If you want an affordable Mediterranean destination with everything from medieval villages to craggy alpine mountains and gritty-but-beautiful cities, Bosnia & Herzegovina is the place for you.
Often overlooked because the country’s name is still synonymous with the Yugoslavian War of the 1990s, Bosnia & Herzegovina deserves your attention, and my goal with this travel guide is to spark your desire to visit.
Not a lot of people backpack or travel through the country but it is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty.
Three major religions (Islam, Roman Catholic, and Serbian Orthodox) all come together in this small area to form a vibrant blend of cultures. You’ll hear the Muslim call to prayer over the minarets one minute, and church bells ringing from a nearby church the next.
Watch skilled divers jump from the iconic bridge in Mostar, or enjoy some hookah at one of Sarajevo’s sidewalk cafes, take a dip in the turquoise pools below the cascading Kravica Falls, or raft down the Tara Canyon, the deepest canyon in Europe. Bosnia & Herzegovina may be small but there’s a lot to do here.
The country (especially the capital) has become more popular in recent years thanks to increasing tourism in the region and cheaper prices but you can still catch it before the big crowds come!
This travel guide to Bosnia & Herzegovina will help point the way by giving you tips on what to see, costs, suggested budgets, and ways to save money.
Table of Contents
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Bosnia & Herzegovina
1. Visit Sarajevo
2. Check out Mostar
3. Visit the Pliva lakes
4. Marvel at the Kravica Waterfall
5. Explore Trebinje
Other Things to See and Do in Bosnia & Herzegovina
1. Ostrožac Fortress
This Gothic castle in the Una Valley is one of Bosnia’s most photogenic landmarks thanks to its brick torrents and stone wall running along the valley’s edge. Ostrožac has plenty to explore within its grounds, including a sculpture garden, ramparts, towers, and a manor house dating back to 1286. You can visit the castle during the summer (it’s only open then). Admission is 2 BAM ($1.50 USD).
2. Walk the Tunnel of Hope
Surrounded by Bosnian-Serb forces, Sarajevo had just one link with the outside world from 1992–1995: an 800-meter long, 1-meter wide, 1.6-meter high tunnel connecting two houses on opposite sides of the airport runway. Eventually, the tunnel was equipped with rails to transport food and supplies. You can walk through part of the tunnel from the house on the western entrance while learning about the story of the siege through informational displays and video. It’s an incredibly moving experience. The tunnel is open from 9am-4pm daily and admission is 10 BAM ($6 USD).
3. Visit the National Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina
The National Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina in Sarajevo houses the Sarajevo Haggadah illuminated manuscript, which contains the illustrated text of the Passover Haggadah that goes with the Passover Seder. It’s one of the oldest Haggadah in the world, dating from 1350 and originating in Barcelona. In addition to Greek pottery and Roman mosaics, this museum is also home to a collection of ste?ci (medieval tombstones found scattered around the country). They started appearing in the 12th century for various Christian churches like the Bosnian Church, and most of them are inscribed with the extinct Bosnian Cyrillic alphabet. Entrance to the museum is 8 BAM ($5 USD).
4. See Kajtaz House
Kajtaz House in Mostar was once the harem (women’s) area of a large 16th-century homestead built for a Turkish judge. This well-preserved house looks a lot like it did during its heyday, with much of its original furniture and decoration intact, including colorfully embroidered seat cushions and rugs. The family still officially owns it.. To visit Kajtaz House, you will need to take a tour, which costs 4 BAM ($2.50 USD). It’s only open daily from April to October between 9am-6pm.
5. See the Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge
Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge was built in Višegrad, in 1571 and was designed by Mimar Sinan, the famous chief architect for the Ottoman Empire. He was the master builder behind both the Sehzade Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, and this 11-arch bridge is the only confirmed work he completed in Bosnia & Herzegovina. It stretches 179 meters across the Drina River, and although it’s now closed to traffic, you can still appreciate this perfectly symmetrical beauty from land.
6. See the watermills of Jajce
Jajce is known as the “city of falling water” thanks to its giant waterfall that connects the rivers Pliva and Vrbas. During the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918), the small wooden huts standing on stilts over the gushing water used to ground local farmers’ wheat into flour. The huts are genius because instead of using one large water wheel, they aggregate the water power. You can’t go inside, but you can see the huts up close.
