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Sarajevo View | © Julian Nitzsche/WikiCommons
Sarajevo View | © Julian Nitzsche/WikiCommons
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11 Things About Bosnia That Simply Aren't True

Picture of Sam Bedford
Updated: 28 October 2017

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance…” Misconceptions are major limiting factors for travelling to new and exotic destinations. We believe what the news and social media tell us. Bosnia has a fair share of misunderstandings, here are the more common ones and why they’re simply not true.

1. Bosnia Isn’t Safe:

You would be amazed how many people think Bosnia is in the midst of active conflict today. Memories of harrowing images of the Siege and atrocities remain fresh in the minds of some. The 1990s weren’t that long ago, and quite a few believe it’s dangerous travel destination, which is completely wrong. Bosnia is a safe travel destination.

2. Bosnia is Boring:

You won’t find many backpackers or travellers around Europe with Bosnia on their bucket list. More often than not, they visit as part of a Balkan or Former Yugoslavia trip.

But they’re missing out on unchanged Ottoman Bazaars, different styles of architecture and strong Bosnian coffee. Combine this with historical locales such as the location of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the Stari Most Bridge and a fortress in Banja Luka that may date back to Neolithic times, and you have everything but a boring destination. Oh, and don’t forget Bosnia potentially has a set of 30,000-year-old pyramids!

 Bosnia isn’t boring.

3. Landmines are Everywhere:

Ask any tourist who’s travelled around Bosnia, and they’ll probably tell you how many landmine signs they saw. While it’s true, some estimations suggest almost a quarter of a million active mines remain, you won’t find them in the cities. The hills and forests have many, and it’s dangerous to wander from the path, but the cities are safe.

4. Everybody Hates Each Other:

Given the ethnic conflicts and segregation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, combined with the Serb autonomous Republika Srpska, you’d be forgiven for thinking the atmosphere is tense.

Most want to live in harmony. In some places, the atmosphere can be tense after the atrocities and what former neighbours did to each other. But, you won’t feel it as a tourist.

5. Bosnian is the only Official Language:

Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats live in the country called Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite all their languages being very similar, southern Slavic-based, they each have subtle differences and use either the Latin (Bosnian and Croatian) or Cyrillic Alphabet (Serbian). In some respects, the differences are more like regional dialects than a whole new language when they were all part of Yugoslavia. Bosnian has only really started to evolve after the conflicts in the 1990s, giving the country a distinct identity.

6. The Country isn’t Developed:

One of the most common misconceptions to non-Western nations is the undeveloped reputation. Bosnia may not be as efficient and glamorous as Dubai or Copenhagen, but it’s still developed. Trams and buses take passengers around cities to beautiful squares and shopping districts. Locals don the latest fashions and parade around enjoying the active café culture and nightlife.

7. Bosnia is a Cheap Destination:

Being away from the tourist havens of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline and Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor, you’d expect the prices to fall. But that’s not quite the case. Accommodation and public transport are on the pricey side, so expect the long-distance bus to be on par with Western European costs and Eastern European standards. Eating out and drinking is affordable, but not as cheap as you may think.

8. There’s Only One President:

After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the 1990s conflicts, Bosnia has two central administrative regions: Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska. Because of tensions between ethnic groups, each has a parliamentary representative. Bosnia has a Bosniak, Croat and Serb president, one for each minority, forming a tripartite presidency.

9. Cafes are Always Full, So People are Wealthy:

A striking contradiction, tourists notice the high unemployment and cafes and bars bursting at their seams as designer shops line the streets. Unemployment is around 40%, with the young suffering the most. Cafes are full because people have nothing else to do. If you look closely, patrons spend several hours sipping a single drink. Things aren’t quite as they seem on the surface.

10. People in Bosnia Don’t Drink Alcohol:

Bosnia is a Muslim country, and therefore you should expect no alcohol and religious conservatism. This common belief is wrong. Religion is secular, and many Bosniaks drink alcohol and go to bars and nightclubs. As a tour guide once said: “The people in my country are Muslims. But our religion is personal and spiritual.” As you walk through the streets, you’ll notice young women in fashionable clothes with beautiful hairstyles and men sipping a Sarajevsko beer.

11. You’ll Only Find Bosnians in Bosnia:

Bosnia’s population is just over 3.5 million, and estimates suggest a further 2 million live overseas. During the conflicts, many went into exile to Sweden, Germany and the United States. Some repatriated or visit on a regular basis. Others are yet to return, forever scarred by the events they witnessed.