I haven’t taken a solo trip in years, so when I found a cheap flight to Belgrade from Eindhoven, I decided to go for it. It was February, not summer, but I heard and read how dynamic Belgrade is, I had to visit Belgrade. I have previously traveled in the Balkans, but this was my experience traveling in Serbia as a solo female traveler. I was a bit worried on whether Serbia would be safe as a solo female traveler, but luckily a friend of mine assuaged my doubts.
[learn_more caption=”Included this article” state=”open”]
- General Impressions of Serbia
- Is Serbia safe?
- Traveling around Serbia as a solo female traveler[/learn_more]
General impressions of Serbia
I loved Serbia more generally and I’d encourage ladies (and men!) to visit this beautiful country.
Belgrade is a fairly modern city (besides the fortress) and it’s sprawling. It’s important to be aware of where you’re staying, especially as a solo female traveler. Although there are buses, it’s easiest to be on foot in the city center as traffic can be an issue in Belgrade. I ended up walking almost everywhere, including at night. That was nice, but I’m not the biggest fan of walking alone at night and several times, I had a walk of at least 2 kilometers by myself through quiet streets. Nobody ever bothered me, but late night walks make me nervous anywhere. Most of the famous Belgrade nightlife doesn’t begin until quite late (midnight onwards), so it’s good to ensure that you keep this in mind if you’re visiting Belgrade for the nightlife.
For me, the food was a big highlight of Serbia as every bit of food that I had was fresh, local, and affordable. I love ajvar so much that I’ve started making it at home on a weekly basis after returning from Serbia–and I must say that the food in Belgrade surpassed my wildest expectations.
Belgrade is very different than Serbian cities, so do not miss some of the smaller cities as they’re absolutely beautiful with their own regional food. I ended up exploring three cities in Serbia during my week in Serbia: Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Subotica. I found the internal bus transportation system easy enough to navigate on my own although it didn’t hurt knowing the Cyrillic alphabet. It’s very easy to take day trips from Belgrade as the bus system works well and requires little planning beyond showing up at the bus station with money. I did not enjoy how slow the trains were, so avoid them if you’re looking to get somewhere in a timely fashion.
English is widely spoken by the younger generation, so any travelers who speak English will be comfortable. Russian is also a popular second language, so you’ll have an easy time traveling in Serbia if you speak fluent Russian. Only a few times, I had to order in Serbian and it was easy enough. I was able to use my credit card (with a chip) most places, but I occasionally had issues when the connection was slow, especially outside of Belgrade, so be sure to have some cash on you for when your card isn’t working.
My biggest issue with travel in Serbia is smoking. As a non-smoker, I struggled a lot. I don’t really find it enjoyable to breathe in smoke when I’m eating in particular as it makes it difficult to taste the flavors. It’s clear that smoking is becoming banned in many locations, however it was hard to find cafes with a non-smoking section as I generally would sit as far as I could away from people at coffee shops and restaurants to avoid smokers. I also found it an issue in bars as I got burned by a cigarette butt twice by someone holding a cigarette who banged into me. I met other travelers who also remarked upon this issue.
Is Serbia safe?
Yes. Serbia has had a bad reputation and even my family was nervous, but as someone who has traveled extensively all over the world, I must say that I felt safe in Serbia, even walking back at night by myself. I met a lot of people who also raved about Serbia.
The only questionable incident was when I went out with a Serbian girl and I was just really put off by how touchy feely men were with women they had never met before. That bothered me, but I understand that cultures differ in terms of personal space as well as touching, as mentioned by my Serbian friend. I’m just a bit sensitive about it, but it’s good to mention if you go out.
Within ten minutes of writing that I was going to Serbia, two other women I know told me that they had friendly Serbian friends who were just delighted to meet up with foreigners to show them around. I haven’t experienced this in many places, so I strongly recommend asking within your network as you probably have a Serbian best friend in the wings who will be happy to meet up for a coffee after work. (Coffee is big in Serbia.)
