The cliche suggests that to travel cheap you must travel slow, and that is true more often than not. But if you’re only in Serbia for a couple of days, why not make the absolute most of it? You will more than likely stay in Belgrade, so focus on getting as much out of the capital as you can.
Luckily for the brief visitor, most of the best things to see and do are absolutely free, while the ‘do’ part of that sentence invariably means ‘eat and drink’. The high-end restaurants in Belgrade aren’t cheap, but you can get absolutely fantastic meals for as little as $10 a head. Expect to pay at least that, and copy that number for a decent night on the tiles.
Staying in hostels is still the way to go for those looking to save money. Dorm beds can be found for as low as $8, but it is best to shell out a tiny bit more for a fantastic hostel experience in the city. Overall, set yourself around $75 for a fun two-day stay in the Serbian capital.
A full week will give you much more time to explore the country, which pretty much goes without saying. Be sure to give Belgrade an extra day or two in order to cover every corner of the region’s most important city, including trips to Zemun and Avala Mountain.
The second half of the week should be spent in the north of the country, in the province of Vojvodina. The axiom of Serbia being the border of east and west comes to life here, as the towns and villages betray a history that leans closer to the Habsburg Empire than the Ottoman. Novi Sad is the regional capital, and acts as a great base from which to explore towns like Sremski Karlovci.
Buses run between Belgrade and Novi Sad every hour or so, and you shouldn’t pay more than $12 for the ride. Prices in other sectors don’t change as you go north, so you can still expect to pay $10–$13 a night in a hostel and $10 for an excellent meal. When you factor in a day or two of cooking for yourself and a couple of nights away from the nightlife, $250 becomes a more than reasonable amount for one week in Serbia.
Now we’re talking. We may be biased, but two weeks is the absolute minimum that one should set aside for Serbia. Belgrade can be well and truly conquered in this time, and the extra day in Vojvodina will allow for a full tour of the monasteries and nature of Fruška Gora.
So what to do with the extra days? We suggest eschewing the crow’s route and heading east to Golubac and Đerdap before continuing the journey south. Prices dip a little bit on the food and drink side of things out east, but the lack of hostels means you’re almost certainly going to have to spend a night in a hotel, apartment or guesthouse. Expect to pay $20-$40 for that privilege, but don’t expect any English language. If ever there was a reason to pick up a little bit of Serbian, this is it.
After gawping at the natural beauty of the east, head south to Niš and the best food in the country. Everything is a lot cheaper down south (with the exception of accommodation), and you can expect an incredible meal for $6 or so. Suffice to say, this is the place in which to fill your boots.
Factoring in transport, less reliable accommodation and no small amount of glutton, $400-$450 will see you through two solid weeks of Serbian excellence.
At the beginning of this article we said that travelling slow was travelling cheap, but those of you who have set three weeks aside for Serbia will know what you are getting yourself into. Why not embrace everything that comes at you, and take advantage of low prices and the magic of excess? Give Belgrade a full week for a start, giving ample time for the incredible nightlife and inevitable hangovers that follow.
Vojvodina and the east can take up week two, but consider crossing the country to the west before heading south. The west of Serbia is also full of incredible nature, so spend a night or two in Tara National Park before heading to Niš via a stop around Uvac Canyon.
As with the east, the savings on food and drink are offset by less choice on the accommodation front. Airbnb is worth exploring when it comes to Tara, as entire mountain top cabins can be found for as little as $30. If you’re in the area, why not splurge on the dream?
Taking in a little extra spending and total enjoyment of everything that Serbia has to offer, $800 will offer a fantastic time and a little bit of breathing room for souvenirs, better accommodation and maybe another shot of rakija or another plate of ćevapi.