MONTENEGRO vs. MOSTAR - which day trip to choose?
Updated: Jan 30, 2020
Montenegro (precisely Bay of Kotor) and Mostar (a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina) are the two most popular day trips from Dubrovnik. Frequently people ask me which one is better. Ideally, it would be great to do both of them, since they represent two different experiences, but sometimes only one can fit in your holiday plans, so I will try to be as objective as possible in explaining both tours from certain points of view that could be relevant to you. Montenegro day trip as analyzed below includes Herceg Novi, Perast and Kotor, while Mostar day trip includes Pocitelj and Mostar with a short break in Neum.
Both day trips without hesitation can be described scenic, but if you are more into landscape features, I would recommend a day trip to Montenegro. Impressive steep mounts that surround the fjord - alike bay with small villages and a couple of islets, make the trip a truly fulfilling experience.
Let's be honest, unless you are a historian, the history of the whole region will not be very easy to understand (a reason why you need a good guide!!!).
But what it might be important to you, while deciding which day trip to do, is whether you want to hear more about recent history or you are more intrigued by remote times. Ilyrians, ancient Romans, Byzantines, medieval local rulers, Venetians, Turks... are all important in creating today's picture of Montenegro, while in Mostar, the emphasis is on more recent events related to the fall of Yugoslavia (even though the area also has a long history).
Montenegro can praise with a bigger number of sights, but the most known single sight is in Mostar (the Old bridge). Both areas were recognized by UNESCO as valuable contribution to the world patrimony. Mostar bridges, minarets, towers, mosques, bazaar... reflect Oriental character, while medieval wall, fortresses, palaces, cathedral, churches and bell towers of the the Bay of Kotor represent typical Mediterranean atmosphere.
If the food is an important factor for selecting your day trip and if you are a big fan of grilled meat, then chose Mostar. Almost every time on our way back from Mostar, people mention food and how much they enjoyed it. Big portions - small prices. River fish is also considered very good there. People adopting halal standards will appreciate to know that in Mostar many restaurants have halal certificate. In Montenegro you will eat rather good food, but rarely is the highlight of the trip. As a seaside area,naturally it offers better choice of seafood than Mostar. But if you insist on experiencing the most of the local food on a day trip to Montenegro, you will have to opt for some of several higher standard restaurants in the area. Depending on the time of the year, it might be necessary to check availability and to book a table in advance. Vegetarians and vegans may not be very happy to learn that both places lack in providing for them, but grilled vegetables, salads, pastas and risottos can be found in almost every restaurant.
Both places are equally safe. Tourists are welcome and very important for their local economies. What is possible in both places is pick-pocketing, even though it rarely happens. There are Romani communities that you are likely to see begging on streets of Kotor and Mostar. They are mostly children and harmless, but could become persistant if you give them attention.
The areas that are visited during day trips, in both countries, are kept relatively tidy, whilst along the way to those areas there could be better maintenance. But generally, Montenegro is cleaner.
8 hours is the average duration for both trips. It is always better to depart earlier in the morning. I recommend departing at 8 am during lower season and even earlier than that during the peak season. Both day trips include border crossings which could have an important impact on the duration of the trip, especially during months of July and August.
The currency in Montenegro is Euro (yes, even though Montenegro is not the member of EU) and they do not accept Croatian kuna, while in Mostar they have their own currency (Bosnian convertible mark), but they will accept Euro or Croatian kuna. Cards are widely accepted, but I suggest that you ask anyway if they do, before using some service (especially if your intention is to pay with American express).
Mostar is more affordable than Kotor or other places visited during the day trip to Montenegro.
Montenegro (Kotor) offers better shopping, at least in the historical center. The area of Mostar that is visited by tourist on a day trip is loaded with restaurants and souvenir shops. There is a big shopping mall within short driving distance from the center, but usually it is not included in the tour. Kotor, on the other hand, counts numerous boutiques inside the Old town.
My opinion is that it is always better to hire a local driver - guide to take you to Montenegro or to Mostar. In that way you will be more relaxed to enjoy the trip and you will not have to think about those stressful details that are inevitable part of any trip to unknown.
But if you insist, read carefully! Concentrate on driving! The roads are windy and probably narrower than those that you are used to drive on (sometimes there is just one lane for both ways). In many places there are no adequate sidewalks and people will not hesitate to walk on the road itself. Obviously you should know the traffic signs and rules. The locals tend to drive in aggressive manner and often you will be surprised/scared because you will see them surpassing where it is dangerous and not allowed to do that. During warm months, it is very common to have road works, so maybe you will have to use alternative roads. Try to park at supervised parking and do not leave your passports/wallets in the vehicle. Neither Montenegrin nor Bosnian police will tolerate if they see you driving above speed limits (and that is sometimes tricky because there are, at certain points, really low speed limits).
Montenegrins and Bosnians are generally friendly and welcoming people. Consider that on a day trip you will mostly meet people who will offer their services to you so some of them could be a bit pushy. The staff that awaits on tables is usually very friendly and helpful.
The majority of Montenegrin population are Orthodox Christians. The coastal area of Montenegro is the area with the biggest concentration of Roman Catholics and Catholic churches within Montenegro.
The biggest religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Islam, but Orthodoxy and Catholicism also have important presence. (Medjugorje, one of the most popular catholic shrines in the world, is on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina). The religion influences the politics and everyday life of Bosnian people, but tourists will not be affected by that nor will notice it. Mostar is often called a place where East meets West where the peaceful coexistence of different religions is often underlined.