Highlights of Montenegro (without a car) – Travel guide and 14-day itinerary

Kotor Bay at night

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If a country has mountain in its name you can guess what its main topographical feature is… Well, that and stunning lakes, deep river gorges and the Adriatic coast. Welcome to Crna Gora or Montenegro (which means Black Mountain).

Today’s article is jam-packed with all the key things you need to know to explore this fascinating country – at your own pace and without a car. We even put together an itinerary that takes you to all our favourite spots, in 14 days (or more). Whether you love the great outdoors, history or delicious food, Montenegro has something for everyone – guaranteed.

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Map of Recommended Accommodations, Points of Interest, Eateries, and Transport

Below is the map of the accommodation, points of interest, eateries. and transport terminals/stops mentioned in this article.

Key things to know (in alphabetical order)

Electricity

Like other countries in mainland Europe, Montenegro uses a plug with two round pins (Output type: C / F). The standard voltage is 230 volts and 50 Hz. If your devices are not European and you need an adapter, we use and recommend the OneAdaptr OneWorld135 International Adapter.

C and F Adaptor pins
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Entry requirements

Visiting Montenegro often only requires a valid passport, as in many countries’ citizens can stay visa-free for up to 30 days. For up-to-date requirements relating to your country check out Montenegro’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Language

The country’s official language, not surprisingly, is Montenegrin. To a large extent, it’s the same language that is also spoken in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. You will see both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets being used, though Latin is more prevalent. Near the border to Albania, street signs are bilingual: Montenegrin and Albanian.

If you want to learn a bit of Montenegrin before your trip check out these tutorials:

For full imersion, we recommend Live Lingua.

Public Holidays

When planning your trip, be aware that some services won’t be available on these public holidays.

Travel Safety

Apart from the occasional scam and pick-pocketing, Montenegro is a safe country to visit. Check out our general tips on how to stay safe while travelling and what to do if something goes wrong.

What Else

If you’re looking for a country with fast and cheap mobile internet, Montenegro is the place to be. The Telekom Tourist prepaid SIM is the ideal option when traveling to Montenegro. You get a local number and an impressive 500GB or 1 TB of data.

Montenegro, like all Balkan countries, is heaven for smokers. According to MacroTrends, the most recent study showed 31.40% of the populaiton smoked. This means us non-smokers have trouble finding a place where we can breathe unencumbered. Since August 2019, smoking has been banned in all closed public places, including restaurants and cafes, although casinos have received an exception to the new rules. That said, you will see smokers lighting up in cafes wi little regard for the law.

Likewise, sustainability is still in its infancy: plastic bags, plastic straws, no garbage separation, etc are the norm. Do your bit by trying to avoid plastic/packaging in the first place.

montenegro public rubbish bin

There is no garbage separation in Montenegro, so do your bit by avoiding packaged food in the first place

Best time to visit Montenegro

When to visit Montenegro generally depends on where you want to go:

  • If you want to explore the Adriatic coast, avoid the European summer holidays, especially July and August when Serbian and Russian families flock to the Adriatic (and you have gazillion cruise ships anchored in the Bay of Kotor).
  • If you want to hike in the mountainous national parks, avoid the winter months (November to March) as trails will be inaccessible.

Great months to explore the whole country are May, June and September. Temperatures are pleasant, there is a good chance for clear sunny days, and there are fewer crowds.

For year-round weather information check out Weather Spark’s website. You can choose your destination on the top right and even switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit.

montenegro fllowers

Spring is an excellent time to visit Montenegro and enjoy pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds and blooming wild flowers

If you want to explore Kotor and the surrounding area you may want to time your visit when there are no cruise ships in port or at least only one. The old town of Kotor is very small, and it’s a very different experience sharing it with thousands of cruise ship tourists to only sharing it with locals.

How much to budget for Montenegro

Despite travelling in peak season, we found Montenegro to be quite an affordable destination – certainly more affordable than Croatia or Slovenia. For a full download on what to consider for accommodation, food, transport, etc check out our Montenegro travel costs.

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old money on display in the money museum

The money museum is a well kept secretwellsorth visiting in Cetinje

How to get to Montenegro

Montenegro has two international airports – in the capital Podgorica and in Tivat (near Kotor):

  • Podgorica Airport / Аеродром Подгорица (Official website, IATA: TGD, Google Maps location) is serviced year-round by non-stop flights from all over Europe.
  • Tivat (Official website, IATA: TIV, Google Maps location) is more seasonal, with year-round non-stop flights only from Belgrade. Between May and October however, there are frequent non-stop flights from a number of European destinations, including Germany (Frankfurt, Hanover, Leipzig and Munich), England (London and Manchester) as well as Belgium (Brussels) and France (Paris).

For the best prices on airfares, we recommend Skyscanner to review what flights are available.

