Take it from me—take the bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor
Once upon a time, I commuted every day by bus to the Boston suburbs. It was soul-sucking and awful, and I do not recommend bus journeys lightly. So take it from me—the bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor, Montenegro belongs on your list, as does at least an overnight in Kotor. Jaw dropping scenery awaits you, as does one of the prettiest walled medieval cities you’ll ever see.
This post covers the journey from Dubrovnik to Kotor and back, as well as suggestions for things to do for an overnight in Kotor. My personal recommendation would be to treat Dubrnovnik as the stopover and spend your time chilling out on the UNESCO World Heritage recognized Bay of Kotor, but if that isn’t in the cards for you, I would still most definitely make a Kotor side trip part of your plans.
Take the Bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor
I flew into Dubronik ahead of 3 weeks in Kotor
When I took the bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor, I was headed to Kotor for three weeks in September. Flying into Dubrovnik proved much more cost effective (i.e., I could use miles to book the trip), so I spent the night in a small inn near the bus station and headed out the next day. I stretched my legs by walking around the port area of Dubrovnik and had some breakfast back at the inn before heading to the bus station for the three-hour bus ride to Kotor.
Arriving at the bus station—and a hiccup
I arrived in plenty of time to catch the bus to Kotor, but what I didn’t know was that buying a ticket could prove challenging. After booking online directly with the bus company, I read the fine print on my ticket saying that I was supposed to present a printout. Ummm . . . neat. How on earth do I do that?
Anxiety threatened to flood my jetlagged self until I just decided that it was going to be fine. I could not possibly be the first person to not have access to a printer. As the bus station began to fill up with people headed the same way, I noticed other people getting nervous. One traveler said, “Don’t worry about it. The driver might give you a hard time and charge you a small fee, but you’ll be able to get on the bus.”
A Euro solved everything
And, indeed that proved true. I had to fork over about a Euro, which to my mind was well worth it not to have to run all over Dubrovnik in search of a printer. I also noticed people who’d booked through Flixbus not having to pay anything and using an online ticket (that’s what I did coming back, and it worked fine. See the Plan Your Trip section below for details).
Sit on the passenger side of the bus for the best views
That drama done, I checked my bag and piled onto the bus. You want to sit on the passenger side (righthand side facing forward), in the window on the way to Kotor, so make sure to get in line early to make sure you have a good spot. The bus itself was nothing special, but clean and comfortable. It filled up pretty quickly—it stops in several cities in Montenegro, and we were off.
It will look wrong at first, but it isn’t
Heading out of the station, you might think that you sat on the wrong side of the bus. Don’t worry, you didn’t. The bus turns around near the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Bridge, and you will have a glorious view of the sea. I left for Kotor on a beautiful September day, and I hope that you see the Adriatic sparkle like I did as we rode out of Dubrovnik, catching a good glimpse of the Old Town.
Heading toward the border
You’ll move inland a bit as you approach the border—depending on traffic, it will take about an hour. If all goes to plan, the border crossing will take less than an hour, but this is the wildcard part of the trip and why you want to leave early in the day so that a crowded border doesn’t ruin your whole day (and another reason to give this an overnight if you can).
We got off the bus twice, once at the Croatian side and then on the Montenegro side. For both, you’ll need your passport, obviously, and it’s a good idea to have your itinerary available, should anyone ask you any questions (no one asked me a thing, or even spoke a word). There’s a restroom if you need it.
Crossing the border into Montenegro
You’ll get back on the bus to go to the Montenegro border and then get off again to show your passport. You’ll see a sign as you wait talking about the registering and paying the tourist tax (see Plan Your Trip below). Small world: The women I stood behind in line stayed in the same boarding house as me. We had a good laugh about it on the terrace later in the day.
Approaching the Bay of Kotor (Boka Bay)
Once over the Montenegro border, you’ll head through some villages with that distinct midcentury Eastern European vibe before you reach Herceg Novi and the Bay of Kotor (Boka Bay). There’s a bus stop there, and you’ll likely let off some passengers and pick up a few more. You’ll catch a glimpse of Fort Mare Fortress, which is when things start getting good.
The Bay of Kotor
The road begins to follow the Bay of Kotor, surrounded by mountains—it’s unreal. Starting around the Verige strait, you’ll start hugging the bay, giving you a glimpse of Our Lady of the Rocks and Perast across the water, as well as the little ponts and villages along the bay. It’s magic, really.
You’ll see people sunning themselves and swimming, and you’ll begin to understand Montenegro’s reputation for being a place to laze about (a common saying in the country, “Man was born tired and lives to rest” rings true—gender politics aside) and relax. Indeed, if you spend more time here, you’ll find yourself taking your time and enjoying life.
