Niš

Niška tvrđava, Fortress of Nis

Niš (pronounced: 'neesh') is a city in Serbia. Niš is the administrative centre of the Nišava District.

Understand

Tourist information

The Niš Tourist Organization has two Tourist information centres as well as a website. In the tourist information centres one can get information related to tourism in Niš. They also sell maps, brochures, souvenirs and postcards. The website is quite comprehensive and detailed (available in both English and Serbian).

Get in

Niš is an important crossroad between central Europe and the middle East, and assumes the central position in the Balkan peninsula. It is situated in southeast Serbia, with the coordinates - Latitude: 43° 19' 29 N, Longitude: 21° 54' 12 E. It is located in Niš Valley and surrounded by a number of mountains, two rivers, two beautiful gorges, and numerous sites of historical importance from various periods. Some approximate distances: Niš - Belgrade 240 km, Niš - Sofia 150 km, Niš - Skopje 200 km, Niš - Thessaloniki - 400 km. Niš is a must see historical city for any traveler passing through on his way to Greece or the Middle East.

The streets of this university city with 1/4 million residents are buzzing with life.

By car

While you might not need a visa ...

Foreigners are required by law to register themselves with the police station in their district within 24 hours of receiving a Serbian entry stamp at a border crossing or airport. Registration is done automatically by hotel staff upon check-in, however if you are staying with friends in a private dwelling, the responsibility falls on you and your host to register yourself with the police in the district in which you are staying. In case the police station does not provide the form you will need to buy a Foreigner Registration Form from a nearby newsagent or bookstore (these usually cost 15 dinars/approx. €0.12). With completed form in hand, your host and you should submit your passport and your host's Serbian ID card along with the Registration Form. You will receive the bottom half of the Form to carry with you; when exiting the country, you will be required to present it to the Border Police. Most times they will not ask for it, and you can keep it as an administrative memento. Never forget, though, that failure to register and obtain the bottom half of the Registration Form can result in prosecution and a large fine (minimum €50 ) (also for your host).

The European motorway E75 routes through Niš. From the north, you may use any highway from the Hungarian border over Novi Sad and Belgrade to Niš. From the northwest, you can travel over Austria, via Slovenia and Croatia to Belgrade and then to Niš. These are all modern highways, including the section Belgrade-Niš. It is a fast road with six lanes and 120km/h speed limit, which locals seldom observe as the road is in a pretty good shape. Beware of the police, though. At this speed, travel time from Belgrade is usually two hours.

The highway continues for another 10km towards the Bulgarian border, and then turns into a narrower mountainous road to Sofia. Caution is advised here, especially along the 20 kilometres of the beautiful Gorge of Sicevo, starting just after the end of the highway on the outskirts of the city. The other extension of the highway branches to the south, towards Macedonia and Greece. The fine motorway continues for another 60km south of Niš and then narrows down into a normal road, entering the Gorge of Grdelica, where caution is also advised.

Tolls are paid for highways Niš - Belgrade and Niš - Leskovac (south towards Macedonia and on to Greece), while using the road to Sofia is free of charge.

By bus

By train

By plane

Get around

On foot

Downtown area is easily accessible on foot from the bus or train stations, and most hotels and hostels. For a walk across the whole city in any direction, be prepared to spend at least two or three hours. Note that Niš is located in a small valley, but is surrounded by hills. It is not as bad as in Belgrade, whose central part virtually lies on a number of hills, but in Niš, too, as soon as you get away from broader downtown area, you may find yourself climbing.

By bus

Bus station in Niš

If you decide to use city buses, Niš has well established bus lines. Most buses have clear signs stating their directions, and almost all will at one point stop at the central city square, near the Fortress, or five minutes from it, at the King Alexander Square, near the School of Law and Army Headquarters building. Have in mind that you will be obliged to pay the fare, as there are ticket sellers in the buses. A single ticket, valid for one ride from point A to point B, inside the city zone now costs 40 Serbian dinars. Weekly and monthly tickets are also available at discount prices in small ticket shops near most bus stops.

By taxi

There are a number of small taxi companies. Expect the fare of between 150 and 300 dinars, depending on distance (start - 95 dinars + 45 dinars per km). Make sure the taxi driver turns on the taximeter, just in case. Taxis are available practically on every street, and are also reachable by phone - the local 'taxi' phone numbers cover the range from 9701 to 9721 - if you call from your cell phone, don't forget the country and area code +381 18. Pay phones with instructions in five languages are available throughout the town - a phone card must be purchased in any newspaper shop if these are to be used. Most drivers will speak at least basic English. If not, just write the name of the place/site/hotel/street you are going to and it will be fine. Niš is relatively small and all taxi drivers know all the streets by heart and do not need to consult maps. Taxi rides out of the town (including to Belgrade airport) may be agreed on with the taxi driver (sometimes in a private arrangement, at a much reduced price), but some caution is advised here.

