Serbia Vaccinating Some Visitors For Free

Filed Under: Travel

There has been a lot of talk about the concept of vaccine tourism, whereby those who are in a place where vaccines are in short supply book an expensive holiday somewhere that includes getting vaccinated. Well, Serbia seems to be taking a modified approach to this, as the country is vaccinating foreigners at no cost.

Serbia vaccinating foreigners

Daily Sabah reports that this weekend Serbia is giving away free coronavirus vaccines to visitors. This has caused an influx of foreigners, in particular from Bosnia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, who formed long lines yesterday at Belgrade’s main vaccination site.

Serbia has been doing a better job with vaccinating its population than most other countries in Europe, as around two million people (out of seven million) in Serbia have received at least one shot. The country has even donated vaccines to neighboring countries that haven’t had the same access to vaccines.

There are a few more interesting things about Serbia vaccinating foreigners:

  • Serbia is primarily giving foreigners the AstraZeneca vaccine, while most Serbians are getting either the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  • Some say this is an attempt by Serbia to spread its influence over the region, while others say the AstraZeneca vaccines are nearing their expiration dates, so this is a way to unload them
  • Apparently interest in the vaccine among Serbians is declining, so these vaccines may just be excess supply for now
  • It’s not entirely clear if there’s a way for foreigners to get their second shot (the interval between shots is especially long for the AstraZeneca vaccine), or if the idea is just that people have at least some protection if they get one shot

Belgrade, Serbia

Should you travel to Serbia to get vaccinated?

While most of Europe has remained closed to visitors for the past year, Serbia has remained open. The country was initially open with no restrictions for visitors, and nowadays just requires a PCR test prior to travel.

I had the chance to visit Serbia a few years back and loved it — it’s an incredible country, and there’s even a nonstop Air Serbia flight between New York and Belgrade.

Air Serbia flies to New York

On the surface, a vaccine could be a great incentive for some people to travel to Serbia. It’s not like the vaccine as such is expensive, and the country would more than recover the cost of the vaccine in terms of the money that people would spend in the country.

It doesn’t seem like there’s any guarantee that Serbia will continue to offer vaccines to visitors simply on a walk-up basis. However, the country is letting visitors schedule vaccinations, as several readers have reported in the comments section.

This might not be so useful for those in the US given the current vaccine timeline here, but for those in other countries with a slower rollout, this could potentially be a reason to travel to Serbia.

I’m curious if the country does formalize some sort of a vaccine tourism program, because it seems like this has lots of potential.


Belgrade, Serbia

Bottom line

Serbia is vaccinating foreigners for free this weekend. This seems to have mostly attracted those from neighboring countries without widespread vaccination.

However, the country has been letting foreigners schedule vaccine appointments further in advance as well. It seems like with some marketing surrounding this, we could see huge demand for travel to Serbia. Kudos to Serbia for the great job the country is doing with vaccine distribution.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments
  1. 1.) Serbia has officially been vaccinating foreigners for a long time already.

    2.) You can go to their vaccination website, register as foreigner, and even select which vaccine you prefer and which vaccination center.

    3.) You get a notification when it’s your turn.

    4.) On top of all of that, Serbia is having ‘open days’ whenever there is a lot of vaccine in stock, on these days you can just show up at without an appointment.

    Serbia is literally putting the whole EU to shame with their efficient, effective vaccination campaign.

  2. The USA is vaccinating everyone for free too (yes including those without insurance, undocumented workers, tourists who can enter the US, etc.) It really just depends on the vaccination site and how strict they are with checking proof of eligibility and resident ID.

  3. Like Max said, you can get vaccinated as a foreigner any time (not just this weekend). Just make sure to choose the option on the vaccine registration site that you are a foreigner without residency in Serbia. You can choose between four vaccines (Pfizer, Astra, Sputnik and Sinopharm – you literally tick which one you want). It is true that most Serbs have chosen the latter two, but it is entirely by choice. I received my second dose a month ago (and I’m 32 without any chronic diseases). Also, everyone gets the second dose. You don’t come for just one. You are automatically set aside a second dose and are given the date when you have to show up again.

