Belgrade – An underestimated town in the east of Europe. 10th May till 10th July 2018

20. July 2018 Off By Justus Zeemann

This is my first English blog article. Up until now, I wrote everything in German and translated it to English later. If you read this at the time it is released, there is nothing else translated yet.

While thinking about having a German and an English page, I recalled one German comment, which stated,

“If you write in English, it has to be perfect. You have to use the English language like a native. You have to know slang, words specific to the topic, to your target audience. If you don’t do that, nobody will identify with your text and blog”.

Luckily I also read another sentence months, or years, before, wrote it down and made it one of my main points in tasks like this:

“Don’t let perfection stop you from starting”.

I hope you get value out of this article – even if it’s not “German perfection” what you read ; )


Why Belgrade?

While enjoying the Nomad Cruise number 6, from Malaga, Spain to Athens, Greece I met many nice people. Two of these people were Tijana and Dejan, both long time travelers. After our first discussion of Serbia on the ferry to Santorini, I shared a room with Dejan for a few days in Santorini and he told me more about this “Serbia” country about which I knew nothing.

Since he left Serbia 7 or 8 years ago, his information wasn’t up to date, and I did my own research on the WWW.
Decision made!
My first place to live without moving every few weeks would be a town, which was not known to be a hotspot for digital nomads; and I don’t regret the decision to go off the beaten path.

The following information is not as detailed as a travel guide, because I value your time and I think you can get all of the information you need to decide if you want to go or not. If you need any further details, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. In terms of contacts for your stay in Belgrade, I will be glad to forward you to the people I met and shared a lot of time with.

The currency is “Dinar”. I did 17 money exchanges in total, because I don’t like to carry around a lot at one time. Also I did buy a few spontaneous things and had trouble with one flat, so it added up.
I wanted to have a good exchange rate and also get a feeling of how stable their money is. The average rate was 116,5 Dinar for 1 Euro, while at the airport and in the first few days it was as low as  113 to 115 and later I found 117,4 – 117,8. (Hint: in Europe we use a dot to separate thousands, and a comma for the 100th).
My experience is to get away from tourist main streets to find better rates.

In total I spent around 2.150 Euro in 2 months. Including ~180 Euro for shoes, clothes, repairs, a tripod, mobile connection, gifts and 3 trips to the barber shop. Also including rent, which was not how it should be… (See more at accommodation below).

In addition, most of the Serbian people don’t use paypal.
Rent is payed in Euros at the most places, they don’t want to get 100.000 Dinars ^^.
ATMs are everywhere. I tried to find one for Euros, and had no luck. So I had to get Dinars via ATM from my Euro bank account, exchange these into Euros at an exchange office, to pay the rent in Euros cash. Money losing value.
Apparently there is no way to wire transfer the money for rent to the landlords, because they’re not allowed to receive money this way from foreigners. I didn’t dig too much into this, perhaps this isn’t true, but paying in cash was easier and faster.

Mobile connection:
There are 3 big providers. I chose VIP.
1.000 din, lasted 30 days, 10GB or
300 din, 7 days, 3GB
You will get a Serbian number and you can add extra cash for calls and SMS, or choose another plan.
Fast 4G was no problem in Belgrade. I also had no problems in the countryside.

One of the most important topics, hmmm? Good, because it’s yummy!
In my two months stay I didn’t leave the house for maybe 4 days in total, to find food. I cooked only twice, and had only bread without a warm meal those 4 times I stayed in the house.

Two reasons:
Good quality, and low prices make it enjoyable to eat out.
You can find green markets around the city everywhere, and get fresh food of any kind! Stores like Maxi and Shop&Go are open 24/7 (beside 00:00 to ~00:15 when the employees take a smoke break and the cashier system is rebooted). Among these you will find food stores from Aroma and Bakeries of every kind, and also ice cream from morning till night.

There are a few restaurants which I visited more than once, and I wish to recommend to you:

Walter (in Dorcol. They have Cevap, Pelice (chicken), Salats, Beer. Always good quality and friendly staff experience).

Shawarma Harma (in Dorcol, they have more than 1 restaurant, but I only ate here 3 times. I enjoyed the Pelice, Falafel. Always good food and friendly staff).

