In my opinion, the route between Belgrade (Serbia) and Bar (Montenegro) is an absolute must during every Balkans-Trip: Whether it be just the mere “connection” or because of its incredible scenery. There are two direct connections, sometimes even three during summer.
They consist of the day train from Belgrade to Bar (times: departure in Belgrade at 9.21am, arrival in Podgorica at 7.55pm and final arrival in Bar at 8.55pm).
There is also a night train, that runs throughout the year: Timetable
And a seasonal night train, departing from Subotica: Timetable
Day train: Departure from Bar at 8:20am, from Podgorica at 9:20am, arrival in Belgrade at 8:05pm
Night train Bar-Podgorica-Belgrad
Night train Bar-Podgorica-Belgrad-Subotica
Both direct trains from Belgrade to Bar and back offer a car transport carriage. If you want to load your car, you have to be at the train station 1-2 hours early.
Tickets, coach classes and Interrail
A hint for everybody, looking for connections: It might help, to type Belgrade as "Beograd". In the official Interrail-App it now also works with "Topcider" – the new stop.
You can also type Bar as "Bar (MNE)".
The day train: The day train only offers 2nd Class carriages. A reservation is optional, costs €3 and seems to be without big advantages. The former First Class carriages serve as Second Class carriages now. If you make a reservation, you will end up there, but on my trip, I also found a seat without reserving one.
With Interrail, you basically travel for free. You have to purchase your ticket at the train station on the day before departure. The price for a ticket comes to €19, a round trip costs around €31. You can either pay cash or by card. Currency in Serbia: Serbian Dinar, in Montenegro, it’s Euro.
The night train: The night train offers seated compartments, couchette and sleeper compartments, whereas the standard is rather low. Unfortunately, there is not much I can tell you about the ticket prices, but they’re definitely within the lower price range, even for the couchette or sleeper.
With Interrail you don’t pay extra for a seat, a couchette costs an extra €6 and the sleeper an extra €15/20/45 (3 shared/double/single compartment). These informations might be a little outdated, so I can only confirm the surcharges for seated carriage and couchette. I doubt though, that the sleepers’ prices have increased, or I guess in that case, a normal ticket would be cheaper.
Regional connections between Bar-Podgorica-Bar
The carriage facilities of the night trains are used during daytime for Montenegro’s regional services between Bar and Podgorica. The trip takes about an hour and all the stops are being stopped at (for example Susanj, a suburb of Bar).
I found the following timetable at Bar’s train station:
Departure Bar to Podgorica:
05:08 (on to Bijelo Polje), 06:35, 08:20 (on to Bijelo Polje and Belgrad), 09:05, 10:40, 11:55, 14:10, 15:05 (on to Bijelo Polje), 17:20 (on to Bijelo Polje, 18:00, 19:00 (night train in direction of Belgrade, via Bijelo Polje), 20:30
Departure from Podgorica to Bar:
05:25, 07:40, 07:58, 09:25, 10:40, 11:45, 13:00, 15:16, 16:40, 19:11, 20:00, 21:35
Another regional train connection in Montenegro exists between Podgorica and Niksic:
Departure from Podgorica: 05:00, 07:55, 13:05, 15:15, 19:20
Departure from Niksic: 06:30, 09:20, 14:35, 17:20, 20:40
UPDATE: Where to find the train station
My travel companions and I arrived at an ungodly hour of 5.58am (unfortunately also almost punctual – I would have been happy about a little delay) at the new station "Beograd Centar".
The train to Bar was supposed to leave at 9.21am. But from where? I’ve read beforehand, that there would be some changes being made, concerning that. But unfortunately I didn’t memorize any specifics. So first, we had to find a railway employee, or somebody, who looked like one. I showed him my connection Belgrade-Bar on my train App and pointed to Bar. Sadly, he didn’t speak any English. So the only finding I got, was that the train didn’t leave from here – he gestured in some other direction. We left the train station and stepped suddenly in broad daylight. At least we had enough time – over 3 hours.
First of all, I noticed the dome of the grand Sava cathedral. And since it’s one of the most popular sights, we decided to have a look at it. The city was almost deserted, and we tried to ask every passer-by for the main station. The first three of them didn’t speak any English and asking for "Glavna" (= Serbian for: Main station) wouldn’t have made any sense at this distance. Just before reaching the cathedral we ran into a younger man, and I got my hopes up for a successful communication in English. Unfortunately it turned out, that he was a tourist, just like us, being from Bosnia. He wasn’t even sure why he was awake at that early hour (since it was only 6.30am). But: He was precariously pointing down the road, where he thought the main station would be.
