4 May 2010

Driving from Budapest to Belgrade - Hungary to Serbia

Leaving Budapest was easy with good sign-posting to the M5 motorway, a good quality road to the Serbian border across the totally flat plain of the Danube.

We had wondered whether we would encounter any problems entering Serbia, but it was plain sailing. Coincidentally the car insurance has just fallen due for renewal. We'd had difficulty finding an insurer to issue a Green Card for Serbia and Macedonia - this is still required for both these countries, but succeeded eventually, although at a small extra cost. The alternative is to purchase the cover at the border on entry, but there seems to be a question mark over the usefulness of such cover.

Anyway, our Green Card was accepted without question and after a cursory inspection of the contents of the boot we were on our way.

Serbia is a different country! Signs of neglect are everywhere. The maps show a motorway all the way from the border to Belgrade. Well, it's not a motorway as we know it, being a two lane highway with a hard shoulder. On coming drivers overtake into the opposite lane forcing you onto the hard shoulder, so you need to keep alert. Fortunately traffic is light, so it's not as horrendous as it sounds.

This style of road continued all the way to Novi Sad, with no sign of any upgrading imminent (except for one short section), so I'm puzzled as to why map makers such as Michelin show the road as a full motorway. Anyway, from Novi Sad onwards you pay a toll of about 7 euros (acceptable in Euros but slightly cheaper in Serbian dinars) for the rest of the journey to Belgrade.

The journey took about 5 and a half hours, longer than expected as the "motorway" is subject to a limit of 100 km/h, although once it becomes a proper motorway the limit is 120. We stuck rigidly to the limits, not wanting to run the risk of getting involved with the local police, and there were a number of mobile speed traps.

On the approach to Belgrade the road continues as an urban dual carriageway, rather like the major A roads that enter London. Except there's much less traffic. It reminded me of driving in the UK about 40 years ago.

We'd been warned that Belgrade driving was pretty hairy, but we saw no evidence of this, although road markings are not great. It was much less stressful driving here than in say Paris, Milan or Rome. One slight problem is that street names are mostly in Cyrillic so working out where you are can be difficult.

Belgrade, although rather decrepit, seems friendly and welcoming and the central area is as tourist friendly as any other city, with attractive squares, pedestrianised streets, plenty of green spaces, a spectacular castle and an old "Bohemian" quarter.

1 comment:

  1. We drove from Budapest to Belgrade yesterday. A very straight run on fast motorway nearly all of the way. Yes the road is a little but more bumpy in Serbia - particularly in the slow lane. Watch out for the police hiding under bridges with speed traps. They closed the road a few 10 meters afterwards and siphoned us all off, to fine any offenders. Border was very slow - maybe an hour all told with two checks of our passport. The EU queue was slightly faster (whilst we can still use it), Kecskemét was a lovely stop off in Hungary. Also there is a toll charge in Serbia - we paid up front as part of our car hire and the system read our registration. Even so we had to pay a few euroes.