is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Serbia.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Serbia country page for
original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Serbia at Level
2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime. Review
OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Belgrade as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official
U.S. government interests. The considerable
risk from crime is due to the activities of Organized Crime (OC) groups, as
Serbia is a main trafficking route from the east to Europe. Rival OC groups target
each other in a competitive market, as an ongoing turf war between OC groups
over drug distribution rights, resulting in violence to include assassination
by firearms and explosives.
In 2019, there was one OC-related attempted murder and
six OC-related murders in Serbia, a significant decrease from the previous
year. None of these murders resulted in a criminal conviction, and most lack
even a single suspect. All seven involved firearms.
Local media reporting notes that in 2018, 35-40 OC
attacks occurred in Belgrade, most involving firearms or car bombs. The attacks
occurred at random times and in all areas of the city, including affluent
neighborhoods. There is a continuous risk of collateral damage to the general
population from such attacks, but no indication that any incident targeted U.S.
December 2019, media reported an assassination attempt against a Nikšić-based
businessman (and former police official and opponent of incumbent Montenegro
authorities) in Belgrade’s Crowne Plaza hotel. A sniper fired at Davidovic through
a window of the hotel bar, where he sat a bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church
(SPC). His wounds were not life threatening. Later, in a parking lot in
New Belgrade, police located a car on fire with a rifle with optical aim inside. There
are no known reoccurring issues of this nature at the hotel.
In September 2019, an unknown
assailant attacked a vehicle technical inspection service shop with a rocket-propelled
grenade (RPG), destroying the front door and causing material damage to the
walls. There were no reported injuries, and the investigation is ongoing. The
shop owner had been the target of a previous attack July by an unknown
individual with a firearm.
2016, masked men, purported to be OC elements, demolished a gentrifying art
district in downtown Belgrade, known as Savamala, with construction vehicles in
the middle of the night. Local police disregarded emergency calls; authorities
made no attempt to stop the destruction as individuals ushered locals out of
the area. City and federal officials have yet to hold anyone accountable despite
internal investigations citing collusion and preplanning involving local police
and city officials. Though this event does not directly affect the safety and
security of diplomatic communities or visitors, it creates serious questions
about the rule of law, as OC elements seem able to operate with impunity and
with the apparent complicity of authorities.
is known for its vibrant nightlife. Belgrade has become a major spring break
destination for European partygoers who seek out its pubs, bars, clubs, and
floating discos (splav). A number of
these establishments owned by Balkan OC elements serve as social clubs and
bases of operation for criminal gang members. Be mindful of personal safety if
you choose to patronize the following splavs that are off-limits to U.S.
Embassy personnel: Plastic, Splav Slep, and Mr. Stefan Braun. Rapidly
escalating confrontations ending in violent assaults, sometimes involving
weapons, have occurred at these establishments.
has a large contingent of “sports fan clubs” that support Serbian professional
sports teams. Club members are often 15-25 years old and known as “football
hooligans.” A number of these clubs have very strong ties to criminal,
right-wing, and ultra-nationalist organizations. Authorities often struggle to
curb violence inside sporting events and around their venues. In recent years,
there have been instances of violently assaults on foreign fans and, in one
case, a murder. This risk also extends to sports pubs, where hooligans have
attacked patrons or passersby for wearing an opposing team’s jersey. These
hooligans are often the culprits in turf wars between criminal organizations,
and have strong ties within the political structure in Serbia. Use caution when
attending local soccer matches, and near soccer arenas.
Street crime does occur. Most crimes
against visitors are crimes of opportunity. Pickpocketing in tourist areas is
common, especially on Knez Mihailova Walking Street, at the Kalemegdan
Fortress, and on the public transportation system. Criminals often work in well-orchestrated groups, using
distraction and misdirection techniques to steal from unsuspecting victims. Embassy
employees and their family members have experienced multiple pickpocketing
incidents. Review OSAC’s reports, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
Residential burglaries are not specific to certain areas
of the city; the diplomatic communities, despite increased police presence and
security, are susceptible to these crimes. Most incidents occur while occupants
are away from home, so residents should ensure they lock all doors and arm alarms.
