg / Shutterstock

Walk or take a bus, but never drive to the Old Town

A single-lane road leads to the old town, and at its end scarce and expensive parking spaces are very unlikely to be available. So swap the car journey for a walk or a bus ride: compact and picturesque, Dubrovnik is very walkable, and the public bus network covers the city’s neighborhoods very well.

In the Old Town, keep your clothes on and watch your manners

While it’s easy to confuse all of Dubrovnik with a beach, the Old Town is a bustling neighborhood with schools, churches, and institutions, so stay respectful at all times.

An authentic recreation of Cersei’s Walk of Shame may look fun, but visitors to the Old Town are expected to remain fully clothed at all times. If you visit churches, honor the sacred space by covering your shoulders and removing your hat. Refrain from using your phone and turn off your ringer, and never sight-see during service.

Be attentive when asking questions about the war

Yugoslav attacks and bombings from 1991 to 1992 left Dubrovnik shattered and deeply hurt. This is not a subject to be broached lightly; you can ask questions in a respectful way, but know that some people prefer not to talk about it.

Enjoy the gay bar, but skip the PDA

One of the most LGBTIQ-friendly Croatian cities, Dubrovnik has an unofficial gay beach on Lokrum Island and its first official gay bar, Milkwhich opened in May 2022. While warm and welcoming, Dubrovnik is also a devout Catholic city, so avoid public displays of affection.

People at Rector's Palace on Stradun Street in Dubrovnik Old Town, Croatia
The Dubrovnik card gives access to the city walls and museums like the Rector’s Palace © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

Get a Dubrovnik Card

Many find the prices for attractions around Dubrovnik to be higher, but the Map Dubrovnik gives access to the main tourist sites, as well as free bus tickets and discounts in shops and restaurants. Depending on whether you opt for a one-day, three-day or seven-day card, it will include entry to the city walls and museums like the Rector’s Palace or the Franciscan Pharmacy, as well as discounts for Lokrum and the island of Mljet.

Pay by card but tip cash

Tipping is not mandatory, but is generally expected and greatly appreciated. In restaurants, the magic number is around 10%, while in bars, you can round up the bill.

Outside of the Amex, credit cards are widely accepted, but you’ll need to carry cash for tips, as it’s rarely possible to add it to the credit card statement. Don’t be surprised when you’re asked if you’re paying in cash or by card before you see the bill; The Croatian tax authorities require this information to be entered before the invoice is printed.

Feed your espresso and avoid takeaway cups

Croatians take their coffee seriously. It’s a favorite local pastime and social ritual, so if you’re invited for coffee, try not to pass. Whether you’re having an espresso or bijela kava (latte), drink it slowly and never take it from a to-go cup.

Ditch the bottled water and fill the fountains

Tap water is drinkable in Dubrovnik, and in the Old Town you can refill your bottle at fountains, like Onofrio’s, with the freshest water available.

Relax and enjoy, but use common sense

With a tight-knit community and generally well-lit areas, Dubrovnik remains a very safe city, day and night. Although hard crime is low, use common sense when in crowds as pickpockets do show up on occasion.

About Eleanor Blackburn

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