Rick Steves mentions in his book as well as his TV show on Bosnia and Montengro how this area "can be challenging to travel in, but is well worth it". He doesn't explain why it is challenging. We will be going there for the first time this summer and would like to know what challenges, if any, folks have run into travelling in Bosnia and Montengro. Thanks!
I will be traveling to this area in late May, and from what I can tell from my research, the challenge seems to be mostly from the point of logistics.
Yes, public transportation is non existent here. Also, just getting into Bosnia at the border crossing can take a long time. Make sure to get your passport stamped wherever you go.
We drove to Mostar, Bosnia from Split last October. The roads aren't as developed as in other parts of Europe so that could be a bit of a challenge if you're driving. We spent two nights in Mostar--there is still evidence of damage from the war and buildings in some parts of the city haven't been repaired.
The people there were very kind. Our only difficulty was a flat tire on our rental car but the hotel manager at Hotel Fortuna was great in finding us someone to repair it.
We traveled from Belgrade to Sarajevo to Mostar then onto Dubrovnik.
The challenge is definitely public transportation since nothing is really concrete or openly available on the internet. Nothing is computerized either, most of our tickets are either hand written or printed from an older ribbon type printer.
From Belgrade to Sarajevo, after comparing all the options, we went for the mini bus service with Gea instead of public buses or the very inconvenient late night flights. (5.5hrs)
From Sarajevo to Mostar, the train ticket was hand written, the tracks changes monthly, the time departure changes weekly, and the latest time and track info are on a poster that changes all the time at their deserted train station, and 6 chained smokers on board that makes the whole train trip quite unbearable with the second hand smoke. (2.5hrs)
The bus from Mostar to Dubrovnik, the ticket were printed out on the ribbon type printer, not much information posted at the Mostar train station. Two different bus companies, which neither work with each other. the locker room was guarded by a local shirtless man who lead us into a room inside the women's bathroom. (2.5hrs)
But all the "challenges" to us are not really challenges. We are just not used to the way they handle businesses. They might be late, things might not be computerized, information may not be clear, bureaucracies may fight with each other... All of the above gives you this uneasy feeling inside (what if I missed... What if I didn't get on...) but rest assure you will get to your destination, and you will be safe, and lots of confusions later you will be glad you made the trip.
We drove from Croatia to Mostar, Tara Canyon and Kotor. The roads have many blind turns, but drivers are pretty fast. We saw a lot of tow truck phone numbers spray painted on rocks where we think that they towed a car. In Bosnia, a policeman waved us down and checked our car insurance/rental papers. He asked about our destination. He wished us 'good luck' when we told him Scepan Polja!?! At the rafting camp, we met another family that had missed a turn and drove for a hour before figuring it out.
English is not widely spoken either. At one hotel, the owner would speak italian and my wife would reply in spanish. At another, the front desk spoke english, but the waiters did not. Breakfast had 3 options. We picked one safe option and also something described as 'salty pancakes'. We'd never had salty pancakes so we ordered that too. It was neither salty nor pancakes.
The people are happy that you came. The scenery is great. It was the highlight of the trip.
Thanks for sharing. The plus side is that we will not be using public transportation. On the other hand, we'll be doing quite a bit of driving. We will be driving from Bihac to Sarajevo to Mostar, and then on to Dubrovnik. Hopefully we won't encounter too many blind turns and spray painted tow truck numbers!
I'll be bicycling through the Balkan countries for three weeks in September-October. Has anyone had similar experience sharing the road with drivers in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans? Rough road conditions can be negotiated, but are drivers safe and aware of other road users? Are B&B, sobes, etc. relatively available from town to town, village to village?
I want to start by saying that both Bosnia & Montenegro are very worth-while destinations. The scenery is beautiful and the people are very welcoming. Our biggest challenge was with the roads and driving. The roads are very narrow, which is fine. But the drivers tend to be a bit dangerous. We encountered many on-coming drivers in the middle of the road on blind corners. They also tend to pass when they shouldn't. It's definitely a place where defensive driving is necessary! In general, it was our experience that both the roads and the drivers are better in Bosnia than in Montenegro. We drove from Kotor to Sarajevo to Zabljak back through Trebinje to Croatia (making a circle so to speak). In any event, you need to plan on plenty of time when driving. You can't be in a hurry, and we always added a pretty good cushion of time if we had to be somewhere at a particular time.
On a bicycle, I would be very nervous. Most roads have no shoulders and are barely wide enough for two cars.
Other than driving, we had no problems. Apartments/rooms for rent are plentiful and cheap. We felt perfectly safe. Take a phrasebook, but most of the time someone will speak English. Enjoy!
For those of you that travelled by car, many of you covered more than one country. I am interested to know if you had extra fees for entering other countries and if any of you picked up in one city and dropped off in another country. What additional fees did you encounter for this. I am going from Dubrovnik to Mostar, back to Croatia and then on to Slovenia and would like to have a rental car the entire time. Any advice is appreciated.
We are in Mostar now. We had a rental car in Slovenia but left it there and took the bus to Rovinj, Croatia, where we got another car. When we rented our car from economycarrental.com we specified we would be driving out of the country. They provided the necessary documents and we don't think there was any charge. When we crossed into Bosnia and Herzegovina we had no problem and paid no fees. We will be driving in Montenegro before returning the car in Dubrovnik and don't know if there will be a fee there.
The roads in Slovenia and Croatia that we used were very good. Here in BiH they are more narrow and there seems to be a lot of road work going on but we are hoping to have no problems. We also have read that Montenegro roads are worse and we will discover for ourselves in two days.. Good luck in your planning!
Carol, please report on whether there were plenty of gas stations. Did you have to pay for gas in cash? Was it hard to get that much cash, repeatedly? Did you get any flat tires? Thank you.
We didn't drive much in Slovenia but there seemed to be plenty of gas stations, except on a tiny back road that we took, and we used a credit card to pay. In Croatia there were also lots of stations. It seems they all take credit cards. On their highways there are rest areas, some with a food store, bathrooms, always clean, picnic area and play area for children. Others were just stops with no services. Here in Bosnia we have not put gas but have seen several stations so with planning you should have no problem finding gas.
I can now report back on our trip. We drove through many countries, including Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. As others before me have mentioned, the roads in Bosnia were incredibly challenging. It made it difficult to enjoy our time in Bosnia when what we planned based on the TWO GPS and 1 map we had to be an easy 4 hour drive on a main highway ended up being an 8 hour drive on a gravel dirty road (yes, still considered a "highway") with no gas stations, mechanics, or civilization in sight. This happened on two of our three days of driving in Bosnia. One "road" was so rocky that we could not drive in excess of 10 mph for over an hour and we were incredibly worried that our car would break down from damage caused to the undercarriage or that we'd get a flat tire. Thank God our tire did not officially flatten until we made it over the Croatian border and that the car rental agency didn't notice the wires hanging out from the undercarriage of the car when we turned it in (no doubt caused by the Bosnian "highway"). My husband and I are young and newly-married, so we weren't too intimidated by the words of warning regarding the challenging roads. Mea culpa.
We left Bosnia 3 days ago. The road we took was very good. We did drive on a narrow rough road for a while while driving to Blagaj but most were fairly good. Our problem came with the police. We had been warned about speed traps and we were pulled over for driving 61 in a 50 km zone. The speed limit kept changing from 40 to 50, to 60 and back every time there was a curve, which was every quarter mile or less. We had to pay a fine of 21 Euro cash on the spot.. The 50 speed limit was posted after the point at which we were stopped. There may have been one before that point but we didn't see any. But when you're in another country you'd better follow their rules and the fine was a relatively small price to pay even if we felt we were not speeding.