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.
Last updated: 12 December 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.
Around 9,000 British nationals visit Bosnia and Herzegovina every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
If you are travelling by road, check local information before setting off.
For information on weather conditions, see meteoalarm pages for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Unexploded landmines remain a real danger, particularly in isolated areas in the mountains and countryside.
Flooding and landslides in previous years have moved minefields and destroyed some of the minefield markings. For latest updates on mines see the Mine Action Centre website.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The level of crime against foreigners is generally low, but you should beware of pickpockets in cities and on public transport, and take particular care in areas known to be popular with tourists.
You can contact the emergency services by calling 122 (police), 123 (fire) or 124 (ambulance).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) doesn’t cover Bosnia and Herzegovina. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance, including cover for evacuation by air ambulance, before you travel.
Safety and security
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.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
On 18 November 2015, a gunman shot and killed 2 Bosnian soldiers and wounded another in a betting shop in the Rajlovac area of Sarajevo, north-west of the main centre. As he left the betting shop, the gunman also opened fire on a public bus injuring 3 passengers. The Bosnian authorities have classified the attack as terrorism.
The Bosnian government is treating an attack by a gunman on 27 April 2015 at a police station in Zvornik in which 1 police officer was killed and 2 others injured as a terrorist incident.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Carry your passport with you at all times. You must be able to show some form of identification if required, including when checking into hotels. For more information, please see the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina website.
There are no laws against same-sex sexual relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but LGBT issues are more tolerated than accepted. Public displays of affection are likely to be frowned upon and attract unwelcome attention. You should exercise discretion. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals don’t need a visa to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina for a total period of no longer than 90 days within a period of 6 months following your first entry. For all other types of travel, contact the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in London.
Make sure your passport is stamped when you enter the country. If you don’t receive a stamp, the Border Police may fine you when you leave.
Your passport should be in good condition and valid for a minimum period of 90 days from the date of your exit from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All foreign nationals must register with the police within 72 hours of arrival. Hotels and registered hostels will usually arrange this for their guests.
British citizens who wish to remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina for longer than 90 days must apply to the Border Police for a Residency Permit. As well as a valid passport, the Border Police require a British Police document showing that you have no criminal record in the United Kingdom. The British Embassy isn’t able to issue such a document. Contact your local police authority in the United Kingdom before you travel.
Travelling with children
Children under 18 years of age who are not Bosnian nationals and who are travelling unaccompanied or accompanied by an adult person other than their parents must carry a notarised letter from their parents giving permission for the child to travel. The name of the accompanying adult must be clearly stated. If the child is accompanied by one parent, particularly if the parent has a different surname to the child’s, the accompanying parent should carry a notarised letter from the other parent giving permission to travel. For further information contact the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in London.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical and dental facilities, particularly outside Sarajevo and major towns are limited.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Your insurance should also include cover for evacuation by air ambulance. EHIC doesn’t cover Bosnia and Herzegovina.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 124 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Earthquakes and small tremors are recorded throughout the year, usually without consequences. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Forest fires are common in Herzegovina (the southern part of the country) during summer heat waves, mostly occurring in inaccessible areas. Fires are normally kept under control, but if they get close to populated areas, road closures are possible.
Flash floods and landslides remain a risk in all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina after heavy rain. In such cases, follow the instructions and guidance provided by local officials and traffic police.
Most transactions in Bosnia and Herzegovina are in cash. The local currency is the Bosnian Mark. Cashing travellers’ cheques is possible at some banks. ATMs are available in the larger cities. Credit and debit cards may be accepted outside Sarajevo, but you should make sure you have enough cash with you when travelling outside major cities.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.