By car

If you come by car, using hotel or hostel parking lots is advised. Car theft is not very common, but foreign license plates and unsecured vehicles parked downtown may be attractive to petty criminals, especially at night. Parking is charged in two zones in downtown area, at about €0.25-0.35/hour. There are clear traffic signs marking the two zones (red - Zone 1, up to 1 hour; green - Zone 2, up to 3 hours, Monday-Friday 7AM-9PM, Saturday 7AM-2PM). This can be paid with a small card purchased in any newspaper shop, where the driver is expected to tick the date and time and leave the card under the windshield of the car so that the traffic warden can see it. Alternatively, you may pay using your cellphone (send an SMS with your license plate number to 9181 for Zone 1 or 9182 for Zone 2 - for instance, NI123456). Failure to pay may result in a €12 fine.

There are a few rent-a-car services in the city. You may check out Euroturs Nis (http://www.euroturs-nis.co.yu/english.php?page=4),Inter Rent-a-car (http://www.rentacarnis.rs) or http://rentalex-rentacar.com/ Rentalex rent a car Nis.Rentalex - Rent a car Nis is a young agency to rent a car from Nis. Currently in its offer at attractive prices, we offer cars from the Volkswagen family. Cars have gasoline engines from 1.2 liters to provide extremely low power costs to be more economical. Expect prices ranging from €20-50 a day, depending on the car type and length of lease. The cars are usually fully ensured, but make sure the clerks you talk to have made this clear prior to any arrangement. Rent-a-car is a good option for sightseeing, as there are many interesting things to visit in the 100km vicinity of Niš in all directions. The roads are getting increasingly better, but be prepared for possible surprises outside main highways leading to Belgrade, Thessaloniki, or Sofia.

Talk

Young people usually speak enough English to communicate. Some speak it extremely well. Professionals, such as hotel personnel, speak English and another foreign language. As Niš is a university centre, if you run into some of its 30,000 students, you will have no problems talking to them.

Other officials, such as police officers, have had some basic English lessons recently, but do not expect miracles.

There can be more problems communicating with the elderly. Still, if you encounter a group of four or five persons, there is a good chance one will know enough English to help you get by.

There are now many signposts all around the city in Serbian Cyrilic script followed by English translation which should help you find your way to hotels, central city institutions and sites. Familiarization with basic Cyrilic script would be a good idea, because, following recent Serbian national laws, this traditional script is encouraged, and Latin script, once all-present in the former Yugoslavia, is getting more rare. The Latin script is dominant on advertisements and in shops, though.

Occasionally, you may encounter individuals speaking German, French or Russian, sometimes Italian or Spanish, but this is not very common.

See

Mediana, ancient mosaic floors

Niš is packed with historical sites worth visiting, dating from various periods.

Further afield

Do

Niš is the venue of a number of national and international festivals.

Buy

Kalca

Following the fashion in all Europe, the Balkans, and Serbia, Niš now hosts a variety of grand shopping malls and hypermarkets located on all outskirts of the city, where practically all goods can be purchased. The malls are usually a bit cheaper than small shops and visiting them is advisable if you should need supplies for a longer period of time (food, clothing, stationery, equipment...). Major streets contain numerous signs directing a traveler to one of these (Mercator Center, Tempo, Metro, Interex, Impex Mega Market).

Souvenirs are available in small shops in the Fortress, in the central squares of the city, or in shops near historical locations.

The local currency is dinar (€1 = approx. 110 dinars). The Serbian law does not allow that you pay in euros, dollars or any other currency in the shops, so, if you use cash, you must convert the money into dinars. Fortunately, this may be done in any bank or exchange office, and there are many in the city centre (including some automatic exchange machines in the very core of the city). In addition, a variety of credit cards are now welcome in most city shops. Vendors are legally obliged to provide fiscal stubs after any transaction. In practice, many places such as hotels will accept euro notes (often at a nominal rate of €1=110 dinars) and give change in dinars.

Eat

Niš is a food paradise. It is said that Niš produces the best Burek, a sort of greasy, phyllo dough pastry filled with cheese or ground meat that is popular throughout the Balkan peninsula. It resembles a cheese pie, but contains more fat and has stronger flavour. Also, by general consent, it is much more delicious. Some vendors sell other varieties such as apple, spinach or pizza burek (frequently just a combination between the meat and cheese Burek). Traditionally, you eat burek with yoghurt.

The Shopska salad is another phenomenal, yet simple, dish to be found in Niš. It consists of chopped up tomato, cucumber, onion, oil, a little salt and a generous topping of a domestic feta-like cheese. The local feta is usually less sharp than feta typically found in the west by a considerable margin. Most websites with recipes simply call it a brined sheep cheese and the French are known to make a similar feta. Another local trademark is the 'Urnebes' salad, literally translated as 'chaos' or 'pandemonium' - basically cream cheese in oil mixed with ground peppers, garlic and sometimes sesame.

Pljeskavica, sometimes referred to as the "Balkans Burger," is ubiquitous. Typically it contains a concoction of spiced ground beef, pork and lamb. It may be served in a bun, pita bread or by itself on a plate depending on where you get one. It usually is accompanied by onions, a paprika based sauce and in the case of the fast-food-esque vendors you'll have a variety of sauces and toppings to accompany it.

