Describe Montenegro in one sentence? A small country with big mountains.
Montenegro may only have less than 100 miles of the Adriatic coast but it packs a lot into its compact size, but in the case of the Budva Riviera it can pack a bit too much. Montenegro has a thriving adventure tourism industry so is an excellent country for activities such as kayaking and mountaineering. This Montenegro travel blog post gives tips and advice for all travellers to this Balkan country.
Visa: Montenegro is not an EU country. EU citizens do not require a visa to enter Montenegro for stays of up to 90 days. Travellers must register with the police within 24 hours – hotels will normally carry this out. In private accommodation ask the host in advance if they will do this for you upon arrival.
The British Foreign Office website states that visitors to Montenegro must carry a valid form of ID at all times whereas the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs doesn’t mention this. I was only asked for ID when I entered and left the country.
Language: Montenegrin has strong similarities with other Slavic languages such as Serbian and Croatian. The Cyrillic alphabet is used as well as the Latin alphabet. Pretty much everyone under the age of thirty can speak a little English but on the coastal strip it’s more fluently spoken. Russian is also widely understood.
Crna Gora is what Montenegro is known as in its own language and translates as Black Mountain. Montenegrin website domains end with the letters me.
Is Montenegro expensive: Prices of food and accommodation in Montenegro were higher than Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina but a little cheaper than Croatia. Lunch and snacks in Kotor were on par with Dubrovnik (i.e. expensive). Car rental in Montenegro is expensive with massive excesses blocked on credit cards.
Best time to visit Montenegro: Montenegro’s mountains provide a welcome respite in the summer months from the congested coastal region. In winter, these same mountains are snow-capped.
The beaches are popular with Eastern European families who arrive mid-June. I found the coast quite crowded in late June so can’t imagine the sardine-tin type congestion of July and August. I was informed that late May, early June and September are equally good times for coastal swimming.
Electrical plugs in Montenegro: The standard continental European type which is the two round pin plug/socket of 220V-240V.
Food in Montenegro: The local cuisine was a nice mix of inland and coastal Balkan traditions. As I mainly covered the coastal area fish was an everyday choice along with salad. Grilled meats and burek (meat pastry) typical of inland Balkans were plentiful.
But my favourite food in Montenegro was Palacinke Plazma, a folded crepe topped with Nutella and crushed biscuit (Plazma). Like other Balkan countries, everything in Montenegro is washed down with coffee and cigarettes.
Montenegro wine is glorious and if you’re a fan of brandy (rakija) the Montenegrins infuse their variety with fruit.
Montenegro Geography: Montenegro shares a border with the former Yugoslav countries of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo to its north, east and south east respectively. When crossing borders bear in mind not every country recognises Kosovo, especially Serbia.
The limpid Adriatic Sea forms Montenegro’s western border. Lake Skadar forms part of the border with Albania to the south. Lake Skadar is also known as Lake Scutari, Lake Shkodër and Lake Shkodra.
Montenegro is a predominantly mountainous country.
Getting around Montenegro: The roads in Montenegro are a good test of your driving and confidence skills. They’re narrow and twisting, traversing mountainous terrain and clinging to cliffs so a small automatic car is probably your best investment. Car rental is limited and expensive. Speed limits are low and the traffic police are rigorous at imposing those limits.
The bus service along the Budva Riviera is reliable and reasonably priced, although buses running between Budva and Dubrovnik in Croatia need to be booked in advance in high season. The GetByBus website is a good guide to bus services in Montenegro.
As for rail travel, the Belgrade to Bar railway line runs through the country from north to south via Podgorica while the second railway line runs from Podgorica to Nikšić.
Getting to Montenegro: I followed in Marshal Tito’s footsteps and arrived in Montenegro via the scenic Belgrade to Bar train which is the subject of one of my destination posts below.
Bus services link neighbouring countries but book in advance on the GetByBus website for Mid-June to August journeys. Budva is the bus hub of coastal Montenegro.
Podgorica and Tivat are Montenegro’s international airports although many visitors use the larger Dubrovnik airport in Croatia. Bear in mind that long delays will be experienced at the border travelling from Montenegro into Croatia, which is an EU frontier, although the southward journey has less delays. I experienced a 3 hour border delay when entering Croatia by public bus.
Is Montenegro safe to visit: Like the other Balkan countries I’ve travelled to, I found Montenegro to be a safe country for solo female travellers. You will be able to sunbathe on beaches without intrusion.
Cultural issues: For some reason, waiters and male staff in general reluctantly served me everywhere, giving me the bill before my food in a Kotor café and not serving me at all in a promenade take-away in Petrovac, to name a few incidents.
I quickly learned and spent my hard-earned money in female-run establishments where excellent service was experienced 100% of the time. Not every Montenegro travel blog post will mention this gender disparity but perhaps not every travel blogger will experience this.
Montenegrins are reluctant to talk about politics and I can see why, given the geopolitical tension in the region. Divergent views exist regarding the country’s NATO membership, relationship with Russia, relationship with the EU, and recognition of Kosovo’s independence. The weather in Montenegro was hot but I got the impression that the country is at the frontier of a new Cold War.
Montenegro History: Like most other Balkan countries Montenegro has had a topsy-turvy history of empires coming and going, namely the Venetian and Ottoman empires. In the late 19th century, Montenegro achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire only to be subsumed, in 1918, into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which later became Yugoslavia.
Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo remained part of Yugoslavia after Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina gained independence in the 1990s. It entered a new union with Serbia in 2003 but voted for independence in 2006. Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, a move which infuriated Serbia and Russia.
Podgorica is the capital city and was known as Titograd from 1946 to 1992.
Belgrade to Bar Train: Not so much a destination but a journey, the Belgrade to Bar train ride is one of the most beautiful train journeys in Europe.
Budva Riviera: Budva is the largest beach resort on Montenegro’s Adriatic Coast. The coastal area around the resort is known as the Budva Riviera.
Day trips from Budva: It’s easy to get Budva fatigue so head up the coast to Kotor and inland to Cetinje for easy day trips from Budva.