Serbia, Europe - Stein Travel
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Serbia

Landlocked by turbulent eastern European countries and containing the notorious United Nations-administered hotspot of Kosovo, the newly independent Republic of Serbia (formerly part of Yugoslavia) has seemingly little to draw tourists. In fact, anyone planning to travel to Serbia will find it difficult to locate an up-to-date guide to the country or any information on what to expect beyond the confines of the capital city, Belgrade. The city itself, still scarred with the devastation of a long civil war, is lauded in travel literature mainly for its vibrant nightlife, although, being one of Europe's most ancient capitals, it has plenty of interest to offer sight-seers.

Those who are looking for a 'off-the-beaten track' explorative holiday will find Serbia extremely welcoming. The country boasts beautiful national parks, spa resorts and some of the best skiing in Europe during the winter months. Contained in the landscape of this verdant country are alpine meadows, impenetrable forests, glittering limestone caves, remote monasteries, mountain lakes, hot springs and fields of wild herbs.

Definitely not to be missed in Serbia is the magnificent Djerdap National Park, stretching along the right bank of the Danube River between Golubackigrad and the Sip Dam. The Djerdap Gorge is one of Europe's most spectacular geographic features.

During the winter months those in the know head for the mountains along the Ibar Highway, to the snow-blanketed peaks around the village of Kopaonik which is fast developing a reputation as being one of Europe's best, cheapest and cosiest ski resorts, ideal for beginners and intermediates, also featuring the Josanicka Banja spa.

Serbia may have been a 'no-go' area because of civil and ethnic warring for several generations, and parts of it remain unsafe for travellers, but there is plenty that is now open to be re-discovered in this Slavic enclave.

Information & Facts

Business

Serbian business people and entrepreneurs are westernised in their approach and dealings with visitors. Keep in mind that operations can go slowly due to cumbersome bureaucracy. Most Serbian businessmen speak English so it is not always necessary to hire a translator or translate business card. July and August are summer holidays and it is difficult to reach senior management during this period. Business hours are 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday.

Climate

Northern Serbia experiences a continental climate with cold winters and hot, humid summers with well distributed rainfall. The central part of the country has continental and Mediterranean climates. The south experiences an Adriatic climate and along the coast, hot, dry summers and autumns and relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall inland.

Communications

The international direct dialling code for Serbia is +381. The international code for dialling out of Serbia is 99 followed by the relevant country code (9944 for the United Kingdom). There are local area codes in use e.g. (0)11 for Belgrade.. There are GSM 900/1800 mobile networks available with good coverage in the cities, weaker in the southern areas of the country. Internet cafes are available in the main cities and towns.

Customs

It is inadvisable to take photographs of any military or police buildings or operations in Serbia or Kosovo. Homosexuality is tolerated but open displays of affection between same-sex couples are frowned upon. Visitors should carry their passports at all times for identification purposes.

Duty Free

Visitors entering Serbia may bring the following goods without paying customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre of alcohol; a reasonable quantity of perfume for personal use; two still cameras, one movie camera and one video camera; sporting, camping and electronic equipment for personal use (one item of each); and personal clothing and jewellery.

Electricity

220 volts AC. Two-prong round pin attachment plugs as well as Schuko plugs and receptacles are in use.

Health

Serbia, in particular Kosovo, suffers from a shortage of medicines and essentials, and there are several health risks for travellers. Recommended vaccinations for visitors to Serbia are Hepatitis A and typhoid (except for very short-term visitors who restrict their meals to major restaurants and hotels). A reciprocal health care agreement entitles British nationals to free emergency treatment in Serbia, but comprehensive travel health insurance is strongly recommended for all visitors because of the insufficient and under-funded medical facilities. Cases of rabid foxes and dogs have been reported in parks and the outskirts of major cities, and bird flu has been identified in the Sombor area of north-eastern Serbia. Tap water and unbottled beverages should not be consumed, and food should be well prepared and well cooked. In the countryside precautions should be taken against tick infestation.

Language

Serbian is the official language.

Money

The currency of Serbia is the Serbian Dinar (RSD), which is divided into 100 para. Dinars are not accepted in Kosovo, where the Euro is the official currency and there are no money exchange facilities. Credit cards and travellers cheques are accepted by most of the larger hotels and shops in Serbia. There are money exchange machines in Belgrade that accept Sterling, US Dollars and Euros. ATMs in the cities usually accept international bank cards.

Passport Visa

All visitors require a valid passport. Visitors may be requested to show a return or onward ticket, documents for the next destination and sufficient funds in hard currency to finance their stay. Visitors entering with tourist visas must also have hotel vouchers. Anyone staying longer than three days must register via a hotel or sponsor. Note: Entry to Serbia via Pristina Airport, Kosovo, has a different set of requirements, which visitors to Kosovo must check before travelling. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Safety

Political tensions in Serbia have risen sharply since July 2011, meaning unrest in areas like Kosovo and Belgrade is likely. Travellers are advised to keep informed of current events and avoid large gatherings. Those travelling to the south and UN-administered Kosovo are advised to check the local situation before departing. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, a move that has been recognised by almost 40 countries including the US and most of the EU, but has been opposed by Serbia as an 'illegal act'. Street crime is common in the larger cities so it is wise to take sensible precautions with valuables.

Time

Local time is GMT +2 (March to September); GMT +1 (October to February).

Tipping

Tipping is not obligatory in Serbian restaurants, but if you are satisfied with the service then leave a 10 to 15% tip. At bars and with taxis leave a tip by rounding off the amount.

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