Situated proudly in Southeastern Europe, upon the Balkan Peninsula, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country that may appear unfrequented by tourists but the truth is that its attractions have bolstered its desirability significantly in the last few years. Harbouring just over 3.5 million inhabitants and stretching upon an area of 51,197 square kilometres, it has access to the Adriatic Sea, a component of the mighty Mediterranean, via the town of Neum (even though it is only a 20-kilometre-long coastline). So, without further ado, let us hop into the strengths and weaknesses of the mother-country of Sarajevo (the capital city) – here are the top six things that you should be aware of prior to travelling there!
It is no secret that the driving on the Balkan Peninsula is as terrible as it can get. This rule directly translates itself upon Bosnia and Herzegovina as well and the rough terrain only adds to the problem. Impatience is quite probably the most widespread plague amongst drivers there and you should not be surprised if you find a few waving and shouting locals. Sometimes these drivers will be so caught up in their own lives that they will not realise that you are a tourist and unaware of the local environment. Your best bet is to stay away from them and try not to incite a fiery verbal duel (wink). Oh, and as you might have guessed by now, renting a car in Bosnia and Herzegovina may not be as profitable as the public transportation system (if you know what we mean).
2. The shadow of the past:
As you may know, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended in 1995 and its ravages are still visible today. Though much has been cleaned up since then, you can still see bullet holes in certain walls and derelict buildings and factories littering the outskirts of the country. While this may not affect you in any way, the landmines that are still buried here and there might. Always be sure to talk to the locals before you meander off the beaten path as you never know when you might step upon lurking death. While this is unfortunate for all the campers out there, it is better to be safe than sorry. In order to make the locals understand what you are talking about, make sure that you pronounce the word “mine” in the following fashion: “mee-ne”.
Even though Eastern Europe is the most notorious for its ridiculously low prices, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not far behind – in fact, it might even be cheaper. Housing is cheap and the meals that you can get for just a few dollars are beyond stellar (the local cuisine is renowned for its refined quality). Just imagine a lunch for two for 10 USD or less and there you have Bosnia and Herzegovina! Cabs (and other means of public transport) are also affordable and they can take you on intercity rides as well if you agree upon a price prior to the trip.
Since the prices are so low in Bosnia and Herzegovina, tipping has become an important cornerstone in the local culture. There is no public service in the country that does not accept tips and you will find that doing it goes a very long way. Restaurant staff should be tipped 5-10% of the bill, regardless whether it contains a service fee or not for it will directly affect future experiences. Cab drivers usually accept rounded-up bills but leaving a little extra can make you a permanent friend (wink). Room cleaners in hotels should also be tipped around 0.5-1 USD a night and you will see that it will increase the quality of the service gradually or even instantaneously. The bottom line, thus, is: tip, tip, and don’t forget to tip (triple wink)!
5. Language barriers:
Before you dive deeper into the local culture, you must come to understand it – so knowing that the official languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. In spite of that, countless locals will engage in conversations with you in perfect English because both the younger and the older generation have studied it in school. The former group speaks English a little bit better, though, so that would be your best bet. Oh, and they might also be versed in French or German. In spite of the good language skills of the locals, you might want to get down the basics of the official languages just to appear polite!
6. Natural beauty:
No matter where you might tread upon the Balkan Peninsula, you are going to realise that the local environment is simply fabulous. Large and dense forests, winding rivers, crumbling crags and mountainous ridges – all of these can be found in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well. As long as you bring a tent and avoid the possible threat of landmines, you are good to go (wink)!
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Bosnia and Herzegovina and how have they affected your aftertaste of the place? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about it! Safe travels!