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Travel Advice on Serbia

Serbia (including Kosovo)

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary and Political Situation section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • You should exercise caution when travelling to Kosovo or within the Presevo and Bujanovac districts of South Serbia (see Political Situation and Local Travel).

  • Although the overall security situation in Kosovo remains calm, sporadic incidents including explosions continue to occur.  We recommend that you stay alert at all times and take particular care to avoid public gatherings, political rallies, protests and polling stations, and pay close attention to local media reports.

  • You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by foreigners.

  • You should only enter Serbia through recognised border crossings, where you will receive an entry stamp in your passport. You will face penalties if you try to leave Serbia without an entry stamp. The Serbian Government does not recognise entry points from Kosovo or those on Kosovo's external borders with Albania or Macedonia.  Please see the Entry Requirements section of this travel advice for further details.

  • When visiting Serbia, you must register with local police within 24 hours of arrival.  If you are staying in a hotel or official tourist accommodation, you will be registered automatically on check-in. If you do not register you risk a fine, detention or a court appearance (see Entry Requirements). When visiting Kosovo, you should register with the British Office in Pristina.

  • Since 1 July 2005, new entry control measures came into force for Kosovo.  You may now be required to provide documentary evidence (eg a letter of invitation giving a reason for your stay) to local authorities when entering Kosovo.  Please see the Entry Requirements section of this travel advice for further details.

  • The main route between Pristina and Skopje is open but there remains an inherent risk of landslide.

  • There are still residual mines and other unexploded ordnance in some areas of Kosovo and some areas of South Serbia.

  • Most visits are trouble-free.  The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Serbia is for replacing lost or stolen passports.  In Pristina, it is for individuals who do not take out adequate travel and medical insurance.  Please see the Health section of this travel advice for further details.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see Travel Insurance

