Despite its long standing reputation of being outdated, overcrowded and unreliable, public transportation in Belgrade has been significantly improved in recent years and can present an efficient way for a tourist to get around the city quickly and cheap. Very old vehicles are less common but still operate on some lines. They are not air-conditioned so using the public transport does become much less convenient during the hottest of summer days.  The backbone of the public transit system is a fleet of buses operating on 5 dozen or so lines, but most tourist sites are connected by tram and trolley lines. Several transport companies operate in the city (leading to wast differences in the visual appearance of public transport vehicles) but are all part of a uniform ticketing system. Mini-buses on lines that have an `E` prefix are not part of this system and tickets are purchased directly from the driver. The mini-bus line (A1) serving the Airport functions in the same way.

Ticketing system

Ticketing is based on prepaid electronic carrier cards which need to be validated on boarding the vehicle by pressing them against one of the on-board machines. Electronic carrier cards (colloquially known as BusPlus) can be purchased from most news stands and come in two forms:

  • paper cards, which cost RSD 40, have a limited validity of three months from the day of purchase and can be topped up to no more than RSD 720 of credit;

  • plastic cards, which cost RSD 250, are valid for three years from the day of purchase and have no top up limit.

A ticket for one ride aboard one vehicle costs RSD 72. There are no "consecutive" rides within a time period, ie. each time you board a different vehicle you need to pay for a new ride. If you're travelling as a group, there is no need to by multiple electronic cards. Just enter the vehicle by the front door and choose the `Grupna karta` (group ticket) option on the terminal, select the appropriate number of passengers and than press the card against the terminal.

Failure to validate your ticket is considered fare evasion. Ticket inspectors carry red ID badges and hand-held validation terminals. Fine for fare evasion is RSD 1500. Note that formally ticket inspectors are not authorized to request your passport/ID or detain you, but will contact the community police service for support if necessary.

Alternatively, tickets can be purchased directly from the driver for 145 RSD.

Long-term foreign visitors can apply for a personalized electronic carrier card which can be topped up with bi-weekly (RSD 1800) or monthly passes (RSD 3216) valid for an unlimited number of rides. These are issued immediately and the only required document is your passport. For a list of locations where applications can be submitted visit the BusPlus website.

Planning your journey

Unfortunately, the city transit authority does not maintain an official journey planner. However, the site PlanPlus offers a free alternative which is quite reliable. Simply choose your starting and end points and look for the shortest route by means of public transport. Note that you should not rely heavily on the transit time estimates as the actual journey time can fluctuate considerably in peak hours. Also, the entire transit seems functions at a reduced capacity during the months of July and August when schools and universities or on summer leave. Intervals between two vehicles tend to double during this period. Centrally located stops feature a map of relevant lines and useful travel information but further afield you will have to rely on knowing beforehand what line to take and in which direction. Most locals will be happy to help.

An overview of useful public transport lines

From the Main Train Station and Central Bus Station you can take:

  • Number 2 tram, direction Pristanište, to get to Kalemegdan and the Old Town; direction Vukov spomenik will get you to Slavija square and Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra;
  • Number 7 tram,  direction Blok 45, to get to Hyatt Regency, Ušće Shopping Centre, Sava Centre, and further out Delta City Shopping Centre; direction Ustanička will get you to Belgrade Palace (Beograđanka) and Tašmajdan Park;
  • Number 3 or 12 trams, direction Omladinski stadion, to get to Zira Hotel and Congression Centre.
  • Number 83 bus, direction Zemun (Bačka), to get to Falkensteiner Hotel, Zemun centre and further out, Hotel Zlatnik.
  • The A1 airport service which takes you there directly.

When in the Old Town, several major transport termini are within walking distance:

  • from Zeleni venac, buses of lines number 15, 84, 704 and 706 can take you to various parts of Zemun and Novi Beograd, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (alight immediately after crossing Branko's bridge), Danube Quay, Zemun centre and Zemun City Park.
  • from Studentski trg (right of the middle of Knez Mihailova), take the number 41 trolley to get to Tito's Mausoleum and the Museum of Yugoslavia's History; take the number 31 bus to get to St. Sava's Cathedral and the National Library.

Taxi

Using a taxi to get around Belgrade is comparatively cheap by standards of most Western cities. Avoid taking a taxi from one of the taxi stands in the immediate vicinity of major tourist sites (e.g. The Republic Square). Some drivers illegally operate fixed tariff (no meter running) services aimed at tourists which can be several times more expensive than taking a taxi running a meter. Hailing a passing taxi or arranging a pick-up is a far better alternative. A list of operating taxi associations and their contacts can be found here. The price of taxi transport is regulated by the City Authority. At the regular tariff (tarifa 1, figures valid in May 2013), starting a ride costs RSD 170, with each subsequent kilometre charged at RSD 65 and inactivity period at RSD 750 per hour. Between 10 pm and 6 am, on Sundays and public holidays, tariff 2 is applicable - each kilometre is charged RSD 85.