Discovering Montenegro

I’ve been going to Europe for the past couple of years, either right before or toward the end of summer. It made sense. The weather would still be great (mostly), and it won’t be as expensive. But I figured it was about time I headed to Europe in the middle of summer. Practically every place would look its best during the summer when it’s all warm and sunny. I knew it was gonna be expensive so I saved up for it. Sure most places would be crowded, but if I wanted to meet people and party, that’s actually a good thing.

For some reason the cheapest flights were to Vienna. I met someone while traveling who was from there and she told me I was welcome to stay at her place if I ever found myself in Vienna. After asking her if I could take up that offer, I immediately booked a flight. Vienna is pretty central, so I could pretty much decide to fly to anywhere in Europe and it would cost almost the same. I loved the Balkans last year. Not only were those countries incredibly cheap, the region is also rich in history. Those places were a bit off the beaten path too, which further added to their appeal. Last year, if I had time I would have crossed the border from Serbia to Bosnia. So Bosnia was definitely on my list. The question was which other countries should I visit. Since I had to go back to Austria in a month for a music festival, it would make sense to fly to a country down south and make my way back up north by land. For my starting point, I narrowed down my choices to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Flying to Albania or Macedonia was way more expensive though— more than 100 USD difference for a one way ticket. I could use that 100 bucks for something else, so I decided to start my trip in Montenegro. So to all those people who have been asking why I went to this not so popular destination… that my friends is the answer. 🙂 I’ve been told that it’s not safe, that it’s overrun my Russian Mafia, and nothing could be further from the truth. Montenegro is safe. Montenegro is beautiful. Montenegro is freakin’ awesome!

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Adventure awaits!

Back to the events prior to this trip… I purchased my plane ticket more than 3 months in advance. I only looked for possible places to visit 2 weeks before the flight. So I’ll be landing in the capital, Podgorica. I usually spend at least a day in the place where I land to check it out, but apparently there’s not much to see there. I thought of heading straight to Budva or Kotor as soon as I land– the two most popular spots in the country. Budva is a resort town known for parties, and since I’d be arriving on a Friday, I decided to head to Budva first. Kotor is only 30-40 minutes away, so I could easily go to Kotor in case I didn’t like Budva. Budva is more than an hour away from Podgorica though. The airport in Tivat is actually closer (about 40 minutes away from Budva) but flights were a lot more expensive there. I guess it’s because it’s the more popular port of entry for those heading to Kotor or Budva due to the proximity. I didn’t mind the longer travel time by land, especially since buses in Montenegro are quite cheap. I was kinda bummed though when I found out there were no public transport options from the airport to the city center aside from taxis and private shuttles.

I was surprised at how small the airport was, considering Podgorica was the capital. it’s quite possibly the smallest I’ve seen, aside from makeshift airports in some islands. Outside there were lots of taxis waiting. It costs 10-12 euros to the bus station. Kinda pricey, but there are no cheaper options available (I heard there’s a free shuttle service to the city via Ryan Air. I don’t know how to go about it though since I flew with Montenegro Airlines). If you really want to save money, I guess walking is an option. Just take note that the bus station isn’t exactly close to the airport. It said 7 miles (about 11 kilometers) on my Map app. I wouldn’t want to walk that far carrying 2 backpacks. Good thing buses were real cheap, it only costs about 5 euros to go to Budva! The bus station in Budva is located about 30 minutes away by walking from the Old Town. If you’re staying in a hostel, it’s most probably inside the old town. If you’re carrying heavy bags, you might just want to cough out 40-50 euros for a private shuttle from the Podgorica airport to your hostel in Budva.

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The Old Town

The Stari Grad (aka the Old Town) is definitely the main attraction in Budva so it was a wise decision to stay there. You’d think it would be expensive staying inside the old town but there are lots of cheap places to stay and cheap places to eat inside. One attraction inside is the Citadel. It costs 3.50 euros to get in. It does give you a great panoramic view of the Old Town and the surrounding areas, but if you want to save money you won’t be missing much by skipping it.

A popular activity is to walk all the way to Sveti Stefan. It’s actually a private luxury resort in a peninsula, but you can take great pictures from afar. It’s more than 6 miles from the old town so it’s quite a long walk. You can make lots of stops along the beach though and there are a number of cafes and restaurants along the way. Walking all the way there could be a great way to spend the entire day with new friends. If you don’t feel like walking all the way to Sveti Stefan you can easily catch a local bus.

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Sveti Stefan

Perhaps the most popular activity among backpackers in Budva is cliff jumping. There are 2 jump off points at the end of Mogren Beach. I was told that several people got injured when they attempted to jump from the higher cliff, so I stuck with the smaller one… call me chicken, but there’s nothing worse then getting injured while traveling and i didn’t want to risk it. Funny how I threw all caution to the wind after i made that jump.

About a hundred feet away from the cliffs there are a couple of awesome caves. You have to swim to get there. The waves were really strong when we went so if I were to go there again I’d wait until the ocean was calmer. You’d have to swim through narrow passageways with jagged rocks, I got lots of scratches on my legs and arms. I was practically a bloody mess when i got back to the beach, someone told me it looks as if my legs were butchered lol. It also wasn’t a good a idea to go to the gym and do an extensive leg workout 2 days prior. Both of my legs cramped and I had to be rescued by two of my new friends. Man that was so embarrassing. lol. I managed to take awesome pictures though!

Outside the Old Town, you’d get a feel of the more touristy Budva— it’s basically a modern resort town outside the Stari Grad. Modern expensive hotels, clubs, casinos, expensive restaurants— you name it. This is also another reason why I’d recommend staying inside the old town. Outside its walls, the rest of Budva looks like any other modern resort town.

As for the parties, i went a week prior to the official start of the summer so the huge clubs were yet to open. I did have a lot of fun though in the various bars and smaller clubs. And yeah some establishments remain open as long as there are still people inside. For some reason each night ended with most people skinny dipping. I began to wonder if that’s a Montenegro thing. 🙂

If you wanna party during the daytime, a lot of people were recommending Ploce Beach where they hold daily foam parties. I never went because the people I hung out with weren’t too keen on checking it out, but it’s easy to get there via bus. A bus ride only costs 2 euros and you’d get there in about 20 minutes.

Budva is a really chill place, I was glad to start my solo backpacking trip from there. I needed a day or two of doing close to nothing so I could plan the rest of my trip. Even after you’ve seen all there is to see, you’d be perfectly content to just stay put. I wasn’t surprised when I met travelers who have been staying there for a couple of weeks, with no intention of leaving in the immediate future. It’s one of those places where you can just sit back and relax for days.

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