PLEASE NOTE: The currency in Serbia is the Republic of Serbia Dinar / the RSD (I will refer to them as S$s). At the time of writing, US$1 = S$105.
We have just spent 4 nights in Sofia, Bulgaria. For me, a visit to somewhere like Sofia is all about experiencing history and culture.
We, now, head north to our first stop in Serbia: Nis … to experience more history and culture …
My Sofia accommodation was only 200 metres from a Metro Station, so I jumped on the Metro. A ticket is Bulgarian Lev 1.60 per trip (about US$1). At Serdica Metro Station you can change metro lines without needing to buy another ticket.
I loaded by suitcase into the luggage compartment. The driver wanted EURO 50c (Lev 1) to ticket my suitcase. I didn’t have any Lev left nor any Euro. He made a bit of a fuss about it but, in the end, he let me off the fee. Remember to have 1 lev per stowed luggage item (if you have them).
It took 1:15 hours to get to the Serbian border and just over 30 minutes to clear Bulgarian and Serbian Immigration.
We arrived in Nis 6:45pm. Some of us got off in the City Centre at the King Milan Monument.
The bus continued to the main Bus Station terminal on Bulevar 12 Februara just north of the river.
I can’t tell you much more about Nis than what is already well documented on the internet.
Archaeological evidence shows Neolithic settlements in the city and its surroundings dating from 5,000 to 2,000 BC. In the Iron Age, the Thracians dominated the region. In 279 BC, during the Gallic invasion of the Balkans, the Celtic Scordisci defeated the Triballi.
The Romans conquered the Balkans between 168 and 75 BC. Subsequently, Nis became the birthplace of three Roman emperors: Constantine the Great (the first Christian emperor and the founder of Constantinople), Constantius III, and Justin I.
Nis, later, played a prominent role in the history of the Byzantine Empire. After about 400 years of Ottoman rule, the city was liberated in 1878 and became part of the Principality of Serbia (though not without great bloodshed).
Niš has long been a crossroads between East and West.
This is what GRANDPAckers can expect to find within 1km of the City Centre at short notice in early August:
PLEASE NOTE: HOTELS usually display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES. But many search sites (like HOTELS) don’t provide a ‘private bathroom’ filter, so be careful with some of the cheap hotels and make sure that you read the room details. HOTELS does not do well in the Serbian marketplace.
AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:
PLEASE NOTE: Other sites (such as Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO are also worth a look).
GRANDPAckers can find accommodation in the City Centre within our price range. BOOKING.COM offers a wider range and better value for money than Hotels and AirBnB.
I used BOOKING.COM to book a Double Bed Studio Apartment (single occupancy): Apartment Antonio. I paid S$2,225 / US$21 per night for 3 nights. What the description failed to say was that is was on the 4th floor with no lift. I chose it for its excellent location close to the Bus Station, the Old City Centre, and the sights just north of the river (see What To Do, below).
It came with a wardrobe, cable TV (with lots of English speaking channels, a fridge, kettle, and a kitchenette. The kitchen facilities were sparse and only (really) sufficient for drinks and making cold snacks.
The wifi was very good, reliable, and good enough to stream videos.
WHERE TO STAY:
My apartment was perfectly located on the riverfront close to Stambol Gate.
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
This is a big city … you have a multitude of options.
In the supermarkets, you can buy a 500ml bottle of local beer for about S$60. A 2L bottle costs about S$200 (US$2).
In an average bar, you will get a 500ml bottle or draft local beer for about S$200. Half that in a local cafe where the locals drink.
You can’t live on cheap burgers … you will need to pay significantly more if you want a ‘balanced diet’.
If Breakfast is NOT provided by your hotel (which seems normal in Serbia), expect to pay an average of S$400 for a cheap local Breakfast with tea / coffee.
Expect to pay an average of S$300 for a cheap Lunch with fruit drink.
Expect to pay an average of S$700 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / 500ml Beer.
WHEN TO COME:
I arrived on the cusp of July and August. The weather was pleasant and not too hot.
Niš is strategically located on the main route between Greece and Central Europe with a natural land corridor running eastwards in the direction of Sofia and Istanbul. The Roman Empire built the first road linking Belgrade to Istanbul. Today, Nis is a major connection point for travel throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans both by Bus and Rail.
The main bus station offers local transport as well as intercity transport to international destinations. The largest intercity bus carrier based in Nis is Niš-Ekspres.
Nis City’s public transportation consists of 13 bus lines. The tram system closed in 1958.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in our GRANDPAcking price range.
MTS and VIP offer 1 week tourist voice and data prepaid packages (with free SIMcard) for about S$300.
I need data: I don’t use voice nor SMS. Telenor offer a 15 day prepaid data only package including SIMcard with 10GB for S$545 (about US$5). This was perfect for me and my 2 week stay in Serbia.
WHAT TO DO:
NORTH OF THE RIVER WALK:
There is plenty to see and the history is also displayed in English. I spent 1 hour here. I wept. After I left, it took nearly 1 hour for me to clear the cloud of sadness that was weighing on my soul.
You can easily while away several hours doing this walk.
WALK AROUND THE OLD TOWN:
A couple of hours is enough.
AUGUST NISVILLE FESTIVAL:
They were starting to prepare for it whilst I was there.
A walk to the Skull Tower is not as nice as a walk around the north of the river (above) but some people will still enjoy it.
I suggest that it is not worth walking to Skull Tower and back. As it is always easier to get a bus back to the City Centre than it is to find the right bus out from one, I suggest that you walk there and catch a bus back. Let’s assume that you start in King Milan Square. Allow about 2-3 hours …
You can catch a bus back to the City Centre from there.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
Obviously, living in a big city is a totally different story but, as a tourist, 3 nights was just right.