Crossing the Croatia-Montenegro border by bus is a strange affair. One gets down to the border from Dubrovnik in no time before getting held up at the checkpoint. Cars fly through, while buses have to hand over the passengers' passports en masse to the guards. It's a long process, and having a novel to hand is advised.
Once across the border, however, a good coastal road leads you through to whatever town you wish to stop in.
The most well-known tourist attraction is Kotor, which is lodged in the corner of a fjord. It's a town of marble and beauty, which draws breath from all visitors. But having come from Zadar and Dubrovnik, and the resplendent marble beauty they emanate, I wanted something different and stopped at Herceg Novi – a small town located just at the northern tip of Kotor Bay.
At the bus stop, many people pass through the town as it's dusty and unwelcoming, but they're missing out. The town proper is a walk down the hill towards the sea, which leads to a small, elegant town centre, which has a collection of shops, restaurants and cafés built around a pleasant, chilled-out town square.
Go further down and you hit the coast, where a strip runs the length of the town with a wide selection of hotels and restaurants.
The key word to describe Herceg Novi is value. The four-star Hunguest Hotel Sun Resort has all you could ask for in a hotel: swimming pool, spa, tennis court, restaurant, café and sea view. But the cost is a fraction of the price you would pay in France.
Admittedly, things are a little different on the Montenegrin Riviera to the French one. Hotel Sun Resort has a private beach, which turns out to be a Communist-style concrete slab built out onto the sea. The tennis court was available, but the net was missing. When I asked if it would be possible to have a game, the staff sort of shrugged their shoulders and said the net had gone missing, but that the basketball nets were there.
That kind of laidback attitude is how the Montenegrins roll, and if you can handle that you will thoroughly enjoy a stay here.
Chilling out is the order of the day in Herceg Novi, although a walk up one of the city's narrow, winding streets will bring you to several worthwhile sights, should you wish to explore.
A map of the town will highlight the clock tower, the Forte Mare, the Bloody Tower, an Orthodox Church and a Jesuit Church, as well as the Savina Monastery and Spanjola Fortress.
The Bloody Tower is what remains of a Turkish prison during their period of rule here and climbing down into what was a prison cell to experience how the captives lived is a chilling experience.
Bikes can be rented in town, with the Hotel Perla being the best place to do so. When on two-wheels you can cycle the boardwalk the length of the town and then head out to visit the Spanjola Fortress. Also built by the Turks, the fortress is a remarkable medieval building, which if restored would be a quite wonderful slice of Ottoman architecture. For the moment it's overgrown and wild, which has an appeal of its own.
Still on your bike, a visit to the Savina Monastery is a must. This Orthodox centre is an oasis of peace and a stroll around will calm you to the point of meditative tranquillity.
Back in town, the selection of places to eat is wonderful, with meat and pizzas being the star dishes on the menu - seafood is far pricier here than in Croatia and isn't always your best bet. Portofina is the spot for a great steak sitting in the shade of the Archangel Michael's Church, while down on the waterside Konoba Feral and Konoba Kruso serve up great lobster, seafood and assorted meat dishes.
Having spent several days in this manner, my other stop in Montenegro was Budva, a few hours' drive down the coast. And it's a totally different proposition altogether.
The town is a massive sprawl of development, which combines an old-town of beauty with a massive harbour that houses the yachts of mega-rich Russians and Ukrainians.
The old town has plenty of charm and a walk around will give you the chance to take in the town walls, several old churches and the Archaeological Museum with a lovingly curated selection of pieces tracing the various historical stages of the country.
The star attraction of the town is the small Museum of Modern Art. The museum has a very unique collection of pieces by artists from all over the world and is rotated regularly.
The beach is the place to watch the sun go down in Budva and the Stari Grad beach is located right on the outskirts of the old town.
However, walk a small sea path around from there and you wind up at Mogren Beach, an isolated enclave where the waves roll in and splash up against the shore path and you can look out across the Adriatic. Stunning doesn't do this place justice.
If you need some exercise then a trip inland to Lake Skadar is the way to go. The British-run Montenegro Adventure Centre (montenegrofly.com) is the pick of the local companies running tours. Robin Brown is the head of this company and will personally drive you through the treacherous and narrow roads that lead to Rijeka Crnojevica. Here Robin will guide you on a hike that leads you to the source of the local river. It's a beautiful hike past a hydroelectric dam into the absolute wilderness.
In the summer, you can swim in the icy waters and refresh yourself from the stifling heat. From here, Robin can also organise kayak trips up into Lake Skadar where you can literally have large swathes of the water and local birdlife all to yourself.
It's a peaceful journey to undertake and feels more like south-east Asia than south-east Europe. A bowl of fish soup and a chat with Robin about life as an ex-pat in this part of Europe rounds off the trip before heading back to Budva.
A good spot to lay one's head in Budva is the Slovenska Plaza hotel complex. Here, once again, you can grab four-star - or the head-scratching three-and-a-half star accommodation - for a fraction of the price you would pay in western Europe.
The evenings in Budva offer plenty of great eating options with Konoba Stari Grad in the new town being the cheap and cheerful choice. But located on the walls of the old town is the upmarket restaurant attached to the Hotel Astoria - sit here, eat regally and people watch to your heart's content.
The other big attraction in Budva is the party scene. The revellers from the yachts pour into the discos that line the old town and drink and dance the night away to dance music. If you fancy it, then Discoteque Trocadero is the place to spend your cash and the early hours of the morning.
There's a huge amount to do and see in Montenegro, but next on my agenda was its southern neighbour and the last stop on my Balkan road trip, Albania. And so I said goodbye to Budva and its growing tourist infrastructure to say hello to a country of a very different kind.
Next time, Tadhg finishes his Balkan road trip in Albania.