Everything you need to know before you visit Bosnia
I’ve created this complete Bosnia and Herzegovina travel guide with all the information you need to visit Bosnia for the first time.
The former Yugoslavian republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is so incredibly beautiful. Nestled between Croatia and Serbia, it has a massive multicultural population of every religion and race of people in Europe. Its landscape is scenic, which craggy mountains, lush valleys, and thick forests.
Read next: The Ultimate Balkan Travel Guide
Bosnia is so diverse. Think pretty waterfalls, medieval fortresses and the nicest people in the whole world. There’s also a massive coffee culture here, and the warm people of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be more than happy to share a cup with you.
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Budget: $10-20 (Private room)
Food (For One)
Street food: $1-5
Super nice restaurant: $25+
Top cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The capital city of Sarajevo has been described as the Jerusalem of Europe. A place where East and West come together and all the subcultures of Eastern Europe blend into one dynamic city. The Old Town has an authentic feel unlike any other I’ve seen, and it’s a definite must-see. It has remained pretty much the same since the 15th century.
Mostar is famous for its 16h century Ottoman bridge, named Stari Most. This quaint Bosnian town is covered in beautiful street art and has some of the most dramatic and gorgeous buildings in the country, including the beautiful Koski Mehmed Pasa Mosque. I took this photo from its minaret.
A cathedral, a few mosques, a monastery, a lake and a theatre. Tuza, the third largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a cultural hub of arts and religion. And its Old Town looks like the child of Turkey and Austria, mixing Germanic and Ottoman architecture together.
You’ll find Trebinje in the heart of the wine country. It’s a hillside down at the edge of a valley, with a picturesque river running alongside it. If you think that all sounds like something out of a fairy tale, you wouldn’t be wrong. Trebinje is such a romantic town.
This ancient medieval town hides a lot of beautiful secrets, including the stunning Pliva Falls – a huge waterfall in the heart of the city. There’s also the 14th century Jajce Fortress, the underground catacombs, and a nearby lake. There’s a lot to discover and love in this town!
This whole area is all about mountains, rivers, valleys, and forests. So, you’ll see a lot of outdoor sports here. If you love hiking and rafting, or have ever wanted to give rafting a go, this is definitely the place to visit! Konjic is on the way from Sarajevo to Mostar, so you can make a stop on the way if you’re headed in either direction.
This idyllic little town, surrounded by thick forests, is defined by the river it sits beside: the Drina. The town’s 16th century bridge spans the river, and from the town you can take a stunning cruise down the water for the afternoon: a great way to take in the landscape.
Ivo Andric, Nobel Prize-winning author who made Visegard a world-famous town, grew up in Travnik. And you can see a museum dedicated to his life and works here. The town also has a castle and several stunning mosques to explore and get to know. Travnik is about an hour’s drive from Jajce, so it’s a great idea to combine the two on a day trip from Sarajevo.
Read next: 7 most beautiful places in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Perhaps the most beautiful town in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pocitelj is a medieval town of stone architecture carved into the side of a hill. Its tiny population and its close proximity to the Croatian border mean it’s a very relaxing and lovely place to visit. You’ll also pass Pocilelj from Sarajevo to Mostar, just look out for the fortress on a hill. It’s pretty close to Mostar.
What to Pack for Traveling Bosnia and Herzegovina
Since the best time to visit is before the real summer heat hits in July, it’s best to pack for a warm early summer. That means sunscreen, light clothes, and sunglasses. Also, you’ll be walking a lot, so you’ll absolutely need a good pair of walking shoes that will keep you comfortable during your miles of exploring the stunning scenery.
Also remember to pack your camera – you’ll be using it a lot! I’ve made a more detailed packing list for the Balkans that will equip you for the trip ahead!
Bosnia and Herzegovina Travel Information
The currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina has a slightly odd name: it’s called the ‘Convertible Mark’. The name comes from German, back when Germany had the Deutschmark. It’s exchange rate is strong, though! So that’s very good news.
One Convertible Mark is about 0.60USD or 0.45GBP. So you can kind of think of every two Convertible Marks being roughly one dollar or one pound. It’s not exact but looking at exchange this way can be the best way to avoid a headache! Bosnia isn’t currently in the EU, but it wants to be. If it does join, it might take the Euro, but for now we’ve got the Convertible Marka and its catchy name!
Although it’s not in the EU, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still in Europe and so it uses the European plug. That’s a two-pronged plug of two round pegs at a voltage of 230V. That makes things easy for anyone coming from anywhere else in Europe (or South Korea). You can just bring your own electronics. But if you’re coming from the US, UK, Canada, or Australia, make sure to bring a universal travel adapter that you can use anywhere in the world!
Since Bosnia and Herzegovina is a potential future member of the EU, it has the same visa rules as the Schengen Area. That means anyone from an EU country, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, etc. can enter the country without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. Countries that need to apply for a visa are mostly those from Africa and the Middle East.
Is Bosnia Safe?