Nevertheless, we didn’t want to let the chance pass to have a look at the cathedral’s outside structure, since it has one of the largest domes in the world. Unfortunately it opens its doors to the public no earlier than 7am. And while we were nowhere near our destination, we couldn’t wait. If the issue would resolve itself quicker than expected, we could always come back.
The next step included looking for Wi-Fi. Once we had found it, we looked into the DB-App to find the starting point of our train connection between Belgrade and Bar, and ended up at the main station. I switched to GoogleMaps, looked for the route and took a screenshot, so we could go offline again. We walked along our route, passed heavily dilapidated buildings, dating back to the Balkans-War and finally found Beograd’s main station Glavna, established in the 19th century. I recalled the facade from pictures I had seen.
While we were crossing the station’s entry hall, something was dawning on me: I thought I had read about the pending demolition of this station, and as soon as we arrived at the platforms, it didn’t take us by surprise, that my premonition was being confirmed. Meanwhile, it was 7.40am. What now?
In a former ticket booth, there was a lady to provide us with information. She spoke English and I asked her where the train to Bar leaves, since all my available train Apps told me, it would be here and therefore weren’t up to date. She kept repeating the words “Topcider, outside of Belgrade” and “Tram number 3”, with a heavily Serbian accent.
Well then. Time to take the tram. The problem: We didn’t have any Serbian currency. I asked how far it was on foot, the answer: “10-15 kilometres, Tram number 3.” With around 1.5 hours left, we didn’t have any other option. The tram departed right in front of the old station building, which had been closed for only two weeks and was supposed to give way for some new high-rise buildings, as I learned later on. We had to think for a moment.
Since walking was no option, we had to take the tram. Without money. We were forced to try our luck and dodge the fare. At the stop I asked a lady how much it would cost. As she was signalling me to be deaf and mute, I typed the question into my phone. 3 Serbian Denarii was the fare. But where could we possibly have gotten money from in that tight time frame, and what kind of exchange office opens so early in the morning? We boarded the tram with a €5 note for emergencies, in case we were facing “complications”. So we were heading towards the gates of Belgrade until it got greener and greener and not even I knew the name of the stop any more. But when finally the “Topciderski Park” stop was announce, I got very attentive. The tram was heading towards a building, that looked like a village station, and we disembarked. After looking around for a while we were reassured of having found our destination. It was close to 8am, the dome was obviously out of reach, but what gives.
We took some time to rest from our early morning exertions. We completely forgot having breakfast due to all the hectic. Typical for Interrailers, we got our bowls out and had our muesli.
The small station Topcider thankfully offers toilets, a ticket office and even a small restaurant, which was already open.
INFO: If you want to travel non-stop to Montenegro, including changing stations in Belgrade, it is advised to write down the route from Beograd Centar to Beograd Glavna. From there, you take the tram number 3 (ideally you would have a few Serbian Denarii) and get out one stop AFTER “Topciderski Park”. Usually, all of this should not take longer than an hour. Since we faced some difficulties, it took us two.
The trip from Belgrade-Topcider to Bar
Shortly after us, a few more Interrailers arrived from the Netherlands. The later it got, the more people came. Still, it weren’t that many, considering an important connection like this one. Meanwhile, we were waiting at one of the restaurant’s tables. Three girls from Paris decided to join us, also travelling with Interrail. They made a reservation for the train via credit card – not having any Serbian Denarii as well. We chatted about our routes. They had just arrived with the night train from Budapest and wanted to go to Sutomore, located at the coast of Montenegro.
The train was ready and I took a couple of pictures:
Afterwards, we boarded and shared a compartment with our three new French friends. We were facing a nearly 12 hour journey. In the past it used to be only 7. The train left the station on time, but stopped after a few hundred meters for more than half an hour. We hadn’t even left the station area. Next to us, there were standing old East-German dining cars.
At our first stop, we already had – believe it or not – 40 minutes delay. Thankfully after that, everything seemed to run more smoothly. Furthermore, we met the night train from the opposite direction and my insight on trains told me: That one was also running late.
Eventually two of the three girls wanted to check out the dining car. Before I was able to warn them, they were already gone. I was anticipating them to come back shortly after, which they did. DINING CAR? DEAD LOSS! And it got even worse: They told me, that they didn’t have had any time to buy food the day before, so they barely had anything left. But typically Interrailers, we shared our supplies, of course.
At some point towards the beginning, a young man joined us. He was from Montenegro and was heading for the capital Podgorica. Our compartment was now full and also the rest of the train began to fill up slowly. We were crossing the Serbian back country, passing orthodox chapels and less interesting voyage segments.
