48-Hours in Dubrovnik: Worst Taxi Experiences Ever

By 4 August 2017

I just spent 48-hours in Dubrovnik, and it was hands-down, the worst experience with taxi drivers I have ever encountered!

A week ago, on Friday 28th July, taxis in Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split protested against Uber. Dubrovnik drivers did so by blocking the only road to the airport – which to me seems to have the opposite effect if you want to encourage tourists to use taxis over Uber… However, I did use taxis for my 48-hours in Dubrovnik, and it was the worst experience ever.

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Photo Credit: Dubrovnik Times, Taxi Protest

It began the second we arrived into Dubrovnik on the bus, I had the address for our apartment, it seemed close enough, but it was 2 pm and peak heat, so we thought easier to grab a taxi. I politely went to ask the group of drivers, whose taxi is first – as there is etiquette; one man in his late 60’s came up and immediately said: “Where are you going?” After responding in Croatian, he replied back in English and said, “ok, ok, €10!” I didn’t have a chance to say anything as he was already ushering us towards his car.

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Bus station in Dubrovnik, taxis line up just opposite.

I know Dubrovnik well enough, as I have been visiting for the past five years by boat and by bus, I knew the area our apartment should be in, and it seemed as though he drove us longer than necessary (which I learned later to be true). We got to the street, and he pointed and said “there is no.6”, we are number 7a was my response. “Well, it should be here”, maybe so, but I wasn’t prepared to get out of the taxi until we were at our apartment (as numbers can be a bit screwy here sometimes). He got pissed, blaming the street, we drove up and down, but couldn’t find number 7. Finally, I managed to get a hold of the landlord, and it turned out that number 7 was 100-metres up the road.

The taxi driver was still flustered and going off about how number 7 should be back by number 6 (obviously that’s not exactly how it works), there was no talking to him or calming down. Time to pay – “78 kuna” he says, “I thought it was €10?” – “exchange rate, 78 kuna”, we handed over a 100 kuna note. “I don’t have any change”, we tried to argue, he gave us 5 kuna change, showed us his empty wallet, got in his taxi and took off.

Dubrovnik Taxis: 1, Tourists: 0.

I thought to myself – rookie error, I should have insisted on going by the metre, ok, I will do better next time.

We were staying near port Gruz, it is close enough to the old town, but we didn’t fancy walking up hills and stairs, so we bused into Dubrovnik old town and got a taxi back. After a long day exploring, we came home around 10 pm. We went to the line-up of taxis outside the old town and once again were ushered quickly into a car, this time by a woman in her thirties.

Before we got in, I politely asked – do you use a metre? “Of course I do, who do you think I am?” she snapped. And, that was all it took to set her off, for the next 5-minutes she started ranting about tourists and who was I to ask such a question. When I saw how quickly the metre was rising, I asked her approximately how much did she think it would cost, because our landlord had told us a taxi should cost no more than 50 kuna. Again, she fired up, saying this was a ridiculous price, that I was insulting her, she took a price list from her glove box and shoved it in my face.

I told her I didn’t mean to upset her; I was just asking. Then I made the error of mentioning the word Uber, well, this was it. “You just wait,” she said, “Are you here tomorrow? You will see something; Uber won’t be around for long, you’ll see!” I told her I was interested to hear her perspective. We arrived at our apartment, she turned around, pointed her finger in my face and started yelling about how hard she has worked to be a taxi driver, that Uber is bulls*** and all the drivers are alcoholics – because she knows everyone in Dubrovnik…

Ok, I responded, so tell me your side. “No”, again, she pointed her finger in my face – “I won’t tell you anything, but you will remember me, watch the news tomorrow, you will remember this conversation!”

77 kuna for a 7-minute taxi ride, a little abuse and it was now -

Dubrovnik Taxis: 2, Tourist: 0

Day 2. Surely, we just had terrible luck, right?

