Montenegro Express – Belgrade to Podgorica Train
Opened in 1976 (but in development for much longer), the Belgrade to Bar train runs through Serbia and Montenegro (with a short portion in Bosnia and Herzegovina). The entire route 476 km long; though I started in Belgrade and got off in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica. The route has over 250 tunnels and 400 bridges.
My journey from Belgrade to Podgorica took 11 hours. Apparently due to the deterioration in the train and track (not to mention being bombed by NATO in the 1990s); the train can’t go above 70 km/hour.
Two days before my trip, I visited the Center Train Station (also known as “Prokop”) to purchase my ticket using a credit card. Note that the train to Bar departs from Prokop, NOT from the main Belgrade train station. This is accurate as of July, 2022, but double check. The ticket was roughly $23 USD. I think I may have paid an extra $3 for a reserved seat (which actually doesn’t get you anything) but that wasn’t totally clear. There is only 2nd class on the train.
I took the Tara (day) train. There is a sleeper train as well. The day train currently only runs in the summer but I have heard it is supposed to go back to year-round.
I traveled on a Monday in July and when I arrived at the train station about 20 minutes before the departure time of 9:00am, there was already a sizable crowd waiting. Monitors near the entrance will show you what track the train to Bar departs from.
The train arrived right at 9:00am. There was the locomotive and three cars. The car that I boarded was labeled as 1st class but all cars are actually 2nd class and you can pick any.
The first car in the train was the one I picked (and I believe was the one I had a reserved seat in supposedly). In my opinion it was the best car on the train as it had seats in a 2-1 configuration — two seats on one side, the aisle, and then one seat. This was great for me as a single traveler as I had both an aisle and a window.
Storage for luggage is available overhead or at the ends of the train. A WC is on each end of the train car with a flushing toilet. Some of the WCs had sinks with water but not all. There was toilet paper provided. At each seat in my car was a power outlet that worked. While there is no wifi on the train, I had cell reception for most of the trip though it cut in and out every time we went through one of the hundreds of tunnels.
My car had air conditioning but by mid day it didn’t seem to be working very well and the car got quite warm. There was a lot of smoking on the train. It is allowed as long as you are doing it near the WC at the ends of the train.
The second car in the train was a 2-2 configuration.
The third car was completely different and had an aisle down one side of the train and six seat cabins on the other side.
When boarding, everyone just grabbed a seat in whatever car they wanted. A few people tried to find their reserved seat only give up and just grab any seat.
Note that there is no cafe or dining car, so make sure you bring food and water. A few times someone would hop on the train selling coffee or water, but I wouldn’t count on that. There are no stops where you can get off for food or drinks.
There were a few empty seats but not a ton. As we departed, the staff came through to check tickets. A few people hadn’t purchased tickets ahead of time and did so on the train.
We quickly were outside of Belgrade and in to the country. The train passes a lot of farm land and hugs various rivers throughout the journey.
The train makes a number of very quick stops; just enough time for people to get off and new passengers to get on. Mostly small towns but a couple of more sizable cities.
Close to the Serbia/Montenegro border, we passed a monastery and convent.
The train stopped for about 20 minutes leaving Serbia for passport control and again for about 20 minutes just on the other side in Montenegro.
On the Montenegro side, the locomotive switched to a new one for the rest of the trip. This was also the time where you could hop off for some fresh air (though no amenities at the stop).
The trip in Montenegro is the more scenic portion as you climb up and down mountains. Due to the sun light and dirty windows, I found the best way to take photos was out the back window of the last car.
Just before Podgorica you cross the Mala Rijeka Viaduct with a heigh of 660 feet.
The ticket said that we would arrive in Podgorica at 6:52pm, but in reality it was almost 8pm when we arrived. It was definitely the destination for most passengers though a good chunk continued on to Bar.
While 11 hours is a long time to be on a small train, the scenery was nice and everyone on the train was good natured. I always felt safe and saw tons of families and groups as well as single travelers of all genders traveling.