Want to travel somewhere a little off the beaten track in Europe? Bosnia & Herzegovina is the place!
The sole reason for booking my trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina was how affordable it was to get there, I had a spare week up my sleeve to go somewhere and I found flights from London to Dubrovnik for £100 return so I booked it! to my surprise it was only another £100 on top of that to hire a care for the week and to make things even more astounding, accomodation in beautiful apartments was on average £20 per night! I LOVE getting value for money and let me tell you, on this trip I was in my element.
How to get there:
You can fly into Sarajevo international airport, Mostar also has an international airport but flights are infequent and therefore expensive. Even flying to Sarajevo which is a more frequented airport is still a little pricey. I suggest doing what I did and flying into Dubrovnik, it's a more popular route so prices are cheaper. Hiring a car from Dubrovnik airport is super quick and simple, I always hire through Sixt as I find them affordable and the service always good - we were on the road within half an hour of landing! The drive from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina will take you through Montenegro which is definitely worth a stop-over if you have the time. We stayed a couple of nights along the coast in Budva, a sleepy place during the day which comes alive at night. There's some stunning beaches to be discovered along Montenegro's coastline, for more info on what to see and do in Montenegro see; Montenegro, worth the trip? The drive from Dubrovnik to Montenegro (Budva) is only 2 hours, and then from Budva to Bosnia & Herzegovina (Mostar) it's 3.5 hours.
Hopefully you take my advice and hire a car! driving is by far the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get around in this part of Europe. There are no highways on the route which means no tolls - yipee! And if you hire a fuel efficient car like we did you won't even need to fill it up. No joke, we literally drove from Croatia - Montenegro - Bosnia & Herzegovina - back to Croatia all on one tank of fuel. And if you do need to fill up, petrol is cheap as chips. If you decide to go down the public transport route you can get buses from place to place, but they are neither cheap nor convenient! For example getting from Budva to Mostar by bus will cost about $30.00 and take 6 - 8 hours. The other option is to go through a private transfer company which will cost roughly €100.00 for the same journey but you can carpool with others to make it cheaper, plus it'll only take 4 hours and will go direct. If you can it's really best to hire a car, the roads are fine to drive on and it gives you the freedom to stop along the way for lunch/coffee. I'm a strong advocate of road trips when travelling! I think it makes for a more meaningful and memorable experience than city hopping.
I have an Australian passport and my partner a UK one, we didn't need a visa to enter Croatia, Montenegro or Bosnia & Herzegovina but people from certain countries might so just check before you go. For Montenegro see; www.visit-montenegro.com For Croatia; www.croatia-expert.com and for Bosia and Herzegovina; www.bhembassy.be The border crossings are quick and easy, you just show your passport and the car's clearance and you'll be on your way!
Where to stay:
Accomodation in Bosnia & Herzegovina is so affordable, you'll get great value for money no matter where you stay. Mostar will be slightly more expensive as it's popular with tourists but it's still very affordable compared to Western Europe. We stayed in a beautiful hotel called 'Villa Park' which was £20.00 per night. Our room had a cute little balcony with a gorgeous view of the river. Definitely choose where to stay based on it's distance to the old town as that's where you're going to want to spend most of your time. We were a 10 minute walk away which was perfect. If you're on a tight budget you can try the 'Guest house Mostar Story' which is £15.00 per night and centrally located too. If you want to splurge a bit I recommend the 'hotel-restaurant Kriva Cuprija' which is a little more luxurious, located in the heart of the old town and at £45.00 per night it's not exactly breaking the bank!
