Wikimedia CEE Meeting 2019/Travel
Below you can find some information about how to get to Belgrade as well as some practical advice about public transportation in the city.Information about venue (hotel) can be found here.
Travelling to Belgrade
The main entry route into Belgrade and Serbia is Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. It's the hub for Air Serbia and has flights to most European capitals, but especially to Balkan cities such as Ljubljana, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia, Thessaloniki, Tirana, Tivat and Zagreb. Near-east destinations include Abu Dhabi, Baku, Beirut, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul and Tel Aviv. There's a direct flight to New York JFK. Serbia's not a big country so there are no domestic flights. For practical purposes there's only a single terminal. Arriving, you pass through the airside lounge before passport control and baggage reclaim. Currency exchange offices here give rates within 5% of official rate, good value anywhere. Departing, passport control comes straight after check-in then you enter the airside lounge. There's retail and eating but little general seating.
Transport to & from the city:
- Bus 72 runs every 30 mins to Zeleni Venac, close to the inter-city bus station and Republic Square. The ticket price is RSD89 (if purchased on the kiosk) and RSD150 (if purchased on the bus). Don't forget to get some small notes at the currency exchange. It's a 40-50 min ride into town, zigzagging through the shopping malls of the western burbs. Buses run daily 04:40-23:40. The bus runs from outside Departures, so from Arrivals you need to go upstairs. At Zeleni Venac the stop for the 72 is the furthest uphill, or most easterly, on the main platform with all the fast food outlets.
- Minibus A1 runs between the airport and Slavija Square, stopping at Fontana (Novi Beograd) and the former main railway station. The buses are comfortable and air-conditioned. The fare is RSD300, pay the driver and state your destination before departure. The trip takes 30 minutes. This bus also runs at night, with a short break from around 02:00-04:00.
- If you prefer to take a taxi, read the precautions described below. The fare from the airport is fixed - most taxi companies have a price list in multiple languages. The price is around RSD1800 to the center and New Belgrade and RSD2000 to the suburbs, and includes luggage. You can order a taxi by phone or simply go upstairs to Departures and catch one of the taxis dropping off passengers.
- You can also use Car:Go, an Uber-like app. It's up to 30% cheaper than regular taxi. You can only pay for their services by card in the app.
This is the best overland option from western Europe while the railway is being dug up. There are buses at least daily to Budapest (6-7 hours), Sarajevo (7 hours), Sofia (11 hours) and Thessaloniki (10 hours via Nis and Skopje). Belgrade Bus Station (BAS, Београдска аутобуска станица) is just north of the derelict former railway station on Karađorđeva street. Timetables aren't clearly posted, or only in Serbian, so ask inside the terminal building. Various cafes and kiosks here. There's a charge of RSD180 to enter the platform area, normally included in the fare and you receive a plastic token or paper stub with a QR code to get through the gate. If you bought your ticket online, then it might not be included and you'd have to buy a platform card in the terminal. You might also have to pay the bus driver an extra RSD100 per bag placed in the cargo compartment.
Local buses don't use BAS, but the bus stands adjacent south. There are no gates or charges to enter this area.
Not in 2019, you'll regret trying. The track between Budapest and Belgrade is being dug up, so an 8 hour direct journey has become a 26 hour slog with two changes, with similar disruption to other services along that route. The description below is for the usual pattern of trains, and may intermittently apply while the track work drags on. See also Serbian Railways for times and prices.
The former main station on Karađorđeva Bvd closed in 2018. Westbound trains now run from Belgrade Centre railway station. This station is largely unfinished, and has poor onward transport connections. Specify "Beograd Centar" when searching online timetables, as "Beograd" refers to the former station and finds no trains.
Coming north from Subotica and Novi Sad, the E-75 highway is recommended, as well as driving to Belgrade from the south. There is also a major road called Ibarska magistrala (Ibar highway, M-22), which provides approach from south-west (direction of Montenegro, for example). From the west, use the E-70 highway (from w:Zagreb, w:Ljubljana, etc.) Major roads can be used coming east and north-east from w:Vršac and w:Zrenjanin.
Highways have toll stations, which are moderately priced. Serbia's only highways are parts of E-70 and E-75 roads and the highway passes right through Belgrade, causing traffic jams on the Gazela bridge and at the Mostar interchange. These jams have been reduced somewhat in recent years by redirecting heavy goods vehicles to the Belgrade Bypass and by the new Ada Bridge.
Belgrade is on European bicycle route Eurovelo 6 which connects the Atlantic Ocean and Black Sea. The route across Serbia is from Budapest via Osijek and Novi Sad to Belgrade, continuing east to Vidin.
If you want to get around
By public transport
GSP Beograde (ГСП in Serbian Cyrillic) operates an extensive public transport network of buses, trolleybuses, and trams in the city and its suburbs. Maps are available online as well as a route planner which is more up to date. There is a BusPlus android app, useful for navigating all the lines and the stops on a map. There is a paid option to check how many stops away the next vehicle is.
Buses are the backbone of Belgrade's public transport, and you can get almost anywhere on them. Buses get very full at peak times, and some are full all day. Their quality varies: those around the city centre or serving posh neighbourhoods are usually newer air-conditioned vehicles, eg the Polish Solaris Urbino 18. Further out you may encounter some elderly specimens, eg the 30 year old Ikarbus with wooden benches for seats.
There are two main bus terminals for local buses: the intercity main bus station (next to the disused railway station) for the west and southwest suburbs, and Zeleni Venac for the north (Zemun and Batajnica) and some western parts of the city (Banovo Brdo, Žarkovo, Čukarica). It's a steep ten minute walk from the main bus station to Zeleni Venac, with no bus between.
There was a third hub at Republic Square, but those buses were relocated even before the square was closed off and dug up, and they're not expected to return once that work is complete.
There are 11 tram lines in Belgrade. All lines converge in the Slavija-Vukov Spomenik area (except 11 and 13 which go to Novi Beograd from Kalemegdan and Banovo Brdo, respectively).
The most notable line is line nr. 2, which goes around the city centre in a circular route (krug dvojke). Another notable line is the nr. 3, which goes through scenic park area of Topčider.
Several tram lines are served only by new CAF Urbos trams (7 and 12, also 13), while most of the other ones are serviced by old Tatra KT4 and Basel donated trams (some of them more than 50 years old, but in a better state than Tatras, as those trams were left to decay for years during the 1990s and 2000s).
Belgrade's trolleybuses have 7 lines serving two main corridors. One corridor is from Studentski trg (near Trg Republike) over Crveni Krst to Konjarnik and Medaković 3. The other is from Zvezdara to Banjica, plied by lines 40 (Banjica-Zvezdara), 41 (Studentski trg - Banjica) and 28 (Studentski trg - Zvezdara). The trolleybuses are mostly newer Belarusian vehicles with a couple of older Soviet ZiUs.
There are three ticket options for non-residents, which can be bought or topped up at kiosks:
- Single ticket (Zone 1+2): RSD150, bought from the driver and valid for that ride. Drivers often can't be bothered selling you these and let you ride for free, but beware inspectors.
- Day tickets (Zone 1+2): One day (ie 24 hr) RSD250, so it's worth it even for a simple return; three days (72 hr) RSD700, or five days (120 hours) RSD1000. The time runs from the point of purchase.
- Non-personalized card (Zone 1+2): the card itself costs RSD250, to which you add the cost of rides, with each journey of up to 90 mins being RSD89. So the first purchase will be a minimum RSD340. A top up of at least RSD900 earns you RSD100 in free credit, thus you recoup the cost of the card (which is valid for 3 years) after 30 journeys.
Payment is by cash to driver or kiosk (contactless cards aren't yet in use), by the online Bus Plus system, or by Android app.
Personalized cards with photo ID are only available to residents. Single tickets are validated by the driver on issue, all others must be validated on boarding. If a busy bus suddenly empties, it's because they've spotted an inspector getting aboard. Your options, if without a ticket, are to jump ship with them, to bluster or brazen your way out, or face a RSD2000 spot fine.
Minibuses connect the suburbs and are generally faster and more comfortable than regular buses. A single ride costs RSD150, pay the driver. Day tickets and non-personalized cards are not valid on these lines.
