The professional guide service introducing you to Belgrade & Serbia with care and affection!
Info & Tips
WITHOUT VISA TO SERBIA?
Local time is GMT + 1 hour. From end-March to end-October the time is GMT + 2 hrs. So, when it is 12.00 in Belgrade, it is noon in Paris, 6 am in New York, 11 am in London, 1pm in Athens.
Holidays are: 1-2 January (New Year), 7 January (Orthodox Christmas), 15 February (Constitution Day), 1-2 May (International Labour Day), Easter (from Good Friday till second day of Easter). Both Eastern and Christmas are celebrated according to Julian Calendar.
The current in Serbia is 220 Volts, with plugs of two round pins, as everywhere in southern Europe.
Business hours: Banks are open from 8 am to 8 pm weekdays (8 am - 3 pm on Saturday). Department stores and supermarkets are generally open from 8 am to 8 pm (or 9 pm) on weekdays, private shops usually from 8 am till noon and again from 4 pm - 8 pm, though most of them are open nonstop (the luxurious shops selling articles of clothing and footwear in Knez Mihailova street stay open till 9 pm). On Saturday, most government offices are closed, albeit shops are open until 3 pm.
Belgrade boasts a selection of excellent museums that explore every aspect of military history and life. Museum opening times vary greatly (usually 9 am - 5 pm), but almost all are closed on Mondays.
Many hotels have direct dial telephone facilities, some of them offer additional services: fax, Internet, secretarial services. Check the unit charge as telephone charges can vary greatly. Although not so widespread, there are phone booths in central Belgrade area, but you will need a card ('Halo kartica") purchased in post offices or at some tobacconists. If you call abroad you have to dial:
Stamps can be purchased in post offices and at some newspaper kiosks. The postal service can be highly erratic and should not be relied upon. If you need something to arrive safely, it is advisable to use a western courier service.
As to the clothing and temperatures, winter in the northern and central regions can be cold and solid with temperatures as low as -10 degrees centigrade (February average temperature -0.3), waterproof footwear is essential. It is best to take a thick overcoat and plenty of removable layers. A warm hat, gloves, a scarf and warm socks are essential. During summer months Belgrade is usually pretty hot (July average temperature 22.5 degrees centigrade), either dry and sunny or wet and overcast, and the weather can also vary significantly in a day's time(when it does rain in the summer, it is usually not for very long). Rooms with individually controlled air-condition are available in all better hotels.
According to some opinions, public transportation in Belgrade is more public than transportation! There is no metro, so you can try to use buses, trams and trolleybuses. These can be very full, literally packed with people, especially in rush hour! (Watch out for pickpockets!).
Taxi transportation is reliable, but some drivers tend to charge extravagant rates when transporting foreigners. Ask your hotel reception about rates and let them call you a taxi. When hail a taxi on the street, make sure the taximeter is not on from the previous ride. Drivers must turn the taximeter on when passengers enter the cab and turn it off when they reach the final destination. You may also prearrange a pickup by calling a cab company and giving a location, pick up time, and destination.
Serbia is a country where credit cards are widely accepted now. However, it is safest to bring money in several forms - some cash, traveler's cheques (which, if stolen, can be replaced), and, if you have them, credit/debit cards. You can use your Visa, MasterCard or Dinners to pay accommodation in hotels, restaurants and better shops.
Exchange offices and banks abound, particularly in the center and around tourist areas. All licensed exchange offices are properly signed ('Menjacnica | Exchange'). They don't charge handling fee for these services. Always ask for a receipt and always count the money you received! You can change some money immediately after your arrival in Belgrade: there are many exchange offices in the arrival hall of Belgrade Airport and one can be found at the exit area of the Central railway station.
Serbiancurrency is the Dinar. Paper banknotes are: 5.000, 2.000, 1.000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 dinars. Coins: 20, 5, 2 and 1 dinar.
