Tips for Driving in Montenegro

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I had read various comments and forum posts before travelling to Montenegro that suggested driving in Montenegro is a challenge. Stories of maniac local drivers, treacherous roads, crooked car hire firms and over-zealous officials and police were making me a bit nervous about driving with a car full of the family.

Having spent the week driving around many of the country’s roads, I thought I’d add my opinions and experiences here, to help anyone considering driving in Montenegro themselves.

Firstly, I should say it didn’t seem all that bad, particularly around the coastal roads between the main resorts of Kotor, Tivat and Budva. It’s not quite as civilized and organized as the UK road network, but I didn’t find it much different there to driving anywhere else in Europe.

Where driving in Montenegro is a bit more challenging is further afield, away from the tourist zones and out in the ‘real’ Montenegrin countryside.

Here’s a few things to bear in mind though if you are planning on either driving to or driving in Montenegro…

Car Hire

We hired a car from Dubrovnik airport and drove from there to Kotor. I’d read a lot of recommendations to use only reputable international car hire firms, but that was all after I’d already booked with a local provider, so I was nervous about being done over.

As it happens, we had no problems. We rented our car through Fleet Car Hire in Croatia, who are actually a pretty large and popular car hire firm in Croatia. No problems, no attempts to rip us off and a good experience all around.

Croatia / Montenegro Border Crossing

If you’re driving from Croatia in to Montenegro, prepare for major delays at the border crossing. There’s more advice on this in a separate post here, but it’s renowned for delays of sometimes four hours or more (though by no means always – some other guests in a neighbouring apartment waited only 25-minutes at the border).

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!

Documents

If you’re driving your own car to Montenegro from the UK, bring with you your DVLA log book document. One member of our family and also another family we met in Kotor, were both turned away from the border after queuing for hours because they didn’t have their log book. They both had to drive back to Dubrovnik and hire a car from there!

Make sure you have the right insurance ‘green card’ too, if driving from Croatia in to Montenegro. Be sure to ask the hire company for this – you’ll have to pay extra but, again, you’ll be turned away at the border and refused entry in to the country without it!

You’ll also need to make sure, whether driving your own or a hire car, that you have your own driving license on you at all times when in the car.

You’re supposed to drive with your headlights on at all times, even during the height of the midday sun. I have no idea why, it seems ridiculous, but that’s the law in Montenegro for some reason.

The Road Network

There are no motorways in Montenegro. All the roads are single carriageway roads with not a single motorway, so it typically takes longer to drive the same kind of distance as it would in the UK.

It’s true the roads aren’t particularly well maintained. Lots of pot-holes and ruts in the tarmac. Several roads around our apartment in Kotor had no barriers at the edge and just had a steep drop down in to the waters of Kotor Bay below with literally nothing separating the edge of the road from the sea!

This was a bit treacherous, especially as the roads were narrow and passing oncoming vehicles required being just inches from the edge of the drop at the roadside! This wasn’t the case everywhere though, just on one road near our apartment.

Where driving did get a bit more hairy was when we headed inland, particularly driving to the north of the country for our white water rafting trip. The problem seems to me that the speed limits are quite low and you get two types of driver – those who stick rigidly to the limits and those who want to speed past them.

So with no motorways or dual carriageways, you get the fast drivers desperately and constantly overtaking the slow ones. Lots of high speed, reckless overtaking moves including people overtaking on bends and often seemingly randomly just driving on the wrong side of the road!

Apparently the police in Montenegro are pretty prolific with their speed-traps and they don’t give much margin for error to speeding drivers. The speed limits on many roads feel quite slow compared to UK limits so it’s easy to get caught out. We did come across a few speed traps during our time but luckily didn’t get caught out.

Using Google Maps as a Satnav

I don’t know if this applies to all mobile phone networks, but when we crossed in to Montenegro from Croatia, I got a text from Vodafone saying I was now in their ‘rest of world zone’ so would face big charges for data. This was a problem because I was relying on Google Maps as my satnav. Sure enough, an hour later in to the journey I got another text saying I’d used #45 of data in just one hour!

When we reached our destination I was able to use the apartment wifi to access Google Maps and choose the ‘offline maps’ option, which lets you download portions of Google Maps to your own phone. I was able to download virtually the whole country of Montenegro from Google Maps on to my phone, so from then on could use Google Maps as a satnav but with my mobile data turned off, therefore costing me no further international data charges.

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