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The Ferry from Bari in Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia
From Sorrento in Italy, we headed across country Bari to catch the ferry over to Dubrovnik. The ferry crossing was 9 hours and cost £300 with the motorhome. We chose an overnight ferry so that we could sleep for most of the journey.
What was really surprising on the journey was the huge amount of rubbish dumped in the laybys of the Italian dual carriageways. It seemed to be that they were flytipping every layby we passed. The photo to the right shows one of the lay-bys but it was one of the better ones.
The further inland we went the scenery started to change from beautiful mountain ranges to quite a flat landscape, although the wildflowers on the side of the road and the poppy fields were eye-catching.
Once we got to the ferry port we had to get out and queue at the check-in for an hour. It’s a good job we arrived in good time. We took passports over then had to go back to get all our original documents for the motorhome, log book, insurance and mot certificate. They were very thorough which we weren’t expecting After that things started to happen very quickly. we had hoped to grab something to eat but no sooner were we back in the motorhome than they were getting us to board at 7 pm for a 10 pm crossing.
We boarded and dropped our bag in the cabin before going to the bar to find a comfy for the few hours before bed. We still had two and a half hours before we even set sail so I made a few phone calls while it was still quiet and before the bar filled up too much. .Once all the loud Italians started to come in the noise level rose considerably and became a bit intolerable (which makes me feel really old saying that and I can just hear our kids saying – “well that’s because you are old”)
We had splashed out an extra £50 for a 2 birth cabin which was the size of a shoebox with a bunk bed, chair and a basin. We wanted a cabin with a toilet but as we booked so late they were all sold out.
Just after 11 pm, we retired to our cabin (ahhh blissful silence). Our cabin was 2 floors below the car deck and down lots of really steep steps. As I was feeling nervous I just changed into joggers and t-shirt instead of my usual nightdress as I wanted to be able to move quickly without having to get dressed if the alarm went off (I think it was something to do with having the Costa Concordia disaster at the forefront my mind). We both didn’t sleep that well probably because we were in bunk beds which were a bit strange and the various sounds like the bow crashing into the waves which weren’t particularly comforting. I did wonder how I was going to survive the night and couldn’t stop planning my escape route although, in the end, I think we did manage to get a few hours’ sleep.
Eventually, our alarm went off at 6.30am and we went up to the restaurant to claim our free breakfast before docking at 8 am.
We stood out on deck as we approached Dubrovnik looking out to the Adriatic Sea which was gleaming under the waking sun. With the beautiful backdrop of the mountains, it was absolutely stunning. The port of Dubrovnik is such a pretty palm-fringed harbour that we immediately felt relaxed and so happy to be there. It certainly beats Dover – with its backdrop of crates and dismal buildings. Luckily we had not put the documents back in the safe so they were still on hand to show to customs when we were stopped as we went to leave the port at Dubrovnik.
Camping Solitudo was just a short 5-minute drive from the port. (More information on the campsite click here)
We were sitting outside the motorhome with a cup of tea by 8.35am but the journey and lack of a total sleep took it out of us and we both ended up sleeping for the rest of the morning in our own bed. We did feel it was a bit of a waste of a morning but we felt so much better for it by late afternoon and wandered down to the beach bar just outside the site and spent a very relaxing couple of hours with a glass of wine watching the boats and cruise ships going in and out of the harbour.
The campsite was very conveniently located for getting into the City of Dubrovnik as just a short walk up a hill just outside the site was a bus stop where we caught a number 6 bus. The buses run regularly every 15 minutes and the bus stops were easy to spot. We purchased our bus tickets from the campsite reception and by doing this we have learnt that you can save a little money and saves you trying to find the right change. When you get on the bus you have to validate the ticket in the automated machine and from there you have an hour’s use.
As with Italy, people don’t form a nice orderly queue in-fact the queue resembles more of a rugby scrum, with arms and legs going everywhere.
Dubrovnik is an enchanting medieval city perched beside the azure ocean. The entire city is so unique and full of many ancient buildings that it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. It has been described as one of the most, if not THE most beautiful walled cities in the world.
It is a very popular tourist resort and tends to get a lot more crowded than anywhere else in Croatia that we have visited.
It was especially crowded the day we went in around the bus area where the buses and coaches unload and pick up tourists. This was because there were a couple of cruise ships docked. The coaches were queued right up the hill.
