I’m back in the UK re-cooperating and saving, ready for my next international trip to Paris in November. I reflected on some of my travels this week, and one country that particularly surprised me was Serbia. I spent almost 2 weeks in Belgrade and Novi Sad. Here’s my advice on what to know before you go – a guide to Belgrade and beyond.
Serbia – What to know before you go
1. AVOID TAXI’S AT THE AIRPORT – They will rip you off! You don’t need to get a taxi anyway, the A1 and 72 bus take you directly to the city centre.
2. DO GET DINARS OUT AT THE AIRPORT – Very few bus drivers and taxi drivers will accept Euro’s, and if they do, you are likely to be overcharged. Check out this article on TripAdvisor about Serbian money exchange.
3. DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER! They will tell you it’s ok, but quite often it’s not! Even be aware of ordering juice such as cordial, because it will be made with tap water, not bottled. Buy yourself bottled water on the first day and stick to that.
4. MEAT BASED DIET! If you are a vegetarian, you will find food difficult, because it is a very heavily meat-based diet. Be aware of salads that may be washed in tap water and very smokey restaurants.
5. THEY STILL SMOKE IN RESTAURANTS, BARS AND CLUBS! Be aware that small pubs can get extremely smokey, and it’s normal for everyone to smoke while you are eating too! Take your inhalers everywhere if you are asthmatic, and go outside for fresh air if you need to.
Breakfast in Boutique!
6. GLOOPY HOT CHOCOLATE! If you order a hot chocolate, be aware that it could arrive as thick as a chocolate pudding! I looked at mine with a strange face and my friend Matthew said to the waiter ‘We asked for hot chocolate!’ He spooned some out, slopped it back in and said, ‘yes, hot chocolate!
7. RAKIYA IS STRONG! You will, no doubt want to try the local drink Rakiya. Be warned that it is very strong and likely to make you sick if you have too much and are not used to it. Please note that I did sample one taste of Rakiya, but this was enough for me, and the Rakiya was not the reason for me getting sick in Serbia! I know that some of you reading my blog will question this! 😉
8. DON’T GET SHORT-CHANGED! Sometimes bar-tenders and restaurants don’t give you the full change, but they should. You can then choose to tip or not, which is usually 10%. They especially try this on with drunk foreigners!
9. DON’T MENTION THE WAR! Be aware that many of the people you meet will have lived through the Yugoslav wars, and it’s usually a topic best avoided. You will see some of the old hospitals and the bombed out Yugoslav ministry of defence buildings can still be seen in central Belgrade.
10. THEY PARTY HARD! Belgrade is full of amazing nightlife (see my Belgrade nightlife blog), and you can keep going to the early hours. If you’ve got the stamina, head to the foam party in the fortress! They also turn boats into ‘nightspots’ called ‘splays’ so that you can party down the Danube!
Where to stay in Belgrade
If you are on a budget, I recommend several hostels in Belgrade which are extremely comfortable, including Skardaliya Sunrise and Trip and Sleep. There are also several good options for apartments on booking.com.