Of all the many amazing train journeys in the world, the Belgrade – Bar journey was one of those high on my bucket list. My travel planning for the Balkans started with me stumbling on a post written about this train journey and everything else kinda slowly unraveled itself thereafter.
Having trawled through numerous sites with nearly every one lamenting the excessively long delays, the lack of air-conditioning, of a restaurant car, the ciggie pollution on the train and the putrid toilets, I bought 2 train tickets – one for the night train to Podgorica and the second for Podgorica to Kolašin back to back. It was a tough call because I wanted to see the amazing scenery from Serbia to Montenegro but I was not ready to ruin 12 hours (or more) on what could be a train ride to hell on one of the most scenic journeys in the world.
There are 2 trains running everyday. One leaving Belgrade at 9:10 in the morning, arriving in Bar at 8:31 at night, another night train leaving Belgrade at 8:10pm and arriving in Bar at 7:38 the next morning. The downside of getting on the night train means that you would evidently lose 7 hours of sunlight and 7 hours worth of photo taking opportunities (for you keen shutterbugs). The upside is that you will get the night breeze instead of the day time heat, less ciggie pollution because others are asleep and you will get an extra day in Montenegro + one night of accommodation sorted. Time is usually pretty tight for me so taking the night train made complete sense for me.
To circumvent missing out on the scenery around the elevated and mountainous region of Kolašin in proper light, I got another day train ticket for Podgorica heading back to Kolašin. I now regret paying the extra 6 Euros for this for 2 reasons:
1. I forgot that the days were longer in summer
The sun sets at around 9pm and rises about 4:30am. I thought I’d miss some amazing sights getting into Podgorica but with the longer days, I managed to get 2 extra hours of picture worthy moments.
2. I forgot about the train delays
I was due to get into Podgorica at 6:30am but ended up getting in close to 8am. This ultimately meant that by the time I got up at 4:30am, the sun was up and I was rewarded with 3 and a half unexpected hours worth amazing scenery.
After a particularly sound and comfortable slumber, I was up at 4 in the morning with a delayed train still slowly chugging into Montenegro to my pleasure.
I do not know what the scenery in Serbia is like but I can say with surety that the scenery in Montenegro was completely and utterly breathtaking. In my 3 and a half hours between waking up and arriving in Podgorica, I barely sat. I was rushing back and forth because it was so stunning I wanted to see everything and miss nothing out. It is exactly as what i had imagined it to be and more. Not once did i feel an ounce of disappointment.
Bearing in mind that a quarter of this 476 kilometer journey consists of bridges and tunnels, I was told that it was quite the engineering feat of the 1960s to have a train run though this many bridges (over 254) and tunnels (over 435). In my waking hours, I lost count of the number of tunnels and bridges the train went through. It was a remarkable sight. I do remember, heading onto the Mala Rijeka Viaduct and out, keeping count of about 10 tunnels before losing sight of the Viaduct.
As the train journeys into the mountainous region of Kolašin, the canyons get deeper and the mountains higher. The jade green rivers gushing down below was quite spectacular and I would love to go on this journey again (perhaps on Tito’s blue train?). After Kolašin, the train starts its descent downwards to the relatively flat Podgorica. Here, the landscapes start changing and as the train journeys down south, it begins its journey alongside Skadar Lake which was equally stunning because here, you get the backdrop of mountainous Montenegro behind and alongside the lake.
Some of the many Vineyards seen! – Montenegrin can make pretty kickass wine! The reds are rich and velvety and the whites, very light and drinkable.
Tips and things to note for the train journey
1. Cost of journey
Tickets according to the Serbian Railways website is as follows – €45 for a Single Bunk, €21 for a Double Bunk, €16 for a tourist bunk, €6 for a 6 bedder and €3 for a seat on the train journey.
On most other sites however, a 2nd class ticket cost €21, and a first class train ticket costs €31.80. Others state that 3 bedders go for €36 per pax. I’m not sure why there exists this discrepancy but I am stating it all here for you to have a look at.
I paid much more – nearly €50 for my double but I could have paid more because I was sleeping in one of the bunks in the iconic blue train and I was charged more for engaging the services of an external agent.
You may contact the following agent who will assist you with your ticket booking and collection. The representative, Mr Popovic is an extremely friendly chap who speaks good English.
Phone: +381 11 265 8868
The thing to note is that Mr Popovic gets REALLY busy in the summer months (numerous calls and up to a thousand emails a day) so it can be quite difficult trying to get hold of him or to receive a reply. Also, the tickets are slightly more expensive. The good thing about engaging him is that you can be sure that your seat or bed on the train on whichever day you wish to travel on is guaranteed (great for the crowded summer months) and you will save yourself the worry and hassle of popping over to the station and queuing for your ticket. Drop me a comment or email for more details on this and I will be more than happy to furnish you with more information.
