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+ Split, Korčula & Dubrovnik: Croatia Travel Tips

Split, Korcula and Dubrovnik Travel Guide
I planned our Croatia trip almost a year in advance - we had no big plans to look forward to and Croatia was always on our bucket list so it made sense to get something in the diary. It was a daunting task - there's so many must-see places that it's futile to try to tick them all off in one week, so we settled on an itinerary of five nights in Split (to include day trips to nearby gems), two nights in Korčula and then two final nights in Dubrovnik before flying home. See below for my Croatia travel tips based on my first taste of this gorgeous country!

Tip #1: Don't spend more than two or three nights in Split, and instead spend more time in Korčula or a more peaceful island such as Hvar or Brac.

Split

Diocletian's Palace

I came across Apartment Luxury Palace No.1, a beautiful one-bed apartment right in the heart of Diocletian's Palace with its very own hot tub and terrace. You might think that staying within the confines of a UNESCO World Heritage site would be peaceful, but on a Friday night in peak tourist season the palace is less royal and more rave! The Diocletian's Palace was absolutely heaving with people when we arrived, so we were perked up to see that the apartment owner had left us some freebies:


Complimentary fruit, biscuits and wine from the owner of our Airbnb

The main living area
The main living area

The master bedroom
The master bedroom

Breakfast on the terrace
Breakfast on the terrace

The hot tub with a glimpse of the Saint Domnius Bell Tower

The hot tub with a glimpse of the Saint Domnius Bell Tower

Walking around the Roman ruins is captivating; every time you look up you'll find gorgeously worn shutters, intricate chimneys  and columns, or a cloudless sky framed by the opening of a vestibule.

Tip #2: If you're short on time and money, Diocletian's Palace has reams of cheap pizza stalls and well-priced gelato.

We only ate out one evening within the palace grounds, at a place called Appetit - my steak was good but Ned wasn't so convinced about his braised beef! It didn't help we were there super early and the place was artificially forcing an atmosphere with electronic music despite there only being three tables' worth of punters. I'd also thoroughly recommend Buffet Fife, quick, cheap and unbelievably tasty Croatian cuisine.

Tip #3:  Don't be fools like us and withdraw lots of Euros for your Croatia trip - even though some places accept them, it's technically illegal to use as currency so it's best to get a small amount of Kunas and then top up as and when you need to. Another tip we were told by a fellow traveller was to choose the option that lets the bank set the conversion rate on ATMs to get a better deal.

Split's Coastline

Bačvice Beach

Bačvice Beach

It's a truth universally acknowledged that sandy beaches are better than pebbly ones, and the good news is that there's the golden Bačvice beach just a few minutes' walk from the main town centre. However, this beach is REALLY busy (Costa Del Hell) so  (Tip #4) I'd recommend walking along the coast towards Radisson Blu, as the beach there is less hectic.

We stopped walking once we reached the Mistral Beach Bar & Restaurant. The food here was pricey but tasty with the fluffiest home-baked bread rolls I think I've ever been lucky enough to try! You can also rent a sun lounger at their beach bar.
Lunch at the Mistral restaurant

Plaza Kasjuni

The next day we tried out Plaza Kasjuni. You can either spend 45 minutes walking along the coastal road from the Riva of Split (bearing in mind that the pavement stops at one point) up towards Joe's Beach Lounge & Bar, or get the No.12 Bus from here.

You can rent a sun lounger for 100 Kuna, overlooking the beautiful Kasjuni bay. The water is so salty you can almost float but be warned - the seabed is very, very jagged! Unfortunately for us, one of Joe's restaurants didn't serve food(!) and its sister restaurant had a big birthday group reservation and so there was a two-hour wait. My advice is to reserve a table before you go!

Joe's Beach Bar & Lounge at Plaza Kasjuni

Bene Beach

Our first encounter of this quiet little beach was on our Split Sunset Sea Kayaking Tour. The no.12 bus also takes you there directly. We got into our kayaks (much to the disapproval of a local self-entitled idiot who harassed our tour guides for ruining 'his' stretch of sea) and set off towards an old military posting, past The Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences and then onwards to a quiet bay. En route, we spotted a couple of nudists who really didn't expect thirty kayakers to glide past!

Most of the group posed for Go Pro shots as they jumped off a jagged boulder, whereas Ned and I opted for a few moments chilling on a more attainable rock on the shore. We then headed back and watched the sun set from our kayaks before the tour officially ended.

