A Journey Along 35 Kilometers of Pristine Beaches, Scenic Hiking Trails, Culinary Delights with Negushi Steak, and a Respite from Politics
Montenegro’s main resort attracts with its clean sea, good beaches, and convenient location to use as a base for traveling around the country. Also, the massive walls of the Old Town, interesting walking routes, and a variety of meat dishes are noteworthy.
Budva, on the Adriatic coast, is the most popular resort in Montenegro. With a population of only ten thousand, Budva is visited by about 200,000 tourists each season. Indeed, like many cities in the Balkan countries, it has ruined buildings, ugly graffiti, and litter on the roadside, and Budva’s popularity with tourists exacerbates the situation. However, this problem is not so widespread and is overshadowed by the city’s advantages: clean sea, good sandy beaches, and a convenient location for exploring Montenegro and neighboring countries.
What else makes one of the most popular cities of the Adriatic so appealing, where to find the best beaches and walking routes, where the tastiest cevapi are served, and how to economically visit the Sveti Stefan island-hotel — we will tell you in our comprehensive guide.
From the author: We are a young digital nomad family with a child, working remotely and occasionally wintering in the Balkans. We are attracted by the climate and culture of the region. In the spring of 2022, we decided to live in Montenegro — one of the most beautiful and comfortable countries for tourism. Budva turned out to be the most convenient city for living. It’s easy to find a kindergarten or language courses; there is a large selection of good housing; it’s convenient to travel throughout the country and even to neighboring ones; there is a cinema and a shopping complex, which is rare for Montenegro. Only the capital, Podgorica, is more developed, but it has no sea and unbearable heat. In Perast (a town on the coast of the Bay of Kotor), you can’t even find a supermarket. And of course, the sea — in Budva, there are many excellent beaches, clean water, and good service.
All Roads Lead to the Old Town
Budva was founded by the Greeks about two and a half thousand years ago. Throughout the city’s existence, it has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, and Venetians. Budva has always remained one of the central cities of the Adriatic. Today, it is the main tourist city of Montenegro, the capital of the Budva Municipality. Budva is great to use as a hub: from here, it is convenient to explore the surroundings. For one to two euros on a regular municipal bus, you can reach Petrovac, Sveti Stefan, and other picturesque villages of the municipality. And for five euros, you can visit Tivat, Kotor, Bar. However, the city itself is never boring, with constant events and plenty to see.
The Old Town and Fortress. All roads in Budva lead to its main attraction—the Old Town. High walls, massive gates, Venetian lions, and red tiled roofs act like a time machine transporting you to the Middle Ages. Now, it seems that no one lives here: all the houses are occupied by restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels. On the streets, you can meet musicians, and almost every week in the summer, festivals are held.
The citadel, or more precisely, the Fortress of Saint Mary, occupies a central place in the Old Town. Although the settlement has been known since the 5th century BC, the fortress was built by the Venetians in the 15th century. It was once considered the largest and most impregnable of all the fortresses along the Adriatic coast. The fortress was built on the southern part of the rocky reef surrounding the ancient city to protect it from sea attacks. Today, inside, you can visit a small museum, a library with books in various languages, the ruins of barracks, the ruins of the fortress church, and an observation deck, which offers a great view of the city and the island of Saint Nicholas opposite Budva. The entrance ticket costs two euros, but if you say at the entrance that you’re going to the restaurant, they’ll let you in for free.
The walls of the fortress. You can walk along the walls of the Old Town, which offer a great view of the Adriatic Sea and the city. One entrance to the wall is near the Citadel, the other is on the opposite side of the city, near the gates opposite the Avala Hotel. To get there, you have to pass through the summer terrace of the Mozart restaurant. The cost is two euros.
The Cathedral of Saint John is the second most significant place in the Old Town. A church had stood on this site since the 7th century but was completely destroyed by an earthquake. In 1867, a bell tower was erected here, and now it is the most recognizable tower in Budva, visible from almost all streets. Entrance to the Gothic temple is free. Inside, you can admire the local relic – the icon of the Budva Madonna, see rare books from the library archive, canvases from the 15th–17th centuries, and other treasures. And of course, look at the city from the 36-meter bell tower.
The Promenade. Right at the walls of the Old Town begins the promenade and the port. Unlike the nearby Tivat, for example, the marina here is quite modest and small. You can see a couple of large yachts, but mostly there are fishing and tourist boats. The latter offer trips to the popular resort island of Sveti Stefan and the island of Saint Nicholas. You can book a private trip for a group on a spacious yacht along a self-chosen route. The cost of such a trip is about 50 euros per hour. Alternatively, you can save money and use one of the boat shuttles, which take about 20 passengers on board and deliver them to their destination by the shortest route. The cost is around five to eight euros for a round trip. You can check the schedule with the captain and choose a convenient time to return. Tickets and additional information can also be obtained from the captain or at promotional stands right on the promenade.
