Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina Report of what it's like to live there - 05/18/10
Personal Experiences from Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
About 12 hours to DC through Vienna or Munich. Easy, except in winter when there are often airport closures in Sarajevo.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Mostly inside the city - some apartments but mostly stand alone houses with little green space due to their locations. Housing is pretty nice here, for the most part, though shapes tend to be odd since many are on steep roads leading up out of the city.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries and household supplies seem cheaper than in DC, for the most part, although some specialty items will cost you. There are excellent green markets around town to buy wonderful fruits and vegetables 7 days a week. The grocery stores are big and well stocked. Not many American products, but plenty of German.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Snow tires, chocolate chips and some of your favorite baking supplies. Otherwise, you can get pretty much what you need here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Forget about American fast food. None here. Restaurants are plentiful, though it can get a bit boring in town unless you get out and explore options. Good pizza just about everywhere.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None that we know of.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Dip pouch only. You can get packages in, but can't send them out.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
About 7 dollars an hour - lots of people looking for work here.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, though some can be expensive.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Due to new rules, your ATM card might not work here unless you call your bank first.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is a Christian non-denominational service at the Butmir NATO base and one Catholic mass in English at the local cathedral.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Satellite tv available.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It helps, but it's not essential to survival in Sarajevo.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be hard, but not impossible. New facilities like recently construced malls do have ramps, and most two story shopping facilities have elevators.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe and cheap. Buses are cheap too, but there are pick pockets, and given the ease of taking a taxi, there's no reason to board a bus. Train service is very limited, but improving.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Bring snow tires. You don't need a 4-wheel drive unless you really intend to do heavy touring in the mountains.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes - reasonablty priced.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There are a few carriers people use here.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
A few good vets available and limited kennel facilities.
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?
Not really unless you speak the language. And then, the pay is awful.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No. This is a safe city. Many of our friends let their children ride in taxis around town on their own. Petty crime may be on the rise, but overall this is a safe place to live.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
If you have respiratory issues, get all the facts before you come here.
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?
Horrible horrible horrible in the winter. Cannot be stressed enough if you have any kind of respiratory issue. This city sits inside a ring of mountains, and the pollution from wood burning and cars just sits at ground level most of the winter. You can smell it.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Pretty much like Maryland. Four seasons, none too harsh.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
QSI has about 150 students from around the world. Parents seem to like the elementary school, but some are concerned with the quality of education and lack of variety in the high school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not a particularly good place for special needs kids, but it depends on what you need in particular.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Plenty of availability and two Montessori schools in town.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Through the school, yes. There are also soccer clubs in and around town as well as skating facilities (old Olympic center), dance classes, and other sporting opportunties. The school runs a great winter ski program for all students.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Medium - lots of international NGOs here.
2. Morale among expats:
Pretty good, though winter can get gray and hard.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Good. Lots of embassy events and social opportunities.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for anybody who likes to get outside and explore.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Sarajevo has a brilliant history of tolerance for all religions, but the scars of war run deep here. One needs to be careful what is discussed casually. The subject of religion can bring out the worst and best in people here.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel all over the region is easy if you want to get away, and you never run out of places to drive within a 3 - 5 hours distance. There always seems to be something worthwhile going on in Sarajevo, whether it's the Sarajevo Film Festival, inexpensive trips to the theater and musical events, or a cultural fair. Getting up into the hills outside of the city brings you to some of the most breathtaking landscape in Europe. If you're adventurous and can look past the graffiti or the communist style block apartments that line much of the city's streets, you can enjoy this place like no other. Just a trip down to the old Turkish market in town is a treat on any day. The coffee culture here is alive and well 12 months a year, with people sitting and chatting over hot cups of local brew well into the night. In the spring, the cafes move outdoors, and it's one after the other as you walk down the street.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Ski, head to the mountains for the day, visit the Turkish market, go to the coast, go to the movies (mostly in English), visit local historical sites, take a tour of Sarajevo.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Hand made rugs and crafts, silver and jewelry.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Beautiful, historical heart of the former Yugoslavia. Travel, except in winter, is very easy by plane to the rest of Europe. The beautiful Dalmatian Coast of Croatia is 4 to 5 hours away by car and the ride is gorgeous. Sarajevo is a vibrant, fun and safe city with wonderful cultural events, terrific skiing just 30-40 minutes away, and an amazing history that comes alive around every corner. It can be very enchanting here if you can put up with life in an economically challenged city pulling itself away from its wartorn past.
11. Can you save money?
Probably, if you try.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Definitely. What an amazing place.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
religious stereotypes and intolerance. This is a welcoming and vibrant city.
3. But don't forget your:
Ski clothes, sweaters, love of travel, patience, especially when sitting in traffic.
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
A Short History Of Bosnia, The Cellist of Sarajevo