Fresh from our trip to Montenegro, I want to share some tips about renting a car and driving there.
I’ve done some research prior to the trip and felt well prepared. However, from our firsthand experience, the majority of information was either outdated or inaccurate. Since laws, rules and regulations are constantly changing, the following tips are current is of June 2014.
The most convenient way to get to Montenegro by air is via Dubrovnik airport in Croatia. It’s called Cilipi Airport and located about 15km east of Dubrovnik on the road to Montenegro.
Note: there are 2 other airports nearby, in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, and in Tivat, a small coastal town. However, not that many airlines are flying there, and ticket prices are more expensive. On the other hand, Dubrovnik is a popular destination with daily flights arriving/departing from many European cities.
So, you booked a car of your choice online in your local currency, you have a quote with you, and you are standing at the arrival area of the airport. What’s next?
All rental car facilities at Dubrovnik Airport located behind the parking area. There is a row of shack-like structures – that’s what you are looking for. The tiny booths house all major players, i.e. Sixt, Europcar, Avis/Budget, Hertz, etc…, and some local ones. There are no gates, but the exit is blocked by a random car that gets moved by a staff member every time a served customer in a car leaves the premises.
As expected, immediately after arrival of any sizable plane the area comes alive. You might have to wait a considerable amount of time regardless of whether you have a preferred status with the rental company or not. There are just a couple representatives per company, so the paperwork takes a while to complete.
All financial transactions would be processed in local currency, Croatian kuna.
3. Car Insurance
Standard European car insurance is not applicable in Montenegro. Therefore, if you are renting a car in Croatia, you have to buy a separate Montenegro insurance. The proof of insurance is required when crossing Montenegro’s border. There are 2 ways of getting it: either from the car rental company or from the insurance office conveniently located right next to the border crossing point. The second choice is a sort of shot in the dark: what if the office would be closed at the time of your crossing and you would be denied entry? On the other hand, buying insurance from the car rental company is, obviously, more expensive.
Majority of cars across all rental companies were not brand new (i.e. last year models and mostly entry level), manual and not in perfect condition (scratches, etc…).
5. Manual vs. Automatic
Even though I’ve done research about Montenegro’s roads, I was impressed how challenging they were. Local and secondary roads are windy, steep, at times one-line traps with ravine on one side and sprightly creek or a stone wall on another. Unless you are really-really confident about your driving skills, just avoid renting a manual car.
Google maps, GPS, even paper maps would not help navigating local roads. We ended up meeting our host at a nearest gas station and following him.
All of the above might look a little bit intimidating, but Montenegro’s wild beauty is definitely worth a visit, and, without any doubts, the best way to explore it is by car.