Posts

Dubrovnik

A week in Croatia cheaper than a week in Cornwall!

Here’s some news that will definitely interest those who are just about to book a half term holiday or an autumn break and are debating on whether to go overseas or remain in the UK.

Recent research by Travelex.co.uk, the world’s largest foreign exchange specialist, has revealed that holidaying abroad is actually cheaper than staying at home – in particular, a family of four could save over £150 if they spent a week in Croatia instead of a week in Cornwall!

Part of the reason for this is that the Pound currently holds a strong value against the Croatian Kuna (£1 = 7.78 Croatian HRK, as of 15th October 2010), having risen in value throughout the year. In fact, holidaymakers to the Adriatic country will receive 7.38% more for their money now than this time last year.

Comparative holiday costs of course also play a part in Travelex.co.uk’s research. They have found that a week’s self-catering accommodation for four in Redruth, Cornwall is £125 more expensive than the same type of accommodation in Dubrovnik. Meanwhile, an average meal for four is 70% more expensive in Redruth than in Dubrovnik, whilst two beers in a bar is 50% more expensive.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik – who can resist its charms?

Even travelling to the two destinations in question has costs that are considerably closer than one might think. The cost of return flights for four people to Dubrovnik comes in at £260, whilst return train tickets to Redruth are a none-too-cheap £200.10 – and that includes a special deal that allows children to travel for 5p.

Julian Neal of  Travelex.co.uk says: “Croatia has continued to be great value for money throughout 2010 and with the Pound currently up 7.38% against the Croatian Kuna compared to this time last year, a bargain is in store for families this half term break. With temperatures currently set fair at 22 degrees and with flight times of less than two hours, it’s a dead cert hot spot for imminent October school holidays.”

Travelex.co.uk also offers a free online Travel Rate Tracker to allow travellers to watch exchange rates to make their money go even further. The Tracker monitors selected currencies and can then send an email notification either once the currency has reached a certain threshold or as a reminder – say a week before a trip abroad.

Neal added: “Families looking to get the best value on their currency should make sure to order what they need online at Travelex.co.uk and take advantage of the Travelex Price Promise – if a customer finds a better price offered by another foreign currency retailer (whether or not online), Travelex.co.uk will refund the difference between the price paid by the customer and the more competitive price.”

Tour Croatia Online - Stradun in summer

Amusing travel questions asked at Dubrovnik’s tourist office this summer

We’ve all read similar reports before about travellers asking amusing travel question to tour operators and tourist information offices across the world – and it seems that the office in Dubrovnik isn’t immune to them either.

A recent article in Dalmatian daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija highlighted a number of funny questions that the tourist office in the city has had to answer this season. These include questions about the wonderful Old Town walls – with one guest questioning whether the walls come down at the end of the season, and another wondering why the walls weren’t removed when the war ended 15 years ago. Another person asked why not everyone in Dubrovnik lived within the Old Town walls. St Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik, was also queried about by one visitor, who wondered whether he was still alive.

Dubrovnik Photos - Bell tower
Looking down Stradun towards the Bell Tower

Other questions centred on transport, including someone who asked about buses from Dubrovnik to Mljet – which of course is an island! – whilst another asked whether, as they were on vacation, they were allowed to take a ferry line whose schedule was marked as “Sundays and holidays”.

Some of the questions were a little more general – but no less random. These included the fantastic “Where is Croatia?” and a question on whether the Croatian currency could be used in Dubrovnik.

My personal favourite is the rather puzzling, “Something smells great out there, and I found the same in Split. Can you tell me what it is?”

Of course, Dubrovnik tourist office points out that they answer all traveller queries, no matter how weird and wonderful – which is how it should be!

Dubrovnik 2009 - Old Town walls

Dubrovnik Travelogue 2009

We all get up reasonably early for the next stage of our trip, Dubrovnik. Breakfast is the first on the list of things to do for the day, however and we’re greeted by standard fare at the Palace Derossi (breakfast is included): breads, spreads, ham, cheese, sliced tomatoes, eggs, tea, coffee, juice.

After checking out at the Derossi which involved a slight delay as their credit card machine wasn’t working (though this seems to be a common problem, according to TripAdvisor…hmmmm), we again make the very short walk to the bus station.

We eagerly await the 9am bus to Dubrovnik and sit attentively to make sure we don’t miss the bus, or haven’t misunderstood the destination of a coach that’s already sitting in the station. (As it later becomes crammed with Japanese tourists, it becomes apparent that it’s a local transfer bus.)

