Serbia - Belgrade/Beograd

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by happybonzo, May 22, 2007.

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  1. A mate is thinking of traveling to Beograd next year*. He will be travelling in a Motorhome.

    Does anyone have any recent experience of how safe the place is? I'm not talking about the FCO type of advice but the practical "don't go to..." sort of thing.

    * He's going for the Eurovision song contest: I thought that it was a wind-up but he really is.
  2. 'Diplomat' on this site currently works there and I lived there for about 18 months (2003-5).

    Belgrade is a fantastic place and a party town. Just advise your mate not to be rude to the locals and all will be well. I have heard of isolated cases of travellers getting into trouble. It is normally because said westerner has got drunk and gone to a dodgy strip club or casino and been rude/loud. That said I have been to several casinos and a strip club there and never had anything but fun. Serbs are friendly and like to party.

    Send a PM to Diplomat as he knows all the best pubs and restuarants, as well as knowing a bevvy of extremely hubbalicious ladies.

    One small pointer though: it is rare to get inside a Serbian girl's knickers on the first date (though not impossible :) )

    Driving there the best route is to come down through Germany, enter Austria at Passau, go around Vienna and on to Budapest. Go around Budapest (or stop for a beer with me if tired) on the M0 and take the M5 to Serbia. Normal driving time from Calais to Belgrade is about 16-17 hours, so might be a couple of hours longer if the motorhome is slow. In Austria and Hungary he will have to buy a motorway vignette (at any petrol station) and in Serbia there are two toll booths between the border and Belgrade.
  3. No first hand experience, but a mate has just come back from travelling round the balkans (Zagreb, Sarajevo, Belgrade etc) and said it was all fine... but then he's an aussie, and they seem to fit in anywhere!
  4. Echo what Dread says and confirm it applies today too.

    Tell your friend to remain polite and well mannered, and there won't be any problems at all. 'Normal' crime as per any large city, but likes of mugging etc almost non-existant.

    Place will be heaving for Eurovision, so advise he gets here early and is prepared to pay a few backhanders to get the best parking sites etc.

    No problems with driving through Slovenia and Croatia if that route is prefered.
  5. I was in Beograde last year - out of five countries I visited - Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ukraine, Serbia was at joint top of the list with Ukraine.

    The locals are very, very friendly. There were also a lot of backpackers, although mainly from France, who were planning on going to the Gucha festival (a famous gypsy festival that gets half a million visitors from all over the world). It would appear Serbia is quite a popular place, for backpackers at least... although I also heard one of the budget airlines was planning on flying there, too.... which I hope doesn't happen, as it would be a shame if Beograd were to turn into Prague or Budapest.

    My opinions:

    The Serbians are still very anti-Nato... but then walking aroung Beograd and seeing bombed hospitals and blocks of flats you can understand why... the typical attitude I met was "you fight soldiers with soldiers, not bomb everything from the sky". Although, I was drinking with a group of lads in a bar, and I mentioned to one of the guys (an English ex-pat) that I was part of NATO during '99 and he laughed and told the others - and nobody actually cared - they still were still buying me drinks. I also made really good friends with somebody who was conscripted by Milosovich.

    An example of how friendly these people are - I got off of the train in Beograd, and I asked a policeman in the station if he knew of any local hostels - he actually left the station to show me one across the road; Which was full up, but the owners gladly directed me to another, which was also full up. But the owner of this hostel (Three Black Catz) phoned a friend who owned a hostel and got me a room there - but not before he got me pissed, and invited me to the Gucha festival with him and his friends).

    During my time there (just a few days), people were stopping me in the street to chat - tourism is a relatively new phenomena to the Serb's having been isolated for so long, they seem to enjoy the new surge of visitors - which may explain why there are Tourist Information Centres on every street and an abundance of backpacker hostels and English print touristy type newspapers. The drink is relatively cheap - about 50pence a beer, and food is cheap, too. I think it cost about a pound for a gyros, chips and a drink.

    Tell your friend to read up on Serbian history before he goes - as in medieval history -the Serbians (aged 21/22) I was mixing with were very offended when they got chatting with some Americans who (typified Americans) were ignorant of Serbian history and culture. And these were young people (21/22), which just shows the differerence between them and our Chav culture.

    The nightlife is pretty good, which for the people I was with, seemed to revolve around nightclubs on boats - which I think normally requires you to be with locals, or have an invite, to get inside - although I may be wrong. But I must say - there is certainly something to be said for drinking and dancing away at 5 in the morning on a Sunday night on a boat floating on the Danube!

    The people of Serbia (Beograd, at least) are very warm and friendly people. The city of Beograd is also very chic. There are a few sights, such as the castle, and also a church that is considered to hold the record for taking the longest to build. I think it has been underconstruction for the past 100 years!

    And in fact, I enjoyed the place so much, I'm going back this year to the Exit Festival, in Novi Sad though I will be visiting Beograd again, and this time I hope to visit Novi Beograd.

    A quick method of travell for you friend is to fly into Balaton, and maybe spend some time in Budapest before getting a train to Beograd (which takes about 7-9hours. Although I've also heard that you can get the coach from Balaton to Beograd, which only takes four hours? Although I'm not sure how true this is.