Krka Waterfalls - Day Trip

Although we technically booked a tour, it was really just a return bus journey with a brief river cruise from Skradin to the park entrance. Tip #5 - Buy your tour ticket as part of a special offer bundled in with the sea kayaking tour. On the cruise we were treated to the most stunning views of untouched nature, as if humans had never discovered this slice of the world before. It was only when we got through the entrance that we started to appreciate just how busy the place was!

Once you've bought your ticket and walked into the park, (tip #6) is to turn left towards the wooden walkway rather than going straight to the waterfalls. That way, you're going 'against' the majority of tourists as they loop along the path.

Following the path around, there's various little pockets of water bordered by rugged bushes to explore, very much like tiny secret gardens! Come lunchtime, food at the Buffet restaurant near the Mill was good if slightly overpriced, and unfortunately we didn't get to go too close to the waterfalls as it was packed with people :(

Marjan Mountains

To start your ascent up this hill, walk past Buffet Fife up Solurat Ul. and then turn right up the stairs when you reach Hotel Garden Apartment. Once you reach the top of the steps, you'll find a viewpoint to your left (opposite Cafe Bar Vidilica) where you'll see a gorgeous view of Split, as seen in the pic below:

From what we could see, there's no real end point to the trail but we continued past Bene Beach and towards a marina full of yachts. The dense forest offers a lot of much-needed shade, and en route you'll also find the odd secluded cove - (tip #7) definitely seek a space there to bathe rather than walking all the way to Prva Voda plaža, a distinctively average beach. Next time I go I'd also consider paying closer attention to this blog post by Becky Snyder detailing the best way to explore the mountains.

Korčula

Getting there from Split: First of all, getting the ferry from Split was a bit of an ordeal - the Jardolinijia website doesn't say which part of the port to go to, and all the ferries look the same and are a long way apart from each other so tip #8, leave yourself plenty of time to find/board the ferry. We booked the 9.15am ferry (via Hvar) but narrowly avoided missing it thanks to running about like headless chickens with a broken and far too heavy suitcase! We got to the old town port just in time for midday, where we were easily able to find a taxi to get to Tara's Lodge.

Tara's Lodge

Snapshot of the bay and the food served at Tara's Lodge

It takes about 10 minutes to get from the port to the lodge by taxi, and upon arrival you're greeted with a complimentary drink each :) The resort is located in a pristine bay minutes from the old town of Korčula, with units decorated in a minimalist Nordic style. FYI, we had room #20 and the panoramic sea view was slightly obscured by the main restaurant building.

Tip #9 Visit the beautiful Zrnovska Banja bay while it's still wonderfully undeveloped! The lodge is essentially the only touristy place we could spot which means you feel like you're a true local while lying on Tara's bean bag beds, but there's lots of new buildings being built and I suspect it won't stay this preserved forever. The only drawback is that there's not many other options for food or drinks unless you're willing to go to Korčula old town or explore further inland.


Every Thursday they hold a big barbecue on the shore. It's over £35 (350 Kunas) which is ridiculously overpriced, but you are a captive audience. The food was awesome though - we could choose from traditional skinless sausage, pork shoulder or chicken kebabs.

Korčula Old Town

We walked towards the old town in time for sunset. Along the coast were some secluded beaches and stunning views to boot of the mainland. For me, the old town is reminiscent of Cartagena in Colombia with its brightly painted houses and palm trees lining the roads.

Tip #10: Sit atop the town at Massimo Cocktail Bar in time for sunset. The bar offers 360 views from a medieval tower. To enter, you have to climb a ladder to get to the main bar, where poor Ned and I had to cover our eyes as dozens of girls with tiny skirts made their way down to leave! Finally we were able to get our seat, and before I could question how they get the cocktails into the bar, I noticed the little basket being raised up by a pulley system! The waitresses shout down the orders to the barmen downstairs 🍷🍸🍹

Šetalište Petra Kanavelića has arguably the poshest restaurants, all with reserved tables along the shore. You can easily find a bite to eat by exploring the walled town, and luckily we found an empty and deceptively average-looking place called Fundamentum. I tried the seabass with roasted vegetables and Ned opted for a Korčula speciality called Korculanski Scartocet (marinated baby beef filled with cheese and prosciutto, with homemade macaroni). This was the best introduction we had to Croatian cuisine throughout the entire trip!

Dubrovnik

Tip #11 Rather than rough it on the usual ferry, you can pay just 22 Euros (paid in Kunas) for a transfer onwards to Dubrovnik via the Korkyra travel agency. The cost includes hotel pick-up, then drop off to a boat at the Old town port which then takes you to the mainland before a very rocky and white-knuckle drive through the mountains towards Dubrovnik.

