Kate in Montenegro

an australian in the western balkans

Christmas in Montenegro

Two really common questions I see from tourists coming to Montenegro in the winter are:

What is Christmas like in Montenegro? Is anything open on Christmas Day, December 25th?

The answer is everything… because in Montenegro Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 6th and 7th of January! The rhythm and importance of the winter holidays is completely different to how it is celebrated in English-speaking countries, so let me explain how it works here.

I’m from Australia, so I was used to December 25th being the big Christmas holiday involving gifts, family, and big lunches. New Year’s Eve for me was a social celebration involving parties with friends, champagne, fireworks (and falling asleep at 10pm if you’re over 40).

However, in Montenegro, December 25th is known as Catholic Christmas and it’s a normal working day. While you can find the odd restaurant offering Christmas lunches for expats and some church services at Catholic churches, it’s otherwise a normal day – except for the locals making frenetic winter holiday plans and getting ready for the real event – New Year’s Eve!

December 31st, New Year’s Eve, in Montenegro is HUGE. It’s a fascinating mix of Western Christmas traditions and New Year’s traditions all in one. A lot of the symbols – Santa Claus, Christmas trees, lights and decorations – that we associate with Christmas are linked here with New Year’s instead.

It’s the big culmination to the year with parties, concerts and plenty of drinking… but it’s also a time for family gatherings in the evening and presents for kids from Santa. Once the kids grow up, they move on from the family celebrations and head out in their best clothes to a typical New Year’s party as we know it.

Local TV stations put on all night music concerts of Balkan music. There is also always a huge concert in Budva featuring famous and now elderly Balkan singers (almost every year it’s Zdravko Čolić).

It’s also the beginning to the winter holiday break, two weeks of school holidays that most people also take off work, that lasts from New Year’s to the weekend after Orthodox Christmas. A lot of restaurants take their only breaks of the year for a few days after New Year’s Eve.

Orthodox Christmas itself is a wildly different experience to Western Christmas. It’s much more about family and religion than consumerism and gift-giving, with some pagan rituals scattered in between.

In the days leading up to Orthodox Christmas, you’ll see people selling oak branches on the side of the road and outside churches. This is for Badnji Dan – Orthodox Christmas Eve – when a family buys an oak branch – a badnjak – or cuts one from their own trees if they live in a village, and then for good luck, the man of the family sets it alight.

People do this (somewhat dangerously) in their apartments, or at huge public bonfires at the main church in each city. People take their oak branch and throw it on the communal fire. In Podgorica this is outside the Hram and is a serious cultural experience involving a concert of gusle music and deafening firecrackers set off metres away by local teenagers.

There’s also a big family meal on Orthodox Christmas Eve, and traditionally it is the last day of the six-week Christmas fast, so it relies heavily on beans, potatoes and vegetables and doesn’t include meat, fish or dairy.

January 7th, is Orthodox Christmas Day. It’s a public holiday where absolutely everything is closed and people spend time with their family, leading up to the big lunch in the afternoon.

It’s usually a family gathering, much like western Christmas, but without the gift-giving. The religious fast has now ended, so this is a huge meal involving all kinds of meat! There’s also a special kind of Christmas bread called česnica, baked with a coin inside – and whoever gets the coin gets special luck for the year ahead.

Around this time of year, you’ll also hear a lot of firecrackets (and even gunshots, if you live outside the cities). Firecrackers and fireworks are legal and easily purchased and teenagers LOVE throwing them in apartment entrances and at unsuspecting people’s feet.

You’ll hear firecrackers at random times all through the holiday season, with peaks at New Year’s, Orthodox Christmas, and then Orthodox New Year’s on the evening of January 13th (not hugely popular but still celebrated by more religious residents).

I hope you enjoy your Christmas in Montenegro – there aren’t many places in the world where you get two Christmases every year!

Things That Don’t Exist in Montenegro

After living in Montenegro for a few years now, I’ve discovered there are quite a lot of things that are taken for granted in bigger countries that just don’t exist here at all.

So, to avoid all the hours of fruitless searching, asking and wondering that I went through – here are some of the things that can’t be had for love or money.

Is there Amazon in Montenegro?

No. Very few online stores will actually deliver to Montenegro. I’ve heard various reasons for this: too small a market, too many packages that went missing, or too many people that reported packages as lost (but actually received them).

You can however get a lot of the same Chinese-made products that are on Amazon here through Aliexpress.

The other alternative is to make friends with someone who lives over the border in Croatia (in, say, Cavtat) and is willing to receive Amazon parcels for you.

Are there self-storage units in Montenegro?

No. The kind of building with purpose-built self-storage units you might find in the US or Australia for storing all your furniture while in between houses or extra stuff that doesn’t fit in your apartment doesn’t exist here.

There is one guy near Tivat who has set up a sort of storage facility where you can hire a shipping container with key, and all the containers are locked in a yard with cameras and dogs, but that’s it.

Is there recycling in Montenegro?

No. Sorting your trash or rubbish into glass, plastics, aluminium, etc, the way you would in other countries doesn’t exist here. I have seen some mobile recycling containers you can take bottles and plastic to but there’s no evidence that they are actually recycled and don’t just go to the landfill with everything else.

Is there proper black tea in Montenegro?

No. Not the kind beloved by the English or the Australians. There are a couple of local brands of black tea but they are either weak or terrible or both. Tea addicts need to bring them back on holiday or buy them from a store like britishcornershop.co.uk (a lovely online store that does deliver to Montenegro).

Are there decaf coffee beans in Montenegro?

No. I searched everywhere and while regular caffeinated coffee beans are easily available in small stores or at the green markets, decaf is extremely hard to come by.

Some supermarkets sell a brick of already ground decaf coffee from Lavazza, but for whole beans you’ll need to bring them back or order them from this one store I found in all of Europe that will ship to Montenegro – https://www.horshamcoffeeroaster.co.uk/.

Is there Ikea in Montenegro?

No. There are a couple of stores that import Ikea furniture at a heavy markup, but there’s no actual Ikea store here. It’s just too small a market.

Is there Starbucks in Montenegro?

No. And that’s a good thing! It’s one of the few countries you can visit without the ubiquitous American coffee chain everywhere. Instead, you have hundreds of local cafes to choose from instead.

Is there McDonalds in Montenegro?

No. The golden arches are absent from the country. I did hear that there was a kind of pop-up McDonalds here a few years back, but I’m not sure it was legit and it didn’t last long. There is a Burger King in Podgorica, however, and local burger shops with far more delicious burgers called pljeskavica are literally everywhere.

Is there an Apple store in Montenegro?

No. There isn’t one in the entire Balkans. The closest Apple stores are in Vienna, Venice, or Rome.

There is a reseller store called iCentar in Big Fashion mall in Podgorica, but it’s basically a showroom and they don’t have very many items actually in stock. (I once went in and enquired about the new Macbook Pro model. Do you have it, I asked. No. Can you order it in, I asked. No. The end.)

You can however get new iPhone models and some laptops from Tehnomax stores.

While in the beginning the lack of familiar things in Montenegro can be frustrating, it actually makes them more special when you can get them! Either that or you just go native and convert to the local way of doing things…

Driving in Montenegro

One of the most common questions I get from friends coming to Montenegro is – should I rent a car?

You can absolutely see a lot of the country by public transport (I’ve written all about how that works here), but to see the best of the national parks and to get away from the crowds, yes – you will need to rent a car.

However, there are a few things to be aware of first.

Driving Culture in Montenegro

Driving culture in Montenegro is probably different to what you’re used to.

Roads are narrow and winding and local driving can be erratic, tending to dangerous. It’s extremely common to see people on the phone or texting while driving (if you’re wondering why that car is front is doing 30kmh in a 60 zone and veering slightly out of their lane, that will be why).

Overtaking is also done in a highly optimistic fashion. On blind corners, in the passing lanes for the other side, or attempting to overtake three or four cars at once are all common. You’ll see a car coming in the opposite direction and in your lane heading for you — and it’s up to you to brake and give them the space to get back into their lane.

Likewise, if someone behind you is overtaking and they misjudged exactly how many cars they could overtake at once, give them space as they will try to duck back into the correct lane right in front of you.

