How to survive in Dubrovnik on a budget
April 8, 2019
by Sonja Kamenov
In my opinion, Dubrovnik is the most beautiful Croatian summer destination and no wonder that’s one of the most visited places in Croatia. We spent our last summer there, in a small town 20 minutes from Dubrovnik, Zaton Mali. This is a short guide on how to avoid tourist jams and how to not leave a fortune in Dubrovnik.
1) A small town is better than a big city
It’s a good idea to spend your summer holidays next to the big city such as Dubrovnik, but not exactly in it. In a smaller town, you’ll have your peace and quiet, but you’ll easily be able to sit in your car or a local bus and reach Dubrovnik. In a town Zaton Mali, we could always find a hidden corner on the coast just for us two. However, in the small towns on the Croatian coast, there is usually only one store selling everything (groceries, cosmetics or cleaning products) and those shops are usually pricey. It’s good to do a big shopping once a week in big supermarket chains in Dubrovnik. There is a large Konzum just next to the bus station Gruž in Dubrovnik, where you can shop not even entering in the crowds in the city center.
2) Dubrovnik restaurants
There are a few places in Dubrovnik, outside of the city walls (or even inside), where you can find good food for decent prices. Everybody recommended me a restaurant Dubravka 1836 above the Pile Gate, which is one of the nice restaurants for a good price. Pizza and pasta cost less than 13€, you can get dagnje na buzaru (traditional Croatian dish – mussels in a white sauce made of wine, garlic, parsley, and olive oil) for 11€, whole fish for 20€ and meat dishes for 24€. For a 0,5L of beer, you’ll pay 8€ (the usual price of beer in the city center), a glass of wine for about the same price and a cup of coffee for less than 3€. The restaurant is pretty popular and it’s always filled with people, so make sure you get a seat. They also have a big terrace just in front of the city walls.
But we discovered a small konoba (typical Dalmatian name for something between a bistro and a restaurant) with a big terrace in the city harbor – Lokanda. On their menu, you can find mostly fish and seafood dishes. The three of us ordered a fish plate for 2 people containing mussels, grilled calamari, shrimps, small Mediterranean sand smelts (in local name girice) and two more types of sea fish. As a side dish, you’ll get fresh bread, which you can dip into buzara sauce. The price of a plate was about 36€.
However, if you’re a meat eater, there is a good Bosnian restaurant in the Nikole Gučetića street in the city center with an interesting name – Taj Mahal. Their offer includes typical Bosnian meals like ćevapi, pljeskavice, sarme, and other specialties, but also a big choice of vegetarian dishes. You can find the Taj Mahal restaurant also in the hotel Lero outside of the city walls, where they have a larger choice of meals. The average price of a dish is around 20€.
Inside the city walls, the average price of a pizza is 12€. However, we decided to take pizza to go and eat it in our apartment in Zaton, so we bought it near the bus station Gruž, in the bistro bar and pizzeria Piccolo for 8.5€ each. Pizzeria Piccolo also offers seafood, pasta, ćevapčići (10€), pljeskavica (9.5€) and tuna steak (12€) – something for everybody.
3) Cafés and bars
My friend, who was born in Dubrovnik brought us to the Tinel bar in a small alley street beyond the Dubrovnik’s main street Stradun. It’s a place where local people mostly go. You can choose if you want to sit inside, on the small terrace or on the red pillows on the stairs that lead from Stradun up the heel. Interesting „chairs“ and truly local experience. The price of a coffee in Tinel is 1,5€ and the beer costs about 3€.
If you’re a beer lover, you will most certainly like the Beer Factory in Miha Pracata street with about 30 different beers for an average price of 4€, large burgers and something to bite (ham and cheese plate, etc.). The bar has a charming inner yard where you can spend a relaxing evening with your friends.
But my favorite bar in Dubrovnik is definitely Art Café (Ulica branitelja Dubrovnika 25) above the Pile Gate, because of its original and colorful design. It’s a small café during the day and a cocktail bar in the evening (opened until 2 a.m.), where every chair is painted in different color and you can sit in a purple or pink bath instead of a sofa. Near the entrance, there is a bar and a small street terrace, but the real pearl is the inner terrace, hidden in the trees and bushes, which offers you a relaxing atmosphere. The menu is made in the form of an old cassette and in it, you’ll find a coffee for 2€, delicious morning smoothies or a large choice of cocktails.
4) Game of Thrones tour
Some of the filming locations of the popular Game of Thrones series are in Dubrovnik – the Red Keep, famous „walk of shame“ scene, etc. If you’re a true Game of Thrones fan, you can either buy a guided tour (from 20€ to 60€) to the locations to hear the stories behind the set and other interesting facts, or you can google the filming locations and try to find it on your own. If you want to take home a memory of the visited GOT sights, I would recommend a small souvenir shop called Iron Throne above the Stradun street (Boškovićeva 7), where you can even take a photo on the replica of the Iron Throne.
5) Thursday is a cruiser day
They’ve warned us about the millions of tourists in Dubrovnik and the big crowds, in which you can get stuck. But the truth is that walking on the main Dubrovnik’s street Stradun, you always have a possibility to turn into a side-way alley, which is almost empty during the day (especially during lunchtime), for a short break. The only important thing to remember is that on Thursday, all of the cruisers stop by in Dubrovnik harbor and it WILL be crowded, especially around the Pile Gate, where all of the tourist buses are stopping.
6) Other ways to save some kuna (Croatian currency)
Considering, that we were paying a bus ticket from Zaton to Dubrovnik 1,50€, we were surprised by the even higher price of the local city bus (2€). You can save some money by buying the ticket on the counter (above the Pile Gate, next to the large Tisak shop) and not directly on the bus. Another option is to walk, which will take you half an hour. The entrance to Dubrovnik city walls costs 29€ per person, but you can enter a small fort Lovrijenac for just 7€.
Those were my pieces of advice on how to visit Dubrovnik on a budget. Hopefully, they’ll be useful to you.