  • Note:  The status of Kosovo remains as it has been since June 1999, when, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, it was placed under the administrative control of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).  NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) continues to be deployed across all of Kosovo.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime
As in other parts of Europe, you should be aware of the incidence of street crime, particularly in larger cities.  Be extra vigilant for pick pocketing in public places such as airports and on public transportation.  As a foreigner, you may be a target for criminals who may assume you are carrying large amounts of cash.  Four wheel drive and luxury vehicles are also a popular target.  For more information, please read our Security and General Tips.
In recent years there have been isolated incidents of armed violence in major cities but these have been usually linked to organised crime and have not been directed against foreigners, including British nationals.
All incidents of crime should be reported to the local police and a report should be obtained.
Political Situation
Specific to Serbia
The security situation in Southern Serbia has much improved as a result of the political process involving the Serbian Authorities and the local Albanian minority.  In January 2005, there were some large public demonstrations in the South Serbian town of Presevo, following the shooting of a youth at the border with Macedonia.  These demonstrations passed without incident.  However, events in Kosovo continue to have an impact in South Serbia and you should continue to check local developments before starting your journey.  For example, there were demonstrations in South Serbia (and in the Serbian Capital, Belgrade) in response to the violent clashes in Kosovo in March 2004. (Please see section specific to Kosovo below).  You should avoid demonstrations and public gatherings.
Special care should be taken in boundary areas with Kosovo and you should also avoid all areas of military activity.
Specific to Kosovo (UN administered)
You should exercise caution when travelling to Kosovo.  Although the overall security situation remains calm, now that the process to determine the final status of Kosovo is underway, it is possible that we may see an increase in tension.  Certain marginal groups have issued threats against the international community. Sporadic incidents of violence do occur although foreign nationals are rarely targeted.  The ‘Self Determination movement’ (‘Vetevendosje’ in Albanian) have held a number of demonstrations creating occasional public disturbances.  However, while these demonstrations are not directed against foreigners, you should take care not to become caught up in them.  In late 2005 there were  instances of armed individuals stopping vehicles travelling in west and central Kosovo.  There have been no injuries, but a number of thefts have occurred.  You should be aware that over the past few months, there has been an increase in the number of burglaries and robberies against international staff working in Kosovo.  Local people have also been targeted. Other incidents include explosive devices detonated against UNMIK Headquarters (in July 2005), and a number of explosive devices found under UNMIK cars in September/October 2005.  In March 2004 widespread inter-ethnic rioting occurred, resulting in 20 fatalities.  To avoid the possibility of being inadvertently caught up in any violent incidents, you should check local developments before starting your journey.  We recommend that you stay alert at all times and avoid any demonstrations or public gatherings. In the event of civil disorder, you are strongly advised to stay at home and restrict your movements as much as possible, especially after dark.  And you should register your presence in Kosovo with the British Office in Pristina (Please see Contact Details).
UNMIK and KFOR provide daily security bulletins via the Internet.  In the event of a crisis, information will be provided by KFOR radio (96.6FM) and at: http://www.nato.int/kfor/welcome.html
Local Travel
Specific to Serbia
In the mountainous region between South Serbia’s Presevo Valley and Kosovo there is still some danger from mines left over from the conflict in 1999.  Special care should be taken in the areas that border Kosovo, and you should keep to the main roads.  If you see anything suspicious, DO NOT TOUCH IT, and report it immediately to the police.
Specific to Kosovo (UN administered)
Despite the presence of Kosovo Force (KFOR), there are still significant dangers in Kosovo, including residual mines and other unexploded ordnance in some areas.  The main areas of contamination are on the border with Albania, in the Dulje Pass area close to the Prizren and in the west and south of the province.  Most of the remaining dangerous areas are in high mountainous regions covered with dense vegetation.  If you see anything suspicious, DO NOT TOUCH IT, report it immediately to either the police or nearest KFOR patrol. Since 2002 16 people have been killed and 49 seriously injured by mines or unexploded ordnance.
Road Safety
Specific to Serbia
You must have a valid international driver’s licence to drive in Serbia (excluding Kosovo).  If you are taking your car, you must have vehicle registration/ ownership documents and a locally valid insurance policy.  European green card vehicle insurance is now valid in Serbia, but not in Kosovo.  You are required by law to wear a seatbelt. You are advised to drive defensively and to avoid confrontation with other drivers.
You should be aware that many Serbian car hire firms will not allow their vehicles to be driven in Kosovo, Albania or Bulgaria due to concerns about the security situation. There have been some incidents where Serbian registered cars have been targeted in more isolated areas of Kosovo.
The general standard of roads is fair to poor with conditions worsening in rural areas, especially in and after bad weather. One particularly notorious road is the Ibarska Magistrala (linking Serbia to Montenegro), bad conditions and overcrowding can make it dangerous. 
You should continue to check local developments before starting your journey.
Roadworks on the main highways across Serbia (from the Croatian and Hungarian borders to Bulgarian and Macedonia) may cause delays.  There are several tollbooths along motorways.  Foreign registered vehicles are charged a higher toll than those registered locally. Toll charges depend on the size of your vehicle.  You are advised to have at least 200 Euros/15,000 Dinars (preferred) in cash in order to pay the toll charges.
You should also be aware that some parts of the motorway between Novi Sad and Belgrade are two-lane with a hard shoulder on only one side. Some drivers use the ‘middle’ lane to overtake, thus forcing the ongoing traffic onto the hard shoulder.  We advise you to take additional care when driving on these stretches.
Public transport is outdated and overcrowded although there have been improvements in the major cities.  When using taxis, it is possible to negotiate fares where a meter is not in use.  You should only use taxis that are officially marked.
Specific to Kosovo (UN administered)
On 15 January 2006, a landslide south of Kaçanik (near the Macedonia border) blocked the main road between Pristina and Skopje.  Though the road has been reopened there remains an inherent risk of landslide.
The UK driving licence is valid in Kosovo.  However, European Green Card vehicle insurance is not and you should purchase local third party insurance at the border on entering Kosovo.  Where an insurance bureau is unavailable you should do this from the nearest town at the earliest opportunity.  You should ensure that you have sufficient local currency to pay for insurance and petrol. Fuel is accessible but the quality varies.
Roads are poor and can be dangerous in bad weather.  You are advised against travelling at night.
You should be aware that many Serbian car hire firms will not allow their vehicles to be driven in Kosovo due to concerns about the security situation.  There have been some incidents where Serbian registered cars have been targeted in more isolated areas of Kosovo.
Train and bus connections within Kosovo and to Serbia and Montenegro are poor and prone to delays.  Taxis are readily available in Pristina.
Delays at the border crossings between Kosovo and Macedonia are common, and you should plan accordingly.  For boundary crossings between Kosovo and Serbia or Montenegro, see Entry Requirements.
Rail Safety
Trains can be slow, particularly in winter when there are often long delays.  On overnight trains, sleeping berths (of which there are normally seven to a carriage) can be locked.  Each carriage has an attendant on watch for the journey.
Air Safety
Belgrade Airport now has two terminals. Terminal 1 handles domestic arrivals/departures and the newly reconstructed Terminal 2 is for international arrivals/departures.  The international terminal opened in May 2006.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Drugs laws are similar to those in the UK.  Possession or trafficking of drugs will be met with strict penalties and usually a lengthy prison sentence.
There are no laws against homosexual activity and same-sex couples are tolerated, but the nature of society makes public displays of affection inadvisable.
Please note that taking photographs of military and police installations and/or personnel or vehicles anywhere in Serbia may lead to difficulties with the authorities.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Specific to Serbia
Visas are not required to enter Serbia for British passport holders for stays of up to 90 days.  Before you travel, you should ensure that your passport is undamaged and valid for the duration of your stay in Serbia.
On entering Serbia (excluding Kosovo) make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport from the border police. Temporary residents (in the country for more than 90 days) should have exit-entry visas as well as residence stamps in their passports. If you try to leave Serbia without an entry stamp or exit-entry visa you may face charges of illegal immigration, a heavy fine and possible imprisonment. You should only enter Serbia through recognised border crossings. The Serbian government does not recognise entry points from Kosovo or those on Kosovo'sexternal borders with Albania or Macedonia. You should not attempt to enter Serbia from Kosovo, unless you initially travelled into Kosovo via Serbia. (For more information please visit the Serbian Ministry for Foreign Affairs website at: http://www.mfa.gov.yu/Consularaffairs.htm)
It is essential that you register with the local police in the town/city where you are staying within 24 hours of your arrival in Serbia, unless you are staying in a hotel where you will be registered automatically on checking-in.  If you do not register you may be fined, detained or face a court appearance. In Kosovo there is no such requirement. You are also advised to register with, or make your presence known to, the British Embassy in Belgrade and/or with the Honorary Consul in Nis as appropriate.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting children to leave.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration, please contact: Serbia Embassy in London.
For further information on entry/exit requirements and exactly what will be required at immigration, please contact: Serbia Embassy in London
Specific to Kosovo (UN administered)
Visas are not required to enter Kosovo for British passport holders. As of 1 July 2005, a new law on the movement of persons into and out of Kosovo came into force.  You may be required to provide documentary evidence (giving a reason for your entry and stay) to local authorities when entering Kosovo.  A 90-day entry stamp will be issued which is renewable for longer stays. Amended UNMIK Regulation No. 2005/16 of 8 April provides further information: http://www.unmikonline.org/regulations/ADMDIRECT/2005/ADE2005_08.pdf
Before you travel, you should ensure that your passport is undamaged and valid for the duration of your stay in Kosovo. When visiting Kosovo, you should inform the British Office in Pristina.
Please note that the authorities in Serbia do not consider the designated crossing points from Kosovo to be official border crossing points; see Entry Requirements specific to Serbia for further information.