If you get stuck behind a truck on a winding road, the driver will often try to help the column of traffic behind by indicating when it’s safe to pass. Right indicator on means it’s safe, left indicator on means there is oncoming traffic so keep waiting.

Many rural roads are one lane only. It’s safer to stick to the right instead of the middle of the road, even if the road seems empty. Mostly you’ll only meet a farmer in a Golf 2 coming the other way but occasionally you’ll get surprised by a youngster in a BMW going way too quickly so always be alert and checking what might coming around the next bend.

On these back roads, also watch out for herds of sheep or goats. It’s better to wait and let them pass, but if you’re impatient you can usually slowly nudge your way through without damage to you (or them).

Cows can also be a hazard in some rather unlikely places. In the winter, the main road between Budva and Petrovac, right above Sveti Stefan, is also the road home for a herd of cows.

Basically, always have your wits about you when driving in Montenegro as you never know what might be ahead. Cows, randomly parked cars, rockslides, pedestrians on their phones – it’s always an adventure.

The Roads in Montenegro

Major roads between cities are two lanes (one lane each way) with frequent third lanes for passing if it’s very steep. Minor roads are often one lane, but usually there is enough shoulder to pull over to let oncoming traffic to pass. All roads are paved and generally in decent condition unless you are really out in a rural area or it’s someone’s driveway.

If it’s your first time in the country you probably won’t encounter any of the really bad roads. (Caveat: there is one major exception: the road to Korita that is part of the scenic tourist drive, the Korita Ring. Approaching Korita the asphalt is very badly damaged – almost non-existent – and the potholes are metres wide. Don’t try it in a car with low suspension.)

In the winter, the mountain roads can get icy in spots or even be under snow. Roads in the north and even around known tourist regions like Žabljak can be cut off by snowfall for a day or two, or even the whole season in particularly isolated spots.

In the summer, traffic on the coast or at the borders can be horrendous (two hour plus traffic jams). Make sure you have water and plenty of time up your sleeve if you’re trying to make it to the airport.

There is one highway that runs between Podgorica and Mateševo (near Kolašin in the north of the country) and the toll is 3.50 euros. There is one other toll road that runs from Podgorica to the coast, and the fee is 2.50 euros. Cash payment is fine for both, you don’t need an electronic pass.

Google Maps mostly works for directions. It doesn’t always know the difference between an actual road and a hiking path for some more northern and isolated locations, but between towns it will be fine. Besides, if you get lost, there is almost always a helpful local around to tell you where to go.

Legal Things to Know

Montenegro drives on the right-hand side of the road.

Seatbelts are required.

It’s a legal requirement to have headlights on low at all times (even during the day).

Don’t drink and drive as the blood alcohol limit is very low (0.03%).

You don’t need an International Driving Permit if your licence is in English or written in the Latin alphabet.

In the winter, you will need special winter tires if you are driving outside the Podgorica region.

How to Rent a Car in Montenegro

There are some of the usual large companies in the country, like Europcar, Avis, and Sixt but there are also many smaller companies and even individuals renting cars to make some extra cash. A couple of times I’m pretty sure I’ve had grandma’s car for the week.

These smaller companies come with recommendations from my friends and other expats…

MTL Rent a Car

Ideal Rent a Car

Simeun Rent a Car

Tara Car

PS Rent a Car (Herceg Novi)

Delta Car

Automatics are rare (as is typical in Europe) so you’ll be better off if you can drive a manual. You don’t need a big SUV or 4WD here, in fact a small hatchback will be way easier to drive and to park.

Finally, don’t assume you can just cross the border to Bosnia or Albania with your rental car – make sure you tell your agency your plans so they can organise the correct papers and insurance for you.

Drive safe, and enjoy your trip!

Things to do in Plužine

Piva Lake – yes, it really is that colour

I’d never seen Plužine, a northern region bordering Bosnia, in any tourist brochures before and had considered it a last resort for a weekend trip.

But in the middle of a very hot summer with two imperatives: get to as high an altitude as possible, and as far away from the coastal crowds as possible, I went exploring.

And was very pleasantly surprised – at both the lack of crowds and the spectacular views.

Pivsko Jezero

No filters, I swear

The area is most well known for Pivsko Jezero (this translates to Piva Lake, which sadly is not a lake of beer), an artificial lake created in the 1970s for a hydro-electric dam.

