Q:Â Our daughter is going on a student exchange programme to Serbia in August this year. We want to drop her to Serbia and before that we wish to club it with a tour. Can you guide us on the best places to travel around Serbia in the latter half of July so we can first travel, drop our daughter to Serbia and then return to Mumbai? We love bustling places, nature, history, culture, anything intriguing. We travel on a budget. Will a Eurail pass be cheaper? Does it make sense for us to travel by night and explore places by day?
What fun. Serbia, part of the erstwhile Yugoslavia, and its neighbouring countries all offer rich pickings for the curious traveller. The country shares borders with Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to the north andÂ east, and with Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro to the west. All of these have become popular travel destinations. I can’t begin to offer you a plan, because it’s unclear to me whether by “travel around Serbia” you mean travel within Serbia or outside, or indeed both. I suggest you chalk out a plan based on which city you’ll be flying into–since there are no direct flights from Mumbai to Serbian capital Belgrade. You mention that you travel on a budget, in which case the cheapest flights will probably be via either Dubai or Istanbul to Belgrade. If your point of entry into Europe is Belgrade you can create a plan focussed on travelling around Serbia and maybe include a trip to neighbouring Croatia. OnÂ an expensive continent, Serbia is still among the cheapest places to explore and travel in. Belgrade is a bustling, chaotic but charming city; base yourself here and explore the smaller towns, including lovely Novi Sad and Subotica, as well as Nis.
If, on the other hand, you find yourself flying into, say, Vienna (Austria and Serbia have Hungary between them), you could plan an itinerary that involves train travel from Vienna via Budapest to Belgrade. Typical travel plans for this region include: 1) Vienna-Budapest-Belgrade (connected by Eurail on a day or overnight train) 2) Vienna-Lake Bled (Slovenia)-Split (Croatia).
There are also plenty of night-train itineraries for travel in the region. Train travel in Europe is not like what we know in India–it’s efficient, on time, but notÂ inexpensive. So it’s not a given that night trains will lower costs of accommodation. Remember, too, that you will have to pay for berth reservation over and above the cost of a Eurail Pass (imperative to reserve in advance, since you’ll be travelling in peak tourist season). See eurail.com/en/europe-by-train/night-trains, to understand the panoply of options.
I suggest you compare and contrast the train option to bus for prices. There is, by the way, a brand-new bus service between Serbia and Croatia. There are two routes on offer: one, between Belgrade and Split and the other between Belgrade and Zadar (see getbybus.com/en/blog/new-bus-routes-between-serbia-and-croatia/).