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Serbia shares it's borders with Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. This Balkan country is famous for Rakija (homemade fruit brandy) and Slivovitza (a very strong spirit). Beyond the alcoholic content of its local beverages, there are a few things travelers should know before they go.
For a country that's slowly emerging from years of war and internal security issues, Serbia is relatively safe when it comes to crime. As in most countries, travelers should take precautions and remember if it doesn't feel right, then it probably isn't.
Belgrade does not have high levels of street crime, but pick-pocketing and purse snatchings do occur., and of course, tourists are prime targets.
People traveling to Serbia should take the same precautions in Belgrade as they would in any large city around the world.
Most crimes happen because people let down their guard. Unlocked cars, items left in plain sight in a car, open gates, and open garage doors make attractive targets for thieves. Car thefts or break-ins can happen any time, day or night in all sections of Belgrade and other parts of the country.
A report by Belgrade-based newspaper Blic says bribery has become a way of life in Serbia. Two-thirds of survey respondents said they'd been asked for a bribe and 50% said they'd offered a bribe.
The average size of bribes was €178, but most were around the €50 mark. Interestingly the people who were being offered or asking for bribes were most commonly medical workers (38%), probably indicating some difficulty in accessing quality health care in the country. The next most popular targets for bribes were police officers (35%), then local government officials (10%).
In Serbia, difficult economic conditions have sparked the growth of an organized criminal class, and violent crime is most often associated with organized crime activities.
But travelers shouldn't be too worried. Tourists are almost never the targets of violent crime, but Mafia-style reprisals have occurred.
When those kinds of crimes happen, innocent bystanders may become unintended victims of crime. You should be especially on guard in city centers here, just as you would anywhere else in the world.
Don't be scared, just be aware.
While you are traveling in Serbia, remember you are subject to its laws even if you are a foreign citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from elsewhere.
An example: In Serbia it is prohibited to take pictures of the old annex to the Ministry of Defense building or the old Ministry of the Interior building.
If you break local laws in Serbia, your passport won't help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It's very important to know what's legal and what's not where you are going.
One aspect that may turn off many travelers is the intolerance towards LGBTQ people.
While homosexual acts are not illegal in Serbia, it is not widely accepted. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal, but unfortunately there is still a negative attitude towards LGBTQ communities. Same-sex marriage is also not legal.
In 2019 the Serbian police clashed with people who were trying to stop the Belgrade Pride Parade. Each year despite protestors showing up to the parade, local mayors and government officials have shown up to show their support for the LGBTQ community in Serbia.
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