Belgrade, Serbia 🇷🇸 to Bar, Montenegro 🇲🇪 by sleeper and day-time train – a stunning trip across the Balkans

This journey features in a number of those ‘Top 10’ railway journeys in Europe books for its amazing scenery through the mountains so myself and a friend were excited to experience this journey for ourselves.

There are two options for travel between Belgrade and Bar – one day train and one night train which are both operated jointly by the respective state-owned railway companies of Serbia (Serbian Train or Srbija Voz) and Montenegro (Railway Transport of Montenegro or Željeznički prevoz Crne Gore). 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 including sleeping cars, couchettes and seated carriages.

We decided to take the night train from Belgrade to Bar and then return a week later on the day train from Podgorica to Belgrade.

All change in Belgrade

Quite a bit has changed in Belgrade of where the trains to Montenegro depart from, even since I made the trip in 2019. Originally trains to/from Montenegro departed from the Belgrade Main Station that was situated in a beautiful old building in the historic centre of Belgrade. This closed in June 2018 to make way for the Waterfront Project.

We decided to visit the old Belgrade Main Station that was still open despite no trains running to the station. The locomotive from Tito’s Blue Train was still on display outside and in the main station building there was one window in the ticket office still open and a couple of cafés on the platform next to the main station building. It was a sad to see the station no longer in use with the tracks gone for good and the station largely devoid of passengers. The timetable on the wall was kept up to date with services largely blocked out – not because of the station closure, but because direct services to/from Novi Sad and Hungary weren’t running due to an extensive track upgrade.

When I made the trip in June 2019, trains departed from Topčider station, a suburban railway station situated 4.6km from the centre accessible by tram.

All services to/from Montenegro now depart from the new Belgrade Centre station, Beograd Center. This station is situated 4.5km from the centre of Belgrade next to the E-75 motorway so calling it ‘centre’ isn’t accurate.

Belgrade to Bar on the “Lovćen” – the night train option

The sleeper train had twelve 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!

Bar to Belgrade onboard the “Tara” – the day time option

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 was scheduled to take over eleven 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.

Safety expectations

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. The slow speeds made enjoying the beautiful views more easily – time really didn’t matter to me on this journey.

A different sight to much of Western Europe was witnessing rail staff drinking beer together on the night train in the communist TV room and people were smoking on the train. Those smoking generally seemed to respect other passengers and smoked at the ends of the carriages.

Tickets

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 FaresFIP Rail Staff Ticket PricePublic Ticket Price
Day Train€10.50 each way€21.00 each way
Night Train€10.50 each way€21.00 each way
Fares updated April 2020
Belgrade <> Bar Reservation Fees2nd
Class seat
6-berth couchette4-berth
couchette
3-berth
“tourist” sleeper
2-berth “double” sleeper1-berth “single” sleeper
Day Train+€3.00N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Night Train+€3.00+€6.00+€9.00+€15.00+€20.00+€45.00
Fares updated April 2020

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 April 2020 and April 2023.

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