In the port, there is a fish market where local fishermen sell affordable freshly caught fish and seafood. The port gradually transitions into endless beaches with a promenade. All the main restaurants are located right on this promenade. The farther from the Old Town, the cheaper, less crowded, and cleaner the sea. A walk from the Old Town to the tunnel leading to the neighboring resort village of Bečići (more on this below) takes about 30 minutes.
The Ballerina Statue. Some say it’s not a ballerina, but a gymnast. Others tell a tragic legend about a faithful sailor’s fiancée who went to sea and never returned. In reality, the story is more prosaic: the girl’s name is Olga Kalivoda, she is from Serbia, from the city of Novi Sad. Olga was vacationing with her parents at the Croatian resort of Makarska, where she met Belgrade sculptor Gradimir Aleksich. He was impressed by the girl’s figure, took a photo with her parents’ permission, and created a sculpture that was originally located in Belgrade. Since 1965, the figure has been on the coast of Budva, on the way to Mogren Beach, and is the most photographed attraction in the city: it is depicted on almost all postcards and magnets.
The Fish Bas-Relief. Another symbol of Budva is two intertwined fish. This bas-relief adorns the wall of the Citadel and symbolizes the tragic love of the local Romeo and Juliet, Helena and Marko. According to legend, when the girl’s parents did not allow them to marry, the lovers threw themselves into the sea, but they did not die, instead they turned into fish and were never separated again. From the depths of the sea a voice was heard: ‘Let two become one’ (Ko jedno nek budu dva). Hence the name of the city – Budva. In Marko’s house, a stone with the image of fish was found and built into the city walls. To this day, there is a belief that anyone who touches the bas-relief can make their love as strong and eternal as stone. The fish are depicted on postcards, in little restaurants, and even on signs in the Old Town.
Beaches in and around the city
First and foremost, people come to Budva and its surroundings for the local beaches. Lovers of the Bay of Kotor might argue that there are more beaches there and they are more beautiful. Perhaps this is true, but they are not meant for swimming, but for admiring: almost all of them are stony, with stairs for descending into the water or just with paved promenades. And they are also favored by sea urchins. There are beautiful beaches in the south of the country – in Ulcinj and Bar, but they are quite far from the main Montenegrin attractions. It’s great to go there on an excursion, but most tourists choose the central part of the Montenegrin coast for relaxation. Budva is the golden mean. The length of the Budva Riviera coastline is 35 kilometers. Here are its main beaches:
Richard’s Head is located right at the walls of the Old Town. The beach is small, and in the summer almost the entire area is occupied by the nearest café. It’s expensive and crowded here, but you can take beautiful photos against the backdrop of the Old Town.
Mogren. This is Budva’s second beach, not far from the Old Town. The path to it runs along the sea (the trail is easy to find, and along the way, you can see the statue of the ballerina). The beach operates from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., after which the gate on the only trail is closed. There are paid sun loungers with umbrellas and free spaces by the water or at the edges of the beach. There is a restaurant, changing cabins, toilets, and water attractions. In the middle of the beach is a rock with a passage. It separates the more civilized part of the beach with bars and sun loungers from a more secluded (and less equipped) part.
Slovenska Beach stretches from the port towards Bečići. Here, each restaurant has its own patch with sun loungers, provided with an order of food or drinks. There are also free areas, but they are less well-maintained. The closer to the tunnel in Bečići, the cleaner the water, more space, and fewer vacationers.
Jaz is located outside of Budva, towards Tivat. The beach is very wide, with all infrastructure and very pleasant sand. The only downside is that it can only be reached by car or taxi. Although it seems that the beach is not far away (six kilometers) and can be reached on foot, halfway there the sidewalk ends and one has to walk along the side of a high-speed highway.
Bečići and Rafailovići. The widest and arguably the cleanest of the local beaches. There are volleyball courts and other entertainment. It takes about 40 minutes to walk from Budva, but the road is wide and comfortable (along the water, no cars) and quite interesting. You can also get there by taxi or minibus. The minibus operates along the main avenue of Budva – Jadranski put, departing every 15-20 minutes from the tourist information point. You can check the schedule at the stop. The beach area is concentrated with all hotels offering the familiar ‘all-inclusive’ system. You can stay at Iberostar Bellevue for 100 euros per night, at Dukley for 100-150 euros per night, or at Mediteran for 100 euros per night.