7. Take a tour of Tito’s Bunker
On the bank of the river Neretva, just outside of Konjic and hidden behind a seemingly normal house, the once-forgotten bunker was built under the command of the Yugoslav revolutionary Josip Tito. It was kept secret for many years — even the construction workers were blindfolded until they arrived on site. The bunker costs billions of dollars to build and is now home to a contemporary art biennial called D-0 ARK Underground. You can only visit as a part of a guided tour with Visit Konjic, which costs from 22 BAM ($13 USD).
8. See the Bosnian Pyramids
Located near Visoko, the Bosnian Pyramids are a set of four pyramids dating back to 12,000 years ago that have perfect cardinal alignment, some reaching to heights of 220 meters. While most of the scientific community has debunked the theory that an ancient civilization built these structures, it’s a pretty amazing coincidence that they’re so aligned with the north. There are no official tours, so you’re free to explore on your own.
9. Visit Galerija 11/07/95
One of the most tragic events of the Yugoslavian War was the Srebrenica massacre, the largest genocide since WWII carried out by Bosnian Serb forces. With 8,372 victims, the gallery stands as a memorial to those that lost their life while also sharing survivor stories. It’s a powerful exhibition made up of photography, video footage, and audio testimonies. Admission is 7 BAM ($12 USD). An audio guide costs 3 BAM ($1.70 USD) and a tour is 4 BAM ($2.30 USD).
10. Go whitewater rafting
Whitewater rafting on the Tara River Canyon, the deepest canyon in Europe, is one of the most exciting things to do in the country as you tackle rapids and fast-flowing water. Other than navigating 15 miles (25 kilometers) of white water, your guide will take you to waterfalls, springs, and swimming holes. I recommend Rafting Center Drina Tara. Their full-day tour costs 49 BAM ($28 USD) and ends with a delicious traditional dinner of homemade goat pies, soup, grilled lamb, and drinks.
Bosnia & Herzegovina Travel Costs
Accommodation – Hostel dorms start at around 17 BAM ($10 USD) per night for an 8-10 bed dorm while a bed in a 4-6 person dorm will cost closer to 26 BAM ($15 USD).
For a private room, expect to pay at least 44-61 BAM ($25-35 USD) per night for a twin private (for two people).
Budget hotels in the bigger cities (like Mostar and Sarajevo) will cost around 61 BAM ($35 USD) per night for a double or twin. In the more rural areas, you’ll find rooms for as low as 35 BAM ($20 USD).
Airbnb is another affordable option, with shared accommodation (like a dorm) starting at 17 BAM ($10 USD) per night. For a private room, expect to pay about 94 BAM ($45 USD) per night, while a full home or apartment averages about 105 BAM ($60 USD) per night.
For anyone traveling with a tent, wild camping on public land is legal in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Additionally, there are campsites available throughout the country. Tent plots cost about 10.50 BAM ($6 USD) per person.
Food – Traditional food in Bosnia & Herzegovina is very cheap and filling (and meat-heavy). You can get plates of cevapi (a pita filled with cream and sausage), or burek (a flaky pastry with meat, cheese, and spinach) for about 7 BAM ($4 USD).
A meal at a mid-range restaurant will cost about 15 BAM ($9 USD) for an entree, and you can expect to pay about 2.50 BAM ($1.50 USD) for a beer. Dinner at a fancy restaurant (including Western restaurants) will cost about 35 BAM ($20 USD) for an appetizer, main, and dessert.
For comparison, fast-food like McDonald’s is about 7 BAM ($4 USD).
If you are planning to cook your own food, a week’s worth of groceries shouldn’t cost more than 61 BAM ($35 USD) for the staples like meat, cheese, bread, and veggies.
Backpacking Bosnia & Herzegovina Suggested Budgets
If you are backpacking Bosnia & Herzegovina, my suggested budget is about 78 BAM ($45 USD) per day. This is assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, eating local meals, cooking some of your meals, visiting a few attractions, and using local transportation. You can lower this if you’re camping.
