Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina Report of what it's like to live there - 03/20/24

Personal Experiences from Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina 03/20/24


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We have lived in Paramaribo, Yerevan, Brasilia, Luxembourg, Budapest, La Paz, and Rome before Sarajevo

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

USA to Tennessee. Typically 18 hours or so in each direction. Flights are generally on schedule and transit airports (within the EU) are good.

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3. What years did you live here?


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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We life in an independent house about a 20 minute commute from the Embassy, or about 30 minutes to downtown (cut those times in half outside of rush hour). Our house is a typical "generational" house, designed for three generations to share - elderly parents on the ground level, working age on the middle floor, and children on the top. We have a few fruit trees and a lawn just big enough for an active dog to enjoy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are available. Fresh produce varies. Some items are only available seasonally, but the basics are all here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Bring anything spicy as Bosnian "spicy" is very, very mild. And bring anything that you are picky about having, but also realize that if you need to, the EU is a day trip away (either Budapest or Zagreb).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Korpa and Glovo are the main delivery apps. There are lots of pizza restaurants (although a wide variety in quality) and lots of burger places (again, quality varies). Most food delivery is heavy on the meat and carbs and light on the vegetables. We do have Vapiano, Caribou Coffee, and several boutique places including a nice New York Bagel shop and country-themed places.

Currently the biggest thing you need to know is that smoking is still allowed inside restaurants. While they have begun to provide non-smoking areas, the smoke still comes across. The few fully non-smoking places tend to be highly frequented by expats.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

So long as you take normal precautions with food you should not have any problems.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have received items using UPS direct ship to our Bosnian address. The process is straightforward. Note that customs duties are of course necessary. We are also able to use Embassy mail systems, which work reasonably well.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

People hire nannies, cleaners, and gardeners. Prices are manageable.

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3. Do you feel that it is safe to walk, run or hike outside? Are there areas where bike riding is possible? What is the availability and safety of outdoor space for exercising? Are these easily accessible?

Walking is safe and pleasant. Hiking is excellent and absolutely gorgeous. Running is more of a mix: most of the year the only concern is watching for traffic when crossing crosswalks, but during the colder months you also need to be on the lookout for dogs if you are outside the downtown areas.

There are bike paths in the city that I use 2-3 times a week to commute to work. Commute time is about the same as driving. Not all areas of the city have bike path access, though, so if this is important to you be sure to investigate further. You will also want to look at the terrain; a house on the hillside might not be for you.

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4. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are available but frequently allow smoking. Prices are cheap.

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5. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

VISA and Mastercard are accepted almost everywhere. ATMs are relatively common. Use bank ATMs (ones located at a bank establishment) only.

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6. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Two local Protestant churches provide (limited) translation service. The Catholic church offers mass in English at least monthly. There are a couple English language home groups that meet regularly as well.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Minimal: how to count and pleasantries, plus Google translate, will get you pretty far.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Even people without physical disabilities can find it difficult. Some disabilities would be more serious than others: If you can not do any steps at all you will be limited (there are many curbs without ramps). If you have any breathing issues you need to know that the AQI hits 300+ during the winter.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses, trams, and trains are havens for invisible petty crime. Use common sense when riding; if you are obviously attentive and avoid getting on the ones packed tight you should be fine. Prices are cheap.

Usage is limited because of the scarcity of routes (trams/busses) or low frequency (trains).

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2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

Avoid low clearance cars. Avoid large trucks (i.e., avoid any "American" trucks) because of narrow roads and small parking spaces. Four-wheel drive is not essential but will be helpful in both winter and on the hills in wet weather.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available and reasonable. One to two weeks for installation.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local cell phone plans include free roaming in Serbia and Montenegro.

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1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Pet care (kennels) are available, including some that are particularly good for dogs (out in the country with lots of space to roam). Pet care can be problematic for more serious issues.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most spouses tend to either work at their partner's workplace or as teachers at one of the English-language schools. Local salaries are low for Europe (but high for most of Latin America)

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a few groups working with refugees. There are also people working with animal care.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress is business to casual attire. Formal dress is rarely required. In public most people wear clothing slightly more conservative than in the West.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There are still some active minefields in the country. These are marked and maps available online.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is fair, with pockets of excellence and pockets of poor care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality in Sarajevo and other towns tends to be on the moderate side most of the year, but frequently hits "worst in the world" for a few days in Winter. The overall winter AQI average range is between 120-180, with some great days (near zero) and some terrible (over 300). The airport in Sarajevo typically experiences 3-4 days a winter in which flights are unable to arrive or depart because of the poor air quality.

When the air quality is poor, however, one can take a 15-20 minute drive up the mountain to get out of it if desired.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There are a lot of nut dishes here, and if you say you have a nut allergy the servers may not consider certain nuts to be nuts.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very much like western Pennsylvania.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Overall morale is positive. There is a large community of expats or returned Bosnians who left in the 90s and have come back.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are restaurants, bars, house parties, and event halls

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a post that has plenty to offer but nothing handed on a platter. It can be good for both singles and families who make a moderate effort to find a community, but you will need to make that initial investment.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

It is easy to make business friendships. It is also very difficult for a non-Bosnian to understand the deep cultural issues that go back all the way to the schism between the Western and Eastern Roman Empires; this can led to the expat being seen as insensitive or the Bosnian to be seen as unreasonable. History is not just history here: history is here in the present.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Bosnia is divided into three people groups. In addition, locals are used to also working with expats from Western Europe (to include "international" Americans), Eastern Europe (ex USSR), and the Middle East. Prejudices regarding those three groups of expats are established but are not dangerous (i.e., they will expect that an American is more likely to want a certain type of food).

Persons outside of those categories are more likely to be assigned to either a "tourist", "business", or "refugee" category rather than a racial or ethnic category. In general foreigners who are respectful of the local culture will be treated well.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Walking old train beds hidden in the mountains, including 100-year old tunnels. Visiting many castles and exploring castle ruins. Exploring abandoned Austro-Hungarian fortresses high in the mountains. Hiking. Seeing the well preserved everyday architecture from the 18th century.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Herzegovina has some excellent history hidden up in the mountains and is relatively warm in winter. Apartments can be rented for $30 a night, making this an ideal place to visit in February for the weekend.

If you like war history (pre WWI) there are a ton of abandoned structures that you can explore (with a lot of caution)!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

You can get some good artesian metal products here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I would have known about the opportunities for bicycling in advance. I would have brought an electric bike.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Given the choices available to me at the time, yes. We enjoy our time here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Perhaps your dancing shoes? There are very few hobbies that could not be pursued here if you bring your equipment. The ocean is only 4 hours away if you are into water sports, mountains are front and center, and you can drive to the EU easily for supplies. We get all four seasons.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bring whatever you need to enjoy the Croatian coast. Swimsuits are available but not in abundance. Nothing beats a pair of Havianas.

Clothing quality is hit or miss; we usually shop on trips to the EU.

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