Kraljičina and Kraljeva are located in the Milocher Park area, about six kilometers from Budva. You either have to walk there or take a minibus. The beaches are small but very beautiful. There is no infrastructure, but there is pristine nature. Queen’s Beach belongs to the Aman hotel. Just a couple of years ago, only celebrities stayed here, and the entrance fee to the beach for outsiders was 120 euros per day. But since 2021, the beach has been open to everyone and is free of charge.
Lučica and Buljarica in Petrovac (18 kilometers from Budva). You can combine swimming with a pleasant walk to the beaches along a trail through local parks. Compared to Budva, it is much less crowded here, while all the necessary infrastructure is available. Regular minibuses run from Budva to Petrovac.
Pržno. A small beach in the eponymous village (seven kilometers from Budva). In the middle of the beach, there is a restaurant with tables right by the water. People come here for the beautiful views and photography. It’s also known for relaxation at the Maestral Resort & Casino hotel complex on the front line with excellent views, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Accommodation costs from 150 euros per night.
Kamenovo is a relatively wild beach, as there is no housing nearby. However, there is a bar with loud music, where sun loungers are set up, and catamarans can be rented cheaper than in Budva — about 15 euros per hour. A pedestrian path from Rafailovići leads here. Also, this beach will be a great reward for those who decide to walk here from Budva (more about this walking route will be discussed below).
Aquapark. Families with children will be interested in visiting the Budva Aquapark – one of the largest on the entire Adriatic coast (about 42,000 m²). There are water slides, pools, and other attractions – more than 50 attractions for children of all ages and adults. On the premises, there’s a restaurant with panoramic views, bars, a children’s café, and shops. The aquapark is open from June to September, the cost of an adult ticket (from 130 centimeters) is from 17 euros, a child’s ticket (from 100 to 130 centimeters) is from 13 euros, and children under 100 centimeters enter free.
Hiking as a lifestyle: the best walking routes and a bonus sea excursion
In Montenegro, hiking is popular among locals and tourists – easy walking routes that can be completed in a couple of hours without special equipment. The main routes are concentrated in the north of the country, in the Durmitor and Prokletije national parks, but even if you come to Budva for a beach holiday, you can make a couple of interesting excursions.
Budva – Mogren Fortress
The shortest route from Budva is a hike to Mogren Fortress, built in 1860 by the Austro-Hungarians to protect the city. The path runs along the highway, its length is only three kilometers, and the only difficulty is that the whole way is uphill. Unfortunately, today Mogren is not in the best condition: the fortress suffered from a strong earthquake and the indifference of local authorities. It is overgrown with grass, and there are no tours here, but locals love to meet the sunset with something spirited on the massive fortress walls and enjoy the views. This summer, a little order was brought to the fortress: they cleaned up the trash, installed benches, and organized several techno parties.
Budva – Bečići – Rafailovići – Kamenovo – Sveti Stefan
This is a relatively easy and popular route. The first half is essentially promenades that smoothly flow into each other: Budva, Bečići, and Rafailovići. The hike is accessible for strollers and bicycles. The entire route can be broken into parts and combined with transportation.
Budva – Bečići – Rafailovići The journey begins on the promenade of Budva along the Slovenska Beach. Along the entire beach, there is a paved path with many cafes and shops. It’s better to buy water here, as there will be fewer shops further on, and prices are higher. The road ends with a tunnel under the mountain. It is comfortable, especially in the heat, with lighting and ventilation, and the walls are decorated with paintings and graffiti. After the tunnel, you need to go down to the promenade of Bečići and continue along the sea. Bečići is chosen by those accustomed to hotel holidays with their own beach and swimming pools. The next promenade is Rafailovići. Right by the water, there are restaurants with the best views and fresh catch. Very photogenic places, where it’s worth stopping for a snack and gathering strength before the second half of the journey.
Rafailovići – Kamenovo – Pržno
Next, you need to pass through another tunnel, this time a rather narrow one, and the road goes uphill. After the tunnel, one of the best beaches of the Budva Municipality, Kamenovo, opens up. Right after it, a small forest begins, and the road turns into a narrow path. Then you need to climb the stairs to the highway. This is the most inconvenient part of the journey (along the highway with fast-moving cars), but its length is only 700 meters. After the Przno sign, you need to descend again along a path to the sea.
Pržno is a quite beautiful village with two small beaches and several restaurants. The restaurants are expensive and unremarkable, but the beaches are worth making a stop.
Pržno – Milocher – Sveti Stefan
The last stage of the route passes through the Royal Park of Milocher. This was the former residence of the Karageorgevich royal dynasty and a favorite resting place of Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslav leader from 1945 until his death in 1980). In the park, there is Queen’s Beach, and nearby is a dendrological park with cypress and olive groves, century-old pines, palms, magnolias, and many other rare trees and herbs. The botanical park offers excellent views of Sveti Stefan.
