Bosnia and Herzegovina’s unique cultural background and complex history makes it a wonderful country to visit. There’s a lot to love about its interesting cities and its stunning landscapes. But there are some useful things you should know before visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina that will make your trip a whole lot easier.
It’s not two different places
The full name of the country is Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they’re not two divided places. Instead they’re two regions of one unified country. Bosnia is the country’s northern region, which includes capital city Sarajevo, and Herzegovina is the southern region with Mostar as its unofficial capital.
People smoke indoors everywhere
One of the hardest things to get used to in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the smoking. 70%-80% of locals smoke and they smoke in restaurants, malls, train stations, etc. – everywhere but hospitals. It’s uncommon to find restaurants that are non-smoking or have a non-smoking section. So if you’re irritated by smoke, you should mentally prepare for that.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a primarily Muslim nation, but you probably wouldn’t know it
Since being introduced to the religion in the 15th and 16th centuries, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a primarily Muslim country with over half its citizens identifying as Muslims. There are mosques absolutely everywhere though you may not hear the call to prayer because they only play it within 100 meters of the mosques out of respect for other religions. If you’ve never seen a blond and blue-eyed Muslim, you probably will in Bosnia and Herzegovina and you wouldn’t be able to tell.
Tourist season will heavily affect your visit to Mostar
Mostar is Herzegovina’s crown jewel and a beautiful place to learn about the history of the country’s wars and culture. However, it’s largely considered a summer destination. Peaking in the warm winter months, the city becomes overrun with tourists and loses a bit of its character. On the other hand, going off-season means a lot of things will be closed. The best time to visit Mostar is late spring or early fall when the crowds aren’t so heavy but everything is open for business.
It’s the land of pomegranates
Pomegranates are the most widely grown fruit in the country. You’ll see fresh pomegranates and pomegranate juice being sold everywhere in the country. But best of all, there are so many trees, that you can just pick one off a tree yourself and have as a snack while you explore the country. It’s one of the most unique and special experiences you can have when visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Many places don’t take credit cards
Though affordable, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not credit card-friendly. Outside of major hotel chains and touristy restaurants, you won’t find many possibilities to pay by credit card. Some tourist sites like national parks and mosques only accept cash as well. Banks and ATMs are everywhere, so make sure you always have cash on hand.
You don’t have to wait around for the bill
When you sit down to eat or have a drink, you’ll that servers typically bring you a small printout of your check right away. If you order something else, they’ll print up an additional bill. It’s not customary for servers to come to your table to pay. When you’re ready, you can get up and take your bills to the cash drawer where you can settle your tab.
It’s worth it to venture outside of the cities
Like most Balkan countries, much of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s beauty can be found outside the major cities. The country is full of rivers and cascading waterfalls, of which the well-known Kravice Waterfalls is just one good example. Waterfalls can also be found cascading down in the middle of small towns like Jajce in Central Bosnia. If you like mountains or winter sports, the mountains around Sarajevo were the site of the 1984 Olympics, making them worth a stop on your travels.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history is quite complex
Traveling often allows us to learn about the history of the place we’re visiting. But Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history is very much part of its present. Aside from the fact that war in the country is very recent, the groups of people who were responsible for sparking conflict in Bosnia – Serbs and Croats – still make up to two-thirds of the population of the country. So it’s a good idea to listen before you speak, because you never know who you’re talking to or what their perspective is on the war.
Everyone is warm and friendly
No matter their ethnic or religious affiliation, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are welcoming and kind to visitors. They have a quirky sense of a humor and are more than willing to go out of their way to help you with anything you might need. If you want to enjoy some fantastic hospitality, you’ll love visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina.