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Serbia is a truly unique holiday destination, with a fusion of cultural and historical influences creating a certain national charm. The picturesque country has endured the tragedies of civil war and ethnic violence, but today strives to overcome its dark and turbulent past, with a much more stable and peaceful situation attracting more and more tourists every year.
The capital city of Belgrade, still scarred by the devastation of a drawn out conflict, is lauded today mainly for its vibrant nightlife. But it is also one of Europe's most ancient capitals, having seen the rise and fall of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and boasts plenty of interesting sites of historical significance.
Outside of its cities, Serbia is home to beautiful national parks, spa resorts and some of the best skiing in Europe. The landscape of this verdant country includes alpine meadows, impenetrable forests, mountain lakes, glittering limestone caves, hot springs and remote monasteries. The magnificent Djerdap National Park, stretching along the right bank of the Danube River between Golubackigrad and the Sip Dam, is definitely not to be missed, and 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 powdery peaks around the village of Kopaonik. Developing a reputation as one of Europe's cheapest and coolest ski resorts, it is ideal for beginners and intermediates, and also features the Josanicka Banja spa.
Once defined by its dark history, this sensational Slavic enclave is waiting to be rediscovered and explored by adventurous, fun-loving and budget-conscious travellers.
Some of Belgrade's most popular attractions for visitors are concentrated on the rocky ridge of Kalemegdan, site of the original fortified city, which overlooks the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The neighbourhood is now split into two beautiful parks, namely the Great and Little Park, and play host to Belgrade's ancient fortress, a zoo, art pavilion, observatory, planetarium, a Roman well and the Military Museum. Throughout the year, a range of sporting, cultural and arts events are held in Kalemegdan, and it's a popular attraction among Belgraders and visitors alike.
The Royal Palace in Belgrade has become a popular tourist attraction, boasting elegant salons, breathtaking artworks and magnificent décor. The palace was built between 1924 and 1929, and was designed by architects Zivojin Nikolic and Nikolay Krassnoff in the Serbian-Byzantine style. Beautiful gardens, pools and pavilions surround the palace, offering superb views of Kosutnjak Forest and Avala Mountain. Today, the Royal Palace is home to Crown Prince Alexander and the Karadordevic royal family, and is now open for public tours.
Dominating the skyline of Belgrade is the massive Temple of Saint Sava, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. This remarkable domed building, with its white marble and granite facade, is dedicated to the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Ottomans publicly burnt the relics of the medieval saint Sava on this site in 1595. Although construction began in 1935, the church remains incomplete, particularly the interior. Visitors are welcome to view the church, which is set in lovely gardens.
Skadarlija Street is Belgrade's equivalent of Montmartre, the famous bohemian neighbourhood in Paris, and is one of the most popular tourist spots in Belgrade. The pedestrianised precinct is lined with restaurants and pubs, with tables set on cobbled pavements, creating the perfect place to sample local specialities and take in the vibey atmosphere. Visitors flock here to enjoy a good beer and conversation; unearth some souvenirs, art and antiques; or simply soak up the traditional Serbian social scene.
A must for any history buff or art lover, the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade houses a remarkable collection of more than 400,000 items. There's so much to see, from exquisite works by Old Masters and medieval and modern art, to ancient coins and architectural models. The artefacts are split into 34 archaeological, numismatic, artistic and historical collections to form a complete and fascinating picture of Serbian culture and history.
One of few surviving buildings from the first reign of Prince Miloš Obrenovic, the stately home of Princess Ljubica was built between 1829 and 1831 as a royal private residence. The building is a perfect example of the unique Balkan architectural style, incorporating some Baroque elements, while preserving an interior that showcases the luxurious lifestyle of Belgrade's wealthy in the 19th century. The residence of Princess Ljubica is an important icon of cultural heritage in the city, and is now part of the Belgrade City Museum.
Serbia has a mostly continental climate with cold winters, long warm summers and rainfall distributed evenly throughout the year. Snow can be expected in the northern and upland regions between November and March. The southern part of the country has a more Mediterranean influence with hot, dry summers.
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. Credit cards are accepted by most of the larger hotels and shops in Serbia. Pounds Sterling, US Dollars and Euros are the most widely accepted currencies for exchange. ATMs in the cities usually accept international bank cards, but can be hard to find in the more rural areas.
Serbian is the official language.
Electrical current is 220-230 volts, 50Hz. Two-prong round pin attachment plugs as well as Schuko plugs are in use.
US nationals: Passports must be valid on arrival. No visa required for a stay of up to 90 days within a six month period. Extensions are possible.
UK nationals: Passports must be valid on arrival. No visa required for a stay of up to 90 days within a six month period. Extensions are possible.
CA nationals: Passports must be valid on arrival. No visa required for a maximum stay of 90 days within a six month period. Extensions are possible.
AU nationals: Passports must be valid on arrival. No visa required for a maximum stay of up to 90 days within a six month period. Extensions are possible.
ZA nationals: South Africans require a passport valid on arrival. No visa required for passengers with a visa issued by Switzerland, USA or an EEA Member State for a maximum stay of 90 days within a six month period. The visa must be valid for the period of intended stay.
IR nationals: Passports must be valid on arrival. No visa required for a maximum stay of up to 90 days within a six month period. Extensions are possible.
NZ nationals: Passports must be valid on arrival. No visa required for a maximum stay of up to 90 days within a six month period. Extensions are possible.
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. Anyone staying longer than three days must register via a hotel or sponsor. Entry to Serbia via Pristina Airport, Kosovo, may carry 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.
A reciprocal healthcare agreement entitles British nationals to free emergency treatment in Serbia, but due to the very basic standard of medical facilities, comprehensive travel health insurance is strongly recommended for all visitors. Tap water and unbottled beverages should not be consumed.
Tipping is not obligatory in Serbian restaurants, but if you are satisfied with the service then leave a 10 to 15 percent tip. At bars and with taxis leave a tip by rounding off the amount.
Most visits to Serbia are trouble free, but it is wise to take sensible precautions with valuables, as pick-pocketing, car theft, purse snatchings, and burglaries do occur in the larger cities. Protests occasionally occur in cities such as Belgrade, and travellers are advised to keep informed of current events and avoid large gatherings, as demonstrations can quickly turn violent. 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'.
It is inadvisable to take photographs of any military or police buildings, personnel 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.
Serbian business people and entrepreneurs are westernised in their approach to business dealings with foreigners. Keep in mind that operations can go slowly due to cumbersome bureaucracy. Most Serbian professionals speak English, so it is not always necessary to hire a translator or translate business cards. 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.
The international direct dialling code for Serbia is +381. There are local area codes in use e.g. (0)11 for Belgrade. Wifi can be found in hotels, some cafes and public areas like libraries, and can be used to make free international calls.
Visitors entering Serbia may bring the following goods without paying customs duty: personal baggage, clothing and jewellery; 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre of alcohol and 1 litre of wine; medicine and perfume or eau de toilette for personal use.
National Tourist Organisation of Serbia, Belgrade: +381 11 655 7100.
Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 332 0333.
Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7235 9049.
Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 6289.
Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 9362 46 37.
Embassy of the Republic of Serbia, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 460 5626.
United States Embassy, Belgrade: +381 11 706 4000.
British Embassy, Belgrade: +381 11 3060 900.
Embassy of Canada, Belgrade: +381 11 306 3000.
Australian Embassy, Belgrade: +381 11 330 3400.
South African Embassy, Athens, Greece (also responsible for Serbia): + 30 210 617 8020.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Belgrade: +381 11 263 7667.
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