Travels in Serbia
Do you have a favourite meal that you make for yourself when you aren’t trying to impress anyone? You know, the kind of thing you don’t think anyone else would find particularly special… but you just love it.
And if, by chance, someone was to eat it and say it was delicious, you would just think they were being nice to not hurt your feelings.
Well, that kind of sums up travelling in Serbia.
The people here are fiercely proud of their country but they don’t see why foreigners would be interested in visiting.
The problem is, as a man I start chatting to at a restaurant one day explains, everything that Serbia has, its Balkan neighbours have better. And it’s true.
If you want stunning scenery, you’re better off going to Montenegro. If you want old churches, Kosovo has finer examples. Macedonia has more interesting ruins. And if you’re looking for a relaxing summer holiday, you can’t go past the beaches of Croatia.
Serbia is left in the middle as the most important country politically but unable to capitalise on the increase of tourists to the Balkans.
In modern history, it was the heart of this region but now it’s struggling to define itself to the international travelling community.
That’s not to say there isn’t a lot here to discover and, for the more intrepid amongst us, the scarcity of tourism can be an appealing thing. It can give you a more unfettered look into the culture.
Whether it’s spending time in the cafes of Belgrade, being the only person at the World Heritage ruins of Gamzigrad, trekking to the monasteries around Novi Pazar, or eating your way through kilos of grilled meat, Serbia has enough to entertain and experience.
It presents both challenges and gifts to the average traveller, though. Let’s start with the gifts.
I’ve already mentioned the authenticity that comes from a country that hasn’t embraced tourism like it could.
Also, it’s cheap. A bottle of water is 40 US cents, a single room at a basic hotel is about 30 dollars a night, bus journeys work out to be about 2 or 3 dollars an hour, and a meal with drinks at a restaurant will be about ten dollars.
Add onto all of that the safety and the friendliness of the local people and you’ve got a pretty comfortable experience.
Now the challenges. The biggest one is transport. Serbia has a good bus network and it is easy to get between the major cities. The problem is that many of the interesting sites aren’t in those cities and the infrastructure is designed for local commuting and not tourists.
East of Belgrade, there were a bunch of places not too far from each other that I wanted to see but there was no way to do it without a car. And so the Golubac Fortress, Vratna Gates, the Iron Gates and Djerdap National Park all went unvisited.
The same happened in the south of Serbia when I couldn’t find any way to get to the natural wonder of Davolja Varos.
It wasn’t just a matter of having to get an infrequent bus or set an alarm to get an early one. There just simply isn’t transport to these places which are considered to be the highlights of the country.
Sorry, rant over. But if you’re thinking of heading to Serbia, you might seriously consider doing it by car. It will also help with one of the other biggest challenges in the country, which is information.
Almost every local I met was extremely helpful – which is lucky because you’ll need to use them to find things. There is not a lot of official tourist information in Serbia and many sites and other places don’t even have signs.
Overall, I have tried to ask myself whether I would recommend if people should travel to Serbia. The short answer is yes.
The longer answer is that it should be part of a broader trip to the Balkans and it is not somewhere I would suggest for a short getaway in isolation (except maybe a weekend break in Belgrade).
You’re better off heading to Croatia or Montenegro if you’re looking for a week-long holiday in this part of Europe.
Although there is nothing wrong with the country, it just simply isn’t the best option in this region.
45 thoughts on “Travelling in Serbia – what is it like?”
oh whuuuuuuuuut. This is the one country I have wanted to see for a very long time. =/
I still have high hopes that it’s awesome. Thanks for the info about the car.
I hope Serbia will be able to manage their tourism better because the income they get from tourists can also help them maintain their place. 🙂 Basing on the photos above, Serbia still looks like a good travel destination. If I were to visit there, I think I’d stay there for a day or two.
I have never been to Serbia but it looks like an interesting country, definitely worth to visit when traveling in the area.
Hmmmm interesting. I hadn’t really thought about what to expect when I get to Serbia next month. Did you end up hiring a car?
By the way, I’m going to have to stop reading your blog for a bit. It’s not personal. You’re just taking away the mystery of my upcoming Balkan’s sojourn. Please let me know when you’ve moved on to somewhere I don’t plan to go 🙂
Forget travelling by train in Serbia. I have a travel story from hell on the train from Skopje to Belgrade which I must publish one day soon.
