There are a number of ways to travel the 143 miles (230 kilometers) between two of Croatia's most popular coastal destinations, Dubrovnik and Split. While train travel along the coast has completely disappeared since the end of Yugoslavia, there are plenty of other options to traverse the craggy coast stretching hundreds of miles and dotted with more than 1,200 islands.
Choose to travel by catamaran ferry for a hands-off and relatively inexpensive mode of transportation that provides scenic views and stops at a few islands along the way. Renting a car or going by private transfer is easy and efficient, as long as traffic and border crossings in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not congested. An added bonus of private transfers: a short commute time.
Bus travel is a less comfortable, but inexpensive option. There are flights available between Dubrovnik and Split, though they are more expensive than "slower" travel methods and don't actually save much time—many flights require a 3-8 hour layover.
Krilo catamarans between Dubrovnik and Split run from May to October, peak tourism months. The fast boat is reasonably priced and among the most efficient methods of reaching Split while stopping at four other ports along the way including Korčula, Hvar, Milna, and Miljet. There are six daily departures from Dubrovnik, though the earliest departure is in the afternoon after the first boat from Split arrives.
Jardolinija also operates a ferry, though it requires an extra hour and a half of travel time. There is only one daily departure setting sail in the morning from Dubrovnik.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 3-5 hours
There are a number of major car rental companies in Dubrovnik that offer manual and automatic vehicles (though automatic cars are more expensive to rent). Keep in mind that gas in Croatia is bought by the liter, and tends to be expensive.
Depending on the route, traffic conditions, tolls, and border control lines, the trip from Dubrovnik to Split can take as little as three hours. There are a few options from which to choose: a highway route through Bosnia and Herzegovina, a classic and scenic coastal route, and an island-hopping ferry route.
The highway route along A1 is the fastest at three hours without traffic or long waits at two border crossings through Bosnia. Have kuna (local currency) on hand for the toll fare for each direction both to and from Split. If you are looking to break up the drive, you should stop at Kravica Waterfall. It is located 6 miles (10 km) south of Ljubušk, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (shortly before you cross back into Croatia). It’s about a 20-minute walk to the falls from the parking area - a great spot for a quick dip and picnic before continuing on your journey.
The coastal route along E65 and D8 resorts to small, scenic highways with slower speed limits and two border crossings through Bosnia as well, taking four to five hours. If taking the coastal route, you can stop in Makarska to break up the drive. Makarska is about 90 miles (153 km) from Dubrovnik and there is plenty to do here for a quick stop or longer visit. One option is a hike in Biokovo Nature Park which provides easy access to some great views of the surrounding areas plus an opportunity to stretch your legs between car and ferry rides. Another option is exploring Makarska Old Town and Kacic Square. During the summer months, Kacic square is often bustling with local festivities and musical performances.
To avoid the border crossings, take D8 up the coast and onto 414 to catch a ferry to cross from Trpanj to Polce before continuing up highway D8 along the coast. This trip will also take four to five hours, but both slower options are rewarded with stunning views of the Adriatic.
In Trpanj if you have time to grab a bite to eat, Konoba Skojera is worth checking out. If you prefer to wait until after the ferry crossing from Trpanj to Polce, Restaurant Fulin in Polce is another great option.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 3 hours direct, more with stops
For those who prefer not to rent a car, private transfers can be booked between Dubrovnik and Split. Selecting a private transfer provides more comfort than the bus and more control over your schedule. You can book this as part of a broader tour itinerary, and having a local driver is great for getting additional insights at sights and stops along the way.
Duration: 5+ hours
Travel by bus is among the least expensive options with the most frequent departures, generally every half hour nearly any time of day. The travel time between Dubrovnik and Split is optimistically five hours, though dense traffic during peak tourism season and long lines at the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina can lengthen travel time.
If scheduling tours on the same day of travel, arrive with plenty of time, at least two to three hours, before the start of the tour. Companies such as Flexibus or Arriva provide a more comfortable trip with buses outfitted with wifi, charging outlets, and a toilet. Expect at least one break during the drive and a minimal fee per suitcase.
Duration: 2.5-hour flight time, additional 3-8 hour layover
While there are flights with Croatia Airlines between Dubrovnik and Split, most include a lengthy stopover of multiple hours. The only private plane transfer currently running only flies from Split to Dubrovnik.