Bosnia and Hercegovina

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Introduction to Bosnia and Hercegovina

Bosnia and Hercegovina (or Bosnia Hezegovina as some prefer it) is a crossroads country. Sandwiched between Croatia and Serbia, it's been a zone of contention since Occident and Orient first began arm-wrestling for it. It's been through Christian, Muslim and Orthodox hands; for a while its people seemed to enjoy their multi-cultural milieu.

Then in 1992, after a disputed vote for independence, Bosnian Serb nationalists shattered social harmony with the help of the federal army and Serb officials. The resulting three-way civil war pitted Muslim Slavs, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats - all former neighbours - against one another.

The war devastated the country's infrastructure and already deflated economy, left refugees numbering in the millions and gave its partisans the ignominious distinction of having introduced the phrase 'ethnic cleansing' into modern parlance. Although travellers are beginning to return to Bosnia and Hercegovina, especially the gorgeous Sarajevo, it will be many years before the scars heal and the country again boasts a significant tourist draw.

Caution

Though the civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in November 1995, some of the rancour lingers. There is still a low level of risk from occasional localised political violence, so travellers are advised to avoid demonstrations and political gatherings.

Other risks involve unexploded landmines and petty crime brought on by the high unemployment rate. Use caution when travelling in the Republika Srpska, where anti-Western sentiments are never far below the surface. Maintain a low profile and keep to paved areas, especially around Sarajevo.

Full country name: Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina

Area: 51,129 sq km

Population: 4,359,800

Capital City: Sarajevo

People: Serb (40%), Bosniak (38%), Croat (22%)

Language: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian

Religion: Muslim (40%), Orthodox (31%), Catholic (15%), Protestant (4%), other (10%)

Government: Emerging federal democratic republic

Head of State: President Borislav Paravac

Head of Government: Chairman, Council of Ministers Adnan Terzic

GDP: US$7.3 billion

GDP per capita: US$1,900

Inflation: 3.5%

Major Industries: mining, vehicle assembly, textiles, tobacco, wooden furniture, tank and aircraft assembly, domestic appliances, oil refining (most heavily damaged or shut down)

Member of EU: No

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Citizens of most developed and most EU nations currently need only a passport to enter Bosnia and Hercegovina. However, it is recommended to carry onward/return tickets, all documents required for the next destination and sufficient funds.

Health risks: hepatitis, rabies, typhoid, diarrhoea (Travellers complain of diarrhoea)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1

Dialling Code: 387

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Republic Day is celebrated on 25 November in the Federation and on 9 January in the Republika Srpska. Both entities celebrate Independence Day on 1 March and May Day on 1 May, in addition to their particular religious holidays. The capital city hosts the annual Sarajevo Film Festival in late August, while the Winter Festival in February and March features theatre and musical performances.

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Best time to Visit

There is no particularly good or bad time to visit. The weather is a mix of Mediterranean and Central European and is more or less agreeable year round, though both summer and winter extremes can sometimes be daunting. You needn't worry about any seasonal crush of tourists just yet.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Convertible Mark

Meals

Budget: KM5-10

Mid-range: KM10-15

High: KM15-25

Deluxe: KM25+

Lodging

Budget: KM30-55

Mid-range: KM55-90

High: KM90-140

Deluxe: KM140+

Bosnia and Hercegovina is more or less a cash-only economy. Prices are often quoted in the country's 'official' currency, the convertible mark, which is tied to the Euro. Most places accept euros as well as convertible marks and sometimes list prices in euros. US dollars are virtually useless, except in a few hotels.

With the exception of Medugorje, credit cards are not widely accepted in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Travellers' cheques may be cashed in the banks of larger cities, but you should anticipate delays of up to several weeks. ATMs are not usually available, but they're beginning to sprout in Sarajevo. Room rates in hotels are exorbitant, especially considering what you get for your money; staying in private residences can save you a bundle. Restaurant meals tend to be inexpensive. Tipping is customary at nicer restaurants and in taxis.

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Attractions

Sarajevo

For hundreds of years, Sarajevo had been a place where Muslims, Serbs, Croats, Turks, Jews and others could peacefully coexist. Sadly this tradition of tolerance was pounded into rubble by Serbian artillery during the mid-1990s war, leaving over 10,000 people dead and 50,000 wounded.

But now, despite the barbarity of the three-year siege, Sarajevo has once again attained a degree of normalcy. Sarajevo is a small city with a global reputation which is beginning to attract tourists for more than its warring past. Visitors discover a multicultural city where East and West merge.

Jajce

Jajce (pronounced 'yaitse') is a medieval walled city of cobbled streets and old houses in hilly country on the main highway from Sarajevo to Zagreb, Croatia. Prior to the 15th-century Turkish conquest, Jajce was the seat of the Christian kings of Bosnia.

Often at the centre of conflict, Jajce was the short-lived capital of liberated Yugoslavia in 1943 and in October 1992, Serbian separatists brutally expelled 35,000 Muslims from this historic city, where they had previously been the largest ethnic group.

Mostar

Mostar, a beautiful and ancient town, derives its name from the 16th-century gracefully arched bridge that spans the emerald Neretva River. Mostar means 'keeper of the bridge'. The bridge, now 21st century rather than 16th, was destroyed by Croat shelling in November 1993.

Rebuilt, it is hoped to be a symbol of intercommunity unity. On 22 July 2004 the bridge was reopened with words of hope for the future and reconciliation between Muslims and Croats.

Once divided only by the Neretva River, war cut Mostar into Muslim and Croat sectors. Beautiful buildings from the Turkish and Austro-Hungarian periods were shelled into skeletons of stone. Many remain along the former front line while others in the old Turkish-era centre are being rebuilt and patched up.

And the visitors have returned to wander along cobbled streets, visit 16th-century mosques and houses, browse through artisans shops, and sip coffee with the locals on pavement cafes.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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