20 May 8 Things you need to know before you travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the last decade or two, the Balkans have become quite a popular tourist location. With the breakup of Yugoslavia, the rich history of the region and the complex cultural landscape has become more available than ever.
Of the countries that one can find in the Balkans, perhaps none is more varied and interesting as Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a history that spans more than a thousand years (even more if you count the pre-Slavic period) and having existed under both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, the country is home to a multitude of different peoples, cultures, and languages, each with their own unique heritage and way of life.
If you are planning to travel to Bosnia, this article will give you the main things you need to know before you do.
1 – The Food is Delicious (and Cheap)
Bosnia is famous for its amazing national dishes, from the rolled meat sticks called Čevapčići to mouth water-inducing sweets such as Baklava. Although most of these foods have origins in the cuisine of other cultures such as those of Greece and Turkey, the Bosnian versions of them always have a unique twist which makes them special.
The best part? The food is super cheap, especially if you are coming from a well-developed Western country.
2 – People Are Friendly and Hospitable
Often considered to be something inherited from the Turkish influences of the Ottoman Empire, the people in Bosnia are amazingly friendly and hospitable, particularly towards foreigners. Do not be shy to ask for directions as they will be readily given.
If you travel to Bosnia and find yourself without a place to stay or are in need of some quick assistance regarding anything, rest assured that someone around will be willing to help you. Of course, be careful about not trusting absolutely everyone and use your better judgment if need be.
3 – Topics About Ethnicity and Nationality Are Sensitive
Barely twenty-five years have passed since the bloody war of 1992 was fought over Bosnian independence. Although culturally varied, the ethnic makeup of the Balkans is far from the American melting pot. It is more of an uneasy web of tolerance which most people take care to respect, but in some cases be the cause for escalations of temper and even violence.
Although the country has been on its way to recovery from these conflicts, it is usually better to keep it safe and remain respectful by not bringing up too many sensitive topics in terms of nationality or ethnicity.
4 – The People Are Curious About Foreigners
The majority of Bosnians have quite the curiosity about the rest of the world. More likely than not they will be interested in learning about where you come from. Being from such a small country, many people from Bosnia have an idea of the rest of the world as an exotic and somewhat mysterious place. Some places are idealized while others are satirized in popular culture.
Nevertheless, wherever you may be from, be prepared to answer a lot of questions about your own country of origin.
5 – Bosnians Generally Have a Negative View of Their Own Country
In contrast to how they view the rest of the world, most of the Bosnian people are tragically disenchanted with Bosnia itself. The high unemployment rate, low living standard, and corrupt politics have really taken a toll on people’s optimism.
This usually does not influence how they will behave towards you as a tourist, but do not be surprised if you hear a Bosnian saying more than a few bad words about the government and general state of the country.
6 – Punctuality Is Not a Huge Priority
If you travel to Bosnia from a super-organized Central European country like Germany or Switzerland or from similar countries like Japan, keep in mind that the concept of time is generally understood much more loosely in the Balkans. This is reflected in all aspects of life: from social gatherings to public transport schedules.
Do not misunderstand this, however, as meaning that nobody pays attention to time at all and does as they want. Generally, things are on time, but nobody will make much of a fuss over being a couple of minutes late to something.
7 – Urbanization Is Relatively Sparse
Apart from a few major cities, Bosnia is largely a rural place. This means that much of what the country has to offer is to be experienced outside of the urban centers, which are in themselves quite enjoyable too.
This has the side effect of leaving quite a few natural areas untouched, allowing you to enjoy wilderness unspoiled by man. You will no doubt enjoy exploring the little mountain hamlets all over the country and soaking in the beauty which Bosnia, the physical country, has to offer.
8 – Life Is Slower
Finally, this is an aspect of Bosnian culture which will be quite foreign to many Western visitors or visitors from heavily capitalist countries. Much of Bosnian life is still relatively traditional, and it is charming to see that mixed with other, more modern aspects of living.
Bosnians like to take their time sipping their coffee and talking and are generally not in too big of a hurry to get anywhere. Although this type of behavior is somewhat disappearing in the larger cities, most of the population can still be found to be quite easy-going.
Bosnia is an amazing little country with so much to offer to any tourist who might be fortunate enough to visit. Although plagued by many political and economic issues, the spirit of the people there is unquenchably positive and welcoming. Gloom is sometimes present, yes, but so is love and happiness.
So if you are wondering whether or not to travel to Bosnia, wonder no further and buy your ticket so you can come down and talk with some curious locals while enjoying the best and cheapest food you have ever had in your entire life.
And, if you are lucky, when you leave, a piece of that great, undying Bosnian spirit will remain with you so that you can spread positivity, tolerance, and goodwill wherever you go.