Yes. In the towns and cities, you’re not going to meet any unsavoury people. It’s a very hospitable country and you’re going to have a lovely time meeting so many friendly people from so many different religious and cultural backgrounds. It’s a real community-focussed nation. Food is also safe to eat, organic, and cheap! Driving a car is pretty stress-free as well, so don’t feel nervous if you’re tempted to rent one. Just go for it!
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There’s only one potential danger, and it’s quite dramatic: landmines. During the war in the ‘90s, landmines were placed across the mountains and valleys, and there’s a danger that some of them may remain. However, there are warning signs in any danger zones, and it’s not likely you’ll go anywhere near them during your travels. Stick to the hiking routes and you’ll be fine.
Essential Bosnian Phrases
Bosnian is a Slavic language, so when you’re picking up a few phrases, you may notice similarities with Croatian and Serbian, which makes it easy if you’re traveling there as well! You don’t need to learn Bosnian to survive a holiday there, but learning a few key phrases will make you feel more comfortable and welcome as you explore the country. Here are a few you can memorise:
- Hello – Zdravo
- Good morning – Dobro jutro
- Goodbye – Zbogom
- I don’t understand – Ne razumijem
- Excuse me – Oprosti
- Sorry – Oprostite
- Please – Molim
- Thank you – Hvala
- How much is this? – Koliko kosta ovo?
- Cheers! – Živjeli!
How to Get Around in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Rent a Car
The roads in Bosnia and Herzegovina are very relaxed. The people are pretty chill on the roads, so you don’t need to worry about erratic drivers so much. The views from the roads, as you drive from town to town, are pretty spectacular. Seeing it all from the car as you carve your own path across the landscape is a great choice!
The best way to rent a car in Bosnia and Herzegovina is with either Sixt and RentalCars. Both of them offer great rental deals and offer you the option to book ahead and pick up your car when you’re ready (which is what I recommend. Always book in advance).
If you don’t drive or you’d rather not rent a car, taking the bus is actually the most common, cheap, and simple way to get around the country. I recommend this over taking the train because the trains are super slow in Bosnia. They don’t get you where you want to go any faster than the buses. They’re also more expensive. So, save some money and travel like a local on the bus!
Best things to do in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Explore the Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum
This one-of-a-kind museum in Sarajevo preserves a hand-dug tunnel which was used to save lives during the siege from Serbia in the ‘90s. Two tunnels were dug to meet one another underground and funnel people and supplies beneath the city while it was occupied. Today you can visit these tunnels, perfectly preserved.
Cross the Stari Most Bridge in Mostar
Stari Most is the old Ottoman bridge in Mostar. You can walk the bridge over the river and take photos from above, or get below the bridge and get a great shot from below. It’s one of the best things to see in the country, and a must-visit piece of ancient art!
Visit the Old Watermills of Jajce
This is a unique and little-known part of the old world of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When you visit Jajce, a city of waterfalls and castles, take a trip downstream to Pliva Lakes. Here, you’ll find a collection of huts which used to work as watermills years ago. They’re a fascinating piece of history you won’t see anywhere else.
See the Sarajevo Roses
What sounds at first like something natural and beautiful is in fact something dark and unnatural, but very worth seeing. The Sarajevo Roses are red spots marked on the ground all over the city. They are where explosive shells hit the ground, killing over 300 people during the Serbian siege in the ‘90s. The red paint, which looks like a rose, marks and honours those who died on those spots. Haunting but worth seeing.Bosnia travels
Enjoy the Famous Bosnian Coffee
Many cultures, such as Vietnam and Italy, have their own styles and traditions of brewing coffee. Bosnia and Herzegovina is no different. The coffee here is baked, ground up, heated in a pot, and mixed with hot water. It’s delicious and must be tried if you’re a coffee lover.
Go Wine Tasting in Trebinje
As I’ve mentioned, Trebinje is wine country. It’s a wonderful area worth exploring, and it’s where the amazing regional wine all comes from. Here you can visit the vineyards and go wine tasting to try it for yourself. Bosnia travels
Dive into Vjetrenica Cave
A UNESCO World Heritage site for good reason. This enormous labyrinth of a cave is massive. You can take a guided tour through the best parts of the cave to see the hidden underground for yourself. Bosnia travels
Europe’s Best River Rafting
Visit the Neretva and Tara rivers to try out some white water rafting for yourself. People come from all over the world for the amazing rafting opportunities along these rivers.Bosnia travels
Explore Mostar’s Abandoned Sniper Tower
Mostar has a few chilling abandoned buildings, but this is the coolest one. It used to be a bank, but during the Serbian siege it became a sniper tower. Now it’s abandoned, but you can still explore it.
Swim at the Kravice Waterfalls
The Kravice Waterfalls are so, so pretty. You can get to them most easily from Mostar, so if you stay there, the falls are a must-see attraction. The falls are surrounded by dense forest and you can go swimming in the central pool, or even take a boat trip!
