Tips for traveling to Montenegro with diabetes

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Heading to Montenegro as a diabetic? Great!

Diabetics can visit the small and utterly beautiful country of Montenegro without incident. Handling your diabetes on a trip there can be smooth and present no problem provided you have the right attitude and do a little preparation.

old-town-buildings-near-sea-ulcinj-montenegro

First of all, understand that Montenegro is a modern country, and anything you’ll need will be available. However, it’s always best to understand where you’re going and what the reality is going to be there. This guide can help you.

In this guide to visiting Montenegro with diabetes, you’ll find:

bgnow-111-ulcinj-beach-montenegro

Montenegro: A brief overview for the diabetic traveler

Montenegro – called Crna Gora in the local language (written Црна Гора, pronounced “tsir na go ra”) – means “black mountain”, and Montenegro is indeed mountainous. It’s on the Adriatic Sea coast, and borders Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo, and Albania. To get around the country you’ll probably be taking highway buses or minibuses, though taxis can also be useful.

Seafood is popular along the coast, with regular Balkan foods such as potatoes and meat common as well. Pharmacies exist but may be better stocked in larger towns; however, even in small places they should be able to order supplies for you.

transformer-fountain-podgorica-montenegro

If you are going hiking or mountain trekking you’ll need food, and possibly a way to keep insulin cool. Stock up on plenty of low blood sugar snacks before setting off on a hike. This goes for bus rides too: don’t count on making a stop at the right time for you to buy something to eat or drink.

Tourists frequent Montenegro, the coast especially, and locals are used to dealing with medical issues. Don’t be afraid of going anywhere in Montenegro – you’ll be fine.

seaweed-umbrellas-ulcinj-beach-montenegro

How to speak Montenegrin – for T1Ds

The phrase “diabetes mellitus” in Montenegro is шећерна болест (pronounced “sheh chair na ball est”), but equally as common is дијабетес (like the English word “diabetes” and pronounced “dee ya beh tess”).

If you have to speak to a doctor or pharmacist about diabetes in Montenegro, relax. Just use the English word “diabetes” or the similar word above; they’ll understand. If there’s a problem for some reason just show your blood sugar meter or insulin supply or something. There will be no problem.

cat-on-wall-sea-ulcinj-montenegro

It is a good idea, however, to wear a necklace or bracelet, or even to carry a card in your pocket, that identifies you as a diabetic. It is highly unlikely that you will have to speak to anyone about diabetes, and certainly unlikely that you’ll be in some emergency situation where a medical alert necklace would come in handy. But it’s nice peace of mind to have it anyway.

Food and insulin in Montenegro

The food you eat as a diabetic traveler to Montenegro will probably take on different forms. This list is merely an example of the types of things you’re like to come into contact with, along with some tips about insulin doses.

seafood-potatoes-ulcinj-montenegro

cevapcici-fries-bread-ulcinj-montenegro-restaurant

Refrigerator in Podgorica with minibar snacks. Insulin in the foil bag in the door.

Refrigerator in Podgorica with minibar snacks. Insulin in the foil bag in the door.

yogurt-pizza-dinner-guesthouse-room-ulcinj

granola-bar-kotor-montenegro-closeup

Supermarket in Podgorica.

Supermarket in Podgorica.

The most important attitude to have when eating in Montenegro as a diabetic is: eat what you want! Don’t let diabetes dictate everything.

bgnow-75-fortress-above-kotor-montenegro

The most important thing to do when eating in Montenegro as a diabetic is to check your blood sugar frequently. After you’ve made your best guess with your insulin, don’t worry. Enjoy the meal. Then check soon afterwards, maybe a couple times. Just see what happened and try to learn from it.

The more you try, the closer you get to being able to handle any food and end up with a good BG. Don’t get discouraged if you have a bad run. It happens. Just keep enjoying your food and adjusting the best you can. Hey, you’re still traveling in Montenegro, life’s pretty excellent!

tourist-information-kiosk-ulcinj-montenegro-closed

Taking insulin in public

You can take insulin at your restaurant table or on a bus if technically possible – a pen injected into the stomach is particularly good for this. People won’t notice if you’re careful about it. I personally injected into my legs right through my pants while in Montenegro, in coffee shops, on buses, in restaurants, wherever. No problem. Of course you can go to the bathroom to do it too. Just be sure that your food will be there when you expect it.

