Bosnia's steep townscapes are full of stairways and rough streets that can prove very awkward if you have mobility issues. A few places have wheelchair ramps in response to the numbers of war wounded, but smaller hotels won't have lifts and disabled toilets remain rare.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Dangers & Annoyances
Landmines and unexploded ordnance still affect 2% of Bosnia and Hercegovina's land area. BHMAC (www.bhmac.org) removes more every year, with the aim of full clearance by 2019. However, progress was slowed by floods in 2014 which added to the complexity of locating the last mines. For your safety, stick to asphalt/concrete surfaces or well-worn paths in affected areas, and avoid exploring war-damaged buildings.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
Bosnia is encouraging of tourism and has kept red tape to a minimum for foreign visitors.
Most of Bosnia and Hercegovina's customs rules are closely aligned with the EU as part of the preparation for eventual membership.
Visitors are allowed to bring in tax free:
- Up to 200 cigarettes
- 1L of wine or liquor
- One bottle of perfume
In reality you're likely to find such products cheaper to buy once you have arrived.
If you arrive with pets they'll need a vet's certificate and, for most mammals, proof of rabies inoculation.
There are restrictions on exporting certain artworks and antiques.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days.
It's wise to double-check the latest visa requirements by entering your nationality on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (www.mvp.gov.ba). Currently stays of less than 90 days require no visa for citizens of most European and American nations, plus Australia, New Zealand, Israel and several Arab and East Asian countries. If none of the visa-free conditions apply, then check carefully at which specified embassies you are expected to apply (eg that means London or Tripoli for South Africans). Visitors without access to 150KM per day could be refused entry.
Note that you do not need a Bosnia and Hercegovina visa to transit (without stopping) through Neum between Split and Dubrovnik, as long as you have the right to reenter Croatia.
- Shoes It's polite to remove footwear before entering a home (or indeed many hostels and guesthouses).
- Dress If entering a mosque or church, both sexes should cover legs and shoulders. In mosques women should loosely cover their hair with a scarf (usually provided). In a synagogue it's the men who should cover their head. In churches, men should remove their hats.
- Coffee Drinking a cup of coffee with someone is an important preamble before embarking on any important discussion.
- Smoking Considered acceptable almost anywhere.
- Bosnian Politics Despite the horrors of recent history, many locals are keen to talk about the war era and what's happened since, but it's generally better to listen than to opine.
Internet cafes are relatively rare but almost all hotels and most cafes offer free wi-fi. Some towns have free wi-fi hotspots.
- Traffic police mount regular speed checks and can impose spot fines. Speed limits are often remarkably low with relatively rare reminder boards so to avoid trouble, drive with caution.
- While there is a certain subculture, smoking marijuana openly is unwise as possession of even a tiny quantity is considered a serious offence.
- As in most European countries, you are technically obliged to show some sort of ID on demand, so carry a passport or identity card with you.
Although Bosnia decriminalised homosexuality in 1998 (2000 in the Republika Srpska), attitudes remain very conservative and attacks have occurred at queer festivals in the past. LGBTI advocacy organisation Sarajevo Open Centre (www.soc.ba) is active in fighting sexuality-based discrimination. In Sarajevo, the highlight of the queer year is the Merlinka Film Festival (www.merlinka.com) held in January or February. Sarajevo has a weekend-only gay bar, but you won't find any elsewhere.
ATMs accepting Visa and MasterCard are ubiquitous.
- Bosnia and Hercegovina's convertible mark (written KM or BAM) is pronounced kai-em or maraka. It is divided into 100 fenig.
- Despite its name, the convertible mark is not convertible anywhere outside Bosnia and Hercegovina's borders. If you take any home they will just be souvenirs.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Cafes, Bars & Taxis Not required but it's normal to round up the bill and possibly add a bit extra.
- Restaurants Up to 10% in swankier places, but only if you're completely satisfied with the service.
Closing times for many restaurants, cafes and bars depends on custom. In tourist areas such as Mostar, hotels and restaurants may close in the off-season.
