When I decided to travel to Serbia for the first time (that was a long time ago…) you couldn’t find any advice to travel there, but recommendations not to travel to that part of the world. The war was over, NATO’s aggression was still very recent and the internet didn’t share too many links about the region.
Today it is easier, tourism has also arrived in Serbia and even the least informed people know that all the Balkans are not only breathtakingly beautiful but a safe place to explore and also a good and economical holiday destination. Of course, you can simply fly to Belgrade and enjoy your stay without knowing where you are.
The advice I give you here is for travelers like me, who enjoy the preparations and are inspired by the road, rather than the journey itself!
If you want to get the most out of an experience in Serbia, these are my tips:
1. Read some Serbian history
Serbia is a country with an important history and anything you see will be loaded with it! I suggest you read at least this historical summary, which will allow you to put what you see into context.
2. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet
Learn to read its characters or at least print it and take it with you. Many signs are in Cyrillic, although in Belgrade, where large communities of Hungarians (in the northern province of Vojvodina) or Albanians (in the province of Kosovo and Metohija) live, you will find many things written in the Latin alphabet as well.
3. Learn Serbian cooking
Tourists love the Serbian culinary style: it’s absolutely fantastic! In this approach to Serbian cuisine, you’ll find an explanation of all the dishes served in restaurants, a good guide to drinks and gastronomic habits. (What to say to vegetarians? If you decide to eat meat once in a lifetime, do it in Serbia!…)
Since the food is so good, you will surely come back from Serbia wanting to cook the dishes yourself. Here are four of my favorite links to Serbian recipes:
- astal – Vera de la Vojvodina’s recipes
- palachinka – Serbian cuisine with stunning photos
- mezze – my favorite Serbian cooking magazine (traditional recipes from each issue are my favorite)
- moje grne – The great collection of recipes by Dragana de Bor
- Љубав на први први залогај – recipes from Dragana, Belgrade
- kad ja kuvam – Irena from Montenegro offers great recipes with great photos
Formal aspects of Serbia
Here you have general information for your administrative procedures when entering and leaving Serbia. It’s not complicated, but it’s nice to have everything in one place:
List of foreign embassies in Serbia (by country)
Summary of the visa regime by country
Foreigners must register on arrival in Serbia (if you are in a hotel, they will do it automatically for you) with the competent authorities (according to the place of residence of the foreigner – the police department). It is not a big problem and the papers do not cost too much.
It’s never too much to check the customs formalities (here’s a summary). As a tourist, you shouldn’t have problems with customs agents. Make sure your passport is stamped, which will avoid problems when you leave the country.
1. Photographing military installations is prohibited.
2. There is still anti-Serbian propaganda, and anything unpleasant that happens in the country is magnified in the Western media (although there are some recommended websites like de-construct and Serbia’s Ambassador to the world). Remember that statistically you are more likely to be assaulted in a western city than anywhere else in Serbia – be respectful and you will be respected!
3. Don’t take part in debates about politics and avoid giving your opinion on issues such as the Balkan wars, religion, Kosovo and gay parades.
All over the Balkans people are still very sensitive to war related issues and if you are not fully integrated you will not be able to understand 100%. So keep the advice in your diary and not in the local kafana.
If you are interested in following Serbian politics (and it is certainly entertaining) here is a summary of the political parties, their leaders and ideas. Apart from these general links, the next posts will be about four itineraries to discover Serbia.
With these basic notions, you just need to choose your itinerary and go on a trip!