Bosnia and Herzegovina Halal Travel
Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnian: Bosna i Hercegovina, Босна и Херцеговина, usually shortened to BiH) is a European country located on the Balkan peninsula. It used to be part of Yugoslavia but gained independence in 1992. It borders Croatia to the north, west and southwest, Serbia to the east and Montenegro to the southeast. Mostly mountainous, it has access to a tiny portion of the Adriatic Sea coastline in the south.
While the nation is divided into two “entities”; the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a predominant Bosnian/Croatian population and the Republika Srpska (i.e. Serbian Republic/Republic of Serbs or RS) with a Serbian majority population, here is a “traveller-friendly” division of the nation based on traditional regions.
northwest of the nation “hugged” by Croatia
south of country, traditionally inhabited by Croats mostly and the only region with coastal access.
along the Sava River
the capital and its environs
Other Muslim Friendly Cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Sarajevo — the national capital; a cosmopolitan European city with a unique Eastern twist as can be seen in its vast diversity of architectural styles
- Banja Luka — the second largest city, serving as the capital of Republika Srpska, with some historical sights and a rich culture
- Bihać — city near Croatian border, surrounded by an impressive nature
- Jajce — a small city with a beautiful waterfall and number of historical attractions dotted around its centre
- Mostar — nice old town on Neretva River, symbolised by its medieval bridge
- Neum — the only coastal town, with sandy beaches backed by steep hills
- Tuzla — third largest city with much industry, though has a lovely old town and monuments to the brutal war too
- Teslic — а health spa resort with the biggest tourist capacity in the country
- Zenica — city with an Ottoman old quarter
Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Kozara — national park in the north-west with dense forests and hilly meadows, a hiking and hunting destination.
- Međugorje — inland town between mountains with a mild Mediterranean climate, but perhaps best known due to claims of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six locals.
- Srebrenica — small town in the north-east, beautiful nature (third deepest canyon, of river Drina in the world), best known as the site of a genocide during the Bosnian War.
- Igman ski resort
- Jahorina ski resort
- Bjelašnica ski resort
How to get around in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The best way to get around with public transport is with bus and train. There is a dense network of bus lines, all run by relatively small private companies. Be aware that if you buy a return ticket for a line which is served by more companies, you can only make the return trip with the company you bought the ticket at.
Trains are infrequent and slow. Many train lines were damaged in the war, and have not yet been rebuilt. There is also a lack of carriages and trains to provide frequent services – even on the busy lines like Mostar-Sarajevo, Tuzla-Banja Luka and Sarajevo-Banja Luka. However, the rides are scenic, especially that Mostar-Sarajevo stretch.
Hitchhiking is fun in Bosnia as you will get rides from local people who you won’t much encounter through hospitality exchange networks as couchsurfing. However be careful of landmines, and if you’re not sure, stay on the paved road, and ask locals (“MEE-ne?”).
Cycling is beautiful in Bosnia. Other traffic is not so much used to how to relate to bikes on their way, though.
The official languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian, all three known as Serbo-Croatian as they are practically the same language. Serbo-Croatian is written in both Latin and in Cyrillic, making it the only Slavic language to officially use both scripts. In the Republika Srpska you’ll see signs in Cyrillic, so a Serbian-English dictionary would be helpful there.
Variants among the Serbo-Croatian language differ only in the most academic of venues and also in traditional homes. There are different versions of the language throughout the area and spoken language changes between regions. However, the vocabulary differences are only cosmetic and do not hinder communication between Bosnian Muslims, Catholic Croatians and Orthodox Serbs.
Many Bosnians speak English, as well as German owing to family connections as well as tourism in former Yugoslavia before the war. Some older people are also able to speak Russian, as it was taught in schools during the communist era. Other European languages (e.g. French, Italian, Greek) are only spoken by a few educated individuals.
