Lonely Planet Writer

Jump into an old Yugo car to explore a country that no longer exists

Squeezing into an old car with no air-conditioning may not sound like the best way to explore a new city, but for travellers in Belgrade, it can take them onto a journey into a country that’s no longer on the map.

The Yugo cars that were popular at the time. Image by Yugotour

Yugotour takes travellers around the Serbian capital to delve into the history of what was once the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in a classic Yugo car. The tours have been running for three years now, but what the company offers is expanding as “Yugonostalgia” continues to spur interest in the non-existent country. Nina Ivanovic, the new operations manager, explains that in the beginning, they didn’t have many cars and there was only one tour on offer. Now they have six vehicles and four themed tours. Things will get even more authentic as they will soon start playing hit songs from the communist era in the cars, and offering up typical ex-Yugoslav drinks and sweets.

Tour guides take travellers back in time in a historic car. Image by Yugotour

One of the most unique aspects of the tours is that they take place in Yugo cars, the iconic – and now very dated – vehicles that were ubiquitous in the former Yugoslavia. According to Nina: “It’s a time machine. It doesn’t have AC, sometimes it might not be the most comfortable car, but you really get to know how it felt to be the owner of one of those cars”.

The tours take travellers into a country that no longer exists. Image by Yugotour

Most of the company’s tour guides are from Belgrade and while some were not born during the communist Yugoslavia period, they have heard many stories from their families and friends. Nina, who was born in communist Yugoslavia a few years before the break-up started, explained that the benefit of the tours is that travellers will see parts of the city that they wouldn’t on a typical walking tour. Most of the tours will take travellers into New Belgrade – a section of the city that didn’t exist before communist times. The “rise and fall of a nation” tour looks at the historical aspects of the former Yugoslavia, while the architecture tour explores how the styles of buildings in New Belgrade connect with the ideas and spirit of those times. The grand tour is a full-day adventure that takes travellers to see Tito’s famous Blue Train and outside the city to Avala mountain, while the highlights of Belgrade tour is a short tour for travellers with limited time to see the best of the best in the city.

Travellers trek around Belgrade to experience the city’s unique history. Image by Yugotour

Part of the attraction to the tours is that some people like the historic cars, while other are interested in Brutalist architecture, but often people are just looking for a unique experience outside of the main tourist hotspots. Nina says many tourists might be familiar with the history of Yugoslavia’s Prime Minsiter Tito, but may not know much more about what has happened in recent times. “They get to hear a more detailed and different explanation of what happened here than the one that was presented in the media”, said Nina. Find out more about Yugotour here.