Serbia's Borders and Customs - Travel Tips

Crossing the border in Serbia is not a simple process by any means..

Despite decades of conflict and repression, Serbia has seen a renaissance with more tourists visiting the Balkan nation each year. But when it comes to visas, having the right documentation is of the highest importance, especially for a country constantly watching those across the border. This shouldn't scare you away from seeing what Serbia has to offer, just understand that officials like things the way they like them.

If you are planning a trip to Serbia, here are some ideas to keep yourself out of jail and trouble.

Have the Right Papers

Following a brutal war with its Kosovo neighbor, Serbia has often been wary of anyone heading over the border. And similar to the relationship between some Middle Eastern countries and Israel, having a stamp from Kosovo in the past, would end your journey to Serbia.

In 2014, the Serbian Government legislated that entry into Serbia would be visa free for 90 days for holders of foreign passports having a valid Schengen, other member states, UK, United States and Australia. Any tourist stay longer than 90 days or for business purposes requires a visa.

For those who may be dual nationals, it is also important to use the same passport when you enter and exit Serbia.

Luckily, times have changed and for the time being, this is no longer the case. Officials will just over-stamp your Kosovo visa with a "cancelled" stamp. But whatever you do, don't try to outthink the Serbian border officials. Entering Serbia through Kosovo without a Serbian entry stamp is considered as an illegal entry and can be met with stiff penalties.

Likewise, leaving Serbia via Kosovo is not considered legally leaving the country, so you run the risk of being charged with overstaying your entry permit.

Getting Through Customs

Every country has its tough custom officers Serbia has it's own set of rules to test the traveller

Products are usually fine, But travellers are required to declare on arrival valuables (such as lap top computers, cameras, and jewellery) with a value of 10,000 Euros or more and obtain a declaration from customs officials. This declaration form is required on departure from the country. Failure to comply may result in the confiscation of valuables.

You can now bring an unlimited sum of foreign currency into Serbia, but be aware that you can only take up to 10,000 EUR out of the country.

Foreigners Beware

Similar to neighbouring Bosnia and Croatia, foreigners are required by law to register themselves with the police station in their district within 12 hours of receiving a Serbian entry stamp at a border crossing or airport. This may sound a hassle, but if it isn't done, you'll find yourself in a far more precarious position.

When you check-in at your hotel, staff will register you automatically. This is quite common when you travel to any country (it even happens in France), so don't get too nervous about the information. However, if you are staying with friends in a private dwelling, you must register your presence with the police in the district in which you are staying.

Gay Scene Serbian Style

One aspect that may turn off many travellers is the widespread intolerance towards homosexuals. 70% of homosexuals in Serbia have experienced violence in one or the other way themselves.

While homosexual acts are not illegal in Serbia, it is not widely accepted. Verbal and physical aggression occurs.

The Belgrade Pride Parade was held on 10 October 2010 with around 1,000 participants. While the parade proceeded smoothly, police clashed with around 6,000 protestors.

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11 Comments

  • Duya said

    This is probably the most misguided, tendentious and error-ridden article I have recently seen, and paints the country (an EU accession candidate) as a pariah. Let me just focus on rectifying all the falsehoods:
    http://www.carina.rs/en/Passengers/Pages/Passengers.aspx
    "When crossing the state border (on entering and leaving the country), any natural person is to report to the customs authority the amount of portable monetary instruments that is equal to or exceeding EUR 10.000, either in RSD or in foreign currency. ... They can always take out of the country the amount of up to EUR 10,000. ..."

    "Basically, you are only allowed to move 120,000 Serbian dinars (about $US1600) into and out of the country... notes larger than 1000 dinars are not allowed to move across the border" - false. Quote: "RSD may be taken into or out of the country up to the amount of EUR 10,000 in RSD equivalent per person." No reference to banknotes of any kind.

    Also: "foreign nationals ... may import temporarily the goods they need for personal use during their travel and goods for sports purposes. They include all articles, whether new or used, that are necessary to the passenger for personal use during travel, taking into consideration all the circumstances of travel, and exclude all commercial goods." Pretty commonsense, I think, in line with customs law in many other countries.