Sightseeing in Bosnia and Herzegovina
If Bosnia and Herzegovina makes you think of concrete Communist architecture or 1990s images of war-demolished town centres double-torn by ethno-religious strife, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Of course this country bears the marks of its tumultuous history, but visitors today find rebuilt and well restored historic cities, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, bustling city life and -overall- more medieval monuments than Socialist housing blocks. In fact, some of the remains of the Communist era, like the Tito bunker near Konjic, have become attractions of their own.
The country’s main visitor draws however lie in its charming historic town centres, ancient heritage sites and splendid nature. Famous Sarajevo has some of the most extensive Socialist housing projects, but is also a colourful historic mix of East and West, where religions and cultures coexisted for centuries. It’s a vibrant town that resurrected into what it always was; the country’s modern capital, proud of its heritage and a popular destination for Muslim travellers of all kinds. Top sights include the lively Baščaršija or Old Bazaar, the Sarajevo cathedral, the Gazi Husrev-beg’s Mosque and of course the legacy sports facilities of the 1984 Olympics. Equally interesting is the Tunel spasa, or tunnel of hope, which brought supplies to the people of Sarajevo in the war and is now a museum. The beautiful old town of Mostar is another city gem, with the famous an Unesco World Heritage listed Stari Most bridge as a main landmark. Carefully rebuilt, it’s widely recognised as one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. Višegrad has a Unesco listed bridge of its own, namely the impressive Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge. For more city grandeur, try the green gardens and avenues of Banja Luka. Finally, most components of the world heritage Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards (medieval decorated tombstones) are located in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Great natural attractions can be found all around, even close to the main cities. Take a horse carriage to Vrelo Bosne (the spring of river Bosna) to join Sarajevo families for quiet getaways and picknicks. The waterfalls of Kravice, about 40km from Mostar, make for another fabulous natural trip. A popular spot for city dwellers and rafters, the water of the Trebižat River drops some 30 meters in a beautiful natural setting of tuff walls. Other dramatic waterfalls can be found in the far west of the country, in the lush Una National Park. And then of course, there is the famous Jajce waterfall, where the clear waters of the Pliva river drop 17 meters right in the middle of the town. Nature lovers may also want to include Hutovo Blato Natural Park for bird watching or Sutjeska National Park, with a waterfall as well as one of only two remaining primeval forests in Europe.
Top picks for village life can be found in the historic citadel of Počitelj, Blagaj (where you’ll also find the spring of the river Buna) or, for environmentalists, in the Zelenkovac ecovillage near Mrkonjić Grad. Just outside of Radimlja is the largest collection of Stećak, a remarkable kind of pre-Ottoman tombstones that are found throughout the ancient Bosnian Kingdom.
Top Muslim Travel Tips for Bosnia and Herzegovina
Rafting on the Neretva river, the Una river and the Tara with the Drina river, with some shorter courses on the Krivaja river, the Vrbas river and the Sana river.
2009 World championship of rafting was held in Banja Luka on the Vrbas river and in Foča on the Drina, both in RS.
Kayaking and canoeing
The Neretva river and its tributary the Trebižat, the Unac river, also the Krivaja river and its tributary Bioštica river are great kayaking destinations with a lot of whitewater on the Krivaja river. The Pliva river and its lakes Veliko and Malo are great canoeing destinations, also the middle and lower Una river, the Trebižat river.
The famous Rakitnica canyon of the Rakitnica river, tributary of the Neretva river, offer great canyoning adventure, but even extreme canyoning route can be found in the Bjela river another tributary of the Neretva river. The Unac river and its canyon offer great canyoning route.
Also close to Banja Luka you can explore the canyons of the Svrakava and Cvrcka rivers.
Sport is popular in the country, while mountainous terrain of the country getting increasingly popular destination for bikers from all over the world.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was the 1984 host for the Winter Olympics, and it still takes pride of its winter sports potential. Especially around Sarajevo there are challenging venues. During the war of the 1990s many Olympic venues were severely affected, but at present all is put in place to give the skier a great experience.
