It wasn’t that long ago that Serbia was a no go zone for travellers – being ruled by a dictator and bombed by NATO forces for 11 weeks in 1999 – but since the turn of the century backpackers and tourists alike have flocked back. It’s the gateway to the Balkans, and is a country not to be skipped over.
Good news for those Aussies who are looking to spend more than 3 months in Europe! Serbia isn’t part of the Schengen area. Australians going to Serbia for tourism purposes don’t need a visa for stays under 90 days. That means if you want to spend 6 months in Europe, like we did, explore the Balkans and Eastern Europe!
- They are still a way off from joining the European Union so the Serbian Dinar (RSD) is the currency. (In August 2016 $1AUD bought around 70 Serbian Dinar).
- When we were in Serbia (Summer 2016) a large number of refugees were stuck in Belgrade. They had travelled from the Middle East or Africa and tried to get to Western Europe but were stopped at the Serbia/Hungary border.
- Don’t try to travel from Kosovo straight into Serbia, unless you initially went from Serbia into Kosovo. Serbia still classifies Kosovo as part of their country, and you could have some trouble at the border.
- I have read that foreigners must register their place of residence with the local Ministry of Interior office or police station within 24 hours of arrival BUT if you’re staying at a hotel or hostel they’ll sort that out for you.
- We did Serbia on $56 AUD per person per day (that’s food & drink, accommodation, transport). We spent 4 days in Belgrade and went out a few nights (although we did stay at a friend’s place one night to save some money).
- Train is the cheapest and most efficient way to travel into Serbia from Central Europe (if you’re travelling from Budapest pay a little extra to reserve a seat otherwise you could be standing for the whole 9 hour trip!)
- Once in Belgrade there’s a decent tram system to take you around the centre of the city, if you want to go a bit further out the buses are easy to work out (we caught some to Tito’s museum and the river beach).
- The best way to get into Bosnia and Herzegovina from Serbia is a minibus, it’s fairly cheap and easily the comfortable way to do it. We took one from our hostel in Belgrade to Sarajevo and it took about 6 hours.
- Check out: Free walking tour – it’s a great way to get your bearings in a new city, we did the one run by Hedonist Hostel which was great, funny and informative. Serbian Radio Television of Serbia Headquarters – this building was bombed by NATO in 1999, killing 16 people and hasn’t been touched since. There’s a few other building around town that were bombed and have been left as a type of memorial that’s worth a look. Great War Island – Catch a bus to Zemun and walk across the floating bridge to Lido beach on the island, great place to cool off in the summer months. Pub Crawl – we did one run by Hedonist Hostel, it’s great to check out the nightclubs in boats moored around the banks of the Danube and Sava rivers. Marshal Tito’s Mausoleum – the tomb of Yugoslavia’s great leader and his wife is in what’s called ‘The House of Flowers’ surrounded by personal gifts and batons presented to him. It’s connected to the Museum of Yugoslav History.
- Eat & Drink: Loki – no nonsense, mouthwatering Balkan fast food. Get the Loki burger and wash it down with beer, you’ll be surprised how cheap it is. Borek – a delicious pastry filled with spinach or meat or pretty much anything! Rakia – the national spirit of Serbia (a every other country in the Balkans). It’s literally fruit brandy but that explanation doesn’t do it justice. The best one we had was honey flavoured be sure to try as many different types…just maybe not on the same night. Cevapi – this delicious skinless sausage is served throughout the Balkans, so try some in every country to decide who has the best cevapi! Three Hats or Tri Sesira – an authentic old school Serbian restaurant set on a cobblestone street with alfresco dining accompanied by a stringed quartet…what more could you ask for! Karađorđe’s schnitzel – it’s essentially a rolled veal or pork steak that’s stuffed then breaded and fried. It’s named after Serbian Prince Karađorđe and well let’s just say they must have really liked this revolutionary leader because comes as a large phallic shape. The dish can also be referred to as the maiden’s dream and I shouldn’t have to explain why.
- We stayed at: Hedonist Hostel – we cannot talk this hostel up enough! The staff are so hospitable. The hostel has such a nice community feel hosting everything from BBQs to walking tours and pub crawls. We stayed in one of their nice and spacious private rooms. It’s previously won best hostel in Serbia which is no surprise. It’s also part of The Balkan Backpacker network, so grab yourself a Balkan Backpacker brochure, book your hostels directly through the particular hostel (not a hostel booking website) and you get 10% off! Plus, once you stay at 4 Balkan Backpacker hostels and get 4 stamps on your brochure, at your 5th Balkan Backpacker hostel you get a surprise! (usually free beer for the night or free laundry).
Did You Know?
- Some famous Serbians include one of the best tennis players in the world Novak Djokovic and Nikola Tesla, the man who invented the light bulb, x-ray.
- Marshal Josep Broz Tito was crowned the forever president of Yugoslavia (modern day Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia). Yes he was the glue that bound these 6 countries together.
- Just because I’m fascinated with Marshal Tito, here’s another fact about him – he’s reportedly the only person ever to say no to Joseph Stalin and live to tell the tale.
- The former Yugoslavia had it’s very own car which was manufactured in modern day Serbia. It was common referred to as the Yugo (see above photo of Josh with the red car). By all reports it was an absolute bomb of a car and the butt of many jokes such as – “Yugo, car doesn’t” and “Why does a Yugo have rear window defroster? To keep your hands warm while you’re pushing it.”
More and more travellers are flocking to Serbia and it’s easy to see why. Eating, drinking and accommodation are cheap. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a pumping nightlife and you can just get lost in the history of the country. Our tip is come and visit Serbia before it’s overrun with tourists.