Volunteer in Serbia
What to Know Before Volunteering in Serbia
The land between the east and west, the modern and the old. Often torn by wars in the past, many times invaded and occupied but never conquered. Serbia is a country with a rich history, dating back to the early middle ages. Serbia is situated in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula, so she was always on the crossroads of important trade routes. Serbia has given birth to many famous people which revolutionized the fields they were working in. Good food, nightlife, and hospitality are what travelers associate the most with Serbia. Beautiful nature and a couple of National parks are one of Serbia’s most prized possessions.
Volunteerism in Serbia
There are many opportunities for volunteering in Serbia. If you are coming in as an exchange student, you will have an opportunity to volunteer with various student non-profit organizations. Every year in December, students from different faculties are organizing a humanitarian action to gather and make New Years’ presents for the endangered children in Kosovo and Metohija.
Opportunities for volunteering are available at local shelters or retirement homes as well. You can volunteer with the help of the Red Cross, the most popular volunteering organization in Serbia.
Serbia is all four seasons country! The climate is continental so we have hot summers perfect for a trip to a local pool, and we also have cold winters with snow that can make up for awesome ski trips to some of the biggest ski centers on mountains such as Kopaonik and Zlatibor.
The primary speaking language in Serbia is the Serbian language. Serbians understand most of the languages from the neighboring countries from the Slavic language group.
Many of the locals would be happy to give you directions to your areas of interest. The younger population is speaking English really well, while the older population is usually just dabbling in a few foreign languages, mostly Russian.
The official currency in Serbia is the Republic of Serbia Dinar (RSD). Some shops are perhaps willing to accept euros for their goods, but not before exchanging it to dinars with a really bad exchange course. But do not worry, because exchange offices are around every corner in Serbia and they give decent exchange rates from any currency, better than banks actually.
If you are volunteering with some organization in Serbia, you have likely been provided with accommodation, whether it is with the local families, which are always really polite with you, or at the local motels or hotels. Accommodation in Serbia is vast and usually pretty affordable for someone who is coming from the U.S. or countries of the European Union.
Many internet platforms are filled with ads for an apartment or house rentals. This is many people’s preferred way of finding a place to stay. On those platforms, you can find people that are renting the rooms in the apartments that they are living in or people that are looking for roommates. You can also find cheap and good accommodation if you are willing to put in time in searching.
You can use these websites:
People in Serbia usually commute by public transport, mostly buses. In larger cities, public transport is well developed. As the largest city, Belgrade is prone to having traffic jams during rush hours, but that is not the case in other cities. You can also travel by taxi or Car: Go (which is our equivalent to Uber). If you are picking up a taxi from the streets, a taxi driver will sometimes try to take you on a longer route to your destination, so be aware of that.
For intercity transportation in Serbia, people usually use buses or trains. You can buy train and bus tickets at the local bus or train station. There is one more option, which is getting increasingly popular. It is an app called “BlaBlaCar”. This app enables you to find people that are traveling from your starting city to your destination city, and you share the ride costs. You can install the app on your smartphone or you can use this website: https://www.blablacar.rs/
Local pharmacies are located around every corner and they always have a good supply of medicines, vitamins, or painkillers at affordable prices. There are always hospitals in your vicinity, both state and private.
Serbia has a bilateral health insurance treaty with some countries, so if you come from those countries, you don’t need to pay for your medical costs. Otherwise, you do. Emergency rooms and departments are always working and you don’t have to pay for emergency care, but if you need doctor’s services, you are expected to pay for it, since hospitals require you to pay upfront for their services.
By some accounts, Serbia is very safe. It is ranked high on a list of safest countries. You will generally feel safe, but don’t forget to always look after your belongings. Foreigners are always a good target for pickpockets and robbers because foreigners don’t know their way around.
You should be especially careful when in public transportation or when you are in a crowd in the street because that is the most likely place for a pickpocket to strike. The police are not very helpful if the pickpocketing happens, so your best bet is to just use your awareness and not let it come to that.
As the country which is largely famous for its food, trying out the local food is a must. A wide array of restaurants and fast-food places with price ranges from really cheap to expensive is a good solution for any hungry volunteer.
While in Serbia, don’t miss out on a chance to try some of the local cuisines and specialties like Karadjordje’s steak, Serbian burger (pljeskavica), baked beans (prebranac), šopska salad and mućkalica!
If you get hungry in the evening, there are multiple stores and bakeries that are working 24/7, so you don’t have to worry about that! For everyday needs, there are supermarkets and stores on every corner. Lookup for supermarket chains like Maxi, Idea, Vero, Shop-and-go, Tempo, Lidl, or Univerexport, they often have discounts and affordable prices. If you are in a smaller city, you might not find these supermarkets. In that case, the local shops are good suppliers for your everyday needs.
The selection of your clothing will be mostly based on the time of year during which you will be staying in Serbia. So, warm clothes for winter, which is from December till March, and light, thin clothing for summer, which is from June till September, like in most countries of the Northern hemisphere. Autumn and springtime are sometimes rainy, sometimes sunny, so during that time, you will have to be more flexible. There are no laws that prohibit any type of clothing in Serbia, so you are free to wear whatever you want.
Timings and weekends
Serbia is situated in the Central European Time Zone. It means that it is one hour in front of GMT which is Greenwich Mean Time so it is GMT+1. Serbia also uses Daylight Saving Time so during summer it becomes GMT+2 and is often called “Summer Time” in most European countries.
Workdays are from Monday till Friday, but most shops are open every single day. The national holidays are the 17th of February (National Day), 1st and 2nd of May (International Workers Day), 11th of November (Signing of truce in World War I) and people don’t work on those days. Also, non-working days are around holidays Christmas, New Years, and Orthodox Easter.
The population of Serbia is mostly Orthodox Christian. There are a lot of beautiful temples and churches in every city, which are frequently visited by the locals. One of the largest and most visited is Temple of Saint Sava situated in Vračar, Belgrade. Most Serbs celebrate holidays according to the Julian calendar. But there are also smaller religious groups such as Catholic Christian, Muslims, Protestants, and others.