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A Digital Nomad Guide to Living on the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

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Kat Smith
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Looking for an incredible place to stay for a few months as a digital nomad? While they don't yet offer a freelance visa, Montenegro is a European country not yet on everyone’s radar. It’s well off the beaten path compared to its popular neighbors Croatia and Italy, and to make things even better, it’s not yet part of the EU so you won’t need to spend your precious Schengen Visa days here. Most nationalities get 90 days specifically for Montenegro, which doesn’t get combined with your allotted days in any other country.

Montenegro is a relatively small country but packs a mighty punch. With the stunning Accursed Mountains on the border with Albania, a vibrant Adriatic coast comparable to anywhere else in the Mediterranean, and, my personal favorite, the historic and scenic Bay of Kotor, or Boka Kotorska.

With incredible scenery, from calm blue water to intimidating mountains, the Bay of Kotor is certainly a sight to behold. If you’re in for a relatively calm place to visit where outdoor activities will rule your off-work hours, this is the place for you. 

After spending 3 months myself here as a digital nomad, here’s what you need to know before you decide to pack your bags and head to the bay, too.

A few must-visit spots throughout th Bay of Kotor

The Best Time to Visit the Bay of Kotor

The season you decide to visit Kotor will greatly affect your time here. If you decide to move full-time to the Bay of Kotor, you'll obviously get to experience all 4 seasons, but if you're here as a digital nomad like I was, you'll want to choose your season with caution.

Summer in Kotor

Summer on the bay is fantastic. The weather is plenty warm to swim, sunbathe, and enjoy the outdoors but it's not nearly as hot here as in other places in Europe. We had a few really toasty weeks but for the most part, summer was idyllic. This is the perfect time to visit if you're drawn here to really enjoy the water and all the best things to do around the bay.

Summer is also when everything on Kotor Bay will be open, especially in July and August. In the shoulder and off seasons, you won't have access to everything, especially in the smaller towns that dot the coast. That being said, it's also peak tourist season so you can expect to see more cruise ship traffic, more crowded busses, and more boats on the water. Although Kotor Old Town is comparable to nearby Dubrovnik, it's not nearly as crowded as that city can get.

Given that summer is the peak tourist season, it's also the most expensive time to visit. Apartment rentals will cost around double they would during any other season. For reference, we paid on average €50/night for the 2-bedroom houses we rented.

a small marina in front of a walled city with ominous mountains in the background
The outside of the walls of Kotor Old Town

Fall and Spring in Kotor

By spending your fall in Kotor, you can expect the water to still be warm enough to swim throughout September and even at the beginning of October. The weather will be significantly cooler though and nights are ideal for sleeping with the windows open under a blanket or two.

The same goes for spring, with the water still chilly but enjoyable as early as May.

These are the shoulder seasons on the Bay of Kotor so they're still good times to visit but you can expect less ideal weather for swimming but better weather for hiking the surrounding mountains. Things will either slowly start to open up in the spring or start to close for winter in the fall, so you can expect a quieter getaway with less access to all restaurants, bars, and activities.

Winter in Kotor

Winter on Kotor Bay is unanimously the worst time to visit. You will save plenty of money and have your pick of the litter when it comes to housing but it's really only recommended to spend your time as a digital nomad here if you really need a quiet space to get some work done without much outside distraction.

December is the peak rainy season so you can expect cold, rainy weather. The farther you go into the bay towards Kotor, the less sunlight you'll get each day since so many of those towns are blocked by the mountains. In Tivat and Herceg Novi, you'd get the most amount of daylight possible but you do sacrifice the dramatic views of the bay, although still beautiful.

A lot of restaurants and bars close down during the winter since tourism is at a low so, especially if you're based in one of the small towns, you can expect to do most of your own cooking.

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Digital Nomad Necessities

Now that you have a better idea of when to visit the area, there are a few digital nomad realities you should be prepared for. In general, this isn't a country that's prepared for remote workers. There's not a big culture of working online and they lack much of the infrastructure you can find in digital nomad hubs like Chiang Mai, Bali, or Medellin. For me, that wasn't a dealbreaker. I actually prefer off-the-beaten-path places but for others looking for a good community of nomads, this all might be a deal breaker.

a scenic view of a blue sea surrounded by old stone houses and mountains
The view of the bay from Perast

Speaking Montenegrin

Before I dive into the specifics of working, there's something you need to know about daily life in Montenegro, and that's speaking Montenegrin. We always try to learn the basics of a language whenever traveling (we love the free app Drops).