Once there, must-see attractions include walking the city walls, taking the cable car and sea kayaking at sunset. As we plan to come back to this beautiful place again soon, we decided to take it easy and spend most of our time at our hotel, the only 'activity' we did was City Walls:

As we plan to come back to this beautiful place again soon, we decided to take it easy and spend most of our time at our hotel, so we only tackled the City Walls! To get there, you can enter via Pile Gate and entry costs 120 kunas per adult. There's also plenty of stops along the walls to get an ice cream or a snack so don't worry about bringing too much with you. To get to the entrance, you can enter via Pile Gate and entry costs 120 Kunas per adult. There's also plenty of stops along the walls to get an ice cream or a snack so don't worry about bringing too much with you.

Villa Dubrovnik

Tip #12 to infinity: One day, you HAVE to visit Villa Dubrovnik. It's seriously a place you'd think only exists in dreams. OK, it's ridiculously expensive which is why we only stayed two nights as the cherry to top our trip. The hotel itself is made of Brac stone and designed by two Croatians to a stunning finish, making Ned and I feel like we were being entertained at someone's Venice Beach mansion!

Villa Dubrovnik

Villa Dubrovnik

We plumped for room 201 (executive suite) as it included a hot tub, and according to Trip Advisor was the best suite to watch the sunset. It's a shame that this was overlooked by anyone taking the lift of chilling near the swimming pool, doubled with the fact that there was no curtain for us to bathe privately. The suite has a well-sized bathtub, his-and-hers sinks and a large bed with silk sheets. Because we chose the executive suite, breakfast delivered to our room was free of charge too! The lunch menu was reasonably priced (compared to the eye-watering amounts I imagined they'd charge) and you get to experience a gorgeous view of the walled city across the ocean.

The grounds also included:
* Swimming pool with choice of indoor or outdoor sunbeds
* Spa (if you book with Mr & Mrs Smith they give you a 30-minute 'Diamond Bed' treatment, but don't bother!)
* Free gym with reasonable choice of equipment
* Concrete beach with private swimming area
* Numerous luxury lounges with a wide range of books
* Prosciutto Wine Bar (amazing view of the walled town at sunset)
* Vaporetto boat service to the old town. The boat had technical issues during our stay so we had a free taxi shuttle instead

To wrap up, this truly was a trip of a lifetime and it blows my mind that Croatia is less than 3 hours to fly to from London. No need to fly long-haul to find paradise ever again! Ned and I have already decided that we'll head back next year and visit Hvar, Brac and spend more relaxation time in Korčula. All I know is that I can't wait to write up my next Croatia travel blog post in 2017 :)


+ How To Be A Success

Clover Hill by Rowena R.
Source

OK, this is written slightly tongue-in-cheek seeing as at the moment I am an unemployed jobseeker who these days gets regularly rejected from interviews. BUT, there are plenty of people on the internet who have some great advice, for me and you, on how to succeed. A lot of it is to do with being in the right frame of mind and refusing to accept anything less.

Remind yourself of what you've already been successful in

+ Megan at Charade Style has a stack of inspirational posts all about self-belief and success. One of my favourites is How To Get a Successful Mindset.

Write a list of five to ten things you have already been successful in, from the smallest exam, to the perfect interview, to cultivating an amazing talent or knowledge within a subject, beginning each line with ‘I am/have been successful in...’

By reminding yourself that you are already a success, the successful mindset becomes something far more solid and real-world to you, and perhaps you see that it was yours for the taking all along.

Act like you would if you HAD already achieved your dream

Gala Darling has a great article from 2008 about How To Set Amazing Goals.

One of the best ways to achieve something, strange as it may sound, is to pretend it has already happened. Let’s say your distant goal is to be a publishing magnate. How different would your life be if you managed to achieve that? [...] Start acting that way today. It will prove that you are serious about your goal, & you will start to attract the right people & opportunities to make your dreams a reality.

Keep a Dream Jar

+ Herbal Tang suggests that you should Dream Big:

A dream box is basically a box, or jar, or canister, that can hold your dreams. It's so simple to do. You write down your dreams, and goals, and aspirations that you want on pieces of paper and put it in the jar. Your goals and dreams can range from something small like reading a book, or traveling to Japan. But whatever, your aspirations may be write them down.

There is a lot of opportunity out there

+ Dumb Little Man regularly posts motivational articles.

Successful people have their mind set on abundance and opportunity and not scarcity and lack. Trust me this makes a world of a difference. Believe that life, energy, positivity, love, opportunities, success, happiness are abundant…because they are!

What are you waiting for?