Sveti Stefan is the only island-hotel in the world. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow sandy isthmus and is considered one of the most recognizable places in Montenegro. In its time, the hotel hosted Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth II, and Sophia Loren, and Novak Djokovic even celebrated his wedding here. Usually, there are several ways to visit the island: stay at the Aman hotel, book a table at a restaurant on the island, or get there as part of an organized tour. However, currently, the hotel is closed and tours to the island are not conducted: presumably, this is related to conflicts between the investor and local residents, who defended the right for everyone to visit the local Queen’s Beach for free. The mainland part of the island is also dotted with luxurious hotels with prices around 400 euros per night, but there are restaurants on the hotel premises where you can eat deliciously and relatively inexpensively with a view of the island. We provide an example of such a place in the ‘Eat and Drink’ section.
To return to Budva, you can take a bus. It runs every half hour, and the stop is right above the Sveti Stefan parking lot. The fare is two euros.
Budva – Podmaine – Krapina – Budva
The circular route starts right from the residential areas behind the HDL hypermarket. The first stop is the Podmaine Monastery on the outskirts of the city. The monastery is beautiful and active: you can enter the church, attend a service, meet priests or even the abbot. You can also stroll around its quite large territory and collect water from the spring. From the monastery, the trail begins, marked with signs ‘Ribnjak’ and ‘Zip-Line’ – that’s where to go.
The first part of the way goes sharply uphill, it’s quite challenging but asphalted. The higher you go, the more beautiful the views of the Budva bay. Along the way, you will encounter local houses and farms with domestic animals.
The next stop is the fish farm (‘Ribnjak’) in Krapina, where they breed river trout. At the farm, there’s the Pojata restaurant, where you can order fresh fish and craft beer. There’s also a mini-zoo, a zip-line ride, but the main attraction is the local waterfall. The waterfall looks different in various seasons: in spring, it is the most powerful and full-flowing. You can even swim there, with the water temperature almost always the same: about 16-18 degrees Celsius.
Afterward, the trail heads towards the village of Lastva Grbajska. Along the way, there are viewpoints with views of the mountains and the sea and another monastery, Podlastva. It is operational and very old: according to some sources, founded in 1350.
Further on the road are the aquapark and the country’s largest club, Top Hill. The club accommodates five thousand people; it hosts the main stars of the Balkan scene, the biggest concerts, and loud parties. In the past, Fatboy Slim, DJs Eric Prydz and Roger Sanchez have played at Top Hill. After the club, there’s a descent back to Budva. The route is circular, not the easiest (steep slopes), but it’s a good alternative for those who are tired of lying on the beach.
The Health Trail in Petrovac and the trail to Buljarica
2 kilometers and 3 kilometers
Petrovac is another relatively large town in the Budva Municipality. This resort is usually chosen by families with children: there are many hotels, wide sandy beaches, and it’s quiet and peaceful. From the center of Budva to Petrovac, you can take a municipal bus for 40 minutes and two euros.
One of the main attractions of Petrovac is the Health Trail. It runs through three long tunnels with open sections between them. The tunnels have a paved path, and along the way, there are lanterns and benches. This route is unlikely to suit people with claustrophobia. The trail starts to the right of the promenade (if looking at the sea) near the Danica hotel and leads to the abandoned Adriatic Star hotel. It was envisioned as the most luxurious hotel in the Adriatic with its own marina, artificial wave pool, helipads, and casino. However, the construction was marred by numerous scandals involving offshore accounts, a ‘Russian trace’, court proceedings, and protests by eco-activists. In the process, a natural rock was destroyed, and communications were disrupted. The project remained unfinished due to the economic crisis. Only an underground passage to the Health Trail remains from the hotel. Fans of abandoned places can explore the hotel, while others can walk through the tunnels and exit onto the hotel’s beach.
At one point on the trail, there’s a secret staircase leading down a sheer cliff to the water. It’s not easy to find, but it offers very dramatic shots.
If you go in the other direction from Petrovac, you can reach another trail to the Lucica and Buljarica beaches. There are few people there, beautiful views, and the path passes through well-maintained park paths on the mountain.
Bonus: A sea route on paddleboards or kayaks. Budva – Island of Saint Nicholas
In the waters of Budva, there is an interesting island – Saint Nicholas. From an airplane or satellite images, it can be noticed that it once connected to Budva with a sandy spit. Nowadays, many shuttle boats go there: the round trip to the island costs three to five euros, depending on the carrier.