    Being from Serbia which isn’t so efficient, I have to say this is probably the most organised process I have ever seen in my life. Everything runs smoothly, everything is computerised and very easy. Looking at how ugly the rest of Europe has become with spats over who gets what vaccine, how to block vaccine exports and so on, I’m really proud that we have had some humility. Not to mention that Serbia has begun vaccinating asylum seekers and migrants at detention centres too.

    An interesting story is that yesterday Albanian charter airline Albawings flew two charters to Belgrade with passengers to get vaccinated and the airline used the opportunity to vaccinate its entire cabin crew hah!

  4. Max & Nikola – totally correct.

    I’m an American tourist. I’ve been in Serbia the past 5 weeks. I was vaccinated 2 weeks ago. On a walk-in basis (in and out in 10 minutes) – first shot of AstraZeneca. I received a digital QR code-enabled vaccination record right away.

    I’ve planned my travels around the Balkans such that I’ll be back in Serbia in time for my 2nd dose.

  5. Ok so I will say it I am not so sure I would want to roll the dice on the Chinese nor the Russian variants of Covid 19 vaccine. Surely they do contain some/many of the manufacturing ingredients that the “western” vaccines do after all there have been a number of attempted hacks of their computer systems by the Russians early on. I am NOT a conspiracy theorist just saying. I much prefer to rely on CDC/FDA even as much maligned as they are.

    Ask yourself this how many western world countries are clamoring for these vaccines? Answer NONE.

  6. Saturday we drove from Skopje to Belgrade (5 hrs) to be vaccinated. Kudos to the Serbians for giving their neighbors free vaccinations! Saturday was very crowded because those who had appointments in the morning were not able to get to Belgrade on time because Macedonia refused to relax the curfew (10PM – 5 AM) for the purpose of traveling to Serbia to get vaccinated, so given the 5 hour drive from Skopje, and longer from farther away, those people just got there when they got there. Let me say that again: Macedonia refused to relax the curfew for those traveling to Serbia to get vaccinated, thereby keeping Macedonia safe from the coronavirus? I can’t even begin… I understand Sunday was much better, and that there were no lines at all. Again, thanks to the team at the Belgrade Fair and to the Serbian government for potentially saving our lives.

  7. @Ghostrider5408 – Before talking about choosing what vaccination, you should know that, as mentioned in this blog, Chinese and Russian vaccines are given to local people, not the tourists. If you are not educated enough to interpret basic English, then you probably shouldn’t rely on your understanding of vaccination as well.

  8. AstraZeneca you say? Umm… I wouldn’t cross the street to get this second-rate vaccine! Regretably, it’s the main vaccine being pushed by the government here (Australia) now, as -guess what- it’s super cheap and can be store easily in even a home bar fridge. Nice ‘n Easy.
    Despite the shenanigans and obfuscation of the questionable efficacy of this vaccine (started out at 62%, and somehow it got up to 79% or thereabouts- go figure), it’s all go for the general population, most of who don’t travel internationally.
    While it may be ‘adequate’ for most, it is certainly sub-par for intrepid international travellers who will more than likely come in contact with the virus somewhere in their travels. My government makes the sweeping assurance that it will protect (nearly) everyone from severe Covid requiring hospitalisation, and death. Nice, but they all do that AFAIK.
    Americans can thank their lucky stars that, either by design or accident (latter most likely), you have access to the best vaccines so far; Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, and on the way,Novavax.
    I don’t envy you guys about very much, but this is one big exception! Enjoy!