The water is a rather magical and unreal looking deep blue-green colour, and spectacular from its many angles, both near the town of Plužine and along the canyon that runs many kilometres to the south.

It’s possible to do boat trips on the lake, or there are several cafes in the town where you can sit and look out at the lake.

Donja Brezna

Dornja Brezna on a hot summer day

On the road to the town of Plužine, you will see plenty of signs exhorting you to stop at Etno Selo Montenegro. It really is worth a visit (see the next section for more details), but so is the valley it is located in, Brezna.

Brezna is a incredibly peaceful valley just off the road, named for and known for its birch trees. I’ve never seen so many anywhere else in the country. There are two parts, Dornja Brezna (lower Brezna) the wider section closer to the main road, and Gornja Brezna, which is the more distant, more narrow and more treed part of the valley.

The residents have put a lot of effort into labelling all the attractions of Brezna, including signs for each farmhouse and what they sell (cheese, prsut, mushrooms, paintings, whatever). I haven’t been brave enough to knock on anyone’s door to make a purchase but, next time!

Traditional farmhouse in Gornja Brezna

There are also well marked signs for hikes to the two mountains bordering the valley, viewpoints of the Komarnica canyon, lover’s strolls, herb walks and more.

There’s enough to do for a couple of days, although I’ve been to this area a few times and still haven’t done most of them. Usually because the valley’s slow pace gets to me and I end up sitting under a tree for the afternoon instead.

Etno Selo Restaurants

An old builidng at Etno Selo Izlazak

I love a good etno selo restaurant and Plužine has two excellent ones: Etno Selo Montenegro and Etno Selo Izlazak.

Etno Selo Montenegro is in the above-mentioned Brezna valley. There they have a number of little houses with displays of old Montenegrin life, weekend houses for rent, some amusing yearly events like the competition for who can lie down the longest (Montenegrins always win) and a super chill outdoor restaurant with a dozen rustic tables under the trees.

They serve all the traditional foods but portion sizes are IMMENSE, easily for four people, so be warned!

My lunch companion at Etno Selo Montenegro

The restaurant also has a lot of well cared for and relaxed dogs and cats about the place (that will probably come to greet you when they smell your lunch arriving).

The view from the restaurant at Etno Selo Izlazak

Etno Selo Izlazak is about 20 minutes further on from the Brezna valley, and is a totally different vibe. It’s perched high up on the edge of the narrowest part of the canyon with a fantastic view of the blue-green water below from the breezy, shaded wooden tables.

Priganice with cheese, jam and honey

They also serve excellent priganice and are also just a nice place for a coffee to fuel you up before starting off on an interesting and very unknown road trip…

The Plužine Ring

The Plužine Ring

I call this route the Plužine ring as it passes through a gentler version of the much same kind of scenery as the Durmitor Ring – treeless high mountain landscapes, winding descents in forested canyons, incredibly isolated villages, and in the summer, past a lot of lonely shepherds hanging out with noone but their sheep for company.

The high plain in Plužine

But the main and most important difference on this drive is there are no campers clogging the road, no groups of bikers, and zero tourists. In high summer in Montenegro, this is a rare and precious thing.

Stećci in Plužine area

There is also a site of stećci on this drive, the medieval grave markers that I find so fascinating. They’re in a lonely and wind-swept spot on the far side of the village of Dubljevići. These unknown tribes definitely had a nice aesthetic sensibility: their carvings and their choice of burial locations are always quality.

The tunnels along Lake Piva

From the stećci, you pass through some lonely farmsteads and then descend into the forested canyon and the village of Boričje. When the forest opens out, you find yourself ending the drive with dramatic finish along the edge of Piva Lake through several hand-carved tunnels in the rock.

There are also beautiful views of Piva Lake from a dozen viewpoints along this last stretch, including of the bridge that will finally take you back to the town of Plužine and to civilisation.

Follow the signs to Piva Most / Bridge

To start this drive, just continue further down the road to Izlazak, cross the small bridge across the Piva, then climb up the other side of the canyon. At the top there is a crossroads with a sign for Bezuje, turn left here.

