Review: Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Kotor (Montenegro) by Bus

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.

dubrovnik pile gate
If you stay in the old town of Dubrovnik, you can take a taxi or local bus from Pile Gate to Dubrovnik’s bus station (‘autobusni kolodvor’). ©Paliparan
dubrovnik waterfront
Driving along the waterfront towards the bus station. ©Paliparan
dubrovnik bus station
Dubrovnik bus station. ©Paliparan

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.

Summer buses

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.

panini sandwich
Eating a panini sandwich at Dubrovnik’s bus station. ©Paliparan
bus station dubrovnik bar cafe
There are some cheap no-nonsense bars across the street from the bus station where you can sit down for a coffee or drink. ©Paliparan
bridge dubrovnik
If you have some time to kill, there is a cool-looking bridge to admire just a few feet down the road. ©Paliparan

Bus

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.

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Seats on my bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor. ©Paliparan
bus montenegro dubrovnik
I grabbed a seat halfway the bus which had a decent amount of legroom. ©Paliparan

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!

dubrovnik kotor bus map
For most of its journey, the road runs parallel to the coast. ©Google Maps

Departure

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.

dubrovnik coast view
Views over a small inlet to the north of Dubrovnik upon departure. ©Paliparan
franjo tudman bridge
From the bus station, the bus climbs up to the junction with the main coastal road at Franjo Tuđman Bridge. ©Paliparan
dubrovnik view bus
As the bus turns to the south on the coastal road, there are some great views over the modern-day city of Dubrovnik. ©Paliparan
dubrovnik old town view
Moments later, you will pass by the old town of Dubrovnik as well. ©Paliparan
view dubrovnik
A last view over Dubrovnik from the mountain road. ©Paliparan

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.

croatia border dubrovnik
The Croatian border post on the main Dubrovnik-Herceg Novi road. ©Paliparan
montenegro border post
The Montenegrin border post. ©Paliparan

Herceg Novi

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!

bay of kotor
The Bay of Kotor. ©Paliparan
bay of kotor
Driving along the Bay of Kotor. ©Paliparan
bay of kotor
The Bay of Kotor. ©Paliparan
bay of kotor
Thanks to the high mountains on all sides of the bay, the area has its own unique micro-climate and is prone to clouds and rains. ©Paliparan

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.

perast lady of the rocks
The town of Perast is one of the main sights in the Bay of Kotor. On the left, you can spot a small islet on which the Our Lady of the Rocks Church was built. Frequent excursion boats link Perast with the islet. ©Paliparan
perast montenegro
The town of Perast and its small islets as seen from the bus window. ©Paliparan

Sopot

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.

sopot risan waterfall
At Risan, huge amounts of fresh spring and rain water run out of a cave directly into the bay. ©Paliparan
sopot risan waterfall
A road bridge runs directly over the sopot, from where there are good views of the water being violently discharged into the bay. ©Paliparan

Towards Kotor

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.

kotor montenegro dubrovnik bus
Gorgeous views along the Bay of Kotor. ©Paliparan
clouds mountains kotor bay montenegro
Clouds rolling down from the mountains. ©Paliparan
bay of kotor montenegro bus
A river flowing into the Bay of Kotor. ©Paliparan
kotor montenegro bus dubrovnik
I disembarked the bus in Kotor. A few other passengers remained on board as the bus continued its way to Budva. ©Paliparan

In short

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 **

Koen

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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