Podgorica, Montenegro Report of what it's like to live there - 07/24/20
Personal Experiences from Podgorica, Montenegro
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, third post with my spouse (after Belgrade, Serbia, and Mexico City, Mexico), and his overall fifth assignment (Karachi, Pakistan; Erbil, Iraq).
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
I'm originally from Belgrade, Serbia, so it takes less than an hour by plane to get here. By bus and train it's about 10h. From the US, it takes a connecting flight via Germany or Austria, overall about 13h of flying only.
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost two years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My partner works at the US embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There seems to be two major locations: one at the western part of the city (preko Morace) and one towards the east (Gorica).
The former has the advantage of being close to the embassy (5-10 minute walk), while for the latter you need a car (cca. 20 minutes). I've mostly seen apartments, but also a few houses at the eastern part. The west is the newer part of the city, close to Capital Plaza, while the east is mainly an residential area, not too far from the old city.
Our place is next to Djecji park, great flat with more space than we need, two terraces, new building and helpful maintenance. And the embassy is like two blocks away. It takes about 20 minutes walk to get to the center across the river.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
According to US standards, it's cheaper. You can have a great dinner for four people which would cost about 40 Euros. From the perspective of the region, it's mostly the same. Typical stuff you can find in the region and the EU. If you really miss your special flavors or ingredients, take them with you. Amazon delivers.
Well stocked supermarkets are Voli, Idea, Bonella. Green markets are also available, specially Gintaš.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
It's the Balkans, so plenty of meat. And more meat. Nice sea food from the Mediterranean. But you won't starve if meat isn't your choice. Try: barbecue (cevapcici, dimljena bela vešalica, and such), kacamak (polenta with melted cheese), teleca corba (beef soup), crni rižoto (risotto with squid ink), kajmak (buttery cheese), pršuta (prosciutto), etc.
There are many restaurants which might not be there when you wish to pay them an extra visit; some places change fast. Good local restaurants I visited often are "Pod Volat", "Mayka", "Beer Academy" (Akademija piva) and Sicilia, although you will find plenty more (I'm focused more on the western side because that's where we live). Note: Montenegrins don't like spicy foods. However, there's a great Indian place called Masala Art in Podgorica and Taste of Asia in Budva. Check donesi.com for home deliveries.
Bakeries and sweet shops: Mina torte i kolaci, Carolija, Nonna, Zdravi kolaci, Pekara Dušan, Pekara Zora, 3 or 4 donut places. And "Kod Feta" has the best pies (and a mural of Bob Marley).
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
At our place - which is next to a park - we had ants twice and that was pretty much it. One of the guards found a great powder which repelled them successfully. A few spiders coming from the outside and an occasional gecko. The embassy housing seems pretty decent and new.
1. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
2. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Plenty of people - especially younger - speak English with no problems. Montenegro heavily depends on its hospitality industry, so people do speak a few foreign languages. You might need the language if you want to shop at green markets and such.
3. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
So so. Depending on the location. In the newer part - preko Morace - I think it would be easier. And in the center.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Podgorica is as small city, with a town feeling, but there are a few bus lines available. Since everything is so close, you might as well take a taxi. Half way across the city might cost like 3 Euros, and to the airport it's about 8. Trains run locally and internationally (Bar-Belgrade), but buses are better connected. In an hour, you might be at the coast or up in the mountains. Not to mention the neighboring countries: Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania.
Consider that Podgorica is almost in the center of the country, which makes it convenient to choose from a variety of options. Do use it, because the city itself doesn't give you too much.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
We don't drive and didn't need the car. Having a car would be nice to do more sightseeing.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it was pre-installed at our place.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I kept my Serbian phone since everybody uses Viber.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
I was working remotely and getting engaged in craft markets locally. Most of the other spouses I met were not working. A typical local salary is about 500 Euros (after taxes).
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I guess you can find ones, but people are kind of reserved.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
From flip flops and sweatpants to full business attire. Depending where you work and the season.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
A car exploded nearby (local mafia conflict), but with no casualties. It's generally a safe place.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The nurse at the embassy - Mirjana Tepša - is super helpful. You have access to private hospitals and the quality is fine.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air is fair, unless you're in certain parts of the city like Zabjelo. You can smell the pines which give you a nice Mediterranean feeling.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
My pollen allergies were not so strong here as they were in Belgrade. But Belgrade is a more polluted city.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Nope. Only boredom.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Podgorica is in between mountains, but also relatively close to the coast. Which means that winters are mild (I saw snow only once for a day), it usually doesn't get under zero (Celsius), typically its about 10 degrees and rains moderately (everyone says that it rains all day every day which is not true). Summers... it's like in a pot with no wind and temperatures above 30 (and sometimes 40). The wind from the north usually only blows during the winter.