Before Montenegro, we spent 3 months in Albania, mainly living in Saranda, so we had our hands full of learning Albanian, with the idea that the day we crossed the border, we'd switch to Montenegrin. Easy.

What I wasn't ready for was the fact that Montenegrin isn't an option on Google Translate. That alone really threw us for a loop when we stopped to grab lunch on our road trip to the bay.

What you need to know: all former Yugoslavian countries speak the same root language, with regional differences sprinkled in. That means if you learn Serbian and travel to Croatia, you'd get by speaking Serbian. You'd mess up a few words here and there but the locals would understand you just fine. Think of it like someone from Colombia going to Spain.

Since Montenegro has only been independent since 2006, its language is most like Serbian compared to all the former Yugoslavian countries. That means you can use Serbian on Google Translate. Insert new hurdle. Serbian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Had I known my first day in Montenegro that we'd move to Novi Sad next, I would have dove head first and gotten the vocabulary and thanked past me for learning Cyrillic.

But, that's not what we did. We started learning Croatian and really, it worked out. We noticed some differences in food vocabulary and numbers but for the most part, people could understand us and it got us by on the Roman alphabet.

Internet Speed

Ok, now for the biggest worry of all digital nomads: how's the internet speed? Well, you're not going to like this, but it's not great. We lived in 3 different places along the coast during our time in Montenegro and all 3 houses had the same internet issues. It would work fine and then drop for sometimes a few minutes other times a few hours.

The solution: hotspot.

One of the first things you should do when you arrive in Montenegro is good and get a local SIM card with a hefty data package. We used T-Mobile Montenegro and got a pre-paid 30-day SIM card with 500 megabytes for around €15. Every 30 days, we just popped back into the store and topped up for another 30 days. Easy, cheap, and more data than we could actually use.

Just keep in mind that even with a hotspot, the internet isn't incredibly fast. If you constantly need to send and receive big files, you might lose your mind, but if you can either do your work offline or on programs that don't need much to function, you'll be fine.

stone-faced ruins covered in ivy
Photogenic ruins in Risan

Co-working Spaces

If you like working from co-working spaces or nowhere at all, I'm going to stop you right there. Kotor Bay isn't your spot. I've heard of one of two co-working spaces in Tivat but they aren't the best. When booking your accommodation, make sure you have a comfortable spot to work from because you'll spend more of your work day there. Luckily, you can rent homes with incredible views that will consistently remind you of your surroundings while working.

There are a few coffee shops and restaurants that you can work from but you'll have to do some digging in the town you're based in to find your spot. I'll go into more details about the towns on the bay later, but many of the small towns like Prcanj and Stoliv have only outdoor restaurants where you'll have to fight the glare to work. Bigger towns like Kotor Old Town, Tivat, and Herceg Novi have more variety.

My favorite places to work from were hands down Babi in Tivat and Restobar Taraca just outside of the walls of Kotor Old Town.

Short-Term Housing

Luckily, short-term housing isn't too hard to come by along the bay. This area thrives on tourism so there are plenty of hostels, hotels, apartments, and vacation rental homes that you can choose from.

If you're interested in meeting other travelers, I'd recommend staying in a hotel or hostel in Kotor Old Town or Herceg Novi. That's where the majority of younger backpackers and digital nomads hang out.

If you're more interested in enjoying nature and want your own space, head to Airbnb and book a house to stay in. There are more than enough options to choose from.

Pro tip: If you plan to stay for 3 months, book enough accommodation to give you a few weeks and then find a place for the rest of your time in person. This will save you plenty on third-party fees and allow you to see the place in person before booking. We did this for the last place we stayed in and because we could scope it out first, it was our favorite, and since it was off the app, it was cheaper for us (and made the landlord more money).

The Bay of Kotor from above at sunset
The Bay of Kotor from above on the hike to the fortress

Public Transportation

Alright, this is another thing that is less than ideal on the Bay of Kotor. Before I go into details though, I want to clarify: the Bay of Kotor is one of the best places I've ever had the chance to visit. So, while it might feel like I'm listing cons, I'm not. It's just that this place is different than most digital nomads might expect and I think it's fair that you're prepared.

If you're not willing to sacrifice co-working spaces and reliable public transportation, you should just come for a week or two, but if these things aren't dealbreakers, I think you'll love it as much as I did.

Ok, back to it. A lot of living in on the bay is like going back in time and the public transportation here is no exception. Along the bay, there is 1 bus: the Blue Line. There is a Blue Line bus that goes from Tivat to Kotor and will be your lifeline if you live along the coast between those two cities. There is another Blue Line bus that goes from Kotor to Risan and will be your lifeline if you choose to live on that side of the bay.

