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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Europe Bosnia and Herzegovina



Orthodox Cathedral, Sarajevo

Orthodox Cathedral, Sarajevo

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

The attractions of Bosnia and Herzegovina have certainly been shrouded by the brutal conflict which raged here in the early half of the nineties. But while caution should still be exercised if travelling here, the smoke of the war is slowly rising, revealing a nation whose recent history is set against a background of hundreds of years of cross-cultural heritage. The country's name comes from the two regions Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have a very vaguely defined border between them. Bosnia occupies the northern areas which are roughly four fifths of the entire country, while Herzegovina occupies the rest in the south part of the country. Home to Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Jews and the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a melting pot of traditions. While the various religious groups may never be able to restore complete trust in each other, violent conflict between them has thankfully subsided, paving the way for tourists to trickle back into the region.



Brief History

Bosnia has been inhabited at least since Neolithic times. In the late Bronze Age, the Neolithic population was replaced by more warlike Indo-European tribes known as the Illyres or Illyrians. Conflict between the Illyrians and Romans started in 229 BC, but Rome wouldn't complete its annexation of the region until 9 AD. In the Roman period, Latin-speaking settlers from all over the Roman empire settled among the Illyrians and Roman soldiers were encouraged to retire in the region. Christianity had already arrived in the region by the end of the 1st century, and numerous artifacts and objects from the time testify to this. Following events from the years 337 and 395 when the Empire split, Dalmatia and Pannonia were included in the Western Roman Empire. By the 6th century, Emperor Justinian had re-conquered the area for the Byzantine Empire.

Modern knowledge of the political situation in the west Balkans during the Early Middle Ages is patchy and confusing. Upon their arrival, the Slavs brought with them a tribal social structure which probably fell apart and gave way to Feudalism only with Frankish penetration into the region in the late ninth century. It was also around this time that the South Slavs were Christianized. The Ottoman conquest of Bosnia marked a new era in the country's history and introduced drastic changes in the political and cultural landscape of the region. The Ottoman era lasted from 1463 until 1878. From that year until 1918 it was part of the Austria-Hungary empire.

Following the First World War, Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the South Slav kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (soon renamed Yugoslavia). Following a period that saw attempts at appeasement, the signing of the Tripartite Treaty, and a coup d'état, Yugoslavia was finally invaded by Germany on 6 April 1941. Once the kingdom of Yugoslavia was conquered by Nazi forces in World War II, all of Bosnia was ceded to the Independent State of Croatia. Starting in 1941, Yugoslav communists under the leadership of the Croatian Josip Broz Tito organized their own multi-ethnic resistance group, the Partisans, who fought against both Axis and Chetnik forces. On 25 November 1943 the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia with Tito at its helm held a founding conference in Jajce where Bosnia and Herzegovina was reestablished as a republic within the Yugoslavian federation in its Habsburg borders. Until 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of socialist Yugoslavia.
A declaration of Bosnia and Herzegovina sovereignty in October 1991 was followed by a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia in February and March 1992 boycotted by the great majority of the Serbs. The Bosnian war that followed lasted from 1992 until 1995. During the genocide, 200,000 people were killed.
Nowadays, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still partly recovering, but is looking bravely into the future as a relatively stable nation.




Bosnia is located in the western Balkans, bordering Croatia (932 kilometres)) to the north and southwest, Serbia (302 kilometres) to the east, and Montenegro (225 kilometres) to the southeast. It lies between latitudes 42° and 46° N, and longitudes 15° and 20° E. The country is mostly mountainous, encompassing the central Dinaric Alps. The northeastern parts reach into the Pannonian basin, while in the south it borders the Adriatic. Dinaric Alps generally run in east-west direction, and get higher towards the south. The highest point of the country is peak Maglić at 2,386 metres, at the Montenegrin border. Major mountains include Kozara, Grmeč, Vlašić, Čvrsnica, Prenj, Romanija, Jahorina, Bjelašnica and Treskavica.

Overall, close to 50% of Bosnia and Herzegovina is forested. Most forest areas are in central, eastern and western parts of Bosnia. Herzegovina has drier Mediterranean climate, with dominant karst topography. Northern Bosnia (Posavina) contains very fertile agricultural land along the river Sava and the corresponding area is heavily farmed. This farmland is a part of the Parapannonian Plain stretching into neighboring Croatia and Serbia. The country has only 20 kilometres of coastline, around the town of Neum in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton. Although the city is surrounded by Croatian peninsulas, by the international law, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a right of passage to the outer sea. The Sava is the largest river of the country, but it only forms its northern natural border with Croatia. It drains 76%[63] of the country's territory into the Danube and the Black Sea.




Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into two primary regions: Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This division was established in 1995 as part of the Dayton peace agreement, and reflects the country's split ethnic and religious demographic. Whereas the Republika Srpska's population is primarily Serbian, Muslim/Croats are the dominant group in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There is also a third, smaller, division: the Brcko District. It is located in the northeast and is separate from both of the other main regions.

A more "traveller-friendly" division of the country based on traditional regions.

  • Bosanska Krajina - northwest of the country "hugged" by Croatia
  • Central Bosnia
  • Herzegovina - south of country, traditionally inhabited by Croats mostly
  • Northeastern Bosnia
  • Posavina - along the Sava River
  • Sarajevo Region - the capital and its environs




  • Sarajevo - the capital; a cosmopolitan European city with a unique Eastern twist as can be seen in its vast diversity of architectural styles
  • Mostar - nice old town on Neretva River, symbolized by its medieval bridge
  • Medjugorje - inland town between mountains with a mild Mediterranean climate, but perhaps best known due to claims of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six locals.
  • Zenica - city with an Ottoman old quarter
  • Jajce - a small city with a beautiful waterfall and number of historical attractions dotted around its center
  • Banja Luka - the second largest city, serving as the capital of Republika Srpska, with some historical sights and a rich nightlife
  • Bihac - city on Croatian border, surrounded by an impressive nature
  • Neum - The place you have to drive through on your way south to Dubrovnik
  • Teslic - а health spa resort with the biggest tourist capacity in the country
  • Trebinje
  • Travnik - a small city with a fortress and historical buildings.
  • Tuzla - third largest city with much industry, though has a lovely old town and monuments to the brutal war too
  • Foča
  • Fojnica - near the Franciscan monastery, the heart of Bosnian Catholicism



Sights and Activities

Mostar Bridge

Mostar, Old Bridge

Mostar, Old Bridge

© All Rights Reserved AAY

Old Bridge (Stari Most) is the key attraction in Mostar. Built in 1566 while the area was under Ottoman rule, Stari Most was considered a symbol of the friendship between the diverse nations and ethnicities inhabiting the area. Understood in this context, it's not hard to see why its restoration after the Bosnian War was considered an important task. The bridge that is there today was built according to the original design. Mostar and its bridge are placed on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge

Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge is a historic bridge in Visegrad that crosses the Drina River in the eastern part of the country. The bridge was built by the Ottoman court in 1577 by the architect Sinan. It is considered one of the highest examples of Ottoman architecture and civil engineering. The bridge is 179.5 metres long with 11 arches that are 11 to 15 metres each. The bridge was damaged during both World Wars but was quickly restored afterwards. Sadly in 1992 the bridge was the location of the brutal Višegrad massacre when 1661 Bosniaks were killed by Serbian forces. Today the bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bjelašnica Mountain

Bjelašnica Mountain is in the central part of the country and is directly southwest of Sarajevo. During the summer this mountain is a popular place to go hiking while in the winter it is a popular downhill skiing mountain. The Bjelašnica Ski Area has several nice runs and a large area above the tree line, which is ideal for fans of bald peak skiing. The mountain is 2067 metres high and is a day trip from Sarajevo. There is a accommodation on the mountain for people thinking of spending the night.

Other Sights And Activities

  • Monument to the Battle of Sutjeska - Visit this stunning monument in eastern Bosnia.
  • Ramsko Lake - Take in the beauty of this mountain lake and its wonderful islands.
  • Doboj Fortress - Check out this 14th century hilltop fortress in Doboj.
  • Vlašić mountain - A stunning mountain in the central part of the country with a good ski area.



Events and Festivals

International Sarajevo Winter Festival

This festival began in 1984 and has since grown to become one of the most anticipated events in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Often held in the month of February, art exhibits from different parts of the world compete for the highest title possible, the Sestoaprilska Negarda Sarajeva.

Banja Luka Choir Gathering

Held during April or May, this annual gathering has a series of programs that features some of the most angelic voices in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kid’s Festival

If you are planning a family vacation, try your best to catch the Kid’s Festival, which is held during June. It is a great way to get children acquainted with the different types of art and to keep them entertained with workshops and fun. Performances feature jugglers, dancers and magicians.

Bascarsija Nights

One of the most popular cultural events in Sarajevo, the month-long festival of Bascarsija Nights features some 40 to 50 different events that honor the rich culture of Bosnia. It is marked by different children’s programs, literary events, film showings, classical music, and even opera and ballet.

Summer on the Vrabas

Every year in July, this traditional celebration offers a unique mix of athletic competitions and cultural programs. It is held near Kastel Fortress and attracts athletes and artists who are eager to share their skills and display their abilities through presentations, racing and many other activities.

