While Kotor Montenegro has rapidly become a top European travel destination in the last 10 years, it’s a small place, there aren’t big roads, and the only form of public transportation is bus. We recently spent 9 days in Kotor, and since we travel on a budget, we prioritize public transportation wherever we go. But, I found the bus system in and around Kotor very confusing, often chaotic, and usually crammed with riders. In fact, I completely put aside my original plan to use the bus for getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik Croatia.
But we still used the bus sometimes. And in the process, I learned a few things. Let me share a little about our transportation experience while in Kotor. Plus, I’ll show you what I personally think is the ideal way for getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik…and why. Then perhaps you’ll find it easier to move around Kotor during your own travels in this beautiful area.
Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking one of these links, I may earn a small commission. This does not cost you anything extra and helps support this blog.
A Quick Look At Kotor
But first, how about I show you what the Kotor fuss is all about.
Kotor is a picture perfect medieval city sitting at the very end of Montenegro’s beautiful Bay of Kotor. It’s completely enclosed by fortress walls built by the Venetians in the 1500s, and can only be entered through various fortress gates…
Inside its walls, you’ll find a maze of narrow winding streets…
And within those streets, you’ll find ancient churches, town squares, shops, and plenty of open-air dining….
It’s pretty obvious why Kotor is so popular. Plus the Bay of Kotor is spectacular – as you’ll see further down.
The Kotor Bus Station
All public transportation into and out of Kotor is serviced through a small bus station – including the buses used for getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik. There are no trains in this part of Montenegro.
Despite the bus station’s small size, navigating it is not very straight-forward. Our Airbnb in Kotor was only a block away from the bus station, so I took several opportunities to walk over, observe, and figure it all out.
First of all, you need to determine which bus you want to ride. As you can see in the photo below, a bus schedule is posted on the door. This is for the domestic routes. You’ll then notice a screen in the back of the room. This seemed to list only international routes. I later discovered that you can also find both bus schedules on the website BusTicket4.me
You can either purchase your ticket on BusTicket4.me, or you can purchase them at the bus station ticket window. But on domestic buses, a paper ticket is required. So I didn’t see a huge advantage of buying a domestic ticket online – other than perhaps ensuring a seat during peak season.
(Note: they will print your bus ticket for you if purchased via BusTicket4.me. But again, it just seemed a lot less hassle to simply buy my domestic tickets on the spot.)
Boarding the Bus
The boarding process at the Kotor bus station is quite chaotic and very disorganized.
You’ll notice numbered bays in the photo below. But you won’t find any sort of posted indication for where to board your particular bus.
See the lady in the orange shirt? That’s her job.
See all the people? Most of them are waiting confusedly for their bus to arrive.
As soon as the appropriate bus arrives, Orange Shirt yells it out in Montenegrin. Everyone then files past her through a single turnstile as she confirms each ticket.
But adding to the confusion is that each destination is not clearly marked on the arriving bus. Instead, there’s a sign in each bus window indicating the beginning and end of each route, along with a list of the stops in between.
Since it’s not unusual for several buses bound for different destinations (yet marked with similar city menus) to arrive at roughly the same time, you need some understanding of the area’s geography to definitely determine which bus is yours.
Consequently, I watch tourists constantly reassuring each other that they hadn’t missed their bus, watched Orange Shirt regularly shake her head when shown a ticket for a yet-to-arrive bus, and watched many bus drivers shake their heads when presented with the wrong ticket.
It was honestly quite entertaining to watch when I was merely an observer. Far less entertaining when I was a rider. And cause for a little concern when contemplating getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik – the next major leg of our trip – via bus.
You probably didn’t notice the massage chairs in ticket office photo before. Well, there are two. Perhaps this is the Kotor bus station’s acknowledgement that either a massage (or a stiff drink) (or both) might be necessary to get through the experience.
Getting from Kotor To Budva
Ultimately I did put the whole bus riding experience to the test myself when we took a day trip to Budva. And the entire experience, from beginning to end, was even more chaotic than I had imagined.
Why Visit Budva?
Budva is one of the most common day trips from Kotor. It’s only 30 minutes away and is considered the true epicenter of Montenegrin tourism. It’s a coastal city on the Adriatic Sea with a large harbor, lots of hotels/condos, a vibrant nightlife, many beaches, and its own small ancient walled city. Here’s a quick look at some of things we saw in Budva…
The Bus From Kotor To Budva
Many buses travel between the two cities each day.
There’s not a fixed time interval. At certain times of the day, buses leave an hour or more apart. At other times, three buses leave in an hour. Some of the buses are direct, making an occasional stop along way. Some detour to Tivat first. The posted bus schedule does help differentiate between the direct and indirect options.
We arrived at the bus station 20 minutes prior to our desired departure time, and I purchased our direct-to-Budva tickets from the lady behind the window. She spoke enough English to complete the deal. The cost of ticket was 5 Euros. I asked to buy my return ticket, but she indicated I’d need to do that in Budva.
We then waited behind Orange Shirt…
Our bus was a little late, and others arrived in the interim. Consequently we did experience some of that “is-this-our-bus” confusion. Ultimately a bus arrived that listed Budva immediately after Kotor on its window placard. Orange Shirt yelled out something, and then approved our tickets, letting us pass through the turnstile.
When Bus Drivers Yell
Then the real entertainment started.
The bus drivers always get out after arrival, and hand paperwork to Orange Shirt. Then they load luggage for the new riders in the underneath carriage.
Those of us that didn’t have luggage went to the main bus doors. Me and Mrs. TT were first and attempted to get on the bus. The driver immediately noticed this from his luggage loading spot and yelled at us, indicating that we needed to wait for him.
We stopped in our tracks and didn’t board. But other riders, who passed through the turnstile after us, didn’t hear the scolding and proceeded to get on the bus. And the bus driver didn’t notice these new boarders at first because he was busy loading luggage.
But then he looked up! And saw what was happening!
He immediately dropped the luggage he was loading, ran up and into the bus, and proceeded to yell in Montenegrin to everyone in the bus, indicating that they needed to disembark and wait for him. He then returned to his luggage duties.
But no one understood. All were tourists. No one got off.
A few other riders then boarded, including everyone that had just dropped off their luggage.
At this point Mrs. TT basically said “this is stupid, I’m getting on”. And did.
I however, always the obedient child, never wanting to get in trouble, waited for the driver. Plus, I wanted that official acknowledgement that we were on the correct bus.
Once luggage duty was over, our driver took his seat on the bus and started taking tickets for those that had waited. He tore mine in half and handed it back.
Mrs. TT rode to Budva with a fully intact, unacknowledged ticket. Which didn’t seem to matter at all.
It was quite the circus.
The Bus Ride
The Bus itself was a coach type bus. It was older, but relatively comfortable, with weak air conditioning. Every seat was filled. (I’m not sure if they ever oversell the bus and allow standers, or if they only sell enough tickets for each seat.)
Important note – the overhead luggage racks aren’t very big. If you are traveling with luggage, an average-sized travel backpack will not easily fit above. I unofficially measured the height of the opening as just a little taller than my regular-sized iPhone 13.
The ride to Budva lasted about 30 minutes, and we made 4 or 5 quick stops along the way to drop off and pick up local riders.
The Return from Budva
As you might expect, the bus station in Budva is bigger than Kotor’s, and the overall system is slightly more organized. But only by a little bit.
Immediately upon arrival, I started scoping things out for our return back to Kotor. The domestic bus schedule is easily viewed on the large screen inside the station, and this is where I saw my return options for the first time.
I purchased our return tickets right then. Just in case they do sell out.
After spending 4 hours in Budva, and when it was time to leave, the bus boarding system was just as confusing as in Kotor. No obvious bay assignment. No Orange Shirt this time. Lots of confused tourists. Scanning through the window placard on each arriving bus. And handing a ticket to the bus driver, hoping for confirmation of correctness.
No yelling this time though….
Getting from Kotor to Perast
Visiting Perast is another essential day trip while staying in Kotor. But getting to Perast using public transportation involves an entirely different bus system – the Blueline Bus.
Why Visit Perast?
Perast is another beautiful centuries-old town sitting directly on the Bay of Kotor. It came to prominence during the area’s Venetian rule, and is known for its churches and Venetian palaces. It’s also famous for two small islands just off its shores – one is topped by a Monastery and the other is topped by a church.
