Traveling to Serbia: Everything you need to know before you visit

Serbia has always been one of the most important political players in the Balkan region but has always been overlooked by travelers visiting the Balkan. This was the case even during the peak of tourism in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s and I always wondered why. Correct, Serbia is landlocked between the Adriatic coastline on the east and the Black Sea coast on the west, with Hungary and the tourist hub Budapest up north. Obviously, most people just go around Serbia to get to the Adriatic Coast or to some of the stunning summer towns at the Black Sea. Some people even pass through on their way to some of Greece’s popular beaches. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that traveling to Serbia isn’t going to be an amazing experience.

Traveling to Serbia might not lead you to any tropical beaches but it will show you a rich cultural life with rural market towns that still hold on to traditional ways, jaw-dropping landscapes, forests, and remote, hidden monasteries in the endless lush green hills. However, if you’re like me, you will see the lack of visitors as an advantage. The tourist attractions aren’t crowded and the prices for everything is relatively low.

Traveling to Serbia

Traveling to Serbia for the first time? Read these tips!

Do you know that feeling when you have a favorite meal that you just make for yourself without trying to impress anyone? That simple thing that you don’t think anyone else would find it delicious. And if someone actually likes it, you think they’re being polite. That’s exactly how I felt traveling around Serbia. Serbians are extremely proud of their country and their history. However, I couldn’t help to think that they always wondered ‘what was this guy thinking coming here?’

When traveling to a different country, there are always certain dos and don’ts. In Serbia, there are a lot of dos and only a few don’ts! Serbians are a bunch of cheerful, easy going people that want to celebrate every occasion. Sometimes they don’t even need an occasion but they want to spread their joy with others. That’s one reason why most of them are really fun to be around.

traveling to Serbia

Don’t talk about politics

This might sound a bit odd but you have to remember the late 20th-century bombings. The wounds from these events are still fresh and a lot of people get an outburst of emotions when talking about them. Serbians are generally opinionated when it comes to politics and this can easily spark an argument. Hence, my suggestion is to avoid talking about politics completely. Especially avoid talking about Kosovo’s recent independence- that’s also a painful topic.

Tea for English=Coffee for Serbians

Just like that title says, whatever tea is for England, coffee is for Serbia. So, if someone invites you over to their place for a cup of coffee, that’s a completely common thing. The most common Serbian invitation for a friendly chat is ‘Svrati na kafu’, which literally means stop by for coffee. The array of different coffee shops in every big city and small town are just another proof of Serbians’ love for coffee.

If you’re traveling around the region, also check out my article about traveling to Albania and traveling to Montenegro.

The food

traveling to Serbia

Just like its Balkan neighbors, Serbians eat a lot of meat. However, they also have a lot of vegetarian options even though meat remains a central part of Serbian culture. The typical breakfast is burek and some other things you must try are: Karađorđeva šnicla, Sarma (cabbage rolls), Punete Paprike (stuffed peppers), Pljeskavica, Kebabs, Prebranac (baked beans), and kajmak. Once you’re done, wash that up with some good wine or Rakija, Serbia’s favorite hard liquor.

Rakija is usually made from pears, apricots, peaches or plums, with the last one being the most common version. If you haven’t tried it before, it’s safe to start with a medovača, which is softened with honey. It comes in tiny, long glasses called čokanjčići and instead of Cheers, you say ‘Živeli’. Finally, don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of people drinking this for (or before) breakfast. Some people consider this morning dosage to be good for one’s health.

The amazing nightlife

belgrade night

 

Speaking of rakija, Serbians are one of those people that know how to party and have a good time. The two largest cities, Belgrade and Novi Sad are famous for their wild nightlife. Belgrade was even named as the city with the best nightlife by Lonely Planet. If you’re a party-seeking traveler, Serbia is one destination you certainly wouldn’t want to miss (Belgrad is also one of the best stag destinations in Europe). If you want to see some more suggestions for your trip to the capital, check out this list of things to do in Belgrade.

