The story isn't true.
This happens more often than any of us should accept: Scandalous "news" is published and because it's clicky, it gets spread far and wide—but nobody is actually checking to see if the story is accurate.
This happened a few months ago when multiple travel publications ran with the false story that AirTag tracking devices were being banned on international carrier Lufthansa. That "news" appeared all over the internet from sources you'd otherwise think were reliable, but Frommer's proved that the supposed ban was, in fact, false.
Now, fake news is being spread again.
This fake story, which was repeated in countless travel blogs and even newspapers last week, goes like this: The romantic European city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, on the gorgeous coast of Dalmatia on the Mediterranean Sea, is now fining tourists €265 (US$288) if they are caught dragging wheeled luggage down the city's ancient stone streets.
The tale was repeated in publication after publication, from Travel + Leisure to the New Zealand Herald. But, curiously, none of the articles contained authentication from someone in Dubrovnik's city leadership, and there were no links to any sites that provided official verification of the alleged penalty. It's telling that the New York Post even quoted a random online commenter, yet never bothered to obtain confirmation from anyone in charge.
That lack of official validation rang alarm bells for us at Frommer's.
So I contacted a representative of the Croatian National Tourist Office.
That rep said the policy doesn't exist.
Time Out's coverage claimed the rule had been announced by Dubrovnik's mayor, Mato Frankovic, but the Croatian tourism representative told us that wasn't the case.
The city's tourism forces did recently unite to create an animated "Respect the City" video aimed at educating visitors on approved etiquette, but no fines at all are mentioned in the video.
According to a representative, Dubrovnik did entertain a recommendation for such a penalty as part of recent discussions surrounding problematic visitor behavior, but the idea was rejected and never implemented. By that version of events, someone along the blogging grapevine apparently misinterpreted the recommendation as an actual rule (adding an oddly specific fine amount). After that, countless websites simply repeated what the first website reported without double-checking for themselves.
In the video, which was uploaded in early June, a beefy tourist in a red baseball cap (gee, wonder what country he comes from) is repeatedly chastised for making boorish behavior choices such as posing for shirtless selfies and dragging his wheeled luggage down the city's stone streets. He is met with a wagged finger, but no fines.
In a statement provided to Frommer's, Dubrovnik's city government officially refuted the rumored penalty for wheeled luggage. "We would like to emphasise that this claim is completely untrue," the statement says. "In fact, the city administration of Dubrovnik has not implemented, nor does it have any intention to introduce any penalties regarding the use of suitcases in the historic centre."
A version of the statement was also quoted on July 3 in the local Dubrovnik Times (which had implied 10 days earlier the penalty was real), after the rumor had already gone around the world, fueled by the power of clickbait.
"The video ... included a recommendation regarding the handling of luggage in the historic centre, which, especially in the early morning hours, generates a loud noise as suitcases are rolled on the stone streets of the city," the statement sent to Frommer's read. "There have been numerous reports in the media, and the wider international audience is misinformed, believing that rolling suitcases will be penalised and fined in Dubrovnik."
As with many rumors, this one could take root in part because it seemed plausible. Other popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean region, including Mallorca, Florence, Venice, and Rome, have indeed instituted stiff fines for antisocial behavior from visitors.
The Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also worthy of protection. The historic seaside area is a cluster of stone lanes packed within medieval battlements that were used as a filming location in HBO's Game of Thrones. It's a breathtaking setting, but it's susceptible to both overcrowding and nerve-jangling sounds that bounce off limestone surfaces polished smooth by time and use.
Additionally, Stradun (pictured above), the picturesque main thoroughfare of Dubrovnik's oldest walled section, gets precariously slippery in the rain. Despite that, precipitation will not be penalized with a fine, either.
So if you go to Dubrovnik (and you should—it's one of Europe's most beautiful cities), you won't actually have to pay a fine if you wheel your luggage down the street. But residents really, really hate when people do that, so you won't make any friends, either.
The bigger faux pas, however, is believing negative news stories that haven't been checked out.