All of this goes for blood sugar checks too.

(See my Full review of Bluff Works travel pants.)

humalog-shot-under-table-ulcinj-montenegro-restaurant

And nobody was any the wiser.

My diabetes experiences in Montenegro

As a Type 1 diabetic, I spent some time in Montenegro as part of a long trip through Europe. I ate the food I wanted and kept track of every blood sugar. Your control may be better (or worse) than mine, but this data can give you an idea of the sorts of things that may be in store for you. If nothing else, it can give you some numbers to try to beat!

My route in Montenegro

 

First, where I went: with my travel partner Masayo (not a diabetic, but still a nice person) I crossed the Albanian border by bus and spent some time in a hilltop guesthouse in Ulcinj on the Adriatic Sea coast. It was off-season and chilly, and all the amenities were a 20-minute walk down and then back up a steep hill. Still, the views were unbelievable and diminutive Ulcinj is crammed with great beauty and gorgeous historical sites.

A larger highway bus took us to the capital city of Podgorica, a very comfortable if unexciting place with a decided small-town feel. We walked around the affable town, tried some interesting foods, and relaxed in one of the nicest rooms we rented in our entire time in Europe.

big-white-clouds-montenegro-coast-sky-mountain

After Podgorica we headed to the town and bay of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a mesmerizing Old Town and a steep hike around the hills to an ancient fortress. The view of the Bay of Kotor from the fortress was an image I’d seen on the internet for years; it was great to be there in person. (I had plenty of low blood sugar snack on this hike, and I needed it too.)

After Kotor we went by bus out of Montenegro to the legendary city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

small-mountain-road-from-bus-window-montenegro

My diabetes/blood sugar experiences in Montenegro

bgnow-222-sticking-tongue-out-montenegro

These numbers aren’t perfect, but they are a marked improvement over some of my recent weeks. And there are quite a few bright spots (which traveling diabetics must be able to identify!):

  1. Only one reading was over 300.
  2. There were many instances of rice and wine meals with great blood sugars afterwards, not reflected in the averages.
  3. After-dinner spikes were much rarer. 177 isn’t a great average, but the consistency across the times of day was a good sign.

Mostly what made my readings high was bready things: burek, thick pizza, a sandwich on a bus. And most of those came at times of inactivity, like sitting in a minibus or whiling away a morning beside the Bay of Kotor working online.

Check your own BGs often and beat my averages!

grill-fish-shop-kotor-montenegro-night

Your trip to Montenegro

If you have been to Montenegro (whether or not as a diabetic) I’d like to hear about your own experiences there.

If you are planning such a trip or are considering one, let me know if you have any questions or follow-up comments. And always remember to travel without fear.

You can go anywhere with diabetes!

Read more about my travels in Montenegro

Come along on the adventure! Follow detailed travelogues about the wondrous sights, fascinating people, and varied diabetes experiences I encountered as a traveling T1D in Montenegro:

Day 112: Big Bus, Little Roads: Albania To Montenegro
Day 113: Take A Day Off; You're In Ulcinj!
Day 114: Ulcinj And The Spectacle Of The Montenegrin Riviera
Day 115: Between Snow And Sunny Sea To Podgorica
Day 116: Attacked By Podgorica's Junkyard Robots
Day 117: Kotor: The Perfect Little Secret
Day 118: A Climb Up Montenegro's Most Famous View
Day 119: Living In Kotor Forever Isn't A Bad Idea
Day 120: From One Jewel To Another: Kotor To Dubrovnik

Share your travel stories, give advice, or ask a question in the comments section.

Next page: Tips for traveling to Norway with diabetes

“Tips for traveling in Norway with diabetes, including information about food, insulin, and travel while exploring the beauty of the Norwegian landscape.”

About the author

Jeremy has traveled to over 40 countries, taken several road trips across the United States (and Canada), and lived on and off in Japan for several years. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982 but doesn't let a little thing like that stop him from exploring the world.

Jeremy writes about his travels with diabetes on 70-130.com as a way of logging his excursions and of inspiring others who might be feeling hesitant to take their own big bite out of life.

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