Bosnia and Herzegovina

If you plan on traveling off the beaten path in Bosnia, be aware that the nation is still in the process of clearing many of the estimated 1 million land mines left around the countryside during the war of 1992-1995. In rural areas try to stay on paved areas if possible. Never touch any explosive device. Houses and private property were often rigged with mines as their owners fled during the war. If an area or property looks abandoned, stay away from it.

Beside this, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very safe country. Small towns do not face almost any serious crimes, but this is not the case with Sarajevo. Pickpocketing, reckless drivers, thefts and fights are becoming daily news from Sarajevo and some foreigners have been victims, too. Although the chances for you to be affected by this are small, be careful - small crimes have been on rise in recent years and it seems officials are not able to solve this growing problem in Sarajevo. The city is still much safer than many other capital cities in Europe, but reputation "the safest capital in Europe" is very questionable.

WARNING:

All Bosnian employees undergo regular health checks to ensure that they are physically capable to do their jobs and that they will not transmit any disease or injure anyone. People in the food industry are particularly checked and random health and safety checks for the premises are held often. Food providers are held to the highest standards. A Bosnian kitchen is expected to be spotless and food safety is very important.

All tap water in Sarajevo is clean, pure and most definitely safe. However in other parts of Bosnia, especially the Posavina Region and Eastern Bosnia, drinking tap water is highly discouraged as it is the cause of illness. Boiled tap water is still not safe to drink. Most cities in these regions have tap areas especially near hospitals with clearly marked labels reading "Water for drinking". This water is safe to drink as well as bottled water you can buy in shops and from street vendors.

Be aware of the harmful thick smog that blankets cities such as Sarajevo, Zenica, Tuzla, BrĨko and Visoko. If you are an asthmatic or sensitive on the lungs, be sure to wear a medical mask as to avoid illness and wrecking your trip. Air pollution is caused by emissions from industry, motor vehicles and burning of rubbish, which is very common around the country. It is worst during the winter time in Sarajevo when soot covers the basin. It is recommended to escape to the mountains on bad days, and to breathe clean air found above the "smogbank".

If getting a tattoo then ensure that the instruments are sterilised. While this may be a common practice, one should still be careful.

Since the food is very rich, some extra exercise may help

And as above, never walk off dedicated paths in case of land mines.

cope

Smoking is allowed nearly everywhere in the country, and over half the population use tobacco. Therefore, be prepared to endure very smoky restaurants, bars and shopping centers. Even bus drivers often smoke while driving.

talk

The official languages in the Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. In the Republika Srpska you'll see signs in Cyrillic, so a Serbian-English dictionary would be helpful there.

A lot of Bosnians, especially the younger generation will speak English. A surprising number of young people will also know at least some German, because Bosnian kids learn German at school. The older generations tended to have studied English, French or German in school.

Many Bosnians speak excellent English, but these are professionals and none of them work in hotels, restaurants, bus stations, or drive taxis. Stated positively, every day Bosnians will insist upon buying you coffee and cakes while engaging you in long and deep intellectual discussions, in perfect English. You'll need to learn a little Bosnian to buy a snack at a bakery and tell a taxi driver where you're staying, but this is easy enough.

contact

Do be aware that the two entities have their own separate postal services, so stamps bought in the Federation cannot be used in the RS and vice versa.

There are three mobile phone networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina: BH Mobile All of Bosnia and Hercegovina, HT ERONET Mostar and m:tel Republika Srpska, Banja Luka. You can buy a prepaid SIM card from any network at any kiosk for 10 KM or less.

respect

Respect the religious differences of the people in the region and their effort to move past the Yugoslav war. It is important to be careful in areas where there is still tension and to ensure that one does not offend a particular group due to indifference or sheer ignorance.

Similarly, respect the environment. A lot of the country has been saved from pollution and it is important to be careful of one's influences. Moreover, it is equally important to be careful as the rivers tend to be fierce, the mountains and valleys often unguarded and the footing unsure. Always have a tour guide with you or consult a local for advice on the natural dangers and land mines.