In 2019, official U.S. residences in Belgrade did not experience any burglaries.
Vehicle theft is also a concern. Volkswagen and Opel
vehicles are popular targets for thieves. Unattended or unlocked cars with
items visible from the outside often fall victim to crimes of opportunity. Consider
using secondary locking devices (e.g. steering wheel or transmission locks) and
fuel kill switches, as thieves can overcome vehicle alarm systems easily;
criminals and the public alike generally ignore audible vehicle alarms.
crime and cybercrime in Serbia is on the rise, with the most common types
including online fraud and forgery, abuse of payment cards, and unauthorized
access to computers and networks. Serbia has identified cybercrime as a growing
threat in connection with money laundering, especially through a type of online
fraud which consists of email account “hijackings” and fraudulent account
changes, typically initiated by email. Companies in various industries have
been targets, resulting in substantial fraudulent money transfers to foreign
accounts. In these cases, criminal money flows are difficult to trace as they convert
into virtual currencies. The skill level of cybercriminals varies widely;
a subset of these criminals can pose a threat to travelers and organizations
with inadequate security postures. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, and Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices.
emergency road assistance line in Serbia is 1987. Within
Belgrade, roads lack proper maintenance and markings, and often have many
potholes. Flooding occurs due to poor drainage even in areas at a high
elevation. Roads are often too narrow for larger vehicles to drive within the
marked lanes. Parking is difficult due to small spaces. Roads, including newly
built highways, are not designed or engineered with safety in mind; many
intersections, traffic circles, and major highways have little/no area to
merge, multiple intersecting roads, and poor traffic signaling. Some secondary
roads, particularly in the mountainous south, are in poor repair and not
cleared of snow (or are closed entirely) during the winter.
Driving is a challenging experience; impatient drivers coupled
with high speed, reckless/aggressive driving, and sometimes ambiguous lanes
make for a dangerous mix. Many accidents involve driving under the influence,
aggressive driving, and not yielding to pedestrians’ right of way. Aggressive
drivers sometime follow and taunt other drivers, and may get out of the car to escalate
a conflict. With Serbia being a popular transit country, foreign motorists who
have driven long hours from their home countries pose a risk on Serbian roads,
as they may fall asleep at the wheel. Many Serbians believe that transiting
foreigners driving under these conditions are responsible for some of the
country’s most serious accidents.
Exercise caution on roads in southern Serbia in the winter,
especially along Serbia’s Ibarska Magistrala (Route 22), the highway between
Belgrade and Čačak, because of the higher rate of accidents. Winter fog significantly
reduces visibility, and is especially heavy in the Vojvodina region between
Belgrade and the Hungarian border.
Police strictly enforce parking laws that require drivers to pay
for parking via text messaging. Payment Instructions are located on parking
signs within the designated parking areas. Serbia has also established new
traffic legislation to conform to European Union (EU) standards.
It is common practice for those a vehicular accident to remain at
the point of impact until the police arrive. This causes unnecessary backups,
as even minor fender-benders block roads. If an accident takes place in a rural
location, emergency medical response may take a significantly long time to
respond and may not meet Western standards.
OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
has extensive public transportation networks with intercity bus and tram
service. However, buses are often crowded, and some vehicles are in a poor
state of repair.
are readily available from most street corners within Belgrade. Riders can
contact reputable taxi services in advance to request transportation and avoid
unscrupulous and/or unregistered drivers. Looking to take advantage of
unwitting travelers, unregistered taxis often have either no meters or tampered
ones set to calculate exorbitant rates. Ridesharing mobile apps are available
in Belgrade; however, they are currently unregulated, and their use remains a
controversial subject in Serbia.
