Last week I took an overnight ferry from Bari, Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I’m pretty sure Jadrolinija is the only ferry line that connects passengers between the two regions. There is a serious lack of information available online, however, about the process of booking, boarding, logistics, and generally what to expect so I figured I’d share my experience for anyone out there googling with the hope of finding clarity.
Bari is the gateway city to the Puglia region with the busiest airport in southern Italy. There aren’t any direct flights between Bari and Dubrovnik (nor Split, nor Zagreb) so a ferry between Bari and Dubrvnik is a solid option for traveling between the two countries if you’re trying to visit places in the south of both.
Otherwise you’d have take a bus for many hours up the Italian coast and back down the coast of Croatia.
You can book your ferry ticket on Jadrolinija’s website, or you can also buy a ticket at their sales office which is the same place you check-in before departure (more on that important point below).
I chose to book my ticket online a few days ahead of time.
If your desired ferry or particular type of ticket on the ferry says sold out online, I wouldn’t give up hope. I read on this TripAdvisor forum that travel agencies buy blocks of tickets that are released close to departure if unsold. I saw many people buy tickets the day of departure when I was checking in, and I was traveling during a relatively popular time (end of June). One told me the type of cabin they wanted wasn’t available online, but when they checked in they were able to book it.
Departures are seasonal and do not occur every day. Check what days of the week the ferry runs depending on the time year here.
Types of Tickets
There are a few different types of tickets you can buy.
- A seat on the deck
- A recliner seat
- A bed in a cabin of varying sizes/types (comes with breakfast)
- Your own cabin of varying size/types (also comes with breakfast)
The seats on the deck are the least expensive and booking your own cabin the most.
I opted for a bed in a cabin as my ferry traveled overnight (departure: 10 PM, arrival: 8 am).
Checking In / Boarding
This is probably the single most important tip in the entire post that will save you time and stress: DO NOT go straight to the boarding area in the port the day of departure. If you notice at the bottom of my ticket confirmation, it says…
“This document is confirmation of payment and does not replace the travel ticket. At the time of boarding, passengers are obliged to show this document at the Jadrolinija sales office to take the travel ticket.”
The Jadrolinija sales office is a few kilometers away from the actual point of boarding.
Go to the yellow star on the map first, no matter what your situation–whether you already have a printed confirmation or need to buy a ticket. EVERYONE must check in here at the sales office. If you have a printed confirmation of online purchase like I did, then you need to exchange your piece of paper for a ticket.
After receiving your ticket, there is a white shuttle bus that takes passengers free of charge on a five minute ride to the area of the port where you board the ferry. On the map above it’s the pinpoint that says Jadrolinija boarding. You’ll wait in line and pass through immigrations there, and then board.
If you go straight to the boarding point without checking in at the sales office first, no one will tell you otherwise until you get to the front of the passport control line. Security will ask for you ticket, and if all you have is the printed confirmation, they will tell you to go to the office to exchange it for a ticket and complete check in. I saw this happen to more than a couple people. It was their horror stricken looks of confusion that made me realize the necessity of this post.
The shuttle bus I mentioned will take you back to the sales office in this case and then return you to the boarding point, but you will lose a lot of time.
After passing through passport control, I boarded the ferry and was guided by Jadrolinija employees through a series of staircases and hallways that all looked exactly the same, towards the reception area where I would claim the key to my room. Thankfully there were crew stationed throughout and signs at every turning point or one could get very, very lost.
I picked up the key and headed through more dizzying hallways until I found my room.
It was nothing special, but the sheets were clean, and there was a sink and electrical outlets for charging electronics. The bathroom was down the hall, with a few toilets and a shower.
The cabin was empty when I arrived, but I expected someone else would show up eventually so I put my bags in the corner and took a couple small personal objects out that I placed on one of the bunks to signal to my roommate that that was the bed I wanted. The cabin and hallways were not exactly a place conducive for a pleasant hang out, so I quickly headed to the deck to get some fresh air.
I grabbed a Croatian beer from the bar on the outside deck, and found a seat on the back of the ship in time to watch a gorgeous sunset.
When it grew dark I decided it was time to explore the ship a bit more.
The Rest of the Ship
The Jadrolinija ferry was probably considered nice about 30 years ago, but I doubt it’s received any updates since then. I’ll put it this way–it has what you need, but don’t expect any luxurious details.
There are lots of seating options on the outside deck as well as inside for whoever wishes to use them. I assume this non-assigned seating is for those who buy the cheapest “deck seats”, first come, first serve.
The ferry has two restaurants, a large bar/lounge, and a section for recline seats (the second cheapest ticket option).
The recline seats don’t recline very far. I was happy I booked a bed.
The ship finally departed between 11 and 11:30 PM, right after I had made it back to my cabin. We did arrive more or less on time the next morning (8 AM, so I guess they gave themselves plenty of leeway with the scheduled departure time of “10 PM”). My roommate was in the cabin when I returned, another young female traveling solo. We chatted for a bit and went to sleep not long after departure.
The next morning, a crew member knocked on our door around 7 am to wake us up for breakfast and to let us know we’d be arriving soon. It was too early for me to want breakfast and I figured people would have to line up to leave the ship, so I stayed in my bunk until the last second possible. Once up, I took my luggage and headed towards the elevator which I found to be broken. Luckily we were only one floor away from the exit, but due to the malfunctioning elevator there was a long line of people waiting to exit the ship. I waited my turn and about 15 minutes later was able to leave the ship and pass through the final checkpoint, Croatian immigrations. The Jadrolinija ferry arrives to Gruž Port in Dubrovnik roughly 9 to 10 hours after departure from Bari.
There are buses and a taxi stand right outside the port that will get you where you need to go.
The Jadrolinija ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik isn’t luxurious, but it’s clean and it gets the job done. I appreciated the fact that it traveled overnight and I could get a night’s rest onboard, so as not to loose a day to transit.
The most important detail to understand is that you must check in at the Jadrolinija sales office before heading to the part of the port where you board the ferry. Failing to do so could cause you to miss the ferry.
And hey, the Pope has traveled on Jadrolinija… so it should be good enough for you 😉