If you don’t know much about Serbia, it’s a country in the Balkans, once part of former Yugoslavia. Today, it’s got its own currency (the dinera), its own capital city (Belgrade), and now, of course, its own dirt-cheap status as Europe’s third cheapest country.[related_articles]2657,40379[/related_articles]
But how cheap is it really? I stopped in to Belgrade for the day recently on a tour of the Balkans, I decided to find out. Here’s what went down.
My Money Diary For One Day In Belgrade
9:30 am – Roll out of bed. Belgrade has epic nightlife, and I’d gotten a taste of it – literally – on a pub crawl the night before. We’d hit two bars before ending up in a small, smoky room in a floating river club (called a “splav”) with a screeching Serbian band on stage. I won’t tell you how long it took me to realise the “keyboardist” was actually a mannequin they’d propped up on a chair, but I will say the Balkans aren’t messing around with their fruit brandy drink. It’s called Rakia, and watch out.
9:45am – Hit the free breakfast buffet at Design Hotel Mr President. I’m vego so skip the many meat dishes, instead loading my plate with Serbian salad – a shredded cheese, cucumber and tomato medley – and lots of tiny cakes. Yes, cake for breakfast is a thing here, and I’m all for it.
because I know getting free brekkie is somewhat cheating, I head to a next-door café to check their menu. Eggs Benedict with salmon is the priciest. It’s $5.
10:30 am – Leave for what seems to be Belgrade’s main attraction, the Nikola Tesla Museum. The city seems to be pretty compact, and I’m staying in the heart of it so I opt to walk. Five minutes in and I’m reconsidering that life choice.[related_articles]62325[/related_articles]
“Serbia has just two seasons – really, really hot and really, really cold,” the Topdeck tour guide told us yesterday. She wasn’t lying – I look like I’ve walked through sprinklers. Luckily, cold water is everywhere, and not too bad at $1.50 for a big bottle. I buy one.
11:15am – I finally reach the museum. More steps (because of course), and a woman peeps her head out of a hole in a door to tell me it can only be visited on tours. They happen only every hour, and are all booked until the afternoon. Who knew Tesla’s life was so popular? I decide to come back later.
11:45am – Wander over to Toma’s Bakery. It’s known for its burek, a Serbian pastry dish, so I get a cheese one. And oh god, it’s good. And greasy. So greasy. Exactly what my post-Rakia state needs. It sets me back $1.50. Coffee is $2.
1pm – I amble over to the city’s main shopping street Knez Mihailova. I make a beeline for H&M. It’s affordable at the best of times – I have high hopes for its Serbian edition. Plus, I’m dying to change out of my damp clothes.
I check some price tags and do some maths, and oh. Oh… no. Not at all what I’d expected. In fact, prices here are exactly on par with ones back home. I dump the dresses and quickly duck out. Maybe I should check out some local stores instead…
1:40pm – Next I head over to Belgrade’s largest park, Kalemegdan Park, stopping to watch a street-dancing ballerina and a talented trumpet player, on my way. I wouldn’t see that outside my local Westfield back home.
2pm – The park has a few sights to see around it like the famous Belgrade Fortress and a monument called The Victor so I do a slow (did I mention it’s hot out?) loop around it.[related_articles]64210,23558[/related_articles]
2:48pm – The cab back to Tesla Museum is $5. I hop out and join the line… only to find out the 3pm tour is full now, too. Damn!
3:09pm – I wind up at another local coffee shop, and order a “domestic coffee”. It tastes bitter and strong and has coffee grounds lurking at the bottom. It’s exactly what I want. It’s $2.
3:40pm – Fingers and toes crossed that third time’s a charm, I head back to Tesla Museum.
3:55pm – Yaaas! I make it in. It’s $6.50, and so worthy of its wait. After a video on his life, we’re given a demonstration and breakdown of how exactly Tesla managed to harness the power of light, and it’s all mind-blowing. It drives home the fact that without Tesla, the world would be a very different place.
5pm – I take a cab back to the hotel. It’s $4.
6:30pm – The tour guide had suggested a Serbian food restaurant called Manufaktura for dinner so I round up a group of girls from the tour, and we head there.
7pm – Local tips have always led to big wins for me, and Manufaktura proves to be another example of that. It’s got a crowded courtyard with pink umbrellas overhead and a hip hostess who leads us to our table.
There’s just too much to try on the menu, and we decide to order family-style. And as there’s another vego in the group, we do it all veggie, loading up on olives, sheep’s and goat’s cheeses, Greek salad, fried cheese-stuffed peppers and heaps of other tiny share plates. We finish with a dessert each.
8:30pm – We’re so full we can only just manage to sit in silence. The bill comes out, and it’s… $5 each. I gladly hand over my dinera.
9:30pm – We’re all still somewhat Rakia-wrecked, so decide to keep the evening low-key with a drink at Belgrade Waterfront. It’s busy and the weather is balmy (a pleasant change), so I order a pina colada. It’s $10. Not as affordable as I’d thought, but then this is a popular area. It’s a good night, and we all head back in high spirits.
The verdict – My total spend for the day? AU$36. Probably the amount you’d pay for a single museum visit in other parts of Europe. But do I think Serbia in general is a cheap place to visit? In some ways, yes, and in others, no.[related_articles]64526,59984,56258[/related_articles]
Considering I later paid $100 for a spot in a 12-bed hostel share in Dubrovnik, Croatia, yes. Serbia will certainly give you loads more bang for your buck. If retail therapy and cocktails are what you’re after, that won’t necessarily be the same.
Also, it’s worth noting that Belgrade is the country’s most expensive city. Elsewhere in Serbia is heaps cheaper. If you’re a budget-conscious traveller, rthree’s
How To Get There
- Fly Qantas to London
- Take a connecting flight to Belgrade
- Belgrade, Serbia
The writer travelled as a guest of Topdeck on their Balkan Trail tour.
Sangeeta Kocharekar is a freelance travel writer. She grew up going on trips to India and Europe on school holidays, and hasn't stopped travelling since.