How to survive Belgrade and Serbian culture?
Here is the ultimate Belgrade survival guide for everything you expect and don’t expect from this outstanding city.
Get ready for close contact
People in Serbia are extremely hospitable. They want to make you feel like you are one of them, so they will often treat you that way. Just talk about food, tennis player Novak Djokovic or rakija brandy, and you will instantly make some friends! It is very easy to connect with residents.
Serbs like to shake hands, to hug each other, and gesture a lot while talking. When Serbs talk about their passions or when they want to persuade you into something, they will shake and move their arms and legs very lively. Also, it is not uncommon for Serbs to name you: “brate moj”(my brother), “care” (the emperor), “kralju” (king), “legendo” (legend), “majstore” (master). These nicknames are constantly used among people who hang-out together and love each other. Also, remember that Serbs do not kiss 2, but 3 times when greeting!
The food is served in large portions
If you visit a traditional Belgrade restaurant with a desire to try local food, you will probably get a very large portion. Meat and meat products are dominant, but there are also very tasty traditional veggie dishes. Serbs mostly eat them during the fasting period. The amount of food that seems too big for you is doubtless normal for Serbs. Serbs are great gourmands, they prepare delicious food, but they can also eat a lot. They eat much more than the other residents of Europe.
However, we are sure that your appetite will increase when you realize how delicious Serbian food is!
Rakija is God's drink
It doesn’t matter if it’s a wedding, a funeral, a birthday, or just a regular morning, Serbs will drink rakija! It is a national drink and a Serbian brand. It represents brandy made of all kinds of fruits. If you haven’t tried it before, it may be a bit strong. But, it is something you must try in Serbia. The most famous brandy is Plum brandy – Slivovitza. Toasts in Serbia are accompanied by a loud clicking of glasses, looking in the eyes and saying “Živeli!” (Cheers!).
Serbs don't function without a coffee
Although the standard of living in Serbia is not so high, Serbs like to spend money on a coffee in a cafe. Cafes in Belgrade are constantly crowded. Serbs can’t imagine their day without coffee. The favorite is a black one served without milk. It has 3 names: Turkish, black or domestic coffee. It is very strong and usually served with “ratluk” (Turkish delight).
Serbs drink coffee slowly. They enjoy every sip. There is also an unusual ritual related to the prediction of the future from the coffee ground in the cup. If you come to Serbia, ask somebody to predict your future from a coffee cup. You will surely have fun!
Serbs are arguing over who will pay the bill
This is often very unusual for many foreigners who got used to paying separate bills at a cafe or restaurant. By paying the entire bill, Serbs show respect for their guest or friend and show how happy they are to be able to host the person who is with them. This is another indication of Serbian generosity and widely known hospitality. If you want to show a Serb that you like, admire and respect him, pay the whole bill when you go out together Keep in mind, this probably won’t be easy to do, so be prepared for arguing! 🙂
The humor is welcome
Serbs are very fond of joking. They are cheerful people with a gloomy history, and they love black humor the most. This helped them to remain strong and positive after difficult times in the past. Do not be surprised if you hear some sarcastic jokes. Despite everything, they always want to make you laugh and create a pleasant atmosphere.
Traffic jams can be serious
Belgrade is the largest European city without a subway. Also, there are many narrow, one-way streets. Furthermore, pedestrians usually cross the street at the red light or outside the pedestrian crossing. All in all, Serbs do not take traffic rules too seriously, so be careful if you drive!
Banknotes have many zeros
Do not be surprised if you get a bill for several thousand dinars in Serbia, but you haven’t bought anything too valuable. One thousand dinars is about 8,5€. During the 1990s, the Serbs also had banknotes with several million dinars, but they could only buy one grocery at the store with them!
The sensitive topic in conversation: Kosovo
Kosovo is historically and culturally the most significant part of Serbia, with many historical and political events in its past. If you talk about this topic in Serbia, you will hear a lot of different opinions, depending on the nationality of the people you are talking to. Talks about Kosovo can often be very emotional, and the conversation on this topic can be extended for a long time.
Shops work on Sundays
A large number of markets, small shops, shopping centers and restaurants are open on Sundays. Moreover, it is not unusual that the biggest crowd is exactly on that day, because people who don’t work usually choose Sunday for shopping. Belgrade offers many boutiques, fashion stores, well-known international brands and small local shops where you can buy organic food, handmade clothes, natural cosmetics and unique souvenirs.
Serbia has very cheap, but professional dentists
Many foreigners decide to spend their vacation in a dentist’s chair in Belgrade. Dental services in Serbia are far cheaper than those in Western Europe, America or Australia. Therefore, health tourism has become very popular in Serbia. Many visitors come only for dental services, and while they are here, they visit the main tourist attractions.
The most important center for health and dental tourism is Belgrade. It turns out that paying for dental services in Belgrade, for transportation, accommodation and food is cheaper than going to a dentist in highly-developed countries.
To illustrate this, I will give you just one example. Setting up a single dental implant in Serbia costs around 400€, and in Western countries between 2000 and 6000€. And there is no reason to worry about the quality of service. The materials that dentists use are the same as in Western countries and the experts are top-notch.
This Belgrade guide would not be complete without information about transportation.
If you want to get around Belgrade, you can take a bus, tram, trolley, electric bus, minibus and train. You can use any of the doors to enter a vehicle. Whichever vehicle you choose, you should obtain a BUS PLUS card. You can buy it at many kiosks around the city. Inside the vehicle hold your Bus Plus card against the electronic device until you get the verification. Ticket inspectors are often without a special uniform, so you may not notice them. Therefore, always carry your tickets with you to avoid paying a fine.
Especially for tourists, we recommend Bus Plus cards that last 1, 3 or 5 days and are valid for an unlimited number of rides in all vehicle types, except for night lines (00-04). If you purchase these cards, you must put them against the electronic device each time you enter a new vehicle. The price of the card for 1 day is 290 DIN (about 2,35e), for 3 days is 740 DIN (about 6,35e) and for 5 days is 1040 DIN (about 8,85e). These cards are valid for zones 1 and 2 that cover the biggest part of the city.
Beware of fake taxi drivers!
There is no standard rule in Serbia for the color of the taxi or the type of car. You may run into an illegal taxi vehicle, in which the taxi driver, especially if he realizes that you do not know the city well, will charge you more for transportation. However, we share with you tips related to distinguishing a regular taxi from an illegal one. First, a regular taxi has letters TX on the license plate and a roof sign. Also, the taximeter in the car must be visible.
- The prices of taxi services in Belgrade:
- START 170 din
- WAITING 750 din/h
- FIRST TARIFF 65 din/km (around 0,5€) – on working days and Saturday from 06 to 22h
- SECOND TARIFF 85 din/km (around 0,7€) from 22 to 06h, on Sundays and public holidays
- THIRD TARIFF 130 din/km (around 1,1€) driving outside Belgrade
Emergency phone numbers
Important phone numbers you may need during your stay in Serbia:
Fire station: 193
Road assistance: 1987
Emergency hospital: +381 11 3618 444 (Clinical Center of Serbia, Pasterova 2)
International information: 19011