What makes Montenegro a unique country to travel to?
Montenegro is a small country in the Western Balkans that has experienced significant political and economic changes over the past two decades. It is a parliamentary democracy aspiring to Euro-Atlantic integration via membership in the European Union (EU) and NATO. There are many tourist facilities in Montenegro, but they vary in quality and some may not be up to Western standards. Hotel accommodations are plentiful on the coast and in Podgorica, the capital, but limited in smaller towns, especially in the North. English usage is limited except for Montenegro’s main tourist centers and the capital.
Street crime in Podgorica is at a level to be expected for a small European city with fewer than 200,000 people. Residential break-ins present the greatest security concern for U.S. citizens in Montenegro; however, the frequency of these crimes is still relatively low. Violent crime is infrequent. Police have a limited ability to provide services in English.
Cases of credit card fraud and theft at ATMs are minimal in the winter months, but there is a significant increase in theft at ATMs during the tourist season between May and September. Visitors should ensure that they protect their PINs at all times when using ATMs, and monitor card activity.
Don’t buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Montenegro, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In Montenegro, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. Likewise, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. There are also some things that might be legal in Montenegro, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Montenegro, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Persons violating Montenegrin laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Montenegro are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Carrying of weapons is forbidden. While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Although many physicians in Montenegro are highly trained, hospitals and clinics are generally not equipped or maintained to Western standards. Travelers may need to go to privately owned pharmacies in order to obtain medicines and basic medical supplies. Hospitals and private clinics usually require payment in cash for all services. Montenegro has only a small number of ambulances. As a consequence, emergency services are generally responsive in only the most severe cases. Otherwise, people must have their own transportation to hospitals and clinics.
Safety and Security
Demonstrations related to political activities, labor conditions, or sporting events are usually peaceful, though some have exhibited low levels of violence. Non-Montenegrins are rarely the target of violence, but there is always the danger of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While most Montenegrins are open and hospitable to foreigners, visitors might encounter anti-foreign sentiment.
Montenegrin nightclubs are popular with foreign tourists; patrons should be aware that these establishments can be crowded and may not comply with Western standards for occupancy control and fire safety.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Montenegro, you may encounter road conditions and driving styles that differ significantly from those in the United States. Roads in Montenegro are often poorly maintained, especially in rural areas. Dangerous areas for road travel include a road through the Moraca Canyon, north of Podgorica. This twisting, two-lane road is especially overcrowded in the summer, and is the site of frequent rockslides. In the winter, the Moraca Canyon and northern parts of Montenegro are covered with snow, which may slow traffic and make the road hazardous. Roads leading to Montenegro’s coastal areas are in better condition, but are overcrowded during summer season. Drivers should exercise extreme caution, as it is common for Montenegrin drivers to attempt to pass on winding roads and hills. Local drivers can be reckless and aggressive, and accidents are frequent.
The use of seat belts is mandatory for all passengers and cell-phone usage while driving is prohibited. Traffic law requires that vehicle lights must be switched on at all times while driving. Right turns on red lights are strictly forbidden unless a distinct green arrow is seen. At unmarked intersections, the right of way is always given to the vehicle entering from the right. Traffic law changes that took effect in January 2013 require each vehicle to have a reflectivefluorescent vest to be used in the event of an emergency road stop, as well as a European car accident report form. Children under 5 years old must be transported in a safety seat that is attached to a vehicle safety belt. Vehicles must have winter tires and carry snow chains between November 15 and March 30.
Additionally, pedestrians crossing streets in designated crosswalks have the right of way. Drivers must stop to allow these pedestrians to cross, although you will find that many pedestrians cross where there is no crosswalk.
Police in Montenegro will test a driver’s blood alcohol level on site and arrest any driver if the concentration of alcohol in the blood is greater than 0.03 percent, a very strict standard, significantly lower thanthe U.S. limit of 0.08 percent.Roadside assistance is available by dialing 19807, 382 (0)20 234 467 or 382 (0)20 234 999. Other emergency numbers are police: 122; fire department: 123; and ambulance: 124.
Metered taxi service is safe and reasonably priced, although foreigners are sometimes charged higher rates. Although there are some taxi stands in each of the cities, taxis generally do not pick up passengers on the street and must be ordered by phone or SMS. We recommend negotiating a price prior to traveling by taxi between cities, although some taxi companies have a price list of most intercity destinations on a control board.
Travelers in the region may wish to consider the safety of public transportation, including trains, buses, and ferries, in view of aging and poorly maintained equipment.