The novel begins with the diary kept by Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, or lawyer, as he travels through Central Europe on the business of his firm. He is on his way to the castle of Count Dracula, a Transylvanian nobleman, to conclude a deal in which the Count will purchase an English estate. We learn that he has just qualified to be a solicitor, this is his first assignment as a professional, and he is engaged to a young woman named Mina Murray.
Harker describes in detail the picturesque country and the exotic food at the inns, noting recipes that he plans to obtain for Mina. In the evening of the first day of his diary (May 3), he arrives in the town of Bistritz, and checks into a hotel recommended to him by Dracula. There, he finds a letter from the Count awaiting him, welcoming him to the Carpathian Mountain region, and informing him that he should take a coach to the Borgo Pass, where Dracula's carriage will meet him and bring him the rest of the way to the castle.
The next day, as Harker prepares to leave, the innkeeper's wife presses a crucifix on him and gives him incoherent warnings, saying that it is the eve of St. George's Day, when "all the evil things in the world will have full sway," and that he is going to a terrible place. He is discomfited by this, and his uneasiness increases when, as he gets aboard the coach, a crowd of peasants gathers around him, muttering various forms of the word "vampire" in their native language. As the coach departs, they make the sign of the cross en masse in his direction.
The journey to the Borgo Pass takes him through beautiful country, but his enjoyment is dampened by the other passengers, who give him gifts and treat him as a condemned man. As night falls, the coachman drives his horses to a gallop, and they arrive at the meeting place an hour early. The coachman urges Harker to continue on through the pass and return another day, but just then Dracula's carriage pulls up; the driver rebukes the coachman for being so early, and he tells Harker that he will take him to the castle. The rest of the ride is terrifying: Wolves howl all around them, and blue flames appear at intervals along the road. At each flame, the driver leaves the coach for a time, and the wolves surround it; at his return, however, they disperse. Finally, after a long...