There are some useful things to know before coming to Podgorica, that are unique to the city. From your arrival here (there’s no Uber, best to know that now), how to get a SIM card, how to get around town, and also how to deal with smoking in the country (basically, just deal with it).
Arriving at the Airport, Bus Station or Train Station
The airport is about twenty minutes drive outside town, and there is no functional public transport to Podgorica so you will need a taxi or pick-up.
(While technically there is an airport train station, it looks exactly like a concrete public toilet – marked ‘Aerodrom’ – and trains are infrequent and can be erratic. If you really wish to save a few euro and you don’t mind a walk from the airport with luggage, an unpredictable wait in the sun during the day, or an overnight outside until the morning trains begin, feel free to take it.)
The more comfortable and convenient option is to ask your Airbnb host or hotel to arrange a pickup from the airport; if they don’t come themselves, a friend of theirs will. Make sure you have their phone number as your driver will probably need to call them in order to find your building entrance. (Google gets confused with numbers in Podgorica and labels some areas totally incorrectly.) A pickup should cost between 8 – 12 euro.
If you have to arrange the pickup yourself, Taxi PG is reliable and drivers speak some English. They are a little more expensive than a regular taxi (although less than an offical airport taxi) and will wait for you at the airport, bus station, or train station with a sign with your name on it. Don’t take any of the taxis waiting outside.
The bus station and train station are next to each other and ten minutes walk from the centre of town.
SIM Cards in Montenegro
Local SIM cards are available from Telenor or M:Tel, as long as you have your passport. Data only tourist cards are cheap – from five euro for the week in the summer – and come with ridiculous amounts of data (100GB plus). It’s more difficult to get a card that makes and receives calls and texts but generally you won’t need it – businesses here run on the Viber communication app and you can text and make calls through that.
Getting Around in Podgorica
Walking or biking is really easy in Podgorica as it is compact and quite flat in the centre. Streets have footpaths, drivers generally stop for pedestrians, and there are also plentiful bike lanes. The Morača river is also crossed by several pedestrian bridges.
If it’s raining or too hot (or the shopping is too heavy), taxis are cheap and plentiful. There is no Uber or ride-sharing but once you have a local SIM card, you can order taxis over text message. Taxis are also incredibly cheap as there is no flagfall. Across town will cost 1.5 to 2 euro. From my apartment to the airport (twenty minutes away) is around 6.50 euro.
There are a dozen companies but I like Naš Taxi (Viber 069 019 709) and Lider Taxi (Viber 068 803 810 and 069 619 953). Text them your address and your name, eg. Delta za Kate (Delta for Kate), and you will get a message in return with the car number and how many minutes before they will be there. Once inside you’ll need to tell the driver where you are going, but many drivers have a little English (and can read maps).
Finally, there are some bus lines but I’ve never taken them, so these remain a mystery to me!
Addresses in Podgorica
Exact addresses in Podgorica are imprecise. There are many big apartment blocks in Podgorica with an address of a road that might be fifty metres away behind eight other buildings. Google will pretend it knows where the building numbers are, but will usually just drop a pin in the middle of the road or boulevard. To navigate, it’s best to know the building name or the local landmark – usually the oldest cafe.
Taxi drivers are usually pretty knowledgeable and might know the building by number, but they will definitely know it by name (Normal Company Building, Maxim, Hotel Premier, etc) and especially by the name of an old cafe or restaurant (Alpe Bara, Leonardo’s, Lovac).
A building will also have multiple entrances and each is numbered separately. For example, if an address is 52/3, the first number is the building and the second number is the building entrance.
Smoking in Montenegro
Montenegro probably isn’t the country for you if cigarette smoke makes you uncomfortable. It’s part of daily life, both here and more generally in the Balkans. (There’s nothing like a long bus ride where the driver is smoking and driving at the same time.)
That said, smoking is slowly becoming less tolerated, and it’s no longer legal to smoke inside (even the shopping malls used to have indoor cafes with smoking allowed). Smoking is still permitted on outdoor terraces, and walk past any small shop and the assistant is usually outside the door smoking (and chatting to friends).