Trip Report – Jat Airways LJU-Belgrade (BEG) & Hotel Zira Belgrade, Serbia

This is the final entry of a six part trip report from my travels to Slovenia and Serbia. This report covers my flight on Jat Airways from Ljubljana (LJU) to Belgrade (BEG) as well as the Zira Hotel in Belgrade, Serbia.

We decided to take a weekend trip from Ljubljana to Belgrade and booked a ticket directly with Jat Airways for 108€. The outbound flight was operated by Jat Airways while the return was operated by Adria Airways.

The flight operated by Jat airways included a lot of interesting firsts for me. First off, my ticket only included the origin and destination,  there was no flight number, seat number, boarding time, gate, departure time, etc. I asked how I would know my seat number and I was told that I was seat 8A and that I should remember it…OK. One of the other firsts, no one collected my ticket upon boarding. It was not scanned nor was anything typed into the computer, it was looked at and then handed back to me….perhaps the system was down that day.

The flight was operated by a 737-300 and had two rows of first class seats with the remainder of the cabin outfitted with economy seats. The first class cabin included slightly wider seats that were leather instead of fabric.

The safety demonstration was performed in both Serbian and English…

The flight was a short one hour and five minutes, though we were only in the air for about 45 minutes. There was still drink service as well as a sandwich and a snack offered.

Our sandwich included a lot of lettuce and some chicken (??)…

…chocolate snack

The flight was uneventful, the flight attendants were friendly enough (both spoke English but one much better than the other), and the seats had standard economy reclines. There was no in-fight entertainment system or overhead screens, but I was fine with my MacBook Air and Nook. All in all, it was a good flight and at about 50€ each way the price couldn’t be beat. The return flight was on Adria and was similar to my other recent flight with them.

Belgrade airport…

Yes, even in Belgrade there’s a standard Hudson News to make you feel like you’re back home…

Zira Hotel – Belgrade, Serbia

There are a few chain hotels in Belgrade (Hyatt, Holiday Inn, and 2 Best Westerns), but the reviews for Hotel Zira were extremely more positive than any of the name brands. More importantly, for our weekend, Hotel Zira was pricing at only 60€ per night or around $78 USD. The Hyatt was over $300 USD and the Holiday Inn was about $210 USD (I did not want to use points in either program for a weekend stay in Belgrade). We decided to chance it and stay somewhere local to save some money, but we were also excited to try out the property based on the reviews. I booked with Hotels.com so that I could earn Welcome Rewards for the stay.

I think the hotel is best described as modern and minimalist. It’s not a bad thing, but they’ve tried to make it trendy and W-ish, while at the same time clearly skimping on some things. However, for Belgrade it was much more modern than any of our other options (besides the Hyatt). The hotel has been open for a little over five years at this point.

We were both booked in standard superior single rooms and were told there were no upgrades available for the weekend. We headed up to our floor and interestingly enough we walked out of the elevator to complete darkness. The hallway lights were turned on by motion detection sensors but only a small area at a time was illuminated.

The room truly was for one person. It was like a standard NYC hotel room, but perhaps even a little smaller. What you see in the picture below is the entire room. The bed was comfortable, the furnishings modern (but sparse), and there was a mounted flat-screen. The room was nice but again it felt like there was something missing, trendy without actually spending a lot. The bathroom had a nice shower head but there was no curtain for the shower area.

view from the room…

Interestingly enough, one of the more unique amenities of the hotel is free breakfast and dinner. Yes, dinner is included in your room rate! Breakfast included assorted pastries, eggs, bacon, yogurt, french toast, fruit, salad, and pancakes. Dinner included a buffet of chicken, beef filet, salad, vegetables, and soup. We had dinner plans so we didn’t try anything oit but it seemed decent enough if you happen to be on a tight budget.

One of the other really cool included amenities with every hotel room is free long distance calling to land-line phones with your in room IP Phone! I called home to New York and the clarity was excellent. I also made use of the free wifi. The staff at the hotel were extremely friendly and went out of their way to make us comfortable. From calling taxis, to providing dinner and sightseeing recommendations, we found the staff to be great. See the YouTube video of the hotel at the bottom of this post.

Serbia country #67 – Belgrade itself was a fun time, though it definitely felt like Eastern Europe, whereas Slovenia felt like Western Europe…there was even that industrial smell in the air. We had beautiful weather that weekend and with a little bundling up, we were able to explore the city comfortably. I highly recommend Free Belgrade Walking Tours, it’s completely free besides the tip and the tour guides definitely deserve a generous one. Our tour was over four hours and took us all over Belgrade. Our tour guide was pursuing her masters degree in history at a local university.   Speaking of free tours, I also highly recommend the Ljubljana Free Tour, again completely free and this one was led by a university professor.

Tennis star Janko Tipsarevi? was even the DJ at one of the clubs we visited…

Huge thanks to Nemanja from airlines.net and aviation overview for assistance with the JAT pictures!!!

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  1. White the tourist infrastructure is really non existent by western standards, Belgrade has a lot to offer for the curious passenger. Consider the country fought four wars in the last 20 years, including one against all of NATO – and you might begin to emphatize a bit. The best way to visit the city is if you can get in touch with locals, Serbian food is very tasty, there are awesome cafes and bars and nightclubs to visit – but you have to go the extra mile to find them because there is no infrastructure. Go online, ask questions and your dollar will go much much further than elsewhere in Europe.

    Also, JAT is now a bad airline, which is such a shame for a company that used to be far ahead of the competition in Eastern Europe. They are getting bought by Etihad, and we should see some positive changes finally after 20+ years.

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