Views of the Bay are better in Perast than in Kotor. Here, we enjoyed one of our favorite dining experiences in the area. Seaside, with this spectacular view…
The Bus From Kotor to Perast
If using public transportation to get to Perast from Kotor, you’ll be riding the BlueLine Bus. This is entirely different than the busing system I outlined before, and is more of a local bus network.
You don’t catch this bus at the Kotor Bus Station. You get on at various bus stops along the main road into and out of Kotor (that then circumnavigates the Bay). The bus runs hourly and you can check the schedule here – it’s the Novo Naselie Skaljari – Risan route.
The stops for the Blueline are not very obvious. You’ll find one just in front of the Kotor Old Town walls and another just north of town. You’ll see a blue sign with a picture of a bus, plus a yellow zone marked on the road. The is the second stop on the route I indicated above that begins at Novo Naselie Skaljari.
You pay the driver directly. Our fare to Perast was 1.50 Euros each. The ride lasted about 30 minutes.
The bus itself is smaller than the typical public bus. But the seats are fairly comfortable. Definitely try to sit on the Bay side of the bus for some awesome views along the way.
The Blueline is used by both locals and tourists, so it makes several stops during the ride to Perast.
Then, as the bus nears Perast, it leaves the main road, and enters town through a gate designed to limit traffic. It drops you off in front of the town’s main church.
The Bus from Perast to Kotor
On your return however, you’ll need to board the bus in a different spot. Up on the main road. Above the town.
There are two bus stops to choose from – one at the north entrance to town and another at the south entrance.
But, here’s some useful advice. Be sure to catch your return bus at the north bus stop (pictured above). Here’s why….
When we boarded the bus at the north stop, there weren’t very many riders and we easily found a seat. But it filled up. At the south stop, all the seats were taken, and everyone else packed in tight and stood all the way back to Kotor.
Alternative Perast Transportation Options
An alternative but more expensive way to visit Perast is with this Hop-on Hop-off Bus.
Or there are a multitude of boat tours that leave from Kotor and include Perast and the Island Church in their itinerary. You can find these tours on Viator, where you can also find private tours of Perast and Budva combined – just in case you don’t want to put up with the public transportation adventures I’ve described.
Using Red Taxi To Get Around Kotor
An other option for getting around the Kotor area is via taxi. You won’t find any Ride Share options in Kotor such as Uber. But Red Taxi is the #1 rated Kotor taxi service on Tripadvisor, and I had a positive experience using them on the day we went riding the Kotor Cable Car (highly recommended, by the way).
You can simply WhatsApp their main number and they will quickly send a driver to your indicated location. Our driver then used a meter for our ride, and I thought the price to the Cable Car was quite reasonable at 7 Euros. However, a taxi ride to Perast costs around 30 Euros. In my opinion, the 1.50 Euro Blueline Bus is the better way to get there.
Getting From Kotor To Dubrovnik
Kotor & Dubrovnik – Common Itinerary Mates
Many visitors to Kotor will also visit Dubrovnik Croatia during the same trip. They are only separated by 56 miles, and each is a very popular destination. Here’s a photo of Dubrovnik Old Town. It’s truly stunning and oh-so-popular as it was the primary filming location for the TV series Game of Thrones.
However, getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik is not as easy as the short distance would suggest. They are connected by just a two lane highway, there’s border crossing with two separate stops (Croatia is in the EU while Montenegro is not), and traffic can be very very congested.
We spent a week in Croatia after Kotor, but it wasn’t until shortly after our arrival in Montenegro that I started working out exactly how we’d be getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik.
The Bus From Kotor to Dubrovnik
It should come as no surprise to learn, after reading this post so far, that the only means of public transportation between the two cities is the bus. And my original intention, when first tripping our time in this part of the Balkans, was to indeed take the bus.
However, one of my travel blogging friends, Tatiana from AlongaTravel, posted on Twitter/X earlier this summer, a statement about a difficult crossing between the two cities.
I reached out to her for further info, and she briefly explained that Croatian authorities decided to search every piece of luggage on the bus and that it took a very long time.
At that point, I started to become iffy about the bus, but decided I’d make a decision once in Kotor after I could scope things out.
Once there, as part of my bus station reconnaissance, I watched the exact Dubrovnik-bound bus we would take, load up one morning. (There are 5-6 daily, run by several different companies.)
It was packed with travelers and there was lots of luggage. Luggage that would take forever to search if the Croatian authorities so-decided. I had visions of a very lengthy border stop.
