In the summer of 2019, we travelled through various Balkan countries spending between 8 and 25 days in each. We travelled from Slovenia to Croatia, to Montenegro and from there to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and ultimately Albania. As usual, we recorded our travel/living expenses. If you want to know how much to budget for a trip to Montenegro this article is for you. And if you’d love to travel, but it seems unaffordable, we can help make travel dreams come true (without getting into debt) with easy to follow steps.
What currency is used in Montenegro?
Interestingly, Montenegro uses the Euro (EUR), even though it is not a member of the European Union. In fact, Montenegro has such a chequered currency history that it created a dedicated museum in the old capital Cetinje, with excellent free guided tours.
While we strongly encourage you to visit Cetinje and the museum, we won’t keep you in suspense: After the wars of independence and break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) in the mid-1990s, the Deutsche Mark (the official currency of West Germany at the time) became the de facto currency to counteract hyperinflation. It was eventually adopted as Montenegro’s official currency in 1999, only to be replaced by the Euro when Germany joined the European Union in 2002.
How much should I budget for a trip to Montenegro?
Of the Balkan countries, Montenegro sits at about mid-range cost-of-living-wise, being neither the cheapest nor the most expensive country we visited. Especially compared to Western Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand, Montenegro is quite affordable to travel/live in.
Our average daily travel/living costs per person in Montenegro were EUR36.43/USD40.99
Our travel/living expenses are generally based upon:
- Travelling independently as a couple;
- Having breakfast and at least one other meal at our accommodation, and only occasionally dining out (mostly at lunchtime during day excursions); and
- Being selective about the tourist activities we do.
|Expense Category||EUR per person per day|
|Dining and Groceries||8.60||24%|
|Transport and Travel||5.03||14%|
|Total per person per day||36.43|
Your overall daily costs will be determined by various factors, including what season you go, how long you will stay in one place, what tourist activities you wish to do, what transport method you choose to get around, how often you eat out, etc. Our travel guide can help you plan for your trip. Added bonus: our 14-day itinerary takes you to all our favourite spots in this beautiful country, and you don’t even need a car.
Our cheapest accommodation was a dorm bed at the (lower) Ostrog Monastery for EUR5 per person per night. Our most expensive accommodation was at the Bay of Kotor at EUR32.84 per night for a short-term rental apartment right by the water, looking across the bay to Kotor which was 2km away.
Groceries and Dining
In Montenegro, we spent more on dining than we did on groceries. Unsurprisingly, dining out was more expensive in tourist towns such as Kotor than in more remote regions of the country. As such, our most expensive meal out was dinner at Hotel Bokeljski Dvori at the Bay of Kotor for EUR23.00; our cheapest meal was lunch at Cukarland Café in Cetinje for EU5.00 (total for two people, respectively).
And while it is easy to stop at a tourist café or restaurant for lunch, we generally tried to go where the locals went, a block or more away from the main streets. The reward is a more authentic experience. Find one where the menu is only in Montenegrin, and you’re on to a winner.
Below is a list of common consumer staples to give you an idea what things cost in Montenegro:
|Item||Price in EUR|
|1kg smoked cheese||12.69|
|1 dozen eggs||1.30|
|1kg Greek Yoghurt||1.38|
|1kg Rump Steak||10.99|
Transport and Travel
While we exclude intercountry transportation from our travel cost statistics, we do want to mention our inter-country transport experiences in and out of Montenegro (we actually travelled into and out of Montenegro twice):
Our first experience was a bus journey with Jadran Ekspres, from Dubrovnik to Kotor and (unfortunately again) from Nikšić to Mostar. We wrote about our bad experience on Google.com. We couldn’t avoid them the second time as they were the only bus company doing the route that day.
Our second experience was significantly more pleasant: an overnight train journey in our own cabin (from Belgrade to Podgorica), followed by a bus journey from Podgorica to Tirana. Jadran Ekspres also served the latter route but this time, we had the choice.
Bus and train travel in Montenegro might be slower, but it is not unpleasant (if you avoid Jadran Ekspres) – you can even explore all the highlights Montenegro has to offer without hiring a car:
- Buses (at least those we took) and the train between Podgorica and Nikšić were on time (we don’t consider anything within 15 minutes as late).
- The Belgrade-Bar train may be late (we encountered up to 1 1/2 hours), but the scenery you’re travelling through makes (more than) up for it – after all, it goes over 435 bridges and through 254 tunnels.
