Travel Guides

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina

July 30, 2019

Let me preface by saying that I love Bosnia and Herzgovina. In my first two days here I had already met some of the most amazing people in my travels and learned so much about the history. Bosnia and Herzgovina has a very tragic and recent history that I find very important to visit and study in order to never let these events happen again anywhere else.

So why is it called Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is that one place or two? Before coming here, I never knew why it was named both names and I definitely was pronouncing Herzegovina wrong my entire life. So now I’m going to set the record straight.

Bosnia is technically the Northern part of the country, the mountainous region. Sarajevo (the capital) is located in the Bosnian region of the country. The climate is completely different with the winter’s getting snowy and cold.

Herzegovina is the Southern region of the country. It has a hot medeterian climate with Mostar being one of the hottest cities in Europe. In Herzegovina, they never see snow. Their climate is extremely hot and dry.

Formerly part of Yugoslavia, after WWII Bosnia and Herzgovina suffered a horrible war and genocide led by Serbia and Croatia. The war took place between 1992-1995. During which time an ethical cleansing took place, killing 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica. An estimated 100,000 people were killed during this war with 80% of those people being Bosnians.

If you would like to learn more about what’s happened in Bosnia and Herzgovina’s history, I was recommended this 6 part docu series which can be watched on Youtube called The Death of Yugoslavia. (It’s a BBC docu-series.) You can also find a lot of information here. I recommend learning as much as you can about what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the most important thing we can do is never forget what they have gone through and make sure that it never happens again.

But is it safe? The first time that I came to Bosnia and Herzegovina, my parents were a little worried. However, it’s a very safe country and I talk more about that at the end of this post.

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Getting to Bosnia and Herzegovina

There are plenty of ways that you can travel to Bosnia. They way I traveled was by bus from Split. Bosnia has a 20km strip of coast that breaks up Croatia, making you have to cross multiple borders if you are traveling from Split to Dubrovnik. If you want to reach Mostar from Croatia, I would highly recommend that you come from Split and then go to Dubrovnik afterwards. If you want to reach Mostar from Dubrovnik or Montenegro, I would recommend going to Dubrovnik and traveling up to Mostar from there.

For a backpacking trip through the Balkans, taking a bus into Bosnia is extremely easy. That’s how I would recommend you come.

If you are just coming to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina, you can find flights in the Sarajevo airport and then continue traveling throughout the country by bus. That being said, if you are looking for budget flights, you can look at flying into Split or Kotor and taking the bus into Bosnia. This allows you to pick the airport with the cheapest flights and then travel overland throughout the rest of your trip.

Book flights to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Getting around in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Getting around while you are in Bosnia in between cities is pretty simple. There are buses you can take from Mostar to Sarajevo. There are also buses to other cities within the country but for other cities you will probably only find one or two buses a day. Make sure you plan ahead and buy your bus tickets at the bus station because YOU HAVE TO PRINT THEM. No matter what, you have to print the bus tickets.

For the other places that you want to visit within Bosnia, you can take a tour. The tours are pretty affordable and if you want to start looking at options today, here’s a great link for you. There you can find tours all over the country.

Another option for getting around while you are here is by renting a car. We chose against renting a car specifically because everything that we wanted to visit was accessible by bus and renting a car is just an added headache. (Headache because when I rent a car I always worry about car insurance and parking and all of that.) Find a cheap car rental here.

I got advice for renting a car in Bosnia and was told that the most important thing is to drive very carefully. No matter what the locals are doing, make sure that you go the speed limit and avoid breaking traffic laws. And always get insurance when you are booking a car. It’s a must.

There is no Uber or Lyft in this country, you need to call a 1503 taxi in Mostar or a Red Taxi in Sarajevo in order to get around. Everyone is extremely nice though and if you let them know you need a taxi, they will call one for you. The average cost of a taxi ride is 3 Marks ($1.50USD)

How long should you stay?

If you want to explore the countryside, go rafting, hiking and learn about the history of the country, I would recommend that you at least stay for 7 days. However, to really understand and explore the country well, you should give yourself 10 days total. And here’s where you should go…

Cities to Visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar

Mostar is a lovely city to visit. It is famous for the Stari Grad or Old Bridge. The Old Bridge is a Unesco World Heritage site that was rebuilt after the war. The replica was finished in 2004 and re-added to the Unesco list in 2005. If you want to visit Mostar, I recommend that you spend 2 nights at least, but really 3 would be perfect as you can do a day trip to the Kravica Waterfalls.

You really just need one day to explore the old city of Mostar and have a swim in the river. You can also have lunch while overlooking the bridge. After you explore the old city, it’s really nice to walk through the War and Genocide Museum to learn more about the history. Find accommodation in Mostar here.

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Sarajevo

Sarajevo is a much bigger city then Mostar. We ended up staying for 4 nights in Sarajevo and it was more than enough. The city is much bigger but the old part of the city can still be seen in one day. When you are looking for accommodation, I recommend finding somewhere very close to the old city, so that it’s easier for walking around.

Other things to do in Sarajevo including walking up to the Yellow Bastion for a view over the city and visiting the old Olympic Stadium that’s overgrown and beautiful now. And if you are visiting in the winter, there’s plenty of winter sports to choose from. Soon to come will be my guide to 48 hours in Sarajevo so keep an eye out or hop on my mailing list to be the first to know!

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Konjic

Konjic is a stunning small mountain town. It’s the perfect place to base yourself when you are wanting to go hiking and see more of the natural side of the country. It’s a really sweet town but there isn’t much to do unless you are planning to hike and be outdoors. The countryside in Bosnia and Herzegovina is perfect though so I’m sure you’ll want to do some of that.

