Stress. Stress is all we felt while trying to find out how to make our way from Athens to Kotor.
After hours and hours of googling, it became apparent to my travel buddy Caitlin and I that unless we wanted to fork out hundreds of euros (which we did not have) for a flight, we would have to catch a bus to transfer to Kotor. The bus would go from Athens to Tirana in Albania then we would have to catch another from Tirana to Kotor, Montenegro. Sounds simple enough right?
*Donald Trump voice*
One big problem was that we found no clear way of booking transport online and another was that the transport websites were in Greek and google translate was not having a great time translating the webpages into understandable English.
(Disclaimer: there was one decipherable Hostel website offering a transfer however it would only take three or more people per booking.
My stressed out searching took me to page two (*gasp*) of the Google Search results page. I’m usually a first five search results or nada type of gal so this showed how desperate our plight was becoming.
I found a blog written by a woman (which now for the life of me I cannot find again) who travelled from Athens to Tirana. She gave super useful tips on where to go and how to book helping us eventually make it to Tirana and then Kotor in one piece (or two whole pieces?).
Because this random lady on the internet pretty much saved us; I thought I was pass on the good deed and write up some sanity saving tips on getting from Athens to Kotor.
- TIP ONE
You can try and email to book tickets but this didn’t work out too well for me with things getting lost in translations. So your best bet is to book your transfer in a tour/transport agents office so the first step is finding one of these.
In Athens, get yourself to Theodore Diligianis Street. It is right next to Metaxourgio metro station but is a walkable distance from central Athens. We walked from our hostel near Monastiraki station and it took us 25-30 minutes.
Once at Theodore Diligianis Street, you will notice it is filled with tour and transport agencies all the way down. This can be intimidating if you are not sure of who to pick. I recognized AlbaTrans from a Greek website so we popped in there.
The bus trip cost €30 and takes about 11 hours. The bus left Athens (from the AlbaTrans office) at 7.30pm and arrived in Tirana, Albania at 6.30am There were no toilets on the bus but a few stops where you could use a bathroom. We crossed the border in the earlier hours and had to get off the bus to go through passport control which went really quickly because of the ungodly hour. The bus also played its own music for most of the trip so bring earplugs.
Good to know for everyone but especially female travellers:
The bus was comfortable and we each had two seats to ourselves. Fair warning though this company seemed to be used by locals so passengers did not speak English and the driver had a light grasp. There were mainly older men on the bus which honestly was intimidating to the two of us as young women but we stuck it out.
The only “oh no” moment was when an older man wanted Caitlin to move over so he could sit next to her. She pointed out that there were free seats further back (there were tons) and he shook his head and loomed over her. I said she could come and sit next to me (and get away from the creepy dude) but she stuck to her guns and shook her head at him. The bus driver came over after a few minutes, said something to the man in Albanian after which he sat down in the seat across the isle from her. He did eventually move to the back but we were both on edge after that.
- TIP TWO
The next step is getting from Tirana to Kotor.
If you are sure of your arrival time in Tirana you can book this in advance. We weren’t sure what time we would get to Tirana so chanced it (giving ourselves more to worry about) and planned to book it once we were there using wifi or data.
We made it to Albania but it was too early in the morning for any travel agencies to be open. Another obstacle was that the roaming charges in Albania are extortionate so we weren’t able to look anything up online using our sim cards. So we were in Albania at 6.30 am with no way to Kotor and no way to find a route out. Yikes.
Luckily Bulevardi Zogu, the drop off point in Tirana, is a similar set up to Diligianis Street in Athens with travel agencies found on both sides. A local pointed us in the direction of a hotel café just down the street. which was open and had free wifi. We had some tea and coffee, calmed our nerves and planned our lives.
We ended up travelling with Old Town Travel agency which does shuttle buses between Tirana and Kotor that cost €25 plus another €2.50 for luggage. The bus left from Osumi Travel Agency (which I have discovered also does trips from Athens to Tirana) found across the road from AlbaTrans and shown on the map below.
You need to have a physical copy of your ticket available for the driver to check (a nice lady in the Osumi Travel office was kind enough to print ours for us as we had booked just an hour before leaving). The bus takes about six hours, stopping in Podgorica and Budva, before arriving in Kotor. Once again no bathrooms on board but the driver stops for drop offs/pick ups and you can nip to the toilets then.
Overall, it was a stressful 18 hours of travel and there were a few moments in Albania when I didn’t think we’d make it to Montenegro. But we did and now you can too!
- TIP THREE
I feel like I say this a lot but STAY CALM. You can do it.
The trick is to confirm your times, double check pick up and drop off points, research as much as you can, screenshot google maps, book transport in advance as much as possible and have faith that you’ll make it through.