If you haven’t decided to visit Kotor in your trip to Europe, it’s time to change your travel plans. This quaint town should absolutely be part of your itinerary. It might seem redundant to write a budget travel guide to the Balkans, which are the cheapest part of Europe. However, many of the cities in Montenegro are tourist traps, and it’s easy to spend a lot of money.
Montenegro is one of the dozen countries wholly or partially within the Balkan peninsula. The capital is Podgorica, and the main tourist destination is Budva on the coast. However, I think that Kotor is the best city to visit. Part of that is due to being less popular with tourists (except for the cruise ships), and partially because of some unique features.
In the Balkans, everything is cheap, making them the perfect destination for budget travelers.
How to Get to Kotor
Montenegro lies across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, surrounded clockwise by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. There aren’t any trains in this region so buses are the best way to travel, and also the cheapest. Some of the cities outside Montenegro with buses to Kotor are Dubrovnik, Mostar and Tirana. The best way to find a good bus is through the hostels. My bus from Mostar to Kotor was about €24.
You could also fly directly to Podgorica, but that’s not cheap. If you do want to fly into the region, I’d recommend going to Croatia first, which has much cheaper flights, and then busing down to Kotor.
Kotor doesn’t have a lot of hostels. By that, I mean there are three or four to choose from. Most of the accommodations in the Old Town are way overpriced for the region, catering just to tourists. Instead, head north on the main road out of town to find the cheaper hostels and apartments to rent.
Personally, I stated at Montenegro Hostel 4U. Be warned, it’s a party hostel, and the managers have made it their mission to get as much alcohol into their guests as they can. Well, that’s only part of their mission. The rest is to ensure you have an absolutely amazing time in Kotor, eat delicious food and get a nice tan. They’ll probably throw in some exercise too, like swimming across the bay!
Finding cheap food is fairly simple, as long as you stay out of Old Town and avoid the fancy tourist restaurants. All the meals I ate were either at the hostel (they have homemade food available most nights) or at local restaurants up the street from the hostel. Montenegrin cuisine is mostly meat, which probably accounts for Montenegro having the tallest citizens in the world (sorry Netherlands). I didn’t have a meal there which wasn’t delicious.
Of course, no post on the Balkans would be complete without a comment on rakia. This fruit brandy is primarily made from plums, and can get up to 80% alcohol. It’s very popular in the region. Montenegro Hostel 4U will give you a free shot when you arrive. There’s just one thing to know about it. Locals don’t drink the shot the way Westerners do in one gulp. Instead, it’s meant to be sipped. Believe me, the stuff is fiery, and too much at once can get a little unpleasant.
The best way to get around Kotor is also the cheapest. By foot! There’s nothing in town that’s not within walking distance. Even the bus station is less than a 10-minute walk from the entrance to the old town.
One thing you must know is never set foot in a taxi in Montenegro. I say that as a generality, because I’ve yet to hear a good story about using the taxis there. They seem to run a scam, and I’ve had friends charged €40 for a five-minute ride. If you need to get somewhere, have your accommodations set up your ride. And if you’re out late and need to get back to your hostel, my recommendation is to walk it off. Montenegro is really not that dangerous.
My favorite attraction of the city was the hike up to the fortress for €3. The origins of the fortress are over 2000 years old, although it’s been rebuilt over the years. It’s now a Unesco World Heritage Site, along with the Old Town beneath. The Old Town itself is nice to explore, although it doesn’t have a lot to offer that not targeted for the rich tourists who come off the giant cruise liners several times a week.
Instead, head down to the bay. You can go swimming in the warm waters, and in the summer there are water sports available. Montenegro Hostel 4U usually organizes activities which you can purchase from the hostel.
Additionally, ask around at the different hostels for the excursions. Most days there are trips up to caves and hikes around Montenegro, and most of them are quite cheap. Unfortunately I can’t rate these myself, as I was too busy hiking the fortress, swimming across the bay and having fun with the wonderful gang at the hostel.
Kotor is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Balkans. As mentioned above, this is the region which has the lowest cost of living in Europe. A budget of €20 a day will get you far, and you could probably squeeze it down to €12 if you’re tight (like I was last year). Just know that this destination certainly won’t break the bank if you follow the above tips. Have fun, and say hi to the crazy team at the hostel for me.
If you’re traveling with more than one person, I’d recommend using Airbnb. Some of the rooms are quite stunning. Average cost is about €40 a night.
Couchsurfing is my favorite way to stay in a city. There aren’t many in Kotor, but about two dozen have logged on in the past month as of this writing.
You could also find a hostel or other volunteer job to work at via Workaway.
Please note: Skyscanner, Agoda and Airbnb are affiliate links, and using them here will help to support me financially in my travels.
Scenery and Old Town photos by Josh and Ashley Brown of The Way Away.