How to Get a Serbian SIM Card in a Small Town + Balkan Roaming Tips

We entered Serbia on Thursday the 28th of March, 2024 via kayak on the Danube. The small town we bought a Serbian SIM card in is called Apatin. Here’s our recommendation for a Serbian SIM card, how we got it, and how it works in neighboring non-EU countries.

Which Serbian SIM Card is Best?

Yettel. Also formerly known as Telenor.

Back in 2015 when I sort of lived in Serbia, Telenor was also the best. They’re originally from Norway. Back then, I wasn’t the SIM card guru I am now. But I do remember having a Serbian SIM card from them. I’m assuming that Yettel is just a local rebranding.

But things have also changed in the nine years since my last visit to Serbia. Neighboring countries such as Croatia have joined both Schengen and the Eurozone. Romania and Bulgaria have acquired ‘Schengen-lite’ status. As the EU spreads and getting a local SIM card for each country becomes obsolete, Serbia stands in the middle of the Balkan a stronghold of not getting along. That’s why any traveler who needs to leave Schengen for 90 days to let it reload should have Serbia on their mind.

In 2024, the Serbian SIM card from Yettel will also give you a little mini roaming area. Call it the ‘counter-Schengen’ if you will. It consists of all the Balkan countries that are not in the EU (yet), but are working towards it. These are the following countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo. In line with the Serbian government’s attitude towards Kosovo, Yettel’s website calls the latter ‘Kosovo and Metohija‘.

Roaming map Serbian SIM card Balkan travel Yettel

The currency used in Serbia is the Serbian Dinar (RSD). I will write the prices for the Serbian SIM card packages in the following format: 123 RSD.

How We Bought a Serbian SIM Card in Apatin

The day after we arrived in Apatin by kayak, we walked to the local Yettel shop. A man behind the counter greeted us in Serbian and we greeted back before asking for a SIM card in English. He switched to English effortlessly and told us about the options.

We came prepared to either get a small package valid for 15 days (15GB, plenty of bonus balance for calling and texting, 700 RSD) or the tourist SIM valid for 30 days (50GB – 1400 RSD). After confirming that the tourist SIM is not just a data SIM and can also be used for calling and texting (14.50 RSD/minute – 7.90 RSD/SMS), we went for that option so we wouldn’t have to think about our data usage. We rarely need to call or text.

We put the SIM cards in our phones while still in the shop. The man offered to help set it up, but it was working straight out of the box. We’d brought our passports, but they weren’t asked for. All in all, it was a very smooth experience and we were in and out in about 15 minutes.

Which Yettel Data Packages to Buy as a Digital Nomad?

It’s rare, but in Serbia the tourist SIM is actually a pretty good option. 50GB for a month should be more than enough. That being said, if you know you don’t need more than 30GB per month, you can also go for the normal prepaid package, which gives you a massive 10500 RSD bonus balance for calling and texting and comes up to the same monthly price. We must say that we called more people in Serbia than we anticipated. Both these prices already include the price for the Serbian SIM card itself.

Other things to know about the Serbian Yettel SIM card

Apart from its usual functions, you can also use your Serbian SIM card to buy bus tickets and parking tickets in Belgrade, by sending texts to specific numbers. It’s easy-peasy and foreigner-friendly, so we highly recommend you do that when visiting parts of Belgrade and its surroundings by public transport.

Please note that at least the tourist internet package doesn’t automatically renew for another month, even if you have plenty of balance. So make sure to manually rebook it when it expires or you’ll be charged a lot more for your data usage.

When renewing, all packages are 400 RSD cheaper, which presumably is the price for the Serbian SIM card. To rebook, scroll down in the app and tap on “Internet dodaci“. You can find the tourist package all the way at the bottom.

Serbian SIM Card FAQ + Internet Freedom

Should I buy a Serbian SIM card at the airport?

Though we didn’t arrive in Serbia via the airport, we found no evidence that the SIM cards at the airport are more expensive for gullible-tourist reasons. So if there’s a Yettel shop at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport or Niš Constantine the Great Airport, feel free to buy a Serbian SIM card there. However, I didn’t find evidence of Yettel or other recommendable Serbian SIM card shops at the two international airports.

Where can I buy a Serbian SIM card?

You can buy your SIM card at one of the many Yettel shops that exist even in smaller towns or at many news kiosks. If your place of arrival has a Yettel shop, I’d recommend that over a kiosk, because the people there have obviously more expertise about the packages and can help you with setting up your phone.

Should I download the Yettel app?

You don’t have to, but it does make checking balance and rebooking packages much easier than with USSD codes. Also getting Belgrade bus and parking tickets is more straightforward via the app. It’s a bit cumbersome to set up the app though, because you have to sign up with both your email and phone number and most parts of the app are only in Serbian. You can find the app for Google Play and iOS.

How can I top-up my Serbian Yettel SIM card?

The easiest way is via the online top-up on their website. At the time of writing, it’s only available in (Latin script) Serbian though. In Chrome, you can translate the page by right-clicking and selecting ‘Translate to English’.

Their app has a similar function for topping up. Apart from that, you can also buy recharge vouchers at news kiosks or directly recharge at a Yettel shop.

How can I check my Yettel balance and remaining data?

The easiest way is via their app. If you can’t be bothered to set up the app, you can use the USSD code *131*1# to check your balance and *131*2# to check your data. Just call these codes like a phone number.

Serbian SIM card Yettel phone app zdravo

How can I keep my Serbian SIM card between visits to Serbia?

Since Serbia is a strategic country to wait out your out-of-Schengen days and Serbia’s great roaming deals with other Balkan countries, it might make sense to keep your Serbian SIM card activated.

Good news: you don’t have to top up your Serbian SIM card for 11 months before this issue becomes pressing. Meanwhile, you can keep your Serbian phone number and your balance without worries. If you stay away for longer, you can do an online top-up for 300 RSD to get another 11 months of validity.

Is the internet blocked or monitored in Serbia?

As far as I know, Serbia is not blocking any websites and there is no systematic monitoring. In 2023, Freedom House considered Serbia’s internet free with a score of 71 out of 100, which is one point less than the year prior. As a humble visitor, none of this will be your problem with regular internet use.

Should I download a VPN before going to Serbia?

Yes, you should have a VPN while traveling in Serbia. Though Serbia doesn’t block websites themselves, foreign websites might block traffic coming from Serbia. This means that if you need to access your non-Serbian banking website, you might not get through until you turn on your VPN. Even less vital websites might for some reason block traffic from Serbia. So if you click a website and at first it seems like it’s not working, try turning on your VPN to see if that solves the issue.

I have used different VPNs over my 10+ years of traveling that are very similar. However, NordVPN is much more affordable than the other providers—especially if you get the yearly or two-year plan. I have the Basic two-year plan which comes down to €4/month. If you want to try NordVPN, you can sign up via this link. It’s a referral link, so if you sign up I might, might, receive a commission from NordVPN for pointing you in their direction.

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