    Forgot to add: two rules - do not turn down a drink if a Serbian offers to buy you one - it is considered rude. And show Serbian women respect - the Americans I met pushed the Serbian lads we were hanging around with to the limit by making a remark about Serbian women being pretty but having bad teeth.
  6. I would echo amazing-lobster's comments;

    I went out with a Bosnian Serb for 2.5 years and nothing was guaranteed to wind her and her contemporaries up more than ill-advised and thought comments about Serbian culture, Kosovo and NATO bombing of Belgrade. Avoid the subjects completely is my advice as they are sensitive and quick to rise up about it.

    The Exit festival at Novi Sad is well worth going to - i went in July 2004 and thought it was excellent; Iggy Pop headlined it. The bus ride from Belgrade to Novi Sad is about 2+ hours (if memory serves me correctly) and cheap compared to UK prices. Be aware that the locals aren't very good at queuing and you need to have your wits about you to ensure you get your seat. Bear in mind that it's a good walk from the bus station to the castle where the festival is held so consider having change for a taxi.

    The majority of young locals speak English, or enough for you to get by with and be understood, and they like to practise it though it is thought of as good manners to know at least the basics in Serbo-Croat - please, thank you, hello, etc, etc. Using them can make a big difference to how you're perceived.

    As previous posters have stated Belgrade is an interesting city - it has culture, nightlife, sport, etc, and it's cheap to eat and drink by UK standards. The castle is worth a visit and there's some decent restaurants with good views over the city in the evening that are worth going to.

    Lake Balaton to Belgrade is doable by bus but would take longer than the time quoted. I would advise getting the train from Balaton to Budapest and from Budapest to Belgrade - don't expect luxury and get your scoff before you travel too! Balaton itself is worth a short stay in and is a popular holiday resort for young Hungarians - there's plenty to do and a good mix of clubbing/nightlife and quieter areas if you chose. However, the language is difficult to get your tongue around though your efforts will be appreciated for comedy value alone. I found German was spoken in many parts of that area especially by the older inhabitants.
  7. I found that too - in the Eastern Europe countries I visited, most spoke German.

    I've been to Balaton, but I didn't spend much time there apart from at the airport - this time though, I'm flying into Prague and flying out at Ljubljana.
  8. Many thanks for that everyone: My pal was getting a lot of idiotic advice from people who hadn't got a clue.
  9. I'll echo all of the above - and a very big word of warning. Tell your pal to stay off the local brandies - Slivovitca, Kruschka and the like. He will very rapidly become a bumbling, incoherent wreck. :twisted:

    Also tell you pal to pray for hot weather - for some unknown reason skirts get shorter, jeans get tighter and the front bits show a lot more :wink: There is plenty of eye candy in Belgrade. pm The Diplomat

    Amazing Lobsters comments on the language are also true - when I first arrived here I tried to pay a bill and ended up getting directed to the toilet by a young waitress who found the experience highly amusing (as did her mates!!!!)

    Tell your mate to ENJOY.
  10. A mate of mine went over to see the Red Star vs Partizan match a few months back. Apparently football hooliganism is alive and well there and it was kicking off all over the place. Almost as many coppers as fans. The Partizan fans unfurled a giant banner in the stadium listing all the clubs they hated across Europe, which included Newcastle United and, er, Shrewsbury Town! 8O

    So, avoid football colours. Unless your an ex 'firm' member looking for a trip down memory lane (and to the local hospital :roll: ).
  11. Yep - football problems in Bosnia as well (Sarajevo and Mostar!). Those Shrewsbury Town barstewards have had it coming for years :roll:
  12. diplomat

    diplomat War Hero Book Reviewer

    Having been outed by Dread as to my location I can only confirm most of the previous comments. We have been selfish bastards here and were trying to keep the nightlife a secret!

    Belgrade is buzzing, and is becoming ever more popular as a Party Town. Previous tourist articles are referring to it as New York on the Cheap. True in terms of night life, but not for shopping, unless really sartorially challenged!

    No cheap flights yet, but rumours are that an airline called SNOW will be starting up one to Scandanavia soon. BA and JAT from LHR are only EURO 199 each way if you book early enough anyway, and hotels are basicv but cheap. (Only Dread can afford the Hyatt!!).

    Couple of websites that you may find interesting to give you an idea: (Tourist Stuff) (Clubs and Pubs)

    (Register on this site and then you can see the pictures of what happened in the clubs when you were there - you won't remember!).

    Got to go, its party night tonight! It was yesterday and will be tomorrow too though!
  13. To save you checking the websites Diplomat, for a small fee, I'll happily send you copies of my own snaps and have them hand-delivered to your door!!!

    You should see the one of you that I took last week! It really was a bit OTT to go dressed up as a SCOOCH lookalike to that Eurovision party. :D
  14. Really - well Diplomat you have got some explaining to do - personally - tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CU
  15. Hey happybonzo,

    Tell your mate that if he has time, Sarajevo is definitely worth a visit. Good roads from Belgrade and no sh*t from customs, etc.

    It's a terrific city, full of contrasts and, more importantly, you can get a beer and a bowl of goulash soup from the brewery (Sarajevska Pivara) for about three quid.

    Tell him to watch out for Serbian plod. They are not paid very much and they'll stop you for speeding even a kilometre over the limit in order to supplement their earnings with a touch of baksheesh.