Close to Sarajevo there are the Bjelasnica, with over 8 km of ski trails, the Jahorina (20 km) and Igman mountains. Close to Travnik is the Vlasic Mountain with 14 km. Other resorts are Blidinje, Vlasenica in the east and Kupres in Western Bosnia.
Bjelašnica and Jahorina are also beautiful for hikes during summer.
The most fly-fishing areas in Bosnia are in the North-West of the Bosanska Krajina, within National Park “Una”, and around the river Sana. Fly-fishing fanatics can go on a tour by the different trout-hotspots on the river Una, the Klokot, the Krušnica, the Unac, the Sana, the Bliha, the Sanica, the Ribnik, the Vrbas, the Pliva, the Janj, the Sturba, the Trebižat, the Buna, the Bunica, the Neretva, the Tara, the Sutjeska, the Drina, the Fojnica, the Bioštica, the Žepa, and many other smaller rivers and streams; most famous centres are Konjic, Glavatičevo, Tjentište within National Park “Sutjeska”, Foča, Goražde, Bosanska Krupa, Bihać, Martin Brod, Drvar, Ribnik, Ključ, Sanica, Sanski Most, Šipovo, Jajce, Livno, Blagaj. In several of those towns there are resorts specially geared towards the needs of the angler.
Shopping in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The official currency is the konvertibilna marka (or marka) (convertible mark), denoted by the symbol “KM” (ISO code: BAM). It is fixed to the euro at the precise rate of 1.95583 for €1.
There are two sets of banknotes, with distinct designs for the Federation and the Republic of Srpska. However, both sets are valid anywhere in the country.
Before you leave the country, be sure to convert back any unused currency into something more common (euros, dollars) as most other countries will not exchange this country’s “convertible marks”.
Credit cards are not widely accepted – ATMs are available in the most cities (Visa and Maestro). Try to not pay with KM100 bills, as smaller shops might not have enough change.
Shopping in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Most towns and cities will have markets and fares where any number of artisans, sellers, and dealers will offer any kind of stock. Different foods are readily available, both fresh and cooked, as well as clothing, jewellery and souvenirs. At the markets you are able to negotiate with the seller, although that may take some practice. Like in most such venues prices may be inflated for Foreign Muslims based on a quick ‘means test’ made by the seller. Often those who look like they can afford more will be asked to pay more.
You’ll find large shopping centres in most cities and towns.
Sarajevo is fine for buying clothes and shoes of affordable quality at a relatively affordable price. The main shopping streets of Sarajevo are also great for black market products including the latest DVDs, video games and music CDs. Most tourists who visit Sarajevo no doubt leave with a few DVDs to take back home.
Visoko and the central Bosnia region are very well known for their leather work.
Banja Luka has seven big shopping malls, as well many small businesses, and you will be able to find a large variety of goods.
Mostar has an excellent shopping mall on the Croatian side with some typical European-style clothing boutiques and jewellery shops.
If you have a temporal (tourist) residency status and you buy goods worth more than KM100 you are entitled to a PDV (VAT) tax refund. PDV consist of 17% of the purchase price. The refund applies to all goods bought within three months before leaving, except petroleum, alcohol or tobacco. At the shop, ask the staff for a tax-refund form (PDV-SL-2). Have it filled out and have stamped (you need your identity card/passport). Upon leaving BiH, the Bosnian customs can verify (stamp) the form if you show them the goods you bought. A PDV refund in Marks can be obtained within three months, either at the same shop where you bought the goods (in that case the tax will be refunded to you instantly), or by posting the verified receipt back to the shop, together with the account number into which the refund should be paid.
Be aware that upon entering another country you might be obliged to pay VAT over the goods exported from Bosnia. But there is always a free amount, mostly a few hundred euros; EU: €430. Also, the procedure at the border might take a bit of time, so it is not wise to try this when travelling by train or bus, unless the driver agrees to wait.