From there, there are yellow hiking signs at all the major crossroads, just follow the ones pointing to ‘Piva most / bridge’.

Macadam section leading (thankfully) to the paved road

This road on this circuit, while always narrow and one lane wide, is actually paved almost the entire way, except for one section not far beyond the stećci. This is a 2km section of bone-rattling macadam but it is passable by normal cars – you don’t need a 4W4 –  as it’s not holed or dangerous, just a bit rocky and slow to drive.

This circuit is however fairly challenging for the driver, with hundreds of small curves, ascents, and descents. The upside is usually long views of the road ahead (no getting surprised by oncoming cars) — and the fact that there are virtually no cars on this road anyway.

The Road to Nevidio

It’s also possible to turn right at the crossroads at the top of the canyon opposite Izlazak, and head through the village of Bezuje. Continuing from there, this road will eventually take you to Nevidio canyon and then to the main road to Žabljak.

I have drive on my list, but have yet to try it as I’m told there are very long stretches of macadam in between the paved sections and my patience (and car) isn’t up to that.

Access to Plužine

The other attraction of Plužine is how easy it is to get there. From Podgorica it is one and a half hour drive; from the coast around two hours. From both starting points, the road is wide, two lanes, and well maintained – like a normal road in any other country.

It makes a nice change from heart-stopping canyon roads like the way to Kolašin or the nausea-inducing serpentines in the forest like the way to Žabljak.

Enjoy this quiet, much less touristed section of the north!

Things to Do in Žabljak

Žabljak region

Usually when people are coming to Montenegro I get asked the same question every time: should I stay in Kotor or Budva?

The answer is always Kotor — but there’s a lot more to Montenegro than just the coast. The north of Montenegro is like another world ten degrees cooler and home to the wild beauty advertised on all the tourist brochures.

Žabljak is probably the most well known spot in the north, a small town of 2000 people and hiking hub, and base for exploring the Durmitor National Park.

In winter the area disappears under metres of snow, but in the summer it is an interesting combination of Podgorica people escaping the lowland heat for their weekend houses, Hungarian bikers enjoying the picturesque roads, and fit-looking hikers from all over the globe.

I’m yet to reach the level of hiking prowess necessary for scaling peaks, so I usually go to Žabljak just to enjoy some decent long walks and views of rather gorgeous scenery.

Here are a few of my favourite things…

The Durmitor Ring

A classic view on the Durmitor Ring

The most famous tourist attraction is the Durmitor Ring, a circular road beginning and ending in Žabljak that takes you through the wild mountain scenery of Durmitor National Park. It passes through tiny villages, picturesque lakes (if you go in spring you’ll see all of them), canyons hundreds of metres deep, pine forests, and high country summer sheep holdings.

It’s just incredible.

Just the beginning of the views from the Durmitor Ring

Don’t bother to look this route up on Google Maps, it isn’t there. Here is a link to an official map if you need it, but once you’re on the ground the route is well signed and difficult to get lost. You don’t need a 4×4 as the roads are paved, but they are one lane and very narrow, so watch out for oncoming traffic.

You can do the ring in two directions: one begins from the town of Žabljak itself and climbs down into the canyon and Šusičko lake. The other begins a few kilometres outside town back towards Šavnik and climbs to Sedlo Pass.

I recommend the first option, as the most challenging driving on the ring is in the forest, up and down into the canyon, and you’ll do that while you’re fresh. You also get a nice build up from forest views to green plateau plains and then the most spectacular mountains towards the end of the ring.

Caveat: don’t try this road before late May at the very earliest as you’re likely to be confronted by a wall of snow rather than a road. Not many people live up there and so the roads don’t get cleared all winter.

The Lakes

Vražje Jezero

Across from the main highway to Žabljak is a huge plain of green that hides my favourite lake in Montenegro, Vražje Jezero (Devil’s Lake). It’s supposedly called this way because it looks like an eye – it has a pale blue ring around a deep blue center.

Go in the late afternoon, the angled sun brings out the fullest contrast in the colours and you can sit on the hill next to it. Climb the small hill next to the lake to enjoy the view, and listen to the local shepherd singing to his sheep.