Again, we bused into the old town, bright and early before the sun began to flex its muscles at midday. We spent a full day in Dubrovnik, walked the walls, wandered around, went across to Lokrum island and by 5 pm we were spent, so, chanced our luck with taxis again - you are probably wondering why I didn't book an Uber at this stage? Long story short, my phone is screwed and I was travelling with my Uncle who doesn't have an international roaming phone. So, we had no choice.

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Wandering the old town of Dubrovnik

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Lokrum Island, well worth a visit.

As we walked to the taxi stand, I finished my ice cream (I was down to the cone); we went up to the first taxi, and he pointed at my cone saying “no, you throw it out, or you are not getting in”. Ok, I understand (kind of), they probably have a million tourists and kids getting in their taxis with their grubby hands all day long. But considering I am in my 30’s, and it was literally just a cone left, I thought it was a little over the top.

Dubrovnik Taxis: 3, Tourist: 0

We waited and got in the next taxi which was also 77 kuna. Ok, at least there was some consistency. That night we needed to get to Zaton because my husband was docked and I wanted to catch him for dinner.

At 6 pm, I called Plavi Taxis; before I could even finish my sentence the lady on the end of the receiver cut me off and said “we don’t have any taxis, call back later”, no problem, I replied, I actually want to book a taxi for 7 pm. “We don’t have any taxis, call back later”, so you are telling me, I can’t book a taxi for one hour in advance? “No.” And that was the end of the conversation.

At 6.30 pm I tried calling back, someone answered, then the second I said – hello, they hung up. For the next half hour, I called back six times to no avail. Weird. I called my husband (who is Croatian), to see if he could call the same company and book for us. Five minutes later he had booked us a taxi for 7.30pm (funny that he got through and could book a taxi in advance).

Dubrovnik Taxis: 4, Tourist: 0

To the taxi driver’s credit, he was almost on time, just 10 minutes late. Zaton is 13 km away, and the fare was 180 kuna - reasonable in peak season I think and apparently Plavi Taxis are one of the cheapest... In hindsight, we should have taken the bus for 30 kuna; it would have been much less hassle… The driver clearly assumed I didn’t speak Croatian as he spent the whole time on his phone complaining about having too much work and some lazy friend of his… I tried sparking up a conversation in between the moments he got off the phone, but, no dice.

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If you are looking to escape the madness of Dubrovnik, Veliki Zaton is a nice choice...

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The driver agreed to return and collect us at midnight, so I was ready to enjoy an evening with my husband. At 11.30, the driver called to say he was there and that we needed to come immediately. So, we had to say fast (early) goodbyes, and back in the taxi we hopped. The driver was on a mission; the return trip was much faster, and somehow, this time he appeared to know a shortcut. Funny that.

The fare was 150 kuna this time.

Dubrovnik Taxis: 5, Tourist: 0.

Honestly, I could not make these scenarios up if I tried. To have five terrible taxi experiences in the space of 48-hours cannot be a mere coincidence. I have heard Dubrovnik taxi drivers are notoriously rude, but this was something else. I have used taxis quite often in Split, and I have never come across anything like this.

To be fair in one regard, I know it is in the middle of summer, people are overworked, hot and irritable, but I am sorry – you are in a job which provides a service, so, provide the service. Taxi driver attitudes aside, the other point that gets me was my phone calls with Plavi Taxi. A little odd that a) I couldn't book a taxi in advance b) was hung up on c) had all my following calls cancelled. Then, miraculously my Croatian husband booked a taxi with the same company, within five minutes...

The Uber vs Taxis debate is not one I wish to go into because I know there is more at play here than just a service provided, it is about rules and regulations as well. However, I find it incredibly ironic that the weekend of the protest, I used taxis five times and had a terrible experience every, single, time – from the drivers to the phone operators. And yet, many complain Uber is ‘stealing’ their business.

I am all for supporting local businesses, but I am sorry, you are not doing yourselves any favours by ripping people off and giving nothing but attitude. The worst part about all of this is that I was showing my Uncle around Dubrovnik for the first time and this really tarnished the whole experience. I am someone who searches for the good in any situation, but in this case, if anyone asks me whether I recommend using taxis in Dubrovnik, my response will be a fast, firm – no.