The ride continues along the bay to Kotor, and you’ll know why you did this. You’ll get off at the Kotor Main Bus Station, just outside of the Old Town, and your adventure in Kotor begins!
What to do when you get to Kotor?
Again, I think that spending time on the Bay of Kotor is time very well spent, and I enjoyed chilling out in Montenegro more than I liked Dubrovnik. However, if this is just a quick trip for you, here are some highlights.
Stop at the Green Market on your way to Old Town
If it’s open, make sure to take a spin through the Green Market, just before the Sea Gate (the main entrance to Old Town Kotor). While this is more for tourists, you are a tourist, and it’s a lovely market. You could always pick up some picnic supplies here.
Wander Old Town
Wander through Old Town at your leisure, heading further back to avoid the crowds. Kotor’s winding streets were meant to confuse invaders, but we just get to get lost. Don’t worry—Kotor is small, you won’t be lost for long, and you won’t miss the points of interest.
Say hello to the Kotor cats
Be sure to say hello to all of the cats—Kotor’s unofficial symbol. There’s even a cat museum (I’m allergic, so I didn’t go, but I hear that it’s good). The cats are generally fed, but there is an outfit called Kotor Kitties that works to help spay and neuter to keep the population down. They accept donations.
Wander Old Town early in the morning
If you’re spending the night, make sure to take a spin through Old Town in the morning.
I lucked out and had a few quiet early mornings in Old Town, and the effect was magical (also, I saw someone propose). If you’re in Kotor during high season, it’s likely that you’ll still run into people, but it’s nothing compared to when the cruise ships arrive. Head again to the back streets and experience what all the fuss is about.
Scamper along the city walls
Improve your vantage point in Old Town by climbing the city walls—note that it can be a bit dicey in sections, but I didn’t have any problems on it (and I’m a middle-aged woman who’s not the fleetest of foot). Note this this is basically just walking around Kotor—to climb up the walls and go to the fortress see below.
Climb up to the Fortress
There’s a couple of ways to climb up to get stunning views of Kotor and the Bay, the official way and the Ladder of Kotor. The official way costs €8, but doesn’t involve climbing through a ladder (which you aren’t supposed to do, but I won’t tell). Personally, it gets really hot in Montenegro, and I didn’t find climbing up there all that appealing, especially since I took the Kotor Serpentine and got a similar view from a lookout point, but people love it, and I thought that I’d be remiss not to mention it.
If you do choose to do this, try to avoid climbing in the middle of the day in the summer—the sun is very strong—and be sure to bring water.
Take a speedboat tour
I might be a bit lukewarm on climbing up to the Fortress, but I am a huge fan of the speedboat tour around Boka Bay, because it’s spectacular. There’s a million outfits offering tours out to the Blue Cave (I took Montenegro Submarine & Speedboat Tours on the basis of my host’s recommendation—not an affiliate link). Use caution. I’d go with the Montenegro Submarine & Speedboat Tours or someplace with an official spot as opposed to someone you just meet hawking tours with a sandwich board.
Aim for a 3-hour tour that includes Our Lady of the Rocks
Generally, these are 3-hour-ish tours to several sites along the bay, including Our Lady of the Rocks, and then out to the Blue Cave at the mouth of the Adriatic. This stunning, if tiny cave, that shimmers with an otherworldly blue reflection of the sea floor, is one of Montenegro’s top tourist attractions.
You won’t get a lot of time at any site, and you should expect crowds everywhere, but zipping through the Bay is a blast, if you ask me, and it’s also a perfect way to cool off on a hot day.
Change before you get on the boat
Note that if you want to go swimming in the Blue Cave, you should change into your swimsuit before you leave. One guy didn’t do that. Also note that the ride back can be really windy, so even when it’s hot, you might want to have long sleeves with you. This should go without saying, but sunscreen is an absolute must, and bring water (they may have some, but you never know).
Have a coffee or a drink on the Dobrota Riva Promenada
Head out of Old Town and walk toward Dobrota on the Riva Promenada (I never heard anyone call it this, but that’s what it’s called on the map) and have a drink at one of the places on the bay near Kotor Beach (note that it’s a sharp left that looks like you’re heading into a driveway—there are likely other people walking there, and look out for the traffic coming at you). You’re there for the view, and the Aperol Spritzes and beers are about the same.
Chill out and go swimming
If you can, book a hotel or Airbnb right on the water (I stayed at a guest house in Dobrota, about a 25-minute walk from Old Town, and we were right on the water with a gorgeous terrace). Sunset swims became my thing. If that doesn’t work out, there are a couple of beaches, the easiest to reach is Kotor Beach. It’s not glorious, but it will get you in the water.