  9. @Ghostrider5408

    I would rather use a Chinese vaccine if the only other choice is AstraZeneca’s for the following reasons:

    1. Inactivated virus vaccine is technically less risky

    2. Even with the efficacy somehow increased to 81%, the AstraZeneca vaccine is not significantly more effective comparing to the Sinopharm vaccine (79%) and the Sinovac vaccine (78% in Brazil, 83.5% in Turkey)

    3. Not like AstraZeneca, you don’t hear that many drama around the safety of Chinese vaccines despite wide usage in Latin America, MENA and Southeast Asia. Also inactivated virus technology is technologically safer

  10. @Z,
    The makers of AstraZeneca now claim efficacy of76% after being called out for ‘cherry-picking’ trial results which suggested 79%.
    Initial results was 62%, and how it got pumped up to 79% suggests further fudging the stats IMO.
    Many countries have halted the rollout of this vaccine, with most resuming with caveats. Some countries, reading between the lines, seem to have taken the ‘something is better than nothing’ approach.
    I predict that as better vaccines are rolled out over time, AZ will be relegated to the sidelines.

  11. @glenn t

    62% seems to be their dosage regimen issue. According to their initial study, when the first vaccine is given in half dose their efficacy seems to be higher, but when two full doses were given to the patients the efficacy drops to 62%. Now they seem to use the first-half-then-full regimen.

    Not sure what’s the reason behind the dosage-led efficacy difference for AZ, as I have not seen any in-detail explanation yet, but with their late safety issues and not-so-great efficacy data comparing to Moderna/BioNTech/Novavax, I am definitely staying away from them.

  12. @Z,
    The half dose/full dose regimen seems to have been dismissed as an error or aberation. Given the much higher efficacy claimed, I find it odd that formal trials were not done. Their trials seemed to be a dogs dinner in the way they were conducted, which has lead to public distrust and suspicion.
    Unfortunately AZ is the only accessible vaccine where I am, so the choice is to get it, or nothing. The Pfizer vaccine was used for a small subset of the highest priority of the population, but the senior pollies and health honchos pushed their way to the head of the queue for that vaccine, it did not go unnoticed. Might get the crappy AZ and later head overseas for any of the other superior ones on offer.

  13. The point of the vaccine for foreigners is not for Americans to hop on a plane to serbia. It is designed mainly for countries in the region where there is a lot of cross border business. The surrounding countries don’t have adequate vaccination programs. Not sure why someone would ever consider going from the US or another country where vaccinations are becoming widely available to take a vaccine away from people who have no other options. Let alone a vaccine that is not even approved in the US and of which you couldn’t even get the second dose here and it isn’t even as effective as what someone could get here.

  14. @Max, what is the webaddress of the vaccination site? I can only find the site where you need to fill in a citizen number.

  15. Hello,

    I am interested in traveling to Serbia to get vaccinated. It was mentioned that we are able to register as a foreigner without residency on their vaccine registration website. I tried to search for it but could not find anything. Can anyone please link the vaccine registration website here so that I can have access to it>

  16. How can we register for the Pfizer vaccination in Serbia ? I have heard at CNN yesterday that tourists could chose the vaccination type ( 4 types ) online and register . But can’t find the site ?

  17. Hello, can someone please help us here????
    Same question as the previous four posts: Could someone please post the link to the vaccine registration site to secure an appointment? I am unable to find….

  18. Thank you, it is truly appreciated. I have signed up and am currently waiting for an email about my appointment.

  19. Does anybody have an indication how long it takes to get an appointment as a non-resident foreigner? I registered last week…maybe we have some people in Serbia in this forum who can report what the situation is like? Thanks in advance

  20. Thanks everyone for the helpful info! I have tried to register by pasting the text of the website into Google Translate. I want to get the shot as I have at risk family living in a different country where I currently live (Germany) and I want to feel safe when I visit/they visit (they are all currently or soon to be vaccinated in their own EU country).

    I was wondering if anyone could detail the validity of the proof of vaccination. Would it be good enough to fly within the EU? Is it en English, does it have security features? Can someone share a picture (edited, or watermarked to avoid copies, of course) on how it looks? I will try to ask these questions if/when they contact me, but if anyone has more info to share I would be very grateful.

  21. Hello

    For now Serbia has suspended vaccination for foreigners, at least for two weeks

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