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Montenegro - Health and safety
With Dr Felicity Nicholson
It is recommended that travellers from the UK be up to date on primary courses of vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and polio; these now come as an all-in-one vaccine (Revaxis), which lasts for ten years. Other vaccines to be considered are pneumococcal and flu vaccine in the elderly, as well as hepatitis A. Hepatitis B should also be considered for longer trips and definitely for those working in medical settings or with children. Vaccination against rabies is also recommended (see below).
Hepatitis A is more common in hotter countries and is spread by infected food and water. One dose of vaccine gives protection against the virus for a year. It can be boosted at least six months later, or at any time after that, to give 25 years’ cover. It may be obtainable free of charge on the NHS so do ask well in advance of your trip.
Hepatitis B is spread through blood and other body fluids, so as well as being recommended for those working with children or in medical settings, it is classed as a disease of risky behaviour. Unsafe sex, tattooing, acupuncture, body piercing, etc are best avoided. For those aged 16 or over, three doses of vaccine can be given over a minimum of 21 days (Engerix B only). For younger travellers, at least two months must be allowed to get in all three doses. Whenever possible, if time allows, longer courses (ie: three doses over at least six months) give more sustainable protection.
Technically all visitors to Montenegro need a certificate confirming that they are HIV negative, but we know of no case where this rule has been enforced.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on www.istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult www.travelhealthpro.org.uk (UK) or http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ (US). Information about various medications may be found on www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel/. All advice found online should be used in conjunction with expert advice received prior to or during travel.
The level of crime in Montenegro is low and it is generally safe to walk in towns after dark, at least in the central areas. There is some petty theft, for instance from pockets, beach bags or unattended cars, but very little personal violence. The approach to women is little short of chivalrous and the usual attitude of locals to foreign tourists is friendly and generous to a fault.
The laws regarding the use or possession of drugs, and the penalties for breaking them, are broadly similar to those in the UK. Possession as well as trafficking in drugs can mean a jail sentence.
The police and military do not like their personnel, buildings or vehicles to be photographed. If you don’t want a row, have the charm ready. There are no known landmines or unexploded ordnance within the national borders.
The latest UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice (www.fco.gov.uk) says somewhat cautiously (as it has done for some years) that ‘most visits to Montenegro are trouble-free’. Indeed they are, but although both the UK and Montenegro have recognised Kosovo, Serbia so far has not, and in 2011 there were some minor problems at borders between those two countries. Foreign travellers should be aware of this and exercise tact (but in reality are unlikely to encounter problems).
The road between Rožaje and Peć, over the Kulina Pass, is officially the only legal crossing point between Montenegro and Kosovo, but in practice it is permissible through Dračenovac near Špiljani Draga for all EU nationals. If in any doubt check with the authorities before you travel.
Travellers to Montenegro are required to register with the police within 24 hours of arrival, though if you are staying in a hotel or official tourist accommodation this will automatically be done for you.
Foreigners are in general treated as honoured guests in Montenegro. This applies equally to males and females, and women will feel quite safe walking alone after dark in busy tourist areas. Indeed, in cities such as Podgorica and Nikšić, joining the evening passeggiata feels positively obligatory, even for the unaccompanied traveller. That said, just as in Britain or the USA, it is common sense to exercise reasonable caution with regard to lonely spots, either urban or rural. It is also wise to think twice before diving into a rowdy male-dominated bar or club. In Montenegro alcohol consumption by young women is rarely great, most preferring juice, and any ‘laddish’ behaviour runs the risk of sending out the wrong message.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Homosexuality in both sexes is accepted without much enthusiasm, so long as it is not flaunted. There are few, if any gay clubs or bars, but the Residence Hotel in Sveti Stefan stands out for its unusually relaxed attitude to questions of sexuality.
Travellers with limited mobility
Except for the higher-category new international hotels that are beginning to open, there are as yet few facilities adapted for, or dedicated to, wheelchair users, and toilet arrangements could prove a serious challenge. But for the undeterred, while getting around would not by any means be straightforward, neither should it be too hard to find willing volunteers to lend a hand. In Podgorica, pavement ramps have recently been constructed at pedestrian traffic-light crossings, and some of Herceg Novi’s many flights of steps have ramps. However, the claim by many local hotels to be ‘disabled friendly’ is often based on a very loose definition of the words.