However, we propose a much more interesting way: take a paddleboard or kayak from the beach in Budva and paddle to the island yourself. There are quite a few rental services on the beaches, renting for one hour – 20 euros, two hours – 30 euros, and a whole day – 50 euros. At a leisurely pace, the trip will take about two hours there and back. I’ve paddled on a paddleboard in many places – on lakes, at sea, and even in an extinct volcano, but the route from Budva to Saint Nicholas is unlike anything else. The main feature of the route is that initially, the waves will be opposing, closer to the island – following, and in between – a neutral zone, without waves. And all this on a short stretch of one and a half kilometers. However, circumnavigating the island is a dubious plan: the sea there is already open, and you might not have enough strength.
Most of the island is private territory, with only two beaches open to visitors – both are paid, and the bars are very expensive. However, satisfying your curiosity, viewing Budva from a new perspective, wandering around the deserted back part of the island, and just making a sea excursion is a great idea for a little adventure.
Lots of meat, cheese, and kajmak: Eating and drinking in Budva
Despite being by the sea, Montenegrins, like the inhabitants of other Balkan countries, are predominantly meat-eaters. Seafood here is expensive and few places know how to cook it properly. Nevertheless, locals go out to sea daily and bring the catch to coastal restaurants and small trading points right at the pier. It is on the promenade closer to the Old Town where you should look for fresh seafood (fish, shrimp, squid, and even oysters) at prices lower than the market.
The most popular dish in Montenegro is Njeguški steak. It is a beefsteak or pork loin stuffed with pršut (traditional Montenegrin smoked or dried meat) and kajmak (something between sour cream and melted cheese). Such a steak costs about 20 euros, and a portion can easily be shared by two. Moreover, all restaurants prepare čevapi – small meat sausages, and pljeskavica – a meat patty. Both are served with French fries and vegetables and cost about ten euros per portion.
As for appetizers, Shopska salad made of vegetables and brined cheese is popular – a national dish in many Balkan countries. It is always the cheapest of the salads – about five euros, and the portion is large. Other favorite Montenegrin appetizers include pršut, cheese, and kajmak. The latter is served both as a separate dish and as a sauce.
Montenegro has two main types of wine – Vranac and Krstač. Vranac is dark ruby-colored and slightly bitter in taste with a pleasant aftertaste. Krstač is a white wine, light yellow in color with a refined taste. It pairs wonderfully with fish and local cheese. As for non-alcoholic drinks in Budva (and in Montenegro in general), options are limited: it’s hard to find black tea even in supermarkets, and coffee here is preferred as 3-in-1. The same goes for homemade lemonade: locally, it’s simply water mixed with lemon and without sugar. A special mention to the local ice cream from ‘Najlepše Želje’ – the tastiest store-bought ice cream I’ve ever tried.
Here are a few places I would like to recommend:
- North Coffee Shop – the best among the few coffee shops in Budva where the coffee is not 3-in-1. They offer espresso machines, filter coffee, and a large assortment of beans for sale.
- Verde – the best gyros with a constant queue. It’s a small kiosk right on the promenade, convenient for a quick bite.
- Pivnica – serves national food (čevapi, pljeskavica) and has an excellent setting. Located far from the center, so it has fewer visitors and lower prices.
- Vista Vidikovac – a restaurant with the best view of the Budva bay, located halfway up the mountain to Mogren Fortress.
- Kuzina specializes in grilled dishes, and this is immediately apparent from the divine smell on the street. They serve excellent čevapi, steaks, and pljeskavica.
- Old Fisherman – worth visiting for oven-baked pizza. The restaurant is superbly located right on the promenade near the Old Town.
- Grape specializes in Russian cuisine. For pelmeni and borscht, this is the place to go.
- Villa Geba – a restaurant at the ‘Sveti Stefan’ hotel. Not everyone can afford to stay at the hotel, but breakfast or a cup of coffee here is a great alternative.
How to get there
In Montenegro, there are two airports: Podgorica and Tivat. Most flights operate during the season: from June to September. There are charter flights and low-cost carriers. Traveling to Tivat or Podgorica, the two main airports in Montenegro, from various locations in Europe is quite accessible, thanks to several airline companies offering regular and seasonal flights.
For travelers looking to reach Tivat Airport, situated on the picturesque Adriatic coast, popular options include flights by Montenegro Airlines, the country’s national carrier, offering direct connections from major European cities like London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Moscow. During the summer months, the airport sees increased activity with seasonal flights by airlines such as EasyJet, offering routes from cities like London and Manchester, and Austrian Airlines with flights from Vienna.
Podgorica Airport, serving the capital of Montenegro, is well-connected with frequent flights from European hubs. Montenegro Airlines operates regular flights to Podgorica from destinations such as Belgrade, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Zurich. Additionally, low-cost carriers like Ryanair and Wizz Air offer economical travel options, with Ryanair connecting Podgorica to cities like Brussels, London, and Berlin, and Wizz Air operating flights from destinations like Milan and Budapest.
There is also another traveliing opption that does not require to get on the plane. Montenegro’s rail network connects to neighboring countries, offering a mix of scenic routes and a taste of the Balkan landscape. One of the most popular train routes to Montenegro is from Belgrade, Serbia. The Belgrade-Bar railway is renowned for its stunning views, particularly the section that passes through the Dinaric Alps, offering breathtaking vistas of mountains and lakes. This overnight train journey takes approximately 11 hours and provides a direct link to Podgorica and Bar, Montenegro’s main coastal city. Another option is traveling via Croatia. While there’s no direct train from Croatia to Montenegro, travelers can take a train to the Croatian city of Split or Dubrovnik and then continue by bus or car to Montenegro. This route offers the opportunity to explore the beautiful Croatian coastline before entering Montenegro.
For travelers coming from other parts of Europe, it often involves multiple train changes. A common route is taking a train to a major hub like Budapest, Hungary, or Ljubljana, Slovenia, and then connecting to the Belgrade-Bar railway.
Another way to reach Montenegro is by ferry from Italy: from the southern city of Bari to the Montenegrin city of Bar (40 kilometers from Budva). However, it also operates only during the season. For example, in the 2022 season (from June 21 to October 26), ferries ran once a week; the carrier is the Croatian company Jadrolinija.
From Tivat and Podgorica airports, the only way to get to Budva is by car or taxi, but there are special groups on Telegram where people cooperate for transfers and visa runs, and many take passengers “for petrol.”
Transport in the country
Car rental in Montenegro is very accessible. There are network rental services (such as Sixt, Europcar), but it’s often better to rent from private owners: it’s cheaper, you can negotiate discounts and arrange the time for picking up the car. If you don’t know any private owners, it’s better to search for a car through aggregators like Localrent. You can pay the deposit with a Russian card. You can easily take these cars abroad; just make sure to inform the owner in advance so they can make the necessary note (it’s free).
Rental prices vary depending on the season and duration; you can even rent a car on a monthly basis. For example, a Mazda would cost about 60 euros for two to three days, a Suzuki Vitara around 120 euros for five days, and a Peugeot 208 about 90 euros for three days.
The cars are generally dented, but if you scratch something, it’s usually overlooked. Still, it’s better to record the entire car on video before renting. Another distinctive feature is that all cars are rented with an empty tank and can be returned the same way. Petrol costs about two euros per liter, but consumption is low. There are many diesel cars. In the winter season, it’s mandatory to have chains in the car: all rental companies know this, but it’s better to double-check.
While there are no toll roads in Montenegro, there are two toll sections: the less frequented tunnel from Podgorica to Bar and the highly popular ferry in the Bay of Kotor. When traveling from Budva towards the Montenegrin city of Herceg Novi, Croatia, and Bosnia, the route will inevitably pass through the narrowest point of the Bay of Kotor, and you will have to either drive around the entire bay (at least an hour) or cross it by ferry (four euros per car, about 15 minutes). Both options have their advantages: the first offers a very scenic drive, while the second saves time and provides an interesting experience.
Another toll section is part of the intercity highway “Belgrade – Bar”. The ambitious project to connect Serbia with the sea was conceived in 2014, but it eventually became more expensive and was delayed, with the “Bar – Boljare” section only opening on July 14, 2022.
Traveling between cities in Montenegro and neighboring countries by bus is convenient. The current schedules and prices can be checked on the website busticket4.me. Keep in mind that even when purchasing tickets online, you will still need to print them at the ticket counter and pay a service fee for this. Using the station’s toilet is not included in this fee: you will have to pay an additional 30–50 cents. Some drivers, who don’t have a large luggage compartment, collect an extra euro per piece of luggage (outside of the ticket counter).
In the Budva municipality, buses run along the “Sveti Stefan – Petrovac” line. They make several stops in Budva itself. In the city, there are many private companies renting bicycles, electric scooters, gyro scooters, and other devices, but there are few conditions for riding: there are no bike lanes. You can ride along the promenade, but it’s crowded and the pavement is uneven.
When to Visit
The beach season in Montenegro lasts from May to October, with the most ideal times being early June and early September: the sea is warm, it’s not too hot (up to 30 degrees Celsius), there are fewer tourists, and prices are lower. July and August can be very hot, but then you can head to the mountains. The season there starts later, as in May many roads still have snow and it often rains. However, many lakes are full in the summer and completely dry up by autumn.
