Ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik


Fancy seeing two of the more interesting corners of Europe – Italy’s Puglia region and Croatia’s Dalmatian coast – in one trip? It’s easy with the Bari to Dubrovnik ferry across the Adriatic.

The Croatian shipping company Jadrolinija makes the Bari to Dubrovnik crossing four times a week in summer, less often in off-season. The nine-hour journey departs from Italy’s 9th largest city, Bari, at 10pm arriving in beautiful Dubrovnik at 7am.

But first things first, Bari. Guidebooks describe it as the kind of place you might not want to hang around in – and they’re probably right. To be fair, we only had four hours there, it was raining and we were tired, but it looked the kind of place even the staunchest Italophile would struggle to say anything positive about.

We walked from the train station, through the grid of streets that make up the new town, avoiding a thunderstorm and a demonstration held by African asylum seekers in southern Italy. Once you cross Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, you’re in Bari’s Old City – a maze of tiny alleyways famed for being one of the easiest places to get lost in Italy.

It’s also one of the hardest places to find a bar. We wandered around with trolley suitcases on the cobbles in the rain for almost an hour before we found one – the kind of bar you’d normally not consider stopping at, but we were happy to grab a table, have a few bottles of Peroni and a microwaved slice of Focaccia each.

Two and a half hours before our scheduled 10pm departure, we got to the entrance to the port – more than enough time to check-in, board the ferry and relax right? Wrong.

This was the most stressful, pointless and disorganised check-in procedure I’ve ever come across in a developed country and makes Ryanair’s boarding process look a doddle.

We joined the “Croatia” queue but realised something was wrong when everyone else in our queue had boarding passes. When I booked the tickets I was given a voucher, but not proper boarding passes – exchanging voucher for boarding pass is something no-one tells you about, and no-one helps you with, least of all staff at the Jadrolinija office who were absolutely bloody useless. A Japanese tourist told us where to go, but when she said the ticket office we need is 3km away, our hearts sank.

When it got to 21:15 we were convinced we’d miss the ferry, but then a free shuttle bus turned up to take us to the ticket office on the other side of Bari. By the time we arrived, there was no-one else queuing so we quickly swapped our vouchers for boarding passes, jumped back on the bus and went back to Terminal 1. The queue for passport control seemed to go on forever, and then unbelievably when we had cleared that we were told that the ferry left from a different terminal another 1km away.

Once on board, we were so shattered we couldn’t face sleeping in our allocated airline seats so asked about upgrading to a cabin at the ship’s reception. For €65 we could have a cramped bunk-bedded box with breakfast, or for €100 we could have an en-suite room. Bunk beds it was.

We’d spent all our euros by this point, so I got my credit card out and hoped they’d accept it on what looked a pretty run-down ship. The receptionist looked as though he’d never seen a credit card before and began to panic, but then took out one of those old fashioned card swiping machines that produces receipts in triplicate. The cost of the room took two months to appear on the credit card bill, so I had hoped we’d got away with it.

We dumped our bags in our shoebox for the night, and went out to see what our liner had to offer in terms of entertainment. First stop was the self service restaurant. There was actually no food available, just three cans of Coke. The ship’s on-board duty free was just as sparse, with no more than ten bottles of cheap local spirits left in the whole shop.

I guess this is how it felt in the days of communism and food rationing. It also explained why nearly everyone apart from us had brought picnics along with them. Luckily, we found a bar of melting Milka chocolate for sale, took that back to the cabin and crashed out for the night.

We were woken at around 6am by a member of staff knocking on all the cabin doors. After ‘enjoying’ one of the worst breakfasts of all time (stale bread, congealed egg, weak tea), we joined the rest of the passengers on deck taking in the fresh air on our final approach to Croatia.

The views of the islands along the Dalmatian coast as we entered Dubrovnik’s port made the stress and lack of sleep all worth it.

A taxi from the port in the Gruz area to Pile Gate just outside the pedestrianized Old Town costs 80kn (£10), so you can enjoy a better breakfast on Stradun before the crowds arrive.

