We knew we wanted to work remotely from Serbia but we couldn't decide from where. We were enjoying our year-long trip through the Balkans so much, starting in Albania then going to Montenegro, that we decided we couldn't skip Serbia.
And I'm so glad we didn't.
While Belgrade might appeal more to those who love big cities and more than your fair share of things to do, if you're like me and prefer small cities with more greenspace mixed in, living in Novi Sad will be a better choice for you, too.
Located in the northernmost quadrant of the country, surrounded by Croatia to the west, Hungary to the North, Romania to the east, and the rest of Serbia to the south, Belgrade is still easily reachable for a day trip, especially with the bullet train (but more on that later).
After working remotely from Novi Sad for one month, I'll walk you through what we loved and didn't love of the city and show you how you can settle into this beautiful city, regardless of how long you want to stay.
Getting to Know Novi Sad
Named the 2022 European Capital of Culture, this city really does have a lot to show off. Settled on the banks of the mighty Danube River, is ever-so-slightly cut in half.
The Old Town (Stari Grad) is well-maintained and pedestrian-only. Here, you'll feel as though you're walking through nearly any European city center, with the expectation of the signs written in the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. Fear not, many things are also written in the Latin alphabet, too.
The rest of the city is easily interconnected either by wide sidewalks, greenspaces, pedestrian-friendly bridges, and public transportation. If you have your own car, you'll easily be able to get around that way, although parking can be tough to find at times. Since Novi Sad is so flat, it's easy to get around everywhere you need to go on foot or by bicycle.
Given that it's a modern city, the cost of living is comparable to Sarajevo and the Bay of Kotor. The food prices, like eating out at restaurants, did feel cheaper than usual. If you're accustomed to Western Europe prices, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the cost of living here in Novi Sad.
Pet-Friendly as Can Be
One thing that really stood out to us while living in Novi Sad is how incredible pet-friendly it is. Since we travel with our dog and cat, this is huge for us. It felt like everyone and their mom had a well-trained dog with them.
The evidence of this is everywhere, even the mall here is pet-friendly. Your pets are welcome nearly everywhere people are.
With so much green space, a lot of it has turned into great places to walk your dog. Since the dogs here are so well-trained, many are off-leash. Only follow suit and unleash your dog if it's as well-behaved as the local ones.
Along the shores of the Danube, there's even an unofficial dog beach. Not to be confused with The Strand, which isn't dog-friendly, the area north of it is a trail system through the woods and onto the small beaches. There, dogs are encouraged to run, play, and dig in the sand.
Important Things to Know as a Digital Nomad
Long-Term Visa Options
As of 2022, Serbia isn't one of the European countries offering remote worker visas. That means as someone who works online, there's not yet a way for you to legally stay long-term in Serbia.
Most nationalities are allowed to stay in the country for 3-months visa-free. Although I do know that Colombian citizens (my husband's nationality) are only allowed to stay for a 1-month so double-check your requirements before booking your ticket.
That small detail alone is the only reason we only stayed in Novi Sad, Serbia for 1 month, we would have otherwise stayed for 3.
Keep in mind though that working remotely on a tourist visa falls into a legal grey zone. Countries that now offer freelance visas would consider it a no-no but countries like Serbia that haven't yet acknowledged it, don't quite know how to handle us. If you're not working with Serbian clients and aren't making money in a Serbian account, it makes it impossible to police what you're doing. I just wouldn't show up to the border and voluntarily offer the information that I'll be working while visiting Novi Sad.
After working the previous 6 months from various other places in the Balkans, we were pleasantly surprised with the internet in Novi Sad. It was quick, stable, and by far the most reliable we had come across.
Regardless, I always recommend buying a local SIM card with data on it, just in case, but I never had to use a hotspot, which was rare for us at the time.
Living in Novi Sad was also the first time in the region we didn't experience any power cuts.
Where to Work From
It feels as though working remotely isn't a common practice in the Balkans and because of that, there's a serious lack of co-working spaces or laptop-friendly cafes or restaurants.
Ok, let me change that by saying, there's a serious lack of non-smoking laptop-friendly cafes or restaurants.
People in Novi Sad are extremely friendly and welcoming and with so many large cafes in the Old Town, I'm quite certain many wouldn't mind if you opened up your computer and stayed for a while. That is, if you're OK with working in a smoky environment.