OSAC’s report, Security
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government’s Civil
Aviation Authority as in compliance with International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Serbia’s air
from Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG) should disregard private taxi drivers
soliciting service when exiting the terminal. Instead, proceed to the taxi desk
by the exit to receive a flat rate invoice determined by the rider’s destination.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Belgrade as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting
official U.S. government interests. Because Belgrade sits on the land route
between the Middle East and Western Europe, transnational/international
terrorism concerns are on par with the rest of the Balkans. With no terrorist
attacks in 2019 and low levels of ISIS recruitment activities, the main
terrorism concerns in Serbia remain the potential movement of money and weapons
through the region; recruitment and return of foreign terrorist fighters; the
revitalization of terrorist ideologies; and opportunities for
self-radicalization to violence. Authorities are sensitive to, and intolerant
of, transnational terrorism. Attempts at robust border control have produced
mixed results, but Serbia is building its counterterrorism efforts in
cooperation with the United States and international partners.
conflict in Syria is a source of concern to Serbian and regional authorities.
The conflict has attracted fighters from a variety of Muslim communities in the
Balkans. There is a general concern that combatants may return to Serbia
radicalized, creating possible local terrorism concerns. Although the number of
Serbians who have fought in Syria is small compared to those from neighboring Bosnia
and Kosovo, the police and security services are monitoring events closely, and
there is extensive media coverage of Serbian nationals participating in the Syrian
fight. Several Serbian nationals have died fighting in Syria.
the Balkans, authorities have kept a vigilant eye on radical Islamists. In
Serbia, regional economic disparities persist, especially in minority areas in
Sandžak and southern Serbia, creating the potential for ethnic discord. The
Muslim majority in these areas is mostly moderate, although a stricter branch
of Islam (Wahhabism) is popular in some communities. The growth of Wahhabism
can trace to fighters from Muslim nations who came to Bosnia to fight in the
early 1990s, staying in Bosnia and Serbia after the conflict. There have been
no notable incidents of religious extremism in the region since a 2011 attack
on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo; the attacker was originally from Sandžak.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Belgrade as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or
affecting official U.S. government interests.
by political parties, unions, and other groups occur frequently in front of
government buildings, protesting government policies, economic issues, and
regional concerns. Avoid protest activity. Even if demonstrations begin
peacefully, they can quickly turn violent. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving
Immediately following Kosovo’s declaration of independence from
Serbia in 2008, over 150,000 demonstrators rallied in Belgrade to denounce the
bid by Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian majority to create their own state. Groups
twice broke away from larger demonstrations and attacked embassies of
countries—including the U.S.—that had recognized Kosovo. During the violence,
several hundred protesters battered down the entrance to the U.S. Embassy. The
U.S. Embassy suffered considerable damage, and one protestor died in an ensuing
fire. In 2019, the Belgrade Court of Appeals acquitted all persons charged in
the attack. Security forces are conscious of their failure to protect
foreign missions during these attacks, and have pledged that such incidents
will never occur again. In early 2019, the Higher Court in Belgrade partially
confirmed an indictment against five police officers for a “grievous criminal
act against the general safety,” but dismissed charges for “abuse of official
position,” related to omissions in securing the U.S. Embassy during the attack.
Kosovo remains a political flashpoint, but progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue
and advances in Serbia’s path to EU membership have reduced the likelihood that
widespread violence will erupt again over this topic. Ethnically mixed areas in
southern Serbia remain tense.
The European Commission estimates that since 2015, more than one
million refugees and migrants have transited Serbia in the hopes of settling in
Western European cities. However, with the closing of the Croatian and
Hungarian borders, and increased border security presence throughout the
Balkans, the flow of refugees and migrants has dropped to pre-2015 levels.
Roughly, 5,000 migrants and asylum seekers are currently in Serbia waiting for
an opportunity to be smuggled across the northern borders. Though there have
been few reported incidents of crime committed by the migrants, there are
occasional reports of petty theft and altercations between them, usually over
smuggling services or scarcity of resources. Violent incidents have occurred within
the migrant population.
are a number of nationalist organizations with varying levels of xenophobia
directed against U.S. nationals and other foreigners. Anti-U.S. graffiti is
visible throughout Belgrade. Reactions of some taxi drivers upon realizing
their patron is a U.S. national can range from rude to threatening. Other
reported examples of anti-U.S. hostilities include physical assaults and verbal
attacks. Many Serbians blame the United
States and U.S. nationals for the NATO Intervention in 1999, and for Kosovar
independence in 2008. Anti-U.S. sentiment is widespread and can be more
prevalent around certain anniversaries and some national holidays, including:
February 17 (anniversary of Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence), between
March 24 and June 10 (the anniversary of the 1999 NATO air campaign against
Yugoslavia in response to events in Kosovo), and potentially June 28 (St.