Alternatively, if you would like to secure your train tickets without the services of a third party, you can proceed to make your 24 hour ticket reservations and to pick them up at the station. Click on the link HERE, Scroll to the e-ticketing box towards the bottom left of the page. You will then have to sign up with a username and password to check the train schedule, cost of the journey and to even make a reservation. Do note that it is still not possible to buy any train tickets online and if you do make a reservation, you will have to pick up your tickets within 24 hours before it gets released for sale again.
2. Comfort in the Rooms and Toilet
I found the rooms to be more more pleasant and more comfortable than expected. To be fair, on my the last two night trains in Poland and Spain, I spent the night on reclined chairs facing random strangers so my expectations were not exactly very high.
Do not expect to find free wifi on the train, nor a restaurant car or even a spotless and sterile toilet. But the double rooms come with a sink, 2 mirrors, hooks for clothes, a ladder, a 220V powerpoint (that does not work), reading lights, blinds and locks for the room. Also, it is possible to pay a very small fee for the conductor in charge of your car to make you some coffee. I did not find the toilets putrid and found it to be cleaner than expected. I have had to use worse ones and for me, as long as the toilets are dry and are with toilet bowls, I generally do not mind if they are dated and old looking. If you happen to be a germophobe, just bring some antibacterial wipes and extra tissues and everything will be alright.
The rooms were not too tiny and the mattresses were pretty comfortable. Bedding is provided with a pillow, some sheets (albeit scratchy) and an equally scratchy blanket. Thankfully I came prepared with my own synthetic silk sheets and so managed a peaceful and very comfortable sleep. I leave you with pictures of the room.
3. Paying for Train Tickets and coffee on the train
The ticket office in Belgrade and in Bar accepts cash only. On the train, payment for coffee or an extension of your ticket from Podgorica to Bar is cash only (€2 one way) as well. Euros and Serbian Dinars are both accepted at the ticket office and on the train.
If you would like to pay by card, Wasteels can process your credit card payment but as discussed earlier, the cost will be higher. I believe that they only accept Visa and Mastercard, not American Express.
4. Bring your own food and drinks
With no restaurant car, no food or drinks, possible delays, this train journey should not be embarked upon without an adequate supply of water and snacks at the very least. This is especially so for those on the day train from Belgrade to Podgorica/Bar. Do pack yourself a decent lunch and dinner if you wind up on the day train.
If you are not able to pop into a take out store or supermarket to get yourself a sandwich, some snacks and drinks prior to your journey, there are little kiosks at the train station selling crisps, candy, some snacks and drinks if you would like to pick up some last minute stuff. If you are more inclined to visit a supermarket to pick up some items for your sandwich or other groceries, there are two Maxi minimarts close to the train station along Birčaninova Street and another along Prilaz Garaži Street.
5. Arrival into Bar / Journey into Budva – Ignore the Taxi Drivers
I nearly missed this. I went back to sleep and forgot to set my alarm for Bar. Thankfully, the train conductor came round to check and to his horror found me still sleeping like a log. I was the last to disembark the train in Bar.
The moment you descend the train steps onto the station, the taxi drivers will start flocking to you like bees to honey. They will make loads of offers to drive you to Budva or Kotor and the price generally ranges from €18 – €25 depending on how gullible you look. In my sleepy daze, I was quoted €25. Later on when I got annoyed with them badgering me, my resting bitch face resulted in the quotes dropping to €20, €22 and then €18. I believe it is possible to push the price down to €15 if you are willing to haggle and is pretty value for money if you are going in a group of 4 but I knew that I was taking the bus.
Beware the taxi drivers who will attempt to convince you to hire them or to buy bus tickets from them (the rate is double €8 to €10 per person). You will hear them tell you stuff like, the bus is far away.. the bus is long.. the taxi is €18 and the bus is €15. Why don’t you pay €3 more for taxi?
Lies. The bus stop is a 3 minute walk from the train station. The moment you leave the station, just walk straight down the main road road and ignore the taxi drivers. Go past the little eateries on your right and the newspaper kiosk. The bus station comes very soon after on your right. Bus tickets to Budva costs €4 – €4.50. You can get them at the station or on the bus. There are buses leaving every half an hour in the day. I believe that the last bus for Budva leaves the station at 10:09pm. For bus schedules, check out this link HERE.
Even if you will not be travelling to Budva or Kotor from Bar, note that this bus station has buses to Nis, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb, Ohrid, Istanbul, Skopje, Belgrade, Podgorica, Tivat – to name a few of the more popular places. You can check out the destinations and timetables HERE!