Bosnia and Herzegovina travel guide
About Bosnia and Herzegovina
After the tragedy of the Yugoslav wars that ravaged the Balkan region in the 1990s, Bosnia-Herzegovina has begun to emerge from that torrid time as a compelling, multi-faceted travel destination. Most notable amongst the country’s many charms is its lush, mountainous landscape, best seen from the vantage point of one of its national parks.
Bosnia-Herzegovina still bears the legacy of war, having a fractured infrastructure and parts of its countryside still fraught with mines. It remains one of Europe’s poorest countries and some areas of its most afflicted cities have still to be rebuilt.
However, there are plenty of positives to take from the country’s urban centres, especially the cosmopolitan capital of Sarajevo. With its rich history and lively nightlife, the diverse city has become one of Europe’s most curious, unique capitals. The old town is divided between the evocative Ottoman quarter of historic mosques, little streets filled with cafes and craft workshops, and the trendy Austria-Hungarian quarter built during the late 19th century – truly a case of east meets west.
Sarajevo also has several museums explaining its history, while climbing the steep hills rewards you with a stirring view of the city. One oddity is the colossal bobsleigh track from the 1984 Winter Olympics that runs through the forests of Trebevic mountain; it was destroyed during the Siege of Sarajevo in 1990s and is now a canvas for local street artists.
Beyond Sarajevo, much of the country is relatively undeveloped, but there are several historic fortresses to see, no shortage of splendid old mosques, and a number of monasteries and Catholic shrines. The second city (at least by reputation), Mostar is also increasingly popular with tourists. Perhaps above all else, it is the city’s 16th century Ottoman bridge that symbolises both the past and a positive new beginning for the country. Destroyed during the war, it has since been painstakingly reconstructed, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
51,129 sq km (19,741 sq miles).
3,798,672 (UN estimate 2016).
75.6 per sq km.
Federal democratic republic.
President Bakir Izetbegović since 2016.
Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić since 2015.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are in use.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The level of crime is generally low, and crime against foreigners is particularly low, but you should beware of pickpockets on public transport, and in the tourist and pedestrian areas of Sarajevo and other cities. Be vigilant and make sure personal belongings including your passports are secure. Excessive displays of wealth, including large quantities of cash or jewellery and luxury vehicles can make you a target for opportunist thieves. Make sure your vehicle is locked and your belongings are out of sight. Take particular care in areas popular with foreign tourists. There have been a number of recent incidents of foreigners being the target of robberies and vehicle break-ins on Trebevic, the mountain closest to Sarajevo.
Report all incidents of crime to the local police station and get a written report. Local police don’t always have English language skills and you may need the services of a translator.
Landmines and other unexploded ordnance remain from the 1992-95 war. Highly populated areas and major routes are clear of mines and are safe to visit, but you should take special care near to the former lines of conflict. Although roads themselves may be clear on major routes, there are many landmines close to the edge of roads. Don’t stray from roads and paved areas without an experienced guide. Unless you have an experienced guide, you should avoid the open countryside and especially destroyed or abandoned buildings, neglected land, un-tarred roads, woods and orchards, private property and abandoned villages. Abandoned buildings, even in towns and cities may be booby trapped with mines. For further information, check the Mine Action Centre website.
English is not widely spoken, but getting around is not difficult. Local rail, bus and tram services are generally reliable if sometimes slow. Official taxis in Sarajevo and the major towns are well-regulated, metered and generally safe to use. Taxi drivers from the Republika Srpska might be unwilling to drive to a destination in the Federation, and vice versa. Don’t use unlicensed taxis.
It is obligatory to have your Drivers’ Licence with you at all times when driving in/through Bosnia and Herzegovina. A UK driving licence is valid as long as you’re driving your own vehicle or a car hired outside of Bosnia. If you’re renting or using someone else’s vehicle within the country, an International Driving Permit is required. It should be obtained in the UK prior to travel.
You need valid insurance to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina in a vehicle. If you don’t have the correct insurance, you’ll need to buy border insurance when you enter the country. The border police should be able to direct you to the insurance company office at the border crossing. Euros are accepted, but credit card payment is not always possible.
You can’t buy border insurance at all border crossings. The border police advise travellers to use the recently upgraded crossings at: Bijaca, Crveni Grm (south), Zubci (south-east), Karakaj and Raca (east), Samac (north-east), Kamensko and Izacici (west).
You can’t buy border insurance at the Neum border crossing. If you’re entering Bosnia and Herzegovina via Neum, you should be able to buy insurance at the Doljani border crossing.
Make sure you have original vehicle registration and ownership papers with you as border guards, customs or the insurance company may want to see them.
Contact the Bosnia and Herzegovina Embassy in London if you have more detailed questions about bringing a vehicle in to the country. The British Embassy won’t be able to help if you don’t have the correct documentation on arrival at the border.
Take care when travelling outside the main towns and cities, especially in winter when road conditions can worsen quickly.
Between 15 November and 15 April you are legally required to use winter equipment on your vehicle. This means:
- all tyres must have an MS, M+S or M&S mark and a stylised symbol of a snowflake; the tread should be at least 4 mm deep
- snow chains should be carried as their use is compulsory in winter conditions or if the relevant sign is displayed
You must drive with dipped headlamps at all times, not just after dark. Apart from the outskirts of Sarajevo there are no dual carriageways in the country. Take great care when driving at night as many roads are badly lit or have no lighting at all. Avoid long-distance travel at night. Take care when overtaking and when approaching traffic lights as local drivers have a habit of braking suddenly when traffic lights change to amber. If you are involved in an accident, stay at the scene until the police arrive. The police may breathalyse those involved. Traffic police can impose on the spot fines for any traffic offence.
Sarajevo (Butmir) International airport is prone to fog from October to March and particularly during December and January. If you are travelling into or out of Sarajevo during winter, make sure you have enough money if you are forced to extend your stay, as many airlines won’t take responsibility for accommodation due to delays caused by adverse weather.
There are occasional protests in major towns and cities. These are normally peaceful but can cause disruption to traffic and limit access to public buildings. Keep up to date with developments, be vigilant and avoid all protests.
There is a small risk of isolated violence linked to the return of displaced persons or the arrest of war crimes suspects. This can occur without any warning anywhere in the country.