Bosnia hitchhiking essentials
Advantages of hitch-hiking in Bosnia
Bosnia is an interesting country, that is still ethnically, religiously and culturally much divided between Bosniaks (Muslim), Serbs (Orthodox) and Croats (Catholics), and what’s a better way of learning about the history and culture of a country if not hitchhiking. If you hitchhike, you have a chance to speak with representatives of all these ethnic groups and get the first-hand perspective on such difficult issues as the last war or the ethnic cleansings.
Besides, Bosnian people are really friendly and if you are lucky you might get invited for a cup of strong Bosnian coffee.
Finally, Bosnia is a stunning country. I dare say, the most beautiful out of all the Balkan states, with narrow valleys, high and pristine mountains and crystal clear green mountainous rivers.
Disadvantages of hitchhiking in Bosnia
Bosnia is not the easiest country on Earth to travel by thumb. In fact, it can be slow and you have to dig deep if you really want to hitchhike rather than take dirt cheap public transport alternatives. We spent many hours on the road and saw many cars pass by but few of them actually stopped.
If you get stuck, as might happen (and did happen to us), your accommodation options are limited and camping wild might be difficult if not dangerous. It is advised not to camp wild in Bosnia, as you might accidentally find an active landmine, a remnant of the Bosnian war (1992-1995). Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the most severe land mine problems in the world, so be careful. Check this website for maps showing landmines in the Balkans.
It would also be difficult to find a good camping spot in Bosnia as many roads go through very narrow valleys surrounded on both sides by steep rocky slopes. If you do get stuck, the best idea is to try and get to the nearest settlement or town and ask the locals if they could recommend any place to sleep.
Another problem with hitchhiking in Bosnia is that outside the big cities not many people speak English. Your best chances are people who emigrated from Bosnia and are visiting their families, so keep your eyes peeled for foreign number plates. The biggest Bosnian diasporas are to be found in the US, Canada, Germany, Austria and Australia.
Types of roads
1) Motorways (avtoput, A-roads) – dual carriageways with a speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph). They have white-on-green road signs as in Croatia and other countries nearby. Hitch-hiking on them is illegal but Bosnia and Herzegovina has only 40 km of the motorway, stretching between Kakanj and Sarajevo.
2) Two-lane expressways (Brzi put / džada) – roads intended exclusively for motor vehicle traffic, with one or two separate lanes, with no emergency lane. Hitch-hiking on them is illegal, but I doubt anybody would bother you.
3) State roads (Državni put, D-roads) – State roads are public road that connect the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the network of major European roads. They are marked the one-, two- or three-digit numbers, which are printed on small boards along the road preceded by the letter ‘D’ (D+ number). Hitchhiking on them is legal, unless stated otherwise.
4) Regional roads (Regionalni put, R-roads) – Regional roads connect the important economic regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hitchhiking on them is legal, unless stated otherwise.
5) Local roads (Lokalni put) – Local roads connect villages. Hitchhiking on them is legal, unless stated otherwise.
There are four general speed limits in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
60 km/h (37 mph) within inhabited places
80 km/h (50 mph) outside inhabited places
100 km/h (62 mph) on expressways
130 km/h (81 mph) on motorways
Road map of Bosnia & Herzegovina
Absolutely essential hitch-hikers phrasebook
– Hello – Dobar dan (DOH-bahr dahn) – formal; Zdravo. (ZDRAH-voh) – informal
– Thank you – Hvala (HVAA-lah)
– Yes – Da (dah)
– No – Ne (neh)
– Please – Molim. (MOH-leem)
– Excuse me – Oprostite (oh-prohs-TEE-teh)
– How are you? – Kako ste? (kah-KOH steh?) – formal / Kako si? (kah-KOH see?) – informal
– Fine, thank you! – Hvala, dobro! (HVAH-lah, DOH-broh)
– Goodbye – Do viđenja (doh vee-jeh-nyah)
– Hich-hiking – Stopirao (sto-pee-ra-oh)
– I don’t have money – Nemamnovca (Neh-mum NOV-tsah)
– we don’t have money – Mi nemamonovca (Me Neh-mah-mo NOV-tsah)
– money – novac? (NOH-vahts?)
– I’m going … – Idem (EE-dehm…)
– We are going to … – Mi idemo… (Me EE-deh-moh…)
– Where are you going? – Kuda ideš? (Kooh-dah EE-desh?)
– Can we go with you? – Možemo li ići sa vama? (Moh-ZHE-moh lee Y-chy sah VAH-mah?)
