Know Before You Go
Why You'll Love
Framed by imposing mountains and the sparkling Bay of Kotor, the historic walled city of Kotor, Montenegro will absolutely charm you. Wander Kotor’s twisting alleys (the design was meant to confuse invaders), getting lost and then quicky found again—Kotor is tiny. As with nearby Perast and other coastal cities in Montenegro, Kotor was ruled by Venice for nearly 400 years, and this ancient city most reflects this period. You’ll run out of adjectives to describe this romantic jewel of an Old Town. The Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Kotor itself is singled out in the reasons for granting it the status.
Montenegro has a saying: “Man is born tired; he lives to rest.” While the gender specificity was most certainly intended (women have historically done much of the household labor here), take the cue to relax. This is a great place to chill out for a while.
Here’s a quick guide on what to expect. Looking for more? Check out the posts and the travel guide for subscribers!
Really, the best thing to do in Kotor is to just wander the Old Town streets at your leisure. Stop at a café (head to the ones out of the main squares), scamper along the city walls (and climb higher, if you wish), and be sure to say hello to all of the cats, an unofficial symbol of the city. Take your time here, as Kotor rewards you with new things to see.
Don’t miss a speedboat tour to the Blue Cave, and be sure to spend time in that jewel of a bay.
Solo Travel Experience
I spent three weeks in Kotor and had a wonderful time. Kotor’s winding streets lend themselves to leisurely solo strolling. Aside from taking care as a pedestrian, I had no safety concerns while there, including walking back from Kotor to Dobrota at night. Restaurants and cafés are used to solo travelers, and you shouldn’t have an issue getting seated. With standard street smarts, you should have a wonderful time, too!
You’re not wrong—Kotor DOES have a lot of cats. So many that they’ve become an unofficial symbol of the city, and there’s even a Cat Museum! While the cats are generally fed, their breeding is an issue. Kotor Kitties, a nonprofit organization, spays and neuters cats to help control the population. They accept donations from foreign tourists if you want to help out.
Food & Drink
Kotor is famous for its seafood, especially squid-ink pasta. Sadly, I’m allergic, so I can’t extoll the joys of it, but I’m sure that you will love it! In general, Kotor’s cuisine reflects its connection with Venice, but you will also find more rustic delights like burek and grilled meats readily available. Be sure to try Krempita Kotorska, Kotor’s take on the region’s ubiquitous cream cakes. Kotor’s has an extra layer in the center, and it elevates it to something special indeed! Regional wines are very good, and be sure to take a shot of rakija at some point during your visit!
Getting There & Getting Around
Kotor’s bus station (note that there’s a €2.00 fee to use it on exit) will get you to other points in Montenegro as well as Dubrovnik. It’s a short walk from Old Town, away from the Bay. Tivat Airport is the closest (see tips). Kotor also has a port, which is where cruises disembark.
I’m not going to lie to you. Kotor has a public bus system—the Blue LIne Bus—but it runs on its own timetable. When it actually shows up, it’s cheap and comfortable, but showing up is a big IF. Allow a lot of extra time.
Kotor’s Old-Town is pedestrian-only, making it a lovely place to walk around at your leisure. Do be sure to wear good shoes, as some of the back streets are very rocky, and the cobblestones everywhere can get slippery. Getting to/from Old Town is made easier by a pedestrian underpass. When crossing the street, take extra care. Drivers here are very aggressive, and, while you’re unlikely to get hurt, you are very likely to get frightened out of your wits if you don’t take care.
I could not find a lot of information on wheelchair accessibility in Kotor, which may tell you something. I saw people in wheelchairs in the main squares in Old Town, but there are definitely side streets that would not be wheelchair accessible. The Cathedral of Tryphon has a wheelchair ramp, as do several other sites.
If you’re flying, you’re more likely to find a good deal flying into Dubrovnik and then taking the bus to Kotor.
For getting around in the area, my advice is to walk as much as possible. Take care on the roads, as drivers are very aggressive.
The Blue Line bus is not reliable, so make sure that you allow plenty of time. Taxis in Kotor, while plentiful, can be a bit tricky. Make sure that the driver really understands where you’re going. Ubers do not operate here.
If you like to bike, you can rent one at the hostel. Do take care, though. Roads are narrow, not always the smoothest, and drivers are very aggressive. Speaking of driving, many of Montenegro’s most scenic drives are for very skilled drivers only. You may wish to take a local tour to see them.
For a detailed map, see the main guide
Montenegro, while not a cheap destination, is certainly an affordable one. Prices are generally lower than in the US or UK. Note that in the high summer season, prices are likely to be higher than in the off seasons.
Credit Cards, Etc.
While cards are accepted at some restaurants and attractions, you will need cash in Kotor. As with other countries in the Eurozone, exact change is often expected, and large bills may be refused. Old Town is a good spot for ATMs, but make sure that it’s a reputable bank (I used OPT Bank while I was in the Balkans—there are several locations in Kotor, and an ATM right in the main square to the left as you enter Old Town Kotor). If you get large bills, you can usually get change at a bank branch or your hotel. For credit cards, make sure to have a card that does not charge foreign transaction fees.
While not expected, tipping is certainly appreciated. In general, this must be done with cash. Rounding up the bill usually suffices.
Montenegro uses type C and type F plugs and operates at 230V and 50Hz.
Montenegro is NOT part of the EU or in the Schengen Zone. Travelers from the US do not require a visa to visit for less than 90 days.
Visitors are required to register their stays with the local tourist office, and this includes if you move from one location in Montenegro to another. If you are staying in a hotel, generally, they will do this for you. If you are staying in an Airbnb or similar, make sure to confirm with your host who is responsible for registration.
Climate & When to Go
Kotor has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and rainy mild winters.
When to go
Kotor’s high season runs from July–August; expect lots of cruise ships and general crowds. My understanding is that June is lovely. I arrived in September, and, while September brings a lot of thunderstorms (really, they’re something), I enjoyed the quieter time. You’ll still get nice days to swim and sun, but it won’t be as blazing hot, either. Many tourist attractions shut down after September (and a few before).
Good to Know
Many people from Montenegro consider themselves Serbian, and older people may well still consider themselves Yugoslavian. As with all countries that made up the former Yugoslavia, it’s wise to not bring up the wars of the 1990s or Yugoslavia, but you will find people will bring it up, especially younger people.
Internet on the Bay of Kotor is not the greatest. Having a mobile hotspot is highly recommended if you need bandwidth while you’re here.
I mentioned this with the entrance requirements, but it’s important to note that you MUST register with the tourist office when you’re staying in Montenegro. If you are staying in a hotel, they will likely do this step for you, but if you’re in an Airbnb or similar, make sure to check with your host. There is a small tourist tax associated with this, and it varies by location. In Kotor, it’s €1 /person/day. Don’t hesitate to ask about this. It’s possible that you won’t be asked to show proof of registration when you leave, but there are hefty fines and potential penalties associated with not registering.
Health & Safety
Routine vaccinations will suffice for Montenegro and, at this time, proof of Covid vaccination is not required. If you need to visit a doctor, you may be required to pay in cash up front. Generally, the reputation of Montenegro’s healthcare system is that it’s not as good as Western Europe’s. You are required to have adequate medical coverage if you are visiting Montenegro, so make sure to have travel insurance for emergencies and possibly also supplemental health insurance.
Kotor is generally safe. Violent crime is rare. Be sure to take care with your belongings in touristed areas, as pickpocketing can be an issue. While you’re unlikely to see this in Kotor, there is some political tension and there are demonstrations. It’s always advisable to steer clear of these, should you see them.