Each month in Montenegro has its advantages, except perhaps January and February, when the weather is terrible — rain can last for several days and stormy winds blow. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that there is practically no central heating here: homes are mainly heated with air conditioners.
There are no issues with finding accommodation in Budva, ranging from first-class luxury hotels to apartments. Large hotels are concentrated near Becici: the clean and wide coastal strip allows these hotels to organize excellent private beaches. The cost per night here starts from 100 euros and above. In the Sveti Stefan area, there are boutique hotels — small hotels with great views, spa facilities, and designer interiors (e.g., Villa Geba). Prices there can reach up to 400 euros per night during the season. Guesthouses and hostels are located closer to the Old Town. In the winter of 2024, the cost for a double room with breakfast was around 1000 euros for 14 days.
Long-term accommodation is mainly represented by apartments in residential complexes. Most new buildings are concentrated beyond the Jadranski Put and along the “Becici – Rafailovici” route. The cost during the season (from May to September) ranges from 800 to 1000 euros per month, and in the off-season, you can find them for 500−600 euros. The price greatly depends on the rental term: significant discounts are offered for rentals of half a year or more.
When looking for long-term accommodation, it’s essential to ensure that the apartment is suitable for winter. Winters in Budva can be very unpleasant, with almost all older buildings suffering from mold. The three main criteria for good housing are: a new building, wooden floors, and some form of heating besides air conditioning.
It’s better to rent directly from the owner. The same applies to hotels: almost all of them have websites, and by contacting them via email, you can often rent a room more cheaply, without the commission charged by aggregators. Aggregators can be used for initial contact: we rented an apartment through Airbnb for one month, got to know the owner, and then continued to rent directly from her, which was significantly cheaper.
No additional documents are needed to rent an apartment, just a passport. The most important thing is to inquire with the owner about registration at the tourist booth and the payment of the city tax (more about this tax in the section “What Russian Federation citizens need to know”). If the guest has to handle this procedure, they should get photos of the necessary documents from the owner.
What Else to Know
Shops and Markets
The only hypermarket in Budva is HDL. Though by Russian standards, it’s more of a supermarket. It has two floors – food and non-food products, with prices similar to those in supermarkets at home, but with a significantly wider range (even buckwheat is available). Other pluses include convenient parking, many functioning cash registers, and a pleasant product layout.
Supermarkets are represented by the Franca and Voli chains, which are quite numerous in all corners of the city. These stores are small but suitable for purchasing all necessary daily goods. They have a deli and fresh meat and cheese section, and some items may even be cheaper than in HDL.
Mini-markets are newspaper kiosks and beach tents, their main advantage being that they are open on Sundays (HDL, Franca, Voli are not). Mainly, they sell drinks, snacks, sweets – the selection is small, but it helps not to stay hungry when everything else is closed.
There are two markets in Budva. The most popular among tourists is Zelena pjaca (Green Market), where you can buy meat, cheese, fish, wine, and oil. At Tržnica Market, only fruits and vegetables are sold. Prices at the markets are often higher than in supermarkets, but the quality is better. Groats, condensed milk, dumplings, and many other products from Slavic countries can be found in the MixMarket store chain.
There are three main telecom operators in Montenegro: Telenor, M:tel, and T-Mobile. Without a residency permit (locally known as ‘borovak’), you can only purchase PrePaid SIM cards. To buy such a SIM card, only a passport is required. With these SIM cards, you can make calls/send SMS and use the internet (up to 500 GB), but the validity of the SIM card is limited by days. The cost of a 30-day package is 15 euros with any of the three operators. Afterward, it’s often easier to buy a new SIM card than to top up the old one. To top up, you need to deposit the required amount in time and ask the manager to activate it. Otherwise, the money will be charged at an unclear rate. The connection is good everywhere, even in the mountains.
- Currency: The official currency in Montenegro is the Euro (EUR), despite the country not being a member of the European Union. This makes financial transactions convenient for travelers from Eurozone countries.
- Credit and Debit Cards: Major international credit and debit cards (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) are widely accepted in Montenegro, especially in tourist areas, hotels, larger restaurants, and shops. However, it’s advisable to carry some cash, as smaller establishments and rural areas may not accept cards.
- ATMs: You’ll find ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) in abundance, particularly in cities and tourist spots. They offer a convenient way to withdraw cash. Be aware of potential fees for international transactions, both from the Montenegrin bank and your home bank.
- Banking Hours: Banks in Montenegro typically operate from Monday to Friday, usually opening around 8:00 AM and closing by 6:00 PM. Some banks may have shorter hours on Saturdays and are generally closed on Sundays.
