About Serbia

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Morava_river2.jpgSource: National Tourism Organisation of Serbia

Serbia has connected West with East for centuries – a land in which civilisations, cultures, faiths, climates and landscapes meet and mingle.

It is located in the centre of the Balkan Peninsula, in southeastern Europe. The northern portion belongs to central Europe, but in terms of geography and climate it is also partly a Mediterranean country. Serbia is landlocked but as a Danube country it is connected to distant seas and oceans. Serbia is a crossroads of Europe and a geopolitically important territory. The international roads and railway lines, which run through the country’s river valleys, form the shortest link between Western Europe and the Middle East.

From the agricultural regions of the Pannonian Plain in the north, across the fertile river valleys and orchard-covered hills of Šumadija, the landscape of Serbia continues southward, gradually giving way to mountains rich in canyons, gorges and caves, as well as well-preserved forests. Serbia’s beautiful mountains, national parks, rivers and lakes are the perfect location for an active outdoor holiday – from hunting and fishing to extreme sports.

Many times during its rich, centuries-long history, Serbia has been at the centre of Europe’s and the world’s attention, out of all proportion to its modest size, economic might and number of inhabitants. Many lessons on bravery, patriotism and the struggle for freedom can be learned wherever you turn in Serbia, as you pass through its cities and regions.

The cultural and historical heritage of Serbia begins with prehistoric archaeological sites and its legacy from classical antiquity. Perhaps its greatest riches, though, are in the many mediaeval Serbian churches and monasteries, some of which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

All year round, numerous cultural, entertaining, traditional and sporting events are held in Serbia, demonstrating the creative power and spiritual vitality of this country.

Today, Serbia is a modern, democratic European country, on the path to membership of the European Union, which a diverse range of visitors – from young backpackers to participants in congresses and fairs – visit every day.

Statistically, the most-visited tourist destinations are the cities of Belgrade and Novi Sad, the mountains of Kopaonik and Zlatibor and the spa towns of Vrnjačka Banja and Sokobanja.


Serbia has always straddled East and West, not only in a geographical sense, but also politically and culturally. At first, Serbia found itself between the Byzantine and Roman empires, then it became a frontier between the Ottoman Empire and the Christian West. This centuries-long position in the path of conquering armies from both sides has led to constant migrations and the mixing of populations. The result is a multiethnic, multicultural and multiconfessional society in Serbia.

And even during communism the inhabitants of this region were somewhere between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. In contrast to other post-communist countries in the region, the people of Serbia have a more comprehensive education, a more contemporary approach to life, better knowledge of foreign languages and more readily accept new technologies and behaviors.

Typically Serbian!

It does not take long for foreign visitors to Serbia to discover the hospitality, kindness, openness and warmth of the country’s residents.

Shaking hands, done using the right hand, is customary when being introduced or meeting somebody of either gender. Kissing is not a necessity when meeting somebody for the first time, but every time you meet from then on, if you have developed affection for the person in question, kissing three times on the cheeks is the order of the day in Serbia. Of course, nobody will object if you only kiss once or twice while giving a long and sincere hug.

In Serbia, toasts are usually made with traditional rakija (brandy), often home-distilled. Toasts are made by clinking glasses, making direct eye contact and loudly proclaiming “Živeli!” A speech is usually only made on formal occasions, normally by the host, but a guest may give one, too.

Serbs enjoy rich and flavoursome food and normally have three meals a day, with lunch being the largest.

Paying the bill in restaurants is a big part of the Serbian mentality. The host will almost never allow a guest to pay for lunch, dinner or drinks because it is customary for the host to take care of all expenses while a guest is staying with him or her.

In contrast to the rest of Europe, there is no single day of the week in Serbia when you cannot have a night out and that holds true for all generations, for all lifestyles and musical tastes and for all available budgets. After a wild night out, somewhere around three or four o’clock in the morning, people continue onward in search of grilled meat or burek.



The ethnic makeup of Serbia’s population is diverse, with around 40 nationalities living side by side with the Serb majority. All citizens have the same rights and duties and enjoy full ethnic equality.

According to the last census in 2002, the Republic of Serbia has 7,498,001 inhabitants (excluding Kosovo and Metohija). Serbs comprise 82.86% of the population, Hungarians 3.91%, Bosniaks 1.81%, Roma 1.44%, Yugoslavs 1.08%, Croatians 0.94%, Montenegrins 0.92%, Albanians 0.82%, Slovaks 0.79%, Vlachs 0.53%, Romanians 0.46%, Macedonians 0.34%, Bulgarians and Bunjevci 0.27% each, Muslims 0.26%, Rusyns 0.21%, Slovenes and Ukrainians 0.07% each, Gorani 0.06%, Germans 0.05% and Russians and Czechs 0.03% each.


