Updated on January 30th, 2020
In sticking with my transport theme, last week I showed you the best way of getting from Dubrovnik to Kotor. This week I will show you how to get from Shkoder to Podgorica by bus. Ben and I took this journey after spending a few days hiking between Valbona and Theth. This hike was one of my 2019 favourites and you should definitely check it out if you are in the area. Or even if you aren’t, make a special trip for it. It’s that good!
The distance between the Albanian city and the Montenegrin city is only 60km. By car, this would take around an hour to drive. However, for us travellers, the luxury of a car is not always there. The next best option which is the cheapest and quickest is to take the bus.
We took this bus trip after completing a quick loop of the southern Balkan countries before heading up to Slovenia by train. This ended up being 3 very long days.
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Getting a ticket
Tickets need to be bought online in advance and printed. We made the mistake of leaving it to the day to buy our tickets and the buy now option wasn’t available anymore. As we were concerned about the number of seats being on the bus we asked our hostel to call the number and save us a seat. This all ran very smoothly but once we arrived at the bus stop, the bus driver didn’t want to let us on without a ticket. We paid him slightly more than the fare and off to Podgorica we went.
The bus that runs the route is a small minivan seating 12 passengers. So it is recommended during the summer months to book as far ahead as possible. We made this journey at the end of June and took the two final seats.
The bus stops on the side of the main road. Apart from a few bus stop signs, it’s hard to tell if you’re in the right place. Tickets cost 10 Euros. Be careful buying tickets from street sellers as we have read a lot of these to be fake.
Websites to buy tickets online
Use these reputable comparison sites to search and buy tickets.
There are 3 companies which run the Shkoder Podgorica bus line. Most of the year there are 4 departure times daily starting from 7:50 am to the final departure at 9:15 pm. The journey time varies by only 30 minutes which isn’t a big enough difference to need to schedule around the quickest trip.
The distance from Shkoder and Podgorica is 60 km. The quickest bus leaves at 7:50 am and will take 1 hour and 40 minutes, the longest journey leaves at 1:20 pm and will take 2 hours 10 minutes. Although be aware that during summer and around holidays the border crossing queues might take longer.
Shkoder bus station
The Shkoder bus station is very confusing. Because there isn’t just one. Depending on where you are headed, different buses stop in different areas. So it’s important to know exactly where to wait for the bus to Podgorica. For this particular route, you can find the location on Google maps as the bus stop to Ulcinj.
Make sure you are at the bus stop early as I can’t imagine the bus waiting for you if it happened to arrive 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Although, maybe I’m wrong. Just don’t risk it. Our bus ran 15 minutes late and it was hard to not feel like we were in the wrong spot. Although with a little patience the bus arrived where we waited.
The bus stop is really close to downtown and you should be able to walk here from your hotel or hostel. As the main downtown street is pedestrian-only you may have to walk most of the distance regardless.
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The journey from Shkoder to Podgorica
Shkoder was one of those cities for us that no matter how many different ways you say the name, no one understands you. Luckily leaving the city we didn’t need to attempt the name again. We were told to wait on the opposite side of the road to where we actually needed to be. Although we luckily figured this out ourselves and made it to the correct side.
There was a small vendor on the side of the road who sold snacks and drinks and we grabbed something for the drive. We choose the 9:15 pm bus as we had come from Theth that same day and weren’t sure how long it would take us to get back. Luckily we had plenty of time to spare and had both lunch and dinner in Shkoder that day.
Is the bus coming?
After waiting an extra 15 minutes we were pretty convinced we were waiting in the wrong spot. We checked with the vendor who spoke very little English and did little to build our confidence. However, not long after the bus pulled up. Yipee.
Next, we struggled with not having a physical ticket. The driver did not want to let us on the bus and didn’t care that we had called an booked. As the tickets were quoted at 10 Euros online, that equated to just under 2500 LEK for two. I tried shoving the money into his hand and all of a sudden the cards changed. The driver obviously realised he has just made 20 Euros pocket money and happily helped us put our bags on the back. The next minute we were his new best friends and he was offering us cigarettes.
Off to Podgorica
We loaded into the minivan and took the final two seats. The bus was full of travellers and backpackers with not a single local onboard. Excited it was such a short journey we settled back and off we went.
Nah, it couldn’t be that smooth. 10 minutes into the trip we stopped at a petrol station. The driver told us we were taking a break. We saw him head into the dining area and start eating his dinner. We all mingled around waiting for our driver to come back but it was a nice break for the others who had been on since Tirana.
The border crossing
An hour and 10 minutes after getting on to the bus we arrived at the border crossing. There were only a couple of cars in front of us and they passed through quickly. When it was our turn an official came on and took our passports. No more than 5-10 minutes passed before we were getting them back.
We then moved into the Montenegrin checkpoint and the same thing happened. Back on the road in no time.
The final leg
The final stretch between the border and Podgocia took half hour. We were the last ones to board the bus and also the first ones to depart. We did feel a little guilty as the other travellers had a long trip ahead of them.
Podgorica bus station
The Podgorica bus station is located on the outskirts of the city. Which makes it very easy to get to when coming from Albania. The bus station is also right next to the train station which makes connections like we were doing a breeze. We found a great Airbnb just a couple of minutes walk from the station and the owner was happy for us to check in late.
The station is well equipped with cafes, shops, ATM’s and we found free wifi by going into one of the cafes.
From the train station to many hostels and hotels is between 500m and 1km. I would choose a location close enough to walk as taxi’s around bus stations are prone to ripping off tourists and unfortunately, there is no Uber in Montenegro.
That’s it! Getting from Shkoder to Podgorica by bus is very easy and quick.
Other tips and info
Heading from Podgorica to Shkoder?
If you want to make the return journey, check out the same websites for buying tickets. You can also buy a ticket at the bus station in Podgorica. Tickets are 10 Euros and buses run 4 times daily, between 10 am and 11:30 pm.
Reaching other destinations in Montenegro
There are direct buses from Shkoder to Budva and Kotor. The quickest of these buses leave Shkoder at 10 am and gets to Budva at 1:30 pm and then to Kotor at 2:00 pm. Prices are 12 & 15 Euros. If you prefer to spend some time in Pod, there are numerous buses running from Podgorica to Budva and Kotor throughout the day. The journey time is under two hours and costs between 4 and 7 Euros.
Is Podgorica worth visiting
To be honest, I don’t think so. We were based in Lake Skadar for 7 weeks, which is just 40 minutes outside of Podgorica. We visited the city to run errands quite frequently and didn’t find anything exciting to do here. If you do need to stay when passing through I would say overnight is plenty. However, you should definitely spend some time around Lake Skadar.
There is an airport in Podgorica which is serviced by budget airline Ryan Air. You should be able to find some cheap flights from here.
Sticking around in Montenegro?
Firstly, you should! Montenegro is one of my favourite countries. It is so diverse and offers budget travellers a whole lot of fun activities and access to nature and hiking trails. If you are, why not check out these posts to help plan your travels.
- Top destinations in Montenegro
- Durmitor National Park hiking and travel guide
- Montenegro in 7 days – Road trip itinerary