In this review we will travel by bus from Dubrovnik (Croatia) across the border to Kotor and Budva (Montenegro).
To the bus station
Even though I tremendously enjoyed my time in an almost deserted Dubrovnik with barely any other tourist in sight, it was time to move on to my next destination: Kotor, Montenegro.
Kotor has always been one of my favourite towns in the Balkans and I was looking forward to return to this stunning place. From Dubrovnik, it is a fairly straightforward bus or car ride to get there.
From Pile Gate at the western end of the old town, I hopped on a local bus for the short ride to Dubrovnik’s bus station at the edge of the modern-day city.
Buying a ticket
It is straightforward to buy tickets at the station, although in high summer season it might be smart to do it a day or so in advance if you have the possibility.
At a bare minimum, there are three buses a day between Dubrovnik and the Montenegrin coast – one in the late morning, one mid-afternoon and one in the evening. When I visited in March, the three daily departures were operated by Globtour and Croatia Bus. I decided on taking the 11am morning bus, for which I paid just under 20 euro for a ticket.
Most of these buses stop basically in all main Montenegrin coastal towns such as Herceg Novi, Kotor, Budva, Bar and Ulcinj. Although some originate in Dubrovnik, most of them will actually come from Croatian cities further afield such as Dubrovnik or Split.
My bus to Montenegro actually came àll the way from Zagreb – a long drive which took them most of the night. However, all passengers on the bus disembarked in Dubrovnik and besides me, only 5 new passengers boarded the bus for its final stretch to Montenegro.
Although there are only three buses in the winter low-season, the number of departures does increase in spring and peaks in the summer high season when there is probably a departure every two or three hours.
At that time, there is not only more demand among locals and tourists alike, but there is also a number of other buses passing through Dubrovnik on seasonal routes. Some might even stop in Dubrovnik as part of a longer journey between Austria and Albania or something similar and will be eager to sell a ticket to you if there is an empty spot.
Dubrovnik bus station
As I was a bit early at the bus station, I still had some time to kill before departure. The bus station has a small cafe and some kiosks where you can stock up on supplies for the journey.
I first ate a panini sandwich from the bus station cafe and then went to a local bar down the road for a quality espresso. You can instantly notice that prices outside Dubrovnik’s old town are much lower, as my coffee only set me back one euro.
The bus operating the journey is like the average bus you will come across in the Balkans. This basically means it will be a no-frills ride on a fairly dated bus some 10 to 20 years old.
Although the air-conditioning worked well, there are no power sockets or USB charging ports, let alone such luxuries as WiFi internet or a toilet on board.
That said, the recliner seat was certainly comfortable enough for the ride, although not having a neighbour next to me surely helped as well.
Which side to sit?
The journey from Dubrovnik to Kotor takes between two and two-and-a-half hours, although delays in summer are common if there are queues at the border.
My bus had no preassigned seats, although even if that would be the case I could have easily switched to any seat I would have liked there only being five other passengers on board.
If you can select your own seat, do make sure you take a seat on the right-hand side if going south from Croatia to Montenegro (or on the left-hand side if travelling from Montenegro to Dubrovnik).
As you can see on the map, the road hugs the Adriatic coastline and the Bay of Kotor for most of its journey. The views from the bus are highly scenic along the entire route, although you’ll only be able to admire them when seated on the right side of the bus!
Already on departure there are some great views over the sea. At one point, you will see the old town of Dubrovnik below on your right as the bus drives on a road high above the coast.
It makes for a great last farewell to the city.
To the border
After some more twists and turns along the coast, the road turns inland around Dubrovnik Airport. For the next 20 or so kilometres to the border, the valley scenery is rather more boring.
I dozed off for a bit, only to wake up again some 20 minutes later when we reached the Croatian border point. We were all asked to get out of the bus and to hand over our passport to the officer sitting at a booth.
After a quick inspection of the document, I was waived through. The other five passengers were through equally fast. We were however unable to directly board the bus again as we were told to wait a few feet out of the border station until the bus had been checked.
Minutes later, the bus and its drivers were given the green light to continue their journey and drove the short distance out of the border post to pick us up.
From the Croatian border it was a short drive to the Montenegrin side, where the procedure was exactly the same. Again we had to disembark the bus and walk through the border, after which the bus picked us up again at the other side.
The whole procedure was extremely smooth and went by fast, although that surely had to do as well with there being only 6 passengers on board. There were no luggage checks or any other time-consuming measures.
From the Montenegrin border post, it is a short distance to Herceg Novi, the first main city in Montenegro and a popular holiday resort among Serbians and Russians.
