A Serbian Sojourn: Travelling from Bangalore to Belgrade and Back ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Getting there         

The last time, we left the shores of India was in December 2019. And then we witnessed the world coming to a grinding halt. With countries opening up their borders in 2022, it was still not clear what the ‘new normal’ would be like, with vaccine and testing regulations and visa processing. We had a window of two weeks in May for a family reunion. With the family members in three different cities, getting the paperwork done was also a challenge. So, the choice had to be a visa-free nation for Indian nationals located in Europe.

That’s how we narrowed it down to Serbia and a plan was drawn up on very short notice. There were no direct flights from Bangalore to Belgrade and flights through Frankfurt (which was our first choice, as my son was flying from there) needed a transit visa. Finally, we routed ourselves through Doha, Qatar.

We left home at 10.30 pm for our flight that was scheduled at 3.30 am. With all the uncertainties about documentation, due to the pandemic, there were no chances to be taken after all the investment that had been made. The Kempegowda International Airport, Bangalore was crowded as usual. The Qatar Airways official behind the counter wanted to see our itinerary, hotel bookings, return tickets, vaccination certificates other than our passport, and onward tickets before issuing the boarding pass. The immigration officer asked his set of questions and then we were good to go. After a 3-and-a-half-hour journey to Doha for the connecting flight to Belgrade that took another 5 and a half hours, we arrived at the Nikola Tesla Airport, Belgrade.

Upon arrival, we made our way to the immigration line, where passengers from other flights were also there. The first thing that I noticed was that hardly anyone was wearing a mask. When our turn arrived at the visa-free counter, the official merely stamped our passports – no questions asked and we were ready and free to explore the country. The airport is under renovation and you will have to walk a distance to your vehicle, so make sure to grab a trolley.

Our 13-day stay was fabulous, one that I will detail in my subsequent blogs. I have not felt free and liberated in a long time and the vi**s was never on our minds. Our 12-day itinerary included Belgrade, Novisad, Niš, and Zlatibor. The last 3 days we had kept ourselves free in Belgrade to explore on our own, as the boys were excited about the ‘Iron Maiden’ concert that they were to attend.

Getting Back:

Before getting back, we had to fill out the ‘Air Suvidha Self Declaration Form’, which has to be filled out by all International passengers arriving in India. It’s not the easiest of forms to fill and a pro-tip would be to fill the form for each passenger separately. Make sure, you fill it out before you reach the airport and have good Wi-Fi.

https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration

Our return was via Dubai via Fly Dubai and Emirates with a long layover at the Dubai airport.

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11th June 2022

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