On the Tara | The Train from Belgrade to Podgorica

After a brief stay in Belgrade, we were on the move to our next destination: Montenegro, in particularly, Kotor on the Adriatic Coast. We have two options:

1. Fly there via Montenegro Airlines or Air Serbia to Tivat, the nearest airport to Kotor
2. Or take the train to Podgorica then bus to Kotor from there.

Being on a budget and seeing an opportunity to visit Podgorica, we opted for option 2. Thanks to the tips by the Man on Seat 21, we got our tickets the day we arrived in Belgrade and only need to board the train on the day we move off.

The train station is located down at the Savamala District and to get there we took the tram in the morning. It reminded me of the tramways in Hong Kong. The train station is a stately building built in the 19th century designed by Dragutin Milutinović. A new train station has opened in January 2016. It might be a matter of time this station shares the same fate as our Tanjong Pagar Train Station and cease operations for development of the waterfront.

We were there early and decided to have a quick breakfast at one of the eateries at the train station called Kafe "Suri". I had an omelette while my friend had a pizza..

There we encountered a French couple who are avid travellers. 
They have a website called Travelplugin.

Train journeys always have a certain charm. Even more so when you don’t quite get a real rail experience ever since Tanjong Pagar Railway Station ceased operations. I am somewhat drawn to taking the train as opposed to taking a flight.

This train journey between Belgrade and Podgorica is also quite a well-known train journey, part of the longer journey that runs from Belgrade to Bar, a coastal resort town located in present-day Montenegro. The railroad between Belgrade and Bar was a feat of engineering then, cutting across plateaus, hills, lakes and rivers and was opened by President Tito in the 1976.

After bidding farewell to the couple, we boarded the train and our seats were in couchette compartment. We shared the compartment with four other travellers including a policeman who is travelling to Montenegro for biking. Thanks to my outgoing and lively friend, we sort of warmed up to each other and shared some snacks.

It was a long train ride, stretching to about 11 to 13 hours, and the train service for this line was notorious for its delays sometimes going into 4-6 hours. Receiving news that there was a bad flood that affected rail services in the south-western part of Serbia doesn’t give much reassurance too.
We met some interesting characters on the train. There was an American travel blogger who was quite a hippie and a group of policemen who were particularly funny and friendly.

There are two train services between Belgrade and Podgorica. There is a night train called Lovcen and a day train called Tara which we opted for. It is rather old train but comparable to taking the older KTM trains from Singapore to KL. We were lucky that carriage we were in was air-conditioned as well. There is also a diner car.

I think scenery along the rail journey was just as memorable as the characters. It provided opportunity to see a transition of the landscape between the plains around Belgrade, past the hilly terrain of Bosnia, and the mountains, cliffs and plateau between Podgorica and southwestern Serbia.

Kosjerić Station, located in the Zlatibor District of Western Serbia.

And the scenery was breath-taking, especially towards the last part of the journey near Podgorica. Here the train stops at Branešci Station.

From there, the train continues westwards, into Bosnia before heading southwards into Serbia again towards Prijepolje.

A different kind of train around the Bosnian and Serbian border.

The train travels along the Lim River, which flows through Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia.  
This hilly region is known as Zlatibor.

One of the stops is the Kumanica Monastery in Vrbnica 
located near the border between Serbia and Montenegro and the river Lim.

Going towards Podgorica and entering Montenegro, we see more hills and mountains around Kolasin.

The rugged landscape is part of the larger Dinaric Alps which stretches from Slovenia to Kosovo. The Montenegrin mountains and hills were described as one of the most rugged in Europe.

It is however, breathe taking and gorgeous. These photos and the videos on Youtube does little justice to the actual experience where you can feel the scale and majesty of the mountains.

At one point, the train crosses the Mala Rijeka Viaduct
one of the tallest railway bridges in the world.

Nearing Podgorica,the landscape transforms rather abruptly to a flat plain known as the Zeta Plain.

After some 12 hours, we finally arrived at Podgorica with. It was around 8-9 pm and the sky was slowly turning dark. We bade farewell to the fellow passenger on the train and headed to our hostel called Explorer Hostel.

Some fellow passengers we met on the train.

But not before taking in the gorgeous skies.
and this was 8-9 pm in summer.

The Explorer Hostel is located a couple of streets away from the train station. 
It is more like a private home with some rooms.

We were given a room which is almost red throughout with a haphazard mix of furniture.

so red.

Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro. Perhaps it is late at night and we found but the city rather sparse and comparatively quiet. It was night time at the areas near the train station were unlit. There is another part of the city known as Trg Republike where it is said to be more lively in the evening.

The buildings here reminded of us of the SIT flats in Tiong Bahru. After checking in, we ventured out and stopped by a convenience store to get some drinks before settling down at a restaurant near our hostel called Restaurant Grill Beli for dinner.

Shopska Salad and we couldn't remember what the main dish was.

We noticed the restaurant was rather dimly lit and I remembered the dim white lights doesn't quite help make the food look appetizing. It was just alright but we enjoyed the Shopska Salad, something that we have grown to love since visiting Belgrade, the salad of cheese, fresh, juicy tomatoes and cucumber is a refreshing salad and palate cleanser to pair with heavier food. We would order it for our meals around Montenegro and Belgrade.

Also, if you are travelling to Montenegro. The currency in use here is the EUR here thus it can be more expensive than in Belgrade.

and that's the end of a long day!

Points to Note:
  • You can get the train tickets from Wasteel, Man at Seat 61 has a nice guide on how to get the tickets. *Do check for the conditions or updates on the rail services. 
  • The train is known to have delays of up to 6 hours. 
  • Thus make sure you have a buffer time between for your onward travel plans.
  • Tickets cost around 22 - 24 EUR one way.
  • While the train passes Bosnia, there is no immigration checks there but there is one between Serbia and Montenegro, we did not have to get off the train.
  • Montenegro uses the EUR. Serbia uses Serbian Dinars.
  •  It is a long train ride, advisable to pack water and food.
  • Enjoy the scenery!