That's it.

In the bigger hubs (Kotor, Tivat, and Herceg Novi) there are plenty of taxis and also busses to take you to other parts of the country or into Croatia. But, in a small town, you won't have access to taxis, unless you get lucky and catch one after they've dropped someone off.

According to the bus schedule, one will pass by every hour. If that actually worked out in reality, it wouldn't be a problem. The issue is the buses get off schedule pretty often. There's only one road along the coast so if there's traffic, there's really nothing they can do about it but wait. Which means you'll be left waiting, too.

This really is less than ideal. You can't be in a rush anywhere you go. If you need to go to the doctor at 3, don't take the 2 o'clock bus, take the one at 1 o'clock, otherwise, you risk missing your appointment.

Luckily, along the bay is really flat so if you have time to kill, I recommend you start walking. That way, you can flag the bus down if it passes and if it doesn't, you'll just make it there on foot. Another, less time-consuming option is to rent a bike and get around that way. Since we travel with a dog though, bikes are the most convenient on a day-to-day basis.

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Where to Stay on the Bay of Kotor

Alright, if I still have you here with me, the last decision you need to make is where to stay on the bay. It's a lot bigger than most people assume so you do have your choice of which place to make your home base.

Your decision will really be based on your priorities while living in Montenegro. While most people are drawn here in the summer months because of the easy access to the refreshing sea, the Bay of Kotor doesn't have beaches as you might expect. There are a few small stone ones, but nothing with sand. Most of the best places to swim are off of cement docks where you can dive right into the water.

Kotor

a plaza with white stone buildings surrounding it
One of the many historic plazas in Old Town Kotor

Kotor is easily the most well-known place on the bay, mainly because they share a name. Kotor is really its Old Town. There is a little bit more to it than that but the heart of it is certainly within its walls. The Old Town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is incredibly well-preserved and clean.

You'll love living in Kotor if you prioritize going out to eat at restaurants, having a drink or two at a variety of bars, and meeting locals and tourists alike. This is the liveliest place you can be on the Bay of Kotor but that also means the most touristic. Kotor Old Town is a big stopover for cruise ships so you'll have to compete for space with hordes of cruise ship passengers, sometimes up to 3 boats at one time. Because of this and the fact that the city is located at the back of the bay, the water here is also a little grimy and not nearly as clean or enjoyable to swim in as other parts of the bay.

On the plus, living in Kotor means you won't get bored. There will also be something to do. Whether it's wandering inside the walls and eyeing the architecture, climbing to the top of the fortress to enjoy impressive views of the bay and city below, or enjoying one of the many boat tours available. That'll all be at your fingertips (without needing to deal with public transportation) if you decide to base yourself in Kotor Old Town.

Dobrota

an orange domed roof at a church with a palm tree in front
A few of the domed roof at the iconic Dobrota church

Dobrota, which translates to "goodness," is where most locals who work in Kotor live. It's just the next town north of Kotor Old Town and where I'd like to live if we ever went back to the Bay of Kotor.

I like Dobrota so much because I think it provides the perfect mix of clean water for water activities, easy access to Old Town, yet plenty of its own bars, restaurants, and things to do.

Dobrota has a charming feeling to it. Many of the hotels here are high-end and well-kept yet given that most Montenegrins live here inside of Old Town, the prices for food are more geared towards locals than tourists.

Donji Stoliv

a picture of a small coastal town taken from the water with mountains in the distance.
The view from the water of quaint little Donji Stoliv with Gornji Stoliv above

Donji Stoliv, commonly called simply Stoliv, is where you want to be based if tranquility is what you crave. When we lived in Stoliv, we quickly got to know our neighbors, got our drinking water from the town well, and ate fruit fresh from the trees. We stayed at this house in Stoliv for a little over a month and absolutely loved it. If you rent this house, too, I recommend you get a paddle board for the duration of your stay since you'll be just right on the water.

If you need more excitement than what nature can provide, you won't want to base yourself in Stoliv, but if nature is what brought you here, you'll love it. The sea in Stoliv is clean and great for swimming. Just across the water are Perast and Lady of the Rocks, giving you a nice view each day.

Just above Donji (Lower) Stovi is Gornji (Upper) Stoliv. Gornji Stoliv is incredibly old and was the area village before the coastal town existed. Now only one family lives up on the hill but has done a great job of preserving the ancient church. They even run a small coffee shop for those that make the trek up the hill. Having access to this trail was one of my favorite things about living in this town. I walked up to Gornji Stoliv along the old cobblestone path at least once a month and each time loved it more and more.