15 minutes late, the Dubrovnik bus finally pulls into the station and 30 people suddenly emerge from nowhere (where were they hiding?!) and run to the bus, piling on it as quick as they can. Seeing as the bus seemed already completely full anyway, these extra people make it packed to the rafters and the bus driver turns us – and our large bags and backpacks – down and doesn’t let us board.

What to do? The next bus was to depart over 3 hours away, which would mean 3 less hours in Dubrovnik…and the same problem as described above might occur again! Some quick thinking by my friend means we hop onto a local bus to Split instead and try our options there. (The number 37 bus which runs from Trogir to Split – it also goes past Split Airport, so would be the local bus to take from the airport if you’re heading to either of these two destinations or somewhere in between.) This takes us to Split suburban bus station, which means we still need to hot foot it or local bus it – or taxi it, in our case because of our luggage – over to the main bus station by the port.

Arriving just 10 minutes too late for the 10.30am bus, we have no choice but to wait for the next one at 11.45am. But this does give us an opportunity to cool down with refreshing drinks at the cafe there, as well as watching all the comings and goings on the large Jadrolinija and Blueline ferries in the port.

Our 11.45am Promet Makarska bus arrives and sets off promptly – we’re on our way to Dubrovnik…finally! The journey goes fairly smoothly, aside from the stop at Makarska where far too many people get on and there’s a very minor squabble over seats. (As there’s too many passengers for seats, and some have the same seats allocated.) Most passengers disembark by the time we reach Baska Voda, so an emptier bus means an opportunity to stretch out.

We pass through the Neum Corridor (in Bosnia) on the way to Dubrovnik, and get our passports checked with a brief glance at the photo page on both entry and exit. We also stop for about 20 minutes in Neum at a small supermarket (next to a restaurant that seemed to serve giant fish – what a shame there wasn’t time to eat there!), so we stock on some snacks and drinks.

Just after 5pm – and therefore a little late – we finally arrive in the magical city of Dubrovnik. The bus station there is situated in an area of the city called Gruz, so you don’t really see much of the beauty of Dubrovnik as you arrive at this pretty standard bus station building. (As we disembark we immediately get hassled by the typical “old ladies offering rooms” – though they start to desist as a couple of policemen swiftly tell them off.)

We then head towards our accommodation, and for the only time in our trip we’re separated into two groups of two. Two of us are staying just outside the Old Town, whilst my two friends stay in the Fresh Sheets hostel right in the Old Town which, I’m told, was very nice though the walk up to it (numerous steps are involved) with heavy backpacks was the only downer!

The Old Town in Dubrovnik is truly stunning – whether you’re inside it enjoying the sights, or are viewing it from the outside. It’s really one of those places that you have to see for yourself, and I’d strongly urge everyone to do so, if they get the opportunity! I can also see why the city is so popular, as well as being busy – so do be aware that if you go in the height of summer (July and August), there will be crowds. Not quite as manic as somewhere like Venice, but still quite bustling. (Incidentally, one of our common thoughts was that Dubrovnik reminded us of Venice – without the canals, of course.)

After a walk around town, we head to the most eastern tip of the Old Town and sit by sea for a bit, enjoying the sunset and watching people go by. (We also admire a waterpolo “court” marked out in the sea there and contemplate, for a brief moment, jumping in for a game.)

As we head towards dinner, we see a “pirate” ship reenactment as pirates storm land and fling a couple of sailors into the sea. Just fun and japes though, and all in aid of a party later on that night!

Lokanda Peskarija is our choice for dinner although it seems to be everyone else’s too as we have to queue (only for about 10-15 minutes, however) to be seated. I can see the reason for the queues – the restaurant has a great location right by the harbour, and the simple menu (seafood, of course) provides delicious food too.

Our choices for the night include shrimp, prawns and mussels which were all wolfed down, helped by the usual 1 litre carafe of house wine for the table. (Upon asking for a carafe of tap water, we amusingly get told this isn’t possible as carafes are “only used for wine!”).

Post-dinner involves another ice cream walk much like in Trogir (walk in Dubrovnik + ice cream = heaven) – one scoop of ice cream is a decent 7 Kunas. Passing by St Blaise’s Church, we stumble upon a group of French students doing a little concert performance, and watch them for a while.