After a short stop at the bus station, we continued our journey towards Kotor. From this point on, the road runs again along the coastline. Make sure to watch out for Herceg Novi’s sea fortress from the bus window!
Bay of Kotor
With Herceg Novi behind us, the bus now enters the most scenic part of its journey as it drives along the Bay of Kotor. This winding bay is actually composed of a number of broad bays which are united by narrower channels between them.
Due to its unique geography the Bay of Kotor has an unique sheltered location. The craggy mountains lining the bay, which form a fantastic natural defence barrier, create a humid, subtropical micro-climate which ranks among the wettest places in Europe.
It is no surprise that the bay is also the location of some historic cities thanks to its safe anchorage and abundance of fresh water. Mighty empires such as the Venetians and the Ottomans contested these lands, which at some point during history also provided a shelter for pirates.
Driving along the bay, you can instantly see where the name ‘Montenegro’ comes from. It were the Venetians who first gave the area this Italian name which means ‘Black Mountain’. The name struck a chord as even the native Slavs inhabiting the area adopted the ‘Black Mountain’ name, which they translated to Crna Gora in their own Montenegrin language.
Although the weather in the high summer season (especially August) is hot and dry, for most other months the clouds indeed give the mountains around the Bay of Kotor a gloomy, dark colour. At times it feels like you are driving along a Norwegian fjord!
Sights to watch out for
There are several noteworthy sights to watch out for from the window of your bus. Again, when driving south from Dubrovnik into Montenegro you must sit on the right-hand side of the bus in order to see them.
Arguably the most beautiful sight is the town of Perast. The tower of the town’s St. Nicholas church can be easily recognised from across the bay.
In the bay just off the coast of Perast are two small artificial islands, one of them housing the Our Lady of the Rocks church. If you stay somewhere on the Montenegrin coast, Perast and its unique churches certainly makes for an interesting day trip.
The ‘sopot’ (spring) near the town of Risan is also a noteworthy sight, especially after some sudden rainfall. In the summer, especially in August, it can however dry up completely.
At peak flow discharge, some massive amounts of fresh spring and rain water are blasted out of a karst mountain cave directly into the bay, creating a spectacular waterfall.
Although Perast and the Risan sopot are arguably the main sights, there are really no boring stretches of road along the Bay of Kotor. Along the entire stretch from Herceg Novi to Kotor, there are fabulous mountain and bay views.
You will pass through sleepy villages, along holiday homes and over bridges above wild mountain streams.
A few of the passengers on the bus asked the driver if they could get off at an intermediate spot instead of at one of the fixed stops at the bus stations.
The driver will be happy to oblige, as long as he does not need to venture off the main road of course. If you are staying in a holiday home or hotel along the main road instead of in one of the town centres, it is highly advisable to inform the driver about it on time as it will save you a taxi ride.
The ride to Kotor went by fast and exactly 2 hours and 10 minutes after departure from Dubrovnik we pulled into the bus station of Kotor where I disembarked.
Although I’m not a fan at all of bus travel, scenic routes like this are an exception. If you see the amazing natural beauty of the Bay of Kotor or get some glimpses of the old town of Dubrovnik from the bus window, any discomfort is quickly forgotten.
Of course, doing the drive in your own car is the best way to go as you can stop wherever you like along the road. That said, you can certainly visit the Croatian and Montenegrin coast without your own wheels.
Even in low season, there are frequent enough buses connecting Dubrovnik with Montenegro which make for a fairly comfortable ride. Once in Montenegro, there are more-or-less hourly buses linking all coastal towns – making it easy to explore all the sights along the Bay of Kotor or around the Montenegrin Riviera centred around Budva with public transport.
Just make sure you take a seat at the right side of the bus, as you really do not want to miss out on the scenery on this route!
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘An Adriatic Adventure: Off-Season Travel to Dubrovnik, Montenegro and a Bit of Bavaria‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: MasterCard Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
2. Review: Aegean Airlines Economy Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
3. Review: Aegean Business Lounge Athens Airport Hall A (Non-Schengen)
4. Review: Olympic Air Economy Class Athens to Dubrovnik (Bombardier Dash 8-400)
5. Review: Apartments Festa, Old Town of Dubrovnik
6. A Dubrovnik Winter Trip: Off-Season Travel Away from the Tourist Crowds
7. Review: Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Kotor (Montenegro) by Bus (current chapter)
8. Review: Palazzo Drusko Deluxe Rooms, Kotor, Montenegro
9. Kotor, Montenegro: Old Town Charm in Europe’s Most Spectacular Scenery
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **