St. Sava Church - Belgrade, Serbia
As Europe’s most popular cities struggle under the weight of their own popularity, I am always on the hunt for quieter and cheaper alternatives away from tourist hordes. For that reason, I mean it when I say (and reiterate) Belgrade really is the answers to all your cheapskate prayers. Here's how you can conquer the Serbian capital, without going bankrupt!
Belgrade's only airport, Nikola Tesla, is 20kms outside of the city; relatively close, as compared to other European capitals.
The best option is the A1 mini bus. It departs from the airport straight for Slavija Square, right in the heart of Belgrade. Tickets cost 300RSD (Serbian Dinars) or €2.5, and can be bought on the bus. The A1 line runs every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, both weekdays and weekends.
Another option is route number 72, which departs from the airport for Zeleni Venac station. It costs 118RSD or €1 (for tickets bought from the kiosk) and 176RSD or €1.5 (for tickets bought on the bus). Approximate travel time is 40 to 45 minutes to reach city centre Belgrade.
The buses, trams and trolleys of the city certainly aren’t the worst on the continent, but Belgrade isn't like other Eastern European capitals such as Budapest or Vienna. With that disclaimer in place, this is how you should go about using public transport in the Serbian capital:
While jumping on a trolley, tram or bus in Belgrade, it will initially seem as if nobody seems to be paying to use the system. Don’t be fooled into thinking transportation is for free though, as people only find themselves on the end of a fine. Ticket inspectors are more prevalent than most assume, and more often than not, will be of the plain clothes variety.
To buy a ticket, make a beeline for one of the many kiosks dotted around the city and purchase a ‘Bus Plus’ card. The system acts on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, with one 90 minute journey costing a measly 89 Serbian Dinar (RSD). Simply purchase the card (it costs 250RSD), mention how money should be on it, and it's set to be used.
When entering the vehicle (use any of the doors, not necessarily just the front one), be sure to hold the Bus Plus card against the reader until it is verified. The ticket inspectors won’t take any spluttering such as ‘I’m foreign, I don’t understand’. It isn’t difficult to use although, brushing up on a little Cyrillic beforehand might help.
Zeleni Venac is the main hub for inner city traffic, just up the hill from the city’s central bus and train stations. A map of the lines can also be found on the official website of the system.
Despite the mild pessimism by locals, Belgrade’s buses are easy to use and are decent to get around the city. Just be sure to pay, avoid usual rush hours, and bring along a pinch of salt or two.
Belgrade also has a tram system which I personally really enjoyed. Eleven lines run around the city, and tram line number 2 circles the downtown parts of Belgrade. It is informally known as 'krug dvojke', or the ‘Circle of Line 2’, and is a leisurely way to do a lap of Stari Grad before jumping off and tackling the sights.
Belgrade’s trolleybuses were introduced in the late ’40s, and there are seven lines that traverse the city. However, there are plans to pedestrianise the old town, so days of the faithful trolleybus could be numbered.
Belgrade also has a small number of mini buses that run around the city, providing more efficient transport between certain parts at bigger prices. The Serbian capital is also one of the few major European cities that doesn’t have a metro, and despite occasional governmental promises, this shows no signs of changing any time soon.
Depending upon individual budget, accommodation in Belgrade starts from as little as €3. Backpackers and budget travellers can make use of the plethora of hostels spread all over the city. Even though I am a hard core AirBnB advocate, I would strongly advise choosing hostels and hotels in Belgrade instead of the former. AirBnB is much more expensive all over the country! Booking.com, edreams and expedia offer the best rates and deals, catering to every budget.
Most of the places of interest in Belgrade are completely free. The only one that costs a little bit of money is Nikola Tesla Museum, but even that won't break the bank. Individual tickets cost as little as €4.23 (500 RSD), and the museum really is worth being almost €5 poorer. For other attractions, check out my blog on all the places you can easily explore for free/cheap.
Belgrade truly is meat haven! Ćevapi, a traditional Balkan dish of grilled mince meat often served with chopped onion and sour cream, is in abundant supply in the city and well worth trying. There are plenty of vegetarian options as well, and food can cost as little as 100RSD. Some of my favourite budget restaurants are as follows:
Srpska Kuca Piva: brilliant ambience, generous potions and lots of flavours packed in each meal. One meal will set you back between €4-€5.
Bistro Grad Hometown Food: with excellent hummus and immaculate bbq palettes, Bistro Grad is the perfect spot for a quick lunch or a catch-up drink. It also caters to vegetarians/vegans, and an individual meal accompanied with a drink will be between €5-€6.
Jazz Cafe: Jazz Cafe is the perfect mix of music, drinks and food. It sure is fancy, but won't break your budget! A three course meal with a drink is easily between €7-€8. Also suitable for vegetarians/vegans.
Walter Sarajevski Cevap: for a proper Balkan meal complete with Ćevapi and Ajvar (yoghurt drink), Walter Sarajevski is a fantastic option. The staff and servers are extremely friendly, the vibe is positive and vibrant and complete meals cost as little as €2.5.
Cevap kod Dekija: Definitely make your way here if you wish to try excellent desserts alongside amazing BBQ. Krempita, one of my favourite Serbian desserts, is a must-try! Again, prices start from as little as €2.5.
Cevapki kebabs - Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade's youthful population makes the nightlife legendary (and cheap!). The great value coffee shops, bars and restaurants are so thriving, people may wonder when any work gets done. Go now, before everyone else finds out.