What to expect:
Unfortunately there seems to still be a 'taboo' connected to Bosnia & Herzegovina, many people believe it to be unsafe even though it's been more than 20 years since the war! I assure you, it's perfectly safe. Of course it pays to be smart and take precautions but honestly I felt more unsafe in Paris than I did here! B & H has a strong middle eastern influence so expect to hear the call to prayer resonating through the streets every 6 hours, particularly in Mostar. The call to prayer was a totally new experience for me and i was completely mezmerized! I LOVE that uncomfortable yet exhilerating feeling of being truly out of my depth and experiencing something totally new. The country is seeping with beauty, I must say that the old town in Mostar takes the cake in my opinion but the landscape is breathtaking too, it's very mountainous and unique. I found the locals to be welcoming, friendly, and refreshingly humble which meant I immediately lost a peice of my heart to B & H! nothing charms me more than friendly locals. If you're a history buff you'll love exploring the country's rich history, even if you're not into history you'll find yourself more interested than you think. You'll see streets lined with dilapidated buildings, untouched since being bombed in the war and many buildings still house the scars of bullet holes. It evokes mixed feelings, at least it did for me. It was chilling to be confronted with raw evidence of such a horrific event, you're immediately transported back in time as you imagine the suffering faced by civilians. But it's also uplifting to see that Bosnia and Herzegovina has risen from the dust and moved on, rebuilt, become strong as a country in it's own right. If you don't know much about the break up of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian war I suggest visiting a museum while you're there, the National Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina is in the capital city of Sarajevo and there's a little museum in Mostar I recommend called the 'War Photo Exhibition' it's only €2.00 to enter and very informative. I learnt so much about the conflict during that time, some of which has never been resolved.
Currency and affordability:
Bosnia & Herzogovina has it's own currency, the convertible mark (BAM) but Euro is accepted everywhere. We didn't bother getting any bam, it was totally fine to pay in Euro. Just be aware of the exchange rate so you don't get ripped off! I found traders to be very honest in this respect though, like I said above the people are humble and kind. In terms of affordability everything is really cheap, eating out, drinks, accomodation, taxis etc. To give you a rough idea, we were paying €1.00 for beers!
What to see/do/eat:
- Check out Mostar's old town: I have a special affinity with the old town in Mostar, I don't know what it was but something about it evoked in me an undeniable urge to further explore taboo parts of the world - I absolutely loved it and will always remember my time there fondly. I've been to ALOT of old towns across Europe but this one has a centuries old charm that I've never experienced anywhere else.
- Visit Blagaj: Blagaj is a tiny towrn situated on the Buna river where you can venture inside an old Dervish Monastery that was built in the early 1500's! The monastery is not only of interest due to it's age but also because it rests against the cliff-face making it appear to be part of the mountain. Dress conservatively for your visit, bare legs and/or arms aren't permitted. If you forget sarongs and head scarves are avilable to hire for €1.00 each. Entry is €4.00 per person and there's a beautiful resturant right by the rushing water where you can sit for a coffee and/or lunch.
- Visit Kravice waterfalls: Kravica is an hours drive away from Mostar, if you're doing a loop like we did ie; Dubrovnik - Montenegro - B & H - back to Dubrovnik, it's enroute anyway so definitely take the time to stop and have a swim in the falls. It's a little difficult to find as there aren't many signposts in the area but if you've got a gps you'll be right. Entry is €2.00 per person, don't forget your swimmers! there's a small shop selling refreshments and a picnic area too 🙂
- The Tara Bridge: If you're driving from Montenegro to Bosnia & Herzegovina it's worth going a little out of your way to check out the epic Tara Bridge. At 172 metres high it's one of the worlds biggest bridges!
- Restaurant recommendation: For EXCELLENT food in Mostar at a reasonable price make sure you eat at 'Konoba Taurus' the cuisine is a foodies dream come true! a satisfying mix of mediterranean, BBQ, and eastern european. The main focus is on meat so order anything in the meat family and you'll be well pleased.
- Bosnian dishes you MUST try: Sarma - meat and rice rolled in cabbage leaves, yum! Begova Corba (Bey's stew) - a delicious soup made of meat and vegetables. Burek - A savoury pastry which is usually filled with meat but comes in other varieties ie; spinach and cheese, it's rolled in a spiral and chopped for eating. Bosnians know how to make a killer mousakka too. You'll find the cuisine is very meat focused which was heaven on earth to this little Aussie!
- Visit at least one Museum: As mentioned above.
- Check out Sarajevo, the country's capital: I didn't do this simply because we didn't have the time. I've read mixed things about it, some say it's not worth the trip and others say it definitely is! I never make an assesment on a place unless i've been there myself but if you've got the time, why not! I imagine it's even more rich in history than Mostar.
I hope you enjoy this unique and perspective changing country as much as i did! As always, you can comment and ask me anything, I'm always happy to help x
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