A land of mountains makes roads and all forms of transport more difficult than other places. Driving conditions in Montenegro are infamous due to the narrow roads, hairpin turns, and sometimes crazy drivers. But despite the challenges, seeing the country from the road presents one of the more accessible ways to experience the beautiful yet challenging nature. To help you out, here are our 12 tips for planning the ultimate road trip in Montenegro.
Logistical Road Trip Tips
1. Documents required
All the usuals apply here. Passports are required, while visas are not for many countries. Travelers may stay in Montenegro for up to 90 days without a visa if they are from or have documents for EU countries, Israel, the UK, the US and others (more visa info for Montenegro can be found here). Required car documents include a valid driver’s license from host country or an official international driver’s license, vehicle registration, ownership or authority to drive the vehicle, insurance, and a green card allowing the vehicle to be driven across the border.
2. Navigation tools
GPS systems and Google Maps work well on the coast and main roads in the country. The mobile app maps.me (Android download) (Mac download) often has more detail in the north and less traveled areas. We recommend downloading the Google Maps and the Maps.me info to have two sources for navigation in Montenegro.
(Note: the Garmin GPS system works for foreigners, but the accent and mispronunciations are so significant, that it could be difficult for a local to understand.)
3. Car rental info
We get the question often about whether or not it is OK to rent from the local car rental companies. In short, yes. We have worked with the majors and local car rental companies and have had good results. Our clients have also rented from both and have generally been pleased. Car rentals in Montenegro will usually include the rental, the insurance, and, at times, a GPS. Also, you need to notify the rental company if you plan to leave the country. For Albania or Kosovo, you will need to make sure your vehicle has the necessary documents and insurance respectively. Finally, make sure your vehicle make has good clearance if you plan to venture into the northern part of Montenegro and veer off the main roads at all. Some of our favorite parts of the country have rocky or gravel roads that require higher clearance vehicles.
For car rental, we recommend using MTL rent-a-car. They are our reliable partners and if you drop them an email saying you have found them through Meanderbug you will receive 5% off on all rentals.
4. Border crossings
Border crossings are pretty low key in the area. However they can back up heavily during the peak travel season. We suggest you use the restroom before you arrive at the border and have some snacks and water in the vehicle. Also, some crossings have a line(s) of semi trucks that are waiting to clear customs. Generally travelers can drive past this line of trucks to go through the car and truck lane.
Make a Good Adventure Great
5. See the key sights
Usually the beaten path is beaten down for a reason. We suggest you see the places that everybody knows. This definitely includes the UNESCO sites of Kotor and Durmitor. Also, this includes so much of the coastline including the view above Budva and Skadar Lake.
6. Take the road less traveled
According to Robert Frost, this decision made all the difference. We think so too. We shared our top 15 roads for a Montenegro road trip. This list will take you far into making a great adventure. And, when you finish this list, contact us. We already have more places that we love to go and we’re still exploring.
7. Hotels, apartments, and farm stay
Lodging options in Montenegro are increasing. On the coast and in the larger towns there are many options for hotels and apartments for rent. We are fans and the leading advocates of the farm stay concept in Montenegro. Pick what fits you. If that includes organic foods, gracious hospitality, adventure in nature, and an unforgettable experience, we suggest you check out the wide range of village or farm stays in Montenegro. It definitely makes for a great adventure!
8. Camping, glamping, and RV hookups
There is an increase in the number of camping places in the country. Here are several locations for camping and glamping in Montenegro that practice organic farming. We also suggest katuns or mountain huts for overnight stays. The katun is a key part of the Montenegrin village story and a place to check out for access to culture, nature, and adventure. There also are a growing number of RV-friendly places spread throughout the country.
Safety Tips for Road Tripping in Montenegro and the Balkans
9. Driving Tips
Follow the signage and posted speeds. In years past, this has been a haven for people that seemed determined to be Rally Racers. However, police are cracking down and setting up more radar locations. For safety and for more time spent sightseeing and less with the police, slow down. Also, note that turn signage posted in black gives an indicator of direction, while the red arrows indicate a sharper tack requiring caution. While these are not always well-marked, slow down significantly when red arrows appear just to be safe. Some turns become hairpin scenarios with little notice. And just to keep it exciting, in some places there is no signage whether black or red.
10. Drive Like a Duck
One of the tips that we have lived by in our years of traveling overseas is to drive like a duck. (We learned this from an old hand years ago.) Like the ducks in a row marching marching as one, watch the cars in front of you and drive like they do. Sure there are limitations to this strategy, but if signage is unclear or a junction doesn’t have clear indication of right-of-way, then adopt the duck driving mode.
11. Towing & car repair
If you have car troubles along the way, we recommend you contact your car rental company or travel agent for assistance. They should help you make contact with locals in your area that can help you work through the issues. Also, the Montenegrin automotive association’s nationwide number is +382-20-234-999. Towing numbers can usually be found along the way, written on the rock and concrete walls along the highway with the word šlep. For tire repair, look for a vulkanizer. While many of these will not speak English, it is always worth a try and hand motions can go a long way. Also, ask nearby locals to help in making contact. Many Montenegrins are willing to do whatever possible to assist foreigners in a time of need.
12. Emergency numbers
We hope you never need these numbers. But, just in case, here are the emergency numbers for Montenegro: Police – 122 | Fire – 123 | Ambulance – 124.
Bonus: Notes on car theft
Car theft has not been a problem in Montenegro to date. We recommend you lock your car and keep valuables out of sight just to be prudent, but no need to worry about whether someone may take your car for a permanent spin. Some major cities in the Balkans, however, do have theft issues. When your road trip includes Sarajevo, Mostar, or Belgrade, we encourage drivers to park in paid parking areas with security. Cars that have proved the most enticing to theft networks in these urban centers are newer model Volkswagen and Škodas.
Happy road tripping around Montenegro and across the Balkans.