Dubrovnik is well-known throughout the world as a summer destination, but have you ever thought about visiting in the winter. The Jetsetting Fools did and we caught up with them to find out why Dubrovnik is a city for all seasons.
Tell me a little about the Jetsetting Fools. Are you professional travel bloggers, writers and journalists? Why did you decide to make this life choice? We are Sarah and Kris – better known as JetSetting Fools. We became full-time travel bloggers in April 2014 and we have no plans of stopping any time soon! We are intent on navigating the corners of the earth to discover places we never knew existed, interact with fascinating cultures and meet extraordinary people. For our readers, we provide travel stories, information, advice and tips on sights and walking tours, but include off-the-beaten-path adventures, history and culture along the way.
How did you start this journey and became the JetSetting Fools? We both have long had a passion for travel and travelled extensively together, but our travelling was limited to weekends and short vacations. Like most of our off-the-wall (yet fabulous) ideas, we hatched our plan to travel the world over a pitcher of beer. It was 4th of July weekend 2011 and we were escaping the oppressive Phoenix summer heat with a quick trip to the California coast. At the time, we were travelling as often as our schedules would allow us and with Kris’s job with the airline, free flights made travelling easy. We both have a passion for discovering new places and meeting new people. And, while Kris loved his industry and I loved my job, we were both running ragged. With my job, I was on 24/7, focusing the majority of my attention on work, rather than on living life. That day, sitting in a tavern in Manhattan Beach, we drained one pitcher and ordered up another and started playing the ‘What if’ game. What if we could go anywhere, where would we go? What if we had more vacation time? What if we didn’t have jobs? What if we saved money and budgeted our travel? If we did, how much could we save and how long could we travel on it? I grabbed a cocktail napkin and we ran the numbers. If we continued to save money for two years and remain in our situation (no kids, no debt and a fairly inexpensive lifestyle) the dream of travelling the world for 3-5 years was actually attainable. When we walked out of the bar, I walked away with a plan; Kris still called it a dream. As the weeks and months rolled by, the plan stayed intact. Rather than going shopping for new clothes that I didn’t really need, I would put the money into my savings account. We started doing research, seeking out other people who quit their jobs to travel the world. In April 2014, my plan and Kris’s dream became a reality. We left our jobs (Kris took early retirement, thus keeping his coveted travel benefits) and set out on our journey.
I believe you have been to Dubrovnik before, how has the city changed, if at all. Did you visit before in the summer season? Since our first visit to Dubrovnik in October 2011, we have returned three times…but never in the summer. We have noticed a few changes in the city – like the popularity of Game of Thrones tours – but, we’ve noticed the biggest change between seasons. When we have visited in the spring or fall, the city is full of tourists, but not crowded. During the winter, the city is vacant of tourists…and many restaurants and shops are closed because of that. On the other hand, the winter is when locals return to the Old Town, which is a nice change of perspective from our point of view.
How difficult was it for you to actually get to Dubrovnik at this time of the year? We travelled to Dubrovnik from Kotor, Montenegro by bus and it was our easiest travel day to date. The bus travels between the two cities twice a day (morning and afternoon). It was affordable, spacious and comfortable – and the views throughout the trip were amazing. We were glued to the window the entire trip. We travelled on a Friday afternoon and feared a bit of a delay at the border crossing, but had absolutely no wait. The process was seamless. We had done just a bit of research prior to arriving, and were able to easily locate the local bus stop, purchase tickets in advance and hop on one of the several buses to the Pile Gate.
What were your first impressions as you arrived in a wintery Dubrovnik? We arrived during a glorious sunset and the entire city was cast in an orange hue. We thought, “This is winter? It’s beautiful.” We were slightly surprised at the number of eating establishments that were closed for the off-season, but understandably so as the lack of tourists is quite noticeable. On the other hand, strolling down the Stradun amongst locals, rather than in a herd of hurried tourists has been wonderful. The weather is about what we expected: mostly sunny with a few periods of rain. It is too cool to hop in the sea for a swim, but it’s also not dreadfully hot and humid which make other outdoor activities (like hiking or even just visiting the sights) much more enjoyable. In our nine months of travels, we have intentionally visited cities in the off-season, so we’ve become accustomed to less activity. We actually prefer it. It gives us an opportunity to better understand the daily lives of the people and places we are visiting. Restaurants and bars are filled with locals instead of other tourists. We are able to interact more with the people who are actually from the city ~ learning about the customs and culture from them rather than from a book.
How have you found the tourist offer in the close season? Was there something that you would like to see that you think would improve our winter offer. As far as we can tell, the same offerings are available now as in the high season regarding sights. We’ve even taken note of the effort made to engage more winter travellers. We, unfortunately, discovered the free tour a day too late (our own fault for not doing research ahead of time!), but that is something we definitely would have participated in. As long-term budget travellers, we are not able to partake in as many for-pay activities as the short-term tourist. Seeing that many budget conscious people purposely travel in the off-season, having a more deeply discounted Dubrovnik Card or free admission days/times to specific sights might be a way of enticing more people to come during the lesser-visited months.
Would you recommend potential tourists to come to Dubrovnik out of season? Definitely. For people who like less crowds, the ability to experience the same offerings as the high-season and cooler, but still beautiful, weather, this is an ideal city to travel to in the off-season.