Halal Restaurants & Food in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The most available food in Sarajevo is Cevapi (normally 2-4 km), the ubiquitous Balkan kebab. Two prominent variations exist – the “Banja Luka” Cevap, a larger kebab with a square shape, and the Sarajevo Cevap, smaller and round. If you have not had them before, every visitor should try an order of Cevapi at least once. There are several variations of pita (around 2 km). A cheap, tasty and readily available snack is “Burek”, a pastry made of filo dough and stuffed with meat (simply Burek), cheese (Sirnica), spinach (Zeljanica), potatoes (Krompirusa) or apple (Jabukovaca). Some examples are better than others, however, and it can be a greasy affair. If you get to Mostar, however, try to grab a plate of trout (“pastrmka,” which sounds like “pastrami”), which is the local specialty (a particularly fine restaurant serving locally farmed trout lies by the wonderful Blagaj monastery, a short bus ride from Mostar).
Local food is heavy on meat and fish, and light on vegetarian alternatives. Even traditional so-called vegetarian dishes like beans or Grah are cooked with bacon or smoked meats. Stews often contain meat but can be created without it. Rice and pasta dishes are readily available and a traditional sourdough soup filling called Trahana is hand made in most regions and a staple during the fasting month of Ramadan. Fast food, with the exceptions of cevapi and pita (or burek) consists of, like in other parts of Europe, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. Panini sandwiches are served in most coffee shops popular with the youth, and Bosnian coffee, reminiscent of Turkish coffee, is a must-try for any coffee aficionado. Oddly, apart from these junk food options, Bosnian restaurants serve few Bosnian specialities – what people eat in their homes is very different from what they will eat if they go to a restaurant.
All along Bosnian roads and recreational places, you will notice advertisements for janjetina or “lamb on a spit.” This is a very tasty treat, usually reserved for special occasions. A whole lamb is cooked on a spit, by rotating over a coal fire for a long time. When you order, you pay by the kilogram, which costs around KM25 (not bad since this is enough for several people). On special occasions families make such roasts at home.
No matter what food you order, you are bound to be served bread, commonly consumed throughout some parts of Europe with all savory foods. Both soup and salad are commonly served with entrees, chicken & beef soup with noodles or egg dumplings being the most common. Salads are typically composed of mixed tomatoes, lettuce, onions and bell peppers, often with feta cheese. A Caesar salad is unheard of in Bosnia, and generally most vinaigrettes are of the Italian variety, balsamic vinegar and olive or corn oil. You may also come across many condiments. Ajvar is a canned (or home made if you are lucky) spread, something like a bruschetta spread, made of roasted peppers & eggplant, which are ground and seasoned with pepper and salt and slow cooked. Many pickled foods are also served as condiments, such as pickled peppers, onions, cucumbers [“pickles”], and tomatoes. Kajmak is a dairy spread, with consistency and taste like cream cheese. It is made of milk fat, which is removed, salted and canned. It has a smoky, salty cheese taste, with a texture slightly drier than cream cheese. Kajmak from Travnik is a local specialty and is exported as far as Australia.
Bosnian food generally does not combine sweet & savory foods, and you will never encounter such a thing as a Caesar salad with mandarin oranges. On the other hand, many a fine chef will experiment with sweet and savory tastes like the ‘Medeno Meso’ (Honeyed Meat) made in pre-war Banja Luka by a well known chef. The delineation between fruit and vegetables is strong, with fruit used only for dessert-type dishes. You will never encounter any dish where sugar is added unless it’s a dessert. The food is generally heavy on fresh produce, which needs little or no added spice. As such, there are few spicy or hot dishes, and dishes advertised as “spicy”, such as stews like paprikas or gulash are usually spiced with paprika and not chillies, and do not carry overt pungency. In some regions, and depending on whether it is restaurant or home food, textures and colors can be important also.