The majority of the population of Serbia is of the Christian Orthodox faith. The Serbian Orthodox Church, autocephalous since 1219, has played an important role in the development and preservation of the Serbian national identity. The majority of religious believers in Serbia are Orthodox Christians (84.98%), followed by Roman Catholics (5.48%), Muslims (3.2%) and Protestants (1.08%). Other religions are also present in Serbia.

The traditional churches and religious communities which have had centuries-long historical continuity in Serbia and whose legal subjectivity is acquired pursuant to special laws are:

  • the Serbian Orthodox Church
  • the Roman Catholic Church
  • the Slovakian Evangelical Church
  • the Reformed Christian Church
  • the Evangelical Christian Church
  • the Islamic Religious Community
  • the Jewish Religious Community


The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia guarantees the rights of ethnic minorities to the highest international standards. The collective rights of ethnic minorities enable them to decide on issues connected to culture, education, the dissemination of information and the use of their language and alphabet via elected national councils, which have been formed by members of 10 ethnic minorities: Bunjevci, Bulgarians, Bosniaks, Hungarians, Roma, Romanians, Rusyns, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Croats.

The last census in the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija in which the Albanian ethnic minority took part (and where the majority of the Albanian minority lives), was carried out in 1981, meaning that accurate population statistics are unavailable.

Language and alphabet

The Republic of Serbia officially uses the Serbian language and Cyrillic script. However, on public signs and in the media the Latin script is very often used, and both scripts are taught in school.

The Serbian language is a member of the South Slavic language family. Serbian Cyrillic has 30 characters, and each letter corresponds directly to one sound, which makes it unique in comparison to other writing systems.

Ethnic minorities have the constitutional and legal right to officially use their languages and alphabets in the areas they inhabit. In the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija the ethnic minority languages of Hungarian, Slovakian, Croatian, Romanian, Rusyn and Albanian are in official use.

Currency and tax

The official currency of the Republic of Serbia is the dinar (RSD). In circulation there are:

  • Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 dinars
  • Notes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 200, 1000 and 5000 dinars

Coins and notes which contain the inscription of the National Bank of Yugoslavia (Narodna Banka Jugoslavije), and look the same as or similar to money currently issued by the National Bank of Serbia, have been withdrawn from circulation and are no longer legal tender. They can be exchanged free of charge for an equal value in all National Bank of Serbia offices until 31st December 2012.

Foreign currency can be exchanged in all banks and post offices, as well as in the many authorised exchange offices.

Value Added Tax (VAT, PDV in Serbian) is charged in Serbia on goods or services, depending on the type at a rate of 8% or 18%.

Foreign nationals who take goods purchased in Serbia with them when they leave the country are entitled to a refund of VAT, provided that the total value of the goods, inclusive of VAT, exceeds 150 euro in equivalent dinar value, and that they are taken out of the country within three months of the date of purchase.

In order to obtain a refund of VAT, foreign visitors must ask for a “Request by a foreign national for a refund” (‘Zahtev stranog državljanina za refakciju’), form REF 4, from the seller of the goods. The seller must complete the form in triplicate, giving the original and one copy to the purchaser. On leaving Serbia, the purchaser must show the invoice, goods and original REF 4 form to Customs.

The VAT will be repaid to the purchaser or the person presenting the original REF 4 form provided that he delivers the original REF 4 form certified by Customs to the seller within 6 months of the date of issue of the invoice. Repayment of VAT is made immediately in cash in dinars or within 15 days from the date of submission of the form by payment into a bank account.

State symbols

The current Serbian coat of arms is identical to that of the Kingdom of Serbia which went into use in 1882. The two-headed white eagle from the period of the Nemanjić dynasty in the 12th century was understood by the people as a symbol of the unity of God and the powers on earth, the ideal union of the heavenly and the earthly. The cross with the four firesteels (or four symbolic letters), as well as the two-headed eagle, has its origins in the Palaiologos dynasty of the Byzantine Empire.

Small Coat-of-Arms of Serbia

The small coat of arms has a double-headed silver eagle on a red shield, with two golden fleur-de-lys at the base.  The shield has a golden crown above it. On the eagle’s chest there is a smaller red shield with a silver cross and four firesteels.

Great Coat of Arms of the Republic of Serbia

The same as the small coat of arms except it is draped with a cape with gold, decorative tassels, tied with a gold cord with similar tassels, inlaid with ermine and crowned with a golden crown.

