Discovery Intern: Standing Out from the Crowd
My top tips to finding the adventurous side of Dubrovnik.
If you’ve been following @discoveryaus on Instagram, you’ll notice I recently spent an epic week in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Dubrovnik is a pretty flipping cool place, but compared to other parts of the country, it can be extremely touristy during the best parts of a year. If you like crowds and sticky heat, then you’ll already be in your element, but if you’re like me and prefer a more unique, or adventurous approach to exploring a city, then the next few paragraphs are definitely for you!
These are a few ideas, based on my experience, that might help you beat the crowds, and have a blast when you visit Dubrovnik next.
Find “new angles”
Wanting to replicate those photos you see in a typical travel magazine, or that shot that keeps popping up on Instagram? Chances are if it’s near Dubrovnik, you will be contending with Insta-couples, photographers, and an army of Game of Thrones fans wielding selfie-sticks for that same view. What many people seem to forget is that there’s often a second, just as good (or even better) viewpoint that can be found just off the main trail, or maybe around the next corner. Hunt this out, and you may even have the place all to yourself!
Sometimes a stunning view requires a bit of effort. Be safe, and make sure you keep to some sort of track if you aren’t confident in the terrain, or are unsure about your location.
Buy food from the bakeries, restaurants, and grocery stores that the locals visit
Compared to some neighbouring European cities, food and drink in Dubrovnik can reach some pretty extravagant prices. At one stage I ended up paying 30HRK (around $7NZD) for a 500ml bottle of sparkling water! This can obviously become a problem when trying to travel on a budget, so the best way I found to avoid this inflation was eating where the locals eat (note: that’s probably not going to be anywhere close to the Old Town aka Tour Bus Hub).
Ask around, or try to notice where the Croatians living nearby go to eat food or buy groceries. We realised pretty quickly that most of the time the food from these places was not only the best value, it often tasted better too!
Hunt for a secluded swimming ladder
Thanks to Jaws, swimmers tend to conglomerate within the strategically placed shark barriers that surround Dubrovnik. If you prefer swimming in clearer, cleaner water, a short walk around most of the coastal areas will reveal discreetly placed steps that often lead to a secluded slab of rock or concrete. Upon closer inspection, there’s probably a water-access ladder screwed into the rocks nearby too. These are fully available to the public, pretty much on a first-to-find basis. You can swim till your heart’s content, or lie in the sun if that’s something you’re into – without being surrounded by 100 other people. From one of these little areas, I frequently had access to the clearest water! Didn’t see any sharks, but be careful you don’t get raked by a rogue sea urchin. Those things can be nasty!
With a wine, some snacks, and a blanket, these areas would also make a choice spot for a romantic sunset date (helping you folks out here!)
Wake up early!
This has to be my most mentioned tip for any travelling, and it goes without saying. If you feel too sluggish or lazy to want to get out of bed before the sun rises, I’d bet 99% of people feel the same way. Make the effort, and you’ll be the only one up and exploring for hours! Many attractions won’t open till around 8am, so head to places with non-controlled access first, then be first in the queue when the gated attractions open later on. We were able to walk the whole wall of the Old Town while sharing it with just ten people. Try doing that in the afternoon, and you’ll probably find yourself in the middle of a human traffic jam.
We were the only people on this section of wall at the time. Get up early and make the most of that beautiful morning light!
Rent a car
This may sound like a silly decision for travelling in a crowded city, but if you want to be off exploring the next (and any) location while everyone else queues up for the bus, a rental car might be a good consideration. Basic car rental in Croatia is quite cheap and only cost us about $80NZD over a week, excluding insurance fees. There are, however, two negatives to driving that we encountered. The first – driving in Croatia is terrifying! Think of a combination of fast drivers, constant car horn abuse, frequent manual hill-starts, multinational understandings of the road code, and what seems like a free-for-all merge with any right-turn. Staying extremely defensive and wary, and being patient were the best ways I found to counter the situation. The second con we found was parking. We never had an issue actually finding a park, but it definitely made us have to think creatively about where the vehicle would fit! i.e. ‘Is there room between that van and the postbox in front of it?’ Just like playing Tetris.
Pro tip: If at all possible, rent one of those tiny Smart Cars or a Mini (just kidding, guys).
Serious pro tip: If you want to visit the Old Town, park on the main road above it that heads toward Split, and walk down one of the many brick-laid alleyway streets that weave down to the town. It’s quite a pretty walk, but signposts to the destination are minimal. If in doubt, all streets running downhill toward Town will eventually lead to the city walls, and all streets heading back up will lead to the road your car is parked on. Can’t get much simpler than that! (The walk back up consistently took me around 15mins).
This is one of the streets heading downhill toward the Old Town, how cool is that? I’d hate to be the postman though! That’s it for now!
I hope some of this info proves useful the next time you pay Dubrovnik a visit (seriously, if it’s not on your bucket list, something isn’t right!). Just remember to be safe, keep exploring, and have a great time.
– Kaleb Anderson