When you visit a Bosnian at home, the hospitality offered can be rather overwhelming. Coffee is almost always served with some home-made sweet, such as breads, cookies or cakes, together with Meza. Meza is a large platter of arranged smoked meats, which usually includes some type of smoked ham (in traditional non-Muslim homes) and sausage thinly cut and beautifully presented with cheese, ajvar, hard-boiled eggs and freshly cut tomatoes, cucumbers or other salad vegetables. Bread is always served. Most cookbooks on South Slavonic cooking are packed with hundreds of varieties of breads, this being one of the most bread-crazy regions in the whole world. Yet, just about the only type of bread in most Bosnians’ homes is the store-bought French variety, which the Bosnians, of course, would never dream of calling “French.” To them, it is simply “Hljeb” or “Kruh”.
Whatever you eat in Bosnia, you will notice the richness of the flavors you thought you knew. The cuisine of the country has not yet been ruined by commercially-grown produce, so most foods are (uncertified) organically or semi-organically grown, using fewer chemicals and are picked when ripe. The vegetable markets sell only seasonal and locally-grown vegetables, and you are bound to have some of the best tasting fruit you’ve ever tried in the Neretva Valley region of Herzegovina (close to the Croatian border, between Mostar and Metkovic). The region is well known for peaches, mandarin oranges, peppers & tomatoes, cherries (both the sweet and the sour variety), watermelons and most Kiwi fruits. Cheese is also incredibly flavorful and rich all across Bosnia & Herzegovina, and generally all foods are as fresh as it gets. Enjoy!
Types of places
Another popular drinking beverage is Turkish coffee, in Bosnia called Bosnian or domaca (homemade) coffee, which can be bought in every bar, coffee shop or junk food place.
Bosnians are among the heaviest coffee drinkers in the world.
Muslim Friendly Hotels in Bosnia and Herzegovina
In Bosnia and Herzegovina you can choose from the great number of hotels, hostels, motels and pensions. At the seaside town of Neum you can book hotels from 2 to 4 stars. In the other cities many hotels are 3 stars, 4 stars and some of them are 5 stars.
In Sarajevo the best hotels are: Hollywood, Holiday Inn, Bosnia, Saraj, Park, Grand and Astra. Reservation is possible via the internet or by contacting Centrotrans-Eurolines travel board in Sarajevo, phone number: +387 33 205 481, languages spoken: English, German, French and Dutch.
Campsites are not very common. An overview of campsites in Bosnia is available at the national tourism agency. Wild camping is often no problem, but be careful for mines.
With one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe (in some areas up to 40%, official rate 17%), it will be unlikely you will find legitimate employment in the country unless you are working for a multi-national organisation.
Stay safe in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Be careful when traveling off the beaten path in Bosnia and Herzegovina: it is still clearing many of the estimated 5 million land mines left around the countryside during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. In rural areas try to stay on paved areas if possible. Never touch any explosive device.Houses and private properties were often rigged with mines as their owners fled during the war. If an area or property looks abandoned, stay away from it.
Bosnia experiences very little violent crime. In the old centre of Sarajevo, be aware of pickpocketing.
Islamic Medical Tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina
All Bosnian employees undergo regular health checks to ensure that they can physically do their jobs and that they will not transmit any disease or injure anyone. People in the food industry are particularly checked and random health and safety checks for the premises are held often. Food handlers and providers are held to the highest standards. Bosnian kitchens and food storehouses are expected to be sanitary and spotless and food safety is very important.
Tap water is drinkable.
If getting a tattoo, ensure that the instruments are sterilised. While this may be a common practice, one should still be careful.
Since the food is rich, some extra exercise may help.
And as above, never walk off dedicated paths in case of land mines.
Cope in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Smoking is allowed nearly everywhere in the country, and over half the population use tobacco. Even bus drivers often smoke while driving.
Each entity has its own postal service, so stamps bought in the Federation cannot be used in the RS and vice versa.
There are only three mobile phone networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina: HT ERONET (Mostar), GSMBiH (Sarajevo) and m:tel (Republika Srpska, Banja Luka). You can buy a prepaid SIM card from any network at any kiosk for KM10 or less.
Last Updated on Sat 12 Shaban 1444AH 4-3-2023AD