35 Useful Things to Know Before You Rent a Car & Go Driving in Montenegro

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Driving around Montenegro – from the sparkling Bay of Kotor into the mountains – is an unforgettable travel experience. Here are 35 useful things to know before you rent a car in Podgorica plus my best advice for driving in Montenegro.

When we recently spent 6-plus months overlanding in the Balkans, the only place we decided to hire a car instead of using local buses and trains was Montenegro. We made the right choice: In my opinion, Montenegro is the best country in the Balkans for a road trip.



Our self-drive adventure took us through some of Montenegro’s most awe-inspiring landscapes – around the entire Bay of Kotor, through Lovcen National Park, to Lake Skadar, along part of the southern coast, and inland to Podgorica (see our full road trip itinerary here). As is customary in our relationship, I did 100% of the driving.



We had no idea what to expect when we set out to hire a car in Podgorica as most of the information and trip reports we found online were outdated. In the end, we found driving in Montenegro an easy, safe and pleasurable experience



Yes, a driving holiday in Montenegro is different from Western European countries and you do need some driving experience under your belt to do it safely and confidently. For the most part though, the road conditions are good and the local driving style is not too bad.

All things considered, I believe that self driving is absolutely the best way to experience this beautiful country.



Driving in Montenegro: FAQ

DO YOU NEED A CAR IN MONTENEGRO?



Montenegro is a small country by any measure – but it’s also one of the most diverse countries in the region. If you’re set on having a wide range of experiences and delving deeper into the landscape, then you might not be able to rely on public transport alone.


But even then, it’s worth considering that most spectacular views of Kotor Bay, the loveliest swimming coves on the Adriatic Sea, and the most spectacular national parks are well beyond the tourist zones.


IS IT SAFE TO DRIVE IN MONTENEGRO?


There are some horror stories online about Montenegro’s ‘potholed, precarious roads’ – but rest assured these are mostly outdated. A lot of the country’s major highways were completely redone in the mid-2000s. Overall, we thought the roads were in great condition, especially compared to other countries in the region.



Most roads in urban areas are sealed, single-lane highways. Smaller roads around Lake Skadar are a bit rougher, but that’s to be expected in rural areas.



The one road I struggled with was the main highway around the Bay of Kotor. It was by far the busiest road we encountered, and although in good condition, the sheer volume of cars and speed of oncoming traffic did spook me a bit. Read on for my tips on how to avoid this road.


The main thing to watch out for in Montenegro is other drivers. Speeding is an issue, and on narrow mountain roads with tight turns, it can be a bit scary. My best advice is to drive defensively and take your time while being hyper aware of other drivers.


WILL MY CAR GET STOLEN!?


Have you heard the urban legend about David Beckham’s car getting stolen in the UK and ending up in Montenegro? (OK, it may actually be true.) Someone told me this as a way of warning me of the dangers of driving in Montenegro. You’d think it’s a land of car thieves!



Honestly, we didn’t encounter anything of the sort. Lock your doors, park in places that have a lot of foot traffic and look safe, and make sure your accommodation has secure parking. Theft insurance comes standard with most rental companies.


WHAT SIDE OF THE ROAD DO YOU DRIVE ON IN MONTENEGRO?


In Montenegro, you drive on the right hand side of the road.


If you’re driving around the Bay of Kotor, you might want to consider driving north to south if you want clear views of the water.


DO YOU NEED AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT FOR MONTENEGRO?


If your driver’s license is written in Roman alphabet, you do not need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to hire a car in Montenegro. If not, you will need to present an official translation and/or an international driving license.

Personally, I was not asked for an IDP when hiring the car – my Australian driving license was enough.


Policies may differ from agent to agent. Local Rent, for example, only requires a foreign passport and driving license. If you’re unsure, I suggest emailing or calling your rental car company to double-check.


DO YOU NEED A GPS IN MONTENEGRO?


No, Google Maps works perfectly fine in Montenegro. I recommend picking up a local sim card with data in Podgorica and using that instead of forking out for an expensive GPS rental. We went with Telenor, which gives you 10GB of data with 15 days validity for €10 (more information here).


Use of a mobile phone while driving is strictly prohibited in Montenegro, so remember to bring your hands-free dashboard mount to use for navigation.


General road & traffic rules


WHO HAS RIGHT OF WAY?


Normal road rules apply at traffic lights and when turning. On roundabouts, you must give way to any drivers already on the roundabout.


ARE SEATBELTS MANDATORY?


