Thinking of visiting Sarajevo? You definitely should – it is a beautiful city and perfect for budget travelers! With a very rich history, stunning architecture and friendly residents, it is one of the best picturesque cities in southeastern Europe.
But there are several things about Sarajevo that all of these articles will not tell you. Like the fact that you need a winter jacket handy from October to May, because you never know when it might snow. Yes, it can happen in May!
So, here's a local guide to all the things you need to know before visiting Sarajevo, to really enjoy your stay!
Guide to visiting Sarajevo
Smoking is permitted in the vast majority of Sarajevo's pubs, restaurants and cafes. be prepared to breathe a lot of second-hand smoke. The smoking ban is not yet something the government is trying to implement, mainly because there are so many smokers in the city that the ban on establishments would seriously harm local businesses.
Some places have smoking and non-smoking areas, but most are restaurants and cafes – Mrvica, Manolo, Metropolis etc. Be sure to check out TripAdvisor and Google Maps reviews of a place you'd like to visit, if you want to make sure they have a non-smoking area – this information is not normally advertised anywhere else.
Don't get an apartment with a "panoramic view"
If you want a cute AirBnB, avoid anything that is advertised with a panoramic or panoramic view of the city. It may seem like a good idea, but you will realize the extent of your mistake when you arrive in Sarajevo.
The city is in a valley and is surrounded by hills and mountains. All apartments with panoramic views are located on the surrounding hills, with little or no public transport. This means that you need to take a taxi whenever you want to leave or climb the mountain for 20 minutes.
Local cuisine is good for finger licking
Sarajevans are mostly carnivores, so plant-based people feel free to skip to the next thing you need to know about Sarajevo!
O Sarajevan's best known dish is ćevapi – small skewers of minced meat served with pita bread, chopped onion and kajmak. They are greasy, decadent and delicious. It is the only dish that you absolutely have to try, even if you are not in the mood to try foreign dishes.
Most other local dishes include minced meat in some way, so vegans and vegetarians will have a hard time finding a place to eat in the city. If you are in the mood to try Bosnian cuisine, definitely try Sarma, Dolma, Burek and any other dish you can find. The Singing Nettle is one of the best local restaurants in the city and is highly recommended by tourists and locals.
Also, you need to have a suitable dessert – Baklava is considered the traditional dessert that you must eat in Sarajevo. And the best baklavas are in small bakeries on Ferhadija – Sarajbosna street. We recommend baklava with kajmak, for a symphony of mind-blowing flavors in the mouth.
You can walk anywhere – avoid the trams
Sarajevo is a small city, and the best way to explore it is to walk everywhere. Especially the area around the city center and the old town – it will take you less than 15 minutes to get from the BBI shopping center (popular meeting place in the city center) to the famous Sebilj in Baščaršija.
Trams are technically the fastest way to get around the city, as the lanes run mainly between the main roads, but it is best to avoid them completely. They are dirty, unreliable, and if a controller catches you without a ticket, they will try to take all your money.
If this happens, you should know that the penalty for not having a tram ticket is 15 euros. Don't give them another dime – feel free to call the police or ask a friendly place to intervene. The only thing that the Sarajevans have in common is their hatred of the ticket controllers and the desire to argue with them at any time of the day.
O the most reliable form of public transport in Sarajevo are the Centrotrans buses. You need to purchase a ticket as soon as you enter, which costs 1 euro. They have Wi-Fi and screens that indicate where you are currently. You can always cross-reference with Google Maps and you will never get lost!
Taxi drivers will try to trick you
Taxi drivers in Sarajevo love to steal foreigners. So, the first thing you should do when getting into a vehicle is ask to connect the meter. If they refuse, get out of that vehicle and find another one.
They will probably also take longer routes, just to get more money, don't let them do that. Especially if you're trying to get somewhere near the main road – literally, most people driving in Sarajevo are going straight, so don't let them take you through all the narrow streets just to get a few more euros from you.
Cash Is King
O Sarajevo's currency is Bosnian Convertible Mark (KM), and is the only currency accepted everywhere. Some stores accept euros, but these are very rare and are usually locally owned.
Money is still king in Sarajevo, so make sure you have everything available for taxi trips, public transport tickets, coffee bills etc. Card acceptance is improving in the city – the vast majority of luxury restaurants accept cards, especially establishments located within shopping centers. However, many places still receive only money, mainly smaller bars, cafes and bakeries, located in neighborhoods farther from the city center.
It is best to ask if a local accepts credit cards before you sit down for a drink. Otherwise, the good news is that there is an ATM on the street every 10 meters.
Restaurants do not serve pork
The majority of the population in Sarajevo is Muslim and, as you probably know, Muslims do not eat pork. Which means that very little or no restaurant will have pork on the menu.
You can still buy it in supermarkets, but not in some of the biggest shopping centers in the city – more on that later. Just don't be surprised that you can't get a bacon burger anywhere in Sarajevo.
If you really want to go to restaurants in Istočno Sarajevo. It is technically a different city from Sarajevo because it is located in the Republika Srpska entity, but it is geographically part of the Sarajevo area – the policy makes the distinction confusing even for the locals, so we will not insist on that. The main thing to know is that you will find many restaurants that serve pork.
Beware of pickpockets
Sarajevo still has a problem with pickpockets – it's not as big as Lisbon's, but it's still a problem. Always carry your kangaroo-style backpack and don't leave your valuables out of sight.
You must be particularly cautious on trams and trolleybuses. It is possible to enter these vehicles without a ticket, so that they are the workplace of most pickpockets. And when the afternoon crowd returns home from work, it's almost impossible to pay attention to your suitcase.
You will find several signs throughout the city center that warn you of this, so be very careful in these areas. But as long as you keep your purse close, don't go around displaying wads of money and expensive jewelry, you'll be fine.
Some hotels do not serve alcohol
Certain Sarajevo hotels and shopping centers built in the past decade were financed by investors from the Middle East. Which means that alcohol and pork are strictly prohibited there. You cannot buy them in stores and you cannot find them in restaurants on these premises.
This applies to the BBI and SCC shopping centers, as well as the Swissotel and Bristol Hotel. The worst part is that hotels don't advertise this anywhere on their websites, so many people make the mistake of booking a room, only to realize too late that they can't get a proper drink at the hotel.
The climate is extreme
To say that the climate in Sarajevo is extreme is the minimum. Or, to be even more precise, climate change in Sarajevo is extreme. You always need to have a jacket and an umbrella, even if you are visiting in the middle of July and are 40 degrees Celsius outside – it is very possible that the temperature will drop 20 degrees at night.
The same goes for winter weather – one day it is snowing so much that there is 20 centimeters of snow on the ground, and the next day the sun comes out and all the snow is melting. You can walk around with a thin leather jacket in early December and need a thick coat a week later – temperature changes are constant and quite extreme.
In addition, it is smart to always have a small umbrella in your bag. You never know when you might need it – the possibility of showers exists even on the clearest and sunniest summer days.
Travel tip shared by TheAdventourist