We stopped off for a coffee and by the time we started to walk through the Old City Gate the crowds had thinned out a bit and one of the cruise ships sailed out of port. We visited in May and the crowds surprised us but don’t let this put you off as Dubrovnik is definitely worth a visit. If you want to move around freely then April early May before the height of the season and September would probably be the best months to visit.
We explored the old Town starting from the Old City Gate. As you pass through the gate into the pedestrian street ahead you are in the main street which is full of souvenir shops, restaurants and ice cream stores. The city centre is completely pedestrianized which makes it much easier and more relaxing for taking in your surroundings.
We wandered around the marbled cobblestoned alleys and explored the tiny shops. It was a particularly hot day with the sun beating down so we decided to walk along the top of the city walls the next day. You can climb the many stairs and walk the 2 km walk all the way around Dubrovnik on the fortress walls. The views of the city and the wall itself is very impressive. The best time to go is first thing in the morning before the crowds and the heat as there is not a lot of shade up there.
A place to go for a really spectacular view of the city is to the top of Mount Srd overlooking the old town. You can ride a cable car to the very top for views of the Dubrovnik and the surrounding islands as far as the eye can see. This is where the famous cross stands (damaged in the 90’s war but fully restored.
If you are into churches and museums then there are several you can visit in the old town to learn about the history of the city.
We also went into Dubrovnik to see the city by night when it was less crowded and it looked really magical. We had a drink at one of the bars and got chatting to a Swedish couple on the next table to us who were holidaying in Dubrovnik for a week. Andy and Christina spoke very good English and we really got on well, in fact, we were speaking to them for about an hour and a half. Andy was a retired GP and Christina a nurse who were both now breeding Icelandic horses.
For those interested, inside the walls, there are several nightclubs including one called Revelin that is actually inside part of the Old Town Walls. Girls can be seen walking the main streets handing out fliers for the clubs.
Although there are plenty of beaches in and around Dubrovnik there are very few that are true sandy beaches which is the case with all of Croatia. The vast majority of beaches are either light shingle or pebbles. I thought I would find this a problem as I do like a nice sandy beach but the place is so beautiful that it really doesn’t matter. We have now bought ourselves some rubber shoes for 5 euros each and use those when we go into the sea.
Dubrovnik has the cream of Croatia’s five-star hotels and attracts the most notable celebrities. With the opening of the cable car to Mount Srd and continuing talk of a golf course, Dubrovnik is expanding its attractions beyond the Old Town.
When to go
Dubrovnik is such a popular tourist destination in Europe that if you want to avoid the crowds
It is best to avoid the height of the season which is from the middle of June until the end of August as the city can be very overcrowded, both with tourists and cruise ship passengers.
It’s no fun if you can’t move around freely. My advice is to visit either May or September.
September is a good month if you want to swim in the sea as in May the sea could still be cold. October and November are still good months to visit as the weather is normally still mild and warm.
The public bus service is operated by the public company “Libertas” and is the bus service in the city. Their buses are all painted bright orange with the Libertas logo on them so they are easy to spot. They are lovely comfortable buses most are quite new and many have air-conditioning as well.
The cheapest way to buy a bus ticket is from your hotel or camping reception, kiosks (tisak) or tourist agencies. The price is about 12 kunas. When you get on the bus you simply validate the ticket in the automated machine and you have an hour’s use. Don’t forget to validate it though otherwise, you’ll be liable for a fine. You can buy a ticket on the bus, from the bus driver, the standard price is 15 kunas. A day card with unlimited rides is 30kunas. The buses run from every 10 minutes to every half an hour. They start at 5 am and finish around midnight.
For detailed information about timetables see the Libertas website.
There are so many amazing places to visit in Croatia that we sometimes hire a car.
Beware of black spines of the Croatian Sea Urchin
I recommend if you are going to swim in the sea that you purchase a pair of slip on rubber shoes which are sold in many of the beach shops.
On many beaches, especially isolated ones or ones with many rocks you may come across the Croatian sea urchin. They are black, have a round body and are covered with sharp spines on the outside. If you happen to step on one of them the spines break and penetrate deep into the tissue of your foot and can stay there causing further complications, (swelling constant pain etc). If this happens the wound needs to be sterilized with alcohol or antiseptic and you would need to take out the spines with a sterile needle. You would then need to protect the wound with sterile gauze and a plaster. If you see any signs of infection you should contact a health professional.