Recently, 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.
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- The costs are based upon a couple travelling together.
- We did not travel as part of an organised tour group but as independent travellers.
- Not considered is the entry or exit transport into/out of the country.
- Our travel style wherever we go is reasonably consistent, which is great when you want to compare travel costs:
- Accommodation: We usually stay in self-catered accommodation, in our own room and with (preferably) our own bathroom. The kitchen may be shared. Want ideas on how to save on your accommodation costs?
- Dining and Groceries: We have at least two meals a day at home. We like to eat out at cafes or restaurants every few days.
- Transportation: Wherever possible, we travel by public transport.
- Experiences: We pay for some tourist attractions or activities, but are selective as our funds are limited (just like everyone else’s).
- Also included in the overall daily costs (for the period of time we are in the country) are:
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 Money 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 the 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.
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 vehicle.
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.
How to save money on accommodation
For accommodation, as with any other travel expenses, it’s worth shopping around. When we book accommodation somewhere, we tend to look across a number of booking platforms to find the best value-for-money option. Wherever you book, make sure you read the fine print to make sure you compare apples with apples. For example, your stay may incur extra charges (like local tourist taxes or cleaning fees). Some booking platforms include them, while with others, you have to pay them to your host upon arrival.
Nightly rates are generally cheaper outside of peak season. If you can only travel in peak season, look for accommodation options that are a little further away from the main tourist attractions, yet have good connections by public transport. Always double-check the cancellation policy and payment terms before you book.
We use and recommend the following online travel agents and service providers for all our accommodation needs:
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|
|1 kilogram of smoked cheese||12.69|
|1 kilogram of potatoes||0.49|
|1 dozen eggs||1.30|
|1 kiloggram of Greek Yoghurt||1.38|
|1 kilogram of Rump Steak||10.9|
How to save money on dining and groceries
Dining out all the time can quickly get expensive. We always book accommodation where we have access to a kitchen - either our own little kitchenette or the kitchen of our host. That way, we can store food in the fridge and make our own meals. We usually have breakfast and one other meal at our accommodation, and one meal when we're out and about.
Restaurants (even in tourist hotspots) often have special lunch offers (for example, a three-course meal for EUR10). Portion sizes in many parts of the world are usually quite substantial, so we often share a three-course meal. The same applies if you go out for dinner: Order a starter or salad and a main, and that's usually enough for two people. An added benefit: there is less food waste.
As for groceries: every country has more expensive and cheaper supermarkets. Ask your host what the cheaper options are (for example, Aldi or Lidl in many European countries) and avoid 7/11-type convenience stores as much as possible.
When my mum turned 50, she didn’t want a huge party but instead asked to have a family holiday one last time. Both my brother and I had left home, and I was already engaged at the time. The five of us ended up booking a farmhouse overlooking Lake Garda in Northern Italy. When my parents arrived (they had driven from East Germany), their vehicle was full of groceries. To save money, my mum had decided that we would have every. meal at home. While she got her wish (mostly), my brother, partner and I snuck out one day to have a nice meal at a local trattoria.
Experiencing local cuisine is often one of the reasons why we travel… whether it be daring to taste grilled insects at a hawker stall in Asia, indulging in some funky vegan food truck dishes in Portland, or munching on a pizza in Italy. You don’t have to eat out three times a day though.
Paul and I tend to only eat out once a day (sometimes only once a week), usually at lunchtime. This allows us to experience local cuisine while taking advantage of awesome lunch deals. It also means we don’t have to roam around unknown parts of town every night in search of a restaurant.
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.
Bar Belgrade Railway: one of the coolest train trips in Europe
Do you like scenic train journeys? Wonder if the Belgrade Bar railway line is worth your money (and your time) or how to buy tickets?
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 30 minutes 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 was impeccable.
How to save money on transportation
Being flexible is what really pays when it comes to transportation and air travel in particular. Travel outside of peak season if you can. If you can't, fares might still be cheaper during certain times of the week and even hours of the day, so check websites like Skyscanner, and Google Travel that allows you to see a whole month and all the options on any given date.
