Country Profile: Serbia
Currency: Serbian Dinar ($1= ~94 Dinars check for changes)
Visa Required?: Check here for all countries
National Train: Serbian Railways
National Bus: Serbian Bus from Belgrade
Random Fact: The disputed territory of Kosovo is in southern Serbia. Serbian’s recognize the area as part of Serbia, but people in the region consider themselves to be from Kosovo.
Overview: Serbia is a small but historically rich country in the Balkans of eastern Europe. Serbs can trace their history back many years. Passing from ancient times up until recent decades, Serbia has been at the crossroads of some major historical events. Serbia has been influenced by Romans, Turks, and of course the Slavic people from the region. Although the country is landlocked, it is only a relatively recent phenomenon. In fact, Serbia was up until around 20 years ago part of a larger country called Yugoslavia. Belgrade, the current capital city of Serbia, was the former capital of Yugoslavia. It was also one of the wealthier cities of the country. During the Balkan war, Yugoslavia was split into multiple countries and Serbia became the modern state that it is today.
How to get around?
I would say that both buses and trains are equal in Serbia. As with most of the Balkan nations, most transportation is done on a local level. Unlike other areas, tickets and schedules are best found at the actual station. If you are able to find times and prices on a website, then you may want to confirm that they have not changed.
What is it like to cross the border into Serbia?
Unfortunately, Serbia is one of those nations where border crossing can change depending on the officer who checks your passport and the mood that they happen to be in on a particular day. Although I passed through almost probably free, I heard a few stories from friends that did not go the same.
Crossing into Serbia was easy. The officer got on our bus then took our passports to stamp, then returned them promptly. (Although police strangely stopped us a mile down the road and checked only my friend and my passport and asked us what we were doing). On the way out I could tell that the officer wanted to prod me some and ask me some questions. As she took my passport, she looked up multiple times and looked back through my page. Then she asked me something in Serbian to which I promptly responded ‘nyet’ meaning ‘no’ in their language. I later gathered that she was asking me if I spoke Serbian because as I responded she looked at me and asked: “Da or Nyet” (Yes or no). Looking frustrated she handed me back my passport as the bus rolled by.
A friend of mine crossed from Serbia to Bosnia and then crossed back into Serbia with me. He told me how he was nearly strip searched when he crossed. The border agents took him and his luggage into a room, then took all of his things out. One of the agents took his wallet and looked through it. Basically, they were looking for a bribe. They were not hesitant to hold up the entire bus for 30+ minutes as they ‘interrogated’ him either.
For me there were no problems, for him and others they were. It seems that the people most likely to be bothered are people with foreign passports, especially if it is believed that they have money. Thus, expect the best, but be prepared to deal with a little old-fashioned bureaucracy.
*Tip: When crossing the border do not carry large amounts of cash. If you do find a good hiding place. Also, try to keep a low profile.
How to budget for Serbia?
Eastern Europe is known for being considerably cheaper than western Europe. Therefore, your Dollars and Euros will travel farther.
My hostel in Belgrade was quite nice and it cost 3-4 euros 0r $4-5 per night. Food was no more than $4-5 per meal. A haircut near my hostel was $3. I think that you could easily do Serbia for $20-30 per day if you did not go crazy.