    "Serbia has often been wary of anyone heading over the border"... "A wary eye over every foreigner is commonplace, a little more so than other countries in the world." - utter bullshit. As a transit country, millions of foreigners visit Serbia every year as tourists or transit passengers.
    http://www.serbia.com/tos-number-of-tourist-visits-in-serbia-in-growth/
    978,000 tourists visited Serbia only in 9 months of 2015, with countless others transiting.

    "having a stamp from Kosovo in the past, would end your journey to Serbia" - false. The only restriction, and a rare true statement in the article is that "Entering Serbia through Kosovo without a Serbian entry stamp is considered as an illegal entry", but it can only result in refusal to cross the Kosovo-Serbia line. Once they obtain a regular Serbian entry stamp, foreigners can cross the line/border freely. Going the other way round (leaving Serbia via Kosovo) is technically a violation, but never enforced (and practically impossible to enforce).

    Intolerance towards gay population is present indeed (like elsewhere in Eastern Europe, unfortunately), but acts of violence towards gay visitors are practically unheard of. Just follow common sense and avoid public expression of affectation.

    I am deeply disappointed both for the tone and the evident lack of research in this article.

  • Dustin said

    I have crossed into Serbia twice, and my passport was stamped without even so much as a glance at my face. While in the country I never felt I was being watched at all. Hotels didn't even check my identification. Registering with the police on arrival? Are you kidding? This article is just plain wrong.

  • Crazydre said

    Dustin, you do have to receive a white registration card from a hotel or police station, or you can be heavily fined on exit. However, you're not usually asked for it (though you're supposed to turn it in on exit - I always do), and lots of hotels are too lazy to do the registration unless asked. If checked by the police while in the country, however, you could well be in trouble.

    So I strongly recommend registrering, which is actually a piss easy procedure.

    And yeah, this article paints Serbia as a Soviet-style country. It is not; land border officers are the most nonchalant and lax I've seen on this planet.

    You can't enter Serbia from Kosovo after having entered Kosovo from elsewhere though (ie without a Serbian entry stamp), except if using an ID Card instead of a passport (which is possible for "Yugoslav", Swiss and EU citizens

  • Phillip said

    Firstly I should like to agree with Duya's comments.
    I am English am married to a Serb and travel frequently to Serbia.
    Not once have we had any trouble entering or leaving the country, we have never been asked how much personal stuff we have.
    Yes police registration is compulsory however with me as we have a property in a small village, the police are aware of my presence as soon as I arrive and as we normally arrive late at nite are forgivuing and do not uphold the 12 hours rule.
    As with everything in the world you have the truth (not usually mentioned) and then scaremongering, fake news and just downright lies.
    The Serbs are a very friendly and educated people and should be appreciated for it

  • Russell said

    Can you set off fireworks becuase if not .... ooops

  • Jilly said

    good question russ, not that it will change my behaviour

  • Linda said

    Hi! Anyone here who can give advice? My husband was in Serbia and wanted to take a plan in Thursday to Sweden. He never came home. I called the airport, different airline companies, but no one knows where he is. He is missing! The Swedish police can not help, because they have to be sure that he desapeard in Sweden.
    So what should I do?


  • Filip said

    I never go back to Serbia anymore. The only country in the region we had border hassle. We went in and out 2 times and everytime they needed to search the car which is their good right of courelse but the last exit to HU they wanted to have everything out and inspected the car inside and under it on the bridge. Very unfriendly and intimidating. We stayed calm and saying we are just tourist. When done gave them a hand to be polite but I thought hey this is the worst country when it comes to kindness towards tourists. This is being honest based on my experiences at the borders.

  • Antony Elliott said

    Hey guys,
    Need some advice on travelling into Serbia from Albania. I intend on visiting Kosovo prior to this. What is the worst case scenario when I land in Serbia with the stamp? And what's the most likely?

  • Russell said

    ahhhhh good question anton..... i'm going to call you ant for short. So ant the most likley scenario is that serbian king will invite you over for some fried dog i hope this answered your question ant if you have any other question feel free to comment them :)

  • Jilly said

    The good old days russ the bus i remember Peter i what a great guy, heart of coal, his eyes reminded me of watermelon seeds and dry armpits. russ lets call our next kid ant, that will go well with urweenus trap.

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