Best Bosnian Food
Bosnian food has been majorly influenced by Greece, the Middle East, and its neighbouring Balkan nations. You’ll see some similarities in the spices they use, the kinds of bread and sweets, and the popular meats. But most of their dishes are unique to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and so many of them are absolutely delicious!
Here are a few that you have to try when you visit. Which won’t be hard because they’re all local favourites, found in any small family restaurant. Bosnia travels
Cevapi: These are sausage-looking kebabs made from lamb. Very similar to Middle Eastern shish kebab. They’re usually eaten with onion, pita bread and sour cream.
Dolma: A kind of stew popular across the Balkans, but the best version is found in Bosnia and Herzaegovina. It mixes courgettes, aubergines, peppers, and various meats with rice and a garlic sauce. It’s so moreish and a great meal to have in the winter months (or any time, to be honest). Bosnia travels
Baklava: You may have heard of this one. Sheets upon sheets of filo pastry make a kind of cake mixed with nuts and honey. It’s fresh, sweet, soft, and indulgent. A fantastic dessert to wash down a hearty meal with!
Begova Corba: Similar to the soups found in England and Germany, this is a thick broth made from chicken and various garden veggies. It’s simple and delicious, usually served with a bread you can dip into it to make it all soggy and lovely.
Burek: Very similar to the pies and pasties found in the UK and Germany, this is a light and fluffy meat pie filled with beef, cheese, and spinach or lots of other delicious options. It’s served with sour creme. A hearty lunch, indeed!
When to Visit Bosnia
As a Balkan country in South-Eastern Europe, Bosnia gets nice and warm for much of the year. That said, its mountains also get very, very snowy – ideal for skiing! So it really depends on what you’re into. Bosnia travels
Read next: 10 tips for visiting Kravice Waterfalls, Bosnia’s paradise
From April to June, or September to October, the weather is just right. You’ll be out before/after the real painful summer heat arrives, but you’ll still have plenty of sun to warm your walks. If you want to Ski, then head to the mountains in January or February and you’ll be met with deep, deep snow and lots of your fellow ski-lovers. The main goal here is to avoid the sweltering heat, the rain, and the chill. Bosnia travels
Where to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Many of the hotels in Sarajevo and Mostar proudly show off a modern art style with bright whites and angular designs. They’re reasonably priced, as are most things in this lovely country. So even people who ordinarily travel on more of a budget can afford to splurge on some of these hotels. Here are a few of the best ones.Bosnia travels
Malak Regency Hotel (Sarajevo) – Perhaps the most glamorous and glitzy hotel in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Malak Regency Hotel features an indoor pool that literally glows with refined beauty. Its rooms are spacious, with fluffy beds and huge TVs. There’s also a sauna and a fitness centre. Click here to get the latest prices.
Apartment Vatra (Sarajevo) – Located in the centre, just 10 minutes walk from the Old Town. The apartment is really spacious and super neat with flat screens in every room and such a nice owner and neighbour. Click here to get the latest prices.
Hotel Eden (Mostar) – This gorgeous hotel has a swimming pool and spa, and it’s located only 150 metres from the popular Stari Most bridge. Your room has all the space and luxury you’d expect from a 4-star hotel. Click here to get the latest prices.
Muslibegovic House (Mostar) – That house on the photo below? That’s Muslibegovic, a traditional Ottoman house from the 17th-century. It’s super cool and furnished with items from that period. This is a very unique place to stay! Click here to get the latest prices.
Bosnia Travel Tours
There’s a lot of things to do in Bosnia and Herzegovina. You can absolutely do them all alone, with a car or by bus. But if you want to get the most out of your trip, wring every town dry and learn the most from your travels, definitely consider taking a tour.
Read next: 12 things to do in Sarajevo
If you book a tour of Mostar, Sarajevo, or any of the other towns or regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, do it with Meet Bosnia. These guys will make sure that they provides everything you want to see, do, and learn in one single tour. They’re a fantastic tour company to choose if you’re thinking about taking a tour.
Books to Read on your Holidays in Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina have gone through so many dramatic shifts in power, politics, religion, and culture in just the last fifty years alone. It’s worth reading about the country’s people, politics, and history. Here are a few great books that will help you on your travels to gorgeous Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia travels
Lonely Planet Western Balkans – This essential travel guide covers much of the Balkans, and so not only is it useful for this trip, but any you take to the other wild and rugged nations in this beautiful part of Europe.
Logavina street This book shows how life was during the besieged city of Sarajevo. It focuses on residents of one street in the centre of the city – Logavina.
The Fall of Yugoslavia – To truly understand the state of the Balkan countries today, you need to understand what Yugoslavia was, how it came about, and how it fell at the beginning of the ‘90s. This book will teach and give you a whole new perspective on the people and their now-peaceful countries.
Get more tips about Bosnia
- 10 tips for visiting Kravice Waterfalls
- 10 legendary things to do in Mostar
- 7 most beautiful places in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 12 things to do in Sarajevo