Crno Jezero

The most famous lake in Montenego is Crno Jezero (Black Lake). This is maybe a fifteen minute walk from the centre of Žabljak and has all the Montenegrin accoutrements necessary for life – a cafe, music and lots of good spots for Instagram photos.

You can take an easy 45 minute walk around the lake in summer (in spring the trail might be broken by small waterfalls).

Zminje Jezero

Continuing further from Black Lake, past old mills and streams, you can continue to the next lake, Zminje Jezero (Snake Lake). Do this walk in August and you will still find springs to fill up your water bottle and wild berries to snack on along the path (the tiniest but most delicious raspberries, strawberries and blueberries you will ever have).

Jablan Jezero from the climb to Crvena Greda

Another of my favourites, at the beginning of the Durmitor ring and less than an easy hour’s hike from the road, is Jablan Jezero. A short hike up the hill next to it and you can perch on a rock and enjoy the lake from above (always the best way to see these lakes, in my opinion).

Sušičko Jezero

Further along the Durmitor ring, down in the canyon, is Sušičko Jezero (Dry Lake). I was extremely puzzled on my first visit here, as all I found was a large grassy field.

It’s actually a spring lake – it only exists in early spring when the snow is melting. If you’re here in early to late June (time varies each year depending on the amount of snow and when spring arrives) it’s a seriously gorgeous spot.

The Stećci

Stećci near Žabljak

Last year I saw some new and clearly EU funded signs around Vražje pointing to ‘Stećci’ and decided to follow them and see what was there.

Surprisingly it did not lead to a small village called Stećci but instead to a field with beautiful carved stone gravestones just lying about.

The stećci are actually tombstones and grave markers of a mysterious medieval tribe who lived in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina and northern Montenegro. There are two sites near Žabljak, one near Riblije Jezero and another on the same road a few kilometres further to the north.

Stećci near Riblije Jezero

Very little is known about the tribes, but they definitely had an eye for the best sites around for their burials.

The Food

Lunch for two

After a day of walks and exploring I like to finish up at the at the restaurant at the Etno Selo Šljeme. Down a side road that parallels the main highway, the restaurant has one of the best views in the area, staring straight at Savin Kuk mountain.

Unusually for a restaurant with a view they also do decent food – particularly the meat. The porodični ručak (family lunch) is of ridiculous size, served up with almost two kilos of meat and costs less than 30 euro. Best to walk the 6km back to Žabljak after dinner here…!

Enjoy this part of the north! Eventually I hope to be able to write about the hikes in this region as well, just give me a few more seasons to get into Montenegrin hiking shape.

More Resources

Detailed Road Map of the Durmitor Ring

More Comprehensive List of the Lakes of Durmitor

Top Proper Hikes Around Žabljak (according to proper hikers)

Handmade Products from Montenegro

Montenegro’s best handmade articles tend to be the edible kind (sadly Njeguški sir and pršut don’t ship too well) but there are a few rather nice souvenirs and handicrafts made locally.


Znuggle creates handcrafted soft toys in northern Montenegro. These toys are amazing as every part is made locally and by hand, from beginning to end. The ladies from Znuggle collect and spin the wool from their own sheep, dye the wool with local plants and colours, and then crochet the wool into these charming toys and dolls.

Buy handmade organic toys at Znuggle.me.


Olcinium sells delicious olive oil from their own trees, and olive wood handicrafts from their cellar door in Valdanos, near Ulcinj. They have grown olives for centuries and make tables, platters, cheese boards, and other decorations.

See Olcinium’s olive wood products on their Instagram.

Cvijet Lovćena

Cvijet Lovćena (Flowers of Lovćen) creates necklace charms in the shape of flowers native to the coastal mountain and natural area of Lovćen.

See the flower necklaces from Cvijet Lovćena on their Instagram.


If you’re in Porto Montenegro in Tivat, check out Stories. It’s a homewares and accessories store selling products that are handcrafted or designed in Montenegro.

Find Stories in person at Porto Montenegro or follow their Instagram.

Enjoy! The art and craft industry in Montenegro is still developing and I hope to add more to this list in future.

Where to Live in Montenegro

Montengro is a tiny country but has a diverse range of places to live. The coast is usually the first choice for the newcomer to Montenegro for the sun and the sea – but there are many other options, from the capital to the mountains in the north.

