Tuzla is the third largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, located in one of the most important industrial Bosnian regions.
Tuzla's history dates back a few millenia. Seeing as it was built where the Pannonian sea once was, it has always been famous for its salt mines, which is testified by it's very name ("Tuz" being the Turkish word for salt). During Yugoslav times, it has developed into one of the most important industrial centers of the country. The city was hardly directly targeted by the war (except for some isolated incidents), but industry suffered massively as a result of the war. This left the economy of Tuzla in shambles during the 90s and most of the 2000s. Since the early 2010's, the city has been taking significant steps to revitalize and reinvent itself as a notable tourist spot for domestic and international tourists, and has evolved into one of the most open-minded and western-oriented cities in the country.
Travelling to Tuzla is easy from the south, less so from Republika Srpska or Serbia.
Buses travel regularly, typically one or more per hour, from Sarajevo, a journey which takes three hours. The price is approximately 20km. There is a regular bus from Split in Croatia, leaving Split at 8AM, travelling via Livno, and taking about nine hours to make the journey. As of July 2011, there are no longer direct buses to Osijek. A bus also travels direct from Dubrovnik.
Even though Tuzla has a railway station, as of 2020, there are no passenger rail services to and from Tuzla, only freight lines. Up until late 2019, only a single passenger line connecting Tuzla with Doboj was left in operation, until it too was canceled, leaving Tuzla with no passenger service.
Tuzla has an airport  from where WizzAir flies to Bilund, Basel, Eindhoven, Berlin Schönefeld, Dortmund, Frankfurt Hahn, Friedrichshafen, Memmingen, Cologne, Karlsruhe, Gothenburg Landvetter, Malmö, Stockholm Skavsta, Växjö and Vienna. The airport is not in Tuzla proper, but in the town of Dubrave. It is located about 15 km from the city centre.
One problem travelers will need to face if arriving to Tuzla by plane is a severe lack of means to cheaply get into the city itself. The most convenient way to travel to the city from the airport is to take a taxi, but this can cost up to 40 BAM (around €20). Taxis are not metered, so the price depends on the taxi driver, who may take advantage of your lack of knowledge to charge you more. Despite Tuzla's relatively well-developed public bus network, no bus line runs directly to the airport. The only option is to take bus line number 11, running from Tuzla to Dubrave (the village where the airport is located). The bus station is located 5-10 minutes from the airport, near the post office in Dubrave. The trip costs 2 BAM (€1). If taking the bus, you should keep in mind that any schedules info will be impossible to find unless you speak the language.
If you don't have a local who can pick you up, the only other option is to rent a car, which is easily done since numerous trusted agencies have set up operations at the airport. Prices start at around €11 per day for a basic car (such as Peugeot 301, Volkswagen Polo, or Škoda Fabia).
Since Tuzla is rather compact and dense, there is not much need to use public transportation, as any areas of interest to a typical tourist are within walking distance (just like in most smaller European cities). The city is pedestrian-friendly and very walkable. There are sidewalks and marked road crossings everywhere. The old town is entirely a pedestrian zone.
Local bus network is well-developed and very cheap, but it's hard to find any information if you don't speak the language. If you need to use the bus, ask a local which bus number goes to your destination. The bus rides cost 1KM (€0.50) if within city limits, which extends far beyond the built-up areas. Tickets are bought on the bus, from the driver, and you need to emphasize that you're buying the city ticket. You do that by saying "gradska" while giving them the money.
Car isn't the optimal way to get around. Tuzla is rather densely populated, and so traffic is more chaotic than the city's size may imply. Drivers may be aggressive. The road surface is spotty in many places (though it is getting better with repair works being done more frequently). Parking tends to be difficult to find, and you need to pay for it almost everywhere. The reason for all this is that there are more cars than the city's infrastructure can accommodate. Locals often park their cars in almost ridiculous ways, due to lack of parking spaces. Sadly, the situation continues to worsen with the ever-increasing number of cars on the road. During rush hour, the roads are always congested, which is made even worse if there is construction work going on. Beware of pedestrians that may suddenly jump out in front of traffic.
Police checkpoints are common, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, and on holidays. Make sure you follow the rules of the road, as you will get stopped and get a ticket if you're caught breaking the law. If you're driving a car with foreign license plates, you are more likely to be pulled over. Note that the city-wide speed limit is 50 km/h, unless stated otherwise.
In short, it's best to avoid driving for the purpose of getting around due to lack of sufficient parking spaces and congestion during rush hour.
A bicycle is a good way to get around if you have access to one, since there aren't any good rental options. There are no dedicated bicycle lanes, so just ride it on the sidewalk. There are places to chain your bike to all around the city, but make sure to chain it as it could get stolen if not. The locals are used to bikes, and accidents are rare. The main part of the city is located on relatively flat area, but keep in mind that Tuzla is closely surrounded by hills. In short, bicycle riding in Tuzla is a mixed bag. Plan your itinerary carefully, and you should have an easy time getting around.
As of July 1st, 2019, a law was passed, making bicycle riding in pedestrian zones illegal, and is fined with 40KM (€20). Pedestrian zones are marked with a sign, reading "pješačka zona"
Taxis are cheap and safe, and will take you pretty much everywhere, be it inside the city or out. You can hail a cab right on the street (by far more the most popular way to take a ride) or order one via call. It's wise to consult with a local and ask how much should the journey cost, as taxis are not metered and some drivers may be dishonest, taking advantage of your lack of knowledge.
It's important to note that most taxi drivers will not speak English, so it's not a bad idea to have your destination written down to show the driver.
Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services are not available in Tuzla.
Tuzla is laid out in an east-west direction. There are two main roads in the city, one along the north line, and other along the south. If your ride starts and finishes on the same main road, it will usually cost 2.00KM (€1.00). Any diversions within the inner city cost 0.50KM extra. Diversions farther away from the main part of the city cost between 2.50KM and 5.00KM, depending on the distance. All of those prices increase after 11pm, and will slowly increase throughout the night. It all really depends on the driver. The base fare of 2.00KM may cost anywhere from 2.00KM to 5.00KM at nighttime, but there is no way to know this in advance, you need to ask the driver. You may try to negotiate the price down, but you will be met with varying degrees of success. Note that all previously mentioned prices will multiply by how many people are riding, so a two-person base price is 2.00KM x 2, and so on. The price situation is different when ordering a cab by phone. The inner city price is, as of August 2020, fixed at 4KM, no matter how many people are riding. Fares outside of the city cost more, depending on the distance, so ask. Most taxi companies will charge you an additional 1.00 to 2.00KM after 11pm, but you can't know for sure if you don't ask them.
Note that taxi prices have gone up since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the information present here is accurate as of August 2020. Despite this, some taxi drivers still charge the pre-pandemic base price of 1.50KM.
Stari Grad (old town) The first place to visit is the square neat the center of the old town called Trg Slobode (Freedom Square). A big square with multiple cafés, restaurants, and small monuments dedicated to Tuzla's rich ancient and medieval history.
Nearby Kapija is the site of the Tuzla Massacre, where 72 young people were killed by an artillery shell in 1995. Ask a local to translate the poem carved into the monument.
Kapija Massacre Memorial Center is located only a few dozen meters south of the Kapija square. It is a museum dedicated to the Tuzla Massacre of 1995.
Slana Banja (colloquially known as simply "Banja") Located just northeast of the old town, it's a must-see if you're into more modern history. Contains many monuments dedicates to the struggles of the Partisans of WW2, as well as a memorial of the most recent 1992-1995 Bosnian war. One part of that memorial is a cemetery where the victims of the previously mentioned Tuzla massacre were buried. Aside from it's historical value, about half of the park is forested, being perfect for a short getaway from the fast-paced city life. Some parts of this area are considered to be unsafe late at night, so read up on that in the STAY SAFE section.
You should also visit the Pannonian Lakes, whose water is directly supplied from the local wells of salt water. Tuzla's salt has been exploited for centuries and you should visit the Salt square dedicated to this aspect of Tuzla's history. One-day entrance fees range from 2km to 4km (depending on the season and number of visitors). Good for swimming or just relaxing. There are small cabins to change clothes. Do not bring valuables, as there are no lockers. Just bring a towel, bathing suit and toe slippers.
Another notable site is the City Fountain, built in 1888. located in very center of old town on Trg Slobode. You can tap fresh water here (for free). Better than buying plastic bottles!
There are at least two mosques worth seeing. Šarena džamija (Colorful mosque), also called The Mosque of Atik Behram Bey, northwest of Freedom Square and Turalibegova džamija (Turalibey's mosque) on Turalibegova street just east of the center.
If you are interested in art, visit some of Tuzla's art galleries. More info can be found in Tuzla's tourist info center, located only a few meters south of Kapija Square.
If you are interested in history, you should see the model of an ancient village set near the Pannonian lakes.
Go for a swim in the Pannonian Lakes. Clean water, simple but adequate facilities (cold fresh water showers; cabins to change clothes). 1€ to 2€ entrance fee depending on season and day of the week.
Go for a stroll in the old town. The compact yet charming old town is full of history, both ancient and modern, and is littered with cafés, pubs, small shops and restaurants. Architecturally, it is a unique blend of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian styles, with some communist and modern era buildings as well. The central park is located here, as well as museums dedicated to salt mining. You can also find three old mosques (one of which dates back to the 16th century) and a Serbian orthodox church from the 18th century.
The hill of Kicelj, located to the northwest of the old town offers the best panoramic views of the city, where you can relax while overlooking the hustle and bustle of the city below you. The best time to visit is in summer and when it's dry, but note that it gets crowded in the evenings.
If you find yourself visiting during summer, check out Kaleidoskop festival, a three-day music festival held in July or August. It takes place at a park very near the city center. There are no tickets or entrance fees - it's completely free.
Go for a walk at Slana Banja. A large, partially forested park located right next to the Pannonian lakes. Places of interest include various World War 2 memorials, Kapija massacre memorial, Kuća plamena mira (a center for artistic activities, such as music, dancing, painting, sculpting etc.) and many paths going through the forest. It is highly advisable that you stay away from Banja entirely after dark. (More in STAY SAFE)
Shopping in Tuzla is mostly like in every other city of its size in Europe. There are three shopping malls in the city. Tuzlanka first opened in 1980; renamed to Omega center after the war and re-named back to Tuzlanka after renovations in the later part of 2010's. Rather large as it spans 4 floors. Contains reasonable shopping opportunities, but is somewhat old-fashioned in its features. Mercator Family Center, opened in 2004. A medium-sized mall, with modern amenities and is home to more expensive clothes shops and a big grocery store, among other things. Bingo City Center, opened in 2018, is the best, biggest, and by far the most modern of the malls. It has everything a modern mall needs to have, including a big grocery store, a cinema complex, many clothes and shoes shops, bookstores, electronics shops, a café, and a well-equipped entertainment area.
Aside from the malls, you will find small shops selling traditionally crafted items all over the old town. A Chinese-owned shop called Hong Tai Yong is also found here, selling many low-quality items but at extremely low prices. Many gift shops can also be found around the old town.
International cuisine does not have a significant presence in Tuzla. There are many restaurants that serve pizza, although it's usually not nearly as good as in other cities around the world. Fast food places are common in the old town, and are significantly cheaper than in most European cities. Kebab places have risen in popularity in recent years, and they are of good quality.
When it comes to traditional Bosnian dishes, Tuzla has a lot to offer. Ćevapi is likely the first dish that comes to mind, and are very popular in Tuzla. They are served in most restaurants, and dedicated ćevapi-places are everywhere around the city. Note that ćevapi in Tuzla are prepared slightly differently compared to other cities in the country. There are also restaurants that specialize in traditional dishes.
A staple restaurant to get ćevapi in Tuzla is Limenka, at Patriotske Lige 24 (across the main road from the Pannonian lakes). It is a simple, no frills restaurant that specializes in ćevapi and other traditional Bosnian food. Extremely popular with locals and tourists alike.
The only worthwhile high-end restaurant in Tuzla is MammaMia Origins Steak&Wine Restaurant, located on the north side of the main square. Offers high-quality locally-sourced food, including chicken, fish, seafood and desserts, though it specializes in steaks and wines. Offers a good variety of steaks, and is cheaper compared to similar restaurants in other countries.
As of 2020, there are no western fast food chains present in Tuzla. There was a single McDonald's restaurant a few years ago, but has since closed down.
Alcohol is cheap and abundant. You will find bars all around the old town, and almost every café serves many different types of alcoholic beverages. Even though the legal drinking age is 18, many establishments and shops will not ask for ID (though some will, so keep that in mind).
Beer is by far the most popular alcoholic drink, and many different types and brands can be found in shops and bars.
Like other Slavs, people in Tuzla produce and enjoy rakija, a popular traditional plum brandy.
Coffee is the most popular non-alcoholic drink, and Bosnian people are among the heaviest coffee drinkers in the world. Some popular cafés are:
- Urban BeaTZ Lounge Bar, located right on the edge of the central park. Relaxed atmosphere and a unique decor. During summer season, it has a lovely outdoor area with great views of the park. During the winter season, there are karaoke nights every Friday and trivia nights every Wednesday, with occasional live music. Also known as the most LGBT-friendly place in Tuzla.
- Sloboda, located on Soni Trg. Has a large outdoor area which gets very crowded during warmer months. During winter, its outdoor area is transformed into a cute, alpine village type of decor with seating inside of small houses.
- Coffee Zone, located at Fra Grge Martića 30. Has a Scandinavian-style decor, and is one of the only cafés in Tuzla with a separate non-smoking area.
- Firma, located on the main square. Cozy, classic rock atmosphere. Has live music every Friday and Saturday night.
Public drinking is technically not legal, but many locals do it and it's not frowned upon (unlike in some other parts of the country). If you choose to drink in public, take care to not have more than 3-4 people in your group, as police officers usually turn a blind eye to small groups drinking.
There are no backpacker hostels in Tuzla. Consider the below options, or plan ahead for a stay with a local family through Airbnb.
You can choose between two hotels, Tuzla and Dom Penzionera, and numerous pansions. Motel Rudar, across the street from the fire station is also a good choice for about €20 a night. There is now a beautiful boutique hotel, immaculately presented but at typically low BiH rates. The owners could not be more friendly or helpful - Golden Star Hotel in the town centre.
Tuzla is generally a very safe city - one of the safest in the Balkans. Just use common sense, and don't go looking for trouble if trouble doesn't come looking for you. Every part of the city is very safe during the day, and most parts are at night as well (although the general consensus is that everything east of the old town is generally safer than parts lying westwards), and the old town area is the very safest part, day or night. There are no areas that should inherently be avoided at all times, but do exercise the following precautions: don't go into abandoned buildings, don't go near suspicious-looking groups of people that are just hanging about, and avoid large and unlit parking lots and playgrounds. Aside from that, the neighborhoods of Mosnik and Dragodol are considered among locals to be somewhat dangerous, but they are out of the way and contain no points of interest at all anyway, since they are purely residential with a few small shops. Even as a single female traveler, your safety can be all but guaranteed.
Miladije - a large, rather run-down and poor neighborhood that lies on the western edge of the city. It is being revived as a sort-of commercial area, but when those businesses close down for the night, the area becomes largely devoid of pedestrian traffic. Some parts of this neighborhood at night become a hangout spot of choice for many sketchy people. The main road out of the city runs right through this area, so if you have to go through Miladije on foot at night (however unlikely that may be), stick to the pedestrian footpath that goes along the road, and you will be fine. Like with neighborhoods mentioned above, Miladije is far away from any attractions and is uninteresting to a typical tourist, so it's highly unlikely you'll ever find yourself there.
Slana Banja - a large park just next to the Pannonian lakes. During the day and a few hours after dark, it's a lovely place where lots of locals spend time in, but in late hours of the night it becomes a place for couples and drug dealers. Compared to other parts of the city, it is not safe for people to walk alone late at night. Areas lit by street lights are mostly fine, so if you find yourself in Slana Banja after dark, stick to lit areas. If for whatever reason you want to walk around the forest part at night, go in a group of at least 3-4 people. Do not, under any circumstance, go into the forest on your own, you WILL get into trouble with sketchy people. Locals know this very well, so they avoid that forest like the plague after dark, unless they are in groups.
Aside from what's been discussed, trouble is hard to find in the city. If confronted by beggars (which are usually benign and not aggressive), usually a firm "no" is enough to leave you alone, or just keep walking, ignoring them. Robberies and other violent crime is exceptionally rare and will not pose an issue. If at any point you feel unsafe, you should make yourself look like you know where you are going, even if you don't. That way, potential troublemakers will assume you are a local and are more likely to leave you alone.
To reiterate, the chances of you getting into trouble in Tuzla are slim to none, regardless of time of day (provided you stay away from the woods of Slana Banja at night, as discussed above). Most visitors will not have a single safety issue during their stay. Safety is not a major concern of the locals and it shouldn't be yours either.
Police officers are sometimes helpful, other times not, but in either case the language barrier will pose a problem, as most will likely not speak English. Then again, you probably won't even need the help of police during your stay. In a case you do require non-emergency police assistance, your best bet is to pay a visit to the police headquarters, where you're more likely to find an English speaking officer. It is located about 500 meters east of the old town.
Tap water is perfectly fine for drinking, and food quality tends to be good, as food safety regulations comply with those of the European union.
Be aware that by the state law of tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, every tourist needs to be reported in the police station and every accommodation needs to report your presence. There are a lot of illegal accommodations that do not care for this, so it is on you.
Before you plan to visit, get as much information as You can. Here are some useful City service portals:
If you need consular assistance, if you're a citizen of the European Union, there is a Consulate-general of the Republic of Croatia, located at Kazan mahala 1. Their website is at: http://www.mvep.hr/en/diplomatic-directory/diplomatic-missions-and-consular-offices-of-croatia/bosnia-and-herzegovina-tuzla,117.html#p
Buses run very regularly to Lukavac, about 20 minutes away. From here, a ten minute taxi takes you to Lake Modrac, a large lake with a few restaurants. Due to industrial pollution, however, it is not safe to swim in the lake.
A more promising destination is Lake Bistarac. Take a local bus for Lukavac, and get off just before the town. Up a hill lies a clean freshwater lake. There is a minimal entry charge, with a small extra charge for use of the slide into the lake. Stalls and a restaurant serve food.
Kladanj, about 90 minutes away by bus towards Sarajevo, is a small, attractive town with many little restaurants, and small ski-resort nearby.