Sarajevo Film Festival

The Sarajevo Fim festival is held annually in August. Long and short regional films from a wide variety of genres are shown (some for free). It also serves as a huge venue for artists from all over the world to meet and share their passion for the arts.

Banja Luka Summer Games

Held in August, the Summer Games draw crowds from all over the world and Bosnia. Just like Summer on the Vrabas, this event takes place around the historic town of Kastel.

Jazzfest Sarajevo

Held in November, Jazzfest Sarajevo is the best place to enjoy Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rich music scene. The city’s café culture is at its liveliest.




Bosnia and Herzegovina has a continental climate with warm summers and cold winters. Temperatures in summer are well above 25 °C during the day, while winter nights can drop below -10 °C in large parts of the country. Rain (and snow in winter) falls evenly throughout the year. June and September are good months to travel around, avoiding cold or hot weather and crowds as well.



Getting There

By Plane

Sarajevo International Airport (SJJ) is located a few kilometres to the southwest of the city. There are good connections within Europe offered by B&H Airlines to Amsterdam, Belgrade, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Istanbul, Stockholm, Vienna and Zürich, Austrian Airlines to Viena, Adria Airways to Ljubljana, Croatia Airlines to Zagreb, Germanwings to Cologne/Bonn, JAT Airways to Belgrade, Lufthansa to Munich, Malév Hungarian Airlines to Budapest, andTurkish Airlines to Istanbul. There are also seasonal flights to Antalya, Bodrum, Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh, Monastir, Jeddah, Medina (latter two both during Hajj).

There are no public transport links directly from the airport making taxis the most convenient option. Taxi fares are regulated and should adhere to the following rates: [2]

  • Flagfall: 2 KM
  • Per km: 1 KM
  • Per piece of luggage: 2 KM
  • Waiting time: 10 KM per hour.

The rate is increased by 30% during the night (10:00pm - 05:00am) and on Sundays and holidays.

An option to save some money is to catch a taxi to the nearby tram terminus at Ilidza and then catch a tram from there into the city.

By Train

There are two daily trains running from Sarajevo to Zagreb (10 hours), the capital of Croatia, and onwards to the rest of Europe. Trains also operate from Sarajevo heading towards Mostar and the Adriatic Sea terminating in Ploče in Croatia. Services operate a few times daily, are relatively empty and provide possibly the most stunning rail journey in all of Bosnia!

A train now leaves Budapest (Keleti station) daily at 9:30am, arriving in Sarajevo at 9:39pm via Osijek in Croatia. The return train departs at 7:14am every morning for Budapest, arriving at Keleti station at 7:03pm.

A direct train from Belgrade to Sarajevo is in operation, taking 9 hours and passing through a small sliver of Croatia.

By Car

Bosnia and Herzegovina is becoming more and more popular with travellers also visiting Croatia. It's easy to take your own car or rental car across the borders. You need an international driving permit and a green card (insurance).

By Bus

Buses link quite a few place in Bosnia and Herzegovina with neighbouring countries and further away. For the latter, check Eurolines.
Međugorje, Mostar, Sarajevo and Bihać have bus connections with Split and Dubrovnik on the coast of Croatia, and Zagreb. Sarajevo and Banja Luka have services to Belgrade and Podgorica in Serbia and Montenegro respectively.



Getting Around

By Plane

B&H Airlines has flights between Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka.

By Train

Train services are limited, although Sarajevo and Mostar have decent connections. It is also one of the most stunning train trips, with great views.

By Car

The road network in Bosnia and Herzegovina is improving and almost all roads are tarred. You can rent cars at the international airports or in major towns. Traffic drives on the right and you need an international driving permit to rent a car. Note that it is advised to stick to the main routes, as the risk of mines is still present.

By Bus

Several bus companies offer services throughout the country, the main connections terminating and originating in Sarajevo. The main routes go to Banja Luka and Mostar but many other towns are served as well, by bus or minibus.



Red Tape

Citizens of the following countries don't need a visa to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Vatican City.

For more information about visas and who needs them, check the Governmental website or go to the nearest embassy or consulate.




See also: Money Matters

The Convertible Mark (ISO code: BAM) is the currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition to singular and plural, Bosnians and Herzegovinans use an additional paucal form (two to four units) for the currency. The singular of the currency is known locally as marka, paucal (two to four) is marke, and plural (five or more) is maraka. One Convertible Mark is divided into 100 feninga (singular: fening; paucal and plural: feninga).

Banknotes come in 50 feninga; 1 marka; 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 maraka. Coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 feninga, 1 marka, 2 marke, 5 maraka.