Part of the joy of visiting Serbia is sampling the authentic cuisine of the country and eating out to catch local flavors is for many visitors even the highest spot of their stay. When spending time in Belgrade or elsewhere in Serbia, try some local tastes. Maybe "they don't make coffee, pizza or hamburgers like they do back home", but take it in your stride. Be prepared for difference and enjoy it. Prices? This is probably the most tempting part of the subject. You can go to the finest restaurants, pick out the most expensive dish, and still end up spending less than you would on a humdrum meal back home. If you are a vegetarian then this might not be the city for you!
Serbian cuisine is a
reflection of geographical and historical influences in this area, where
Oriental and Slav tastes are dominant. Local favorites are cevapcici (small
rolls of mixed minced meat), shishkebab, pljeskavica (meat
patties; minced meat sprinkled with spices and grilled like beef steak), all kinds of grilled meat,
sarma (stuffed cabbage, minced beef and pork with rice enveloped in
pickled cabbage or
vine leaves), stuffed peppers, Serbian beans, podvarak (roast meat
in sauerkraut), moussaka (minced pork or beef mixed with eggs
and potatoes and then baked), gibanica (pastry leaves mixed with eggs,
cheese and then baked), corn bread, etc. The famous home grown spirits are slivovica (plum
brandy) and lozovaca (grappa). The choice of wines ranges between
Mediterranean and continental types.
Should you be lucky enough to be invited eating with a Serbian family, do not hesitate to accept! Such an invitation is always sincere, eating home-cooking always opens a whole new spectrum of tastes and flavors, and slivovica offered to the guest in a Serbian home is always pure, strong and natural!
The glasses are often touched with the toast: "Ziveli!" (Cheers, To your health!).
Part and parcel of any travel abroad is the question of what to take home. Classical tourist souvenirs ("touristy" and tacky!) are almost non-existent, so much the better, but you can find lots of genuine handicrafts, mostly embroidery, wickerwork and woodwork products, folk weave, knitting sweaters, needle and crochet work. Leather is very good value. The shoe shops stock up-to-date styles at very reasonable prices. Handbags, suitcases and jackets are a good bargain. Copperware and filigree silver make good gifts, and so does good Serbian crystal or plate glass (vase, ashtray, tea set) or set of china.
You would probably try to find something 'typically' Serbian, like traditional rustic opanak (pl. opanci) - a simple shallow leather footwear, cut according to the shape of the foot, with slits through which are passed the strips creasing the leather. They are usually thinly split thongs or cords from twisted goat hair. The peak is its most characteristic part: it is popularly known as nose, or nozzle and got its shape from its maker. Today there are not many craftsmen to make opanci (even though they continue to be worn in some rural parts of Serbia) and can occasionally be found in market-places, at local fairs and ethno shops.
For art lovers there are many Art galleries in Belgrade selling paintings, sculptures, and icons made in traditional Orthodox manner. Those interested in modern Serbian design will purchase fine, though somewhat overpriced, 'urban souvenirs' from the specialized shop ‘Belgrade Window’ on Republic Square: various items of artistic value or for everyday use - ceramic, glass, T-shirts, organizers, rucksacks, cases for spectacles and keys inspired by Belgrade motifs, usually with impressed city emblems. If you prefer good ethno souvenirs visit the shop of the Ethnographic Museum at Studentski trg 13 or a kiosk situated in the underground pedestrian passage of Terazije (in front of the Moskva Hotel).
A few more things you will undoubtedly like to take back home with you: Serbian 'slivovica' (plum brandy), a bottle of perfect wine from Vojvodina (the most appreciated wine sorts are produced in Vrsac or Palic vineyards), and a few attractive postcards of Belgrade you haven’t managed to send during your busy days in Serbia!
While in Belgrade and Serbia you might be needing a car. It shouldn't be a problem to rent one by day, week or month, even though there are just a few reliable rental companies in Belgrade. Traveling on the road can be a pretty nerve-racking experience in Serbia and before you head out to drive you have to know the situation. Let's be honest: this is not an ideal place for foreign motorists wishing to explore Serbia by driving around the country.