Related: everything you need to know before traveling to Romania

The best time to visit Serbia

serbia waterfall

Like most countries in Europe, Serbia has four distinct seasons and the average air temperature is 12 °C. Autumn is longer than spring, winter is not that sharp with only 20-25 days per year when the temperature is below zero. Finally, summers are super-hot for European standards, with July and August often seeing temperatures above 40°C. The best time for traveling to Serbia would be spring, between the months of April and June. If you’re into winter sports, on the other hand, then you will probably want to visit between December and March.

The most famous events are the  EXIT Festival in Novi Sad in July, the Dragačevo Trumpet Festival (Gypsy brass bands) in Guča in August, the Belgrade Music Festival (classical) in October, and of course the Orthodox Easter. Visiting any of these events is an extraordinary experience but keep in mind that accommodation prices are at a premium level during these events.

Getting around Serbia

traveling to Serbia

Serbia has a well-developed public transport network for commuting between the big cities. However, Serbia also has a lot of hidden gems that are off-the-beaten-track but getting to these places might be a bit tricky. This is the case mainly because the public transport network was built for locals rather than tourists. However, the best choice to get places is still the bus. Trains are cheaper but also slower and if you ask me, the best way for traveling to Serbia is by car. Getting help for directions might be tricky in the remote areas because there aren’t many English speakers outside of the big cities. However, locals will do everything they can to help you get where you want to get. If you want to rent a car and get off the beaten track in Serbia, use this link and save up to 30% on your car rental.

To get the best deal for flying to Serbia, save up to 50% with Air France’s Discover the World at a Low Price.

The prices of food and accommodation

The average salary in Serbia is around 350 USD which means everything is more than affordable. The capital Belgrade is the most expensive city but even there you can find a cup of coffee for €1-1,50, get a meal for €5-7 and a hostel dorm for €10-18, and a hotel for from €25.

Related: everything you need to know about traveling to Bulgaria.

The best places to visit

traveling to Serbia

Like I already mentioned, the most exciting cities are probably Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Nis. All of them have a distinct identity compared to the cities in neighboring countries and you can have a great time visiting these vibrant cities. However, in my opinion, the best places in Serbia lie off-the-beaten-track.

Taking a trip along the famous Danube River will lead you to some amazing places like Golubac Castle, Lepenski Vir, and the Iron Gates at Đerdap. Furthermore, there are a lot of breathtaking remote monasteries located in the middle of nowhere surrounded by countless miles of lush green forests. My personal favorites are Studenica, Šumadija, and Manasija. In the North, in Vojvodina, you will find something completely different, especially if you’re an architecture lover. Subotica has an array of remnants of Habsburg architecture.

golubac

If you’re a nature lover you will adore the mountain regions of Zlatibor and Kopaonik in the Southwest, especially during the winter. Further up north, next to the Croatian border, you’ll find the so-called Jewel of Serbia: Fruška Gora Mountain. This region includes the Fruška Gora National park filled with amazing views, hidden monasteries and wineries. If you fancy a glass of good wine, this is probably the best place in Serbia (and arguably the region).

traveling to Serbia

Finally, no trip to Serbia is complete without visiting Mokra Gora. Mokra Gora literally means wet forest and offers some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes in Serbia. The region also hosts a village that has been restored to its original 19th-century appearance. Something you must do while visiting is taking the train through the valley and enjoy some of the most spectacular views of the Balkan. 

If you don’t want to put the effort into planning all of these activities on your own, you can always see the best of Serbia with these amazing Insight Vacations tours and get up to15% off!

serbia danube nature

Helpful resources for traveling to Serbia

Looking for travel insurance for your upcoming Trip to Serbia? Compare travel insurance offers from different companies before booking.

To get the best deal for flying to Serbia, save up to 50% with Air France’s Discover the World at a Low Price. If you’re a student, get the cheapest flights to Europe on STA travel.

Use my Booking discount codes to save on accommodation in Serbia. If you want to stay in some of the best hotels in the country, use this Radisson Hotels special offer to save up to 10% on your stay.

Are you looking to rent a car in Serbia? This Sixt special offer will get you 15% off on all car rentals in the country.

A few words for the end

That’s briefly, the story of Serbia. A country located in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, which is unable to capitalize on the tourist increase in the region. Unfortunately, Serbia is struggling to define itself within the international travel community but I hope this article proves that there are a lot of amazing things to see and do in this marvelous country. Finally, check out my article with the most common tourist scams in Eastern Europe before you visit.