While Dubrovnik‘s airport is also close by (less than 20km from the Montenegrin border), we do not recommend flying into or out of Dubrovnik. The bus service between Dubrovnik and Montenegro is not the best, and long delays are very frequent. We even encountered a bus driver who smoked while steering the bus. Not much fun.

montenegro smoking bus driver

Unlike elsewhere in Montenegro, smoking is not allowed on buses - though this Jadran Ekspres driver didn't care

How to get around Montenegro (without a car)

You don’t need a rental car to explore Montenegro. While the country is mountainous and therefore journeys take longer, travelling around Montenegro by train and bus is actually very feasible and has the added benefit that you can fully enjoy the stunning scenery.

Train travel in Montenegro

Let’s start with the easy one. There are only two train lines currently operating in Montenegro, both are run by state-controlled rail transport operator Željeznički Prevoz Crne Gore (ZPCG):

  • the railway that connects the seaside town of Bar and Montenegro’s capital Podgorica with the Serbian capital Belgrade (in the summer full of Serbian families going on or returning from holiday), and
  • the railway between Podgorica and the town of Nikšić.

For up-to-date timetables (and fares) check out the ZPCG website. You can buy tickets at all train stations and from the conductor on the train.

interior podgorica niksic train carriage

Train travel in Montenegro is surprisingly comfortable

Bus travel in Montenegro

We found Busticket4Me most useful when it came to finding timetables and fares. You can even book bus tickets online through the website. Just be aware that you still need to

  • check-in at the bus station (and pay a station fee);
  • print off your bus ticket if you have ordered it online; and
  • pay a luggage fee if you put your luggage on hold.

The station and luggage fees are only a Euro each (per person and per item, respectively).

Buses stop frequently and can be waived down at stops along the roadside. In this case, you pay your fare (including the luggage fee) on the bus.

Taxis in Montenegro

All taxi services in Montenegro only accept cash payments and no credit or debit cards.

interior bar budva bus victoria kure

It may not be the most modern but Montenegro has an extensive bus network | Photo by Victoria Kure on Unsplash

What to pack for your Montenegro trip

Given Montenegro’s topography, temperatures can vary significantly depending on where you go. We visited the country in July with 30+ degrees Celsius along the Adriatic coast but temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius in Durmitor National Park. Check the Weather Spark website for your destination.

If you want to be prepared for any weather and still pack light you may want to check out our recommended carry-on packing lists.

SafetyWing
backpackers in kotor

Young tourists in Kotor

Bar to Belgrade Railway Journey: Is it worth it?

Do you enjoy scenic train journeys and wonder if the Belgrade Bar railway line is worth your money (and your time) or how to buy tickets?

Ultimate Montenegro itinerary: Explore the highlights in 14 days (or more)

Our itinerary takes you from the fjord-like Bay of Kotor and Montenegro’s old capital of Cetinje to the coast of the Southern Adriatic, and the water lilies and bird life of Skadar Lake, before heading inland on a breath-taking rail journey through the deep river gorges, and high up into majestic mountains with crystal-clear lakes, and challenging hiking and mountain bike trails.

DestinationMinimum number of nights recommended
Bay of Kotor (Kotor, Perast and Risan, with option to visit Tivat)3
Cetinje (with day trip/s to Lovćen National Park and Lipa Cave or Ostrog Monastery)3
(Stari) Bar, Ulcinj and Skadar Lake National Park3
Half-Day trip on the Bar-Belgrade RailwayN/A
Žabljak, Durmitor National Park and Tara River Canyon4

For this itinerary, we recommend flying into Tivat Airport / Аеродром Тиват (Official website, IATA: TIV, ICAO: LYTV, Google Maps location) and out of Podgorica Airport / Аеродром Подгорица (Official website, IATA: TGD, ICAO: LYPG, Google Maps location). You can do the itinerary solely by bus and train. A rental car is not required, though we do recommend renting a car for a day or two in Bar as it allows you to explore a bit more of Lake Skadar.

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Tivat Airport to Kotor

You can travel by bus, taxi or private shultte (see below options). Both take about 15 minutes through the road tunnel that connects Tivat and Kotor.

Intercity Buses from Bar, Budva or Podgorica to Kotor (via Tivat) generally stop at Tivat Airport. Bus fares cost around EUR3.00. A taxi between Tivat Airport and Kotor costs around EUR10.00.

Kotor to Cetinje

There are frequent intercity buses between Kotor and Cetinje via Budva. The journey takes approximately 90 minutes. For the day trip to Lovćen National Park and Lipa Cave, we recommend hiring a bicycle. Your accommodation may even provide one for free.

To visit Ostrog Monastery on a day trip from Cetinje, you need to first take an intercity bus from Cetinje to Podgorica (45 minutes) and then the ZPCG train from Podgorica towards Nikšić, getting off at Ostrog (another 45 minutes).

