In just a few weeks you will be embarking on one of the most exciting journeys of your life: being a part of the Exchange Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We have worked very hard through the year and we have made it our goal for you to have the most amazing month in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so we tought of everything; from organising your exchange programme at our best Clinical Centres, through arranging the best possible accommodation and to planning a fulfilled social programme.
We know you have a lot to look forward to. To make your Exchange as easy and simple as possible, we have created this Survival Kit for Incoming Students, a great reference guide for everything you need to know.
An amazing experience awaits you in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Feel free to contact us with any questions and we will be happy to support you on your journey.
BoHeMSA SCOPE and SCORE team
Bosnia and Herzegovina (usually shortened to BiH) is the heart shaped land that lies in the heart of southeast Europe. It is here that eastern and western civilizations met, sometimes clashed, but more often enriched and reinforced each other throughout its long and fascinating history. It was formerly part of Yugoslavia but gained independence in 1992. It borders Croatia to the north, west and southwest, Serbia to the east and Montenegro to the southeast. Mostly mountainous, it has access to a tiny portion of the Adriatic Sea coastline in the south.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a long name for a country that measures just over 50,000 km2. Bosnia covers the north and centre of the country with its name probably derived from 'bosana', an old Indo-European word meaning water, which Bosnia has no short of. The southern region of ancient Hum, ruled by Herceg Stjepan (Duke Stjepan),was later named Herzegovina after the region was conquered by the invading Ottomans.
Due to its unique geographic positioning, Bosnia and Herzegovina is ideal for multi-season visits. The south enjoys warm, sunny and dry weather, with very mild winters. In the more continental areas the weather is similar to that of central Europe – hotsummers, cool springs and autumns, and cold winters with considerable snowfall. The Mediterranean and continental climates meet in the middle, creating one of the most diverse eco-systems in Europe. The mountains create a climate of their own. The Alpine climate rulesthe mountain terrains of the high Dinarics above 1700 meters. The wintersthere are extremely cold, with temperatures well below zero for more thansix months of the year.
The official languages in the Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. In the Republika Srpska you'll see signs in Cyrillic, so a Serbian-English dictionary would be helpful there.
A lot of Bosnians, especially the younger generation will speak English. A surprising number of young people will also know at least some German, because Bosnian kids learn German at school. The older generations tended to have studied English, French or German in school.
There are three main 'peoples' that inhabit this country: Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. Despite different religious and/or ethnic background their language, traditions and culture are more similar than not.
In short, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are southern Slavs, with varying religious backgrounds. According to the last population census there were 4,354,911 inhabitants in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1991. Due to war-related death and migration, that number is lower now. Policy makers estimate that the country's population is now around 3.8 million people and steadily growing, and that over one million Bosnians now live abroad. The ethnic composition remains similar to the pre-war percentages: Bosniaks (Muslims) 44%, Serbs (Christian Orthodox) 32%, and Croats (Catholics) 17%. The remaining 7% of the population is composed of Yugoslavs, Albanians, Roma, Jews, and several other minority groups.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country at the crossroads of eastern and western civilizations. Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews live here together.
In this country it is hard to find a town that doesn't have both churches and mosques. This illustrates that Bosnia and Herzegovina is indeed at the crossroad of eastern and western civilizations.
The medieval Bosnian church is a good starting point for understanding contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina. While most of Europe and the Balkans were under the influence of either of the two major Christian belief systems, geographically isolated Bosnia and Herzegovina celebrated a Christian god with many elements of paganism, and without the structure and hierarchy of the two Christian churches.
The Ottomans first arrived in the region in the fourteenth century, and over the next two hundred and fifty years Bosnia saw a significant portion of its population convert to Islam. In the sixteenth century a fourth group entered the region. Many of the Sephardic Jews that had been expelled from Spain in 1492 resettled in Sarajevo, Mostar, Travnik and other major Bosnian cities and were accepted as merchants together with their religion, culture and tradition.