Dolce Principessa (Princess. Also in Dorcol. My favourite place for Ice-cream, Desserts, Sugar. And super friendly staff).

Passengers Bar (Staropramen unfiltered draft. Any questions? ; ). Beside that many other amazing drinks, and  food was also a nice surprise. Staff is friendly too).

WOK Republik (I didn’t sit down in this one, but had Green Noddle’s takeout from two different stores and was super satisfied. This was way too big to fit it all in at once. Friendly, flirty staff ; )).

Bucko (Pizza with interesting Salad toppings. Something you have to try! I had a chicken topping and was fine with it).

Burrito Madre (I miss “Chipotle” from the states and found another thing to miss now from Serbia. Great food, friendly staff).

Burger House (I tried two stores and each time had a good Burger. Friendly staff included).

Kafeterija Magazin 1907 (a 4 floor high coffeehouse with its own barber in the basement. I wrote a few blog articles there. I don’t drink coffee but had other tasty drinks. Staff was friendly too).

Zapata Ciudad (Mexican Restaurant in the centre. Good food, friendly staff. Two times satisfied. Go for the pork ribs!).

Jazz Basta (cosy garden restaurant near main bridge. Friendly staff, good food and music. I was there at daytime).

Rice Kings (interesting Desserts out of (milky) rice. Super friendly staff).

TRI Restaurant (bit pricy but super delicious food and a nice atmosphere. Friendly staff).

BRE Restaurant (A nice and cosy place, had good cake and Lemonade. Friendly staff).

Radost Fina Kuhinjica (Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant with a nice Garden, hidden in a normal building near a place called Shisha Hill. Gooood food but pricier than others. Super friendly staff and unique atmosphere. + Baby kittens – which may be grown up when you are there…unless of course they find more).

Red Bread (In Dorcol. Nice place for Breakfast, lunch, dinner and best fruit drinks in town! Super friendly staff + nice owner. More than fair prices for what you get).

I also ate Pizza from Caribic Pizza (go with the 130 dinar Pizza Slice) and used the Bakery Hleb & Kife often. Not one bad experience!

I want to point out one special place for meat. If you don’t like meat, skip this.

It’s near the green market, which you find at the end of Skadarska street and named by the owner “Skocic”. It’s a butchery with a grill inside, so that you can get the meat fresh from the butcher onto the grill and into your body. There are no chairs or tables, the staff is “butcher like” but with charm and a smile and in front of the building, are two lines of taxis waiting for customers. Seems like “the waiting for customers” is not Skocic business, because there was always one in the small store.

Whatever you order to the grill will give you the chance to watch the daily movement of their lives. You will wait there (or in front on a public bench) for 10-15 minutes.

Pljeskavica. If you speak Serbian.
If you don’t, ask for a burger or ask another Serbian to translate your English. Normal size is around 230g. If you want, it comes with bread, lettuce, onions, ketchup, and is available to-go or instant enjoyment. I ate the whole 230g once and was still full 12h later. After that I always asked for 150g and didn’t have any trouble getting it that way. Perfect!

I had my troubles with finding accommodations. Dejan and I tried to find a place rented by locals from Santorini. They usually don’t rent out for only 1 or 2 months, so contacting 3-5  different places didn’t help.

My first night was booked in a hostel, I found it to be a safe place, so no worries. From there I found an AirBnB, at which I stayed for 4 or 5 nights. It was shared with the owner and near the botanical garden, which is okay, but it was too far away for walking to city centre every day (compared to the prices for places there).

I started to reach out to agencies which rent out apartments. I got one reply for New Belgrade, a spacious place, 1.300 Euro/Month. Besides it’s massive overprice, it was too big, (My reasons for the overpricing are only speculative…) and found one more near the centre.  I also asked a lot of AirBnBs for long time rentals and found two which fit with my dates.

After looking at all three, I chose the one from the agency near the centre. Unfortunately, it was on top of Skadarska Street, 5th floor, side to the street. I heard bands and people partying every night. I also heard taxis, busses and way too much noise for sleep or work. So I decided to change again and luckily one of the AirBnBs was still available a few days later.