From the Ostrog station, it’s a steep hike of just over 2 kilometres / 280-metre elevation gain to the lower monastery (and an additional one kilometre / 280-metre elevation gain) to the upper monastery.

It is possible to overnight at the monastery and experience the first service at sunrise. There are dorm rooms at both the lower and upper monasteries. You can even sleep in the courtyard of the upper monastery if the weather allows and you bring your own sleeping bag/mat.

ostrog monastery

You can visit Ostrog Monastery on a day trip from Cetinje or overnight at the Monastery to experience the sunrise service

Cetinje to Bar

The bus journey takes approximately 2 hours. Once in Bar, we recommend hiring a rental car for a day or two. However, if you prefer public transport, there are frequent

  • bus connections between Bar and Ulcinj (taking around 30 minutes), and
  • train connections between Bar and Virpazar on Skadar Lake (taking 25 minutes).

If you do hire a car be aware that Montenegrin drivers (or Serbian drivers on holiday) are not the most courteous, and secondary roads tend to be skinny, requiring frequent stops to let oncoming traffic pass.

DiscoverCars.com is used and recommended by the team at Minimalsit Journeys

Bar to Kolašin or Mojkovac

The journey from Bar to the north of the country is one of the most amazing train journeys on earth. After crossing Skadar Lake and leaving the capital Podgorica the train slowly ascends through deep river gorges into the mountains – over myriads of viaducts and the 200-metre-high Mala Rijeka Bridge.

There are only two trains a day, one in the morning, another one in the evening. To experience the stunning scenery the train travels through you’ll need to take the morning train. The journey to Kolašin takes 2 hours 15 minutes (though often it’s delayed by at least 30 minutes), and 15 minutes more to Mojkovac.

As for where to get off the train, it’s really your choice: Kolašin is the more interesting one of the two, but if you want to add a few nights to explore Biogradska Gora with its virgin forests Mojkovac is closer to the park.

Bar Belgrade Experience Day Trip

Don't miss it: The journey on the Bar-Belgrade Railway in Montenegro is one of the most amazing train rides on earth

Kolašin or Mojkovac to Žabljak

There is no direct bus connection between Kolašin/Mojkovac and Žabljak. You need to change buses at Đurđevića Tara. The famous Tara Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering and well worth the stopover. Not including the stop at the bridge, the journey takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Žabljak to Podgorica Airport

Frequent buses connect Žabljak and Podgorica, taking approximately 2 1/2 hours.

Between Podgorica town and the airport, however, there is no easy bus connection. From Podgorica, you can take a ZPCG train to Aerodrom Station which takes 7 minutes (costing EUR1.20), followed by a flat 10 minutes walk to get to the terminal (use Maps.Me to find your way). Check the train times though as trains are not that frequent. The main bus and train stations in Podgorica are adjacent to one another.

A taxi between Podgorica and Podgorica Airport costs around EUR12.00 and takes about 15 minutes.

tara bridge alexey malakhov on unsplash

A masterpiece of engineering, the Tara Bridge is well worth a stopover | Photo by Alexey Malakhov on Unsplash

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Where to stay in Montenegro

Accommodation in Kotor

Kotor‘s position towards one end of the bay means there are hundreds of accommodation options dotted along the bay, and there are buses that connect Kotor with the villages along the bay shore.

My accommodation recommendations in Kotor are conveniently located near all the sights on this itinerary:

NameBenefitsTypePrice
Apartments Wine HouseTravel Sustainable Level 1
Inside Old Town
Fully equipped kitchenette
Apartment$$$Book Now
Kotor Center WBeachfront
Allergy-free units
Apartment$$$$Book Now
La Rocca ApartmentTravel Sustainable Level 1
Historic building
Apartment$$$Book Now
Travel Sustainability Level is based upon the Booking.com criteria.

Alternative accommodation options in Kotor are below.

Booking.com

Accommodation in Cetinje

Cetinje is easy to walk or cycle, and you can even explore Lovćen National Park by mountain bike (it is 15 kilometres / 620 metres elevation gain to the mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic-Njegos with 360-degree views). I have therefore included some accommodation options that provide a bike free of charge:

NameBenefitsTypePrice
Apartman Donji Kraj24-hour front desk
Fully equipped kitchen
Apartment$$Book Now
Apartmani vukExcellent location
24-hour front desk
Packed lunches are available
Apartment$Book Now
Apartments Aleksandra CetinjeGreat for couples
Laundry
Apartment$$Book Now
Brvnara BorovikTravel Sustainable Level 1
Mountain and garden views
Family Bungalow$$Book Now
Travel Sustainability Level is based upon the Booking.com criteria.

Alternative accommodation options in Cetinje are below.