Many of the cafes and restaurants in Old Town do have really large patios, set up right on top of the promenade, but on a nice day, you'll face a pretty brutal glare. I found it fine to do that to check email or do small tasks but given that I had to throw my screen brightness up to max for that, it was sustainable to do for a serious work session.
So, keeping all that in mind, I highly recommend you book accommodation that has a nice space to work from. We rented this apartment near the Fortress and really loved it.
Where to Stay
As I mentioned, Novi Sad is on the Danube River. While technically the city is all on one side of the Danube, there is a small portion of it that feels like Novi Sad but is technically Petrovaradin. That's the area we stayed in.
That neighborhood is actually the oldest in Novi Sad and has recently been cleaned up and restored to its former greatness. If you're more interested in a small, aesthetically pleasing neighborhood right at the base of the Petrovaradin Fortress, I'd recommend staying here, too. We loved the tranquility, nature, and the fact it was still a super quick walk to Old Town.
Regardless of where in Novi Sad you decide to rent an apartment or book a hotel, the city in general feels very safe. Never did I feel out of my comfort zone while here, which is always welcomed.
Old Town is certainly the heart of the city so if you want to be right in the heart of the bars, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment options, this is the neighborhood for you. Keep in mind that if you do prefer living in Old Town, you'll pay more than you would in other areas.
Around Promenada Mall
While I'm not suggesting you live near the mall for the mall's sake, I wasn't quite sure how else to describe the area. The area between the Danube and Promenada is a lively area. This neighborhood is picturesque with tree-lined streets and filled with great restaurants and plenty of things to do.
Here, you'll have everything you need right at your fingertips and I'd take a big guess your rent would be cheaper here than in Old Town.
How to Find Accommodation
If you won't be in town too long, I'd suggest booking on the app of your preference, either Airbnb, Booking, or the likes. If you're working remotely, you'll most likely prefer an apartment rental more so than staying in a hostel or a hotel simply for the workspace.
If you plan to stay in Novi Sad for a few months or longer, you'll save a lot of money by going off-app. Ask around in the Facebook groups and you'll find plenty of people looking for long-term tenants, especially if you'll be around in the low season.
When to Come to Novi Sad
Serbia, just like any other country in the area, gets 4 real seasons. You can expect a hot summer, frigid winter, and a picturesque spring and fall in between. Deciding when to come will dictate a lot of your time spent here.
Novi Sad is possibly most famous as the host of EXIT Festival. Hosted each year in July at Petrovardin Fortress, this is definitely peak season in Novi Sad. If you plan to be in the summer during this festival, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance as it's the only time of the year places are likely to sell out.
We decided to come to Novi Sad in September. Not really out of planning and choosing it as the perfect time but more out of the fact that's when we had a gap in our plans. It ended up ideal.
We did have about a week of unseasonably cold as the seasons shifted from summer to fall but after that odd week, the weather settled into an idyllic fall. The leaves didn't yet start to change during September but the temperature was perfect for walking everywhere we wanted to go without breaking a sweat. If you end up facing some rare weather like we did, there are plenty of great shops to get affordable clothes.
Things to Do in Novi Sad, Serbia
While it is a small city, you'll be happy to know there's still plenty to do in Novi Sad. The city itself has an incredibly welcoming vibe, filled with nice people and a scenic environment. Culturally different than the rest of Serbia, locals told us Novi Sad is far more European than the rest of the country. For us, it felt like a nice cultural mix of Europe and the Balkans.
The top things to do in Novi Sad are:
- Stroll around the pedestrian-only Old Town
- Take a day trip to Belgrade. On the new fast train, you can arrive in the city in just about 30 minutes.
- Enjoy the ample greenspace from the shores of the river to the fortress park.
- Take a day trip to Fruška Gora National Park. You can either rent a car or take public transportation to enjoy a day of hiking here.
- Eat as much Serbian food as you can. If you eat meat, you'll marvel at the wide variety of sausages and meat cuts. If you don't eat meat, you will have less variety to choose from. In general though, the food here is cheap and high quality. The serving size was always enough for me to have leftovers, too.
- Stay out late to enjoy the nightlife. While Belgrade is famous as a party city, Novi Sad still has plenty going on. Just don't expect to have a wild night out here instead, expect more of a lively bar scene than much else.
You're Ready to Work Remotely in Novi Sad
If you're after a city that balances plenty of things to do with ample green space, you'll love living in Novi Sad. For a calmer person who enjoys eating out and getting fresh air during their workday, it's a destination that might just be hard to beat- especially if you're traveling with your pets!