Saturday, November 27, 2010

Money exchange offices in Serbia

Serbia doesn’t have the euro yet, so before venturing out in Belgrade’s bustle, euros need to be exchanged for Dinars. Any unwitted tourist would pace straight to one of the many banks, but the seasoned traveler changes money in the sticker-studded single-window street-side booth of the Menjacnica, or exchange office. They’re everywhere, and come with names such as Extreme, Euro Lion, even Pirana.

Their facilities are crummy, their overhead not existing, and that’s why their rates are far more attractive than that of the established bank. A tourist who comes in with a sweaty wad of dollars will be registered, probed and prodded, but euros are exchanged without the least bit of formality; no passport, signature or even conversation is required. Exchanging the Serbian equivalent of three monthly salaries involves no more doings than buying a loaf of bread.

A platinum blonde runs my euro bills through a counter, reaches beside her to decapitate a skyscraper of 1000 Dinar bills and hands me a stack of them the size of a brick. A sturdy three course meal costs the same here as a quarter pounder in the west, but every time I pay the bill it’ll feel as if I bought a car.

It’ll take me a long time to burn through this amount of cash, but when it runs out, there are always the banks and their ATMs eager to extort me.

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