I checked the timetable on every station: We were catching up! Only 15 minutes delay. Everything would be decided at the border, I thought. All the Europeans were not in the least interested in a delay, since we had to take up our quarters in the evening. The locals were facing it rather chilled, according to the principle “Delay means more train ride for the same money”.
Around midday, we briefly crossed the Bosnian corridor. When the route had been built under Tito, the border had not existed, yet. I took a screenshot of my location. My visit to Bosnia was determined to be a short one with a duration of just about 10 minutes.
In the afternoon we got close to the border. Our passports had already been collected before the first border station, and I was wondering if the conductor wanted to call it a day as soon as possible.
We arrived at the border stop on the Serbian side with around 15 minutes delay, but with a holding time of over 30 minutes, I was hoping we might even depart on time.
After all, everything was running quite gentle, lots of passengers got out to get some fresh air, as well as us. We departed with more delay than we had arrived with … We had cookies – not just ours, but the nice man from Montenegro shared his with us, and we obviously returned the favour. Montenegro’s border station followed. Same here: Passport controls, and a long waiting period. It was already getting dark.
While we were standing, there were tons of traders roaming through the corridors, opening the compartment doors and showing the contents of their travel bags. You were able to see what would instantly be offered to you: “Pivo, Aqua, Sokoj?” (“Beer, water, juice?”). We had enough supplies, but with a journey that long – and without a dining car – it was a lucrative business for the traders. They passed multiple times, over and over “Pivo, Aqua, Sokoj?” and kept finding thirsty passengers. Finally we carried on, meanwhile with a 60-minute delay.
And then, the one thing I have been anticipating for so long finally came along: The breathtaking mountainscapes. I grab my camera as fast as I can, but with the same speed in which the mountains become rougher and the gorges become deeper, the light starts to fade. It gets so dark, that I miss the Mala Rijeka Most crossing – the world’s highest railway bridge – and only see it, once we’ve already crossed it.
We arrive in Podgorica in pitch black darkness, with a delay of over an hour. At least one of us has arrived at their destination now. Meanwhile, the French girls managed to inform their accommodation about the delay, and I was still hoping to gain some extra time by walking really fast once I’d be there, because phone calls in Montenegro are quite pricey. I ended up sending an SMS. In the meantime, everybody was starting to get a little restless. We didn’t even get a glimpse of the Skutari lake anymore and the girls from France were keen to finally arrive and eat something substantial. They got off in Sutomore, but we were to meet again – two days later we visited Kotor’s bay together.
Scheduled at 8.55pm we eventually arrived in Bar at 10.10pm. We were immediately greeted by taxi drivers, who were excitedly offering their services, but we marched on by foot, despite a taxi only costing a few Euros.
We couldn’t agree on, if the breathtaking views were worth the exhausting ride, especially, because we were partly deprived of our pleasure. You can easily expect at least an hour delay, so be prepared. On the other hand, we managed to get from Zagreb to Bar in only one day of travel, which would have been impossible if we had taken the night train from Belgrade to Bar. Nevertheless, next time I would probably prefer the night train from Belgrade to Bar, to shorten the travel time. We were about to travel on to Albania, but of course it would also be possible to return to Belgrade. The advantage: Guaranteed mountain views, since you leave in the early morning.
The trip with the regional train
We spent 3 days in Bar. The first day was simply for resting, on the second day we went to Kotor (a must-see in Montenegro) and on the third day we visited the old town "Stari Bar". We also took a dip into the ocean, although the beach is rather rocky and doesn’t necessarily seem inviting for a swim.
On the third day we returned to Podgorica, taking the regional train and were able to admire the Skutari lake during the day, at last. If you want to explore it a little more closely, you will have to disembark on this route in Virpazar. I’m sure it’d be worth a boat trip.
Here a few impressions of the trip to Podgorica. You can buy the ticket for both regional trains at the station on the day of travel. It costs €2 per person. I recommend presenting your desired destination on a little note, since the employees might not speak English.
As already mentioned, you can return to Belgrade with the day or night train. From there, you have connections to Zagreb, Budapest or Skopje and Thessaloniki.
From Bar, there are ferry connections to Bari and Ancona, as well as bus connections to Albania.
We took the bus from Podgorica to Durres (Albania) via Skadar.
From Durres, there are also ferries to Italy. From Montenegro, you can take buses to Split (Croatia), to the Ohrid lake or to Kosovo. Bus timetables and tickets can be found here and here.
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And here is another report about this train route, from some time ago. It offers better pictures and an interesting video.