Check the official Montenegro Rail website for up-to-date train timetables, then buy your ticket in-person at the train station.
- all bus companies require you to have a printed copy of your ticket when you board (difficult to obtain when you travel unless you get it printed at the bus station – for a fee), and
- if you booked online, you have to check-in with the station office which then charges you a EUR1.00 per person station fee.
We bought our bus tickets in person at the bus station (about 1/2 hour beforehand). At no point, did we encounter any sold-out bus journeys, but we did see people travelling from Kotor to Žabljak/Durmitor National Park who had to wait for a later bus (that same day) as the bus they wanted to take was full.
The only taxis we took were at the Bay of Kotor, so we can’t speak for elsewhere in the country. Taxi fares there were reasonable at EUR1-2 per km travelled. Just ensure you confirm the price before you get in.
We hired cars twice: for just one day in Kotor (from Oasis Car Rental) to visit the surrounding area and the old capital of Cetinje, and the second time in Bar (from Meridian Rentacar) to explore Bar, Ulcinj and Skadar Lake National Park for two days. The experience again was mixed:
- Kotor: Through no fault of our own, a local driver scraped us on the narrow winding roads above Kotor causing a scratch on the rear side of our car. Despite taking his driver’s licence details, we had to pay EUR100 to the car rental company, as we hadn’t called the police at the time (because we were blocking the road, and the drivers behind us were already getting impatient). Learning from that: Don’t care about those around you and call the police, no matter what.
- Bar: We arranged the car over the phone a day in advance. A staff member from Meridian picked us up from our accommodation, took us to the rental car office to do all the formalities and dropped us at the train station after we returned the car two days later. The staff was friendly, and the service impeccable.
Montenegro is rich in history and natural beauty. True to its name (Montenegro means Black Mountain), the country is very mountainous, which makes for beautiful hikes and stunning vistas. Being on the Adriatic, it also has beautiful beaches, so there is plenty to keep you busy.
Most of our activities were either free or low cost. They included
- Exploring the sights around the Bay of Kotor, including the Roman archaeological site at Risan and the very interesting Maritime Museums in Perast (with its free guided tours) and Kotor;
- Visiting various National Parks; and
- Exploring the old capital of Cetinje (an underrated town surprisingly full of history and culture), the old town of Bar and the town of Ulcinj with its strong Islamic influences.
Paul also jumped at the opportunity to zip across the valley above Kotor (on the Zip Line Njeguši) for only EUR10.
Our most rewarding hikes (in order of completion) were the one to Kotor Fortress; the hike around the Black Lake/Crno Jezero, the largest of 18 glacial lakes in Durmitor National Park near Žabljak; and a full-day hike to the Ledena Pecina Ice Cave in Durmitor National Park – a 16km medium-hard loop hike with >900m elevation gain and some pretty vertical (but doable) ascents/descents.
Given that we started our European journey from New Zealand, we took out travel insurance with a New Zealand-based insurance company to cover any eventuality. The cost of this is calculated on a daily basis and allocated against the duration of time we spent in Montenegro.
Our other expense that we don’t normally incur, but did this time in Montenegro, were internet access fees. In Kotor, our short-term rental accommodation had problems with their internet service which proved to be a major nuisance for us. The upside was that we were able to purchase a SIM card from the local provider that had the best value of any European country we have been to. At the Montenegro Telekom office in Kotor, we were able to purchase a Tourist prepaid package for EUR5.00 which included 300 GB of internet data.
Should I tip for service in Montenegro?
Coming from New Zealand where the concept of tipping for service is not normal or expected, it is always difficult to know what to do – even after completing all the research.
When we went out for dinner in Montenegro, and the service was very good and the food quality excellent, we did leave a small tip on the table. And we didn’t get a weird look or comment when we didn’t leave a tip.
How much cash do I need in Montenegro?
From a safety point of view, we like to have as little cash as possible on us, yet enough to not feel uncomfortable.l
Of the expenses incurred in Montenegro, we paid 45% in cash. The biggest cash amount was a payment of EUR50.00 for the one day car hire in Kotor.
Are you planning a trip to any other country?
If you are planning to visit Montenegro, there is a reasonable chance that you may also visit the surrounding region. We also wrote about our travel costs in Croatia, and will be publishing articles about our travel costs in Bosnia and Herzegovina soon. Feel free to check out our other country travel costs.