Deciding a little nightlife may be the order of the day, we head to Buniceva Poljana square, which seems to be the location for every bar in town. Well, not quite, but there’s certainly plenty of them here, with all of the tables (and each bar’s music) seeming to merge into one giant, bubbling mass of people in the middle of the square – so definitely the place to go for some nighttime fun in Dubrovnik. (And if you’re a lazy bar-hopper, you won’t have to travel far to make a night of it.) There is also the Trubadur Hard Jazz Cafe in one corner which plays live music, if that’s more your kind of thing.

We all opt for a drink surely no holidaymaker can resist – a giant, 4-person cocktail – before we call it a night on our first day in Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik Travelogue Day 2

Morning Sightseeing

The next day, we decide to do a bit of cultural sightseeing first off and decide to do the walk of the Dubrovnik City Walls. There’s a few entrances dotted around town, and we choose the one near Onofrio’s Great Fountain at the end of Stradun.

Purchasing tickets (50 Kunas each for adults) from a separate ticket office (not from the guy at the entrance – he’ll only turn you away!) we climb the steps to the walls. Now, we made the mistake many people do if they are there in summer – which is to do the walk in the heat of the day. This will only exhaust you, so it’s much better to go in the late afternoon. Whatever time of day you go, however, you’ll encounter little stands selling drinks and ice cream, a little café and some souvenir shops along the walk. Overall, a great bit of sightseeing in Dubrovnik; the views are simply amazing.

Beach time

Dubrovnik Travelogue 2009 - Old Town walls
View from the Old Town walls

Following a quick lunch at Konoba Amoret (more seafood – as if you couldn’t guess!) we decide the only thing we could possibly do in the afternoon was…to head to the beach for a much needed refreshing dip in the sea. Banje beach is a public beach, and very close to the Old Town (just east of it, close to Ploce Gate). As it’s a public beach, it understandably does get pretty busy but we found there was still enough room to set up camp with our towels and assorted beach items. There’s a special roped off area in the sea for swimming, so you needn’t worry about encountering speed boats and the like. And Eastwest Beach Club [now Banje Beach Club], a trendy bar (which turns into a trendy club at night) is situated right there too if you need a little light refreshment.

For dinner that night, we chose Dubrovacki Kantun which is recommended by a number of guides including Time Out Dubrovnik. Most of us go for the variation on a seafood theme (i.e. more seafood, but different choices then we’ve had before), whilst I try the “Dubrovacki sporki makaruli” (essentially pasta with chopped beef in tomato sauce), supposedly a traditional Dalmatian recipe from the 15th century.

Dubrovnik Travelogue Day 3

Day 3, sadly, doesn’t really consist of much time in Croatia as it’s the day we have to fly home. Due to various issues (availability; high flight prices), we find ourselves having to fly with Croatia Airlines to Zagreb, and then with Wizzair from there to London Luton. It all luckily runs very smoothly, including getting a taxi from Pile Gate to Dubrovnik Airport (price: 220 Kunas) and we just about have enough time at Zagreb Airport for a snack and a bit of duty-free shopping. (Tip: if you’re after magazines and newspapers – including English language ones – they’re only sold in a shop before immigration.)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where our trip sadly came to an end. All of us had a fantastic time, thoroughly enjoying ourselves at every stage, and my friends who hadn’t been to Croatia before stated that they’d definitely return very soon!

Dubrovnik 2009 - Old Town walls

Dubrovnik Travel Guide 2009

We all get up reasonably early for the next stage of our trip, Dubrovnik. Breakfast is the first on the list of things to do for the day, however and we’re greeted by standard fare at the Palace Derossi (breakfast is included): breads, spreads, ham, cheese, sliced tomatoes, eggs, tea, coffee, juice.

After checking out at the Derossi which involved a slight delay as their credit card machine wasn’t working (though this seems to be a common problem, according to TripAdvisor…hmmmm), we again make the very short walk to the bus station.

We eagerly await the 9am bus to Dubrovnik and sit attentively to make sure we don’t miss the bus, or haven’t misunderstood the destination of a coach that’s already sitting in the station. (As it later becomes crammed with Japanese tourists, it becomes apparent that it’s a local transfer bus.)

15 minutes late, the Dubrovnik bus finally pulls into the station and 30 people suddenly emerge from nowhere (where were they hiding?!) and run to the bus, piling on it as quick as they can. Seeing as the bus seemed already completely full anyway, these extra people make it packed to the rafters and the bus driver turns us – and our large bags and backpacks – down and doesn’t let us board.