– I am… – Ja sam… (yah sahm…)
– My name is… – Zovem se (ZOH-vehm seh…)
– I am from… – Ja sam iz … (Yah sahm eez…)
– What is your name? – Kako se zoveš? (KAH-koh seh ZOH-vehsh) – informal; Kako se zovete? (KAH-koh seh zoh-VEH-teh) – formal
– Nice to meet you! – Drago mi je. (DRAH-goh mee yeh)
– I don’t understand – Ne razumijem. (neh rah-ZOO-myehm)
– now – sad(a) (sahd (ah))
– today – danas (DAH-nahs)
– yesterday – juče (YOO-cheh)
– tomorrow – sutra (SOO-trah)
– friend – prijatelj (pri-YA-telee)
Very useful when they ask you where you’re staying. The concept of Couchsurfing is often too difficult to explain, so just say you’re staying with a friend. You can also use this word to express the relationship between you and your fellow travellers.
– Can you stop? – Možešli prestati? (Moh-zhesh lee preh-STAH-tea) – informal; Možeteli prestati? (moh-ZHEH-teh lee preh-STAH-tea)– formal
– I want to get out – Želimizaći (ZHEH-leem EE-zah-chyee)
– Turn left – Skrenite lijevo! (SKREH-nee-teh LYEH-voh)
– Turn right – Skrenite desno! (SKHREH-nee –te DEHS-noh)
– Straight ahead – Samo ravno (SAH-moh RAHV-noh)
– Here – ovdje(OV-dye)
– Do you have… (in a shop) – Imate li …?(ee-MAH-teh lee…?)
– beer – pivo (PEE-voh)
You should know this word, you will be often invited for some.
– bus station – autobuska stanica (OW-toh-boos-kah STAH-nee-tsah)
You should know this word and listen out for it to avoid situations when your driver, in their best intentions, takes you off the road and drives you to a station.
– train station – željeznička stanica? (ZHEH-lyehz-neech-kah STAH-nee-tsah)
– Help – Upomoć! (oo-POH-mohtch)
– Look out! – Pazite! (PAH-zee-teh)
– street – ulica (OO-lee-tsah)
– road – cesta (TSEHS-tah)
– roundabout – kružni tok (CROOZH-nee tok)
– crossroads – raskrsnica (RAH-scrah-snee-tsah)
BiH – Croatia
Although Croatia has recently joined the EU, they are planning to access the Schengen zone in 2015, therefore until then you should expect passport control at the border crossings. If you are an EU member, it’s fast and hassle-free, though.
- Gradiška– It’s the main border crossing in the north of Bosnia and the one you are probably going to use if you go to/from Zagreb, Croatia. It’s located on the E661 road and connects Zagreb with Banja Luka (the capital of Republika Srpska).
Gradiška is a town with the population of 56,000.
- Bihać – This border crossing is located in the north-west of Bosnia on the M5 road in Bosnia and the 217 local road in Croatia. You are going to use this border crossing if you’re planning a visit to the Plitvice Lakes National Park.
We used this border crossing in summer 2013 and the traffic on both ends was scarse, especially on the Croatian side, so be prepared for a long wait.
Bihać is a town with the population of 61,000.
- Metković – It’s the main border crossing in the south of Bosnia. It’s located on the international road E73 and and the M-17 in Bosnia. It connects the capital of BiH, Sarajevo, Mostar with the south of Croatia (Korčula, Dubrovnik, Split).
Metković is a town with the population of 15,000 people, set on the banks of the river Neretva.
BiH – Montenegro
- Klobuk – One of the main border crossings between BiH and Montenegro. It’s located on the M-6 road and connects the city of Trebinje (BiH) with Nikšić (the 2nd largest city in Montenegro).
- Šćepan Polje – another important border crossing connecting Bosnian capital Sarajevo with Durmitor National Park. It’s located on the M18 road in Bosnia and the E762 in Montenegro on the river Drina.
BiH – Serbia
- Zvornik/Mali Zvornik – This border town crossing is located on the M4 road in Bosnia and it connects Sarajevo with Belgrade. It’s a town with the population of 12,000 people.
- Bosanska Rača/Sremska Rača – This border crossing is located in north-eastern Bosnia and it’s the best option to take if you’re travelling between Bijeljina (Bosnia) and Novi Sad (Serbia). It connects road M18 in Bosnia with road 19 in Serbia.
- Kotroman – This border crossing is located in eastern Bosnia on the level of Sarajevo. It connects roads M5 in Bosnia with E-761 in Serbia.