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Montenegro - Travel and visas
Citizens of EU countries, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA, Israel, Japan and most countries of eastern Europe do not need visas for single-entry 90-day visits (for citizens of Russia, Albania and Ukraine the limit is 30 days). Make sure you get an entry stamp on arrival, however, or risk allegations of being an illegal immigrant when you leave. As with most countries, passports must be undamaged and valid for the length of the stay.
Would-be tourists from other countries, two particular examples being Malaysia and Taiwan, may experience unexpected and unexplained delays or even refusals.
People from these countries should consider getting their visas before booking a non-refundable ticket. Nationals of countries not listed in the previous paragraph should contact their local Montenegrin consulate, if there is one, or their Serbian consulate as a fallback.
It is now routine and hassle-free to make side trips without visas to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania and Kosovo.
From the UK Montenegro Airlines operates flights (May–Sep) between London Gatwick and Podgorica, and London Gatwick and Tivat. Flights take three hours. In 2014, Ryanair began four-weekly flights between Podgorica and Brussels Charleroi in June 2013, and in 2014 began direct flights between London Stansted and Podgorica. This is currently the easiest and (in common with all budget airlines, providing you book well in advance) the cheapest and most convenient way to get to Montenegro from the UK. There are also flights from London to Podgorica with Adria Airways.
For many years, the favoured route to Montenegro for a good many travellers was to fly to Dubrovnik and cross the frontier overland. Flights from the UK are operated to Dubrovnik’s Čilipi Airport by British Airways, easyJet, Aer Lingus and Croatia Airlines.
There are regular car-ferry services between Bar and Bari (to which Ryanair flies from London Stansted), and from the beginning of July until mid-September between Bar and Ancona. Ferries are operated by Montenegro Lines in Bar. There is at least one Bar–Bari sailing per day in high season and three per week in low season, generally leaving port (at both ends) between 21.00 and 23.00, arriving the next morning after an early breakfast (around 07.00–08.00). Ships leave Bar for Ancona on Wednesdays and Fridays at 16.00, arriving at 08.00, and returning the following day at the same times.
The only international railway link into Montenegro is through Belgrade (one of the world’s most spectacular rail trips). There is currently only one stopping day train and one express night train between the two, but schedules keep changing, so check with the railways before you make too many plans. Only the first will let you see the fantastic views. The journey is scheduled to take seven hours to Kolašin, eight to Podgorica and ten to Bar.
For online Railways of Montenegro timetables, visit www.zcg-prevoz.me but note that these times should always be confirmed in advance of travel, and that long-distance trains often arrive at least an hour late. Fares are quite reasonable and unless you are on a tight budget it is worth buying a first-class ticket (around €25 to Podgorica, as opposed to €17 for second class; €27 or €19 to Bar).
By bus There are international buses that link Montenegrin towns to Dubrovnik, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Subotica and Sarajevo.
By car Border posts have proliferated in the last three years on roads to neighbouring countries. For tourists they are normally a mere formality, but in high season there can be time-consuming queues on some routes. Apart from the crossing from Dubrovnik (Croatia) at Debeli Brjeg, it is possible to enter from Serbia via Čemerno (near Jabuka) or Dobrakovo (north of Bijelo Polje); from Bosnia and Herzegovina via Sitnica (near Herceg Novi), Vilusi, Vraćenovići, Šćepan Polje or Metaljika; from Kosovo via the Kulina Pass between Rožaje and Peć or Špiljani Draga; or from Albania via Bozaj (Hani i Hotit), Sukobin or Grnčar near Plav.
Within Montenegro there is a comprehensive service between most of the larger towns, but one cannot assume that it will be possible to travel directly from A to B; for example there is no official bus route between Kotor and Cetinje by the old road through Njeguši; instead one must travel via Budva. The bus network covers all of the coast and much of the mountainous region and it is safe to assume that there will be a link, though not necessarily more than once or twice a day nor on time, between neighbouring towns of any size.
For most destinations within Montenegro the one-way fare will be under €10. Generally you pay an extra euro on top of the fare if you buy your ticket at the bus station rather than on the bus, but the former will assure you of a seat. If you want a return ticket you’ll need to buy it at the bus station.
Montenegrins drive on the right, fearlessly and with verve. It is best not to call their bluff. Roads are not always well signed and the signs themselves are sometimes obscured by political or advertising posters. Up-to-date maps are now quite widely available, for instance in filling stations. The speed limit is 80km/h on motorways and 50km/h in built-up areas, or lower speeds as posted. Excessive speeding, defi ned as anything above 30km/h over the limit, may result in temporary confiscation of your licence and a fine of between €20 and €300. Seat belts must be worn in the front seats and it is obligatory to have your headlights on at all times. The AMSCG (Automobile Association of Montenegro) offers emergency roadside assistance (% 19807) and travel advice.
Car hire Government tourist information centres and travel agencies can often recommend good car-rental firms, but in high season reliable vehicles may be in short supply and it is always prudent to book in advance. For a one-week rental, expect to pay in the region of €35 per day for a Yugo Cabrio, rising to €55 (Renault Clio) or €60 (Renault Thalia).
Taxis are quite cheap and are generally metered in the larger towns. Otherwise it is sensible to agree the fare in advance (as an example, Bijelo Polje–Plav was €25 for four people one way and €35 for two on the way back).
The internal rail network is only 249km long in total but prices are reasonable and views are often spectacular. The Railways of Montenegro website is in English. It is quite a good guide, although it is not always up to date and some pages remain ‘under reconstruction’.
The Adriatic coast has increasingly good facilities for boat hire, but note that there is no organised maritime rescue service.
By organised tour
There are numerous organised tours available. To whet your appetite, consider some excursions on offer at the time of writing:
The Albanian border By bus. Views over the Bojana River, Skadar Lake and a visit to Ostros village.
Bus trip to Ulcinj and Ada Bojana Along the coast and past the 12km-long Velika Beach.
Excursion by bus to rural Montenegro With demonstrations of traditional folk customs and a visit to a typical country village.
Tara Bridge The highest in Europe at 150m. Train and bus through the Morača Canyon.
Ostrog Monastery A dizzying drive to Montenegro’s most atmospheric monastery, built into the side of a soaring cliff.
Cetinje Montenegro’s old historic capital, cradled in the mountains. Skadar Lake By bus to the lake and then by boat around it to view the fishing villages and wildlife.