Eat & Drink
I should note that I have an allergy to mollusks and crustaceans. There’s incredible seafood to be had here, but I’m not the one to recommend it to you. I also stayed in Dobrota, a bit out of the Old Town and did most of my restaurant eating outside of Old Town. However, here are some spots I enjoyed.
This wine bar, right in Old Town, has a nice selection and good pizza and sandwiches. I liked that it was a bit back from the crush and offered some really good people watching of a dive-y bar across the way.
If you are a carnivore and hungry, get thee to BBQ Tanja. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the grilled meats are outstanding. A local recommended this place to me, and I am eternally grateful. Eat on their terrace out back if you can—it’s modest, but cute.
Take the Bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor, Montenegro!
Oh, I am jealous! Kotor, Montenegro is one of the world’s beautiful places, and the bus ride from Dubrovnik remains one of my better scenic rides. Here’s what you need to plan to take the bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor!
Time to allow
You can do this bus ride and head back in a day, but you wouldn’t get to do too much. If you possibly can, I’d make this at least an overnight.
- My recommendation is to book online with Flixbus. Otherwise, you may have to futz with printing out your ticket. You’ll take the Jaran Exspres Kotor bus line, but you book with Flixbus.
- Download the Flixbus app for your e-ticket.
- Especially during the high season, book well in advance and be at the bus station on time and get in the bus line early to help ensure a good seat.
- Take the earliest bus you can to get to Kotor in order to have the most time there as well as avoid having a long stop at the border completely ruin your plans.
- Make sure to sit on the passenger side (on the right, facing forward) for the trip to Kotor for the views. For the ride from Kotor to Dubrovnik, ride on the driver’s side (on the left, facing forward).
- Note: For your return to Dubrovnik, you will need to pay a €2 fee to use the bus station on top of your ticket. It needs to be in cash, so make sure to have some. They check.
- This is an international trip, so your passport is required. The border crossing is pretty routine, and you shouldn’t be asked too many questions, but it’s a good idea to have your travel plans handy.
IMPORTANT: Tourist Tax
- If you stay overnight in at an Airbnb or similar in Kotor, make sure that you know if your host will register you and pay the tourist tax (about €1 /person/day) at the tourist office or if you’re responsible for doing it yourself. If you need to do this yourself, your host should provide you with the necessary information. Registration isn’t onerous, but you can get into trouble it isn’t done. See the map for location of the tourist office in Kotor.
In high season, these can sell out. Provided that you’ve booked your ticket in advance, it would probably be a good idea to try and book this as well. I will say that I had a hard time booking Kotor Boat Tour, Submarine and Speedboat online, but there are others available through GetYourGuide. Just make sure to note the kind of boat you’ll be taking and read reviews before booking.
- You’ll need cash in Montenegro, as much of the country runs on it. As with other countries in the Eurozone, exact change is a thing, and large denominations might not be accepted. You can usually change a large bill at a bank.
- Wear good walking shoes—those charming pavements can be treacherous.
- Transportation around Kotor is not the most reliable, and I’d stick to my own two feet as much as possible. If you’re just doing an overnight, you likely won’t encounter the wonders of the Blue Bus line (it truly runs on its own schedule). Taxis can also be challenging—I had a driver insist that I was staying at the local hostel, even though I gave him an address. I still get miffed just thinking about him.
- Speaking of transportation, drivers are very aggressive. Take care crossing roads.
- English is widely spoken in the tourist areas of Montenegro, but it’s always polite to have a few phrases.
- Just as a general note, openly discussing religion, politics, and especially the wars in the 1990s is extremely ill advised. Also note that many people who live in Montenegro consider themselves Serbian and that using “Montenegrin” to describe people may inadvertently cause offense.
Solo female travel
I did all of these activities as a solo female traveler and loved my time in Montenegro. I think in years past, a woman traveling alone would have caused more interest, but they’ve seen a lot of us by now.
The touristed areas in Montenegro are generally very safe. I had a lovely time in Kotor and walking distances, including at night (the biggest danger is from aggressive motorists). Street crime can happen in Old Town especially, so take care with your belongings.
The bus ride was totally fine, safety wise. Obviously, this can depend on the passenger mix, but I never got the sense from anyone that it was unsafe.
- Old Town Kotor is generally accessible, and there is a wheelchair accessible restroom, but not every path is suitable for wheelchairs.
- My understanding was that the speedboat tours are not accessible. However, there are other boating options (generally longer trips) that can accommodate wheelchairs.
- I did not find any information about whether or not the bus is accessible, and, unfortunately, I would not be terribly surprised if this means that it is not.
Are you taking the bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor?
I’d love to hear if you take this ride and what you thought! Please share any advice for us if you’ve taken the bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor before!
Spending more time in Kotor?
If you’re spending more time in Kotor, and I hope you are, be sure to check out the other Montenegro posts and subscribe to my Kotor guide!