If you want to go river rafting, staying for a night in Konjic will allow you to have an awesome trip!

Srebrenica

Srebrenica is a small mountain town in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it had the biggest massacre during the war of 1995. Now the city is full of memorials and memories of what happened there.

This quote is from Remembering Srebrenica, a website put together to help you learn more about the stories of the people who lost their lives and were affected here as well as allows you to make a donation and support the cause.

“The name Srebrenica has become synonymous with those dark days in July 1995 when, in the first ever United Nations declared safe area, thousands of men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves. The victims, predominantly Muslim, were selected for death on the basis of their identity. This was the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.

The Srebrenica genocide was the planned, systematic, and industrialised conclusion of a four year campaign of forced deportation, torture, mass murder and systematic sexual violence by Bosnian Serb forces in service of their goal to create a “Greater Serbia”.”

If you want to go to Srebrenica, I recommend that you go with a tour so that you can learn about what happened there and throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Visegrad

Visegrad is a town in the Eastern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s famous for the bridge that’s also a Unesco World Heritage site. The bridge is from the time of the Ottomon Occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and it’s stunning. Besides the bridge, the old town of Visegrad is heavily influenced by the Austro-Hungarian period.

Pocitelj

Pocitelj is a beautiful small village that you should go visit as a day trip. You don’t need to stay overnight there. It has a beautiful fortress above the city that you can hike up too. There is also lots of fresh pomegranate juice that you should definitely try while you are there.

Blagaj Tekke

Historic Sufi Monastery that’s been built into the cliff side. It’s absolutely beautiful and tranquil. Going to Blagaj Tekke is extremely easy from Mostar as it’s not very far away. Once you are there, it’s great to have a coffee on the river. You can also take a small boat into this cave next to the Monastery.

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Visoko

Alright… when I researched Visoko I found out about the Bosnian Pyramids that have apparently been around for more than 12,000 years. I thought it sounded like the coolest thing we might see this year. Turns out the whole thing is a hoax. I know… I should’ve known that unknown pyramids in Bosnia can’t be real. But still, there I was looking up bus tickets to get us to Visoko for a day trip among the pyramids.

Sam Osmanagich is the man behind the myth. He’s a Bosnian who’s been living in Houston Texas for the last 10 or so years. He claims that many archeologists came with him to Bosnia to prove that the pyramids were real when in fact, all of those archaeologists said that they’ve never even been to Bosnia, let alone these so called pyramids.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed. I’m sure Visoko is still a lovely place to visit but without the thrill of pyramids, I was left underwhelmed.

Eating a Vegan Diet in Bosnia and Herzegovina

I was really worried before coming here that I wasn’t going to have anything to eat. The diet here is extremely meat based but I was surprised by the number of vegan options within the grocery stores. It was always simple to buy hummus, pastas and even vegan spreads to cook your own meals at home.

Eating out with a Vegan Diet in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a little harder. Here’s what I ate whenever I went out:

  • Salad (which is really just onion, tomatoes and cucumbers)
  • Vegetable platter (without the cheese and egg)
  • Bread with onions
  • Bosnian Coffee with small Turkish delights
  • Falafel
  • Vegetable Pot (make sure you let them know to leave off the pastry)
  • Veggie Pizza (without cheese)
  • Dark Chocolate Gelato and Fruity Sorbets
  • French Fries

While Mostar was more difficult, Sarajevo actually had lots of great vegan options. My favorite place to eat in Sarajevo was Klopa. The ingredients are all fresh and local and the food is cooked very well. They have several options and if you let them know you don’t eat Dairy, they will leave off the cheese and sour cream for you.

Another option is Ministry of Ćejf. It’s a cafe that has soy and almond milk as well as vegan cakes from time to time. All in all, I found it pretty easy to keep up a vegan diet while traveling through Bosnia and Herzegovina, as long as you have an apartment or hostel you can occasionally make meals in.

If you don’t follow a vegan diet, you can find a list of traditional Bosnian foods to try here. If you’d like to learn about a vegan diet and what traveling is like, let me know!

Safety

Bosnia and Herzegovina felt extremely safe to travel in. I never felt worried about myself or my belongings. Of course, as with any major cities, you should keep an eye on your bag and keep nothing in your pockets for fear of pickpockets. However, my experience in Bosnia was very good. I would highly recommend it as a place you can travel solo.

The Bosnian people were some of the friendliest, kindest and most welcoming people that I have met. I fell in love with all of them. Even the waiters, taxi drivers and store sales people looked forward to meeting and talking with you.

Accomodation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

We chose to mainly stay in Airbnb’s while we were traveling. It made it easier to make sure we could always have a kitchen and workspace and it made sense since we were 3 people traveling together. Our Airbnb Hosts were all incredible and I’d highly recommend using it while you are here. You get $55 free when you sign up here.

However, at times we weren’t able to find Airbnb’s in the cities that we wanted to visit so we found other apartments on Booking.com. There’s also loads of cute hotels and hostels that you can stay at depending on your budget and your needs. Find a place to stay here.

Cost of traveling Bosnia and Herzegovina

The currency in Bosnia is the Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark. Everyone calls it a Mark so when you go out to eat something might be 1 Marks. Currently 1 BAM equals $0.57 USD and 0.51 Euro. It makes it really simple to know how much money you are spending without always having to check.

🏨 Double room: $30 a night

🏨 Hostel Dorm: $10 a night

🍛 Lunch / Dinner: $5-8

🥭 Fruit snacks: $.60 bunch of bananas

🚰 Drinking water: $0.50 for 1.5L

🚗 Public Transportation (buses throughout the country): $7 a trip

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