Love, freedom, adventure, culture… the digital nomads in Serbia may have their own different reasons for choosing it as a remote-working base, but it’s easy to see how so many become quickly smitten with the lifestyle.
According to a recent report by Digital Serbia Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Serbia’s low living costs, good internet speeds, interesting startup scene and many coworking spaces are among the biggest draws. Add great nightlife, food, and cafe culture into the mix and you’ve got an extremely appealing remote-working destination, whether for long or short term stays. The fact Serbia is outside the Schengen Zone is a major added bonus for those affected by visa requirements.
Euronews caught up with three digital nomads who told us what they love most about working and living in Serbia.
Johannes Hindler from Austria
For Austrian Johannes Hindler, it was an unexpected romance that prompted a complete life change. "I met Milica from Belgrade on a weekend trip here, we fell in love, I came back and eventually moved here," he explains.
"I started a digital agency that works only remotely and our clients are in Austria, the UK and Ireland. Working from where and when I choose is just really great. I chose Belgrade because of love, but it is also a really good location as it is still close to central Europe, living costs are very low compared to Vienna and people are very welcoming and nice. I would definitely recommend Belgrade to work from."
Aleksandar Zeba from Germany
Aleksandar Zeba is also a big fan of working from Belgrade, and for him, the attraction was getting to know the city itself. A digital nomad whose home base is Germany, he has spent time working all over the Balkans, blogging, and selling products and books through online platforms.
"I wanted to spend some time in Belgrade as it has a special charm and a great history. You have cool spots like the Savamala district and the cuisine is a dream for every foodie. Belgrade is still something of an insider’s tip and not too crowded with tourists. I like the rhythm of the city and the Balkan lifestyle. Everything is a little more relaxed and not as stressful as in Western Europe."
Work-life balance is very important to Aleksandar, and he says Belgrade’s prettiest places helped him find it. "If you want to combine work with free time you’ll love Belgrade. That’s how I felt. The city is at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers and has many green spots and parks, such as the Kalemegdan. It helped me a lot when I sometimes spent too many hours behind my notebook."
He adds that Belgrade has the edge over other popular remote-working places: "If you’re tired of the overcrowded nomadic hotspots like Bali or Bangkok, this is the place to go. It’s also something like the secret party metropolis of Europe! The prices are much cheaper than in cities like Rome, Paris or Berlin, which makes it affordable even for digital nomads with limited means."
While Belgrade’s buzz and big-city convenience make it an obvious choice for the majority of digital nomads in Serbia, for others, part of the beauty of remote working is the chance to leave urban life behind altogether.
Hecgli Alvarez from Venezuela
Hecgli Alvarez is from Caracas in Venezuela and has been living in Serbia since 2014. She wanted to make a change to her life in the capital, and recently found what she was looking for in Vrmdza, a village just a few hours’ drive south of the city.
"A romantic love with a Serb brought me here at first, then my heart was fully caught by this beautiful country and friendly citizens," she says.
Hecgli’s description of her new rural lifestyle sounds utterly blissful: "In Vrmdza there is no day-to-day routine, apart from my morning sacred tea," she says.
The rest of the day involves "doing some breathing, contemplation and yoga, getting to work. Evening walks are my favourite."
She says the connection with nature has been one of the best things about living in Vrmdza. "I feel healthier, I’ve got clean water, harvested organic products and eat handmade Serbian food. My neighbours are great and I always feel safe. If you are looking for the best getaway from populated cities, this is a good option for anyone with an adventurous spirit."
Hecgli says to her, being a digital nomad here is all about freedom.
‘When you are a digital nomad, you go at your own pace, your own rhythm. I used to be a night owl worker, then I switched and now I get up early to work – at 8 am my tea and laptop are ready, [I’m] on fire. If there's a word that defines me, it’s freedom, and travelling lets you fly as free as a bird, wherever you want to go."