Having seen pictures of this journey, I was inspired to take this train journey when myself and a friend decided to visit Montenegro for a week. This journey features in a number of those ‘Top 10’ railway journeys in Europe books for its amazing scenery through the mountains so we were excited to experience this journey for ourselves.
There are two options for travel between Belgrade (Serbia) and Bar (Montenegro) – one day train and one night train which are both operated jointly by state-owned Serbian Train (Srbija Voz, “SV”) and Railway Transport of Montenegro (Željeznički prevoz Crne Gore, “ŽPCG”). Both trains run in both directions every day all year round.
There are two train sets which comprise the day train, running in the opposite direction each day. One is formed of Montengrin compartment cars, the other a mix of Serbian compartment and open saloon cars. What you get is a mystery for the day of the trip itself. The sleeper train is more uniform, with both train sets comprising a mix of Serbian and Montenegrin cars.
We decided to take the sleeper train from Belgrade to Bar, enjoy a week in Montenegro and then take the day train back to Belgrade one week later. Although our return train starts in the port city of Bar, we planned to depart from the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica.
Our itinerary looked like this:
Topčider 🇷🇸 to Bar 🇲🇪
|Sleeper (433 Lovćen)||10h58|
|Leg 2||Podgorica 🇲🇪 to Belgrade|
|InterCity (430 Tara)||10h10|
Belgrade Main Station (Železnička stanica Beograd Glavna)
All services to/from Montenegro now depart from Belgrade Topčider which is 4km+ from the centre of Belgrade. The old Belgrade Main Station has been closed since June 2018. We decided to visit and this is its current condition – only a few offices remain open (including a ticket office) and no more tracks… sad times. It is worth a visit though, especially as there is the impressive locomotive from Tito’s Blue Train still stabled outside.
Also, in the old booking office, we noticed that the railway timetable is being kept up to date for the other Belgrade stations which was good to see – a number of services blanked out with stickers because of track work north of Belgrade on the line to Hungary.
Also built in the 1880s (and still open thankfully) is Belgrade Topčider station which is some 4km from the main centre of Belgrade. This is the main station in Belgrade now where to catch international trains to/from Montenegro. In terms of facilities, there is a waiting room, ticket office and toilets.
All aboard the night train, Lovćen
The sleeper train had 12 coaches which consisted of a combination of Serbian and Montenegrin sleeper coaches, 1st and 2nd class couchette coaches and seated coaches. Also there were two motorail coaches for carrying cars at the rear of the train.
There was no Cafe Bar or catering provided on the train so it was good to take bottles of water and food. We packed some M&S emergency biscuits for the trip before leaving the UK, but ate them all straight away on this train.
Toilets on the train were of varying cleanliness. Some had soap, some had toilet roll, and some had paper towels, but none had all three! Plus, supplies of loo roll and paper towels were not re-stocked during the journey so our top tip is to bring your own supplies – as nothing can be guaranteed especially towards the end of the journey.
We opted to travel in a private sleeper berth with two bunk beds and were reserved in Coach 406 which was a former carriage from the communist era. It featured its own TV room and had a map on the wall of Yugoslavia – a real blast from the past!
The beds in the sleeper berth were very comfortable and clean bed linen was provided. The room however was not air conditioned and despite the window being wide open it was very hot before the train departed.
Once the train started to move the air came through which was delightful but the slide down window had a habit of closing itself with the draft. My friend risked a pair of his socks in the corners of the window to keep it open. This was a complete success for us as the socks stayed in place and the window didn’t close on its own accord any longer. This resulted in pleasant cool conditions onboard.
The train departed promptly at 21:10 but encountered unexplained delays en route which meant the arrival into Bar was two hours late. Having read reviews in advance, this seemed to be normal practice, so we gave ourselves plenty of time to wait for a train back up the line to Podgorica to collect our hire car for the week.
Onboard the train we had our passports checked twice on the journey, once by the Serbian police at 03:14 at Prijepolje (the last stop in Serbia) and once by the Montenegrin police at 04:28 at Bijelo Polje (the first stop in Montenegro). Each stop is scheduled for 30 minutes, however there is no need to get out of bed – the border police will come to you in your cabin.
We enjoyed the views waking up in Montenegro that morning after a relatively comfortable night’s sleep – note the expert positioning of the socks in the left corner of the window!
All aboard the day train, Tara
The train left Bar at 09:00 and we joined the train at Podgorica at 10:00, albeit 20 minutes late in arriving. Our journey would take over 11 hours.
This train consisted exclusively Montenegrin compartment carriages (all air-conditioned which was a treat) and one Motorail coach. The only non air-conditioned passenger coach was the Cafe Bar carriage in the middle of the train. There were five passenger 2nd Class coaches in total, some were marked 1st Class coaches but weren’t and didn’t differ at all from the other compartments marked as 2nd Class.
The Cafe Bar’s menu was limited, so we were glad to have brought our homemade sandwiches featuring the much-loved prosciutto in Montenegro. There was however the very nice Montenegrin Nikšićko beer available for €1.50 so we made several trips to the bar to keep our supplies up!
As per the outward train journey there were passport checks conducted at the last station in Montenegro and the following station in Serbia, each stop lasting 30 minutes. The stations were Bijelo Polje (Montenegro) – the same as the night train in the other direction and Vrbnica (Serbia), a different station this time.
The Montengrin officials checked passports within the compartment, but the Serbian officials took the passports away to another compartment for stamping. The Montenegrin officials were supposed to stamp our EU British passports but didn’t despite us asking. So, officially we’re still in Montenegro! I hope I can go back one day.
A Serbian lady, Vesna, joined us in our compartment at the border, after her trip to her holiday home, and we soon made friends raising a can of beer or three and taking lots of pictures of the view. Here are some of the sights we enjoyed… absolute bliss.
Generally each compartment was occupied all the way to Belgrade, but not all seats were taken meaning there was plenty of space to stretch out.
As per the outward train, this train was also delayed arriving into Belgrade Topčider 1.5 hours late. It did mean we could enjoy the sun setting over the countryside from our comfortable compartment.
The train maybe old, but it did feel safe. Journey speeds were very slow for most of the journey, but faster towards and through the two capital cities. This enabled us more time to take in the beautiful countryside!
A different sight to the UK was witnessing rail staff drinking beer together on the night train and people smoking on the train, though people generally seemed to respect other passengers and smoke at the ends of the carriages.
To travel on the direct international trains from Belgrade to Bar, customers are required to purchase a ticket as well as a compulsory reservation. These range from €3.00 for a seat to €45.00 for a single berth cabin. The options illustrated are the 2-berth “double” sleeper on the night train and the 2nd Class seat on the day train.
|Belgrade <> Bar Fares||FIP Rail Staff Ticket Price||Public Ticket Price|
|Day Train||€10.50 each way||€21.00 each way|
|Night Train||€10.50 each way||€21.00 each way|
|Belgrade <> Bar Reservation Fees||2nd|
|6-berth couchette||4-berth |
|2-berth “double” sleeper||1-berth “single” sleeper|
A note about language
English is widely spoken in Belgrade and across Montenegro which made being an English tourist easy, though it’s always fun to try and speak a bit of the loco lingo.
My understanding is that both countries have the same language but different pronounciations for some words. The Serbians however prefer to use the Cyrillic alphabet while the Montenegrins prefer to use the Latin alphabet, though both is taught in schools in both countries.
This article was first published in July 2019 and updated in December 2019.