I'd heard that the train journey to Sarajevo was scenic and so boarded the early morning train from Mostar. It was certainly a pleasant experience offering good views and you can see how the track bends and loops around and through the many tunnels of the surrounding hills. The journey took about two and a half hours. I bought my ticket half an hour before departure but I would advise checking departure times and booking in advance as the train is popular and was full. (I visited in September)
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country, easy to travel around. The distances between the towns are very short and you don't have to be vorried about accomodations.
The best way to explore the country is definetely by the car. Although there are no highways in B&H at all, the narrow and very curved roads are very attractive.
A good place to hire rental cars in Mostar is the Hotel Bristol; they offer competitive rates (office is open from 9. a.m.). It might be sensible to book or call ahead, as I don`t know how big their car-pool is.
Bosnia has a very efficient, reasonably fast and cheap bus system which connects all major cities within Bosnia and even the neighbouring countries (Croatia, Serbia). Usually it is not necessary to book ahead or reserve a seat. You should check the arrival & departure times early. A good website to do so would be the autobus Kolodvor website.
Many buses link cites in Bosnia and Hercegovina. However, the best way (if you want to be absolutely safe from the mines!) is to take a one day excursion tour from the ATLAS travel agency in Dubrovnik, Croatia to Mostar and Pocitelj. They also have tour to the holy village of Medjugorje as well.
OK - I used to be the "train expert" here... but after moving from the States we landed up taking all our cars with us and I did not board the train since ;-)
On the other hand with our driving habits we scared the heck out of the poor citizens all across ex-YU, Srpska and Kosovo included so I maybe can help.
1) GPS. Do not be stingy, buy one. You have pretty much only one choice - Garmin. Do NOT, NOT and NOT buy anything fancier than 265W Nüvi because they have a nasty firmware bug. Garmin Nüvi 255W is just perfect, but I got a bit better one (285W, US model) lately (still have the old 255, just in case - before it goes on eBay). Do not buy TomTom: you have practically zero coverage in YU.
That GPS is not enough, you will need extra maps. These are the "Adria Route" (Slovenia-Croatia-Bosnia) and "SCG Route" (Serbia with KiM - Macedonia - Montenegro). You can google and buy on-line. The "generic" European map is OK for the rest. You can store the maps of YU on an SD card. Don't be stingy - buy 4 GB and buy a good one. Otherwise you land up like I did, bought a crappy one at Auchan and returned it twice. The lost time and gas was more than a better SD card like Kingston would cost.
The SCG Route is now 2.20, mine is 2.00, time to upgrade...
"Adria Route" is made by their colleagues in Croatia, but usually "somehow" these two are being often sold together.
Looks they, too have updates and Summer is coming. Good, I did see that update.
NB: these guys are the ONLY players out there - AFAIK, nothing else comes even close.
2) I think probably the UK cars (like US cars) are the least what the thieves want. You drive always on the wrong side of the road and have cars with the steering wheel in an improper place. :-D And we in the States have completely different parts than European cars do have, even for the same model.
The market for such cars in continental Europe is limited at best and in many countries such cars can't be even registered, unless exception is made for the original owner. If you want to be a nice girl, please provide the thieves the original title (in his name), original UK passport (in his name) and so on. Than it could work out for him, otherwise what he will get for a UK or US spec. car is 5-10 years, LOL.
Where Keti is 100% right: tourist scam, theft, etc. is more typical for Italy. Car theft included.
3) The roads are not bad, but NARROW. Be very careful with trucks. In general the drivers of exYU are NOT aggressive - they are CARELESS. They would overtake a truck in a sharp curve and risk a frontal collision.
4) The fines in Serbia are brutal (just in case if you go there). Speeding is the usual thing they looking for, also wrong turns and such. The "cheapest" fine is now 30 Euro, earlier one could get away with 10. If the speeding is significant (if I recall, over 40 kmh) they can go as high as 200-300 Euro, just for speeding alone.
5) For some reason they are fancy about the lights. Once I was stopped for not having (sunlight was still OK), that went smoothly. Just to being stopped 200 km later for having too much of it (I used both fog lights and regular but no high beam), that was 10 Euro. So I am not sure, better ask the police when you can or have to use lights and what is allowed.
6) Make sure you have the proper insurance. You can get away (maybe!) with the "old" green card in Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia. If you decide to visit Montenegro or Serbia - you will need the "new" green card. In continental Europe this is not a problem - but for some mysterious reason in UK and US they love to sell people OUTDATED green cards. This is essentially illegal, what you can do is to point out to the insurance that they sold you a wrong thing. Since June 14 2009 the insurance companies are obligated to sell the new form. You can easily distinguish the new form from the old. The "old" form has entries like "IRQ", "SCG" or "YU". The new form does not have "IRQ" entry anymore (wonder, why???) but has "SRB" and "RUS" instead. In other words, if you get the old form you can't legally drive to Novi Sad or St. Pete. But you could drive between Mosul and Baghdad as much as you like.
Since last year things changed, so don't complain if you will be turned back to Turkey somewhere at Al-Qamishli :-)
in Sarajevo, when you buy a ticket from the drivers, be sure to insert the machine to validate your ticket, otherwise your ticket is not valid. Bus conductors are trying to find tourist to impose penalty, even if you have a valid ticket.
The bus from Sarajevo to Belgrad departs from Lukavica bus station in the Serb-dominated eastern parts of Sarajevo. The tour takes approx. 9 hours with several stops in the serbian areas in Bosnia. The price was 20 USD.
It was very strange to notice that the serbs had passport control of all the passengers after 1 hour drive. The two men in their old russian dress asked where I was going, and I said Belgrad. They gave the passport back to me with a smile.
The passengers on the bus were mainly serbs. I thought they were friendly and maybe proud to have tourists in this parts of Bosnia.
The bus went through small villages and narrow roads. Very steep roads with beautiful mountains and forrests. Almost all the parts of Bosnia towards Serbia is mountainous. And Serbia is flat. The bus had some stops on the way where passengers could buy food and drinks, and go to toalet. All the letters are russian in this part of Bosnia, and you have to ask.
If you are travelling in Bosnia, and do not have an own car, the public transportation system is very good; at least between the main cities. I found it very comfrotable to travel from Sarajevo to Mostar (and later back all the way from Dubrovnik/Croatia to Sarajevo).
Tickets were not expensive, they were easily available from the bus station, no lining. Buses were comfortable and it was nice to enjoy the changing landscape. Especially beautiful was the green river beside the road; against the mountains.
I suggest everyone who travels to Bosnia, to visit both Sarajevo and Mostar. They are different cities but I wouldn't leave none of them away at any price.
The railwaynetwork in Bosnia-Herzegovina is not very big (about 1000 km). There are 2 main axes: Loznica (Serbia) - Zvornik - Banja Luka - Bihaæ - Knin (Croatia) and Slavonski Šamac (Croatia) - Doboj - Maglaj - Zenica - Sarajevo - Mostar - Ploèe (Croatia). Some minor lines exist, deriving from one of these axes. Bijeljina also has a railwaystation but is it only connected with Šid in Serbia. Since many bridges etc. have been damaged during the war, services are not frequently.
There are 2 companies: The ŽBH (in the Federation) and the ŽBH. International connections exist (e.g. Zagreb, Budapest, Belgrade) but local traffic runs till the entity-border, where travellers must switch trains.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has good connections by plane. There are direct flights to Zagreb (Croatia Airlines), Budapest (Malev), Frankfurt, Munich (Lufthansa), Rome (Alitalia), Ljubljana (Adria Airways) and Vienna (Austrian Airlines). From the airport, Sarajevo is easy to be reached by taxi or bus. The major rent-a-car companies have an office at the airport (like Budget, Avis, Hertz)
Mostar airport is hardly used for flights to Vienna and Zagreb. But charters use it sometimes for pilgrimages to Meðugorje.
Air Srpska (the airline of the Republika Srpska) connects Banja Luka with Zürich, other companies fly to Vienna and Belgrade. There is no commercial airtraffic between Srpska and the Federation. The Tuzla airport has been opened in 2003 for commercial flights.
There are several minor and major companies with services in the country. The best known is the international company Eurolines, which has direct connections with some European cities, from most cities 1 extra connection is necessary. Most services run from Belgrade and Zagreb, or other cities close to the border.
Busses from Serbia, Montenegro and Srpska to Sarajevo do not go the the main busstation but to Srpsko Sarajevo. Between the cities in the country are regular services, both in or between Federation and Srpska.
You should not forget your greeen card. Without this you won't get in.
It is a general rule to have the lights on all day.
The cops control and fine this everywhere.
Speed traps are also very frequent.
Petrol stations are frequent throughout the country.
Diesel and normal gasoline can be optained everywhere.
LPG gas is not available very often.
The prices are cheaper than in the neighbour countries!
The roads are in standard that you can drive on.
Motorways are not very frequent. So bring some time with!
You can look out the window and see nice landscapes.
Driving through the country is fun!
Most busses go to / from Germany. (SEE THE LINK)
Search for other Eurolines connections on the page of the country.
If you book in advance you will get an affordable price.
For some busses in Bosnia you can not buy tickets in advance for this busses you should be early there to get a (good) place.
Busses are the most frequent and most convenient way of travel through Bosnia.
Keep in mind that public signage in the Serb Republic half of BiH is usually in the Cyrillic alphabet.
If you're a visitor to the country, your first thought might be that this won't make much difference, as it's all a foreign language anyway. The big difference is that the road signs, town names etc don't reconcile with anything you'll see on maps sold in the US and EU.
It's not that difficult to learn the Cyrillic characters, and it's worth doing, because some of them don't translate remotely as you would expect.. At least try to familiarise yourself with what some of the key towns on your route look like in Cyrillic. Even then, there will be times when you need to stop to take in what the signs are telling you.
If it's any comfort, plenty of Bosnian Serbs find the Cyrillic quite confusing too.
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