Somehow Serbia has gone under the radar as the perfect European getaway, yet this Balkan country has so much to offer: super cool cities, surprisingly charming villages, and stunning natural sites. Here’s our checklist for planning a trip to Serbia that’s as hassle-free as possible, so you can enjoy your time in this amazing country.
Read: Serbia Travel Advice: 21 Things to Know Before Visiting Serbia
A note about Serbia and Kosovo. This article is about planning a trip to Serbia but does NOT INCLUDE information on traveling to Kosovo, which has an entirely different set of rules for visiting. This is not a political statement; we are merely trying to help those looking for information about Serbia find it easily. Political comments will be deleted.
Step 1: Check to See if You Need a Visa
Since Serbia is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen Zone, it has a much more expansive visa-free travel policy. At present, this is the list of countries who do not need a visa to stay for 90 days or less in a 6-month period, but again, please double check at things may change!
Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan,Bahrain, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Macao, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norh Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Palau, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinitdad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, UK, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, USA.
There are a few other categories of visa-free travel to Serbia:
30 days within 6 months:
Belarus, Georgia, China, Kazakhstan, Russia
30 days within a 60-day window
30 days within one year
The Bahamas, Barbados, Burundi, Colombia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and Grenadine, Suriname
If you hold a valid multi-entry visa to the Schengen Zone or the United States, you can enter Serbia for 90 days out of a six-month window as long as your visa will be valid beyond the length of your stay.
A Note about Registering in Serbia
These are the official rules for tourists traveling through Serbia:
Serbian organizations and individuals providing accommodation to foreigners against payment, as well as locals hosting visiting foreigners, must register the foreigner’s stay with the local police station within 24 hours of the commencement of the accommodation arrangement, or of the foreign visitor’s arrival.
A foreigner not using official accommodation nor staying with a private individual must register his or her stay and change of address with the local police station within 24 hours of arriving at the place of residency or of the change of address. A place of residency is where a foreigner intends to stay for more than 24 hours.
We have only stayed in “official” accommodations where the responsibility is on the business to register you (i.e. hotels, hostels, and Airbnb). If you self-host it’s your responsibility to register. I don’t know what would happen if you do not register, and no one has ever asked me about my registration information when leaving the country.
Step 2. Book Your Tickets
Most people who fly into Serbia fly into Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport. However, it’s not the only international airport in the country. You should also check the prices for flights into Nis and Kraljevo (although flights into Belgrade are almost always cheaper).
Note: whatever your personal political beliefs are about Kosovo, we are not covering what you need to do when flying into Pristina. Again, political comments will be deleted.
We usually use a combination of Skyscanner and Google Flights when we are searching for flights. Use Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” feature, which is helpful for determining which of the two cities to fly into.
If you know exactly which airport you need to fly from and into, then use Google Flights which has a nicer interface and updates with the correct prices faster, so there are no disappointments when you click through unlike Skyscanner sometimes has.
Many travelers visit Serbia as part of a larger Balkan backpacking trip. Most of these travelers will arrive by bus. This is how I travel to Serbia since the bus from Sofia to Belgrade is cheap and leaves often. If you will be taking a bus, read our guide on surviving a Balkan bus trip (and pack snacks).
If you plan on flying to Europe with kids, make sure to have the proper documentation for children flying without both parents.
Step 3. Plan Your Itinerary
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that you are only visiting Serbia. If you are planning a multi-country Balkan trip, we have a whole post all about Balkan itineraries for you to read!
If you have four days or less, I would suggest visiting Belgrade as a city break.
With four days or more, you’ll have enough time to explore more of the country from your Belgrade base, so you can pick one or two of the best Belgrade day trips.
If you have a week, you can combine Belgrade (3 days) with Novi Sad (4 days). One of these four days in Novi Sad would be best utilized as a day trip to Subotica. Alternatively, you can combine Belgrade (3 days) and a trip on the Sargan 8 train with a stay in Zlatibor (2 train days and 2 days in Zlatibor).
Another alternative would be to see Belgrade (3 days) Novi Sad (2 days) and head south to Nis or Novi Pazar (2 days).
If you have two weeks, you can cover almost the entire country. Here are our favorite Serbian cities. In this case, I would rent a car in Serbia and drive so you can cover as many places as possible.
Step 4. Plan Your Activities
Once you’ve determined what cities are on your itinerary, it’s time to plan your activities!
We have several guides for activities in and near Belgrade:
- 101 Exciting & Unique Things to Do in Belgrade
- 11 Cool Belgrade Tours to Discover the White City
- 21 Spectacular Day Trips from Belgrade
If you want to do any city tours or day trips, we recommend booking in advance, as sometimes tours book out especially in the peak season (May to September). We personally use and recommend GetYourGuide when searching for tours in Serbia and the Balkans in general. We like that they have a best-price guarantee and that they tell you the name of the tour companies they partner with (unlike Viator), so you can research it and be sure it’s worth your money!
Step 5. Budget Your Trip
The great news when creating your Serbia travel budget is that it is one of the best bargain destinations in the world. Now that you know the costs for your transportation and what activities you’re interested in, it’s time to create a trip budget.
You can travel to Serbia on a budget of $35 dollars per day. Of this, $10 will go towards a bed in a hostel dorm. The other $25 dollars will go to cooking meals in a shared kitchen, eating street foot, budget-friendly and free activities, souvenirs, and public transportation.
Mid-Range travelers can have a fantastic time in Serbia for $50-$75 dollars per day. This means staying in a cheap but wonderfully private room, eating out at a mix of local restaurants and higher-end restaurants, going out for drinks at the local bars, taking taxis, and indulging in a few guided tours. The range mostly has to do with whether you’re traveling solo or with someone, since it will obviously cost more for a private room if you’re the only one paying for it. You can find private and double rooms in most parts of Serbia for about $20-$30 dollars.
