Serbia

Republic of Serbia (Serbian: Република Србија/Republika Srbija), is a landlocked sovereign state situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans. Serbia is situated along a number of cultural, geographic, and climatic crossroads. It borders Hungary to the north; Romania and Bulgaria to the east; Macedonia to the south; and Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro to the southwest. It claims a border with Albania through the disputed territory of Kosovo. Serbia numbers around 7 million residents, and its capital, Belgrade, ranks among the largest cities in Southeast Europe.

Formation

  • Medieval state late 8th century
  • Kingdom/Serbian Empire 1217/1346
  • Ottoman conquesta 1459–1556
  • Principality of Serbia 1815
  • De jure independence 1878
  • Unification 1912–18
  • Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes/Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918–1941)
  • Yugoslavia (1945–1992)
  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992-2003)
  • Serbia and Montenegro (2003-2006)
  • Independent republic 2006

Geography

Located at the crossroads between Central and Southern Europe, Serbia is found in the Balkan peninsula and the Pannonian Plain. The country covers a total of 88,361 km2 (including Kosovo), which places it at 113th place in the world; with Kosovo excluded, the total area is 77,474 km2, which would make it 117th. Its total border length amounts to 2,027 km (Albania 115 km, Bosnia and Herzegovina 302 km, Bulgaria 318 km, Croatia 241 km, Hungary 151 km, Macedonia 221 km, Montenegro 203 km and Romania 476 km). All of Kosovo’s border with Albania (115 km), Macedonia (159 km) and Montenegro (79 km) are under control of the Kosovo border police. Serbia treats the 352 km long border between Kosovo and rest of Serbia as an “administrative line”; it is under shared control of Kosovo border police and Serbian police forces, and there are 11 crossing points.

The Pannonian Plain covers the northern third of the country (Vojvodina and Mačva)while the easternmost tip of Serbia extends into the Wallachian Plain. The terrain of the central part of the country, with the region of Šumadija at its heart, consists chiefly of hills traversed by rivers. Mountains dominate the southern third of Serbia. Dinaric Alps stretch in the west and the southwest, following the flow of the rivers Drina and Ibar. The Carpathian Mountains and Balkan Mountains stretch in a north–south direction in eastern Serbia.

  • Capital and largest city  Belgrade
  • Official languages Serbian
  • Anthem:  Боже правде / Bože pravde English: God of Justice
  • Area including Kosovo 88,361 km2 (34,116 sq mi) excluding Kosovo 77,474 km2 (29,913 sq mi)
  • Population 2016 estimate 7,041,599
  • Density 92.8/km2 (240.4/sq mi)
  • Currency   Serbian dinar (RSD)
  • Time zone          CET (UTC+1)
  • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
  • Drives on the    right
  • Calling code       +381

Infrastructure

Serbian road network carries the bulk of traffic in the country. Total length of roads is 45,419 km of which 745 km are “class-Ia state roads” (i.e. motorways); 4,481 km are “class-Ib state roads” (national roads); 10,941 km are “class-II state roads” (regional roads) and 23,780 km are “municipal roads”.The road network, except for the most of class-Ia roads, are of comparatively lower quality to the Western European standards because of lack of financial resources for their maintenance in the last 20 years.

Coach transport is very extensive: almost every place in the country is connected by bus, from largest cities to the villages; in addition there are international routes (mainly to countries of Western Europe with large Serb diaspora). Routes, both domestic and international, are served by more than 100 bus companies, biggest of which are Lasta and Niš-Ekspres.

Serbia has 3,819 kilometers of rail tracks, of which 1,279 are electrified and 283 kilometers are double-track railroad. The major rail hub is Belgrade (and to a lesser degree Niš), while the most important railroads include: Belgrade–Bar (Montenegro), Belgrade–Šid–Zagreb (Croatia)/Belgrade–Niš–Sofia (Bulgaria) (part of Pan-European Corridor X), Belgrade–Subotica–Budapest (Hungary) and Niš–Thessaloniki (Greece). All rail services are operated by public rail company, Serbian Railways. There are only two international airports with regular passenger traffic: Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport served almost 5 million passengers in 2016, and is a hub of flagship carrier Air Serbia which carried some 2.6 million passengers in 2016. Niš Constantine the Great Airport is mainly catering low-cost airlines.

