I chose to go to Montenegro because I found a cheap flight from Israel but, other than that, I knew nothing about the country – it was exotic and unknown. I had arrived in Tivat, an extremely small town with an airport, a marina and only one hostel: Hostel Anton. Though there isn’t much to do in the city of Tivat, the hostel and its atmosphere definitely made up for that. The whole downstairs of the hostel is filled with beanbags, couches and hammocks, free breakfast every morning of bread and yummy jams, comfortable beds and tidy bathrooms as well as incredible views from each of the dorm rooms. The largest room is a six bed dorm and you will expect to pay $AUD17 (€11) during the peak season. I suggest that you spend a day in Tivat walking around the town and pack a picnic to sit by the water and take up the atmosphere of the locals around you.
There is only one hostel you can even think about staying at in Kotor, Old Town Kotor Hostel: the rooms are spacious and the bathrooms massive. Ross and the rest of the staff are amazing and the atmosphere of the common area really brings it all to life. Most people I met only spent a couple of days in Kotor but I stayed a week and I think majority of that reason was to do with the hostel. They can offer direct transfer to Albania even out of season per request if you’re struggling with that journey – as it can be a difficult one which requires multiple buses. It’s a smaller hostel with only nine rooms, so it’s very easy to mingle in the common room downstairs, they do have a small kitchen but seeing as it’s very cheap to eat in Montenegro you can eat at nearby restaurants that are associated with the hostel for €1.5 – €3 per meal. You have the option to be taken out every evening with the hostel on their ‘pub crawl’ and you will attempt to enjoy the many Raika shots being shoved down your throat. Old Town Kotor Hostel is one of my all time favourites and one I will never forgot! For only $AUD20-$23 (€13 – €15) per person in a six to twelve bed dorm room during the peak season, you really can’t go wrong.
So what can you do in Kotor? Get lost in winding cobblestone streets of the old town passing the little market stalls along the way and talking to the friendly locals. The old town of Kotor has a great number of monuments of the medieval architecture: churches, cathedrals, palaces, and museums. Climb up the steep hill of the old city walls to the top of the fortress Sveti Ivan and get a view of the whole city, words cannot describe it’s beauty so make sure to bring a camera! Swim in the freezing cold water by the man made beaches and listen to live music at the local bars. Take endless Rakia shots at Old Town Kotor Hostel with your new found friends and party into the early hours of the morning at Havana. Lastly kayak from Risan to The Island Gospa od Skrpjela, an artificial island on the bay of Perast with a small church on it, which according to the stories was made by the seamen, who on their big sail boats brought big stones.
My favourite part of Kotor was also the reason I was in pain for days: €2 slices of pizza. I can guarantee they’re twice as big as your head and taste delicious; don’t be afraid to buy two at a time – Kotor is a judgement-free zone.
Budva was tourist-packed and the night life hotspot. It also draws mixed reactions from visitors. I was told by many people not to bother going, but I’m happy I ignored them and went anyway. The beaches are covered with tourists and finding a patch on the sand without overlapping towels with a stranger is a very rare occurrence, but that makes it half the fun! One day, I was lucky enough to be practically sharing a towel with an old Russian man and his family, and although they spoke no English whatsoever they happily shared their grapes and biscuits with me. The sand is hot, the water is bright blue and the atmosphere makes people watching-hysterical.
Don’t overly plan your night time adventures. Just wander down the main strip of bars and bar hop for different drink specials and live music. See where the night takes you.
If you’re lucky enough to get a bed at Freedom Hostel, which I highly recommend, you can look forward to dinner cooked every night – I’m talking gourmet dinner and unlimited beer for only five euro! Each bed has it’s own shelf and reading lamp along with a curtain so you can have your privacy. A great terrace and common area along with musical instruments available for your late night sing-a-longs. A well equipped kitchen with everything you need to make your own food and save money, even though it’s very cheap to eat out in Montenegro. You will be expected to pay only $AUD21-$26 (€14-€18) for a four to eight bed dorm with either a private or shared bathroom.
You must also ask the guys there if you can take a boat out to the island St Nikola. Don’t organise it yourself with the people on the beach, the hostel employees will get one of their friends to take you out. Instead of dropping you by the lounge chairs and the overly priced canteen, they will go to the other side of the island and let you choose which little cove you want to stop in, isolated from any other person with own private beach. We spent the entire day there and I can guarantee the water is clear and the stones untouched.
Do the whole day tour Freedom Hostel offers. It may seem like a long and tedious day but it’s anything but. You get taken to a viewpoint that overlooks the picturesque, wealthy islet Stevi Stefan, a hotel resort in Montenegro with the cheapest room available at approximately $US40,000 per night. The beach and coastal town of Petrovac which is located along the coast in between Budva and Bar as well as a mountain that gives you the view of Lake Skadar located at the border of Albania and Montenegro, the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula. Then lunch right on the lake and afterwards drive through the old capital of Cetinje, the official residence of the President of Montenegro. A couple of lookout stops at Lovcen National Park and lastly to the ‘Black Mountain’ viewpoint where you can supposedly see 80% of Montenegro.
Unfortunately with a lot of Eastern Europe you can’t expect the bus luxury you can in other parts of Europe, but that never is too much of an issue. Most of the bus companies operating in Montenegro and surrounding countries don’t allow to to book online and only at the bus station. The best thing to do is to ask your hostel for a bus timetable or even head down to the bus station the day before to check out the times and there isn’t just one main bus company that takes the journey, it changes regularly. Whether you’re coming from Dubrovnik or Split, Croatia, Tirana, Albania or Mostar, Bosnia you won’t be expected to pay more than approximately €15 for a bus fair to Montenegro and if you’re willing to like myself you can try hitch hike the journey.
Montenegro is one of those countries that sounds foreign and like my mother you may not even know where it is on the map, but it’s definitely a country you won’t regret going too. Go there with no expectations and enjoy every single second of it as it really will surprise you. When someone now asked me where I suggest in Eastern Europe, Montenegro is up there with my top recommendations. I surprised myself with how much fun I had in Montenegro and I will admit I had never planned to go myself, but I’m very glad I did and lucky with the wonderful experiences I endured.