What to do? The next bus was to depart over 3 hours away, which would mean 3 less hours in Dubrovnik…and the same problem as described above might occur again! Some quick thinking by my friend means we hop onto a local bus to Split instead and try our options there. (The number 37 bus which runs from Trogir to Split – it also goes past Split Airport, so would be the local bus to take from the airport if you’re heading to either of these two destinations or somewhere in between.) This takes us to Split suburban bus station, which means we still need to hot foot it or local bus it – or taxi it, in our case because of our luggage – over to the main bus station by the port.

Arriving just 10 minutes too late for the 10.30am bus, we have no choice but to wait for the next one at 11.45am. But this does give us an opportunity to cool down with refreshing drinks at the cafe there, as well as watching all the comings and goings on the large Jadrolinija and Blueline ferries in the port.

Our 11.45am Promet Makarska bus arrives and sets off promptly – we’re on our way to Dubrovnik…finally! The journey goes fairly smoothly, aside from the stop at Makarska where far too many people get on and there’s a very minor squabble over seats. (As there’s too many passengers for seats, and some have the same seats allocated.) Most passengers disembark by the time we reach Baska Voda, so an emptier bus means an opportunity to stretch out.

We pass through the Neum Corridor (in Bosnia) on the way to Dubrovnik, and get our passports checked with a brief glance at the photo page on both entry and exit. We also stop for about 20 minutes in Neum at a small supermarket (next to a restaurant that seemed to serve giant fish – what a shame there wasn’t time to eat there!), so we stock on some snacks and drinks.

Just after 5pm – and therefore a little late – we finally arrive in the magical city of Dubrovnik. The bus station there is situated in an area of the city called Gruz, so you don’t really see much of the beauty of Dubrovnik as you arrive at this pretty standard bus station building. (As we disembark we immediately get hassled by the typical “old ladies offering rooms” – though they start to desist as a couple of policemen swiftly tell them off.)

We then head towards our accommodation, and for the only time in our trip we’re separated into two groups of two. Two of us are staying just outside the Old Town, whilst my two friends stay in the Fresh Sheets hostel right in the Old Town which, I’m told, was very nice though the walk up to it (numerous steps are involved) with heavy backpacks was the only downer!

The Old Town in Dubrovnik is truly stunning – whether you’re inside it enjoying the sights, or are viewing it from the outside. It’s really one of those places that you have to see for yourself, and I’d strongly urge everyone to do so, if they get the opportunity! I can also see why the city is so popular, as well as being busy – so do be aware that if you go in the height of summer (July and August), there will be crowds. Not quite as manic as somewhere like Venice, but still quite bustling. (Incidentally, one of our common thoughts was that Dubrovnik reminded us of Venice – without the canals, of course.)

After a walk around town, we head to the most eastern tip of the Old Town and sit by sea for a bit, enjoying the sunset and watching people go by. (We also admire a waterpolo “court” marked out in the sea there and contemplate, for a brief moment, jumping in for a game.)

As we head towards dinner, we see a “pirate” ship reenactment as pirates storm land and fling a couple of sailors into the sea. Just fun and japes though, and all in aid of a party later on that night!

Lokanda Peskarija is our choice for dinner although it seems to be everyone else’s too as we have to queue (only for about 10-15 minutes, however) to be seated. I can see the reason for the queues – the restaurant has a great location right by the harbour, and the simple menu (seafood, of course) provides delicious food too.

Our choices for the night include shrimp, prawns and mussels which were all wolfed down, helped by the usual 1 litre carafe of house wine for the table. (Upon asking for a carafe of tap water, we amusingly get told this isn’t possible as carafes are “only used for wine!”).

Post-dinner involves another ice cream walk much like in Trogir (walk in Dubrovnik + ice cream = heaven) – one scoop of ice cream is a decent 7 Kunas. Passing by St Blaise’s Church, we stumble upon a group of French students doing a little concert performance, and watch them for a while.

Deciding a little nightlife may be the order of the day, we head to Buniceva Poljana square, which seems to be the location for every bar in town. Well, not quite, but there’s certainly plenty of them here, with all of the tables (and each bar’s music) seeming to merge into one giant, bubbling mass of people in the middle of the square – so definitely the place to go for some nighttime fun in Dubrovnik. (And if you’re a lazy bar-hopper, you won’t have to travel far to make a night of it.) There is also the Trubadur Hard Jazz Cafe in one corner which plays live music, if that’s more your kind of thing.