Did you enjoy this article? Is traveling to Serbia something you might consider in the future? What was your favorite thing about Serbia? Let us know in the comments!

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40 thoughts on “Traveling to Serbia: Everything you need to know before you visit”

  1. Great post! I just got back from Croatia 3 weeks ago and yes, the war in the late 20th century is still a very sore point. I had a guide who explained about the difficulties between the Serbians and Croatians and what it was like for the very small population of the Serbians that do live in Croatia. Lots of similarities with their cuisine. Belgrade looks stunning and that waterfall!!! Amazing…..

    Reply
    • Yes, Serbians and Croats go way back. They speak the same language, eat the same food, listen to the same music but have different religions(Catholic and Orthodox Christianity). Both countries are amazing and super-underrated just like all other countries from the former Yugoslavia.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for sharing such a useful guide and gorgeous photos
    If visa was not an issue I would have visited Serbia in a heartbeat

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment, Mayuri! I’m really glad this article left such a strong impression on you 🙂

      Reply
    • Absolutely, Karolina! You’ll love it there, indeed. Not only is the food amazing but it’s also super cheap 😀

      Reply
  3. I read so much about places and yet never came across much dope on Serbia as a tourist friendly place. Your post just changed my perception about the place and I am totally in awe of it. It looks so beautiful and pocket friendly too. Such places should be given more limelight

    Reply
    • I’m really glad you could learn some new things from my article Aditi! Serbia is an amazing pocket-friendly, underrated place

      Reply
  4. I was hoping to go to Serbia on my last trip to Europe, but I ended up arranging home swaps in Croatia, so I went there instead. I’ll be back in 2020 and this time I won’t let the lack of home exchange opportunities dissuade me!

    Reply
    • Interesting Cori. It’s true that the number of home swaps used to be higher in Croatia but that’s increasing in Serbia too in recent years. I hope you get a chance to visit; you will have a lovely time 🙂

      Reply
  5. Serbia is so beautiful, I never knew! This is a great post for me, as I’ve not yet been but would like to. And I’ll also remember that Serbians like their coffee and not tea! Love the photos too.

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    • Indeed! I prefer the Italian coffee to the one you’ll get in Serbia but Serbia also has a lot things to offer that Italy doesn’t 🙂

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  6. I’ve been to Croatia many, many times but never to Serbia. I would like to visit as it does look beautiful. The food is very similar to Croatian food…..who doesn’t like a good stuffed pepper or some burek and Turkish coffee is a must!

    Reply
    • Hi Diana! Both countries are very similar. They have a similar culture, similar traditional food, and they speak the same language! Croatia has more beaches and summer vacation destinations, obviously but Serbia doesn’t have a shortage of spectacular places either!

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    • I bet he would! The food is amazing in Serbia but not just for meat lovers. They have amazing vegetarian dishes as well!

      Reply
  7. This is a very good post. I never knew about Serbia as a country. Its beautiful, and probably worth bookmarking when on a trip to eastern europe. I hope there are vegetarian food items available. I love the wet forest and the waterfall you mention.

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  8. Wow. This is such a lovely place. The food looks so delicious and the best part about it is that it is full of meat. Both the natural & manmade landscape look superb. Till now, Serbia meant only Novak Djokovic to me but now I know that there are so many great things.

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    • Yes, Novak Dzokovic made his country famous but there are certainly a lot of amazing things to see and do there 🙂

      Reply
  9. Thank you for sharing information with all of us. I am planning a trip to Serbia and this information helps a lot. Is it safe to self-drive around Serbia with family?

    Reply
    • Hello Pravin and I’m glad this post inspired you to visit Serbia. Yes, it’s pretty safe to drive around in Serbia, even with a family. I hope you have a great trip 🙂

      Reply
  10. HI Danikiteski,
    thanks for such superb well narrated post. your post convince me to visit Serbia and Yes I am planning to visit Serbia with family in Mid May-2019, I hope it will secured and forgettable time in Serbia with Family.

    Reply
  11. I’m going to train, to Serbia. It was very interesting to read your article. Thank you for sharing tips, writing prices and best places. Good luck

    Reply

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