Why Dubrovnik is banning wheelie suitcases from its old city

Anyone planning to visit Dubrovnik this summer should be mindful of a new rule when packing for their vacation: suitcases on wheels are no longer welcome in the charming Croatian city’s old town.  

The picturesque walled city sees a huge influx of visitors each year – which is causing a headache for locals irritated by the click-clack noise of wheeled suitcases rumbling through the cobbled streets at night. 

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Newly introduced regulations state that suitcases must be carried and not dragged through the streets of the town. For now, wheeled bags will still be permitted, though the wheels must not be used. Anyone caught rolling their luggage faces a fine of $290 (€265). It is unclear how this might impact anyone unable to carry a case due to a physical disability. 

Rooftops of Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovik’s old town had over 1.5 million visitors in 2019  © Callum Hyland Photography / Getty Images

The initiative is part of a wider plan to ban all luggage from Dubrovnik by November. Starting in the fall, visitors will be required to leave bags and suitcases at a designated spot outside of the city’s walls before visitors are permitted to enter the old town. Visitors will have to pay a courier to have their bags delivered to their accommodation by electric vehicle.

No luggage permitted in the old town 

Dubrovnik mayor Mato Franković made the decision to ban wheelie cases as part of new measures aimed to reduce negative effects of overtourism. Dubrovnik has a population of 41,000 – and in 2019 (before the pandemic) welcomed 1.5 million tourists. An additional noise-reducing measure just introduced will see cafes and bars with terraces where the noise level exceeds 55 decibels face fines and enforced seven-day closures. 

The city’s tourism authority has produced a new video, “Respect the City,” which will be shown on cruise ships docking at Dubrovnik and on Croatian Airline flights arriving in the country. The video advises on the behavioral best practices for anyone visiting: don’t walk around without a top on, don’t ride a bike or electric scooter in the historic center and don’t climb or interact with monuments.

On central Gundulićeva poljana, visitors are asked to respect monuments and refrain from touching them © Chettarin / Shutterstock

Unesco has in the past warned that Dubrovnik’s world-heritage status was at risk from the disrespectful hordes. Back in 2017, the city made efforts to make the city more sustainable, including limiting the number of tour buses and cruise ships docking in the port. Yet given the post-pandemic travel boom, Dubrovnik has seen a surge in visitors. Mayor Franković has cautioned: “The most important thing is that Dubrovnik has stopped being a city of excessive tourism, although we still have a lot of work left.”

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