Montenegro is a tiny Balkan country home to rugged mountains, medieval towns, and miles of picturesque beaches. With just over half a million people, Montenegro has become a recent hotspot for backpackers and budget travelers.
Offering idyllic gems like Kotor, with its medieval architecture and fjord-like bay, as well as world-class pristine beaches stretching down the Adriatic coast, as the Balkans become one of the most up-and-coming tourist regions in Europe, Montenegro has soared in popularity, especially since it is relatively safe, small, and cheap.
This travel guide has everything you need to know to save money and make the most of your visit to Montenegro.
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Montenegro
1. Explore Ulcinj
2. Hit the beach in Budva
3. Visit in Kotor
4. Go hiking in Durmitor National Park
5. Take a wine tour
Other Things to See and Do in Montenegro
1. Go rafting
Rafting on the Tara River is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Montenegro. Known as the “Tear of Europe,” the river forms the second deepest canyon in the world (the first being the Grand Canyon) and you can go rafting in easy and moderate conditions while taking in the incredible beauty of the canyon. Prices start at 32 EUR ($37 USD) for rafting and 98 EUR ($116 USD) for canyoning. There are multi-day rafting and canyoning combo trips available too.
2. Hike Lovcen Mountain
Lovcen is more than just a mountain to the people of Montenegro, it’s a sacred place and national treasure. Located in the southwest, one hour from Kotor, the mountains have a mausoleum where Petar II Petrovic-Njegoš, the great Montenegrin ruler. There is also a national park here with hiking trails, including a day-long hike to Kotor. Admission is 2 EUR.
3. Relax at Lake Skadar
Located in the south along the border with Albania, Lake Skadar is the largest lake in southern Europe. There is plenty to see and do here, such as visiting the ancient island prisons and monasteries, exploring the National Park and bird reserves, relaxing on one of the private beaches, and taking a swim in the crystal-clear waters of the lake. Expect to pay around 25 EUR ($28 USD) for a boat rental or 5 EUR ($6 USD) per hour for a kayak.
4. Visit the National Museum of Montenegro
The National Museum of Montenegro is located in Cetinje, the country’s historic capital (the current capital is Podgorica). Established in 1896, it’s composed of several different museums and galleries together in one complex. The two of the most popular museums are the Museum of History and the Art Museum. You can easily spend a full day here taking in the exhibitions and learning about the country’s history. A collective ticket is 10 EUR ($12 USD) while individual tickets range from 2-5 EUR ($2.50-6 USD).
5. Enjoy the history of Stari Bar
Located in the southwest, this town was once ruled by the Byzantines. Its ruined fortress offers one of the most beautiful views in Montenegro thanks to the stunning backdrop of Mount Rumija. The town itself has been the site of many battles (chiefly against the Ottomans) so it’s been destroyed and rebuilt many times over. There are also the ruins of a 13th-century Franciscan monastery, an 18th-century Turkish bathhouse, and the oldest olive tree in the world (it’s over 2,000 years old). It is just an hour south of Kotor by car.
6. Watch the sunset in Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan is a 15th-century village 30km south of Kotor. Located on the coast, it has a postcard-perfect pink pebbled beach and beautiful clear blue water. While you can’t access the nearby island without staying at the five-star resort that occupies it, the nearby beaches are perfect for a late afternoon swim and to watch the sunset over the Adriatic Sea. Don’t miss the 600-year-old Praskvica Monastery that overlooks the village.
7. Hit the slopes
Thanks to an average of 120 days of snow each year, Montenegro is the perfect winter sports destination. The ski resorts in Montenegro sit at altitudes of up to 2,181 meters and there are over 20km of slopes to enjoy. The most popular resorts are Savin Kuk on Durmitor mountain or Kolasin 1450 on Bjelasica mountain. Lift passes range from 12-20 EUR ($14-24 USD).
8. Visit the Cat Museum
For a more unconventional museum experience, visit Kotor’s Cat Museum (Museo del Gatto di Cattaro). Located in the Old Town, this small museum is dedicated to cats. It explores the history of Montenegro’s feline friends as Kotor has a noticeably high cat population thanks to its history as a trading port. Cats from all around the world traveled here on ships and were subsequently abandoned. They became an important part of the culture of the city. Admission is 1 EUR ($1.25 USD) and helps support local stray cats.
9. See the Castle of San Giovanni
San Giovanni Fortress in Kotor is one of the city’s historic fortifications. Perched almost 300m above sea level, the castle has a taxing 1,355 steps you have to climb to get to it (which takes about an hour). The fortress, also known as St. John’s Fortress, is a UNESCO Heritage Site and dates to the 9th century and is one of the best historic remnants in the city. It’s mostly crumbled now, but there are several stone walls, fortifications, and foundations still in place. There’s also over 4.5km (2.8 miles) of defensive walls, some of which are 20 meters (65ft) tall. There are several viewpoints on the hike too. Admission is 8 EUR ($9 USD).
