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How to Navigate Transport in Serbia

A lonely trolley trundles through Belgrade
A lonely trolley trundles through Belgrade | © MaxPixels
Serbia isn’t the easiest country in Europe to get around, and public transport is still something of a black eye on the country’s tourist offer. That isn’t to say it’s impossible however, and you can still get from Subotica down to Leskovac without major issues. This is your guide to transport in Serbia.

Buses

The most common method of traversing the width and breadth of Serbia is by bus, with an impressive variety of vehicles criss-crossing the country on a daily basis. Every town of note will have a bus station in its centre, with ticket and information desks alike making it easy to buy tickets and get around.

One major problem with buses is the lack of reliable information online, meaning the only way to get accurate times is to visit the station or call in advance. The buses themselves are varying in speed and comfort too, ranging from sleek, modern vehicles to ones that may or may not be the ghosts of Christmas past.

Local tip

Get to the bus station with plenty of time to spare. While it is unlikely that any problems will occur, it is always wise to give yourself a decent safety net if spanners make their way into your plans. No matter how disinterested and curmudgeonly the office staff may be, conduct your business with a smile and a positive attitude, throwing in little bits of Serbian along the way. It will make a difference.

Trains

While riding the rails is undoubtedly the most romantic way to travel, that can quickly turn to heartbreak when doing so in Serbia. Trains in Serbia are unreliable, often overbooked and generally stuffy affairs. It is a telling sign when locals are surprised at a train arriving on time. You can of course move around the country on the rails, but buses are far more reliable and often more comfortable.

Local tip

Don’t use them? If you are intent on travelling by train, be prepared to have to talk your way into your reserved seat. Watching Serbia go by from the windows of the corridor can be quite the treat, however, so maybe it’s best to stand up the whole time. Don’t expect clean toilets either. Just don’t.

A fine Serbian train waiting to leave the station © Vesti Online / WikiMedia Commons

Roads and private transport

Renting a car and driving across the country is absolutely the best way to travel Serbia in an enjoyable fashion. This allows you to do away with the frustrating bus timetables and absolute misery of the Serbian train toilets, along with offering you the chance to jump out at any point and take in the often surprising Serbian nature.

Serbian roads aren’t quite as wonderful as those in western Europe, but they have improved immeasurably over the years. You’ll still run into the odd pothole, but these are no longer the norm. Traffic in Belgrade can be pretty intense, however, especially the closer you get to the centre of town.

Ride-sharing is becoming more and more common in the area, and is a safe and efficient way to get around. Keep an eye on BlaBlaCar and the Slovenian Prevozi website for any drivers passing your way.

Local tip

Road signs will be in Cyrillic throughout the country, so do the right thing and brush up on the national script. You should be doing that anyway of course. Check out the Roads of Serbia website for up to date information on the highways across the country.

A road in Serbia. Nothing more, nothing else. © Pudelek / WikiMedia Commons

Airports

There are two airports in Serbia, one in Belgrade and one down south in Niš. The latter has recently experienced a boost as one of WizzAir’s Eastern European stops, but the capital isn’t overjoyed at the loss of traffic. Belgrade’s airport is small and functional with a number of cafes and restaurants within, although the service isn’t exactly stellar at any of them.

Local tip

While you are advised to turn up to the bus stations with plenty of time to spare, this isn’t really necessary when it comes to the airports. Each gate has its own security, so it is fairly easy to breeze through with time to spare.

Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport © saiko3p/Shutterstock