Care should be taken when driving out of main towns and the
highway, because few byroads are signed or properly marked and some of
them are poorly maintained. Serbian drivers have
a reputation for fast and sometimes reckless driving, which can be quite
off-putting for foreign motorists. Guarded parking places and garages
are scarce in Belgrade or elsewhere in the country. Yet even this doesn't
fully explain all the difficulties you might face. Most
policemen and service shop owners don't speak English; good and up-to-date maps are still hardly
available; auto thefts are not 'unusual
and rare incidents' ... You can avoid
all these and other similar problems by renting a chauffeur driven car or minivan. Maybe it
doesn't sound very romantic, but it would be a perfectly practical solution.
Serbs in general are open, friendly and direct. Life in Serbia is in many ways the very antithesis of life in North America or Northern Europe: it is unhurried, loud and smoke-filled. There is, however, little point in getting irritated and even less point in trying to complain. It may take a few days to adapt but it is by far the best policy to 'go native' and enjoy the leisurely pace.
This is a land where hospitality has been refined to an art-form, where courtesy dictates that a stranger should be offered a cup of dark coffee (Turska kafa) and a cigarette at the slightest pretext. At times the hospitality can threaten to overwhelm. Nowadays, there is no chance that you will be tied to a radiator, but you may still feel as though you have been kidnapped by an overenthusiastic host. At best this means that you'll be force-fed delicious food, at worst you may have to spend an evening listening to your hosts about their kids.
When people meet they say their last name, shake hands firmly, and say "Drago me je" (I am pleased, Pleased to meet you). Men wait for a woman to extend her hand. If they know each other, they shake hands or kiss lightly on alternating cheeks, usually three times, saying, "Zdravo" (Hello), or "Dobar dan" (Good day, morning/afternoon), followed by the question 'Kako ste?' (How are you?). The correct reply is: 'Hvala, dobro, a vi?' (Thanks, I'm well, and you?). Younger people rise when greeting an older person, and men always rise when they greet women. Use professional and conventional titles (Gospodin for Mr. and Gospodja for Mrs.), followed by surnames (e.g. gospodin Petrovic, gospodja Petrovic). People do not refer to each other by first names unless they are family or close friends.
Eye contact is valued when greeting people and, generally, it is the way Serbs show their interest. Looking away may be perceived as a sign of boredom or outright rudeness. A romantic interest is usually implied when the eyes of two strangers meet and linger.
Don't be surprised if
your Serbian colleagues and friends stand much closer to you than you are used
to or even feel comfortable with. Personal space is here smaller than
that of northern Europeans and significantly smaller than that of Americans.
During line-ups (banks, post offices etc.) you may experience some gentle
pushing and shoving; you can even see a person walk right up to the front of a
line and get served first because of the relationship he or she has with the
clerk. Queue jumping (a line crasher is locally called padobranac, paratrooper)
is not the 'crime' that it is in other countries. Although not very tolerant of
those who take advantage of the lack of strict queuing to get served first,
other people waiting may feel envy and even a certain admiration for someone who
"beats the system".
By Serbian custom the bill for an evening out is invariably paid by the host: the common foreign habit of sharing out payment round the table is looked upon as mean and not convivial, and visitors valuing their 'face' will do it discreetly elsewhere. A stranger is rarely allowed to play host to a native and may find, if he tries, that the bill has already beet settled by his Serbian 'guest'. A complete lack of non-smoking zones in restaurants could be a distinct inconvenience. Simply, the vast majority of the Serbian population smoke, and offering a cigarette is one of the first courtesies extended to strangers.
Only in Serbia the 'Slava' is being celebrated. The anniversary of a family saint's day (the most popular is St. Nicolas - December 19th, Sveti Nikola) is an opportunity to celebrate the faithfulness and witness of God's saints, commemorating the occasion when family's ancestors became Christians through the baptism. On the day of 'Slava' the family's home is open all the day ('Whoever stops by is welcome, Ko god dosao, dobro dosao'), there are guests (relatives, colleagues, friends, neighbors, anyone who might drop in), and the table is decorated with 'Kolach' (a kind of bread), candle and wheat. The central point of celebration is the breaking the Kolach at the table. The host ('Domacin') is happy to serve others, making sure every guest is satisfied and in a good mood. When invited to the "Slava' you can bring a small, symbolic gift for the host: a bottle of wine, an assortment of chocolates, flowers or something similar.