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see Travel Insurance.
There is a reciprocal healthcare agreement for British nationals, which entitles you to free genuine emergency treatment in Serbia.  However, the health system in all parts of Serbia (including Kosovo) is suffering from widespread shortage of medicines and other essentials.  Payment in cash is normally required for treatment and you are advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Cases of rabid foxes and dogs have been reported in Serbia, largely in parks and the outskirts of major cities, including in areas that have been rabies free for decades. You should be wary of, and try to avoid contact with, stray dogs. If bitten, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
The Serbian Ministry of Agriculture confirmed on 9 March 2006 that the H5N1 form of avian influenza (bird flu) has been found in one dead swan in the Veliki Backi canal near Sombor in north-eastern Serbia. The Serbian authorities have declared the 10-kilometre radius to be an infected area and have taken measures to prevent any spread, including isolating domestic poultry and disinfecting access roads and paths to the area. No human infections or deaths have been reported in Serbia.
The risk to humans from avian influenza is believed to be very low. As a precaution you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed advice and information.
Specific to Kosovo (UN administered)
The health system in Kosovo is severely under-funded. Hospitals lack specialist equipment and there is a widespread shortage of medicines and other essentials. Many in the medical profession lack training in modern techniques and practices.  A small payment in cash (currently €4) is required for treatment but you are advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover any medical evacuation. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance.
Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) is endemic to Kosovo. Although, most cases of CCHF occur in the region around Malishevo (Central Kosovo), during the summer months other rural areas of Kosovo can be affected. CCHF is caused by a virus and is transmitted by tic bite or by infected blood.  Anyone who has visited Kosovo and is suffering from a fever – headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, red rash (which does not fade when pressed under glass), bleeding on the roof of the mouth – or any other unexplained symptoms should seek medical advice immediately.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk
NATURAL DISASTERS
Serbia lies in a seismically active zone, and earth tremors are common. Serious earthquakes are less frequent but do occur.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help
In Serbia (including Kosovo), you should carry your passport at all times.  We therefore advise that you keep a photocopy of your passport in a safe place.  This will help you to obtain a replacement, in case your passport is lost or stolen.
The loss or theft of a British passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the British Embassy (Belgrade), Honorary Consular Agent (Nis), or British Office (Pristina) as appropriate. The Honorary Consular Agent in Nis cannot issue new passports but can assist with the arrangements to apply for a new passport via Belgrade.
For further information on passport photos and biometric passports, which will be introduced in 2006, please visit the United Kingdom Passport Service website at: http://www.passport.gov.uk/
Specific to Serbia
If you lose your passport in Serbia (excluding Kosovo), exit visas are required in replacement travel documents as your original entry stamp will have been lost with your passport. It is sometimes possible to obtain these from the local Police, but you can also receive one at the Foreigners’ Police Department of the Serbian Interior Ministry in Belgrade.  If your passport is lost or stolen the British Embassy in Belgrade can issue you an Emergency Passport (valid for up to 7 days and for return journey to UK only) or a Temporary Passport (valid for up to 12 months and for multiple journeys).