A mid-range budget of about 140 BAM ($80 USD) will cover staying in a budget two-star hotel or private room at an Airbnb, eating out for all your meals (including nicer restaurants or non-local food), and more guided tours and activities.
For a luxury budget of about 288 BAM ($165 USD) per day, you will stay in a four-star hotel, eat out for all your meals, enjoy lots of drinks, and take all the tours you desire. The sky is the limit here at that price.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Bosnia & Herzegovina Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Bosnia & Herzegovina, like most of the region, is really budget friendly, especially if you’re backpacking around. You’ll be able to eat, drink, and stay in comfortable accommodations without breaking the bank too much. However, I always love saving money when I can so here are my tips on saving money when you visit Bosnia & Herzegovina:
- Do a free walking tour – Both Sarajevo and Mostar have free walking tours available. They’re a great way to get familiar with the city and the culture. (Be sure to tip!)
- Wild camp – If you really want to save money in Bosnia & Herzegovina, bring your tent. You can pitch your tent on public land throughout Bosnia & Herzegovina.
- Cook your own meals – Many hostels here include kitchen facilities, so if you want to save money cook, your own meals.
- Stay with a local – Staying with a local via Couchsurfing is a great way to not only save money but to meet a knowledgeable local.
- Walk everywhere – All of the major cities in Bosnia & Herzegovina are walkable, so skip the public transportation if you want to save a few extra dollars.
- Enjoy the free spaces – There are plenty of free parks as well as many free hiking trails around the country. Save your budget and enjoy the outdoors!
- Drink the tap water – Tap water within the cities is safe to drink, but not in the rural areas. Pick up a LifeStraw (a water bottle with a purifier) so you can cut down on your use of plastic bottles.
- Have an ISIC Card – To save 20-50% on the cost of admission to museums and other tourist attractions, be sure to present a valid student card. The ISIC is typically accepted in places where a foreign student ID is not.
Where To Stay in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Like many other countries in this part of Europe, Bosnia & Herzegovina only has hostel accommodation in the cities. In the smaller less popular areas, you will find B&B style accommodation or campsites. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Bosnia & Herzegovina:
How to Get Around Bosnia & Herzegovina
Public Transportation – Most and towns in Bosnia & Herzegovina are walkable, including Sarajevo. Otherwise, prices will vary by city. You can expect to pay around 1.60 BAM ($1 USD) for a one-way ticket on buses, trams, or trolleybuses.
If you need to take a taxi, prices start at about 1.50 BAM ($0.90 USD) and cost about 1 BAM ($0.60 USD) for every additional kilometer.
Bus – The main form of transportation in Bosnia & Herzegovina is by bus. There is an extensive network of long-distance intercity and international buses. Between towns, it’s normally easy enough to wave down any bus. Reservations are sometimes necessary for overnight routes or at peak holiday times. The biggest companies include:
A bus from Sarajevo to Mostar takes 2.5 hours and costs from 10.50 BAM ($6 USD), while Sarajevo to Trebinje takes nearly 10 hours and is about 47 BAM ($27 USD). Mostar to Jajce is a 4.5-hour journey and costs about 26 BAM ($15 USD). Try to book a day in advance when possible as seats do fill up quickly in the summer season.
It is worth noting that if you buy a round trip with the same company, you can save yourself up to 60% compared to buying two single tickets. You do need to make sure you travel back with the same company, though, or you will need to pay again. Also if you need to put luggage in the hold, they will often charge you an additional 2-4 BAM ($1.20-2.25 USD).
Trains – Trains do operate in Bosnia & Herzegovina, however, they are outdated and extremely slow. I do not recommend using them.
Budget Airlines – No budget airlines are offering domestic flights within Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in Bosnia & Herzegovina is generally safe, but it’s not for everyone and you should use caution in the region. HitchWiki is the best website for hitchhiking info.
When to Go to Bosnia & Herzegovina
In general, May through to October is the best time to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina as these are the warmest months. The temperature averages about 87°F (31°C) daily and rarely drops below 62°F (17°C).
On the other hand, unlike other Mediterranean countries, Bosnia & Herzegovina doesn’t have a whole lot of coastal area to enjoy. If you’re here mostly for hiking or sightseeing, the cooler spring/fall temperatures might suit you better. Winters here can harsh, and they often last from November to March. Temperatures often drop below freezing, and snowfall is common.