The Coast

Montenegro is best known for its coast along the Adriatic, a summer mecca.


Tivat is a small town on the outer part of Boka bay, ten minutes from Kotor. It’s centre is Porto Montenegro, the billionaire’s marina and restaurant complex. The town is popular with expats because it gets plenty of sun all year, and with families as it has several international schools.

There are plenty of foreigners in Tivat. You’ll hear more English spoken here than anywhere else in the country. This means it’s easier to get by with English, plus there are more restaurant options than the usual Italian or Montenegrin (there’s an Asian restaurant!). There are also usually more expat and nomad meetups here than anywhere else.

In the winter you’ll see the same people five times a day (an advantage or disadvantage as you see it), while in summer it fills up with nomads and tourists.

Herceg Novi

Herceg Novi has a lot of passionate expat fans: for its small but tight-knit expat community, lots of sun in the winter, 7km long promenade along the coast, mountains right behind the town, and its cute and working old town.

It’s also right near the border with Croatia and not far from Dubrovnik airport, which means better access to the rest of the world through the bigger flight schedule, and to shops not available in Montenegro like Ikea and Lidl.

Disadvantages are mainly the inaccessibility from the rest of Montenegro. To get to Tivat and Kotor you need to take a ferry (five euros for a car) or drive the entire interior border of Boka Bay (about a forty-five minute drive). Podgorica is two hours away.

The northern mountain town of Žabljak is accessible by car via the Nikšič-Risan back road in a two and a half hours, but you won’t be making day trips to go skiing in Kolašin as it and the rest of the north is almost four hours away.


Kotor is the natural first choice to live in for the newcomer to Montenegro, as the combination of old town, fortress, bay and mountains are utterly charming – who wouldn’t want to live there?

Sadly, it’s one of the most expensive places to live in Montenegro and it has two significant downsides: tourists in summer, and terrible weather in winter.

In summer, when cruise ships are running and offloading a couple of thousand people at once, it’s almost impossible to walk around the old town. Even without cruise ships, summer traffic can get crazy as there is only one road around Kotor. It can take an hour to go a few hundred metres.

Winter is the complete opposite. Tourists desert the place and the only inhabitants are the 15,000 locals and students who attend the local university. And, due to the angle of the mountains, it gets only a few hours of sun a day.

It also gets more rain than almost anywhere else in Montenegro. I thought I about living in Kotor after my summer there – but my local friends said it was like a horror movie in the winter.

If you really want to live near Kotor year-round, go a little further up the edge of the bay to Dobrota or Sveti Stasije. You’ll only be a few minutes drive from the old town, but apartments here get a lot more sun and there is a nice promenade along the coast, plus a few restaurants, supermarkets and shops.


Budva is home to many Russian-speaking expats, but not so many English-speakers. It has a small but beautiful old town, and some lovely beaches all the way from Mogren to Sveti Stefan, but outside of the actual coastline it is wildly overbuilt with ugly apartment blocks.

It becomes an international party town and is crammed with tourists in the summer. In the winter it has the advantage of not becoming quite as much of a ghost town as other coastal towns – some restaurants and cafes stay open all year.


Bar is usually forgotten on lists of where to live in Montenegro, not having many English-speaking expats. However, it does have the advantage of being cheaper coastal living and a year-round city.

Bar is like a compact Podgorica on the coast, plus a small marina, a promenade along the edge of the water, and the wonderful Stari Bar old town and its restaurants a few minutes drive up the hill. It’s also on the train line which goes to Podgorica, Kolašin and all the way to Belgrade.


Ulcinj is a summer tourist town in the far south of the coast of Montenegro. It has a different feel to the rest of the coast, as it is majority-Albanian (it’s right next to the border). It’s low cost and has a ton of different beaches and natural attractions, but everything is spread out enough that you would need a car to get around.

Podgorica & Surrounds

The capital is in the central and flattest part of the country, next to Lake Skadar.


The capital is the administrative, shopping, and population centre of the country, with around 200,000 people. It has the highest number of expats, but they are diplomats, NGO workers, consultants and the like, rather than remote workers or foreigners who moved here for the sun or the cheap cost of living.

