Serbia travel guide
Although its reputation took a hammering during the disastrous collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbia has since become one of Eastern Europe’s most entertaining destinations. Much of that is down to Belgrade, which, despite NATO bombing during the Milosevic regime, has emerged as a dynamic, edgy city with an appetite for hedonism.
Home to numerous excellent museums and galleries, a wide range of restaurants and cafés, and some of the best nightlife in southeast Europe, Belgrade is drawing comparisons with some of the world’s coolest cities. It is also helping lead the rest of the country into a bright and hopeful future, with a young generation of creative and outward-looking Serbs reshaping the historic land that was founded as a principality some 1,200 years ago.
Away from the capital, Novi Sad is an attractive, lively city with an elegant centre and picturesque fortress overlooking over the Danube. In the far north, Subotica has an array of secessionist architecture and a notable Hungarian character.
The province of Vojvodina, north of Belgrade, has some excellent wetland habitats that are home to numerous bird species, while south of the capital the countryside consists of lush, wooded valleys with hidden-away Orthodox monasteries. Scattered among the country’s more mountainous regions are a number of vast national parks.
Serbia is known for the forthright character of its citizens; its resilient culture has survived numerous occupiers and foreign rulers over the centuries. Despite their formidable reputation, visitors will find Serbs to be passionate but welcoming. As an Orthodox Christian country, it remains to a large degree deeply religious, though this fact is belied somewhat by the hedonism found in its bigger cities.
While there are still some political problems in Serbia, which has yet to formally recognise Kosovo after it unilaterally declared independence in 2008, the country has turned a corner. It is officially a EU candidate and many Serbs are hopeful of the change in economic fortunes that might be brought by becoming a full member.
77,474 sq km (35,246 sq miles).
8,812,705 (UN estimate 2016).
92.6 per sq km.
President Aleksandar Vucic since June 2017.
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic since June 2017.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime, particularly in larger cities. Some sporting events have had incidents of violence and petty crime, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities. Watch out for pick pockets in tourist areas and at airports, on public transport and petrol stations on the motorway. Pay attention to personal safety late at night, and when leaving nightclubs. Carry a mobile phone in case you need to contact the emergency services. As a foreigner, you may be a target for criminals who may assume you are carrying large amounts of cash. Four wheel drive and luxury vehicles are also popular targets. Isolated incidents of armed violence in major cities are usually linked to organised crime and not directed against foreigners. Report all incidents of crime to the local police and get a report.
There is still some danger from residual mines and other unexploded ordnance left over from the 1999 conflict in Kosovo and in Serbia. Most of the affected areas are in the mountainous regions to the north and east of Kosovo. Take special care in these areas and keep to marked roads. Most of the remaining dangerous zones are covered with dense vegetation. If you see anything suspicious, don’t touch it, but report it immediately to the police.
You must have a valid International Driving Permit to drive in Serbia. If you remain in Serbia for longer than 6 months you should obtain a Serbian driving licence. The British Embassy is aware of the current policy by the Serbian authorities to retain UK driving licences when applying for a Serbian driving licence. The Serbian Ministry of Interior sends the UK driving licence to the British Embassy who are obliged to return them to the DVLA in the UK. You may obtain further information about Serbian driving licences at the local police station where you registered.
If you’re bringing a vehicle into Serbia, you must have vehicle registration and ownership documents and a locally valid insurance policy. European green card vehicle insurance is now valid in Serbia, but the requirement to hold a green card is no longer in effect. You should confirm with your insurance company that your policy covers Serbia.
Contact the Serbian Embassy in London if you have more detailed questions about bringing a vehicle in to the country. The British Embassy is unable to offer any assistance to individuals attempting to bring vehicles into Serbia who do not have the correct documentation on arrival at the border.
Many Serbian car hire firms will not allow their vehicles to be driven in Kosovo, Albania or Bulgaria due to concerns about the security situation. There have been some incidents where Serbian registered cars have been targeted in more isolated areas of Kosovo.
The general standard of roads in Serbia varies from fair to poor. Roads are worse in rural areas, especially after bad weather. One particularly dangerous road is the Ibarska Magistrala (linking Belgrade, via Čačak and Užice, to Montenegro).
You are required by law to wear a seatbelt. You must drive with dipped headlights on during the day. You must not use a mobile phone whilst driving.
There are several toll booths along motorways. Individual toll charges vary from 2 – 10 Euros for cars. Foreign registered vehicles pay the same toll as those registered locally.
Dial 1987 for roadside assistance. Other emergency numbers are police: 192; fire department: 193; and ambulance: 194.
Much of the public transport is old and overcrowded although there have been improvements in the major cities. When using taxis, you should only use those which are officially registered – look for a municipal registration number in addition to the cab number. Alternatively, call one of the radio taxi phone numbers (most operators speak English) with your street location. For further information on using public transport and general driving conditions see the website of the Belgrade Tourism Organisation.
Trains can be slow, particularly in winter when there are often long delays. On overnight trains, sleeping berths can be locked. Each carriage has an attendant. Local police carry out random ID checks onboard trains in Serbia. Thieves operate on trains, so take particular care that documents and other valuables are safe.
Protests can take place in Belgrade and other major towns/cities, particularly over issues like LGBT rights, the independence of Kosovo, public sector cuts, etc. Most protests remain peaceful, but they can sometimes turn violent, especially where there is a potential for far-right infiltration or hooliganism. Keep up to date with local developments and avoid any large crowds and demonstrations.