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16 Things To Know Before Traveling To Bosnia and Herzegovina

16 Things To Know Before Traveling To Bosnia and Herzegovina

The first time I traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina, it instantly stole my heart. This underrated Balkan country seems like it’s straight out of a fairytale.

From the pristine mountain scenery to the picturesque old towns, it’s a country that will make you fall in love with its beauty. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a stunning country, but it should be more popular with tourists.

Some people don’t even know it exists; others think it’s still a war zone. We’re here to break down all those misconceptions and tell you everything you should know before planning your trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Like it’s one of the cheapest countries in Europe, it’s like a playground for hikers with dozens of different mountains and numerous hiking trails, and there’s always a possibility of rain, especially in Sarajevo.

When I first traveled to this country, I didn’t have many expectations or prior knowledge of what to expect. Before you embark on your journey, here are a few important things to remember.

Travel Tips Before Traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina

1. It’s Perfectly Safe To Visit

Mostar Bridge Scenery in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is perfectly safe for tourists and has really low crime rates. So, if you’re wondering if it’s still a war zone and if you can travel there safely, the answers are no and then yes. The war ended in the 90s, and it is a perfectly safe country to visit.

It’s astounding how many people still think it’s a war zone over there – it’s not, and people live very normal lives there. However, like all places you plan on traveling to, make sure to monitor local media for the latest updates about safety and security.

See Related: The Ultimate Backpacking Through Europe Itinerary

2. Be Aware Of Local Laws

Law Hammer and Balance Scale

It’s always important to be aware of local laws wherever you travel. Still, it is imperative in Bosnia and Herzegovina as there can be severe consequences from the local authorities for breaking them. For example, drug possession and use carry stiff penalties. It’s not uncommon for people to receive jail sentences of up to twelve years.

It’s also important to bear in mind that local authorities more strictly enforce certain laws than others, such as driving under the influence being taken very seriously with significant fines and possible imprisonment. The local police also often carry out random stops and searches, so it’s crucial to keep all documentation on you.

Be sure to check the latest travel advice before traveling, and if you’re ever in doubt about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, check with local police.

3. Check Entry Rules

Passport and World Map

Before traveling, it’s essential to ensure that your passport is valid and that you meet the country’s entry requirements. It’s also important to watch local media for the most up-to-date travel advice, as rules can change quickly.

Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t part of the European Union, so entry rules differ from those of the rest of the continent. Most tourists will receive a visa on arrival, which allows them to stay for 90 out of 180 days. Nonetheless, check beforehand to see if you’re eligible for a visa, as requirements may change.

The local authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina also operate a strict entry rule. You will need an up-to-date passport with at least six months of validity. So make sure that your passport is in order before traveling.

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4. Crossing The Border

Mostar Bridge Scenery

Bosnia isn’t in the EU or a Schengen area, so you must cross the border properly. It’s best to check with the Bosnian embassy in your country what exactly you need to enter Bosnia since the exact documentation heavily depends on your country of residence.

The process of entering Bosnia and Herzegovina is normally quite simple – a border official examines your passport, you get a stamp, and off you go. Be warned that when crossing the border, you may have a rather long wait since Bosnian officials can be quite slow when processing documents.

If you are suspicious of them, they might tell you to pull over and spend the next several hours examining every inch of your body and car. So, be on your best behavior for a stress-free trip.

5. The Nature Is Absolutely Stunning

beautiful nature in sarajevo

Bosnia isn’t a very developed country in terms of big cities and excellent infrastructure. However, the country boasts wonderful natural features that will easily impress you. Also, Bosnia and Herzegovina is very popular with mountain hikers due to the thrilling trails.

If you have the opportunity to explore the rural and remote parts of this country, definitely do so. Head to Sutjeska National Park, Kravice Waterfalls, Skakavac, Blagaj Tekke, Fortica, Igman, Trebević, and others.

Adventurers will love this country – there’s so many different places you can fall in love with and so much stuff to do that you’ll find yourself planning your next trip to Bosnia before you’ve even left.

Bosnia and Herzegovina could be a more developed country with big cities and great infrastructure. However, the country boasts breathtaking nature that will easily impress you. Also, Bosnia and Herzegovina is very popular with mountain hikers due to the thrilling trails.

If you have the opportunity to explore the rural and remote parts of this country, definitely do so. Head to Sutjeska National Park, Kravice Waterfalls, Skakavac, Blagaj Tekke, Fortica, Igman, Trebević, and others. Adventurers will love this country – there are so many different places you can fall in love with and so much stuff to do that you’ll find yourself planning your next trip to Bosnia before you’ve even left.

See Related: Top Most Beautiful Cities in the World to Visit

6. Getting Around The Country

traffic in sarajevo

If you plan to visit multiple cities in the country and travel to remote areas for hikes, your best bet is to rent a car. The roads are not fantastic, but they are at least faster and more convenient than relying on public transport.

