Niš is a city in Serbia. Niš is the administrative center of the Nišava District.
Niš (pronounced: 'neesh') 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 240km, Niš - Sofia 150km, Niš - Skopje 200km, Niš - Thessaloniki - 400km. 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 1/4 million University city are buzzing with life.
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 kilometers 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 (FYROM) 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.
Almost all buses traveling from the northwest into Bulgaria or further southeast to Turkey will stop in Niš. All buses traveling between Belgrade and Greece or Macedonia will stop in Niš. An average bus ride from Belgrade will take three hours, but make sure you opt for a 'direct' bus from Belgrade central bus station, as some buses will stop in a dozen towns on the way, sometimes getting out of the highway, and prolong the ride considerably.
The bus station is just a couple of blocks north of the river. The quickest route from the bus station to the main square (Trg Kralja Milana) is to go left down the side road past all the market stalls and the covered market. This takes you to the fortress entrance from where you can cross the river and head towards the obvious Ambassador hotel.
Railway links include international trains from Thessaloniki, Greece to Ljubljana, Slovenia, via Skopje, Niš, Belgrade and Zagreb, as well as Istanbul, Turkey - Vienna, Austria via Sofia, Niš, Belgrade and Budapest. Another important railway link is the one to Bar, Montenegro, which connects Niš with the Adriatic sea. The trains are slow, not very clean, and still in the seventies style, but tickets are cheap, the scenery is sometimes beautiful, and sleeping cars are usually an option.
The train station is 2Km east of the main square, a good half hour's walk.
Niš has an international airport named after Constantine the Great (international code: INI). Airport service is getting increasingly better. There are flights from and to European cities including Forli (near Bologna, Italy), Podgorica (Montenegro). Most reliable are daily flights to Podgorica (Montenegro) which can be used to connect to major European capitals. Seasonal flights to Turkish, Montenegrin and Greek resorts are offered during the summer. Additional service is expected soon as there are ongoing negotiations with several low cost companies.
The airport is 5km away from the city center (much closer to the town than in most European cities, but still not suitable for walking to your hotel). Apart from taxis, there are buses taking passengers from the airport to the city on regular basis (every 15 minutes from early morning till midnight on workdays).
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.
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 50 Serbian dinars. Weekly and monthly tickets are also available at discount prices in small ticket shops near most bus stops.
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.
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 EUR/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 12EUR 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 to 50 EUR 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.
TalkYoung 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 center, 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.
Niš is packed with historical sites worth visiting, dating from various periods.
Europe came to know about this horrible monument of Serbian martyrdom from the work "Voyage to the East" by the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine (1790 - 1869).
It was built with the help of local laborers, Istanbul stonecutters and bricklayers. Beside those well saved walls and gates, numerous facilities remain from various periods, such as the armory, Turkish steam bath, Turkish post station, Bali-mosque, powderroom and prison.
Niš is the venue of a number of national and international festivals.
Kalča is the biggest shopping mall in Niš. It is a huge, three-storey building, with virtually all kinds of shops: clothes, shoes, music, stationery, computer equipment, unlocked mobile phones... you name it. There are also several bars, coffee shops and one or two restaurants where you can refresh yourself after your spending spree.
There is also an 'underground passage', another trademark of Niš, virtually an entire street under the central city promenade. It throngs with small shops of all kinds.
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 EUR = approx. 115 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 center (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=100 dinars) and give change in dinars.
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).
The Shopska salad (a traditional Bulgarian 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.
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, although small private vineries have done an excellent job in Serbia in recent years (Aleksandrović, Kovačević). The good ones tend to be quite expensive, though. 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.
Niška Banja (the Spa) has a couple of older but decent hotels, such as Ozren, with prices from 24 Euro 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 Euros). Still, the Spa is a few kilometers away from the town, so a bus or taxi ride to the center is inevitable.
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.
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.
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, even most antibiotics). Prior consultation with a physician would be a good idea, though.
Buses and trains go to Bulgaria and beyond to the east. To the south one can catch a bus or train to Skopje or Thessaloniki. There is frequent bus and train service to Belgrade and many other locations within Serbia. One can catch bus to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro or Croatia. For going down to Kosovo, there is only one direct bus, departing Niš twice daily, and going over Novi Pazar (Serbia) to Kosovska Mitrovica, where one should change bus if going to Priština or somewhere else.
Companies like Eurolines-Lasta, Touring, Jedinstvo or Niš-Ekspres, have long-distance buses to almost any bigger city in western Europe, with Germany, Swiss and France especially well covered. They have a kiosk outside the train station, facing the main road.
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. Note, however, that trains leaving Serbia are less frequent and can run late at night. The train to Sofia (Sofja), for example, leaves at 2am. Note, also, that the times displayed on the printed-out timetable (there are no "live" departure boards) do not necessarily represent the actual departure times. Check with the station staff for the correct times. Due to current engineering works (extending from 2013 into 2014), it is not currently possible to catch the "Balkans Express" from Niš to Istanbul, where it currently terminates at Sofia.
All buses depart from the central bus station, just behind the fortress and the green market. There are not many ATMs in the area, but there is one on the main road leading away from the station toward the river (as bus tickets cannot be purchased using card).
The 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. Head over the bridge / river from the bus station to go in the right direction. Buses from Niš to other cities are normally operated by "Niš Express" (they are red), though the Sofia bus can also be a white minibus. Note that many buses do not have on board toilets, but make reasonably regular rest stops along the way.