Safety and security

Crime

Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime, particularly in larger cities. Some sporting events have had incidents of violence and petty crime, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities. Watch out for pick pockets in tourist areas and at airports, on public transport and petrol stations on the motorway. Pay attention to personal safety late at night, and when leaving nightclubs. Carry a mobile phone in case you need to contact the emergency services. As a foreigner, you may be a target for criminals who may assume you are carrying large amounts of cash.

Road travel

You must have a valid International Driving Permit to drive in Serbia. If you remain in Serbia for longer than 6 months you should obtain a Serbian driving licence.

If you’re bringing a vehicle into Serbia, you must have vehicle registration and ownership documents and a locally valid insurance policy. European green card vehicle insurance is now valid in Serbia, but the requirement to hold a green card is no longer in effect. You should confirm with your insurance company that your policy covers Serbia.

The general standard of roads in Serbia varies from fair to poor. Roads are worse in rural areas, especially after bad weather. One particularly dangerous road is the Ibarska Magistrala (linking Belgrade, via Čačak and Užice, to Montenegro).

You are required by law to wear a seatbelt. You must drive with dipped headlights on during the day. You must not use a mobile phone whilst driving.

There are several toll booths along motorways. Individual toll charges vary from 2 – 10 Euros for cars. Foreign registered vehicles pay the same toll as those registered locally.

Dial 1987 for roadside assistance. Other emergency numbers are police: 192; fire department: 193; and ambulance: 194.

Much of the public transport is old and overcrowded although there have been improvements in the major cities. When using taxis, you should only use those which are officially registered – look for a municipal registration number in addition to the cab number. Alternatively, call one of the radio taxi phone numbers (most operators speak English) with your street location.

Local laws and customs

Possession or trafficking of drugs attract strict penalties and usually a lengthy prison sentence.

Taking photographs of military/police installations, personnel or vehicles anywhere in Serbia may lead to difficulties with the authorities.

Carry your passport with you for identification purposes and keep a copy separately in a safe place.

Visas

European passport holders don’t need a visa to visit Serbia for up to 90 days.

If you wish to extend your stay in Serbia you will need to apply for temporary residence status at least 30 days before the 90 day period expires at the police station where you are registered. For more information please visit the website of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When you enter Serbia, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Temporary residents should have an exit-entry visa as well as a residence stamp. If you try to leave Serbia without an entry stamp or exit-entry visa you may face charges of illegal immigration, a heavy fine and possible imprisonment.

You should only enter Serbia through recognised border crossings.

Previous travel to Kosovo

The authorities in Serbia don’t consider the designated crossing points with Kosovo to be official ‘international’ border crossing points.  Foreign nationals have been denied entry to Serbia if they have Republic of Kosovo stamps in their passports.  You are less likely to experience problems if you travel into Kosovo from Serbia and return via the same route, or if you travel via Albania, Macedonia or Montenegro.

Registration

It is a legal requirement that you register with the local police in the town/city where you are staying within 24 hours of your arrival in Serbia, unless you are staying in a hotel where you will be registered automatically on checking-in. If you don’t register you could be fined, detained or face a court appearance.

Health

The health system in all parts of Serbia is suffering from widespread shortage of medicines and other essentials. For non-emergency treatment, or treatment that isn’t covered under reciprocal arrangements, payment in cash is normally required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 194 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

There is a reciprocal healthcare agreement for British nationals visiting Serbia, which entitles you to free treatment for genuine emergencies. You’ll need to present a British passport, evidence of registration with the local police (if you’re not staying in a hotel) and a certificate confirming entitlement to benefit under the UK Social Security Acts. You can get this certificate from HM Revenue & Customs, UK contact number: 03000 555 725.

Money

The official currency of Serbia is the Dinar. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are accepted in most hotels and shops, and nearly all ATMs accept international bank cards. Currency exchange in Belgrade (including at Belgrade Airport) accept Sterling, US Dollars and Euros.

British banks don’t generally exchange Dinars. You should exchange any unwanted Dinars before you leave Serbia. You should only change money through banks or official exchange offices and not through street dealers. You will be unable to exchange Scottish and Northern Irish bank notes in Serbia.

Important phone numbers