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: 21 October 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.
Arsenal take on Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League on 19 October 2017. See this information and advice page for travelling fans.
Most visits to Serbia are trouble-free.
Protests occasionally take place in major towns and cities. These usually remain peaceful, but you should keep up to date with local developments and avoid any large crowds or demonstrations.
You may have difficulty entering Serbia if you have a Republic of Kosovo stamp in your passport.
Terrorist attacks in Serbia can’t be ruled out.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 912 (police), 913 (ambulance), 914 (fire) or 112 for the all purpose emergency number.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
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.
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.
Terrorist attacks in Serbia can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Terrorists may target religious sites, including churches.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Possession or trafficking of drugs attract strict penalties and usually a lengthy prison sentence.
There are no laws against homosexual activity. Same-sex couples are tolerated, but public displays of affection are inadvisable.
Taking photographs of military/police installations, personnel or vehicles anywhere in Serbia may lead to difficulties with the authorities.
Carry your passport with you for identification purposes and keep a copy separately in a safe place.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British passport holders don’t need a visa to visit Serbia for up to 90 days. For further information on entry and exit requirements, contact the Serbian Embassy in London.
If you wish to extend your stay in Serbia you will need to apply for temporary residence status at least 30 days before the 90 day period expires at the police station where you are registered. For more information please visit the website of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
When you enter Serbia, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Temporary residents should have an exit-entry visa as well as a residence stamp. If you try to leave Serbia without an entry stamp or exit-entry visa you may face charges of illegal immigration, a heavy fine and possible imprisonment.
You should only enter Serbia through recognised border crossings.
Previous travel to Kosovo
The authorities in Serbia don’t consider the designated crossing points with Kosovo to be official ‘international’ border crossing points. Foreign nationals have been denied entry to Serbia if they have Republic of Kosovo stamps in their passports. You are less likely to experience problems if you travel into Kosovo from Serbia and return via the same route, or if you travel via Albania, Macedonia or Montenegro. For more information visit the website of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
It is a legal requirement that you register with the local police in the town/city where you are staying within 24 hours of your arrival in Serbia, unless you are staying in a hotel where you will be registered automatically on checking-in. If you don’t register you could be fined, detained or face a court appearance.
You will be required to declare money (including travellers’ cheques) in excess of €10,000 (or equivalent in other currencies) that you bring into Serbia. Customs officers hold declaration forms and will require a receipt of purchase for Dinars bought from a foreign bank. On departure, you will need to return a certified copy of this declaration to customs so that money (up to the amount brought in but not exceeding €10,000 in value) can be taken out again. If you fail to comply with these rules, your money may be confiscated.
In order to avoid customs charges, you will be required to declare items of value (eg jewellery, photographic and computing equipment) that you are temporarily bringing into Serbia.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Serbia and as valid ID documents in Serbia. However, they should be valid for not less than 7 days and no more than 6 months.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
There is a reciprocal healthcare agreement for British nationals visiting Serbia, which entitles you to free treatment for genuine emergencies. You’ll need to present a British passport, evidence of registration with the local police (if you’re not staying in a hotel) and a certificate confirming entitlement to benefit under the UK Social Security Acts. You can get this certificate from HM Revenue & Customs.
The health system in all parts of Serbia is suffering from widespread shortage of medicines and other essentials. For non-emergency treatment, or treatment that isn’t covered under reciprocal arrangements, payment in cash is normally required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Rabies is common in Serbia, largely in parks and the outskirts of major cities.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 194 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
During especially hot and dry periods there is a danger of forest fires. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas. Make sure cigarette ends are properly extinguished, and don’t light barbecues.
Serbia lies in a seismically active zone, and earth tremors are common. Serious earthquakes are less frequent but do occur. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, visit the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Parts of Serbia are prone to flooding following extremely heavy rain, as occurred in May 2014. Details of flood warnings are available via the Serbian hydro-meteorological institute website. In the event of floods affecting your area, you should follow the instructions of the Serbian authorities.
The official currency of Serbia is the Dinar. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are accepted in most hotels and shops, and nearly all ATMs accept international bank cards. Currency exchange in Belgrade (including at Belgrade Airport) accept Sterling, US Dollars and Euros.
British banks don’t generally exchange Dinars. You should exchange any unwanted Dinars before you leave Serbia. You should only change money through banks or official exchange offices and not through street dealers. You will be unable to exchange Scottish and Northern Irish bank notes in Serbia.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.