Serbia has a turbulent recent history, which might explain why it’s a much over-looked gem to visit. However, because it isn’t on most tourists' must-see lists, you will find and authenticity and quietness. The country's attractions are numerous, but also they are also not signposted – there’s not a gift shop in sight, and it is often free from other visitors.
Belgrade is a bustling yet small capital city, and was once the capital Yugoslavia. Suffering air bombardments in WWII, and again by NATO in 1999, it is remarkable how untouched parts of the city are. The ancient Kalemegdan Fort still stands, for example, and the fort has been occupied by Celts, Romans, Byzantines and onwards since the Iron age, or the Old City, Stari Grad, which is fascinating to visit.
One of the oldest-known Neolithic cultures, the Vinca, started within Serbia, and the first evidence of copper smelting was discovered within Plocnik. Roman remains abound, with one of the best-known being the World Heritage ruins of Gamzigrad, where you may well have to the whole site to yourself. Christian influences abound in the cities and in monasteries in the hills around Novi Pazar. Then there’s Golubac Fortress, the Vratna Gates, the Iron Gates, and Djerdap National Park.
Serbia offers a sense of travelling into the unknown, and choosing the path less trodden, but this simply makes the adventure all the more special. If you want a peaceful time and yearn for spaces that feel like they are yours to explore, then Serbia should absolutely be on your list.
UK: Not required for a stay of up to 90 days in duration.
USA: Not required for a stay of up to 90 days in duration.
If you want to go for a nice meal or a night on the town, then you will want to dress for the occasion. Serbians wear smart and fashionable (often designer) clothes to go out in. Many of the better nightclubs and restaurants will not let you in if you don’t look the part.
Dress conservatively when visiting religious spaces (monasteries, mosques or churches) and make sure that any tops cover shoulders. Longer shorts or skirts should be worn in situations such as this.
You’ll also want sturdy walking shoes for visiting sites, especially those located outside of the cities.
While there is an understandable wish to move forward from a turbulent recent past with the youth of Serbia, there’s still a great deal of pride in their heritage. Knowing a little of their history will go a long way towards making connections with local people.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a celebratory meal with Serbians, do go. But be aware that food is important to them, and leaving food on your plate is seen as insulting to the cook. Make sure you are served no more than you can eat.
Appearance is very important to Serbians, they will try to be groomed and looking their best at all times. Keeping yourself looking neat and tidy will benefit you in terms of the service and respect you are given by locals.
Religion is very important to Serbians, and so is respecting it. Behave appropriately within religious spaces, and when referring to religious issues.
The Serbian sense of humour is notably dark, rivalling the British idea of ‘gallows humour’. Feel free to join in and try not to be offended, but avoid making the mistake of joking darkly about Serbia to a Serbian, that could – and probably would – cause offence.
Eye contact is felt to be very important, especially during toasts or serious conversation. Not keeping eye contact can suggest untrustworthiness.
Tipping is known as ‘napojnica’ in Serbia. It is not very widespread, but as times change more establishments, especially in Belgrade, are starting to adopt tipping standards. In Serbian restaurants service is rarely included in the bill. Consider tipping 10-15% of the total bill in a nice restaurant. In bars and less expensive eateries you may just round up your bill.
Andante Travels will take care of gratuities to restaurant staff, local guides and drivers.