10. Explore the Blue Cave
Located on the Lustica Peninsula just 22km from Kotor, the famous Blue Cave of Montenegro is only accessible by boat on an organized tour from either Herceg Novi or Kotor. It’s named after the iridescent blue light that shines brightly within the cave. For a 1-2 hour tour of the blue cave (plus other nearby caves) expect to pay around 25 EUR ($29 USD).
Montenegro Travel Costs
Accommodation – Hostels start at 8 EUR ($9 USD) per night for a 6-8 bed dorm. Free Wi-Fi is standard as are self-catering facilities. Most hostels do not include free breakfast. For a private room, expect to pay 20 EUR ($22 USD).
Budget hotels start at 28 EUR ($35 USD) per night for a double or twin. Many budget hotels also include free breakfast.
Airbnb is available in the main cities and towns around the country with private rooms starting at 21 EUR ($25 USD) per night. For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay at least 34 EUR ($40 USD) per night.
For anyone traveling with a tent, there are a fair number of campsites around Montenegro. A basic plot without electricity costs around 8-14 EUR ($10-17 USD) per night. Wild camping is illegal.
Food – Food in Montenegro is different from its Balkan neighbors owing to heavier Mediterranean and Italian influences. Expect to see a lot of pizza and pasta restaurants when you’re in the cities. Look out for staples like cevapcici (grilled kebabs), sarma (cabbage leaves stuffed with meat), and goulash. On the coast, seafood is readily available.
For a quick on-the-go snack, try burek a Turkish pastry filled with meat or cheese (they typically cost a couple of euros). For inexpensive traditional cuisine, expect to pay 6 EUR ($7 USD).
For a three-course dinner, expect to pay around 20 EUR ($23 USD). For something extremely filling, try karadorde vasnicla, a breaded veal cutlet roll stuffed with cheese.
A beer costs 2 EUR ($2.50 USD) while a latte or cappuccino costs 1.50 EUR ($1.75 USD).
If you are planning to cook your own food, a week’s worth of groceries costs between 25-35 EUR ($30-$40 USD) for basic staples like potatoes, cabbage, pasta, and some meat.
Activities – Montenegro is a great place for hiking, rafting, and boat trips. For a 3-hour boat tour to the blue cave expect to pay at least 25 EUR ($29 USD). For a rafting tour, you can expect to pay around 32 EUR ($37 USD). Most national parks charge an entry fee of between 2-5 EUR ($2.50-$6 USD), and generally, museums charge 1.50 EUR ($1.70 USD) entry.
Backpacking Montenegro Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker’s budget of 30-38 EUR ($35-45 USD) per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook most of your meals, eat cheaply, visit a few budget-friendly attractions, limit your drinking, and use public transportation to get around.
On a mid-range budget of 75-88 EUR ($90-105 USD), you can stay in a budget hotel or Airbnb, eat out for all your meals at restaurants serving local cuisine, drink more, take the occasional taxi, take some guided tours, and do more activities like rafting or cave tours.
On a luxury budget of 224 EUR ($265 USD) per day, you can stay in four-star hotels, eat out at any restaurant for all your meals, rent a car, do as many activities as you want, drink as much as you’d like, and take more guided tours (including wine tours). The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Prices are in USD.
Montenegro Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Montenegro is already pretty affordable. You won’t really break the bank here if you stick eating away from tourist areas, limiting your drinking, and taking public transportation. However, it never hurts to save money! Here are a few ways to save while you’re traveling Montenegro:
- Take a free walking tour – Kotor and Budva both offer free walking tours. They’re my favorite way to get familiar with a new city and culture. Just be sure to tip your guide!
- Cook your own meals – Many hostels here include kitchen facilities so if you want to save money make sure you book accommodation with a kitchen. Buying groceries may not be glamorous but it will definitely save you money!
- Stay with a local – Staying with a local via Couchsurfing is a great way to save money and connect with a knowledgeable local who can help you better understand the city and its people.
- Walk everywhere – Most of the major towns and cities in Montenegro are walkable. Skip the public transportation if you want to save a few euros.
- Enjoy the free spaces – There are plenty of free parks as well as many free hiking trails around the country. Save your money and enjoy the outdoors for free.
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water here is generally safe, however, a reusable bottle with a filter will ensure your water is always clean and potable. A filter like LifeStraw will not only keep you safe but you’ll reduce your plastic use too!
Where To Stay in Montenegro
Even though Montenegro is small there are tons of hostels around the country. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Montenegro:
How to Get Around Montenegro
Public transportation prices will vary by city, but expect to pay around 0.80 EUR ($0.90 USD) for a standard adult ticket.