+ Ali Hale a freelance blogger has a great article on her personal website about

In many cases, we feel that we can’t go for our real goal until all other conditions are perfect. Perhaps we tell ourselves we’ll write that first novel once we’ve quit the day job … once the kids have left home … once we’ve finished decorating the house …

The truth is, things probably aren’t ever going to meet up to our “perfect” standards: so we might as well make a start, even if it has to be a small one

And the last word goes to Glee...!



     


+ Backpacking Tips: Common Misconceptions

 

Misconception #1 -It's difficult.

Obviously the strain of travelling is subjective, but it really is possible to make your way around the world without researching and planning every movement in advance. While it can be demanding to book a bus ticket in Brazil due to knowing zero Brazilian-Portuguese, you CAN communicate what you want in other ways. Tried-and-tested ways include writing the bare bones of the information, such as destination, time and date and then handing it over to the ticket officer. When that fails, you'll be surprised how often another traveller or English-speaking local come to your rescue!

Misconception #2 - The whole world is a paradise

Maybe I'm wrong but when I ponder upon the nature of paradise I don't visualise myself sleeping in a manky, rickety bunkbed in a room full of mosquitoes, let alone sleeping in a room with other questionables! Of course, there are moments when life on the road is pure freedom, but that's not to say that just because you are on the trip of a lifetime every moment will count.

Misconception #3 - You'll stick to your budget

Uh-uh. Just you wait until you hit the weekend markets for 'cultural reasons', only to return to your hostel laden with swathes of silk, souvenirs and questionable wooly legwarmers for the coming summer (oops!). Just be aware that money repels a traveller's purse.

Misconception #4 - Foreign countries are scary!

Particularly when I tell people I once lived in Shanghai, China, their first expression is one of shock, followed by horror. "Oh my God, how did you cope?!" I'm often asked. But to be honest, although countries vary immensely around the world, they are all pretty much comprised of the same elements. Like your hometown or home country, there'll be people there to look out for you, people who want to take advantage of you, and places you shouldn't go in the dark. While travelling I tried to make sure I was as cautious as possible, but it's actually more likely that bad things will happen to you in your home environment because your guard is down!

Finally, travelling is all about getting out there and experiencing it first-hand. It doesn't matter how much of your Lonely Planet you've read, backpacking tips you've memorized or how many questions you've posted in forums. What does matter is that you're open-minded and ready to spend your next few months doing something memorable. Just don't feel too sad when you get home, are skint and desperately want to hit the road again!


+ Dream-Trip Dilemmas




This is an article I had featured on STA Travel Buzz, a blog specifically for travellers tales found across the web. Enjoy!

In an ideal world travelling would solely be made up of having those “oh my god life is beautiful” moments. But be prepared for times when life on the road is just that; being on the road and wondering why you put yourself there!

Dream-trip dilemma #1 - Your friends were supposed to come with you but have backed out.

A large percentage of people go away with their best friends, but if you are alone there is no doubt you will meet people in the same position. Yes, it can be hard when you have spent a day or two alone in a foreign country, and speaking only fragments of the local language to a bus driver doesn’t exactly count as social interaction. But staying in youth hostels, or even signing up for tours, be it for a day or a whole month, will help turn this trip into the once-in-a-lifetime experience you had hoped for.

Dream-trip dilemma #2 – Money seems to be disappearing quicker than you can say “just one more beer Chang!”

The biggest culprit for a backpacker’s draining bank balance is alcohol. Socialising and having a few drinks seem to go hand in hand with each other, but just by cutting back on the more expensive cocktails or attempting the odd sober night out will do wonders for your travel fund. What are you going to remember more, being hungover or the extra few weeks paid for by buying less alcohol?

Dream-trip dilemma#3 – you turned up in the wrong season and are greeted by rain, closed shops and hardly any travellers to meet.

Don’t be so quick to dismiss going somewhere in the low season; if you are on a budget this is what you have been waiting for! You are more likely to be able to find bargain room prices, and don’t have to spend hours trying to dodge other tourists in the main attractions.

Dream-trip dilemma #4 – Great, some of your belongings have been stolen.

Make things easier by heading to the tourist police straight away to report the theft. This makes it a lot easier to deal with your insurance company… you do have insurance don’t you?! And to look on the bright side, at least your backpack is a bit lighter! Lost your passport? Well that just means you can stay longer away from home!

Dream-trip dilemma #5 – You keep getting scammed everywhere you go!

While these negative experiences might make you question the culture you have visited, it helps to put things in perspective. Often you are visiting countries vastly poorer than your own and these people see you as an easy way to make money. The best thing you can do is to prevent these situations happening to YOU, by being more self-aware, asking authoritative sources for where to find a taxi, and to learn the art of ignoring someone. I used to spend my time trying to argue and negotiate with beggars and annoying people in general, but decided the best antidote to their behaviour is to simply pretend they are not there!