- Exchange Services: While Euros are widely used, if you have other currencies, currency exchange offices are available, often found in city centers and near tourist attractions. They are known for more favorable exchange rates and lower fees compared to banks.
- Traveler’s Checks: These are not commonly used in Montenegro, and it may be challenging to find places to cash them. Relying on cards and cash is more practical.
- Mobile and Online Banking: Many Montenegrin banks offer mobile and online banking services. If you have a bank account in Montenegro, these services can be handy for managing your finances on the go.
- Tipping and Charges: Tipping is customary in Montenegro, often around 10% of the bill in restaurants. Some places might include service charges in the bill, so it’s good to check before tipping.
- Tax-Free Shopping: For non-EU residents, tax-free shopping is available. You can get a VAT refund for purchases over a certain amount if you complete the necessary paperwork and get it stamped at customs upon departure.
- Emergency Services: In case of lost or stolen cards, have your bank’s emergency number handy. It’s also wise to have a backup form of payment in case of emergencies.
As of 2023, European citizens planning to visit Montenegro should be aware of the entry requirements. Here’s a concise overview:
- Passport or National ID: European Union (EU) citizens can enter Montenegro using either a valid national identity card or a passport. The document should be valid for the duration of the stay. For non-EU European countries, a passport is typically required.
- Visa Requirements: EU citizens do not need a visa for short stays (up to 90 days within a 180-day period) in Montenegro for tourism, business, or family visits. Citizens from other European countries should check visa requirements based on their specific nationality, as regulations can vary.
- COVID-19 Regulations: As of 2023, many countries have eased or lifted their COVID-19 travel restrictions. However, travelers should stay updated on any health-related entry requirements that Montenegro may impose, such as vaccination certificates, negative test results, or quarantine measures. These requirements can change rapidly depending on the global health situation.
- Travel Insurance: While not mandatory, it’s recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses. EU citizens should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or its replacement, the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), for access to necessary healthcare services.
- Customs Declarations: If carrying currency or valuable goods that exceed a certain threshold, travelers may need to declare these upon entry. Check the latest customs regulations and allowances before traveling.
- Driving: If you plan to drive in Montenegro, ensure you have a valid driving license. An International Driving Permit (IDP) may be required for some non-EU citizens.
Insurance upon arrival
The only important point that is typically monitored is the insurance upon arrival. This red paper must be obtained at the tourist center by paying a city tax: one euro for each day of stay. This must be done on the very first day, except if you arrive on a Sunday or a holiday. In the case of a tourist trip and staying in a hotel, the hotel owner usually takes care of the registration. When renting an apartment, it’s necessary to discuss with the landlord who will handle this and what documents are needed. If the apartment is not yet in the tourist database, the owner’s ID and the property deed for the apartment must be provided at the first registration. In Budva, there are two tourist centers: one is closer to the bus station, the other to the promenade. By the way, they have different databases – if you successfully register in one, and then do a visa run, after re-entering the country it’s better to go to the same one.
This paper is checked upon leaving the country, whether at the airport or land border crossings. If the departing individual has violated the terms or has not obtained the insurance at all, sometimes it’s also possible to negotiate with customs officers or find “helpers” who will advise on how to avoid fines or when and where it’s better to exit to avoid inspection.
Language and Attitude
Montenegro gained independence as a result of the referendum to separate from Serbia in 2006, with a slim majority favoring separation. Even now, the country and its government maintain friendly relations with Serbia, ranging from pro-Serbian political parties to ordinary people, some of whom consider themselves Serbs. In Montenegro, life revolves around tourism, sun, and sea, hence the default attitude towards everyone is friendly. Politics might only be recalled by older people.
Residents from all former Yugoslav countries enjoy vacationing here. In Budva, almost every week, there is a university competition among students from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia. One week medical faculties arrive, another week agricultural faculties; they conduct sports competitions during the day and discos at night. All this happens with sporting spirit and national flags, yet peacefully and amicably. Moreover, most share one language.
Montenegrin, Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian are essentially different parts of one linguistic complex. They can be written in Latin or Cyrillic and are relatively easy to remember after a few months of living in Montenegro.
Speaking about other european languages, English is widely understood and spoken, particularly in the tourism sector. Visitors will find that hotel staff, restaurant workers, tour operators, and younger residents generally speak English to a competent level, facilitating communication with international tourists. Given Montenegro’s proximity to Italy and the historical presence of Italian culture, Italian is also spoken and understood to some extent, especially among the older population and those in the hospitality sector. German is another language that is frequently encountered, particularly because of the considerable number of tourists from German-speaking countries.