Bus – Montenegro has an extensive intercity bus network that is comfortable and reliable. You can often save money by buying your ticket direct from the driver as prices are sometimes cheaper when buying tickets right as you’re looking to leave. However, if you are traveling during the summer, it’s worth booking in advance. If you have a large backpack you will be charged 1 EUR ($1.25 USD) per bag to store it under the bus.
Trains – The railway in Montenegro is very old and not modernized at all. I would not advise train travel within Montenegro as the buses are nicer, faster, and far more reliable. To enter and exit Montenegro, Montenegro Railways has a service that will take you north into Serbia all the way to Belgrade. It’s a 10-hour trip and costs around 12 EUR ($14 USD).
Budget Airlines– There are no domestic flights within Montenegro.
Car Rental – Car rentals can be as low as 30 EUR ($35 USD) per day. Just make sure you have an International Driving Permit (IDP) as you’ll need one to rent a vehicle.
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in Montenegro is possible, but it can be rather slow as many of the roads are winding and mountainous. Expect long waits between rides — especially outside the main summer months. HitchWiki is the best website for more hitchhiking info.
When to Go to Montenegro
The best time to visit Montenegro is anytime between April and September. Peak season is July and August, when the weather is warmest. Daily highs in the summer are usually around 31°C (89°F).
Winters are cold, especially if you go inland where there is more of a sub-alpine climate, offering heavy rainfall and snow. Unless you plan on skiing, I’d avoid visiting in the winter.
If you’re on a budget and want to beat the summer crowds, the best time to visit is either June or September. You still have the heat but there are fewer crowds and it’s not sweltering. For hiking and outdoor activities consider September-October as the national parks look particularly pretty as the leaves change.
How to Stay Safe in Montenegro
Although Montenegro is a relatively safe country, scams and pick-pocketing can occur, especially in Kotor, Budva, Sveti Stefan, and Herceg Novi. Be vigilant in tourist areas or while on crowded public transportation. If you have a purse or shoulder bag, wear it across your body and not just over one shoulder so it can’t be easily torn off and stolen.
If you’re renting a car, be aware that many of the roads are in rough condition. Drive slowly and cautiously — even if the locals aren’t. Additionally, don’t leave any valuables in your vehicle overnight. While break-ins are rare, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re checking a bag on a bus, don’t leave any valuables in it just in case.
If you’re doing any mountainous hikes, be sure to check the weather in advance and bring appropriate gear/clothing. It will be colder and windier at higher altitudes.
Organized crime has a strong foothold here too. While the majority of their activities won’t impact you, some beggars have been known to take part in schemes wherein they provide information to thieves and pickpockets based on who gives them money. Don’t give money to beggars to avoid any complications.
There are also a lot of unexploded land mines near the border with Kosovo. If you are exploring that area be sure to stick to the main roads and don’t head off into the brush.
You can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. You have every right to remove yourself from the situation. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Montenegro!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Montenegro Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Europe. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – German based Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR ($6 USD)! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, and up to three 3 free bags.
- BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Montenegro Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Montenegro Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Mother Tongue: A Saga of Three Generations of Balkan Women, by Tania Romanov
The book follows the lives of three generations of women over a 100 year period as they live their lives in exile, refugee camps, and strange new worlds. They travel through countries ruled by fascists, nazis, and nationalists, their lives lived in exile. The story examines how our identity is shaped by the greater movements of history.
Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History, by Robert D. Kaplan
Balkan Ghosts was chosen by the New York Times as one of its books of the year and has been hailed as “the most insightful and timely work on the Balkans to date” (The Boston Globe). If you want a book that is going to really put into context the politics of the wars in the Balkans since World War II, this is it. The new edition also contains six essays pieces written by the author about the Balkans.
Montenegro: A Novel, by Starling Lawrence
This book is an old-fashioned adventure story set in Montenegro. The beauty of it though is the detailed descriptions that Lawrence uses to describe the rugged beauty of the Montenegrin countryside. Whether you are preparing for a trip and looking for a book to get you excited about your upcoming journey, or planning to take this with you to accompany you on the road the way he talks about Montenegro won’t fail to get you excited. The book centers around Auberon Harwell, an Englishman traveling the Balkans as a botanist in search of rare specimens. Although this is actually just a cover story to mask the fact he has been sent into Montenegro as an amateur spy to assess the political situation.
Eastern Europe!: Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does , by Tomek Jankowski
This book provides the ultimate historical overview of Eastern Europe. Addressing the paradox between the ancient history of cities that are located in newly founded Countries freed from the Soviet Union in 1989, Jankowski offers readers an insight into the history of events that have shaped this region. It is very reader-friendly and it will help you to understand both the things that unite and separate eastern from western Europe. It touches on some pretty heavy topics like genocide, religion, and Communism, while still keeping the book light and dropping in some fun facts and useless trivia every now and again.
Montenegro Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Europe and continue planning your trip:
Photo credit: 2 – Dudva