I love Serbia so much I have been there 3 times. Great people and food.
Certainly an adventure trying to travel in a place without much infrastructure for travellers…but hey, having to get inventive is half the fun 😉
When we visited Serbia, we drove and had the luxury of having our car to get around. I can only imagine the frustration of trying to get around when there isn’t much public transportation and tourism infrastructure to allow that. I definitely think the country is worth a visit though!
Such a shame that a country which played the most important role in the Balkans is now lagging behind its neighbors when it comes to tourism. However it sounds like planning in advance, including the transportation, is the best way to enjoy the country.
Thanks for the honest views on Serbia. I’m still interested in visiting someday, but since currently Andy and I are both without valid drivers licenses, it’ll have to wait until we can resolve that issue.
Great overview of travel in Serbia! I understand the challenges, though it sounds like a fascinating destination – if you come prepared to road trip!
I actually think that after reading this post I may buy tickets to Serbia instead of heading home from Armenia at the end of September!
You’ll definitely enjoy yourself. Despite some of the challenges I brought up, it’s a beautiful country!
Been to Serbia a couple of times while living in Bulgaria; I can second what you mention about the country having a hard time finding itself in the international traveling community. Same thing can be said for Bulgaria. There’s a lot there in terms of history, culture and beauty, but it’s also a place that is still somewhat solemn from all the heartbreak and tragedy in the past, and that’s something the people are still trying to find their way back from, I think.
Good stuff as always.
I can’t speak for the people of Serbia as a whole but the impression I got from many people was that they have put the troubles behind them… they just don’t know where to go now. Perhaps people are just happy living peacefully and freely for now and don’t need to think about the future if they’re enjoying the present. I’m not really sure but it will definitely be interesting to watch countries like Serbia to see how they develop in the next decade or so.
Hi there Michael. Pretty good overview on tourism issues in my homeland. Most of things you said are correct. Only thing I must object is concerning Kosovo churches, those are in fact churches which are part of Serbian Orthodox Church and part of important Serbian cultural heritage. The fact that Kosovo is on the road of independence, which is political issue and not the subject of travel talk, doesn’t mean that those churches in Kosovo are not part of Serbian cultural heritage offer. So please have that in mind when informing your readers about facts in traveling to Balkans. I know that this things can be a bit confusing for people not familiar with local political issues, but those are facts.
Regarding problems for reaching interesting tourist attractions such as Iron Gate, Golubac fortress, Devil’s Town… we had that in mind when starting our project Serbian Private Tours, although it’s a commercial project in its base we also had an idea to help travelers to reach all of those places we offer even without our service, and out of that reason we placed detailed maps for each tour with itinerary and detailed points on the rout which are to be visited, with links to websites of local accommodation or other important venues. Our main goal is to help to all of those who are interested to meet Serbia. Those with bigger budget and with the desire for comfort will use our service, but all the others can rely on our tours as a source of information where to go and what to see. They can always ask us for advice or instructions.
Hi Miljan. With regard to the independence of Kosovo, I know it’s a tricky issue and many people (particularly Serbs) believe strongly that it is still part of the country. While I’ve based my position on the view of the international community, which is that it is a separate country, you’re completely right that the culture there is part of the history of Serbia and worth seeing to experience the complete cultural experience.
I’m also really pleased to hear that you’re helping visitors to see some of the more remote locations in Serbia. I think the more that tourist organisations in the country understand the difficulties for travellers, the better it will be for everyone! Good luck!
Kosovo is Serbia.We Serbs really don’t like when someone says that kosovo is not Serbian.We almost defended Europe from Turks on Kosovo,that is our capito,home of serbain people.(:
It’s a tricky issue and I spoke with a lot of Serbs who say the same thing as you. People are very passionate about the role of Kosovo in the Balkans. For my writings, I go with the United Nations definition which is that Kosovo is independent of Serbia and is a country in its own right. But I know that overlooks a lot of the cultural and historical aspects.
It is simply not true that by the United Nations definition Kosovo is an independent country. As matter of fact Kosovo is not a member of the United Nations. Despite being recognized as a country by currently most powerful countries in the world its self proclaimed independence is illegal based on the international law that most powerful countries abide to only when it is in their adventage. Otherwise they break it. Just to give you few examples: Kosovo self proclaimed independence is legal according to some but those of Abhazia and South Osethia or Cremea are not.