Day transport starts at 04:00 and ends at midnight. Night transport is only by bus, with a limited number of lines running every 30-60 mins. The only ticket option for night lines is a single ticket bought on the bus for RSD150 (Zone 1) or RSD210 (Zone 2). Day tickets and non-personalized cards are not valid. Here is a map of night lines. The lines are all prefixed N so these rules apply even if the ride started just before midnight, conversely they don't apply to other buses where you were still aboard after midnight.
The suburban railway system is called BG:Voz (BG:Train). One line runs from Batajnica in the west through Zemun and Novi Beograd to Beograd Centar (this section is disrupted by engineering work throughout 2019) then swings north through Karađorđev Park and Vukov Spomenik to Ovča across the river. The other line runs south from Beograd Center via Rakovica to Resnik. Trains run every 30 minutes, 15 mins in rush hour. Fares are the same as for buses: RSD150 single ride, RSD89 per journey on a card.
Taxis are cheap by European standards, though far more expensive than anywhere else in Serbia. Car:Go is an Uber-like app that is cheaper than regular taxi and you can pay by card in the app.
Taxi scams are common in Belgrade. It is always best to order taxis by phone, since your order will be saved in the operator database. Here is official info about taxis in Belgrade. Fares are regulated by the government and are RSD170 to start a ride, RSD65-130 per km (depending on time of day).
Only take a taxi with a roof sign with the city coat of arms and a number, indicating it's a city-regulated radio taxi. Anything else is a private unregulated cab that may charge four times as much. Also, legal taxis must have license plates ending with TX (eg BG-1234-TX).
Insist that the trip be metered; the only exception is if you take a taxi from the airport and buy a voucher with a fixed price. Tips to drivers are welcome but not required and your luggage is included in the metered price.
If you believe that the driver is trying to rip you off, call the operator of that taxi association to check if the price is regular for the specified distance. You can report the incident to city inspection (+381 11 3227-000) and if you are going from or to the airport, report it also to airport inspection (+381 11 2097-373, email@example.com). If the driver is aggressive towards you, call the police.
As in most of Europe you must keep to the right side of the road. Driving in Belgrade can be stressful. Avoid rush hours (08:30–9:30, 16:00-18:00). Expect to have a hard time finding a free parking place on the streets during Friday and Saturday evenings in the center. Garages might be a better choice.
Yellow lanes are reserved for public transport, i.e. buses and taxis, and private vehicles may not use them. They're marked with a yellow line and on traffic signs. Some only apply during rush hours.
Best option is to avoid bringing a car into the centre, next best is to use a parking garage. Street parking is difficult. There are four zones, clearly marked.
There are several large public garages for extended parking, eg there's one with 500 spaces under the old palace, across from the parliament building. They charge about RSD100 per hour.
Parking violations in the centre are swiftly pounced upon. Failure to pay in a marked spot results in a fine. With illegally parked vehicles, the traffic police are obliged to wait 15 minutes for the return of the driver, who'll have to pay a fine of €50. When 15 minutes are up, the car gets towed to one of four designated lots in the city, which you can locate using the online service. At the lot, you will be required to present a valid form of ID and the vehicle registration documents, and pay the fine and towing expenses, €90 in total.
Old Belgrade is pretty hilly and the cycling infrastructure is scarce, so bicycle transport isn't in wide use. However, New Belgrade and Zemun are relatively flat and offer enough space for bikes to be used. Bicycle tracks link Zemun, Dorćol, Ada Ciganlija, New Belgrade and Bežanijska kosa.
Riding a bike on the same roads with cars and buses is considered too dangerous, although on smaller streets it can be reasonably safe. You are not allowed to bring bikes into public transport vehicles.
Bicycle rentals are available mostly at recreational areas like Ada Ciganlija or Zemun quay. Average price is around €1.5/hour and €4/day.
Belgrade city core is not too big. Everything between Kalemegdan, Knez Mihailova street and Skadarska street is best viewed on foot, and most major sights can be found in Stari Grad (Old Town) district. You might need the bus for sights further out. Note that many of Belgrade's museums are closed on Monday.