We all opt for a drink surely no holidaymaker can resist – a giant, 4-person cocktail – before we call it a night on our first day in Dubrovnik.

Day 2

The next day, we decide to do a bit of cultural sightseeing first off and decide to do the walk of the Dubrovnik City Walls. There’s a few entrances dotted around town, and we choose the one near Onofrio’s Great Fountain at the end of Stradun.

Purchasing tickets (50 Kunas each for adults) from a separate ticket office (not from the guy at the entrance – he’ll only turn you away!) we climb the steps to the walls. Now, we made the mistake many people do if they are there in summer – which is to do the walk in the heat of the day. This will only exhaust you, so it’s much better to go in the late afternoon. Whatever time of day you go, however, you’ll encounter little stands selling drinks and ice cream, a little café and some souvenir shops along the walk. Overall, a great bit of sightseeing in Dubrovnik; the views are simply amazing.

Dubrovnik Travel Guide 2009 - Old Town walls
View from the Old Town walls

Following a quick lunch at Konoba Amoret (more seafood – as if you couldn’t guess!) we decide the only thing we could possibly do in the afternoon was…to head to the beach for a much needed refreshing dip in the sea. Banje beach is a public beach, and very close to the Old Town (just east of it, close to Ploce Gate). As it’s a public beach, it understandably does get pretty busy but we found there was still enough room to set up camp with our towels and assorted beach items. There’s a special roped off area in the sea for swimming, so you needn’t worry about encountering speed boats and the like. And Eastwest Beach Club (now Banje Beach Club), a trendy bar (which turns into a trendy club at night) is situated right there too if you need a little light refreshment.

For dinner that night, we chose Dubrovacki Kantun which is recommended by a number of guides including Time Out Dubrovnik. Most of us go for the variation on a seafood theme (i.e. more seafood, but different choices then we’ve had before), whilst I try the “Dubrovacki sporki makaruli” (essentially pasta with chopped beef in tomato sauce), supposedly a traditional Dalmatian recipe from the 15th century.

Day 3

Day 3, sadly, doesn’t really consist of much time in Croatia as it’s the day we have to fly home. Due to various issues (availability; high flight prices), we find ourselves having to fly with Croatia Airlines to Zagreb, and then with Wizzair from there to London Luton. It all luckily runs very smoothly, including getting a taxi from Pile Gate to Dubrovnik Airport (price: 220 Kunas) and we just about have enough time at Zagreb Airport for a snack and a bit of duty-free shopping. (Tip: if you’re after magazines and newspapers – including English language ones – they’re only sold in a shop before immigration.)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where our trip sadly came to an end. All of us had a fantastic time, thoroughly enjoying ourselves at every stage, and my friends who hadn’t been to Croatia before stated that they’d definitely return very soon!

Photos of Dubrovnik

Croatia Travelogue 2009

After their shenanigans at the 2009 Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, Visit Croatia and three friends decided to take a short holiday in Croatia. Here’s the Croatia travelogue from that trip!

Due to the constraints of work and other usual commitments, we could only spend six days for our trip to Croatia. I know from my experiences of fielding numerous email questions along the lines of “We only have a week in Croatia; what should we see/where should we go/how many places should we visit?” that I always advise, “Try not to do/see to much – you’ll enjoy yourself more!”

Photos of Dubrovnik

The Rector’s Palace (on the right), with the Church of St Blaise seen in the distance

Looks like I didn’t really take my own advice! Part of the reason for this was that my three travel companions had never been Croatia before (in fact, most had never been to anywhere in Eastern Europe before this trip), so we were eager to see as much as we could manage. And we’re not really the kind of people who want to laze on a beach for seven days straight. AND on top of that…who can resist the charms of Dubrovnik…right?

So our chosen route was Zagreb to Trogir to Dubrovnik. Here are our experiences in those three places!

  • Zagreb
    Two nights in the capital of Croatia sees us enjoying this bustling city with a walk around the main sights in the Lower and Upper Towns, and frequent stops at the many cafes!
  • Dubrovnik
    We enjoy this truly stunning city and the sights of the Old Town. Just a shame we’re only here for two nights!

If you’d like to see some photos taken during our trip, please see: