Sarajevo.Watch out for pickpockets in old town!
You have to be sensible and careful both in all major cities, but somehow visiting Sarajevo left me with ambiguous emotions.
This was one of the few times I travelled with a group, a package tour. In the group there were several elderly ladies who may not have had huge travelling experience. Sure, the guide could have warned them to remove the precious jewellery, but she didn't do that.
So just outside the mosque in the center of the old town a girl of about 10-11 "hooked" herself to the group... and later 2 ladies in the group lost their golden necklaces which were just ripped off by the same girl.
This could happen anywhere and yes, one should be sensible! However, a word of warning... watch out in the old town of Sarajevo!
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take paths used by locals
1. Better to repeat it more often than too little times: do take it seriously if local advise you where not to go - mines were not cleared everywhere in BiH, especially so in rural areas. Within Sarajevo and cities you will be fine: but do observe if some areas are to be avoided. Always ask if you're not sure for particular area. People do go to mountains and ski slopes, but they know which paths to take. By the roads there will be warning signs, stick to the roads and don't go into vegetation (don't risk even if there was no warning signs by roads in mountains, countryside).
2. If you get lost and ask for directions for places which are under other regional governement control don't be surprised if the local 'won't know'. Once when asking for road to Jahorina in Sarajevo there were no enthusiasts to answer, well, untill you met someone Serbian. I don't say it's rule - but be prepare if you don't get answer from first try...
3. There are visible 'injuries' from the last war in many places in city (and state). Be most sensible when you're asking about these 'things'.
4. More than few locals and taxi drivers reported increasing car theft and burglary, so it's best to leave your car at secured parking place. Choose accomodation with their own parking area if you come by car.
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drive carefully in Bosnia
Since I was driver most of time on visits to Bosnia I will say this: pay attention to traffic all the time. You might know how to drive safely and slow enough, but many local drivers don't. We had almost two serious crashes because one guy was overtaking uphill (Tuzla- Sarajevo road) while we were approaching (I drove slowlier because of rain and terrain), the road was wet and he couldn't see us. It was a matter of centimeters and luck, and - why would somebody go overtake uphills when you don't see the road clearly, and you won't see someone is driving into opposite directions than yours, on wet, badly paved and narrow road? Well, there are guys who will do it.
Next one was when truck driver on Banja Luka-Sarajevo road exited tunnel on high speed before roads turned left and had been taken on our side of the road - it took me a lot of maneuvering to avoid the worst.
Plus: cops are plenty on Bosanski Brod-Zenica road which is one of the best in country and they love to catch those speeding drivers. I agree - but they are not there where most accidents happen. Not least: don't be surprised they like 'foreign plates' and try to find mistake with your driving, even though you didn't have any (whatever money it's source of extra income).
Once crash happen be prepared to wait long hours with little moves in worst case (we had that on Mostar-Sarajevo road when we waited 3 hrs).
I don't mean to scare you off from driving in Bosnia, but just in case you'd like to hear what drivers can tell (and we don't have that good drivers and local roads by ourselves here, too) from their experience in Bosnia.
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Photographs of Embassies
Sarajevo is generally a very safe city and although there are problems with corruption and organized crime throughout the entire Balkans, these are usually felt by local residents rather than tourists. One thing to be aware of, however, is that Bosnia is now seen to be a hot-bed of Islamic radicalism, thanks to the influx of foreign fighters during the Civil War. Many of these people never left Bosnia, and now Western governments and International Organizations worry that they could use Bosnia as a base for attacks on Western interests in the Balkans and on the EU. The result is that photographing some installations is not permitted. I never really found out the exact rules for taking pictures, but one big no-no is taking pictures of the US Embassy in Ciglane. There is a small park across from the Embassy and I was taking pictures of it and down onto the Old Town when a police officer stopped me and asked to go through all my pictures on the digital camera. He was a bit gruff, but otherwise nice (probably because I understood a little Bosnian and that made things easier). Nevertheless, always be conscious of your surroundings – I should have noticed the men with machine guns across the street guarding the Embassy – and, if you need to take a snapshot, try to make sure that no one else sees you!
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Watch where you walk
It is estimated that almost 2000 km2 area around Sarajevo are still not cleared of landmines. The mines are buried just a few centimetres below the ground's surface.Of course every visitor knows that and should be awareYou must not enter abandoned buildings or roam off the beaten track n. The area in the hills around the city , which was the front line during the war is only 5% cleared. Still as we travelled through this interesting city it was easy to let your guard down and to forget!!We had to catch ourselves a few times. Let's keep it in mind, not only so as to contribute to de-mining efforts but also to watch where we walk.
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BANJA LUKA-SARAJEVO ROAD
1.From Mostar through Prozor, Jajce,... to Banja Luka aprox. 260 km
2. From Mostar through Sarajevo, Zenica, Doboj,... aprox. 360 km
3. From Mostar through Travnik, Skender Vakuf,... aprox. 195 km
I have driven from Banja Luka to Mostar in July 2007 ,It was a nightmare
for me in my whole driving life.I am not coming from full of super roads country
but this number 2 and numer 3 roads are nightmare.I do not know
first road.Road is narrow and mountainous steepy ,bussy.
Tunnel are dark no light.Lots of short tunnels and even they didnt plaster the
ceiling rocks.One tunnel shape was Like L.You drive in to tunnel after 50m
it turns rigt like L letter.It is dark you do not see inside.
I will never drive in Bosnia for the next time between cities.maybe in sarajevo
but country is mountainous.no plain.
I recommend to you fly from Zagreb to Dubrovnik and take a bus from Dubrovnik to Mostar.
Zagreb -Banja luka road is good 2 line motorway but after Bosnian Border
it is a disaster.
I love Bosnia and it s people but roads are very bad.Also the other drivers
pressing horn cause you are driving carefully and slow they do not wait for you.
Roads are like snake :) following the rivers shape.
Having just read some of the utter nonsense that has been posted, particulary by catherineneill on 3 June 07, id like to give people a more informed view of Sarajevo.
I have lived and worked in Sarajevo and been almost everywhere in Bosnia as a whole.
catherineneill write that you best stay in the Holiday Inn to avaoid theft. This is utter nonsense. Theft is extremely rare in Sarajevo. Pick pocketing is rare also. I note catherineneill said she had not experienced this, which makes one wonder what exactly qualifies her to give out this warning, advising people to restrict their stay to the Holl Inn! Many hotels are decent and reasonably priced and completely theft free. I have not once experienced anyone steal or attempt to steal when in Sarajevo ever at any time of the year. Kids will come up to and ask for money. I was hassled outside Waterloo Station by a tramp for small change the other day - it happens everywhere!! None of my colleagues in Sarajevo ever had any problems.
Crime is Bosnia is low low low. Its safe to go anywhere at anytime and dont worry about thigns like that. The people are extremely friendly and very nice - the best ive come across anywhere. catherineneill said be careful of your luggage at a station..........well if you need to be told that then perhaps you should not be going on holiday, its pretty bloody obvious!! By the way when in Sarajevo why dont you look both ways before crossing a road!!!
In Bosnia they HAD a war but that ended some 13 years ago. People who say is not safe are ignorant and probably have not been there. Their war ended . In London, with bombs going off on trains and troops fighting overseas, we are at war now!!!
A serious warning
One can't say this often enough: When in Bosnia and Herzegovina be careful where you walk. Even 10 years after the war Bosnia is still littered with about 1 million landmines and several million other unexploded ordnance. So please be sure to stay on asphalt or clearly used paths only! Do not enter empty houses or ruins, they might be mined too.
I heard that 80% of all mines are still in the country and that it'll take 40 years to clear them all. :(
While you are in the centre of Sarajevo you should be fine. On the hills around the city, however, it's a different story unfortunately.
Shoes in the old town
Ladies, be careful. When sitting in the street cafes in Bašcaršija we always watched the women wearing high heels. I found it fascinating how they could walk with shoes like these on cobblestoned streets like these. The waiter at the Cevabdzinica where we ate told us that 5-7 women a day lose their heels.
Oh well, it could be worse, when he started his sentence with 5-7 I thought he wanted to tell us that 5-7 women break their legs a day here ;) I still recommend sneakers or hiking boots because with thin soles and/or high heels your shopping trip might end painful...
There are still many minefields and unexploded ordinances in the Sarajevo and its surrounding suburbs. Never go into damaged buildings and always stick to paved surfaces. Areas that are not cleared are marked by yellow tape or signs, but still not all minefields are identified.
Also goes for hill walking, but if you stick to marked public paths there is no problem!
We were warned about this on many occasions, and although nothing happened to us i think it was because we were very very careful. If you can afford it stay in the holiday inn (the only major chain there) but even then you are not guaranteed a pick-pocket free holiday. Beware in crowded areas, especially in and around the market, and also make sure you hold on tight to your luggage around the train station. We bought money belts (not very cool i know but we felt a lot safer) I would advise you to keep a little money in your pocket in case you are approached for money.
Road Works PLUS!!
When we were there in May 2006 it seemed as if half the city was having major road repairs. Which was great. But it meant it took forever to get anywhere by vehicular transport. Our taxi back to the hotel up on the hill had to go round and round and round the world to get there because of road closures. It was quicker to walk.
But that is a temporary problem and it is great the roads are being repaired.
The taxis we took were, all of them, old bombs. But the drivers were keen and polite, with the Bosnian smile, and the price was reasonable. No complaints.
Most of the cars on the road were old bombs. Limping gallantly along.
BUT - here is the plus part of this tip.
I was walking back to the Writers House from the theatre with Mirza and Jovanka through the town one night, and I noticed two cars pulled up and being gone over by some police.
"What have they done?" I asked Mirza.
(I couldn't see any No Parking Signs, the cars looked very roadworthy, the road was too crowded and narrow for them to have been speeding.)
"Nothing," said Mirza.
"But look," I said. ""They are going to get a ticket."
"They are new cars," he said. "Croatian numberplates. Tourists. They will have done something wrong."
Ah. Of course. The two cars stood out like sore thumbs among the heroic local veterans. Easy to target. And if you are a tourist it is very very hard to know what all the local road rules are. So easy to transgress.
Maybe Mirza was being cynical.
But something to think about.
Smoking Like A Bosnian
What a delight for me to find that Bosnians smoke like - well - Bosnians. Everywhere. Inside, outside, in My Lady's Chamber. No hanging around outside a cafe having a smoke rather than a coffee. No - march right inside and have a smoke AND a coffee.
I kept lurking outside cafes when our bus stopped and Mirza (in picture) would say - Jennifer! This is Bosnia!
Bosnians who don't smoke don't give you a look or a sigh or any grief when you do light up.
Even in the small section of the cafe in the picture which had a tiny No Smoking sign dangling from the ceiling, the waiter didn't give us any grief when Mirza and I did the opposite of what we were meant to do.
I know this happy state of affairs can't last. I personally give it five years.
But in the meantime if you don't like smoking and you don't like people smoking near you - well it is going to be a bit tricky for you in Bosnia.
Warmarks are still very visible. There is a part of town called Srpsko Sarajevo or serbian Sarajevo. DO inquire with the local Bosnian population which areas to go to and which not. I did not go to Srpsko Sarajevo.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: More than 600,000 unmarked landmines and other unexploded ordnance remained throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war. These devices have killed more than 300 people since 1996. While most urban areas have been largely cleared, special care should be taken when near former lines of conflict, including the suburbs of Sarajevo. The de-mining community recommends staying on hard surface areas and out of abandoned buildings. Families traveling with children in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be especially aware of the danger posed by mines and unexploded ordnance. Localized political difficulties continue and random violence may occur with little or no warning. Bosnian criminals use firearms and explosives to settle personal, business, and political disputes. The foreign community is rarely the target of such violence, but there is always the danger of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While most Bosnian citizens appreciate the assistance of the international community, occasional anti-foreign sentiment is sometimes encountered.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department?s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
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It Beggers Belief
Weaved among the hustle and bustle of the well-dressed pedestrians in the streets of Sarajevo are beggars, mute widows in head scarves sitting on corner curbs, mothers with babies, and Roma (Gypsy) children. It is not advised to hand out money from your wallet or purse, but as you can see from my photo I handed out some food.
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