If you have several airports in the vicinity of your home (or in the vicinity of your destination) compare the prices between the different options. For example, flying to Mykonos and taking the ferry to Santorini might still end up being way cheaper than flying from your home airport straight to Santorini.
We use and recommend the following online travel agents and service providers for all our travel needs:
To find good flight deals, we use one-stop travel sites or travel aggregators. Each shows the cheapest airfares on any given day, so you can choose to fly a day/week/month earlier or later, pending your flexibility.
If you find a good deal, book it there and then as prices change constantly. Ideally do your research with your browser in incognito mode, as cookies will show booking sites how keen you are to do a certain trip, which may affect the price quoted – that goes for all online travel bookings.
We tend to not actually go through the flight aggregators, but then book with the airline/s directly. The price is the same (sometimes cheaper), and we have a direct contract with the airline (rather than with the middleman) in case something goes wrong.
The best fares generally go first, so planning is important when it comes to transport. The same is true if you want to use air points/ miles, as there is only a very limited number of seats available for any given flight.
When we started our journey in October 2016, Paul and I took advantage of a special Qantas offer, paying only 25,000 frequent flyer points each from Auckland to San Francisco (one way). All we had to pay was the (unavoidable) taxes.
If you plan to travel through multiple continents, you may want to compare passes that offer several destinations as a package (such as around-the-world fares offered by One World or Star Alliance members) vs booking each leg of your trip individually.
If you are travelling during peak season those multi-destination packages may be a better deal than booking each leg individually. You can do overland sections on around-the-world tickets too, which means you could supplement your around-the-world ticket with cheap flights, bus and train rides in between destinations.
Vehicle rental (including relocations)
Unless your trip takes you across oceans, another way to save on transport is to look for vehicle/motorhome relocations. There are websites in many countries offering massively discounted rates (often including fuel and/or insurance) to those driving a vehicle/motorhome from A to B within a certain period. These deals are fairly last minute, and A and B are usually bigger transport hubs, but if that’s an option just search for vehicle/motorhome relocation at your destination.
Speaking of vehicles: If you are planning to hire a vehicle at your destination, it also pays to shop around. We use and recommend Discover Cars, an aggregator website that allows you to search across major car rental companies at once. And you don’t have to pay for the hire until you pick up the car.
A final option to save on transport costs is… to hitch a ride. While Paul and I did it safely in Dominica on a public holiday (when there was no other option), and we have taken plenty of people along in our campervan in New Zealand, there are many countries we wouldn’t feel safe hitchhiking. Judge for yourself where and when you can and can’t do it.
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 their 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.
The other expense that we don’t normally incur, but did this time in Montenegro, was 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.
How to save money on experiences
Free activities or experiences
Many activities (and some of our most treasured experiences) are free or cost very little. On our journeys, we have
- Visited many museums free of charge (including the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, Italy which is free on the first Sunday of the month)
- Joined Al Green’s Baptist Church Service in Memphis to experience local community life (rather than pay the exorbitant entry fees at nearby Graceland)
- Attended free guided walking tours through Buenos Aires and Merida (you pay a tip at the end based on your budget and how much you liked the tour) and a free guided walking tour as part of Auckland Heritage Festival (which even included coffee and scones afterwards)
- Did countless self-guided walks and used public transport to get to know a city
- Hiked in the Andes in Ecuador and climbed volcanoes in the Caribbean
- Swam and snorkelled at countless beaches, using tree shade rather than paying for parasols; and
- Attended free performances and danced with locals in Cuba.
Just search for free activities for your destination and chances are someone has made a nice list for you already. Here are some examples
Paying for experiences or activities can add up quickly, especially if you're travelling as a family. Make use of family passes (if available). Look out for special deals and discount coupons. If you travel in a group, you may also pay to book a private tour and share the cost. Definitely shop around.
We use and recommend the following service providers for all our paid experiences and activity needs:
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.
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.
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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