The official languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian, all three known as Serbo-Croatian as they are practically the same language. Serbo-Croatian is written in both Latin and in Cyrillic, making it the only Slavic language to officially use both scripts. In the Republika Srpska you'll see signs in Cyrillic, so a Serbian-English dictionary would be helpful there.

Variants among the Serbo-Croatian language differ only in the most academic of venues and also in traditional homes. There are different versions of the language throughout the area and spoken language changes between regions. However, the vocabulary differences are only cosmetic and do not hinder communication between Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

Many Bosnians speak English, as well as German owing to family connections as well tourism in former Yugoslavia before the war. Some older people are also able to speak Russian, as it was taught in schools during the communist era.




The most available food in Sarajevo is Cevapi, the ubiquitous Balkan kebab. Two prominent variations exist - the "Banja Luka" Cevap, a larger kebab with a square shape, and the Sarajevo Cevap, smaller and round. If you have not had them before, every visitor should try an order of Cevapi at least once. There are several variations of pita (around 2 km). A cheap, tasty and readily available snack is "Burek", a pastry made of filo dough and stuffed with meat (simply Burek), cheese (Sirnica), spinach (Zeljanica), potatoes (Krompirusa) or apple (Jabukovaca). Some examples are better than others, however, and it can be a greasy affair. If you get to Mostar, however, try to grab a plate of trout ("pastrmka," which sounds like "pastrami"), which is the local specialty.




In Bosnia and Herzegovina you can choose from a great number of hotels, hostels, motels and pensions. Campsites are not very common.




Popular domestic beers are Nektar (from Banja Luka), Sarajevsko, Preminger (from Bihać, made according to a Czech recipe) and Tuzlansko, while the most common imports are Ozujsko and Karlovačko from Croatia, Jelen from Serbia, and Laško and Union from Slovenia. Like in almost every European country, beer is very common and popular. Even in more heavily Islamic areas alcohol is available in abundance to those who choose to drink and almost every bar is fully stocked.

Like most Slavs Bosnians make 'Rakija' which comes in many a variety and is made both commercially and at home. Red wine is 'Crno vino' (Black wine) and white wine is 'bijelo vino'.

Another popular drinking beverage is Turkish coffee, in Bosnia called Bosnian or domaca (homemade) coffee, which can be bought in every bar, coffee shop or fast food place.




See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. It is also recommended to have a vaccination against tick borne encephalitis when you go hiking and/or camping for 4 weeks or more in the period of March to November.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also: Travel Safety

In general, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very safe country for travellers, with little problems and friendly people. Bosnia experiences very little violent crime. In the old centre of Sarajevo be aware of pickpocketing.

If you plan on traveling off the beaten path in Bosnia, be aware that the nation is still in the process of clearing many of the estimated 5 million land mines left around the countryside during the war of 1992-1995. In rural areas try to stay on paved areas if possible. Never touch any explosive device. Houses and private property were often rigged with mines as their owners fled during the war. If an area or property looks abandoned, stay away from it.



Keep Connected


Most cities and major towns have at least one internet café. Wifi is becoming more and more popular as well, especially in cities like Sarajevo and Mostar. Don't rely on it though, as outside the main tourist areas, there might be few options.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Bosnia and Herzegovina is 387. To make an international call from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the code is 00.

There are three mobile phone networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina: HT ERONET (Mostar), GSMBiH (Sarajevo) and m:tel (Republika Srpska, Banja Luka). You can buy a prepaid SIM card from any network at any kiosk for 10 KM or less. Be careful with roaming charges on your smartphone, as mobile internet when abroad is still extremely expensive.


BH Posta offers postal services in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prices and services are very reasonable and reliable. Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 4:00 or 5:00pm during weekdays and also on Saturday mornings. The main post offices in big cities like Sarajevo might keep longer hours. For sending packages you might consider a private courier like FedEx, TNT, UPS or DHL.



  1. 1 Mid-2006 Estimate. Source: Agency for statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  2. 2 Source: Sarejevo Airport Website Jan 2008

Quick Facts

Bosnia And Herzegovina flag

Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina


Local name
Bosna i Hercegovina
Federal Democratic Republic
Bosnian, Herzegovinian
3 843 000[1]
Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian
Islam, Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic)
Convertible Mark (BAM)
Calling Code
Time Zone
Summer (DST)


as well as Lavafalls (7%), Hien (7%), dr.pepper (3%), Peter (2%), Sam I Am (<1%), vladooo (<1%)

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This is version 45. Last edited at 13:17 on Nov 2, 15 by Utrecht. 38 articles link to this page.

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