This one was quiet, with less rooms, less costs and in a better location. Because of this I had to pay extra for the agency place. That’s why my costs are higher than they could have been without this trouble. You should expect 20€/night for a good location in a normal, modern room with kitchen and washing machine. For better understanding, my needs were:
– A quiet place, because I do audio recordings.
– A desk and chair to work in the apartment (can’t make recordings in noisy co-working offices or cafés).
– A washing machine.
– A kitchen with utilities to be able to make a good breakfast – and cook if necessary.
– A bed at least 100 x 200 cm,  or better 140+ x 200 cm.

Hostel, my first AirBnB, and Agency apartment had good internet (20.000 – 90.000 kb/s). The final AirBnB had 9.000 and after I asked the landlord, he managed to change his contract up to 60.000 kb/s. So that was fine.

Pictures of the lovely apartment in which I stayed 1.5 months in. Also included is the “view” from the terrace. (The bed goes up in the closet, so there was enough room for workout and it felt spacious). And for sure there is a good working AC.

After arrival you should use a bus from the Airport to the centre. It’s easy, safe, cheap and fast. You can use number 72 (~45 Minutes, 150 Dinar) or the A1 (faster, 300 Dinar). I used 72 and exchanged 5 Euros at the Airport (because the rate is so low there).
In town you can buy a bus card at the kiosk (250 Dinar) and book roads on it (lasting 90 minutes, cost 90 Dinar), so you will only pay 90 instead of 150 at the bus driver.

I stayed in Dorcol and was able to walk everywhere I needed to on that side of the river.
I also used the bus to get to the other side of the river, where my wing chun, kung fu training was 3 times a week. So I rode at least 6 times a week with number 16 bus to reach it (walking took 1 hour and I didn’t want to spent that amount of time so often).

In total my bus ticket was controlled once. As I learned that most of the people don’t pay at all and as a foreigner I should just say nothing and leave the bus when I’m controlled. But that’s not my style so I didn’t make proof of this solution. Buses work great and I recommend the app “Moovit”, which helps you navigate the public transportation.

I rented a car once to go to the countryside. I used Hertz and the car was fine, the service was not good and the employees should improve… next time in Belgrade I’ll give Sixt a try…

I didn’t use a train but as I heard, the trains drive slowly because the rails are in bad shape, so it takes a while to go from A to B ; )

The Barbershop:
Sure, there is the typical Serbian haircut you can get for 300-400 dinar. Or you go to a stylish place with tons of marketing and pay between 1.600-2.000 for a basic haircut.

I decided to take the middle way and visited “Hairlovers”. This was a great idea, and I met Dusan Vuckovac.

Also 1.500 Dinar, but with a few surprises I didn’t know before. Three people took care of me, the hair was washed two times, the skin was massaged once, the haircut took 25-45 minutes, the conversation was nice – and when I’m back in the next three weeks the next cut will be only 1.000 dinar. For my stay this was a perfect match!

While I was there the second time, they offered a special for curly hair. I didn’t know before going in, but enjoyed this surprise! Imagine a saloon full of beautiful girls and woman with curls, frozen margaritas and good music. I did mention the great music at Hairlovers before, didn’t I? ; )

Security, poverty, medical situation:
I didn’t feel unsafe a single time (and I walked around a lot at all times of day and night). No one tried to steal from me. I didn’t see any brutality, and in 2 months I only witnessed two car accidents. One of them in Belgrade, and both without any harm to people. (Half the people I know wouldn’t even stop their car for those types of scratches, and yes, the other half would go crazy as hell : D).

As far as I’ve been told there are not enough ambulance trucks to cover the city. So if you aren’t young and/or dying, you should make your way to the hospital by yourself. Outside of Belgrade it is even worse. If you need normal medication you will find well equipped pharmacies all over the town. Even if the medical transportation is not as good as in western countries, the people are strong and helpful with each other. For example, when someone (older) is falling down, they help fast and take care. One day a few Gipsy children tried to steal the tip money box from an ice cream store – they didn’t even make it down the street and where stopped after 20 meters.

As you can read I was satisfied with my stay in Serbia’s capital and would recommend it to everybody. Flights are cheap these days, and it’s also a good destination for a weekend or a whole week. If you did miss any information about touristic stuff and things to see, sorry, please check one of the 1.000 travel guides out there.

Thanks for reading!