Vitus’s Day or Vidovdan).
State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations rates Belgrade as a
Level 3 (high) seismically active area. Flooding along the Danube and Sava
Rivers is also a seasonal hazard.
physical infrastructure is generally not as highly developed as that of other
European countries, but has undergone significant improvement in recent years.
The World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) ranked
Serbia 51 out of 141 countries in infrastructure, up from number 111 in the
2014/15 survey. Parts of the country are prone to seasonal flooding, which
periodically cause disruption of critical infrastructure services (e.g.
ambulance, fire, police response).
has implemented river information systems in both the Danube and Sava rivers,
and has completed a number of projects for enhancing navigation. Despite the
progress, the river infrastructure still requires more investment. Severe
winter weather conditions lead to the disruption of navigation due to river
surface icing or thick fog; targeted large-scale investments in
technology-intensive, innovative solutions, and collaboration with neighboring
countries could help overcome these obstacles.
Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft
to the World Bank’s classification, Serbia is an upper-middle income country.
However, many areas and industries in the country are not highly developed, and
production technologies may lag generations behind those used in wealthier
European countries. Industrial and commercial espionage can be a concern, for
example, during tendering procedures. Serbia’s Law on the Protection of
Business Secrets prescribes maximum penalties of around $30,000 for revealing
property right (IPR) protection is a more significant concern, especially for
computer software, music, and films. Consumers’ low purchasing power is one
factor behind high piracy rates. According to the American Chamber of Commerce
in Serbia, the level of piracy in the software industry fell from 80% in 2007
to 67% in 2017. This progress is largely the result of improved enforcement
efforts conducted by the Tax Administration and Market Inspection, as well as
new specialized investigative bodies for more efficient IPR protection. Serbian
IPR laws and regulations are almost fully in line with European standards, but
enforcement is still a problem. As of February 2019, the EU is implementing a
project on IPR protection and enforcement in Serbia.
Personal Identity Concerns
There are problems related to discrimination
and societal violence against minorities, especially members of the large Roma
Societal and domestic violence against women,
children, and persons with disabilities also occurs. The Serbian police and
social welfare systems have been inadequate in appropriately addressing
domestic violence and violence against children, frequently treating it as a
LGBTI+ persons in Serbia remain marginalized,
discriminated against, and subject to a lack of physical security in Serbia. Local
media and civil society organizations have widely reported violent attacks
against members of the LGBTI+ community. However, authorities rarely prosecute these
cases as hate crimes, and the sentences are not usually commensurate with the
severity of the offense. The Serbian government has taken steps to enhance
LGBTI+ physical security and decrease discrimination, including the adoption of
a hate crime provision and a complaint procedure for discrimination through the
Office of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality. against same-sex
public displays of affection. Many Serbians belonging to the LGBTI+ community
do not reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity and avoid reporting
incidents to police. Though a growing number of police officers have received
training on how to work with LGBTI+ individuals, including when they are
victims of crime, many have limited experience and knowledge.