Even in the summer months, Bosnia & Herzegovina doesn’t get a ton of tourism traffic. A lot of people will take a day trip to Mostar from Croatia, but you don’t have to worry too much about overcrowding in the rest of the country.
How to Stay Safe in Bosnia & Herzegovina
In Bosnia & Herzegovina, scams and pick-pocketing are the most common danger you’ll face in on public transport and in the cities, especially around high traffic areas in Sarajevo. Always guard your stuff and only take the cash you need for the day.
You can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid in this blog post.
Moreover, hikers need to be aware of unexploded landmines. Although you will be safe in the highly populated areas if you want to go hiking, it’s essential you stick to marked trails only. This is a big problem so stick to the trails!
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out.
Remember, if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it in Bosnia & Herzegovina!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Bosnia & Herzegovina Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Bosnia & Herzegovina. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all bookers.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- STA Travel – A good company for those under 30 or for students, STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that help you save on attractions.
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Bosnia & Herzegovina Gear and Packing Guide
In this section, I’ll give you my suggestion for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack for your trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The Best Backpack for Bosnia & Herzegovina
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something smaller or different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for more tips and tricks on how to pick a backpack – as well as more pack suggestions!
What to Pack for Bosnia & Herzegovina
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 6 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 8 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (a water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Bosnia & Herzegovina Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
If you’re going to read one book about the siege of Sarajevo, make it this one. It follows the story of three people trying to survive in the city — including the cellist, who one day witnesses a shell landing in a bread line, killing 22 people. He sits in the hollow where the bomb fell and plays his cello each day for the victims. Then there’s Kenan, who takes a weekly walk to scrounge up supplies for his family, and Arrow, the woman sniper asked to protect the cellist. It’s a beautiful and haunting read, and you won’t forget it.
The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return, by Kenan Trebincevic
In 1992 the Bosnian war broke out which included a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign that saw Muslim Bosnians fleeing for their lives or being sent to concentration camps. This poignant memoir follows the story of a young Bosnian boy, Kenan, whose family we forced to flee for being Muslim. His Dad and brother were both imprisoned in one of the camps before they were all able to reach the safety of the United States. Two decades later Kenan returned to his homeland to confront the people who betrayed him and his family. It is a moving story of healing trauma and forgiveness which brings a human element to the war.
Bosnia: A Short History, by Noel Malcolm What happened to cause a religious war in a country where Christians and Muslims had lived side by side in peace for over five centuries? This book offers the most compact and comprehensive history of Bosnia that will help you to put the war and the turbulent years that followed into context. He clears up myths and misunderstandings that have clouded the understanding of Bosnia’s past, while bringing to light the true causes of the country’s destruction. In this book Malcolm puts the Bosnian war into perspective in an accessible way to that it can be understood by anyone interested in it (not just history professors!).
Mother Tongue: A Saga of Three Generations of Balkan Women, by Tania Romanov
If you are traveling to Croatia or anywhere in the Balkans this is a must read book! It follows the lives of three generations of women?Katarina, Zora, and Tania?over a 100 year period as they live their lives in exile, refugee camps, and strange new worlds. They travel through the countries that dissolved, formed, and then reformed. Through the rule of the Fascists, Nazis, and nationalists. Lives lived in exile, in refugee camps, in new worlds. It makes these places and difficult times come to life. The story is about identity within the context of history. The author was born in just one place, but over the years her birth place has changed many times as the country she was born in has changed it’s identity. The story is framed as a journey to her parents’ hometown in what is now Croatia.
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to Bosnia & Herzegovina
This book shows you how to easily collect and redeem travel points so you can get free airfare and accommodation.
Kristin Addis writes our solo female travel column and her detailed guide gives specific advice and tips for women travelers.
Get the definitive guide to backpacking Europe! Learn more about what to do, what to see, where to go, stay, eat, and how to save money.
My best-selling book will teach how to master the art of travel so that you’ll save money and have a more local, richer travel experience.
Bosnia & Herzegovina Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Bosnia & Herzegovina and continue planning your trip:
Photo credits: 5