I've been travelling to Croatia frequently for the past five years for my adventure travel business, Adriatic Kayak Tours. Our customers have many questions about the logistics of travel to Dubrovnik, and so we decided to share a few tips that we've learned over the years:
1) Dubrovnik is Croatia’s 8th largest city, however the Dubrovnik Airport is Croatia’s busiest airport. Rebuilt post war destruction in the 1990s, the current five year expansion plan adds new carriers and routes annually.
Airlines with direct flights to Dubrovnik:
- Croatia Airlines from Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, Tel Aviv, Vienna, & Zurich
- British Airways from London (LGW)
- Austrian Airways from Vienna
- Iberia from Madrid
- Jetfly from Brussels
- Lufthansa from Munich and Dusseldorf
- BmiBaby from East Midlands
- Vueling from Barcelona
- Norwegian Air from Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Warsaw Air Berlin from Stuttgart, Munich and Hanover
- Air Nostrum from Valencia and Bilboa
- Czech Airlines from Prague
- Blue1 from Helsinki
- Jets2Com from Leeds/Branford, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Manchester
- Easy Jet from Geneva, Milan, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Liverpool, London (LGW) and London (STN) Ukraine International Airlines from Kiev
- Aer Lingus from Dublin
- Germanwings from Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, and Hannover
2) The only way to reach Croatia’s islands is by ferry or private boat. Bus service between cities is excellent, but if you want to visit remote areas inland, such as Plitvica National Park, it’s best to rent a car.
3) How to read Croatian ferry schedules. Jadrolinija, the national ferry line posts timetables on its web site. On the right-hand side of a schedule, the timetable moves sequentially from bottom to top. On the left had side of the schedule, the timetable move sequentially from top to bottom. Check the dates! Most timetables change multiple times during a calendar year, with different winter, spring, summer, and fall schedules. Holidays and Sundays are typically different from week-days.
4) Ferry tickets are not sold on ferries. Tickets should be purchased at a ticket office before boarding ferries. International ferry service to Croatia is limited to Italy. In addition to Jadrolinija, SEM Blueline, www.bli-ferry.com/, Azzurra Line, www.azzurraline.com/ENG/, and SNAV, http://www.snav.it/en.
5) Island hopping up and down the Croatian coast by commercial ferry is neither easy to plan nor an efficient mode of transport. The north-south ferries (Rejeka to Dubrovnik) run only two times/week. In high season, combine coastal ferries with local catamaran service to island hop independently.
6) The trip from Split to Dubrovnik by private car or bus is 3.5 hours. The trip by ferry is 5 hours (two times per week). There are roughly 8 Split-Dubrovnik buses daily. The bus ride from Dubrovnik to Zagreb is roughly 12 hours. There is a border crossing into Bosnia, briefly, overland between Split and Dubrovnik. It is not a problem for foreign tourists...just remember your passport.
7) Croatia has 8 national parks. The best known is Plitvica, in the northern interior, for its dramatic waterfalls and lakes. However, national parks in Croatia, in general, do not permit active recreation, such as kayaking or canoeing, back country hiking, and camping. National Parks are designated for sight-seeing rather than outdoor activity, so plan accordingly.
8) Driving in Croatia and the neighboring countries of Montenegro and Bosnia/Herzegovina is safe and gives you the most flexibility to get to a variety of places efficiently. A small rental car costs roughly 55-60 Euros/day.
9) Dubrovnik Tip: Do not walk the City Walls (#1 tourist activity) in the middle of the day. It’s horribly hot (no shade) and crowded, especially if cruise ships are in town, which is highly likely. Go early in the morning or late in the day.
10) Dubrovnik Tip: Climb Fort Lovrijenac (free standing fort just west of Old City) for an amazing sunset over Mljet Island. Cold beer and wine optional. And the best Dubrovnik beach is Sv. Jakov. It’s an extra 15 minute walk past crowded Banje Beach, but well worth the effort. Food service, umbrella, and beach chairs are available.