Cycling In Serbia: Tips & Photos

In this guest post, Roberto Gallegos gives us a taste of bike touring in Serbia, through tips and photos. Roberto’s story begins with a ‘warning’ of his limited experience with international bike touring. This is, after all, the first big trip for him and his girlfriend.

***

Roberto & AnnikaPhoto by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

This journey represents the first and only time I have spent more than 10 days on the uncomfortable seat of this wonderful two-wheeled machine. It has been almost 3 months since my departure from Bremen, Germany. Since then, I have lost 15 kilos, cried a few times on the small mountains while climbing, suffered through the cold (a strange thing for my Mexican body), and patched inner tubes for the very first time.

Yes, I have suffered. Yet I still have a smile on my face and am continuing towards my goal: to reach the warm coasts of South East Asia with my girlfriend, hopefully before December 2012. This is also when the Mayans are predicting the end of the world…

Cycling alongside paprikasBut for now I have to deal with the roads of Serbia and seek refuge from the cold somewhere close to the Mediterranean Sea if I don’t want to wake up every morning to a tent covered in a frozen layer of unhappiness. This is because we are cycling through the chill of a European winter.

While I am here, as a way thanking and helping the cycling community that has inspired me, I have some personal (surely not professional!) recommendations on cycling in this wonderful country by the name of Serbia.

Fortunately I can give you more than one picture of what it’s like to pedal the roads in the country that created Rakia (the Serbian version of tequila). I will comment on the pictures and if you still have doubts waiting to be cleared from your head, I do have an e-mail and I do read it often.

Here goes:

Signs for Eurovelo 6Photo by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#1. Road signs – Serbia is a relatively small country, with one Eurovelo bicycle path. Path 6 follows the Danube River all the way to the Black Sea. The signs are easy to find but they mostly follow roads for cars. Do not expect to find comfortable bike lanes like the ones in Germany or some parts of Hungary. The rule of thumb is: if you don’t see a sign just follow the obvious road straight ahead. In most cases it will lead you to the next sign and, ultimately, to your goal.

Road mapsPhoto by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#2. Road maps are very accurate – Yes, it might seem obvious, but buying a map is the best way to find whichever route you might pick. In our case, the map was very accurate and we could follow small roads along the highway from Sombor (northern Serbia) to Niš southern Serbia). Expect hills, including some 20% grades, especially in the southern part of Serbia.

Riding alongside cars and trucksPhoto by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#3. Riding alongside cars and trucks – Cars, trucks and buses are mostly courteous. They will often use the other lane to pass, if it’s free of traffic. That’s not always true, of course. Sometimes they do come very close but stay calm. They will also honk, for one of 3 reasons: they are warning you that they are coming, they are showing their support for your effort (easily identifiable by a thumbs up or a ‘yeah’ sound from the car) or they are just annoyed because you made them slow down.

Repair shopsPhoto by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#4. Car shops can be bike shops as well – Many towns do not have bicycle repair shops but car repair shops often sell basic bicycle supplies such as tubes, wheels, bike tires, brakes and even gear parts. Be on the lookout for these places that can save you in an emergency. I know this because I bought tubes, spokes and even a wheel in one of these stores.

Not alone on the roadPhoto by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#5. You’re not alone on the road – You will definitely see many locals using their bicycles for their daily needs. Using international sign language, these fellow bicycle travellers can help you find your way. You will also find that young people often speak English, and older people might speak German or French.

Accomodation can be tough to find
Photo by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#6. Accommodation might be difficult to find in some places – We wild camped a lot before Serbia but our lack of winter gear and -10°C nights pushed us to use some hotels along the way. The problem: not all towns have hotels and if you are stuck in one of these towns when the sun is going down, you have a problem. It’s better to have the right camping equipment. If you do have the luck to find a hotel, expect to pay a minimum of €25 a night. In big cities like Novi Sad, Belgrade and Niš, Couchsurfing hosts are easy to find but avoid sending a last-minute request. Warmshowers.org is also an excellent option and you can find a few in Serbia.

Burek PausePhoto by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#7. Food breaks are fantastic – Along the way, you will find bakeries and grills that offer delicious and affordable food. Nothing will taste better than a freshly baked burack with yogurt in a winter morning. The entire Serbian breakfast will cost around €1.50 and – believe me – the value for the money will always be higher than you expect. There will be healthy options like fresh fruits but if you like sweet and heavy food, burack will be the the perfect choice. Personal recommendation: try the spinach and cheese burack, and always take a jar of ajvar (a spread made from paprika and eggplant) with you.

Wonderful hospitality and kindnessPhoto by Roberto Gallegos, website: Tasting Travels

#8. Watch out for extreme hospitality and kindness! – Interacting with the locals will definitely be one of the best experiences you will have, riding the roads of this country. Many of them will show immediate signs of friendship and you should not feel in any way threatened by their surprising show of friendship. It is common that people will offer you food, tea, coffee and – in many more cases – rakia. That’s true even early in the morning!

Enjoy The Ride#9. Enjoy the ride – Finally, my last recommendation is to enjoy the scenery and try as much as possible to interact with the extremely friendly people of this country.There will be places where you will get to see only burned fields and trash on the side of the road but there will be others where surprises like the scale size Eiffel Tower in a nice lady’s house, will make your bike touring in Serbia a trip to remember.

I wish you happy riding and extend a personal invitation to ride through unexplored Serbia. You will end up making friends. I guarantee it!

***

For more on Roberto’s bike touring adventures, see his website: Tasting Travels.

Comments

  1. Tim
    10th December 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    Traveling through Serbia was a surprisingly major highlight of Europe for me, particularly along the Danube east of Belgrade, where the river marks the border with Romania. The road sticks to the river, so though it goes through a fairly significantly mountainous area there isnt a huge amount of climbing. One tip that I would add: If you choose to follow the Eurovelo 6 route, the signposting is not consistent with the Bikeline route books (at least the english edition which hasn’t been updated in a few years). For the most part this doesn’t really matter, but leaving Belgrade be aware that the signs will take you North of the river, while the book tells you to stay south. If you don’t mind riding on dikes for a little while, I recommend following the signs to the north! It might not be as effecient, but there is far less climbing and virtually no traffic. If you’re considering it, I highly recommend eastern Europe!!

    • Roberto Gallegos Ricci
      9th March 2012 at 7:23 pm #

      TIM what about the FOOD!!! ha ha ha. Thanks for your comment. I completely agree with you, when you recommend eastern europe to cycle.

      cheers man!

  2. Tony
    29th May 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Serbia sounds fantastic, which is good as in 2014.
    My self and my partner are setting off on a european tour
    for a few months and following the danube is on the itinery.
    So all this info from you guys out there doing it is is well
    recieved and smooths the the way.I hope that we have something to add when we experience these wonderfull places.

    Thanks to you all

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