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How to Avoid the Kotor Dubrovnik Border and Visit Bosnia

As we cross the border from Dubrovnik en route to Kotor, we cannot help noticing that there is a huge line of traffic coming the other way. Our hearts sink as we need to reverse our journey in just a few days. I do not relish the possibility of hours of waiting to cross a border. I do some research and come up with an alternative. This route helps you avoid the Kotor Dubrovnik border and you get to enjoy a little taste of Bosnia too. Yippee!

Kotor Bay, Montenegro
Admiring Kotor Bay

Balkan Borders

As we pull up to the little ramshackle huts on the top of the mountain, there’s just a trickle of cars ahead and we are feeling quite smug at the prospect of beating the queues at the Herceg Novi border. When we decided to take this route we thought we would kill two birds with one stone – beat the three mile line of traffic for the Montenegrin border crossing and also take a quick detour into new territory. Bosnia and Hercegovina is simply too close to resist!

Montenegrin exit border
Montenegrin exit border

Montenegro – Bosnia border crossing

Montenegrin exit border

From Herceg Novi, we head up the steep hillside into a barren landscape resembling the moon, rather than a mountain range in Europe. We make it through the Montenegrin border with just a cursory glance at our passport and not even a sniff of an exit stamp.

I’m confused though. Where is the entry border for Bosnia? We pass a welcome sign for the country and drive for a few miles over rocky, inhospitable terrain with no sign of a entry border. Is this no man’s land? I’m quizzing my husband about the missing border when we round a corner and almost slam into a much longer line of traffic. Mmm, perhaps that smugness was a little premature.

Bosnian entry border line
Bosnian entry border line

Bosnian entry border

The wait here is significantly longer. Drivers abandon their cars to chat with their neighbours, and kids and impatient adults pace up and down the road, gauging the distance and number of cars to the checkpoint. Thirty five minutes later and we reach the front. This time, I hear the satisfying slam of ink marking my passport, and it’s official, we are in Bosnia.

Trebinje

The road quickly descends into fertile farmland and it’s hard to imagine that this country was ever the scene of a bloody, hate-fuelled war. We follow signs for Trebinje and enter surburbs rammed with communist era high rises. These stark, grey monoliths are a depressing sight, masking the jewel of the old town beyond.

Trebinje may not have the scale of the fabulous old towns of Dubrovnik and Kotor, but I fall in love with the authenticity of the town, as we wander crumbling streets, duck under low tunnels and admire flower covered buildings and squares. We then jump in the car on a mission to visit attractions on the surrounding hillsides.

Trebinje old town
Trebinje old town
Mosque, Trebinje, Bosnia
Trebinje old town

I can see a dramatic, ornate orthodox church perched high above the town and am determined to take a closer look. I guide Jason by sight into a residential area with no tourist signs to indicate the presence of such beauty. A few misguided turns and eventually we round a corner to find the magnificent church. It’s surrounded by rickety homes, abandoned rubbish and devoid of tourists. I take a quick peek at Arhangel Mihailo Church, but our next border is calling and Jason calls to me impatiently. He is worried there will be lengthy delays en route to Croatia.

I persuade him to take a small detour to Arslanagic Bridge. Built in 1574, this bridge is reminiscent of some of the Yorkshire Dales humpback bridges but on a grander scale.

Trebinje, Bosnia
Arslanagic Bridge

Bosnia – Croatia border

Bosnian exit border

Reluctantly, we leave the small town behind and follow signs past endless vineyards. Wafts of sweet smoke occasionally embrace us from small forest fires nearby. We gradually ascend into yet more mountains, this time covered in red, brown and purple heathers. Once again, we stumble upon the border, with just a few cars in line and we are through in minutes.

Bosnia exit border
Bosnia exit border

Croatian entry border – Dubrovnik

Just a small drive and we arrive at the slightly longer line for the entry to Croatia. It takes less than ten minutes to pass through the border, so it seems my plan paid off. It took less than an hour to pass through all four borders, plus we got to see a tiny sliver of Bosnia.

Travelling in this part of Europe brings back memories of travelling as a teen when each border meant a potential passport demand and a trip to the foreign exchange to change money. Each border hinted at new possibilities, experiences and adventures

Border crossings

When researching the quickest border route, I came across a story on Tripadvisor from someone who alleged to have crossed into Dubrovnik from Bosnia without realising that they had actually passed a border. They were fined for their carelessness, but rather than admitting their mistake, claimed this was a bribe.

Admittedly, the post dates back around five years so things may have changed but if the borders I saw are unchanged from when they travelled, I fail to see how they could not realise it was a border.

Maybe you have your own border story, like for instance forgetting your passport on your holiday to France (thankfully I got away with it). If you have a great border story, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to share away in the comments below.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Old town of Dubrovnik

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

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30 comments

  1. Pгetty! This has been an extremelү wondеrful article.
    Thanks for supplying tһese details.

  2. I loved both Kotor and Dubrovnik but this border was indeed traffic and it took forever! nonetheles it’s still worth it to visit both. I took a tour group, a small group of just 9 so we went on very smoothly, but the bus behind us took forever.

  3. Archana Singh

    I was planning to go Kotor-Dubrovnik next month but opted for other places simply because of the high crowd. Wish I had read your post before. But surely it will come handy next time.