Belgrade is a remarkably safe city (observed by Lonely Planet Eastern Europe, 2001 edition). There are always people out, even late in the winter, and you will feel comfortable walking anywhere almost anytime, although it would be wise to avoid at night secluded places on the outskirts of town and large public parks.
Women traveling solo will be completely safe in Serbia, as much safe as any other travelers. They are unlikely to feel physically threatened, they only may have to fend off offers of attentions usually in discotheques and other similar places, very rarely on the streets.
There are no laws against homosexual activity and same-sex couples are tolerated, but the nature of society makes public displays of affection inadvisable.
Some spots in Belgrade are known for pickpockets (Republic Square, Knez Mihailova Street, Main Railway station, public transportation) so you should carry in your day pack only as much money as you need for the day. Leave the rest of your money, your airplane ticket, passport, and all other valuables in a safe deposit box at the reception desk of your hotel.
Begging is not wide-spread, though while sitting in open-air cafés around Republic Square you can be slightly annoyed by some Gypsies (locally recognized under the euphemistic name: Roma). As 'rich foreigners' you can attract their attention, but don't take notice of them! Nevertheless, they are not as aggressive as their 'colleagues' in most other countries.
Do not photograph neither police or military-guarded buildings (including the US or Israeli embassies). Amazingly, you won't be allowed to photograph downtown shopping centers (like City Passage) or some extravagant villas of Uzicka street in the prestigious and luxurious residential area of Dedinje!
So, do not worry about your safety in Belgrade too much, your biggest worry should be that you might not want to go back home!
There are several working tourist offices in Belgrade (information centers of Tourist Organization of Belgrade) that stock some free brochures (WELCOME TO BELGRADE, TOURIST MAP, THIS MONTH IN BELGRADE) and other travel related literature for sale, including an excellent CD - GOOD MORNING BELGRADE. Ask the staff for information on things to see and do in and around the city, as well as those of a practical nature (addresses, phone numbers, accommodation suggestions etc.), they are always the best people to ask.
If you get into legal or medical difficulties, your first point of contact should be your embassy: the staff have a thorough understanding of the way things work or don't work in Serbia. They will give you addresses and phone numbers of suggested first aid clinics, health centers and English speaking physicians or Court Interpreters for different languages.
All foreigners in Serbia are obliged to register their place of residence with the local Ministry of Internal Affairs within 24 hours of arrival. For those visitors staying in hotels, registration is done as a part of the check-in process. However for persons staying with family or friends in a private home, registration is required to be done at the nearest police station. Failure to do so can result in fines and/or detention. For all formalities concerning the extension of your sojourn in the country and losing of passports in Belgrade you should contact Ministry of Internal Affairs, Secretariat in Belgrade, 29. novembra St 107 (Foreign department, phone 76.42.36).
Serbia is not a difficult destination for people traveling with small children. Quite the contrary: Serbs is a nation of child-lovers, children are generally more privileged than adults and Belgrade is not lacking in a supply of things to do and places to go specifically designed for children (playgrounds, parks etc.). Standards of hygiene are pretty high in most of the hotels and restaurants (apart from the very cheapest ones), and all good pharmacies (apoteka) and supermarkets stock baby-food and disposable nappies. Everywhere in Serbia the tap water is safe, but some local people stick to bottled mineral water (kisela voda) which is cheap and widely available.
But, Serbia is unpromising territory for travelers with disabilities! Uneven road surfaces, the lack of pavements (mainly occupied by illegally parked cars), dangerous driving and failing to stop at zebra crossings make most streets in Belgrade hazardous enough for the able-bodied. Wheelchair-bound travelers will find Belgrade especially tough going.
BELGRADE SIGHTSEEING /
BRANKO RABOTIC PhD
Phone/fax: (++38111) 386.11.53, GSM: (++38163) 854.26.48
(Calls to GSM from inside Serbia: 063 854.26.48)
E mail: rabotic@EUnet.rs URL: http://www.belgradetours.com/
BELGRADE SIGHTSEEING /
BRANKO RABOTIC PhD
BRANKO RABOTIC PhD