+ A reflection on my travels around the world

Franz Josef glacier hike
Writing from the (dis)comfort of Bangkok airport’s waiting area, it all seems so unreal that I’m actually going home. For over five months I’ve not had a proper bowl of cereal, have no idea about the UK music charts, and have not slept in the same bed for more than a week at any one time!

*Cliché warning* It feels like I’ve learnt so much since departing from Heathrow on Sunday 15th February as a semi-innocent graduate with the rest of my life ahead of me. Here's some of the 'life lessons' I discovered on the road!


1) You really don’t need as much as you think you do.
Everyone tells you before you go travelling to only pack half as much as you think you need, but obviously we all try and squeeze as many home comforts in as possible. In my case it was a big but warm and furry Abercrombie and Fitch cardigan, too many dresses, and enough body butter for multiple bodies!

2) Necessities aren’t as necessary as you first thought.
Seriously, I haven’t used shaving gel for five months – thankfully shampoo lathers up a treat! And thinking back to all the keepsakes I have back home, like old magazines, cassette tapes from the early ‘90s and books I’ll never read again, I’ve decided to carry on this new minimalist lifestyle and de-clutter my life as well! I am even going to go as far as throwing away clothes that I only mildly like, because what’s the point in keeping things you never use? I’m not going completely mad though and throwing away my shoes; a girl has to have one addiction!

3) All over the world there are nice people, and not so nice people.
If you’ve never left your own country you might have a tendency to think people from other countries are vastly different to you because of their ‘weird’ culture and habits. But, as I’ve travelled and met face-to-face people from all over the world, you realise that essentially human beings are simply the same. We all care about our friends and family, want to make friends, have fun and just enjoy being alive. I guess travelling does make you cross paths with people who can be umm... on a different page mentally but that’s part of the experience! At least when you’re backpacking you can leave them whenever you want!

4) Being a diva gets you everywhere and nowhere at the same time!
In SE Asia particularly you have to lose your (may I say it?!) middle-class pretentions and muck in like those less unfortunate than you. That means having more cold showers than you would like, needing to fill up a grubby bucket full of water in order to flush your shit down the toilet, and generally slumming it. During some points of my trip i’ve had to forgo a shower due to being on subsequent overnight buses, which was HELL but also is sometimes necessary. Also, being surrounded by people gobbing phlegm all over the streets, usually right near your feet, is not nice but it comes with the territory I suppose.

So diva might not be the best word to use but you definitely learn to hold your own and put yourself to the forefront when needed. Many people try to take advantage of young foreign backpackers, trying to overcharge them or fool them into buying services they never wanted. In Vietnam and Cambodia especially you are constantly hounded and surrounded by up to a dozen jobless guys all offering you ‘friendly’ assistance for a price. During my Thailand-Cambodia border crossing visit, a guy took my passport off me and proceeded to fill out my forms even though I never asked him to! He then demanded money for something I could have done myself. Basically you have to stand your ground and refuse to pay for things that you don’t want. Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok can also be twattish in their ability to take you to the opposite place you asked them – in one day I had three different guys drive me to the wrong place (Tesco-Lotus rather than Jim Thompson’s House, The Royal Hotel rather than the Palace), so I point-black left them and told them I wouldn’t pay a dime – I managed a whole day around Bangkok without paying for a single taxi/tuk-tuk!

5) As much as you might dislike being home you will end up missing it.
For me, living at home in England is sometimes not unlike being permanently asleep! If you’re skint at home you really don’t have many options for things to do. You row with your parents, grow bored of working full-time or studying, and yearn for some adventure! So while travelling ticks the boxes for making you feel alive and enjoying new experiences, it is not all it’s cracked up to be. If one of your family gets ill or you crave a good night out with close friends, it’s impossible to be with them. Travelling at least makes you appreciate how much family and friends mean to you.

Some words of advice

+ I have probably said this before on my blog, but if you are thinking about going away but are scared, pull your bloody socks up and just do it! Never again will you be as young, fit and free as you are now. So try and dissolve those fears by going to STA Travel or ringing Trailfinders and book a trip.

+ It’s really not as difficult as you might think to travel independently. There are travel shops all over the world or you can go direct to bus stations etc to transfer to your next destination. Also, most of the time you don’t even need reservations for hostels and guesthouses and you can just turn up. Failing that, use www.hostelbookers.com to be on the safe side.

+ Make sure you scan or photocopy your debit and credit cards and passport. I lost my debit card and it would have been really difficult to freeze the missing card without knowing the card number etc.

+ Whether you’re going on your own or with friends you’ll have a great time!