Prcanj

a few people in crystal clear water with mountains behind
The water in Prcanj is the best for swimming

Prcanj is another small town that sits between Stoliv and Kotor. This was the first place we decided to stay and I'm so glad we did. The town itself has a bit more going on than in Stoliv, although that's not hard to do, Stoliv only has 4 restaurants.

Prcanj is stunning. It's really one of the most beautiful places I've ever better and is picturesque in every way. From Prcanj you get incredible sea views with the most epic mountains across the water. The architecture here provides great insight into the history of the area, with stone houses littering the street, mixed in with ancient churches, and elegant luxury hotels. Anywhere near the main church in Prcanj is a great place to stay.

Keep in mind that Prcanj has grown more than other small towns, which means the farther you get from the coast, the more uphill your walk home will be. The hills are no joke here given how dramatic the mountains are. This is something to keep in mind when booking your accommodation in Prcanj.

Perast

a view of a body water behind red terracotta roofs and a stone steeple.
The view of Perast from above

Perast is famous for one main reason: Lady of the Rocks. This symbol of Montenegro's history is plastered everywhere and is most likely one of the first pictures you saw of the bay, too. To visit Lady of the Rocks, you don't need to stay in Perast though. Nearly every boat tour will include it as a stop on their day trip route.

In my opinion, staying in Perast is best for someone who will only be in town for a week or so. Since we had heard so much about Perast before arriving here, I had in my head that it would be bigger than it really is. It's geared completely towards tourists so has its fair share of restaurants but that's about it.

If you're interested in staying in a small town, I'd vote for Prcanj or Stoliv because the views are better and the water is cleaner.

Risan

A scenic cobblestone street in an old town in Europe
The one beautiful cobblestone street in Risan

Risan is in another corner of the Bay of Kotor, just west of Perast. We visited here on a scooter trip along the bay and honestly, I had high expectations of Risan. I knew it was the oldest settled area on the bay and thought there would be more history to see, given how well-preserved everywhere else is.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. There is a small town square with a few restaurants and some cobblestone streets to explore a bit but, in general, I found it underwhelming compared to the other places to stay.

There's a popular beach here but, just as with Kotor, since it's at the end of the bay, the water isn't as clean as in other areas.

Tivat

nice high rises in front of a marina
A glimpse at Porto Montenegro, in the heart of Tivat

Tivat is where most expats in the area live. This is mainly because this is the only international school on the bay so where most expats send their kids to school. Given the tricky transportation, it's easier to live in Tivat rather than deal with transportation each day.

Tivat also gets the most sunlight annually since it's not as blocked by mountains. That makes it a more desirable place to live year-round.

Tivat is where we went for most basic necessities. We went there for the vet and doctor. It's also where the international airport is.

What draws most people to Tivat though is Porto Montenegro, commonly called Billionaires Marina. Here, you can check out the yachts and sailboats that dock here and enjoy a wide variety of restaurants and bars. The restaurants here cater to international cuisines so this is the best place to eat Mexican, Asian, or other specialties you can't find elsewhere.

Herceg Novi

an Old Town center in Montenegro during sunset
The center of Herceg Novi's Old Town at sunset

The last notable place to mention on the Bay of Kotor is Herceg Novi. Herceg Novi is only about an hour away from Dubrovnik so is actually much closer to Croatia than other parts of Montenegro, giving it a distinct feel from the other towns on the Bay of Kotor.

To get to Herceg Novi, you either have to go all the way around the bay or take the short ferry across the water. This ferry is free for pedestrians but only a few euros for a car or scooter. The ferry runs continuously 24/7 and only takes about 5-10 minutes on the water so you never have to wait long to get from one side to another.

There's a lot to do in Herceg Novi. It's most comparable to Tivat but has a much larger historic Old Town and bigger in-town beaches. The bar and restaurant scene is vibrant here. I stayed here for a few nights while I was dogsitting for friends. I really enjoyed my time here but was happy to be back in the scenic, calmer towns on the other side of the bay. Simply because nature and rest were what I was really trying to prioritize while in Montenegro.

Ready to Work Remotely from the Bay of Kotor?

For an off-the-radar place to visit in Europe, you'll love your time on the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. Not yet discovered by the masses, I think it's only a matter of time before this quaint area becomes as popular as places in Croatia. Until then, enjoy calm seas, clean water, breathtaking views, and tranquility that I haven't yet found elsewhere in Europe.

xx,
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