Nationals from UN member states that do not have diplomatic relations require visas to enter Serbia; however, most foreign visitors do not require visas for a short stay in the country. Passport-holders of the following countries may stay in Serbia for a period up to 90 days without the requirement of a visa: Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vatican City.
For those requiring a visa, an application should be made at one of Serbia’s foreign embassies where the applicant will be required to produce a valid passport, a letter of introduction (this can be organised through a Serbian tourist agency or a business contact), a return ticket, proof of funds and evidence of medical cover for the duration of the stay.
Funds in excess of €5,000 should be declared on arrival in the country as, in theory at least, failure to do this could result in confiscation on leaving Serbia.
Getting there and away
A number of airlines serve Belgrade directly. At Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport, Terminal 2 deals with all international traffic. Note that the airport charges all adult passengers a departure tax of €16.50 for international flights, although this should be included in the ticket price.
There are daily direct flights to Belgrade from Heathrow every day with Air Serbia, with flights that leave Heathrow in the early afternoon to conveniently arrive in Belgrade by late afternoon. The return flight leaves mid morning to arrive at Heathrow around midday. The price is in the order of £150—220 return including tax, although it may be difficult to get this price during busy holiday periods or at short notice.
The other direct alternative from the UK is to fly to Belgrade with Wizz Air from London Luton, which has return flights as low as £80 (extra for baggage) if booked well in advance. Services leave Luton very early in the morning three to four times a week, and the return leg leaves Belgrade mid morning to arrive in Luton early afternoon. An indirect option that might save a little money is to combine a cheap budget airline flight with a train or bus journey through to Serbia, for example, by taking a cut-price Ryanair flight to Budapest in Hungary, and then continuing the journey by bus.
There are direct bus routes to Serbia from all over western and northern Europe. For the longer journeys, given the cost, time and discomfort involved, flying is probably a more attractive option.
Eurolines, which in Serbia is operated by the Lasta bus company, run services between Serbia and Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina (and Republika Srpska), Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland. Another company, Srbija Tours International, operates services to various destinations in Germany and Italy. For other international services that operate from Belgrade bus station contact BAS Turist.
With Serbia’s landlocked position, surrounded by a total of eight other countries, it is little surprise that there are many options available if you are driving your own vehicle. From Hungary, there are crossing points at Bački Beg, Bajmok, Đala, Horgoš and Kelebija, and from Romania at Đerdap, Kaluđerovo, Srpska Crnja and Vatin. From Bulgaria, crossings exist at Gradina, Mokranje, Ribarci, Strezimirovci and Vrška Čuka, and from North Macedonia at Globočica, Preševo and Prohor Pčinjski.
Croatian border crossings are at Bačka Palanka, Batrovci, Bezdan, Bogojevo, Ljuba, Neštin, Odžaci, Šid and Sot, while land crossings across to Bosnia and Herzegovina are at Badovinci, Bajina Bašta, Kotroman, Ljubovija, Loznica, Mali Zvornik, Sremska Rača, Trbušnica and Uvac. There are also border crossings between Albania and Kosovo at Čafa Prušit and Vrbinca and at Đeneral Janković between Kosovo and North Macedonia. All of the crossings listed are open around the clock.
This is the most popular and practical means of getting around the country. There are services between most towns and, from Belgrade in particular, there are frequent departures to even the furthest-flung regions. Most towns of any size have a purpose-built bus station that will have left-luggage and snack facilities. Timetables of departures and arrivals are shown on large boards, usually in Cyrillic. Tickets can be bought in advance from booths inside the bus station and on some routes they can sell out quickly, particularly during public holidays
Many larger bus stations will sell you a peronska karta with your ticket – either a platform ticket or a token for a turnstile. This generally adds 50–100din to the total ticket price. It is also possible to buy a peronska karta only and then go through and choose your own bus, paying the driver or conductor. This will give you more flexibility on busy routes as, generally, the ticket counter will just sell you a ticket on the next bus available. Sometimes, particularly if the bus is due to leave, they just sell you a platform ticket anyway and let you sort it out on the bus.
Trains are an alternative on some routes, although the Serbian railway network has deteriorated over the past two decades as a result of poor maintenance, lack of investment, management–trade union clashes and war damage. The ongoing, years-long closure of the line between Belgrade and Novi Sad for reconstruction has certainly not helped matters either.
In practical terms, trains are cheaper than the bus option, but they are usually slower and more prone to breakdown. For comparison, while there are about 20 buses a day between Belgrade and Niš that take around 3 hours, the eight trains that run between the two cities take between 4 hours and 5½ hours. Serbian trains do come into their own on some longer journeys, especially the wonderfully scenic route down to the Adriatic coast at Bar in Montenegro.
Overall, trains are a good way to travel if you are not in any great hurry. The common perception is that Serbian trains generally leave on time but arrive at their destinations late. Certainly, they are a good way to meet people, especially on longer trips. Information on train services can be gathered from the Serbian Railways website, or from individual railway stations.
Hire cars are available in towns and cities throughout the country, although Belgrade and Novi Sad have the widest choice of agencies. Driving is reasonably straightforward, and takes place on the right – mostly. Most main roads are in reasonable condition, although minor roads in the countryside can be in quite poor repair with pot-holes and loose stones. Because of the preponderance of blind corners and the occasional speed-crazed local, driving at night in rural areas can sometimes prove to be a nerve-racking experience that is probably best avoided.
In order to drive in Serbia you must have an international driver’s licence and a Green Card (international insurance). The wearing of seat belts is compulsory and traffic police are keen to impose fines for failing to do this, as they are for any infringements of the speed limit.