General Info – Serbia and Montenegro
Freedom Square, Novi Sad
Most hotels are expensive for foreigners. If you’re on a budget, don’t even think about staying in a hotel that has more than two stars. To give you a general idea, I paid 35 DM/night for a single room in the one-star Motel Tekija, and 980 dinars in two star Hotel Smederevo. The three-star Hotel Novi Sad quoted us DM85 for a double, the cheapest single in the Hotel Slavija in Belgrade was US$50, and the three-star Hotel Kladovo charged US$33 for a single.
There are supposed to be youth hostels in Belgrade, Kladovo and Kopaonik. But upon arrival in Belgrade, my friend John and I found out that the phone numbers quoted on yuhostels.com were wrong. When we got to the Hotel Slavija, which according to the same website charged US$11.50 a night, this turned out to be the price for Yugoslav citizens, and the price for foreigners was almost 5 times as high! I was going to stay at my friend Vlad’s place anyway, and now John ended up crashing there as well for lack of budget accommodation in Belgrade. Vlad did some research on hostels the next day at work, and found out one was bombed, one was full of refugees, and one simply didn’t exist (anymore?). I wasn’t able to find out anything about the hostels at Kladovo or Kopaonik.
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- Belgrade: Internetcaffe, V. Karadzica; Plato (bookshop/internet cafe/pub/jazz club all in one), Vasina 17
- Nis: Allan Ford, Nikole Pasica; Webcaffe, Kalca shopping mall.
- Novi Sad: Internet Line, Ilije Ognjanovica 8 (open 0-24)
As far as I know the only recent guidebook that includes Yugoslavia is Lonely Planet’s Eastern Europe guide. However, this is rather incomplete and often incorrect, so you might as well go without one. I hope this guide can be somewhat more useful.
Serbian, formerly known as Serbo-Croatian, is a Slavic language. The Serbian alphabet has 30 sounds, that can be written in Latin or Cyrillic characters. Conveniently, every letter represents one sound, and every sound corresponds with only one letter. It’s a good idea to learn some Cyrillic before you go. We found the national museum in Belgrade an excellent practice ground, for names of artists are written in both alphabets there.
Most young people speak English. Older people might speak German or occasionally French. Italian seems to be popular too.
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ATM’s don’t work with foreign cards, so bring all the money you’ll need in deutschmarks/euros (before/after 1/1/2002). At the time of writing, DEM1 = 30,57 Yugoslav dinar (YUN) and EUR€1 = YUN59.80.
Almost everything is very cheap compared to Western Europe, except for hotels. Accommodation will probably be your only big expense, unless you can find somewhere to stay for free, as I did in Belgrade and Nis. In three weeks, I spent DEM670 (EUR€343; or US$313).
Not many locals can afford to go to museums, and tourists are rare; therefor a lot of museums aren’t very interesting. Exceptions include Novi Sad’s first Vojvodina museum, Belgrade’s national museum (the military and ethnological museums are also supposed to be good, but the latter was closed until November, and I never got around to visiting the former) and the archaeological museum at Lepenski Vir.
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Hotels will automatically take care of this for you, but when you’re staying at someone’s house it can be a difficult ordeal. In Belgrade, the first time Vlad and I went to the police station (we took John’s passport with us because he was sick), they told us John had to be there in person, and Vlad needed papers to prove he was the owner of his apartment, and that we could come back any time day or night to arrange it. So we wanted to do it Monday morning, before I left for Smederevo.
Vlad couldn’t find the papers he needed however, so he made some phone calls and then decided to take a tax form instead and hope they would accept it as proof. When we got to the police station, they said it was all right and we could "consider ourselves registered" without even looking at our passports again or writing anything down, or giving us the registration card I got at every other place. And they also said one only really needs to do it at the first place one goes to.
Then in Nis they said I was officially still in Novi Sad, because the registration card only had a date of arrival on it, and no departure date, and that if I were to leave the country from Novi Sad I wouldn’t have to register anywhere else; but since that wasn’t the case, we had to buy a form at a bookstore, then wire 10 dinars to them at the post office, and then return to the police station, where everything was taken care of. I didn’t bother going to the police station again the second time I was in Belgrade. I’d always been told they would check the registration cards at the border, but in reality they didn’t even look at them. I don’t think I’ll bother with it the next time I go there.
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The places I have visited were all perfectly safe; or at least as safe as any other place in Europe, and Belgrade seemed a lot safer than Western European capitals like Paris or Amsterdam. I’ve been warned it wouldn’t be safe to go to Kosovo, or to other areas with many Muslims, especially for a solo female traveller, but I haven’t put it to the test. I’d also been warned about gypsies, but never had any problems with them.
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Unlike in most European countries, busses are faster, more reliable but cost a bit more than trains. Try to avoid the latter for travel within Serbia. International trains should be fine. Belgrade can be reached by train from Budapest, Bucharest, Ljubljana, Zagreb and Bar (Montenegro). Lasta, the Yugoslav branch of Eurolines, serves many European countries, as well as destinations throughout Yugoslavia and the Republika Srpska. Belgrade also has an international airport.
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