In 2010, a violent anti-gay riot erupted at
Belgrade’s first Pride Parade, leaving many participants injured and resulting
in over 100 arrests. In 2014, Belgrade held its first peaceful Gay Pride parade
after a four-year government-imposed ban due to security concerns, a decision
that both the Serbian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human
Rights later determined to be unconstitutional. Since 2014, security has been
adequate, and the violence of 2010 has not recurred; small groups of
counter-protestors regularly verbally harass participants at these gatherings,
but their numbers continue to decline. In 2019, Serbia’s openly LGBTI+ Prime
Minister freely marched in the Pride Parade with a small security detail. The
underlying prejudices, however, that fueled the violence in 2010 remain present
in Serbia, especially outside of Belgrade. Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for LGBTI+
with disabilities may encounter difficulties in accessing older buildings,
outdoor tourist sites, hotels, and public transport. Sidewalks and paths to
buildings and tourist sites are often uneven. Hotels frequently do not have
elevators. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
continues to work to combat illegal narcotics trafficking. Law enforcement
interdiction activities occur regularly. 2019 was a record year in narcotics
seizures, with over six tons of drugs seized in the country – a statistic that
does not include a recent bust of the largest marijuana farm in Europe, where authorities
discovered 650 kilograms of marijuana ready for sale, as well as almost four
tons of raw cannabis. The biggest drug seizure in Serbia for the year took
place in November, when authorities seized 77 kilograms of heroin and arrested
the suspected narcotics dealer. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and
Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol have reported that groups from Serbia are
becoming increasingly important in the cocaine trade. European police officers
note that Serbian criminals cooperate well with members of criminal groups from
neighboring countries, referring to the groups as the “Balkan Cartel.” Europol
estimates that Balkan criminal networks are behind “at least 30%” of cocaine
trafficking from Latin America to Europe.
Serbian media routinely report large police actions yielding many arrests and
the seizure of large quantities of drugs and weapons. There are conflicting
reports that the most high-profile drug dealers escape arrest and prosecution
because of corruption, but there is a general feeling that enforcement
activities are increasing.
have occurred in recent years. While kidnapping of family members for failure
to pay debts or kidnappings by rival criminal organizations have occurred in
the past, the frequency has declined to minimal levels. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
does not recognize the borders of Kosovo as international borders, and has no
mechanism to allow foreigners to enter Serbia from Kosovo without a prior
arrival in Serbia. U.S. Embassy employees may cross the Serbia-Kosovo border on
personal travel. However, Serbia generally will not allow travel of foreigners
from Kosovo to Serbia if the traveler did not cross a Serbian border (by air or
from other countries by road) first.
land mines and ordnance (UXO) from the 1990s Balkan conflicts remain an ongoing
concern; treat certain areas, including Mount Kopaonik (a popular ski resort),
with caution. In general, stay on established paths, especially in areas that
were part of the conflict.
The police emergency line in COUNTRY is 192. The
United States and Western European countries provide significant training in
criminal investigation, organized crime, and anti-terrorist operations. The
lack of modern equipment, technology, organization, and communication between
units, as well as bureaucratic systems, long hours, and low pay for police are
major challenges for law enforcement.
services are only available in the larger cities and are not universal.
Response times vary greatly. For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s
medical emergency line is 194, but this may not be available in large parts
of rural Serbia. The fire emergency line is 193. Although many doctors and
health care providers are highly trained, equipment and hygiene in hospitals,
clinics, and ambulances are limited and are not up to Western standards. Psychological
and psychiatric services are limited, even in the larger cities, with
hospital-based care only available through government institutions Find contact
information for available medical services and available air ambulance services
on the U.S.
Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage
overseas. Review information on insurance providers for
overseas coverage. Consider supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation (medevac).
Hospitals usually require payment in cash for all services and may not accept
U.S. health insurance. Some private hospitals may require advance payment or proof of
adequate insurance before admitting a patient.
name-brand medicines are often unavailable in Serbia. You can get many
medicines and basic medical supplies at private pharmacies.
U.S. citizens have suffered serious complications or died
while seeking medical care from non-traditional “healers” and practitioners in
Serbia. Some providers practice homeopathy, herbal remedies, and other
non-traditional treatments in Serbia, promoting them as natural alternatives to
traditional medicine. Ensure you have access to licensed emergency medical
facilities in such cases.
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Serbia.
OSAC Country Council
has an OSAC Country Council comprising approximately 50 members. Contact OSAC’s
Europe team for more information or to
92 Bulevar kneza Aleksandra
Karadjordjevica, 11040 Belgrade
Regular hours: 0830 – 1700, Monday
– Friday, except U.S. and Serbian holidays
you travel, consider the following resources:
Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)