Banks 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 1.30pm Saturday.
Bars and clubs Most bars are cafes by day, opening at 8am and closing at 11pm or later. Pubs and clubs open later and, at weekends, might close at 3am.
Office hours Typically 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Restaurants 7am to 10.30pm or until the last customer.
Shops 8am to 6pm daily, many stay open later.
Bosnia and Hercegovina has three parallel postal organisations, each issuing their own stamps.
BH Pošta (www.posta.ba) The main Federation provider.
Hrvatska pošta Mostar (www.post.ba) Operates in Croat areas such as western Mostar.
Pošte Srpske (www.postesrpske.com) Main operator in Republika Srpska.
New Year's Day 1 and 2 January
May Day 1 and 2 May
Additional holidays in the Federation:
Independence Day 1 March
Catholic Easter Sunday March or April (in majority-Croat areas)
Catholic Easter Monday March or April (in majority-Croat areas)
Ramazan Bajram June (in majority-Bosniak areas)
Kurban Bajram August or September (in majority-Bosniak areas)
All Saints Day 1 November (in majority-Croat areas)
Statehood Day 25 November
Catholic Christmas 25 December (in majority-Croat areas)
Additional holidays in the Republika Srpska:
Orthodox Christmas 7 January
Republika Day 9 January
Orthodox New Year 14 January
Orthodox Good Friday March or April
Orthodox Easter Saturday March or April
Orthodox Easter Sunday March or April
Victory Day 9 May
Dayton Agreement Day 21 November
- Smoking Described by one choking expat as Bosnia's Olympic sport, smoking is prevalent indoors and out, and can make nightclubs and underground bars testing for those unfamiliar with being regularly fumigated.
Taxes & Refunds
When shopping, VAT (sales tax) is included in the quoted price, and will be clearly broken down on most electronic cash-register receipts.
Hotels and hostels pay around €1 'tourist tax' per guest per day, the exact rate varying by location. Some places include the tax in quoted rates, many don't, so when comparing rates, double-check whether the tax is included.
Country code 387
International access code 00
Local directory information 1182 (Federation), 1185 (Republika Srpska), 1188 (Hrvatska pošta Mostar)
Buying a SIM card is straightforward and inexpensive, but you'll need a GSM telephone that is not locked to a home network. Using your home number on a roaming contract can prove very expensive. Mobile numbers start with 06.
Like most of Western Europe the time is GMT+1 in winter, GMT+2 during summer. The 24-hour clock is in general use.
- You'll mostly find sit-down toilets.
- Generally free of charge to customers in cafes and restaurants and at many petrol stations.
- M for men, Ž for women.
Most cities have a tourist office, some extremely helpful (Jajce, Višegrad), others less so. In Sarajevo and Mostar, certain commercial travel agencies can prove very useful sources of information, though note that several use the green i sign, leading to potential confusion as to their neutrality.
- Bosnia & Hercegovina Tourism (www.bhtourism.ba) Official nationwide tourism site.
- Republika Srpska Tourist Organisation (www.turizamrs.org) Official site for the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia.
- Hercegovina (www.hercegovina.ba) The Hercegovina-Neretva region's tourism portal.
Travel with Children
While war history and adventure sports loom large on the Bosnian tourism horizon, there's plenty to do with kids as well. Though there's minimal beach, there are waterfalls to swim under and several places with large swimming pool complexes (summer only). Some new shopping malls have play areas and amusement arcades.
Many New Age volunteers head to Visoko to assist with excavations at the Ravne Labyrinth organised through the Pyramid of the Sun Foundation (www.piramidasunca.ba). Young Catholics often assist the elders of their own church groups on the pilgrimage to Apparition Hill at Međugorje.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Bosnia and Hercegovina struggles with high unemployment. Much of the employment that is available is in the 'grey' economy. Unless you have very specific skills, it isn't the easiest place to find well-paid, casual work.
To get a work visa you'll need to have your employer apply for a permit on your behalf through the Ministry of Security (www.msb.gov.ba). If you want to change jobs you'll have to redo the paperwork.