National Anthem of the Republic of Serbia:

The official anthem is Bože Pravde (God of Justice), lyrics Jovan Đorđević, music Davorin Jenko.

National Flag of the Republic of Serbia:

Horizontal tri-colour with red at the top, blue in the middle and white at the bottom.

State Flag of the Republic of Serbia:

Same as the national flag but has the Serbian small coat of arms centred vertically and positioned left toward the flagpole by one-seventh of the flag’s length.

The President of Serbia and the Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia have their own Standards.

The political system

The Republic of Serbia is the state of the Serbian people and all its citizens who live in it and is founded on the rule of law and social justice, the principles of civil democracy, human and minority rights and freedoms, and commitment to European principles and values.

The political system in Serbia is based on multi-party parliamentary democracy. Serbia has a National Assembly, a President of the Republic and a government. The National Assembly is the supreme representative body and the holder of constitutional and legislative powers in the Republic of Serbia and comprises 250 deputies elected in direct elections. The President of the Republic represents the unity of the Republic of Serbia and represents the country at home and abroad. The president is elected in direct elections, for a term of five years. The government is the holder of executive power in the Republic of Serbia.

Local government is organised on the principle of local self-government through municipal or town assemblies, councils and administrative bodies.

Besides dozens of political parties there are also hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and a large number of trade unions.


Hospitality is one of the most common reasons given to visit Serbia and speaks volumes of the attitude Serbia’s citizens have towards their international guests. Foreign visitors to Serbia have often found themselves treated as one of the family.

Instances of street crime are very rare and there are no areas of Serbia’s larger cities which are less safe than others. In contrast to many countries, it is commonplace in Serbian cities for women to return home unaccompanied using public transport late at night.

Serbia, and especially Belgrade, has for the last several decades been host to many international events, with large numbers of foreign participants and very demanding security and organisational requirements, which have passed off in the best possible atmosphere.

Besides general safety, transport safety has dramatically improved through the passing of a new law in line with European standards, as well as through a series of other laws which have been necessary in order to support Serbia’s candidacy for European Union membership.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has awarded Serbian national airline Jat Airways an IOSA (International Operational Safety Audit) certificate, recognising the airline’s high standards of safety, security and quality of air traffic and technical maintenance.

Bear in mind that the territory of Kosovo and Metohija is currently under the administration of UNMIK (the UN Interim Mission in Kosovo) and travel is not recommended without organised KFOR protection.

Opening times and holidays


  • Weekdays, 9 am-5 pm(some until 19:00)
  • Saturdays, 9 am-1 pm
  • Sundays, only designated branches

Post offices:

  • Weekdays 8 am-7 pm
  • Saturdays 8 am-2 pm
  • Sundays, only designated branches

Food stores:

  • Weekdays 6 am-8 pm (some until 10 pm)
  • Saturdays 6 am-6 pm (some until 10 pm)
  • Sundays 6 am-2 pm
  • There are also 24-hour food stores


  • Open daily 6 am-5 pm

Shopping centres:

  • Daily 10 am-10 pm

Petrol stations:

  • Daily 6 am-8 pm
  • There are also 24-hour petrol stations

Health care institutions:

  • Weekdays 7 am-7 pm
  • Saturdays 7 am-1 pm (some until 7 pm)
  • There are 24-hour departments in hospitals and clinics


  • Weekdays 8 am-8 pm
  • Saturdays 8 am-3 pm
  • Sundays, only designated pharmacies
  • There are also 24-hour pharmacies


  • Most are closed on Mondays
  • Varied opening times throughout the week


  • 1st and 2nd January – New Year
  • 7th January – first day of Orthodox Christmas
  • 15th February – Sretenje (Visitation of the Virgin), Serbian National Statehood Day
    1st and 2nd May – May Day
  • Orthodox Easter – from Good Friday to the second day of Easter
  • On non-working holidays only after-hours shops and institutions are open. If the second day of a two-day holiday falls on a Sunday, then Monday is also a non-working day.
  • All Serbian citizens are entitled to non-working holidays for their own religious festivals, depending on their faith.
  • For Christians: Christmas Day and Easter holidays
  • For Muslims: the first day of Ramadan Eid and Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice)
  • For Jews: the first day of Yom Kippur
  • The Serbian Orthodox Church calculates its religious festivals according to the old, Julian calendar, which runs behind the Gregorian calendar by 14 days.


  • 27th January – Saint Sava’s Day, Day of Spirituality
  • 9th May – Victory Day
  • 28th June – St Vitus’ Day (Vidovdan)