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Visiting Serbia

Page history last edited by Fr. Gregory Edwards 12 years, 1 month ago

How do I get to Serbia (and back)?

 

So you want branch out from Thessaloniki and visit Serbia? Good idea!

 

You have four transportation options:

 

1. Airplane.The only direct flights between Thessaloniki and Belgrade are offered by the Serbian national airline, JAT. In the summer months, there seem to be at least 3 flights per week, to accomodate the crowds vacationing in Halkidiki. Outside of the summer months, the flights are reduced to twice a week, aimed primarily at accommodating those who live in one place but work in another during the week. Therefore, the schedule outside the summer months (as of this writing, November 2008), is as follows (please note that Serbia is one hour behind Greece):

 

Fridays:

Leaves Belgrade at 10:40.

Arrives Thessaloniki at 13:10.

 

Leaves Thessaloniki at 13:50.

Arrives Belgrade at 14:20.

 

Sundays:

Leaves Belgrade at 16:30.

Arrives Thessaloniki at 19:00.

 

Leaves Thessaloniki at 19:45.

Arrives Belgrade at 20:15.

 

Check the latest and book flights at their excellent English website. Prices are given in Serbian dinar, which are exchanged as of today (19 November 2008) at 72 dinar=1 euro; 57 dinar=1 US dollar. Google "dollar serbian dinar" or "euro serbian dinar" (without quotation marks) for the latest.

 

As of this writing (November 2008), flights could be had for as little as 90 euro/$115 (one-way) or 175 euro/$220 (round-trip), depending on time of year (winter is generally cheaper than summer) and how far in advance you book. The flight is 1.5 hours.

 

2. Car. Driving between these two cities is extremely easy (it's nearly impossible to get lost; there are very few turns) and the roads are very good. In fact, the highway between Belgrade and Nis is as nice as the best American highways. The trip can be made, with limited stopping, in 7.5 hours. The cost of fuel and tolls is approximately 100 euro each way. Refer to the info on rental cars provided above. BE SURE TO NOTE the difficulties with international insurance.

 

3. Bus. Two private companies, Alamanis Bus Company and Simeonidis Tours, each offer two buses per week to/from Belgrade. The cost is approximately 50 euro (one-way) or 90 euro (round-trip). The trip lasts between 11-12 hours with frequent stops.

 

As of this writing (August 2008), the schedule for Alamanis was as follows:

 

  • Thessaloniki to Belgrade: Leaves at 9:00 PM on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Arrives in Belgrade at approximately 7:00 AM the next day.
  • Belgrade to Thessaloniki: Leaves at 6:00 PM on Mondays and Fridays. Arrives in Thessaloniki at approximately 6:30-7:00 AM the next day.

 

It is possible to call the offices of this company and reserve a seat. This being the Balkans, though, they will not take reservation more than a few days in advance. Their office number in Thessaloniki is (as dialed from the US): (011) (30) 2310 526 859.

 

Simeonidis offers buses leaving Thessaloniki for Belgrade at 8:15 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I believe they return from Belgrade to Thessaloniki at 5:30 PM on Tuesdays and probably one other day, but I'm not sure. Their office number in Thessaloniki is 2310-540-970. Note that Simeonidis is sometimes referred to as "Siamos," which is the name of the company in Athens that handles the bus line.

 

The offices for both Alamanis and Simeonidis, and the departure point for the buses, are next door to each other, across the street from Thessaloniki's main courthouse (the "dikastirio"), which is located not far from Aristotle Square and the port. The address for Alamanis is 26th October Street #18, while Simeonidis is #14 (somewhat hidden on the second floor of the building). They can be reached by local bus by taking buses #12, 31, 39, or 40 to the stop called "TERMA." I know that #31 runs very frequently along the main road of Egnatia. I believe you'll want to take #31 from the north side of the street (away from the water) heading west. The offices are directly across the street from the stop "TERMA."

 

These buses are relatively new, air-conditioned, and clean. The only downside of taking the bus is that the space can be quite confining.

 

4. Train. The last option, and we mean THE LAST option, is the train. It runs every day and the cost is approximately 35 euro (one-way). The good news ends there.**

 

The train allegedly leaves Thessaloniki every day at 4:15 PM, although in practice it is usually around 6:00 PM. The trip is allegedly 12 hours long, but in practice it is never shorter than 18. We are not sure what time the train allegedly leaves from Belgrade.

 

The trains are old, NOT air-conditioned, and generally rather unclean. It is not possible to reserve a seat over the phone or internet. One MUST go to the train station itself to purchase the ticket. When you buy the ticket, you may also elect to pay a bit extra for a sleeping car. These are available in several options, if we remember correctly: 1, 2, 3 or 6 beds per room. To get anything but the very undesirable 6 beds per room, you generally need to buy your ticket in advance.

 

Although we have not heard any specific stories of danger or crime, women travelling alone will want to be extremely careful. In fact, if you are a woman travelling by yourself, we would recommend NOT taking the train at all.

 

A Final Note: All these options have assumed Belgrade as your destination, but the train and bus both allow for you to get off pretty much anywhere in between Thessaloniki and Belgrade. If your destination is further north (such as Novi Sad), you'll have to go through Belgrade anyway.

 

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