Plus we were traveling with 5 pieces of luggage this trip, including our very full backpacks. It just seemed that traveling on a crowded bus, with all our stuff, didn’t seem all that desirable anyway.
A Better Way?
So I started looking for alternatives. And really the only other alternative is private transportation.
Some google-searching and review-reading ultimately lead me to a company called Transfer Novi based in Herceg Novi – a Montenegrin city situated on the border.
Their website indicated a private transfer price for getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik of 120 Euro.
And I decided I could accept that. If we purchased two bus tickets at 26 Euros each, paid the extra fee for all our luggage, and paid for an Uber from the Dubrovnik bus station to our Airbnb, we would spend at least 70 euros.
The extra amount seemed like it would probably be worth it.
I reach out via WhatsApp to Transfer Novi. The owner Nikola quickly responded, confirmed the price, and before long we had everything arranged.
Transfer Day with Njegos
On the morning of our transfer, Nikola texted me with the name of our driver, the vehicle type, and the license plate number. Njegos, our driver, arrived 15 minutes early, and helped load our luggage directly in front of our doorstep (and yes, as you’ll notice, we were not only near the bus station, but also directly next to the fire station).
Our ride with Njegos was truly a pleasure.
He spoke good English and the drive getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik flew by.
We talked NBA basketball (he’s a long time Chicago Bulls fan and was only one of three people during our entire 6.5 week trip who was aware of our home state Utah, thanks to the Jazz). We talked about life in Montenegro. About life in the US. And about politics in both places.
Then he shared with us some of his experiences as an 18 year old during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. (He grew up in Dubrovnik, but as a Serb was forced to leave Croatia when the war started. His family home was destroyed – he pointed out his old neighborhood when we drove past. Wow! Not at all the conversation we expected, and we are so grateful for everything he shared with us.)
As for the border crossing. It was a piece of cake!
He took us down a back road to the lesser-used crossing. It added just a few more miles to the total distance, but was so worth it. There was only one car in front of us. He actually seemed to know one of the officials at the Montenegro booth. At the Croatia booth, our passports were stamped and the customs official took a brief glance at the car and immediately waved us through.
Njegos drove us directly to our Airbnb in the Lapad suburb in north Dubrovnik. Getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik took us just a little less than 2.5 hours. (Be sure to check out my post on Dubrovnik Travel Tips if you want to read about our time there)
So Much Better Than Tatiana’s Experience
Out of curiosity, I reached out again to Tatiana for more information about her crossing.
She told me that it took 5 hours! Remember…it’s only 56 miles! Traffic was certainly worse at the main crossing as opposed to our crossing point. It’s a much busier road. Plus, Njegos told us that lots of Albanians cross the border back and forth at various times of year, as they work abroad and then return home through Montenegro to visit family. Sometimes that alone can increase the crossing time by two hours.
But one of the biggest factors in Tatiana’s lengthy crossing was the Croatian border control. Everyone had to get off the bus and individually show faces and passports. That’s understandable and will take extra time. But officials also searched every part of the bus interior. And every piece of luggage was removed and searched. She says they were looking for drugs.
I definitely made the right decision by using private transport. And obviously, we were very pleased with Transfer Novi. Nikola told me that if you are interested in using his company, simply WhatsApp him at +38267245526 for up-to-date pricing and to make arrangements.
And I would recommend asking for Njegos!
(Also, Tatiana spent quite a bit of time in the Balkans this past year and is very experienced with bus travel in this area. She tells me she’ll be writing a post about her crossing experience, and I’ll link it when it’s completed. It the meantime, here’s a post she wrote about traveling by bus between Sarajevo Bosnia and Podgorica Montenegro.)
Don’t let me dissuade you from using public transportation during your travels in this part of Montenegro. It’s confusing and chaotic at times, but that’s part of the fun of travel, and it’s the cheapest alternative by far. Hopefully this post will simply help you be better prepared.
But you should definitely consider skipping the bus when getting from Kotor to Dubrovnik. In my opinion, the significant time-savings, convenience, and potential conversation that comes with a private transfer like ours, is 100% worth the extra cost.
If you would like to read more posts about public transportation (come on…who doesn’t), then check these out:
If you would like to read more posts from this particular trip of ours in Central Europe and the Balkans, then check these out: