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John Bertao

A Canadian guy spent a month in Serbia: “Politics is one thing, people are another”

public transport serbia

Serbia still has a bad reputation in Canada due to the wars of the 90s, and it is not a popular tourist destination for Canadians, says John Bertao. However, he adds that stereotypes should not stop his fellow citizens from visiting Serbia because his experience with Serbs was quite positive.

“My generation and I were kids and teenagers during the Kosovo war. We caught up with it through media reports, and I think that the bad reputation of Serbia in Canada comes from that period. But it should not stop anyone from visiting Serbia. We should hear the second side. Politics is one thing, people are another. I encountered help from people whenever I needed it. I really recommend Canadians to experience this country from another angle”. 

John was born in Toronto, but his parents immigrated from Portugal to Canada. He currently lives in Britain, but he spends half a year travelling because he is an online tutor and has freedom to travel.

In this interview, he talked about Serbian people, restaurants, the cost of living, and railway transit compared to Canada. 

How to get from Belgrade airport to city center

John spent more than a month in the capital, Belgrade, and the second-largest city in Serbia, Novi Sad. He decided to give a chance to Serbia based on the experiences of people from his surroundings, as well as information he picked up on social media.

“I was watching a YouTube channel of an American guy, Charles Cather, who promotes Serbia there. Besides that, my university friend biked all over Europe and told me that Serbia is the most friendly country he has been to. It was surprising to me. A typical Canadian would not expect it, and then I decided to visit Serbia.

After landing at Belgrade airport, he did not hop in a taxi as most foreigners do. He was informed that taxi drivers can be quite expensive when they realize that someone is a foreigner. So, he was determined to use public transport, but it was not easy to get to the bus station.

“When I landed, I followed signs to get to the bus station. But, at some point, there were no more signs and I started to wander around. Fortunately, I came across a Serbian guy who was so kind and helped me to find the bus station. I had to wait for 40 minutes for the bus, but I was determined to use public transport. ”

The new, fast Soko train made a much better impression on him. He got from Belgrade to Novi Sad by train because he likes more relaxing and less crowded cities.

“It took me exactly 34 minutes from Belgrade to Novi Sad. The new train is excellent. Much better than any Canadian because our railway traffic is awful. ”

Serbian restaurants are cheap, but some groceries are more expensive than in the EU

He first stayed in an apartment in Belgrade and was surprised when his host asked him to pay the bill in cash and in euros.

“It was strange for me to pay the bill in euros because your national currency is the Serbian dinar. Apart from that, they required cash, which I was surprised about, because in Canada we pay for everything with credit cards. However, in restaurants and supermarkets, I paid with my card without any problem. ”

Although he likes to cook, he says that there was no need for cooking in Serbia because restaurants were cheap compared to what he experienced in other countries. 

“I did not spend more than 10 dollars in restaurants per meal. Once, I ate some pork, and I was full like never before. “

Unlike restaurants, John says that some groceries in supermarkets are more expensive than the same in EU countries.

“Some products in Serbia are really affordable, like a bottle of water, which costs a half dollar or bread, which is about a dollar. But, the other day I bought a bag of mozzarella cheese and it was twice as expensive as it is in England and Poland. “

When it comes to the cost of living, he adds that he knows that even restaurants are not affordable for Serbian people according to their wages. But, he highlights that Canadians can also struggle with the cost of living if they do not make much money. For example, a small house in Toronto, Canada can cost about a million Canadian dollars.

Public washrooms are as Canadian 30 years ago 

Besides all the positive experiences in Serbia, there is one thing he will remember with negative feelings.

Public washrooms.

He had an opportunity to learn about the problems with Serbian public washrooms on Charles’s YouTube channel, and now he saw them for himself.

“Public washrooms do not look like the time Charles moved to Serbia, but they still look bad. It looks like Canadian washrooms 30 years ago. They definitely need to be fixed. “


John’s journey across Europe continues in Switzerland. He wants to visit a friend from university who had an unforgettable bachelor party in Belgrade a few years ago. 

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