Booking.com
cruise ships dominate the kotor skyline

Cruise ships dominate the kotor skyline

Accommodation on the Southern Adriatic coast (Bar, Ulcinj and Vranjina)

Bar is a port town and not very pretty. We preferred Ulcinj. That said, if you don’t want to hire a car, it is best to base yourself in Bar as it’s easy to visit Ulcinj from there by bus and Skadar Lake by train (each is about 30 minutes away). Below are my recommended accommodation selection.

NameBenefitsTypePrice
Bar Exclusiv Soho city ResidenceBeachfront property
Sun terrace
Entire Apartment$$$Book Now
Grace Apartments BarExcellent location
Well-fitted kitchen
Mini-market on site
Apartment$$Book Now
Hotel AgapeTravel Sustainable Level 2Hotel$$$Book Now
Hotel PrincessTravel Sustainable Level 1
Private Beach
Swimming Pool
Hotel$$$Book Now
Les appartements Prives BarTravel Sustainable Level 2
Mountain views
Fully equipped kitchen
Apartment$$$$Book Now
Stara Carsija Hotel and SpaTravel Sustainable Level 2
Seasonal outdoor swimming pool
Room service
Hotel$$$$Book Now
Villa Glavanovic ApartmentsTravel Sustainable Level 2
Kitchenette
Public bus stop close by
Apartment$$Book Now
Apartmani DjurovicApartment$Book Now
Ethno Village MoracaGorgeous location
Perfect trout meals on site
Bungalow$$Book Now
Travel Sustainability Level is based upon the Booking.com criteria.

Alternative accommodation options in Bar are below.

Booking.com

Accommodation in Žabljak (Durmitor National Park)

Žabljak is the gateway to Durmitor National Park, though the park entrance is a 2-kilometre walk southwest of the small town. Keep that in mind when you select your accommodation.

Here are my Žabljak accommodation recommendations:

NameBenefitsTypePrice
View of the DurmitorMountain view or garden view
Private bathrooms
Apartment$$Book Now
Holiday Home Vile CalimeroHydro-massage shower cabins
Laundry
Close to town and restaurants
Apartment or house$$Book Now
Guest House RGGreat breakfastGuesthouse$$Book Now
Guesthouse Planinarski dom NeviđenoExcellent locationGuesthouse$Book Now
Rondovic ApartmaniComfortable bed
Delicious breakfast
Guesthouse$$Book Now
Travel Sustainability Level is based upon the Booking.com criteria.

Alternative accommodation options in Žabljak are below.

Booking.com
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view bar port from stari bar

In Bar, if you don't have a car look for accommodation in walking distance to the train station and Stari Bar

Food and restaurant recommendations

When visiting Montenegro make sure you try some typical Montenegrin or Balkan dishes, including

  • Cevapi (small, minced meat sausages made without skin),
  • Burek (filo pastry filled with meat, cheese or spinach) – locals have it with a yoghurt drink
  • Ispod Saca (veal, lamb or goat meat slowly roasted under hot coals with potatoes, carrots, and onions)
  • Buzara (a seafood stew with red or white wine sauce)
  • Gavice (small fried fish)
  • Grilled fish from Skadar Lake, and
  • the local varieties of cheese (for example, Durmitorski Skorup, and Njeguški or Pljevaljski sir) and ham (the village of Njegusi between Kotor and Cetinje is known for its prosciutto).
montenegro food

Make sure you try some typical Montenegrin or Balkan dishes, including Burek

Where to eat around the Bay of Kotor

Kotor is full of tourist(y) restaurants but if you leave the old town you can find a few gems serving local food at local prices, including

Where to eat in Cetinje

If you dislike the service and prices in some of the more touristy spots in Montenegro you’ll be surprised by the value for money you get in Cetinje:

montenegro dinner date

Our favourite restaurant in Žabljak was the Durmitor Inn (now permenantly closed) - delicious food, friendly service and very affordable

Where to eat in Bar, Ulcinj and around Skadar Lake

Narrowing it down to our top three wasn’t easy but here they are:

Where to eat in Žabljak

Being more a village than a town, Žabljak doesn’t have that many good dining options. The local bakery was always packed with people but our absolute favourite was a small family business that has since permanently closed:

What experiences and accommodation would you recommend after exploring Montenegro?

I wrote this Montenegro Itinerary article based on my own personal experience. If you explored Montenegro recently and you have something to add, please feel free to contact me. If you liked my tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.

Author: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandrarosenau/" target="_blank">Sandra Rosenau</a>

Author: Sandra Rosenau

Sandra Rosenau is a Gen X gal from Germany, born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, with an unquenchable thirst to learn. Self-starter. Multi-lingual. Minimalist. Environmentally conscious. Financially and location independent. Energised by connecting with others and helping people succeed.