Driving from Croatia to Montenegro

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Visitors to Croatia often look to drive to Montenegro. It’s do-able within a day trip and adds a stunning new dimension to your holiday. But Driving from Croatia to Montenegro isn’t without its difficulties. Here’s our advice on driving across the border from Croatia to Montenegro…

For our two week holiday to Montenegro and Croatia, we chose to fly from Gatwick to Dubrovnik (Croatia) and then hire a car to drive from there to spend our first week in Kotor, Montenegro.

This involved having to drive from Croatia across the border to Montenegro, which is a relatively short and easy drive from Dubrovnik airport, along the coastal ‘D8’ road to the Montenegro border crossing.

We had heard that the Croatia / Montenegro border crossing could get busy with long delays, although we’d also read that it’s not necessarily always too bad, but we prepared nonetheless for a long traffic jam when we reached the border – but hoped we might get lucky and just sail through, as we were travelling on a Friday rather than at a weekend, which we thought might be less busy.

Finally almost at the front of the queue! Or so we thought… Turned out we had another hour to queue beyond this checkpoint for another check the Montenegrin side!

Well, it was a good job we were ready for a long delay, because that’s exactly what we got! As we got within a few miles of the border, traffic on the otherwise empty road ground to a halt and we sat there, stationary, with the engine off for what felt like a long, long time.

The traffic jam leading up to the Montenegro border crossing lasted for about two hours – in blazing hot summer heat pushing 40-degrees (luckily the hire car had air conditioning).

Eventually we reached the border crossing having crawled slowly, edging forward just a few meters at a time.

The border crossing itself was just a few cabins with officials who check your passports before letting you through. The actual check of our passports took all of about 30-seconds and they never even looked in to the car to be sure that the passports matched all the passengers.

The delay up to this point had been annoying, but acceptable because we knew it was coming and were ready for it. It was just a case of having to be patient and accept the fact we were going to be stuck in a heavy traffic jam to get across the border. Everyone driving from Croatia to Montenegro was in the same boat after all.

After the passport check, we hit the open road, relieved to finally be on our way and excited again to get to our destination.

Queues at the Croatia / Montenegro border. You know it’s a bad jam when people are out of their cars and eating lunch at the roadside!

There aren’t many worse feelings than coming to the end of a two-hour long traffic jam, finally hitting open road and then suddenly, a minute or so later, grinding back to a halt again!

It turns out there are two stages to the border crossing – a Croatian checkpoint and a Montenegrin checkpoint and the delays weren’t over yet!

Again we sat, in the burning midday sun, for another hour – edging forward just a few meters at a time, with other travellers stood by their cars at the roadside or walking up and down stretching their and their families’ legs.

When we finally got to the second part of the crossing, it was an exact repeat of what they’d already just done at the first part! A guy in a kiosk looked at our passports and waved us through – no questions, no checking who else was in the car…

We had been told that to drive your car from Croatia to Montenegro you needed a special insurance ‘green card’, which the hire car company had provided (at a cost of an extra twenty Euro). In fact a family member of ours found this out the hard way a few years ago when they were banned from entering Montenegro in their car because they didn’t have the green card.

But this time, ours wasn’t checked or asked about and we passed through the actual border without incident.

Overall though, the queue at the Montenegro border added an extra 2-hours 45-minutes to our journey driving from Croatia to Montenegro (the whole journey itself was only supposed to be under 2-hours and is only about 30-miles in distance).

By the way, it’s all worth it. Any traffic jam is well worth getting in to a country with places like this (Kotor Bay, Montenegro)

When we arrived at our apartment in Montenegro, the owner told us sometimes people queue at the Croatia to Montenegro border crossing for 4-hours or more so we’d been one of the luckier ones!

Clearly having to sit in a traffic jam for so long on your way to your holiday is frustrating, but at least if you know it’s coming you can be prepared for it and factor it in to your overall journey time.

For the journey back, we left early-ish in the morning (about 7am) and arrived at the border crossing by about 8am. The queue this time was much shorter and the total traffic jam time was only about half an hour.

Despite our own, and other guests’ experiences that we heard, one other guest at our apartment complex did the same journey and queued only for 25-minutes at the border. So it seems it’s not always bad. Perhaps the earlier in the day, the better – and no doubt weekends must be busier than weekdays.

What felt weird to us though was that the whole thing just didn’t feel necessary. There was no security check, not even a glance in to the car to check we weren’t carrying illegal passengers or anything.

And the fact there are TWO of these checks within a mile or so of each other just seemed completely un-necessary. I’m sure there’s a good reason for it, but it almost felt like the border officials actually want to create a massive traffic jam and the whole thing is somehow orchestrated to be deliberately disruptive.

Surely the two passport checks could be combined in to one? Surely if they aren’t genuinely concerned about who your passengers are (definitely the case for us at least), they could just wave traffic through at peak times and just do random checks instead of insisting on stopping every single vehicle?

Who knows! I’m sure it’s all for a valid reason one way or another. Croatians and Montenegrins have a pretty bad history and aren’t known for wanting to co-operate with each other. But at Dubrovnik airport are lots of prominent adverts and billboards for Montenegrin tourism, so you’d have thought they might want to make getting in to one country from the other a bit easier!

All we know for sure is that if you’re driving from Croatia to Montenegro – make sure you have the right ‘green card’ insurance paperwork first and then make sure you’re prepared for long, hot, frustrating traffic jams that could easily add two, three or even four hours or more to your overall journey time! If you get lucky and don’t have such a wait then it’ll be a bonus and, if you do, at least you’ll have been prepared. Travel outside of peak hours if you possibly can!

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