Difference between revisions of "Sarajevo"
Revision as of 03:22, 7 December 2007
Sarajevo , the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a lively city of 400,000 people, nestled in a valley, mainly within the Bosniak(Muslim)-Croat Federation, but with parts in the Republika Srpska.
Sarajevo is one of the most historically interesting cities in Europe. It is the place where the Western & Eastern Roman Empire split; where the people of the Eastern Orthodox east, the Ottoman south and the Roman Catholic west, met, lived and warred. It has been both an example of historical turbulence and the clash of civilizations, as well as a beacon of hope for peace and tolerance through multi-cultural integration.
Today the city has physically recovered from most of the war damage caused by the Yugoslav Wars of the early nineties. Sarajevo is a cosmopolitan European capital with a unique Eastern twist that is a delight to visit. The people are very friendly, be they Bosniak, Serb, or Croat. There is very little crime, not nearly as many tourists as on the Dalmatian coast and a wealth of architecture (not to mention history) to see.
Getting there and back
Sarajevo Airport (IATA: SJJ) is located in the suburb of Butmir and is relatively close to the city centre. There is no direct public transportation, and taxi fares to/from the airport are surprisingly expensive for the short distance - your best bet is to take a taxi to the tram terminus at Ilidza and board the tram for the last part of your journey, cost 1.6KM. Alternatively you can take bus 36 to Neđarići (1.6KM), the bus stop is located somewhere on the main road outside the airport parking lot. At Neđarići you can change for a tram to the city centre (again 1.8KM). Bus 36 runs about every 30 minutes. Service hours are 6-23 mon-fri, 6-8 and 14-18 sat and 8-15 sun.
Train services across the country are slowly improving once again, though speeds and frequencies are still low. Much of the rail infrastructure was damaged during the recent conflict, and lines have been opened on a priority basis, though not to the high level of service pre-war.
Interrailnet (official Interrail website) has a good map of the European rail network
The night train service Budapest Déli-Sarajevo ended on December 15, 2006. A day train now leaves Budapest (Keleti pu. station) daily at 9.30, arriving in Sarajevo at 21.39. One-way tickets cost 52 Euro but the return ticket is actually cheaper at 48.10 Euro (11,600 forint + 750 forint compulsory reservation). There is a dining car. You will be bothered at least four times for your passport, and around four times for your ticket, and once by very nosy and insistent EU customs staff.
The return train departs at 7:14 every morning for Budapest, via Osijek, in Croatia, and costs 96 KM. It arrives at Keleti pu. station at 19:03. For more information visit Hungarian Timetable or Hungarian State Railways (in Hungarian).
There are two trains each day between Sarajevo and Zagreb.
A train leaves Zagreb daily at 08:57, arriving in Sarajevo at 18:05 - this train continues onto Ploče, arriving there at 22:13
A ticket should cost 24EUR/170KN. The train does NOT have a dining car on board, though men with trolleys will board the train at various points on the journey. Be advised to bring supplies beforehand!!
There is also a recently-introduced overnight service operating between the two cities for the same price. This train does not have sleeper cars and has an inconveniently-timed border crossing to ensure you won't get a full nights sleep!
A train leaves Zagreb at 20:49 arriving in Sarajevo at 06:11. The return train leaves Sarajevo at 21:20 and arrives in Zagreb at 06:43.
See below for trains to/from Ploče.
From/to Ploče via Mostar
There is another train route from Ploče in Croatia to Sarajevo via Mostar. One of the most beautiful and scenic rail routes in Europe, travelling through lakes and mountains with many tunnels and switchbacks.
Trains depart Ploče daily:
Trains from Sarajevo to the south:
Single tickets from Sarajevo to Mostar cost 9.90KM (return: 14.10KM). Additional trains operate each day to the town of Konjic (about half way between the two cities). Holders of an ISIC student card can get a 30% discount.
See the Croatian Railways website for more information.
Roads in Bosnia are often only a single lane in either direction, and due to the mountainous topography tend to be very windy and speed limits are lower (mostly 80kph). Beware of trucks and people dangerously overtaking on any road. There are many tunnels, and you must always drive with your lights ON (day or night).
There are two bus stations in Sarajevo, the main bus station ('autobusna stanica', by the train station) serving Croatia and most other international destinations, as well as destinations within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is also another bus station in Eastern (Serb-dominated) Sarajevo on the outskirts of the city serving the Republika Srpska and destinations in both Serbia and Montenegro. To get to this bus station (called 'Lukavica' or 'Istochno Sarajevo') it is probably easiest to book/order a taxi (cost from the Turkish Quarter was around 15KM in September 2005). If you prefer public transport, use 103 and 107 bus/trolleybus, exit at the last station, and ask people how to get to Lukavica bus station (it is within walking distance). Be warned that Lukavica is the name of suburb/district, not just the bus station! In this bus station, Cyrillic script is prevalent so you should probably check the spelling of your destination.
From the main bus station, there are several buses a day to/from Mostar which also stop at Konjic and Jablanica along the way. These leave at 6, 7, 7:35, 8, 8:15, 9, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 14:30, 15:30 and up to 18, and journey time is approximately two and a half hours. Single tickets cost 13.50KM, return tickets are 19KM. There are also buses to Split (5-6 hours) and a daily bus to Dubrovnik which leaves at 7am and costs 40KM/160KN.
There are several buses a day from the main bus station to Banja Luka. These leave at 5:00, 07:55, 09:15, 14:30, 15:30 and 16:30. Journey time is approximately 5 hours.
The bus ride to Podgorica in Montenegro takes about 7 hours but is an absolutely amazing ride through some wonderful countryside (mostly through Republika Srpska). One of bus goes at 14:00. Cost is 27 KM or 14 Euro, Euro is acceptable (Oct 2006).
Buses to Tuzla leave from the main bus station approximately every hour every day. The journey takes approximately 3 hours, and costs around 11KM (June 2006).
There is a daily bus to Graz and Vienna (Centrotrans/Eurolines), leaving from the main bus station at 08:00, reaching Graz at 19:45 and Vienna around 2 hours later. A one-way ticket is 44 euro (note that when i asked for a cheaper student ticket, the seller told me that this includes only bosnian students). You will have to pay the driver 2KM to transport luggage. There are frequent stops on the way, including for food and toilets. Do not rely on this "food stops" very much as the drivers stop at the places like local coffee etc. The problem is that it is not any petrol station and you have to have the currency of the country where you are. (The longest 30 mins stop was at one village local coffee in Croatia, I didnt have croatian money, so I was waiting in front of the bus for 30 mins and couldnt buy anything. I still could buy only coffee or non-alcoholic drink, no chips, bakery, anything) Do not waste your time in Sarajevo if you want to travel with Eurolines and buy your ticket asap because the buses to European Union use to be very crowded.
The journey to Belgrade takes about 7-9 hours and was 28KM (bought from the bus driver) in September 2005. The bus departs from Lukavica bus station in Eastern Sarajevo. There are several buses a day. As of April 2007, there is now a daily service from the main bus station, cost 35KM.
There are many bus lines linking most towns and cities in Bosnia and Hercegovina. See Centrotrans for details (in Bosnian only). Check the transport sections of other destinations for more information. From Germany you can go by Euroliner (Centrotrans is part of it), have a look on Touring.de.
On all intercity buses you pay a fee for luggage. This fee of about 0.5 to 1 euro per piece of luggage is paid to the driver upon boarding. Some drivers are rather picky about being paid in exact change in the correct currency (sometimes a local currency, at other instances requesting to be paid in euros) and sometimes also refuse to be paid in too small coins. So keep some change ready.
The center of Sarajevo is served by a spinal tram network which makes an anti-clockwise loop around the central district (the first in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, opened in the mid-1870s) and a number of trolley-bus and bus lines which fan out into the suburbs. Tickets should be purchased in advance from kiosks labeled tisak on the street or from the driver, where they cost slightly more (around 1.80KM). Tickets should be validated upon boarding the vehicle and are valid for a one way trip only. Changing tram or bus means validating a new ticket. A day card valid for unlimited travel on all local public transport in zone A is available for about 5KM. Please note that inspectors board public transport very frequently.
The local transit network is operated by GRAS. More information including timetables can be found at the website: http://www.gras.co.ba.
To reach the Tunel museum in Butmir you can take the tram to the terminus at Ilidža and change there for bus 32 to Butmir. Leave the bus at the first stop beyond the Butmir SFOR base.