    • Oh that’s a shame as I suspect by then it would be quite pleasant with a lot less crowds. The cruises come in less frequently as December approaches meaning it’s less busy

  4. I crossed the Kotor Dubrovnik border in July and it was not too bad. I have also been to Bosnia before. Each country has some really beautiful sites to visit. I particularly liked Dubrovnik.

    • I loved Dubrovnik too as it is a uniquely beautiful centre. That said, I probably wouldn’t return as it is a complete rip off! I couldn’t believe some of the costs although happy hour helped and surprisingly ice cream was cheap. Obviously in plentiful supply. Glad you didn’t have an horror at the border

  5. Oh my gosh, that is a long line! I’ve only ever experienced that long of a line for a border cross when driving around in San Ysidro, CA in the US. I didn’t cross over into Mexico, but the lines were so long, you could barely see the front of them. As for my own border experience, I’ve crossed from Jordan to Israel and that was interesting, to say the least! Because of the politics of the area, I was mistaken for Palestinian (which I’m not) and was detained for over 6 hours, was interrogated, and they confiscated my passport the entire time. I plan to write a blog article about this experience as well, so when I do, I’ll send you the link! Border experiences are always so interesting to read, in my opinion! Great article!

    • Oh god that sounds terrifying. The closest we have had to that was when my husband was taken into a holding pen in the States as they did not seem to like that he is a financial adviser. Would love to read that article!

  6. Love your creativity in checking out Bosnia and bypassing the long lines 🙂 Sounds like a great idea to me! The Arhangel Mihailo Church you found sounds really interesting. Wandering off the beaten path usually leads to some great finds!

  7. Megan Jerrard

    What a great excuse for a detour – I love this region, it’s so beautiful, and like you I fell in love with Bosnia’s authenticity and charm. If you have time to visit the country as a destination in itself I can highly recommend it. I give you props for creativity though, I never would have thought to cut a border wait time in half by crossing into third country to get back into the first!

  8. Glad you convinced Jason to take that small detour to Arslanagic Bridge, it’s gorgeous, love me a bridge I do. 🙂
    Argh… crossing borders, dealing with border security sets my heart a racing, even if I know I’ve done no wrong, I always go through a weird conversation in my brain checking that I dont have an orange stowed in my esky, or honey, or when I had my last drink. Its ridiculous. I would have been a right mess waiting 30 minutes to get through.

  9. Unfortunately, I don’t have any interesting border stories and can’t imagine waiting that long to cross a border. You photo of the line is insane! I’m not sure I have the patience to wait that out.

    • That picture is the the short queue into Bosnia and took around thirty minutes. The queue to cross from Kotor to Croatia was maybe three or four times that length. It’s not really a choice to make though if your flight is out of a different country you have to get there somehow

  10. That border crossing sounds like a nightmare. it reminds me of the San Ysidro border crossing. I’ll have to remember your trick should I find myself in that part of the world.

    • Ooh I’ve never heard of that one. Is it the one from LA to Mexico? I’ve been through that one but don’t remember it being bad but it was in the nineties!

  11. Great tips for traveling in this area of the Balkans. A faster border crossing and cute towns – double win!

  12. What a great idea to save time and visit a new country! I’ve never been to this area…much less driven through it. This is super helpful though for me to keep in mind for our future travels. I think I might cry to wait through a 3 mile line!!

  13. Over the years of traveling I’ve endured some excruciatingly painful land border crossing and then a few pleasant ones, this post will come in very handy if I decide to do a land crossing from Croatia and Montenegro (It’s on my list of places to visit)

  14. So nice that you have ended up seeing Trebinje instead of waiting in line at the border. One can certainly be surprised if he/she is to take an alternative route. You never know what gem you might find on the way. 🙂
    So glad that you’ve enjoyed the landscape. Road trips are always a good idea, right!

  15. I also used that border between Bosnia and Montenegro, first because I spent the previous week in Bosnia and second because I had read terrible stories about how slow the main border was.

    Much better through there!

  16. It takes an experienced traveler to figure out this kind of workarounds when you are stuck at borders. I was once stuck at India Bhutan Border for whole day and ended up watching two shows of the same film back to back to kill time and to escape the outside hear.

    • OMG i feel for you. I swear to god, I would have been going mad although I suspect the wait was worth it. I would love to visit Bhutan.

  17. That was a very creative alternative route. We would like to try this. The pictures are stunning and very inviting. Who would have thought?

  18. Haha, after reading this post I lost a good 30 minutes wandering around on Google Maps! I’ve always wondered about that Montenegro/Bosnia/Croatia border region… whenever I eventually make it there, I’ll follow your route! Cheers

    • Ha ha glad it got you thinking Simon. I spent a while doing the same, trying to figure out if it was feasible. Of course, it could have gone terribly wrong as there is no way of knowing how long the border crossing will be at each one. That said, I still think I would prefer sitting in two different border queues for an hour each than one queue for two hours. Plus a little detour into a new country is always a bonus

  19. Thanks for the tip. I do visit Croatia quite frequently and I would never have thought of doing this. Such a stunning part of the world too!

    • Glad you found it useful. We were dreading that return journey and jumped at the chance to visit another country, even if only briefly, and hopefully save time, which thankfully we did.

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