One of the fascinating ways to explore a country is by driving. The freedom of the open road gives you more possibilities to get to know the country. Right? Not in Serbia! Here is a real rant on driving in Serbia.
1. There are no traffic signs
If you are lucky to find one of them it will take you in the wrong direction or it will have been erected so crookedly you can’t work it out. GPS is the way to go. If you find a traffic sign it’s probably going to be in the Cyrillic alphabet and only occasionally in the Roman. Good luck with trying to spell the word out at more than 20 miles an hour. You may see helpful English signs like, Producer of Local Produce.
2. Monsters once they are behind the wheel
The Serbs are very friendly people – they never let you pay for a drink, are happy to take you around and show you the best part of the country but they turn into Monsters once they are behind the wheel. One place where there is gender equality in Serbia is behind the wheel, in a car the women are bad as men. Nuns included. One overtook us at speed and at great danger to herself and other drivers. It was in the area dubbed “Hilandar of Serbia” as there are 10 monasteries spread over beautiful hills, river and lakes. You would think it’s the perfect place to unwind and find your inner self- not to get killed by a reckless nun! Her frustration started when we gave way to the car on the other side of a bridge, the nun didn’t beep, but we could hear the engine revving. She didn’t overtake right away because the nice couple passing gave us a nod and a smile which probably enraged her. Maybe she is not used to people being polite. The nun continued to follow us so close I was under impression she wanted to open our boot through her window. The sharp bends and fast traffic didn’t stop her and she overtook on a blind bend and then quickly turned off the main road without indicating and hurtled up to a monastery…
3. We never saw the police
During our driving experience in Serbia we never saw the police, although we saw two police cars – one parked in the front of kafana ( national bistro) in Nova Varos. We saw a lot of ambulances struggling to make their way on the overcrowded roads with no one making space for them to pass. They only time we encountered the police was when we crossed the border into Bosnia and the only reason we saw them is because we had been warned back in Belgrade. “Watch your speed limit when you enter Bosnia as there are two policemen, one fat and one short, jumping out of the bushes and issuing fines.” Its seems the whole country is aware of them, the two policemen in Bosnia who still haven’t realised that their hiding place is blown!
4. Be aware of the likelihood of being cut up on the roads by really dangerous drivers
Be aware of the likelihood of being cut up on the roads by really dangerous drivers. I have only one word for them “F***** idiots” or in short FI to be used here. They are hormonal junkies who are betting on you stopping and letting them overtake you, otherwise you will have blood on your hands! The reality is that you have to hit the brakes, and let flow some colourful English language. With some addition of Serbian too.
5. There are motorways but not everywhere
Our visit to the Western Serbia was mainly on roads which would be classified as country lanes in the UK but wider and with fewer potholes.
6. There are speed limits displayed but they are there only to be broken!
If you don’t break them you face a barrage of the noisiest car horns, squashed driver faces, swearing, shouting. Be ready. I’ve never been a fan of Top Gear but after my driving trip in Serbia I feel like I took a part in it!
7. Cars with automatic transmission are still a rarity in Serbia.
Driving one on this trip was a life saver! I don’t know if I would have been able to drive a manual car and encounter all the traffic issues we had. Automatic cars are a bit more expensive but they are good value for money on Serbia roads.
8. We saw lorries where they were not supposed to be – on narrow mountains lanes.
We saw a testosterone-fueled father with wife and two kids strapped in the back seats, overtaking on a blind bend. We saw tractors holding up traffic for miles. We saw new roads, just built recently, so narrow the local people have to leap out of the way every time a car passes. We drove on a winding road where there was no pulling over spaces, and when we eventually stopped at the first “kafana” the waiter kindly explained that the money for a wider road and resting places finished up in someone’s pocket!
9. Learn a few swear words in Serbian
If you are still thinking of hiring a car and driving around Serbia you will have to be 110% in driving mode and take breaks every hour if you can find somewhere. You need a good passenger to help you navigate not just on the roads but drivers too! Learn a few swear words in Serbian. They are very useful – and unexpected by those who inspire them.
Considering such bad driving and manners we didn’t see any accidents. We saw near accidents and we were part of one when on a flat wide empty road. Only quick thinking saved us.
10. While getting lost we would stop to ask for directions
The window would go down, and very helpful males (yes, all our directions were given by males, do not know why, probably they are the ones wondering roads like us) would explain us in great details how to get where we wanted. The information was so very detailed and long that sometimes we wanted just to drive off. When we did eventually we had to ventilate the car from the fumes of alcohol we were given along with the information.
Despite all this, Serbia is a beautiful country to visit with unspoiled nature, lovely people, great food and a fascinating history!