Chevapchichi (usually spelt with accented "c" instead of "ch", i.e. ćevapčići) is similarly made from spiced ground beef, pork and lamb. The mixture is formed into a 2-to-3 inch long sausage and served with onions and a paprika based sauce. Sometimes it will be served in a pita bread for easy, "on-the-go" consumption.

Other favorites include pizza, of which the Serbs do a splendid job, and various pasta dishes.

For those who do not wish to experiment too much, there are numerous traditional bakeries and pastry shops, and the inevitable McDonald's on the central city square.

Vegetarians had been almost totally neglected in Serbia until recently, but now most restaurants will have some options for them, too. Vegans might encounter more problems, although most are usually solved with the help of kind local restaurant owners. Note the traditional fasting periods, especially in April before Orthodox Easter holidays, when many restaurants offer fish and non-animal food, including some specialties.

Budget

Mićko bakery, Vožda Karađorđa 76a (Opposite of the school (gimnazija).). Small bakery specialized in burek. Has the reputation of being of the better burek shops in Niš. The burek is certainly less greasy than in some other bakeries.

Mid-range

Drink

Tap water is drinkable in Niš. Locals like to boast that, in addition to Vienna, Niš has the best water in central and southeast Europe. Although this claim can probably be contested, the water from the central supply system is drunk by most residents. More cautious visitors are advised to buy bottled water in any shop: a variety of brands are available, and Serbian mineral waters are very good, especially Knjaz Miloš, Vlasinska Rosa, Mivela and Heba. You can also try Jamnica and Jana which are imported from Croatia.

There is a throng of cafes in downtown Niš, most of which serve various coffee drinks, beers and liquors. Some specialty bars serve a more limited scope of beverages. There is also a branch of Costa Coffee on the central square.

Local wines are usually not the best of quality. The more expensive the better. International brands are offered in most bars.

Rakija, a powerful brandy made from various fruits (usually plum or apricot), is a local favorite. Attention: some kinds may be pretty strong for a newbie.

Nightclubs

Nightclubs in Niš are somewhat different than those typically found in Belgrade or in other larger cities. Firstly, there is relatively little dancing and most clubs don't feature a dancefloor. Instead, clubs have tables and most people stand at their table and drink, while listening to the music. Tables must be reserved beforehand, though this is usually for free.Secondly electronical dance music is quite rare, with most clubs playing folk music instead. Most clubs have only a Facebook page, so check that to see what they're doing that day.

Sleep

Hotels

View over the city of Nis, Serbia. Seen from Hotel Aleksandar

Niška Banja (the Spa) has a couple of older but decent hotels, such as Ozren, with prices from €24 for a single room incl breakfast. Alternatively, it may be possible to arrange a home-stay in Niška Banja. In November 2006, usual price per person per bed per night, was 500 dinars (about €6). Still, the Spa is a few kilometers away from the town, so a bus or taxi ride to the centre is inevitable.

Hostels

Stay safe

Nis is a very safe city. In summer months, even late into the night, you will see people walking through its streets with no fear whatsoever. In winter months, late at night, and in suburban areas, some reasonable caution is warranted. As with any other travel, keep your money, cell phones, travel documents and other valuables in secure places. As a pedestrian, follow regulations, including zebra crossings and green lights, even when you see locals ignoring them, as traffic wardens may jump out of nowhere and fine you.

Emergencies

In case of an emergency, call 192 (police), 193 (fire), 194 (ambulance) or the European standard 112.

In case of injury or illness, the place to go is the Hitna Pomoc (Emergency Aid Centre) of Nis Clinical Centre. If the urgency is not total, you may ask for help in the state Clinical Centre (follow the white signs with this name in the streets) or any of the numerous small private clinics scattered downtown. Be aware that not all medical facilities are well-stocked or have personnel that speak foreign languages, including English. Cash payment on the spot will almost certainly be required for medical services. Consult the embassy of your country, if possible.

Serbia has a social insurance agreement with most European nations. If you get a form from your local health insurance you can obtain free treatment in the local hospitals. You would first need to go to the national social insurance (RZZO) branch office in Niš to hand in the form and get another form for the local hospital or health centre. Since this procedure is complicated to complete without Serbian language skills it may be easier to visit a private doctor or polyclinic. Prices are very reasonable by European standards, starting from 10€ for a simple consultation with a PD.

Pharmacies are located all over the central city zone. They are marked with green crosses in front of the entrance. Their working hours are 7AM - 9 or even 10PM every day, including weekends. The central pharmacy, located in front of the National Theater building, a 2-minute walk from the central city square, is open 24/7. Serbia is still very liberal in terms of purchasing medication, so you are allowed to buy practically any basic drugs over the counter (painkillers, fever medication). However, for antibiotics a prescription is now required. Prior consultation with a physician would be a good idea, though.

Go next

As with most of Europe it is usually recommended that one travels by train for safety, cost and speed. The trains are old and there have been delays. However, trains will be more comfortable and almost always more scenic. All buses depart from the central bus station, just behind the fortress and the green market. Same is for trains, but central train station is located a bit far from the bus station, so calculate at least good 20 minutes of walking to reach one from another.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, September 02, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.