Inspired?
If you fancy making this trip, you can find more information at Jadrolinija’s website here which has an English section.

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Categories: Bosnia and Croatia, ItalyTags: , , ,

25 comments

  1. Inspired? lol. Yeah, inspired to catch a plane 😉

    • I didn’t sell it well then?! If I could have flown from Bari I would have done, but I think the nearest airport to do that route was Bologna.

      • Well I guess it’s a case of if you know what to expect, that kind of journey would go a lot smoother. So now I know what to expect thanks to you. If I ever do it I’ll remember to BYO sustenance 🙂 Or maybe as these areas get more popular, standards will improve. There’s always that.

  2. That journey sound absolutely brutal. I definitely think that the culture difference between Northern Europe and Southern Europe has to be one of the starkest in the world. Any semblance of a ‘pan-European’ identity goes out the window when you attempting to do anything slightly organised in Southern Europe.

    How easy is it to get to Southern Italy? And is it cheap?

    • Ryanair fly to Bari and Brindisi from Stansted or from the north, easyjet fly to Naples. Puglia’s pretty pricey, especially the touristy areas but Naples and Sicily are a lot more manageable.

  3. Glad you made it despite the carry on with the boarding pass! You warned me about this, so I was prepared when I got the ferry from Bari to Albania, but it was still stressful. There was no information about where to go.
    I waited for ages at the desk for the ferry company – signage indicated this was the place. The lights were on but nobody was home. As time went on I found somebody to ask and he just shrugged, “you have to go to the other ticket office” Yes, this was 3km away and i had to get a bus there. I also went through the same fear of thinking I would miss the boat!
    My boat to Albania was also old and short on facilities, but I enjoyed the Communist era feeling of the decor. I found a wall mural that had the word “Leningrad” in cyrillic script.

    • I’ve only just got over that boarding process. Reckon if we complain to the port authorities they’ll do something about it? No, me neither! Hope Albania was good – looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

  4. The last time I was in Croatia, it was Yugoslavia. Sounds like it still is.

  5. I’m not a ferry lover at the best of times but you’ve not persuaded me to change my mind here! Good story to look back on though even if it was a nightmare at the time.

  6. Hi! this sounds like a nice journey – I also don’t like ferry-trips too much 🙂 cant wait to read about your stay in Dubrovnik!

  7. Hi Richard. I have just returned from Puglia and remembered this post and your opinion of Bari.
    I had a few days there and I am going to disagree with your assessment of the city.
    I didn’t care much for the new town but the old town was lovely. Luckily we had good weather and visited at several different times of the day so we saw lots of different aspects of the city and its people.
    Sounds like you hit the old town at siesta time? I agree that that is a real problem when all the bars and shops are shut!

  8. I was too intrigued and had to check out your own Bari story. Your recount of your experience with Jadrolinija was so on point and it reminded me of something that happened to us there and I didn’t mention in my post today. We got locked inside of our cabin. We couldn’t get out in the morning. We had to bang the door like crazy until somebody from the outside got help and they had to break the lock to get us out. Good times!

  9. Hi Richard, thanks for writing such a detailed piece about the ferry! I’m thinking of using the ferry on the same route this coming June and I’m deciding between the reclining seats and the bunk bed option. Do the bunk beds or reclining seats have power sockets? Comfort isn’t an issue for me but I really need to charge my electronics at night. Also, when you upgraded your accommodation at the last minute, were you charged the price difference between the two, or were you billed the full price of the bunk beds?

    Your help and advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • Hi Benjamin and thanks for viewing. I can’t remember if the cabin had a power socket, but my wife said it didn’t. Also, if you’re spending time in Puglia remember they take different plug adaptors to the rest of continental Europe there. We didn’t have one so all our stuff ran out of power pretty quickly. You can probably buy one here before you go, or find a hardware store when you’re out there. As for the price, they charged the full whack. It wasn’t cheap, but no way could I have handled a night in one of the big reclining chair rooms! You might be able to find a spare electric socket elsewhere on the ferry but I honestly don’t know – maybe try sending a message to Jadrolinja to find out? Enjoy!

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