In Sarajevo street signs are few and far between, and small and on the sides of buildings too far away to see when you're standing on a streetcorner. Building numbers are more or less consecutive but don't follow the "hundreds" styles of the United States, e.g., 23 Bjestiva street may be blocks from 27 Bjestiva street. An excellent map of Sarajevo is available at bookstores, all of which are located downtown and not open early or late or on holidays. Maps aren't sold in gas stations or other stores. Lastly, asking Sarajevans for directions is an exercise in futility. People don't know the names of streets a block from the building they've lived in all their lives. However, they won't tell you this, and as a rule will point you in some direction, usually not the right direction. Taxi drivers can't be expected to find anything but the most obvious addresses unless you tell them where to go, in Bosnian. So buy the map before you go to Sarajevo, and when you get there walk around a bit instead of taking taxis. It's a small, beautiful city with many landmarks. Getting lost is next to impossible if you have the map, and maybe a compass.
There is now a walking guide to Bosnia's 2000m peaks. It is called Forgotten Beauty and is available from the 'Buy Book' book shop in the centre of Sarajevo (In English and Bosnian).
Please note the memorial (mezar) for the massacre is not in Srebrenica but in a nearby village called Potocari. Tell to driver and his asistant to let you off at Potocari. After seeing the memorial you can take a taxi (cost 3 KM) to go to Srebrenica which still looks like a dead city. Returns to Sarajevo are at 14:30 for Eastern Sarajevo and 16:30 for main bus station.
Also the must see is the "Vrelo Bosne". The begining of the river Bosna where the water is pure and ice cold. Here you can walk in a beautiful park, picnic and spend the whole day without ever getting bored
Sarajevo has countless shops selling burek (meat pie, sold in layers by weight), cevapi and pizza stores. Pita is a filo pasty pie coming in several varieties - cheese (sirnica), cheese and spinach (zeljanica), pumpkin (tikvinica), and spicy potato (krompirusa). It is normally eaten with yoghurt sauce.
There are numerous houses around town offering accommodation in rooms for as little as 3KM per night (around 1,5 euro), although they can be hard to find. Best bet is to go to one of the accommodation bureaus near the old town and find somewhere for a night (at their prices, with their 500% markup), then arrange with the landlord/lady to stay on for their own rate.
One of the options is local hostel named SARTOUR. Their web page is: www.sartour-hostel-sarajevo.ba . They work in price range from 10 to 15 euros per person per bed per night for accommodation and can also recommend alternative accommodations.
When you tire of being bundled in cars by various agencies to look at various far-flung and grotty rooms, nip one door down from Sartour's office on Mula Mustafe Bašeskije. Down a passage is an internet cafe with a big sign saying ROOMS - virtually the only one which does actually have rooms right there. They're cheap (30 euros for a twin room) and cosy and clean enough, you get a little terrace and the staff are very friendly. Can be a bit noisy from the cafe and aircon though, but the location, virtually opposite the central square and right near the tram stop, is perfect.
One useful apartment is Skend, located about 15 minutes walk from the centre, but with comfortable, large rooms and breakfast available. Around 30KM. Tel: +387 61537775, or, for English, +387 912523834
The first address for an overview of budget accommodation of any kind is still 'Sarajevo Accommodation' run by Mersad Bronja, better known as 'Miki'. He arranges overnight stays in privat rooms as well as hostels, pensions and hotels in Sarajevo and its surroundings. Contact http://www.sarajevo-accommodation.com for further information.
Another option, 200 meters from the Old Town in the neighborhood of Bistrik is a very nice, sophisticated and modern place for excellent prices. It is called MD Apartmani and is family-run. More info can be found at 
Another good option is the Hostel Ljubičica, situated in the Old town, just next to the tram station (you will often spot backpackers in front). They offer hostel and private accommodations starting at 6€ and onwards. If you are visiting for the first time, you can make arrangements online or by phone, and also arrange with them to be picked up at the train station, or the two bus stations in the city. The website is http://www.hostelljubicica.net/.
There are still many minefields and unexploded ordinances in the Sarajevo area and its surrounding suburbs. Never go into damaged buildings and always stick to paved surfaces. Areas that are not cleared are marked by yellow tape or signs, but still not all minefields are identified. Paved roads are always safe. Crime against foreigners is rare and the city is safe to visit (as with any countries in former Yugoslavia, be careful not to get into sensitive discussions about politics with people you do not know).