Yes, seat belts are mandatory in Montenegro for all passengers. It is compulsory to wear a seatbelt at all times, regardless of whether you’re in the front or rear seat.


Children under 12 years old are not permitted to sit in the front seat. Children under 5 must use a fitted car seat. Local Rent provides both child and booster seats free of charge – just be sure to select these add-ons when you book.


WHAT IS THE SPEED LIMIT IN MONTENEGRO?


The speed limit in cities and towns is 50km/hour. On highways, it goes up to 80km/hour. One thing I noticed was that speed limits change quickly and often, dropping from 80km to as slow as 30km in some places.


Speed limits are strictly enforced in Montenegro. We didn’t really encounter too many speeding vehicles, apart from on the highway around the bay. If you’re caught going just 10km over the limit, you risk a fine of up to €6,000. At the very worst, your passport could be confiscated.


Speed signs – and other roads signs – in Montenegro are standardise and easy to follow. Note that all speeds are displayed in kilometres.


IT’S MANDATORY TO DRIVE WITH DIPPED HEADLIGHTS


When we started off on our first day of driving, I noticed that every car had it’s headlamps on – even though it was a bright and clear morning. I just assumed drivers were extra-prepared for the tunnels, until I found out that it’s the law in Montenegro to drive with dipped headlights on at all times.


As soon as you get into your rental car, the first thing you should do is figure out how the headlamps work. Always have your low beams on – and always remember to turn them off when you park.


AND TO CARRY CERTAIN ITEMS IN YOUR BOOT


All cars must carry a collapsable warning triangle and a reflective jacket to use in case of breakdown. If you get pulled over by a police officer for any reason, they will likely check that you have these items on board.

Rental car companies must provide the essentials, so always double check you have yours before setting off.


TRAVEL OUTSIDE PEAK SUMMER FOR THE BEST PRICES


When is the best time for a Montenegro road trip? The answer depends on many factors, including what you plan on doing (hiking, swimming) and how much you’re willing to spend on a rental car.


High season in Montenegro is the summer months of July and August. True the weather is usually good and the days are long, meaning you can fit more in – but one major downside to consider is that prices skyrocket.


For example, the average price of a rental is 44.83€ per day in July compared with 24€ per day in May. Local Rent has a handy graph on their website that you can use to compare prices throughout the year.


If you’re looking for the best deal on a car, you might need to compromise and travel in shoulder season. Spring and autumn are ideal.


BOOK WELL IN ADVANCE


I recommend you reserve your car at least 3 months in advance if you are planning to visit Montenegro during the busy tourist season. Availability is drastically reduced in the peak period and you might have trouble getting the car you want.


Prices go up the closer to the date you book, so you can save a lot of money by booking in advance, too.

A SEDAN MIGHT BE BETTER THAN A 4WD

You don’t need a 4WD in Montenegro if you’re sticking to the main roads. In fact, it’s more advantageous to have a smaller car that can better negotiate narrow mountain lanes and is easier to park in built-up areas (parking is a major consideration – more on that later).


Our car was a compact Ford Fiesta. We found it was an ideal size. Auto and manual transmission are in equal supply in Montenegro.


If you plan on visiting more remote mountain regions or travelling on unsealed roads, then obviously a 4×4 is the best car for you.


GET YOUR HEAD AROUND ANY EXTRA FEES


As well as standard extras such as one-way fee (if you want to return the car to a different branch) there are a few other charges you’ll need to consider.


If you’re aged 21-25, you might need to pay a young driver’s fee. (Local Rent requires the driver to be 22 years old with at least 2 years of driving experience.) There is also an additional driver fee in Montenegro of between €15-30 per day depending on the company you use.


Winter tires start from €8 on Local Rent, while child seats are provided free of charge.

Note that Montenegro’s environmental tax, previously payable on all cars, was abolished in 2012.


CREDIT CARD DEPOSIT OR INSURANCE UPGRADE?


Most companies require you to leave a credit card deposit when you collect the car. This ranges from €150-1,000 depending on the agent. If no damage or theft occurs, the deposit is released when you return the car (it usually takes a couple of days).


Most big companies only accept credit card, not debit card. If, like us, you don’t have a credit card or you just want to avoid paying the deposit, a way to get around it is by upgrading your insurance. Full insurance typically costs around €10/day, which we absolutely thought was worthwhile for extra peace of mind.


Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection are usually included with the rental. Remember to check the excess amount.


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