Luxury travelers will find they can have a baller time for $100-$150 dollars a day. You’ll find five-star hotels in Belgrade for around $120 dollars a night, so if you’re splitting the cost with someone your money goes very far. You can eat at the nicest restaurants, go on as many guided tours as you want, and shop for fabulous souvenirs and I still think it would be hard to spend above this range.
Step 6. Book Your Accommodations
Once you’ve sorted out what you want to spend per night on accommodations, it’s time to get booking! We use Booking.com because we like that they have free cancellation if you end up changing your plans and they have the widest selection and best prices.
For those staying in Belgrade, we have a comprehensive guide to where to stay in Belgrade, covering our seven favorite neighborhoods and twenty-one total hotels.
We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in the rest of Serbia, but for now, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. While Serbia is underrated by international travelers, many of the best places can book early during the high season because Serbians know where to go.
Step 7. Research Any Vaccinations You May Need
Serbia has fewer stray animals than other parts of the Balkans (and much posher pets), but you still want to know what the situation is with vaccines before you get here.
TL;DR – if you’re a frequent traveler who is usually up-to-date on their vaccines, you’ll be fine in Serbia.
There’s really nothing that special that you need for Serbia. The CDC recommends being up-to-date on all your standard vaccines, which you should be anyway. This includes MMR, tetanus, chickenpox, polio – the usual. You may want to consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis A if you’re not already vaccinated against it, as it can be spread by contaminated food or water. This is unlikely to happen as Serbia’s water is clean and safe to drink in nearly all cities, but being vaccinated against hepatitis A is a good idea anyway for future travel.
The CDC also suggests possibly being vaccinated against hepatitis B if you, for example, want to get a medical procedure done or get a tattoo, and also possibly getting vaccinated against rabies. I think most travelers can safely skip both. Allison got bit by a cat in Ukraine last year and had to get post-exposure shots. While it was a pain in the ass (not literally, anymore – the shots are now done in the arm, luckily!), it is 100% effective if the protocol is followed. And since you have to get post-exposure shots regardless of being vaccinated, it is not that much more of a burden in the extremely unlikely chance of an animal attack.
Step 8: Learn a Few Common Serbian Words and Phrases
While English is common in the cities, it’s less common in the smaller towns and villages. It’s always nice to know a few Serbian phrases before you come here.
Good day (more formal) = Zdravo
Please = Molimo vas
Thank you = Hvala Vam
Goodbye = Zbogom
Excuse me = Izvinite
OK, Good = Dobro
Yes = Da
No = Ne
I don’t understand = Ne razumem
Do you speak English? = Da li govorite engleski?
Serbian is a South Slavic language closely related (ahem) to Croatian and Bosnian. (The three languages are so close that it’s a question if they even are distinct languages, but that’s a political question as much as a linguistic one).
Serbia uses two alphabets. To make it easy, you can download our Serbian Alphabet Guide:
Serbia is written using a version of the Cyrillic alphabet. While not identical to the versions used in Bulgaria and Macedonia (or even Russia), if you can read any version of Cyrillic you’ll find that you can read 99% of Serbian words.
If you have an interest in languages, you may want to consider learning the Cyrillic alphabet! It’s easy to learn the basics and it will help you immensely, such as being able to find familiar words on a menu (many Serbian words are Cyrillicized versions of English/Latin words), finding the right bus at the bus station, or spotting a fake taxi!
Serbian is also transliterated into a version of the Latin alphabet that employs a series of diacritical marks. I think it’s actually easier to pronounce things correctly in Serbian if you read the Cyrillic as opposed to the Latin, since the diacritical marks changes the sounds dramatically.
Step 9. Pack Your Bags
What you should pack depends greatly on the time of year. We have some packing lists that we’ll add soon to help you plan for your trip to Serbia, but for now, here are five things we don’t recommend you visit without!
- A Lonely Planet guidebook, to help you plan when on the ground
- Your swimsuit if you’re headed there during the warm months
- An unlocked smartphone, so you can buy a cheap Serbian SIM card and stay connected
- Wet wipes and hand sanitizer, in case of a poorly stocked bathroom
- Comfortable walking and/or hiking shoes, so you can make the most of Serbia’s cities and national parks
Step 10. Prepare For Your Arrival
You’re nearly done planning your trip to Serbia, but don’t miss this last crucial step – planning what you do when you arrive!
Firstly, money – you’ll either want to withdraw cash from the ATM at the airport/bus station or exchange your money. We recommend withdrawing cash instead, as you will get a better exchange rate at money-changers in the city. However, if you plan to use the ATM, you should probably call your bank to advise them of your travel. The last thing you want to happen is for your bank to deny your card when you arrive! I always advise carrying at least $50 USD/Euros as a backup in case of any card problems.
Once you’re in Serbia, you’ll use local currency since the country is not on the Euro. Check out our Balkan Currency Guide for an overview of how money works in Serbia and what to tip in the country.
For taxis in Belgrade, we love the app Car.Go, which is a local app similar to Uber. Have it downloaded ahead of time for ease. If you get to the Belgrade airport, you can use the airport Wifi to grab a Car.Go before you even have your Serbian sim card.
If you arrive by bus and don’t want to risk grabbing a random taxi, you can walk to a hotel or restaurant and ask them to call a taxi for you.
If you arrive in another Serbian city and need a taxi, I would ask you accomodations beforehand how much the taxi fare should be from your arrival point so you can avoid a taxi scam.
Step 11: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
We put this last so it’s fresh on your mind: travel insurance is essential for Serbia and for travel in general! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Serbia is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!
Pin This Serbia Trip Planning Checklist for Your Trip
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.