Dubrovnik is one of the most popular and attractive city for visitors to Croatia besides Split. Given the city’s far flung location from Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, we were initially hesitant of visiting it. After all, shuttle flight services were cancelled during low season (we visited in November) which caused us some logistical issue. Also, we weren’t able to plan for any en-route attractions for the long drive there. However, the review of Dubrovnik was too good for us to resist plus the idea of having to drive through Bosnia kind of excites us.
Planning our drive to Dubrovnik
Between Zagreb and Dubrovnik, it will take us 6 hours to drive. Thus, that option was out. The next best choice was to drive from either Zadar (4 hours) or Split (3 hours). We finally decided to drove off from Zadar so that we will have a shorter distant to cover on our way back to Zagreb via Split.
To “steal” some time to further explore Zadar and to do some last minutes shopping, instead of taking road E65/D8 (duded as Europe’s most beautiful coastal road) all the way, we mixed it with the A1 highway (toll payable).
[Thinking of driving the D8 but wasn’t sure? We will be sharing our driving experience on this road soon. Check back or follow us on Facebook!]
Crossing Bosnian Border
Now, this is one very unique experience. In order to get to Dubrovnik, we had to cross over a small stretch of land called Neum that belongs to Bosnia. This unusual arrangement between Bosnia and Croatia resulted from their complicated past.
Bosnia is definitely not a pleasant country to cross into. In fact, we were quite worried prior to our trip. However, having done that, the 5 mins drive was a no fan-fare. On leaving Croatia and entering Bosnia, authorities from both sides checked our passports (EU residents can breeze through at the EU line) without stamping. On leaving Bosnia and entering Croatia, the Bosnian authorities didn’t bother to check while the Croatian authorities did a more thorough check before stamping on our passports.
Driving in Neum
We don’t remember seeing any signpost pointing to Dubrovnik along this road. But, you can’t get lost. Just drive straight along the coast that boast fantastic view of the Adriatic sea.
There is a public toilet (look out for the many tour buses parked there), one small shop very popular with tourist buying cheaper liquor and cigarettes, and a couple of cafes selling roast lamb.
After re-entering Croatia, we were glad that we heed the advice of fellow travellers warning on speed checks by traffic police. They (the Croatian authorities) are dead serious about speed control on this stretch of the road. Despite the low season, throughout the 60 km drive, we encountered 4-5 traffic police cars and that’s really a lot!
Parking in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik’s popularity and fame with tourist naturally translate to exorbitant parking charges. In fact, it is regarded as the Croatian city with the highest (and most expensive) parking. So, forget about finding free parking here.
Garage parking near Pile Gate
This parking garage has the shortest walking distant (5 mins) into the main street of the old city via Pile Gate.
The road is also the easiest to walk as most part of it is flat with just a gentle slope and has minimal stairs to climb. There are also many restaurants and souvenir shops here. All these meant that the road is always busy with cars, public and tour buses (even at 9 pm); and pedestrians. For the convenience and liveliness, parking in this garage comes with a hefty price tag. It is in fact the most expensive in Dubrovnik.
Public Parking Garage
This one is about 25 mins walk on flat road with some steeper up slope to the entrance of Ploce Gate.
Because we arrived around 7 pm, the road is quite dark and quiet which was a little unnerving. Thankfully, we met a friendly local who advice us to follow the pointers on the floor to the Ploce Gate and descend to the old city from there.
Ploce Gate is at the top of the old city. To reach the main street, we need to climb down this long flight of stairs with our luggage (about 5 mins). Along the way from the garage to this gate, there are about 4 other such stairways. We were really tempted to just take any of them especially when there is a steep slope ahead of us. We were glad that we took the friendly advice of that stranger after exploring the place the next morning. The other stairways are not only darker and quieter, they led into the neighbourhood instead of the old city. And there isn’t any signage guiding to the old city in the neighbourhood despite it having many turns. Imagine getting lost with all that luggage!
So, were all these hassle worthwhile for us? Well, it is the cheapest overnight garage parking here…can’t complain.
There are numerous surface parking surrounding the city wall and they charge on an hourly basis. They are suitable if you are visiting the old city for just a couple of hours. For overnight parking, it is cheaper to park in a garage.
There is a huge one immediately outside Ploce Gate and another smaller scale one outside Pile Gate. We weren’t sure how to get into these parking spaces on the day we arrived due to a road closure, and our GPS wasn’t able to figure the alternative route. So, if you intend to drive to Dubrovnik, park at the one outside Pile Gate to unload your luggage. Thereafter, proceed to leave your car in the garage of your choice.