Bosnia and Herzegovina does have a railway system, but it was severely damaged during the war two decades ago. The trains that do run are typically very slow, can be dirty, and just not very comfortable. It’s not much different with buses, and they usually connect the major cities.

Also, there’s rarely any public transport to the mountains – if you’re planning to do any hiking or want to visit the mountains near Sarajevo, you will need to rent a car.

Now, if you’re traveling to Sarajevo and don’t have plans to leave the city area, then none of that applies to you. Traffic in Sarajevo is a nightmare; many people drive like maniacs, and it’s much faster to get around the city by public transport or walking.

The public transport in the city is not bad at all – Centrotrans busses, in particular, are tourist-friendly, with displays that let you know which station you’re at. You won’t find this feature in any other type of public transport in Sarajevo.

7. Watch Out For Pickpockets

sarajevo street

Sarajevo has a problem with pickpockets, but it’s nowhere near as ridiculous as the situation in Lisbon or Paris, for example. As a tourist, you are their potential target, but it’s very easy to protect yourself from thieves – don’t keep your phone or wallet in the back pocket of your jeans, and if you are carrying a bag, wear it on your chest.

They tend to get you in big crowds, so stay away from them. Skip the overcrowded trams, don’t spend too much time in the tourist spots that are bustling with people, and be extra careful in areas where you can see the ‘Beware of pickpockets’ signs.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is generally safe, but you should always take precautions with your valuables like any other destination. Ensure you don’t keep your passport or other essential documents in your hand luggage, and always keep an eye on your belongings in public areas such as markets or festivals.

It’s also best to carry minimal money while exploring the country – only take enough to cover immediate expenses and leave the rest safely stored away.

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8. It Is Very Cheap

sarajevo restaurant

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of Europe’s cheapest countries, so you can have a fantastic time for very little money. In an average cafe, a cup of coffee costs just 1 Euro, a large pint of beer is approximately 2 Euros, and a glass of wine is usually 2.5 Euros. There are pricier places, but they are nowhere near as expensive as restaurants in Western countries.

Here’s a good example – the photo above was taken at an upscale Sarajevo restaurant that is considered pretty expensive. The total bill was around 35 Euros for two main courses, four drinks, and an appetizer.

We say “cheap” about the Euro or the wages in North America. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we must be mindful that what is cheap for us is relative to the people living there and that the import fees make a huge difference in the prices of goods and services, which impact their cost of living.

9. Cash Is Still King

Bosnian Money

There are two essential things to know when paying for services in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnian currency is called the Convertible Marka (KM), and it’s officially tied to the Euro – each KM costs approximately 0.5 euros.

Very few places accept Euros, and when they do, they can be a bit shady, so your best bet is to exchange all your cash for KM. Some places will also accept the Croatian Kuna – we’re mostly talking about all those places right on the border with Croatia.

The second thing you should know is that cash is still king in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in the smaller towns. It would be best to always have some on you when traveling around the country if you need to pay for something urgently. Larger stores and hotels only accept credit cards, but smaller places or souvenir shops won’t accept them – so make sure you always have some cash on hand.

You can pay with cards in larger grocery stores, clothing stores, gas pumps, and many up-scale restaurants, but mainly in Sarajevo. You should always have cash outside the capital, especially for restaurants and bars.

Exchange rates markets still exist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which means you can get a decent exchange rate if you take the time to look around. You’ll find plenty of currency exchangers on every street corner in Sarajevo, but your best bet is to head to one of the many free markets.

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10. Free Walking Tours

sarajevo city hall

Sarajevo and Mostar are the only cities offering free walking tours, so take advantage of that if you have plans to visit. As you know, free walking tours are usually led by friendly locals and are entirely tip-based. These tours are the best way to start in any new city since they will introduce you to all the essential areas and touristy spots.

In Sarajevo, there’s a variety of ‘free’ tours you can go on. Some will take you around to see all the war scars, while others are an exploration of all the different graffiti art in the city. The tours usually are two hours long and very informative.

11. The Weather Is Ridiculous

sarajevo spring hail

When packing for your trip to Bosnia, ensure you have something for all four seasons regardless of when you visit. The weather is pretty crazy and constantly changes – it can be 30 degrees Celsius during the day, but the evenings get chilly enough for a jacket.

Or it’s so hot both during the day and the night that you can’t even breathe normally. So be sure to pack travel clothes for hot weather.

Also, it rains a lot in Bosnia. Even the driest months of the year have a lot of rainfall, so carry an umbrella with you everywhere. The summer showers are hefty and tend to come out of nowhere.

The winters in Bosnia are frigid, especially in the mountainous areas. If you visit the country in the winter, pack waterproof jackets, insulated boots, gloves, hats, and scarves. Seriously – the temperatures in Sarajevo regularly drop below -15 degrees Celsius, and it gets much worse on and near the mountains.

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12. Watch Where You’re Walking

Country Road in Bosnia and Herzegovina

There’s no nice way to put this – there are minefields in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so be careful when exploring remote areas. About 2% of the country is still considered to be contaminated, which is decreasing daily thanks to the efforts to completely decontaminate the country.

You don’t necessarily have to be afraid that you’ll step on a landmine – if you pay attention to your surroundings, that will never happen.

Watch for large red signs with white skulls when hiking or exploring mountainous areas. This means a minefield is nearby, so don’t walk past that sign, and you’re good. When planning a hike in Bosnia, you should always check beforehand whether or not the trail passes near a contaminated area or if there’s a risk of landmines in any given part of it.

If there is a risk, it would be best to do the hikes with a guide or an experienced local – someone who has hiked the trail at least a dozen times and knows exactly which areas to avoid.

Honestly, this all sounds a bit scarier than it is. If you stay in the urban parts of the country, you’ll never encounter a sign or hear anything about a landmine. It’s only when you venture out into the unknown that this becomes a risk, but it’s nothing you can’t prepare yourself for adequately.

13. Shopping In Bosnia

shopping in sarajevo

If you’re into shopping, you might be excited because we just told you how cheap Bosnia is. Well, that doesn’t apply to established worldwide brands. As mentioned before, Bosnia and Herzegovina is separate from the EU, so you can find some international brands in the bigger cities like Sarajevo and Mostar; you’re not going to be able to get them at a great price.

While you can find markets selling knockoffs from Turkey for very little money, popular brands like Zara and H&M are as expensive as elsewhere. The truth is that Bosnia gets a lot of inferior quality products, especially from established brands. So, you’re effectively paying the same price you’d in Germany for an inferior quality item.

And if you were thinking of buying cheap tech, you may be disappointed. Due to all the import fees, it’s much more expensive in Bosnia than in Western countries.

This is ridiculous considering how much lower the standard of living there is – people get loans to buy the latest iPhone. Let that sink in.

See Related: Cheapest Shopping Destinations in the World

14. Where’s The Bacon?

bacon

The dominant religion in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Islam, which, as you know, prohibits eating pork. Some restaurants serve bacon, but these are usually tourist traps and charge a premium. So, unless you crave some extra crispy bits of heaven, don’t bother.

That’s why most restaurants in Sarajevo and surrounding areas don’t have anything with pork on the menu, not even McDonald’s. You can still find restaurants that serve pork; it’s just that you’d have to look for them specifically.

And this only concerns some parts of the country; the cities in the northern region are predominantly Orthodox, and there’s plenty of pork in restaurants. But still no bacon at McDonald’s, no matter which one you visit.

15. Remnants of the Bosnian War are still everywhere

Bosnia and Herzegovina War Remnants

If you’re a fan of historical landmarks, you’ll probably love exploring the remains of wartime Bosnia. But be warned – some places are pretty eerie and hard to stomach.

When I first visited Sarajevo, I found tension due to the recent war. With plenty of museums documenting the horror of the war and a plethora of War Sites to visit throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, you can’t help but feel the impact it had on the country.

From the abandoned houses still riddled with bullet holes in Sarajevo’s old town to Srebrenica’s memorial site for victims of genocide, these harrowing sites educate visitors on the devastating effects of war.

These abandoned buildings can put you in a somber mood, but it’s important to recognize the resilience and strength of Bosnians who have been able to move on with their lives despite all they’ve endured.

It was a bit overwhelming but also very humbling. The people of Bosnia are a testament to the power of resilience and determination – they’ve been through unimaginable suffering and yet have managed to rebuild their lives and keep going.

The scars of the war are still visible all around, but they serve as a reminder of how far the country has come. It’s definitely worth seeing and learning about during your trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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16. Be Prepared For Any Emergencies

Emergency Entrance in Hospital

It’s also important to ensure you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy and emergency assistance for medical services before traveling to Bosnia. This will provide you with access to service and help with any overseas medical costs or medical evacuation that you may need in the event of an emergency.

In addition, make sure you register your details with the local embassy so they can assist if needed. Emergency consular assistance is available 24/7 for any unexpected situations, so it’s important to keep your embassy details handy in case of any mishaps.

FAQ

Is Bosnia safe for tourists?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is generally a safe country for tourists, but it’s important to take the usual safety precautions when visiting. It’s best to avoid traveling alone at night and be aware of your belongings in crowded areas.

Is Bosnia worth visiting?

The answer is a definitive yes! Bosnia and Herzegovina is a stunningly beautiful country with unlimited natural beauty, culturally rich cities, fascinating historical sites, delicious cuisine, and friendly locals.

Is Sarajevo worth visiting?

Absolutely! Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the most vibrant cities in the region. It’s known for its unique architecture, colorful markets, Bosnian coffee houses, amazing nightlife, and friendly locals. And there’s plenty to do here, from sightseeing to visiting one of many museums.

Is Bosnia and Herzegovina expensive?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is fairly affordable compared to other European countries, but it can still be pricey if you’re not careful. Accommodation and food prices are generally lower than in other parts of Europe, but transportation costs and imported goods can still be pricey. It’s best to research prices beforehand to know how much you should budget for your trip.

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