Podgorica itself has a reputation as a boring and ugly city but it’s actually very liveable and even attractive once you get to the northern parts of the city. It’s compact and walkable (with cheap taxis when needed), and has a low cost of living. 350-400 euro a month gets you a nice foreigner apartment.

Its other advantages are that it is a year-round city: with malls, gyms, yoga studios, dance studios, restaurants, bars and cafes that work all year round; and accessibility. Podgorica is central in the country and well-connected to everywhere by bus, road and train. Kolašin’s ski centres are a little over an hour away, the coast is 45 minutes away, Lake Skadar is half an hour away.

It’s also the opposite of the coastal towns in that it is full in the winter and empties out in the summer, on holidays, and on Sundays. Most locals have weekend houses, family village houses, or coastal apartments that they escape to on non-working days.

The main disadvantage in Podgorica is summer. Podgorica is in a basin that acts like an oven and temperatures can reach 40C and stay there for weeks. On hot days the town completely empties of people; everyone leaves town or hides in their air conditioned apartments.

For more info on Podgorica, read What to Know Before Coming to Podgorica and How to Rent an Apartment in Podgorica.

Around Podgorica

There are few smaller towns and dozens of small villages around Podgorica in ten to thirty minutes drive, which are considered incredibly distant by locals but really not that far if you’re from a bigger country. If you have a car, it’s definitely an option to live near Podgorica in a smaller and quieter place and just drive in for the supermarket and errands.

Cetinje is the biggest, a town of 17,000 people up in the mountains thirty minutes from Podgorica. It’s the old royal capital and cultural centre, and is a nice-looking town with some good museums and attractive old buildings.

It’s not far away from Podgorica but has quite different weather: snow in winter and five degrees cooler in summer. It has terrible air quality in winter, as locals mostly use wood stoves and the smog just sits over the town. It’s popular in summer for cooler weather and cheap restaurants.

The North

The north of Montenegro is mountainous and gorgeous, with jaw-dropping scenery, ski centres, national parks, and a mix of tourist towns and traditional life.


Nikšič is a central town of 60,000 people. I’ve never met an expat who lives there, but I’m told the people are friendly and prices are lower than Podgorica. It’s also only 45 minutes from the capital and connected by both bus and train.


Kolašin is a mountain town of about 3,000 people where the main ski centres are located. It’s a pretty tiny town with one main street, but is a hiking and nature centre in the summer and ski town in the winter. It’d make a decent base for the winter if you are a keen skier but accommodation could be hard to come by when everything is full in the peak ski season (January and February).


Žabljak is way up in the north, right next to Durmitor national park. It’s a very small town of around 1,500 people that expands to ten times that in the summer with tourists and locals hiking and escaping the heat. It’s extremely beautiful but the climate is cold: even in a heatwave daytime temperatures rarely get to 25C and winter nights can get as low as -15C!


I hope that helps with your decision of where to live in Montenegro! If you’re serious about living here, I’d recommend spending some time in a few of these towns to see which one you click with.

Roman Ruins in Podgorica

On the outskirts of the capital city of Montenegro, Podgorica, are the ruins of the Roman town of Doclea – Duklja in the local language. The town dates back around 2000 years and was lived in until around 500 AD, when either an earthquake (or an invasion) led to its destruction.

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Public Transport in Montenegro

Having lived in Montenegro without a car for a couple of years (for me, everyone is driving on the wrong side of the road), I’ve taken public transport literally all over the country.

The trains and buses are pretty basic but are inexpensive, surprisingly frequent and usually on time. However, using them can be tricky without these few simple tips that will make your journeys around the country much, much easier.

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Budva in Autumn

Budva is probably the most well-known town in Montenegro, and when I meet people who have visited this country before, it’s usually to Budva on the Adriatic coast.

In summer it’s incredibly crowded and busy, a town of bars and beaches and nightclubs and with every one of its many apartment buildings full of tourists from Russia, Serbia, and elsewhere.

It also has a small but beautiful Old Town, and out of season, it’s a different place. Without the crowds in its narrow streets, its charms are more visible. I went on a sunny day in mid-October for a wander round the Old Town.

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