I understand that you are having the same political position as the country that you come from when it comes to Kosovo, and I have no problem with that but your particular statement about Kosovo and the UN is false, and is nothing but your personal political stance.
Therefore, impo in your blog about tourism you should concentrate on tourism or at least state the correct facts about other topics you wish to discuss.
I’m a Serb – Please don’t speak in eveyone’s name – it’s fine to have your own opinion, but it’s not fine to say it as if everyone agrees with you. I certainly don’t.
Serbia is at such an important cultural cross roads, the geography, the food, culture, people, hospitality, the various festivals.
You will be VERY Pleasantly Surprised by what you will see, learn and certain to share the growing crowd of people signing Serbia and the other nations of former Yugoslavia as Great Travel Destinations.
And in Closing = With All Due Respect = KOSOVO IS SERBIA, and the fact that it is an active contemporary social / political / cultural debate, which addresses many serious political concerns that bare a variety of implications related to national sovereignty and is commonly mentioned by many Serbians living in the diaspora e.g. athletes, actors, and other celebrates further illustrates the fact that one cannot divorce the fact that it is a deep and meaningful topic that can’t be ignored = WHITE ELEPHANT!
i.e. “When in Rome do as the Romans” = When in Serbia or the Balkans please go to learn about the great people, the passion and energy of the whole region and appreciate the overall vigor!
You’re right – learning about the people and the region is really important in this part of the world. You have to understand some of the context to really appreciate it!
Kosovo is occupied part of Serbia.
As for the churches, ofcourse they are part of Serbian and NOT Albanian heritage simply because they weren’t there when the churches were build and they are infact Muslims. Some of Serbian monastery’s in Kosovo are 700 y.o. and the mosques are much much “younger”. That’s something to think about when you’re debating about comlivated relationships in region, isn’t it ?
Great stories man. Come again
One of the best insight travel posts about Serbia. Great work!
I am glad you have had a nice time here. 🙂
Wish you all the best!
My background is Serbian however I was born in Canada. Still, very passionate about my heritage and history though. The Kosovo topic is very sensitive to us. The churches and ancient monasteries that are scattered throughout Kosovo are Serbian. It wasn’t until the Ottoman Empire invaded the Balkans (namely Serbia) that Kosovo was transformed. The Albanian population moved into Kosovo from Albania and joined the Ottoman Turks. Serbs were persecuted. There were many hard fought battles in Kosovo by the Serbs. It’s really where the cradle of our culture began. Too many in global community don’t know the history, they only know what was taught to them by CNN. Here’s a quick summary with an example from today… You own a house and rent out an apartment to one person. Several years later, that one person has a family and invites all of their relatives to live within that apartment. You allow it and resume collecting rent. Suddenly they don’t want to pay anymore and claim your apartment as their posession. An ‘independent’ apartment in your home. You don’t allow it simply because you’ve worked hard and it’s your home! You try to kick them out or get them to continue paying rent. The city and all other municipalities gang up on you and force you to give it up to them. The city shuts off your power until you submit and then opens a municpal office in your home to make sure that you can’t do anything. You get the idea. 😉
You can speak to management teams live in person, on the telephone, or even via Online forms and
email. Banja Vrujci is well known base for the preparation of many sports clubs.
The first thing you should do when it comes to planning
for your rental shopping experience is to put your
thoughts down in writing.
Your professional design should be capable of capturing the attention of your site visitors
and having good navigation will help them to explore your site in detail.
You should contact the customer service team for a design company.
After making a mark with its unmatched designs & development strengths, the company is fast emerging as a prominent Website Design Company Delhi as well.
September Birth Flower For that extra touch when you give
your September mothers ring, consider getting aster or morning glory flowers to
go along with it. The newly wedded couple can spend hours
in the garden and just be themselves. Upgrade the windows
with fabric ribbons, beautiful magnetic pins and paper craft butterflies.
The fact you didnt know where to go in Serbia doesnt reflect real picture of the contry and its beauties… Sometimes google just doesnt know everything… Doesnt it???
Hey Maja. The point I was trying to make in this article is that I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I did lots of research and had a long list of places I wanted to see (many of them not famous). The problem I had was that the public transport wasn’t adequate to get to many of these sites that could be great for tourists to visit. I really think you need a car to go outside the main cities because there isn’t enough infrastructure otherwise.