The most common issues that I heard about were drink spiking and being ripped off at bars/clubs, however these issues can be avoided if you’re careful about watching your drink at all times, going with a reputable group (there are a couple of pub crawls), and following local recommendations on where to go out rather than picking a place at random. Even my first night, I was invited out with a friendly group of Serbian-Americans who were heading out to a cafe with a someone I met at my hostel and the night was lovely.
I recommend being careful about mentioning travel in certain parts of the Balkans, especially Kosovo and Albania, as Kosovo is still a sensitive topic in Serbia. That said, I was actually nervous about Serbia as an American, however it was nice to see people actually see me beyond my nationality.
You can’t choose your nationality (most of the time), however you can do your best to be on your best behavior. I expect that Belgrade will grow as a “party destination” for Europeans on weekend trips, so it’s good to be aware of that. I was a bit timid at first saying that I was American, but after the the owner of a small convenience store that I bought a soda from wanted to know where I was from only to welcome me to Serbia. Every Serbian that I met was excited to meet someone from New York City, to hear about my experience living in New York, as well as travel advice for the US.
The one thing that I regret is that I didn’t go hiking near Novi Sad, mostly because I would have been doing solo hiking. I’m not the world’s most confident hiker, even with a partner, so I ended up chickening out doing solo hiking by myself, mostly due to the fact that I was scared that I’d fall down a mountain. That’s completely unrelated to Serbia. Serbia has beautiful hiking, but if you’re not comfortable hiking alone, I strongly recommend giving yourself a little extra time with a less strict schedule to meet fellow travelers (my trip was very tight) or go with a local company who knows the trail well.
Traveling around Serbia as a solo female traveler
I would definitely say that Serbia was one of the friendliest solo female travel destinations that I’ve traveled in within Europe. I did not encounter street harassment and I felt that people were helpful/friendly. A lot of Serbians are very careful about their interactions with foreigners as they want you to come home with a good impression of their country, so I was constantly asked my impressions of Serbia. I don’t mind this at all and the warmth that I experienced in Serbia makes me want to return soon to do the hikes that I wasn’t able to do in winter.
From the moment that I arrived at my hostel, entirely run by women, I felt welcome in Serbia. I was a bit uncertain about traveling by myself, howeverI felt at ease almost immediately given that there was 24/7 reception at the hostel and that the staff always was there to answer questions.
I loved how friendly Serbians were and it made it very easy to travel solo as I felt confident that I’d meet people without much effort. I often use Couchsurfing in an unconventional manner to meet up with locals when traveling solo for a coffee or a beer. Then, I see how it goes. I ended up meeting up with three Couchsurfing locals and two friends of friends, all women, who were delighted to show me their piece of Belgrade.
I am really glad that I used couchsurfing for this purpose otherwise I would have joined a pub crawls as going out to bars by myself has little appeal. I went out by myself twice at craft beer bars in Belgrade and once at a cafe, but I wasn’t overly fond of the idea. At the craft beer bars, it was fine as it was quiet and the female bartenders at Krafter made the night lovely. The bartenders were friendly and generally, people were quite polite (albeit friendly). It just felt a bit lonely at times as I tend to amuse myself on my phone when sitting at a bar solo.
It’s important to stay close to the city center to make it easy to find good food options as well as minimize walking by yourself, especially at night. Luckily, there are good accommodation options near the center of each city for every budget and a typical Serbian hostel or hotel is not the same as a hostel or hotel elsewhere. I was really struck by the degree of helpfulness, warmth, and effort that these owners put into their businesses. I have to say that the hostels that I stayed at in Belgrade were definitely some of the best ones that I’ve stayed at in Europe more generally.
[learn_more caption=”More posts about Serbia” state=”open”]
- Best food in Belgrade & best cafes in Belgrade
- Subotica, Serbia: An art nouveau masterpiece
- Best craft beer in Belgrade [/learn_more]