Serbia uses the Serbian dinar as its official currency. The dinar is then divided into 100 para, but in reality this is hypothetical only, since the para has not really been in use for some time, due to the rising costs of living.
The currency is issued by the National Bank of Serbia and is recognised internationally by the letters RSD. It is issued as both coins and notes and the coins start as 50 para, but in practice, you won't really see nay of these, with the main coins being dinars in the form of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 dinars, as well as notes in the form of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 5000 dinars, but the 5000 dinar note is rarely used, it is only for bank use.
History of the Serbian Dinar
The Serbian dinar has been in use for some time, albeit in very different formats. But to give some indication of just how historical the dinar is as a currency, it was used in the area now known as Serbia, in the 13th Century and at that point was actually called the Serbian dinar, so this really is an ancient currency.
The dinar that is in use in Serbia today is basically a currency that is the Yugoslavian dinar in all but name. When Yugoslavia broke up the Serbs continued to use that dinar and so it is still in use today, although it has evolved slightly since the 13th Century.
Serbia has expressed quite a strong interest in joining the European Union and as such is keen to ensure that it plays 'ball' with the European Union in terms of complying with things that the EU want it to do. This means that it is already an 'Associate Member' of the rapidly expanding European Union and if it does go on to achieve full membership, then at some stage it will need to adopt the euro as its currency. So the Serbian dinar, despite its long history may not be around in twenty years or so, fading into the distance and replaced with the very buoyant euro.
Getting Hold of Serbian Dinars
Getting hold of Serbian dinars is not that hard. More and more ATM machines are springing up all over the country and more and more of them are able to take international cards, so it is not that hard to get hold of dinars.
Perhaps surprisingly, traveller's cheques are not all that popular and you may have trouble getting them cashed, so take a few as back up, but otherwise take your credit cards, ideally two, with each one on a different network and then you should be able to get cash relatively easily. Just to keep you going, you should also take in some cash. US dollars and euros are preferred.
Until late 2008 it would probably have been possible to state that Serbia was once again a safe destination to visit and whilst it is not wholly unsafe to visit, there are risks that you need to be aware of, just so that you can stay vigilant and ensure that you don't get into any trouble.
The main problems in Serbia have stemmed from the fact that Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia, as of February 2008, but Serbia has refused to recognise this and the situation has not been helped by the fact that many European States, including the UK have all said that they recognise the breakaway Kosovo republic, which has annoyed Serbia.
This situation has then been made worse by the fact that the former President, Radovan Karodzic in July 2008 which has led to some pretty violent demonstrations and protests in Belgrade, in late July 2008.
Since February, tensions have been running quite high and many people are quite angry about Kosovo and feel quite strongly about it, but they also have strong feelings about Kardozic and feel that he will not be able to get a fair trial in the EU.
So, whilst these tensions and issues are not serious enough to prevent a trip to Serbia, it is wise to be aware of them and you should keep a relatively low profile when travelling in Serbia. If at all possible, you should not make conversation relating to either Kosovo or Karodzic, since people tend to have quite strong feelings on these two subjects, so just steer clear of them and leave the politics to someone else!
Overall, Serbia does not have a huge problem of crime, but there are some pickpockets around, as well as some pretty erratic drivers, but there are no huge risks of crime, just be sensible and aware and you should be fine.
Out and About in Serbia
Most visitors who come to Serbia make a point of including Belgrade in their schedule, since it is a city that has emerged recently as one of the most interesting in the whole of eastern Europe. The downside of this is that there are very few places where you can escape other travellers and there is a sense at times, that this is just one big tourist resort. However, it is far from that and it is a city that is very cultural and also has some stunning art galleries, museums, churches, amazing architecture and lots of businesses as well.
Belgrade also has a pretty wild nightlife, so you will never be bored in the evening when in Belgrade, there really is loads to do, day or night, almost 365 days a year. The nightlife often consists of bars and nightclubs that are open all night and some of them can be a little on the shady side, so make sure that you feel comfortable with the ambience when you go in somewhere, since there may well be some 'underground' types who frequent these types of clubs and, boring as it may sound, don't get too drunk, since you risk losing your wallet or purse!
One of the best places to go in Belgrade is to the Ada Ciganlija, which is actually a little island on the Sava river that has its own artificial lake and a beach, which, although it is in the centre of the city, is actually 8 kms in length. If you go to Belgrade in the summer, which is the time most people do go, be sure to check it out, it really is great. A lot of people come here simply to play, have picnics, have some fun or cool down. So get into the spirit of Belgrade and just let you hair down.
Interestingly, the Danube also runs through Belgrade, so along with the Sava, there are two rivers to be seen in Belgrade and each has a slightly different feel to it. Both of the rivers have, over the years, had fortresses or towers built on them. These are fascinating to visit and none more so than the Kalmegdan, which is a really big fortress that has been built, re-built, attacked and re-built etc for over 2000 years! So many nationalities have added bits, or made extensions etc that it is an incredible sight, so make sure you check it out.
But like so many other countries, there is much more to see than just the capital and Belgrade is not short of wonderful places to see. One of the most beautiful places to visit, certainly in Serbia, but possibly within the whole of Eastern Europe, is the Palic Lake in the north of the country. It has some wonderful art nouveau architecture and is simply stunning in terms of just how pretty the buildings and scenery are, but also in terms of just how chic it is as well. It is home to a number of festivals, which has resulted in it becoming quite fashionable and trendy, so make sure that you don't miss it from your schedule.
Subotica is a tiny city in the north of the country, but it is outstandingly beautiful and is has some classic architecture, but the presence of many students, in this university town, gives it a very vibrant and youthful air. It also feels a lot more relaxed than other towns and somehow it simply feels cultured and refined. Café culture is also quite vibrant here, so again, make this a must see destination.
Overall, Serbia is not that expensive, which means that if you are coming from Western Europe or the US etc, you will find prices quite cheap in terms of food, drink, accommodation etc. However, most clothes that are imported are subject to quite high taxes, which means that they are relatively expensive and if you have been travelling around eastern Europe, you will find that costs may be significantly higher in Serbia than in other neighbouring countries, so leave clothes shopping for the other countries and simply concentrate on the culture and museums in Serbia. If, however, you simply can't visit a country without at least some clothes shopping, then make sure that you try to buy locally produced clothes, they really are much cheaper, even if they have got a slightly different air to them than Western European clothes.
Serbia is a really beautiful country that has had something of a troubled past, but now is very much looking forward to embracing Europe and European ways, as well as the euro. Yet it is still clinging steadfastly to its own culture and identity.
Yet it seems a very proud country and people feel very patriotic and very mindful of the past and they remember everything that has happened in the country and are keen that things should not be forgotten. Whether this patriotism will continue with subsequent generations, who knows, but for the present, it is certainly very much alive in people's minds.
Despite the fact that it has had such troubles in the past, it remains a beautiful country that is very much home to a people who are warm, welcoming and usually very pleased to meet travellers and 'show off' their beautiful country.
For further reading about Serbia, from the point of view of someone who knows the country inside out, why not visit http://www.balkanology.com/serbia/index.html for lots of practical hints, tips, suggestions and information about this country and its people?