This small country was our second pick for applying the UK work visa. We knew it would take a lot of time so this would be the last "cheap" place we had. While waiting we had a lot of free time to explore Bosnia (and the Herzegovina part as well!). Apart from the natural beauty, we saw remnants of war almost everywhere, but in Sarajevo it was the most sad and shocking.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Capital: Sarajevo

Population: 3.5 millions

Language: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian (they're all super similar)

Currency: Convertible Mark (1 BAM = 90¢ NZ)

Region: Balkans, Europe

Province: Republika Srpska, Brcko & 10 Cantons (visited 6)

Random Fact: Croatia is split into two piece by a 20km coastal strip of Bosnia in the south

Bosnia and Herzegovina scored ★★★☆☆

Important Pointers

People & Culture (PC)

  • The three groups of people living here (Serbs, Croatian, and Bosniak) generally don't integrate well together. It is unfortunate that religion contributed to the division amongst the people as well.
  • Memories of war is still very fresh so everyone has a story to share about their experience. Without going to any museum we learned a lot from walking the streets of Sarajevo.
  • A mixing pot of food culture, from the Turkish Ottoman period to the Yugoslavian communist era, you can find food from European and Turkish origin. Famous local dish is Cevapi.

Bullet holes seen in a hotel near Sarajevo


Infrastructure, Safety and Politics (ISP)

  • Parts of the highway are very narrow without shoulders making some road extremely unpleasant to cycle. We had many close passes by trucks and cars which felt awful everytime.
  • When we were in the Republika Srbska region, people were very insistent on saying they were from Republika Srbska - never Bosnia and Herzegovina which is the official name of their country.
  • Cycle lanes are fairly developed in the cities, we really appreciate them because the city traffic can be hectic.
  • Everyone appreciated the opportunity to speak English with us. We were pleasantly surprised everytime we could use English in store.
  • Sim card from BH was easy to buy and use. Not the cheapest we had on this trip but we're in Europe now. We got "Tourist 2" for 40 Mark, 30 days, 30 GB data.
  • We joined their first ever Pride amid many security concerns and political opposition. The country still has a long way to go with LGBT rights.

We attended the first Pride which went smoothly

Very little shoulder space for cycling

Landscape & Nature (LAN)

  • Very green country. Great to see lush green mountains and clean blue rivers.
  • Although there were mountains everywhere, we would grade the climbs as medium difficulty but still offering great views.
  • The canyon between Jablanica and Mostar is accessible on a beautiful stretch of tunnels and highway. It was very much like the Queenstown road in New Zealand.
  • We visited an area around Jajce which had numerous waterfalls and watermills built on top of them.
  • Most cities have a river running through and it is a major attraction with iconic bridges. Unfortunately plastic rubbish is littered in the waterway and no one is bothered to reduce the pollution.

Waterfall in Jajce

River running through Sarajevo

Watermills scattered over the Pliva river

Value for Money (VM)

  • Still very cheap for European standards - the Balkans are great for budget travellers.
  • We did a lot of baking in Sarajevo which was much cheaper than buying countless snacks from the stores.
  • Restaurant meals in the tourist spots (like Old Town in Sarajevo) was not that expensive, roughly NZ$10-15.
  • There's plenty of fruit trees grown in the southern region (like figs) which was a cheap (and free!) way we ate fruit.

Freshly picked figs

Camping & Outdoor Living (COL)

  • It was easy to freedom camp as long as weren't disturbing anyone. We didn't encounter any problems with the locals during our time in the tent.
  • Plenty of place to have picnic and enjoy the wilderness. There were many clean rivers to have a swim in but it was too cold for us to dip in.
  • There's plenty of established campsite around the country. They get a lot of European visitors on their campervan and motorbikes so the infrastructure for camping is very good.

Camping near Lukomir

Freedom camping in the Igman mountains

Return for a Retour?

We would definitely visit Bosnia and Herzegovina again, but not by cycling as we didn't feel safe riding there. There's many hiking opportunities here so that is something to add to our bucket list!

As of writing, we are midway through Europe now

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