Around the country, it's very different, you have micro-climates. In the mountains - Durmitor - last August I needed a winter jacked when I just left Podgorica in sandals and short sleeves.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The community is small, but with good morale. CLO organizes events and people seem to hang out.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Socializing locally seems to be hard, even for me who's almost a local. I haven't spent much time going out, but there are places around. American Corner is there if you want to participate in events.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's a good place if you want a calm and small city, where you have some resources, but you really need to plan your fun - especially outside of Podgorica - if you really want to use your time well.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
As an LGBT couple, it was nice seeing the Pride taking place with no issues and same-sex marriages getting approved while we were here. Still, it's a very patriarchal society. A few organizations (such as Asocijacija Spektra) hold events ranging from workshops, exhibitions and screenings to drop in and activism. They say cafe bar Biro is a friendly place.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Hard. Not much diversity. If you're black or Asian, you'll be sticking out and sometimes people will comment and point out with their fingers. Argh.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
At the moment, the hot topic is the political-religious clash with Serbia, where if you look behind the news, people are totally OK. As I previously said, not a diverse place. The traditional culture is very patriarchal, but the gender equality seems OK.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
In Podgorica - the river Moraca is beautiful, with clear, greenish water which runs through the whole city. The city has a lot of greenery. And street art, which is really a hidden gem.
Best trips - Durmitor and hiking tours, climbing mountain Lovcen and seeing the Njegoš mausoleum, Boka Kotorska bay, train ride across the mountains to Serbia, lake Skadar, and of course the beaches.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
In the city, you might need to explore a bit on your own - I had a feeling that the offer is not actually served on the platter when you research online. If you have a feeling that the city is ugly and with no "history" - have in mind that most of it was destroyed in WWII and while it may not seem like other European capitals, you need to accept what is offered.
Stara Varoš - old town, preko Morace - the new brutalist architecture area, bunch of bridges over river Moraca (for such a small city!), knjižara (bookstore) Karver, Ljubovic (with a nice view) and Gorica (hills), Barutana - WWII monument on the way to Cetinje, Underhill movie festival, Centar savremene umjetnost (Center for contemporary art), KIC Budo Tomovic (cultural center), King's Park, Sastavci and the old bridge (a flavor of really old Podgorica)... Street art is definitely a hidden gem, on the rise - old school graffiti in between the socialist blocks in the new part of the city, variety of things at old kasarne buildings, few murals and decorated amphitheaters around the center. Google "K13 graffiti crew", "Mišo Joskic"...
Outside of Podgorica, just a few tips: Cetinje is the cultural capital (and old royal capital), if you're into art and culture; bunch of coastal cities such as Kotor have their own festivals; sweet old cities such as Kotor, Perast, Herceg Novi, Sveti Stefan, Budva, Stari Bar... and please google "Gospa od škrpjela" island. If you love nature, see Rijeka Crnojevica and Durmitor, the birds at Skadar and Ulcinj (saline). Hiking? "Montenegro phototrekking tour".
If you want to go out, cities such as Tirana and Dubrovnik are not that far, you have regular plane rides to Rome, Belgrade, Germany...
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
You might, depending on what you look for. Check the shop "Zor" in Njegoševa street for traditional crafts. In parks and other public spaces you might find occasional pop up craft markets offering everything from food and clothes to gusle. Follow "NVU Rukotvorci Crne Gore" on FB.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Calm atmosphere. Small. Proximity of interesting places. Great nature nearby. River Moraca. OK weather. Nice food.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How closed people seem to be sometimes, although you can make friends. Lack of diversity. Lack of answering emails and finding out about things via your local contacts and not online. Knowing beforehand about hiking tours and other cool stuff to do.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Maybe. I liked the fact it's so close to family in Serbia and that's it's really OK. But I'd like to go somewhere more different and new.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations of a big city and how should PG look like. Give it a chance. And use its proximity to other locations to your benefit. Heavy-duty winter clothes (unless you plan to visit the mountains up north).
4. But don't forget your:
Rain clothes for the winter and everything short for the summer. Car, if you have one. Sense of exploration. Specially if you love nature.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Books of Knjige - comedy, music and TV show. Musicians such as Vlado Georgijev, Rambo Amadeus, Who See, KIC Pop Hor, etc.
Some writings of Njegoš, of course.