The Budget Traveler’s Guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia

I’ll admit, I was a bit shocked at just how expensive Dubrovnik was. I loved every second of my time there, but as a budget traveler, I had to be more careful to make sure my money didn’t vanish into thin air. After leaving Greece, I was enjoying a more budget-friendly galavant around the Balkans. Countries like Albania and Bosnia were easy on the wallet. I knew Croatia would be pricier, but it still surprised me. I mean, a hostel was charging $150 for a bed in a 12-bed dorm. That’s almost a month’s accommodation in Albania! It doesn’t get much crazier than that.

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Dubrovnik was rough on the wallet. That part isn’t avoidable. However, it doesn’t have to be utterly devastating. I spent nearly a week in Dubrovnik. As the week wore on, I continued to find new ways to make Dubrovnik more affordable. Here’s the low-down on how to keep the costs down low in King’s Landing.

How To Find Cheap Accommodation in Dubrovnik

Let’s start with the biggest thing you’ll be spending your money on in Dubrovnik. There’s basically one key rule, and it goes against my usual style of travel.

Book Accommodation in Advance

I’m not much of a planner, but you’ll absolutely need to book accommodation in Dubrovnik in advance if you don’t want to get screwed. This is how people end up paying over 100 euros for a hostel bed. Dubrovnik is an insanely popular travel destination, especially during the summer. If you know your travel dates already, book a hostel or hotel as far in advance as possible. If you’re playing things by ear, still try to book a few days in advance. Booking things last-minute is a great way to guarantee that you’re left with a meager selection of overpriced places. Aside from being more expensive, it can also be extremely inconvenient. You might find yourself booking a crappy hostel way out of town just because it’s all that’s available. 

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Try To Split Apartments or Airbnbs Instead of Hostels

As a solo traveler, it is often a given that I end up in a hostel bed wherever I travel to. It is usually cheaper booking an individual bed than an entire room if you’re alone. If you’re traveling with a few people, booking hostel beds for all of you can be more expensive than just splitting an entire apartment. I split a six-person apartment and it cost each of us $27 per person per night. That’s cheaper than the average hostel in Dubrovnik. Gather some travel friends and look up apartments. It might actually save you money to book a nicer private apartment than a shared hostel bed.

Book Accommodation Outside of Old Town

If you’re only in Dubrovnik for a couple of days, it makes sense to be in the heart of it all. Dubrovnik’s Old Town is one of the most beautiful in the world. My first time entering the gates of Old Town, I simply stopped and thought, “yeah okay, I get it.” Tourist crowds and everything, it’s just special and unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been before.

I stayed close to Old Town for two days, but got priced out of the area as I failed to book places in advance. Even then, the place I booked cost $100 a night and was basically three twin beds in a tiny room and not much else. I fled to the Labad neighborhood where accommodation was cheaper and offered much more value for the price paid. Along the beach, things were more expensive, but still not anywhere near the prices that you’ll find in Old Town Dubrovnik. The best part of this area is that it’s still only a short Uber ride or a quick bus ride away from everywhere you’d want to go.

That brings me to the next topic.

How To Get Around Dubrovnik on a Budget

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Public Transportation in Dubrovnik

I’m the type of traveler to swear by public transportation, and it’s no different in Dubrovnik. It’s great not to need transportation at all to and from Old Town, but if you want to save a ton of money on accommodation, just take that 10-15 minute bus ride from wherever you’re staying. From Labad and the marina, it was only a 10-15 minute bus ride away to Old Town. It costs about $2 each way to get to and from Old Town. Basically, for the price of $4 and 20 minutes of your time, you can save a ton of money on accommodation or get a much nicer place for the same price as you would for a closet in old town.

Figuring out the public transportation system in Dubrovnik is also a great way to explore beyond the typical tourist fare. While most people will spend their time in Old Town, there are actually plenty of amazing day trips to do from Dubrovnik, as well. From secret beaches to stunning islands to cute villages, it’s definitely worth exploring outside of Dubrovnik.

Using Uber and Taxis in Dubrovnik

If you’re feeling lazy, Uber is a great option for Dubrovnik. Since I was traveling with friends, it was often cheaper to split an Uber between 3 or 4 people than it was to all take the bus. None of my Ubers ever cost more than $10 to get to and from Old Town, even when prices were higher during high demand times.

Taxis can also be quite cheap. The host at our apartment gave us the run down of taxi prices to and from Old Town and it worked out to be just over the price of an Uber. Between four of us, it was also the same price as a bus. If you know the prices that you’re supposed to pay, a taxi can be a great way to get around. You don’t have to wait for your Uber, and it can be just as cheap as the bus. Obviously, some taxi drivers will try to overcharge you. That’s when that local knowledge comes in handy. Be sure to ask your host or receptionist what prices you should expect to pay, and stick to your guns when negotiating with the taxi driver.

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Food on a Budget in Dubrovnik

My first meal in Dubrovnik was in Old Town. Around dinnertime, it was absolutely packed. A lot of the better restaurants will require reservations, and you might struggle finding anywhere to eat. Seriously, it took about 20 minutes of wandering before finding an open table. We eventually settled for a tavern with some seafood options. We each paid about $20 for a drink and a plate that was more plate than food. That was the only meal that I ate in Old Town that week. Granted, most of my meals were drunk meals at the Snogu wok spot after Revelin, but that’s beside the point.

If you want to save money on food in Dubrovnik, look to the bakeries and the supermarkets. Bakeries (or pekaras) were my life saver throughout the Balkans. In Bosnia, 50 cent byreks made up the entirety of my diet. They were a bit more expensive in Croatia, but a big, flaky $1.50-2.00 spinach and cheese-filled pastry still does the trick. Basically, if you’re fine with eating to satisfy your hunger as opposed to eating to enjoy yourself, Dubrovnik can be done on a budget.

Just like accommodation, restaurants outside of Old Town will be much cheaper. I was still spending around $10 per meal, but the food was actually good and the prices were more reasonable. I was a big fan of Urban and Veggie by the marina, and Shizuku for sushi in Labad Bay.

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Nightlife in Dubrovnik on a Budget

Dubrovnik is a party capital of Croatia. If it’s not the best place to party in Croatia, it’s certainly top three. I’ll admit, Hvar might take the crown, but Dubrovnik still knows how to party. There are so many cool bars and clubs here, you won’t want to miss out. I frequented Revelin and Lazareti more times than I’d like to admit, but they’re just that fun. Revelin is a can’t-miss, even though you do have to pay about $15-30 for cover. If you come early and come drunk, it is worth it.

I’d recommend pre-gaming by buying a bottle of liquor at the supermarket and roaming around Old Town before hitting the bars and clubs. You’ll be paying a ton of money for drinks at the clubs, so showing up nice and drunk already is a good strategy. Lazareti is one of my favorite clubs that doesn’t charge a cover.

And hey, if you’d like to skip the clubs entirely, you can always just go straight to the after party. Port Porporela is where the drunk masses head to once the clubs shut down. It’s nothing too exciting, but people will bring their speakers and play their own music. Bring your own speaker, or find some people that match your vibe, and keep the party going for as long as you want it to.

Dubrovnik is a bumpin’ time. It’s a bucket list destination for any type of traveler. Don’t miss out on this incredible city just because you don’t think you can afford it. It is on the pricier end, but it is absolutely worth visiting. I was expecting Dubrovnik to be overrated and overhyped, but damn, did I end up loving the place.

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