Summer is absolutely here! It has nothing to do with the rising temperatures, the swallows buzzing around catching flies, the crowds along the Stradun, the cruise ship crush or the frustrating traffic jams. No, the reason I know that summer has arrived is that complaints about the price of a cup of coffee in the Old City have started to appear.
As sure as the swallows return from their winter vacation the moaners about Dubrovnik prices return. We are used to scandal headlines throughout the summer when bloggers, journalists and alike roll down from Zagreb to Dubrovnik and have to fill their pages with outrageous claims.
A headline arose this week after a guest paid 70 Kunas for two cups of coffee on the Stradun. Expensive? Well expensive is a very relative term. How do you define is something is expensive or not? “Expensive is applied to whatever entails considerable expense; it suggests a price more than the average person would normally be able to pay or a price paid only for something special,” states the Oxford English dictionary. Is a Ferrari expensive? Well, yes because you are getting something special more than the average person can afford.
If you were to order two coffees in the heart of Paris you would be lucky to get much change from twenty Euros. Is that expensive? Most people would answer “no, because that’s Paris prices.” The same could be said of Rome, Paris, Tokyo, London and New York. We know in advance that we will pay “top dollar” in all of these cities. So we can also conclude that expense, or price, is comparable. If you compare one destination directly to another you will find which one costs more.
So what do you compare Dubrovnik with to get the conclusions? Can you can’t compare it to any of these major international cities, probably not. So to get a relative price ratio you would have to compare Dubrovnik with another similar city. A city somewhere on the coastline, an ancient city, a city stepped in history and culture, a place that is a Mecca for tourists, a unique city. Not so easy. Maybe Venice? But it’s much larger. Athens? Mont Saint Michel, France? Siena? San Marino? Rhodes? All beautiful and all completely different.
If you come from “Nowheresville” where a gallon of coffee costs the same as two grains of rice then of course a coffee on the Stradun is expensive. But if you come from Monte Carlo then coffee is Dubrovnik is basically free. So a comparison is hard to make.
Let’s go back to the Oxford Dictionary. “A price paid for something special,” now that is an interesting line. Is sitting on the Stradun a special experience? Well, yes, I think it can be argued that having the privilege to sit on such a street in such a unique town is special. The argument is that 70 Kuna is a lot for two cups of coffee, yes but we aren’t talking about two cups of coffee in “Nowheresville.”
All the locals know the coffee price scale. You want a cheap cup then you know exactly where to go. And to be honest any tourist with half a brain will know that if you sit in a premium position you will pay premium prices. It is the same everywhere. It is the same with real estate – location, location, location. So why has the tag expensive been linked to Dubrovnik? Simple, because the tourists that come believe that they are coming to a Croatian version of “Nowheresville.” They have preconceived conceptions that Dubrovnik is a cheap destination. Some of this comes from the hangover of the former Yugoslavia when mass tourism was the king and beer was cheaper than water. These days are long gone, dead and buried.
Some locals will answer “if it is too expensive then don’t come.” I would answer that it isn’t too expensive you just have to use your brain. Dubrovnik isn’t Rome and it isn’t Nowheresville – it is somewhere in between. You want to stay in a five-star hotel, eat lobster and drink cocktails all night then it will cost you. But of course it will! Just trim your experience to your budget. Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.