Off the beaten track: Kotor, Montenegro
Hi team, we’re back from our Montenegro-Croatia trip and to say I have the holiday blues would be the understatement of the century. Overdramatic? Maybe a little.
I’ll talk more about Croatia in my next post, but today I’ve focused on our stint in Montenegro. It’s one of the slightly more ‘off the beaten track’ countries in Europe and hasn’t yet been swamped with tourists, although it’s certainly becoming a more popular destination.
We spent three days in Montenegro and the scenery was STUNNING. We were due to stay for a week before driving to Croatia, but unfortunately everything went a little bit wrong. From power cuts to burst pipes and the water being cut off for 24 hours, we were told by locals that the country really needs funding for their infrastructure. Suppose that’s all part of the adventure though, eh?
While our stay was cut short, I did love Montenegro, particularly for the scenery. I’ve covered a few things you should know before visiting Montenegro, as well as the best time to go, where to stay and what to explore.
Things to know
Crossing the border – we drove to Montenegro from Dubrovnik in Croatia. One thing to note would be the amount of horn beeping from other cars, which we put down to a) us being in a Croatian car in Montenegro and b) their general love of using the horn. From what we’ve read and from talking to locals, it’s nothing personal (most of the time! Although Nathan was driving like a snail so…) Apparently, they just like to beep when they’re overtaking, about to overtake, wanting to overtake, to say hi and er, any other reasons you can think of.
Crossing the border was easy enough, just make sure you have your IDP (more details in the paragraph below), a green card for your car (your hire company should provide you with this upon request) and your passport. There are two checkpoints, one for the Croatian border and one as you enter Montenegro. On the way there, it added on around 40 minutes to our journey and on the way back, around an hour. Although we have been told of instances of it taking 2-4 hours during peak times.
International drivers permit – if you’re planning on hiring a car in Croatia, you’ll need to get an International Drivers Permit (from the Post Office, if you’re in the UK. I’ve linked it for you above). There’s a small fee of around £5, and you’ll need to make sure you carry it around with you whenever you are driving. This is actually the case for quite a few countries around Europe, so have a look at the link above if you’re unsure.
Registering with tourist information – okay, we were a tad confused as we read conflicting advice, but the general consensus is that you need to register within 12-24 hours and pay your tourist taxes. You register at a tourist information centre (not with the police unless specifically requested) and if you’re staying at a hotel, check with them first as they may have already registered you and charged you for your taxes. We stayed in an Airbnb so we were required to do this ourselves. Tourist taxes are 1 euro per person, per day. It was easy and fairly quick (well, about as quick as they can be in Montenegro – expect a much slower, relaxed pace of life than the UK!) Find out more on the Montenegro Travel Advice site.
It’s not currently in the EU! Yes I know, I should have realised this before we visited but I didn’t actually do much research, for once. This isn’t a problem at all, apart from when it comes to using your mobile/4G, which is hella expensive. £6 a day for 150MB of internet and 60p to send a text? Nah, I’ll take a digital detox, thanks! I just WiFi hopped when I needed to contact anyone (or when I needed to post on Insta – priorities, right?) So it’s worth checking with your accommodation provider if they have WiFi and making sure your data roaming is turned off. Make the most of your time away from the digital world.
Intolerances/allergens? Head to the larger supermarkets as the smaller shops don’t stock much in the way of free from food. I would recommend the Aroma in the Kamelijah shopping centre, which had rice milk and a small selection of gluten free products.
Where to stay
If I had the chance to visit Montenegro again, I would do it one of two ways.
- Stay in Croatia and get the boat to Kotor for the day for some exploring.
- Do a road trip around Montenegro, staying at a different place every couple of days.
Kotor was beautiful but we stayed in the suburbs, which were in my opinion, a little rough around the edges and lacking restaurants/things to do. The suburbs had a very ‘in with the locals’ feel to it, which might not appeal to everyone. My advice would be to stay a couple of days in/close to Kotor Old Town to explore the Old Town, Kotor Bay and Lovcen Mountain (if you’re feeling brave!) Then either head north to Durmitor Park or south to Petrovac, Lake Skadar and the old capital of Cetinje.
Lonely Planet (one of my go-to sites when I’m holiday planning) has some great content and advice for where to stay and what to do.
What to do
I feel like we barely skimmed the surface of Montenegro during our short stay, it really is a vast and unexpectedly beautiful country. I’ve included some must see places as well as recommendations we were given by our local expert.
Kotor Old Town and Lovcen Mountain
The Old Town is fully of tiny streets, cosy restaurants and charming independent shops. You can also walk around the walls and up to the fortress, which is meant to have spectacular views. Visiting in 34 degree heat, we decided against the steep walk and ambled through the quaint streets of the Old Town instead, stopping for a drink in the sun.
I would recommend parking near the Kamilejah shopping centre, the second left turn just after the shopping centre. This car park was fairly cheap and close to the Old Town (approximately a few minutes walk).
We had also planned to do Lovcen Mountain and the Serpentine Road, both of which looked incredible, although perhaps not for the faint-hearted! The mountain overlooks Kotor and takes roughly 40 minutes – 1 hour to drive according to our local expert.
We were so lucky to stay on Boka Bay, which was surrounded by beautiful mountains. It was stunning and the daily views and sunsets were the best we have ever seen. There are plenty of boat trips available around the bay, as well as kayaking and paddle boarding. Alternatively, there are lots of jettys open to the public if you want somewhere to soak up the sun and have a dip in the water! It might also be worth visiting Perast for an evening or for some lunch and a kayak/paddle board. It’s meant to be a beautiful little village and from what we saw, I kind of wish we had stayed there!
Other places that were on our list to explore included:
- Durmitor National Park (which looks amazing if you love hiking)
- Lake Skadar (supposed to be great for a day out on the lake, boat trips, kayaking)
- Cetinje (the old capital, which looks full of character and history)
- The coast – Budva and Petrovac (the locals told us Budva is more of a party town and Petrovac is slightly quieter/more family oriented and has the best beach)
When to go
Unless you thrive in the heat and love humidity, I’d advise you don’t visit Kotor over the summer months. We visited at the end of June and by Jove, it was SWELTERING. As in 32-35 degrees most days and humidity levels around 60% in the day and over 85% in the evenings. My hair somewhat resembled a poodle after a blow-dry.
If you want to properly explore Montenegro, I would advise going May/early June or September time, for a compromise of decent weather and being able to explore and get around a lot more.
Many people we spoke to knew a little bit of English, but we did also try some Montenegrin too. Here are a few basic words to get you started (take a look at Culture Trip’s Montenegro post for some more phrases and pronunciations).
Dobar dan: good day
Hvala (hvahlah- we were told to say it a bit like koala!): thank you
If you’re travelling to Montenegro, enjoy! I hope this guide has been helpful. Please feel free to add any recommendations in the comments below.