I can’t claim any credit for this idea. It was all Jennie’s idea, really.

The story goes, it’s a nightmare to travel from Montenegro to Albania and, once there, it’s a nightmare to get around the country.

Of the Kotor to Albania route, one of the problems is said to be that there is one bus per day from Kotor to Ulcinj, near the Monenegrin border, and one bus per day from Ulcinj to Shkodra, and they don’t connect up. (Actually I think this is no longer the case and if you want to try to do it in two hops, look in the Further Info section at the bottom of this post – no guarantees, of course).

Other more general problems are that buses are flaky in the Balkans. They can turn up late or just be cancelled altogether without much warning. Routes can change. (This actually happened to me once when I was already on the bus. Since I was the only passenger getting off at Slavonski Brod and the staff somehow didn’t realise I had that ticket they changed it to a direct bus. Sailing past my intended destination – still having some naive hope that we might be about to double back or that that wasn’t actually Slovonski Brod I could see hurtling past the right hand window – I realised I would instead be disembarking in Zagreb.) Getting information on the internet can be hard and asking an employee at the bus station relies on their knowledge down the bus-route-rabbit-hole (actually autobusni kolodvor employees can be very helpful and knowledgeable, but it can go either way).

Montenegrin bus
“Glusica Niksic” by Zastavafan76 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glusica_Niksic.JPG#/media/File:Glusica_Niksic.JPG

I’d read other people’s accounts of the trip and they often involved negotiating with taxi drivers for long rides and splitting the costs with other travelers or staying overnight somewhere along the way. I wanted to do it in a day and since I was travelling solo, I didn’t want to pay for a taxi or just hope someone would be around to go halves.

This isn’t ideal but nor is it the end of the story.

To overcome the Kotor to Albania problem, one hostel actually runs a transfer to Tirana for €40 per person, but only if 4 people are travelling (€30 if there are 5 or more). I had my name on this transfer list. Approaching my second night in Kotor, it remained the only name on the list so I was starting to think about other options.

That’s when I met Jennie. Jennie had been travelling from Moscow all the way down to her destination in Singapore when she realised she just wasn’t ready to give it up, so she turned around and made her way back up again, overland, to Europe. She’d completed nine months of a pretty full-on journey and was three days out from the end of the trip when I met her in the hostel in Kotor. Jennie, needless to say, is a seasoned traveler.

Jennie said, I don’t know why people think it’s so hard. I think you can get there in a day and for much less than €40. True, there is only one bus to Ulcinj and it doesn’t connect up, but there are tons of buses to Budva and from there you can get one of a number of buses to Ulcinj in time to catch the afternoon bus to Shkodra.

So I decided to try it… what other options did I have?

Here’s how the trip went:

Route Departure Arrival Cost Notes
Kotor – Budva 8:40 9:20

€3 + €1 for luggage

Total: €4

This bus runs about every half hour after 8:10am
(in 2 sections via Bar – see notes)
9:40 12:00

€4.50 + €1 for luggage + €2 on the bus for Bar-Ulcinj section

Total: €7.50

* this bus runs every 1-2 hours (the next on the schedule was 11:30)

* the bus departed for Ulcinj 15 mins late at 9:55

* the ticket from the cashier said Budva-Bar although I’d specified Ulcinj. The bus stopped at Bar for a break but continued on to Ulcinj after about 10 minutes. I paid an extra €2 on the bus for the rest of the trip to Ulcinj, mostly because I’d previously asked 2 ladies about the weird Budva-Bar ticket and they, having received the same ticket, volunteered themselves (and me) for the extra €2 at Bar. Well, they were trying to do the right thing. My advice is by all means ask if the bus is continuing on to Ulcinj but don’t volunteer yourself for the extra €2 because I doubt if you’ll have to pay it!

Ulcinj-Shkodra 12:30 13:45

€5, luggage for free!

Total: €5

Don’t arrive unprepared for the border crossing and spend an anxious half hour without any local currency, belatedly wondering if Australians need visas to enter Albania.

So there you go, that’s how I got from Kotor to Shkodra in one day by bus for €16.50. When I arrived there was another bus behind my bus which was heading to Tirana, so I could easily have made it to Albania’s capital on the same day. The last bus to Tirana leaves at 4pm and I was informed by my host at Home Hostel that it’s still possible to get a mini bus for slightly more LEKs after 4pm.

Further info

  • Although people say there is only one bus a day from Ulcinj to Shkodra, there was definitely a second bus listed on the indicator boards at the bus station in Ulcinj which left around 16:40. The Kotor-Ulcinj bus would connect up with this bus and you could do it in two hops. This website says there are more in the evening and although I can’t vouch for its accuracy, the buses I have taken in Montenegro seem to match up with its timetable.

  • The cashier at Ulcinj will sell you a ticket all the way to Tirana although there is no direct bus from Ulcinj to Tirana – you have to change in Shkodra. I expect this means your ticket is still valid when you change in Shkodra…. but who really knows?

  • It’s worthwhile taking water and a sandwich so you can jump on the bus at a moments notice and not have to muck around in the shop at the bus station.

  • You can get free wifi in the bus station at Ulcinj if you stand next to the little shop in the corner. Very handy for a last minute money transfer if you forgot to do it before you left.

  • There are some really cute cats in the Ulcinj bus station

Kotor to Albania by bus: 1 day, €16.50.

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