A Solo Traveller's Guide to Serbia

The colourful umbrellas of Belgrade's old town | © Day Zoom/flickr
The colourful umbrellas of Belgrade's old town | © Day Zoom/flickr
Photo of John William Bills
17 November 2017

It was once said that to travel alone is truly travel, and we are inclined to agree. Zipping up the backpack and stepping out into the world on your lonesome frees you from the plans and restrictions of others, opening doors and experiences that may otherwise stay closed and providing an experience that is truly unique. Serbia is the perfect country to visit alone, although no one is ever truly alone in this most hospitable of states.

Immerse yourself in Belgrade

The Serbian capital is one of Europe’s true highlights, whether the sun is up or the sun has long gone. Far and away the biggest city in the country, Belgrade has a host of sights and activities that are tailor-made for individual travels. Its churches are ideal for introspective reflection, while the bars and clubs are full of people with stories to tell. When you add a bevy of museums, parks and galleries to the equation (not to mention the best cafes in the region), you have a city waiting for you to fall in love with it.

Republic Square in Belgrade | © only_point_five/flickr

Visit the monasteries

The nation’s history is intricately tied to that of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and as such the monasteries dotted throughout the country must make up an integral part of any would-be traveller’s itinerary. Some of them can be difficult to get to, but the effort is worth it. The monasteries are found all over the country, with Studenica, Žiča, Krušedol and Gradac among the most impressive. Many of the most important Serbian monasteries are located in the disputed territory of Kosovo however.

Dubrava Monastery | © Nick Savchenko/flickr

Stick with hostels

If you’re traveling in Serbia on your own, hostels are undoubtedly the way to go in the bigger cities. Belgrade and Novi Sad both have very healthy hostel scenes, with there arguably being a little too much choice in the former. Hostels open and close all the time, and your best bet is to reserve a bed with those involved in the Balkans Best Hostels scheme. Any hostel worth its salt is very communicative, so don’t be afraid to send an email as opposed to booking through secondary websites. Hostels also come with the added bonus of potential travel partners for those getting tired of solo travel.

Join a tour

With that in mind, be sure to go on any tours that your hostels may be offering. The tours are more often than not a great way to check out the surrounding area, complete with a knowledgeable guide and easy access to the best food and sights around. This is particularly true when staying outside of Belgrade.

Sremski Karlovci, a key part of any tour around Vojvodina | © DubeFranz/flickr

A little lingo goes a long way

It isn’t vital to learn the Serbian language in order to have a good time in the country, but you’ll be surprised at how open strangers can be if you make even a minimal effort. You aren’t going to be expected to discuss the intricacies of philosophy in Serbian, but throwing in a well-timed ‘učim polako’ (‘I’m learning slowly’), ‘boliglava’ (‘my head hurts’) or ‘šta ima, bre!’ (‘what’s up, bro!’) can be the difference between a good time and a great one. Running your eye over the Cyrillic alphabet before going is a good idea too.

Ridesharing is your friend

Public transport isn’t exactly Serbia’s strongpoint, but those looking to venture out into the country from Belgrade will be able to find buses to most destinations. More often than not, the vehicles in question will be less than luxurious, so be prepared for a bumpy ride. It is always worth checking out the ride share options, and there are almost always rides available on BlaBlaCar or Prevoz. These options are less expensive and more efficient. When in Belgrade, download the Car:Go app for all your taxi needs.

Edible everything for everyone

Traveling on your own is the best way to enjoy the food in Serbia; there will be nobody to judge you when you order more and more and more. Serbia is a must-visit country for meat-lovers everywhere, but it isn’t exactly the vegetarian wasteland that some seem to believe. Belgrade in particular has a number of excellent vegetarian and vegan options (Radnost Fina Kuhinjica is among the best).

No good veggie food in Serbia? No one told Radost Fina Kuhinjica | © Radost Fina Kuhinjica/Facebook

The ‘K’ word

As mentioned earlier, many of Serbia’s most important monasteries are located in Kosovo. Whether you regard it as a southern province of Serbia or a legitimate independent state is immaterial; there are certain things you need to keep in mind if you are planning on visiting. If you’re going to be heading to Serbia after Kosovo, you need to enter Kosovo from Serbia as opposed to neighbouring Albania or Macedonia. Going from Serbia into Kosovo and back again is fine, but going from Albania to Kosovo to Serbia might cause some problems at the border.

Gračanica Monastery | © Johannes Zielcko/flickr

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