Michael, i have travelled throughout serbia extensively, speak a fair bit of the language and will visit again soon, i am English and can i say your ignorance regarding Kosovo is all too common and quite frankly your assertions are dangerously misleading! The UN’s position is that Kosovo is an autonomous region of Serbia, unless all members of the security council vote for it to be an independent state it shall remain so and with Russia being 1 of the 5 permanent members that isn’t going to happen any time soon. We can argue all day over the countries and organisations that do/ don’t recognise Kosovo as an independent state but that is the position of the UN! And a word to the wise, pay respect to your hosts by not arguing with them over the status of the Kosovo region, it may be best to avoid conversations regarding the recent wars & conflicts of the region all together to save upsetting or angering people.
Serbia as a tourist resource is not sufficiently presented and exploited must still plenty to do in the schools of tourist workers and investing money in this area.
İt s amazing beatifull country and nice people..I was there last year.By the way I ll tell u my experience on Avis Office in Nicola Tesla Airport.I rent eco car over internet for 112 Euro which was fully paid.İt was fully paid therefore I never tought there was a game or hidden cost.They asked me sign on computer screen to get the car.I didnt see any papers..I never ask them extra insurance or what ever.But when I returned my country they withdrawed 500 euro from my card.They took my signature from computer and prepared fake bills wchich includes 5-6 different services which I never asked them..Pls never Rent a Car in Nicola Tesla Avis office.This is real thing happened me…I called them and asked they said ” this cost comes from winter tires insurance,IT SERVİCE?SWDS service ?Bla bla bla….Car rent 112 USD ,winter tires and other extra things cost me 500 Euro even I never asked them ..İf u go there never use Nicola Tesla Airport Avis Office,they cheat the people…
It is beautiful, historic and SAFE. Everyone should visit and truly rest.
We just was in Serbia, but only for two days becouse we are going to Greece on vacation and Serbia is just stop point. But that was great experience. First day we was sightseeing the Belgrade and Belgrade is really cool city. But second day great guy from http://taxionline.rs take us to private tour to Uvac canyon and that was amazing road trip. Next year we will come in Serbia to spenh hole vacation there.
But don’t forget that is Serbia much chipper for tourists than Croatia.
That’s a good point! It’s a really affordable country and great value – particularly food. You can get an amazing meal for a very reasonable amount!
I love the fact that your post includes modern elements and tradition. Serbia is a country full of tradition, history, culture, and no matter where you come from, you have to experience it!
It seems to me that Serbia deserves to be discovered. I would go at least once here. If you were not excited, you should visit their neighbors, Romania. Here you will travel easily from city to city. You will have really interesting places to visit. Romania is a friendly country with tourists and prices are really good.
Do not ever travel to Serbia. Serbia is a country full of thieves and beggars. Yesterday morning I arrived in Belgrade and as it was Sunday all exchange offices were closed. A guy in the street approached me asked if I would like to exchange euros for dinars. He counted the dinars and I counted again. Then he said let’s count it again to make sure everything is all right. I gave him a 100 euros and he gave me the dinars but he pulled out the bills from the bottom. After two steps I realized I was cheated for approximately 90 euros. So, my advice is never never go to Serbia and if you must then keep your hand on your wallet all the time and try to leave as soon as possible.
You are all welcome to visit Serbia. Great people and excellent street food. Lots of beautiful places to visit, cheep food and vacation. Beware of thieves (taxi drivers, exchange of money..etc), they exist like in any other country.. Ask for taxi, or vacation on several places and take best offer. Go to night clubs, there are lots of beautiful girls and boys.
It’s weird to me how people think we are at war, while in the meantime we are throwing the best parties in Europe, enjoying amazing food and showing off with our great culture. Visit!
Do not ever travel to Serbia. Serbia is a country full of thieves and beggars. Yesterday morning I arrived in Belgrade and as it was Sunday all exchange offices were closed. A guy in the street approached me asked if I would like to exchange euros for dinars. He counted the dinars and I counted again. Then he said let’s count it again to make sure everything is all right. I gave him a 100 euros and he gave me the dinars but he pulled out the bills from the bottom. After two steps I realized.
It’s weird to me how people think we are at war, while in the meantime we are throwing the best parties in Europe, enjoying amazing food and showing off with our great culture. Visit!