Please note that since 23 August 2006, the British Embassy in Belgrade no longer issue new British passports.  Applications for full passports will be electronically transferred from the British Embassy Belgrade to the British Embassy in Vienna for production, and the waiting period will be approx 3-4 weeks.  This is due to requirements for all new passports to be machine readable and capable of storing biometric information as well as to help reduce forgery.  For full details on applying for passports please visit the Embassy website on www.britishembassy.gov.uk/serbia
Money
You will be required to declare money (including travellers’ cheques) in excess of €5,000 (or equivalent in other currencies) that you bring into Serbia at all border points. Customs Officers hold declaration forms and will require a receipt of purchase for Dinars bought from a foreign bank. On departure, you will need to return a certified copy of this declaration to customs so that money (up to the amount brought in but not exceeding €5,000 in value) can be taken out again. If you fail to comply with these rules, your money may be confiscated. In order to avoid customs charges, you will be required to declare items of value (eg. jewellery, photographic and computing equipment) that you are temporarily importing into Serbia. These items should be intended for your own personal use and you must take them with you on leaving the country. (For more information on declaration of money and the importation of goods please visit the Serbian Ministry for Foreign Affairs website at: http://www.mfa.gov.yu/Consularaffairs.htm)
The official currency of Serbia is the Dinar (DIN). Credit cards and travellers cheques are now accepted in many of the larger hotels and shops, and ATMs increasingly also accept international bank cards. There are many money exchange machines in Belgrade (including at Belgrade Airport) that accept GBP Sterling, US Dollars and Euros and will give back Dinars.
Please be aware that British banks do not generally exchange Dinars. You are advised to exchange Dinars back into GBP before you leave Serbia. You should change money only through banks or official exchange offices and not through street dealers. Only Bank of England issued bank notes are recognised or exchanged in Serbia. Scottish and Northern Irish pounds sterling bank notes are not accepted. The British Embassy in Belgrade cannot exchange any kind of British currency.
Specific to Kosovo (UN administered)

You should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity and a sufficient number of unused pages before you arrive in Kosovo.  If your passport is lost or stolen the British Office in Pristina can issue you with an Emergency Passport (valid for up to 7 days and for return journey to UK only).
Applications for new passports are accepted at the British Office in Pristina for forwarding to the British Embassy in Vienna, where they will be issued and returned.  This may take between 4-6 weeks. A courier service is available to speed up this process, but you will have to bear the cost.
Money
Since January 2002, the Euro is the official currency in Kosovo (the Yugoslav Dinar retains its legal status in Kosovo but is not accepted outside Serb-majority areas). The current banking system is embryonic and you will be expected to pay in cash. Credit cards are not widely accepted but there are a small number of ATMs in Pristina which accept international bank cards. You should bring enough Euros to cover your expenses while in Kosovo.
CONSULAR CONTACT DETAILS
When you arrive in Serbia you are advised to register with, or make your presence known to the British Embassy in Belgrade.  When visiting Kosovo, you should make your presence known to the British Office in Pristina.
Serbia
A full consular service is available in Belgrade at the British Embassy, which is located at Resavska 46, 11000, Belgrade (tel: + 381 11 2645 055; fax: +381 11 659 651).