In Tito's Yugoslavia, most people strayed from their religious beliefs. Religious practice was allowed but frowned upon, secularism was encouraged and the religious leaders were chosen by the communist party. Despite the heavy influence of the Ottomans, Bosnia and Herzegovina remained a very multi-religious state. This holds true today, with Muslim, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews and others living together.
The healthcare system in BiH aims to offer whole and equal attention to everyone in the country. Every Bosnian person and people residing permanently in BiH have a right to receive medical attention for free. The payment of medicines depends on whether it is included in the Social Security system (which many are) or not. For foreigners, the cost and payment of the services will depend on the agreements with the country they come from. However, every person has a right to medical attention and treatment in case of an emergency, if they are under 18 years of age and during pregnancy, childbirth and early recovery after childbirth, no matter where they come from or how they got into the country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has no legal requirements for vaccinations. To find a pharmacy, ask for 'apoteka'. In major centers, there are many of them, and there is usually at least one that is open 24 hours a day.These pharmacies will generally have all regular prescription drugs readily available.
STRUCTURE OF EDUCATION SYSTEM
Duration of compulsory education:
Age of entry: 6
Age of exit: 15
Structure of school system:
Type of school providing this education: Primary school (osnovna škola)
Length of program in years: 9
Age level from: 6 to: 15
Type of school providing this education: General Secondary School, Art School and Theology School (Gymnazija, umjetni
The best option is arriving by plane. Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a big country, so planes might not be so important for travelling around the country.
There are 4 airports in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the 3 biggest are:
1) Butmir Airport (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- Right now, 18 airlines operate out of Butmir Airport.
- Butmir Airport offers nonstop flights to 17 cities.
- Every week, at least 7 domestic flights and 203 international flights depart from Butmir Airport.
- Web page: www.sarajevo-airport.ba
2) Banja Luka Airport (Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- Right now, 4 airlines operate out of Banja Luka Airport.
- Banja Luka Airport offers nonstop flights to 3 cities.
- Every week, at least 7 domestic flights and 28 international flights depart from Banja Luka Airport.
- Web page: www.banjaluka-airport.com
3) Tuzla Intl Airport (Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- Tuzla Intl Airport offers nonstop flights to 10 cities.
- Every week, at least 0 domestic flights and 35 international flights depart from Tuzla Intl Airport.
- Web page: www.tuzla-airport.ba
Keep in mind that there are few low-cost companies operating to BiH too. Some of them are: Wizz Air - flying to Sarajevo and Tuzla, Eurowings - flying to Mostar and Ryanair - flying to Banja Luka.
Most international buses arrive at the main Sarajevo bus station which is located next to the railway station close to the centre of Sarajevo. A few buses from Belgrade, the Republika Srpska entity and Montenegro use the Lukavica bus station in Istocno Sarajevo.
You can’t miss Sarajevo, the capital city of our country, and its cosmopolitan atmosphere when travelling to BiH. The city's breathtaking backdrop of seemingly endless hills and towering mountains have in a sense always isolated the city, creating a timeless world, which despite its seclusion has always kept its doors open to the rest of the world.
Indeed, few places on earth feature an Orthodox and a Catholic church, a m osque and a synagogue within easy walking distance of each other. If there were any city in Europe that effortlessly straddles east and west, it is Sarajevo. A walk through Sarajevo is a walk through its past. From the oriental Ottoman quarters lined with sweet shops, café's and handicraft workshops, to the administrative and cultural centre of Austro-Hungarian times, Sarajevo encompasses the very best of both worlds.
The city of Travnik dates from the Roman times and still remains the great mark of the wealth thet this valley had. The Travnik Fortress was the most impressive fortress at the time, and still stands out as the best preserved of them all. This era gave Travnik its name.
The Ottoman era renewed the glory of Travnik. They brought mosques, relig ious schools, roads and water systems. Travelers visiting Travnik in this era were impressed by the town and called it the European Istanbul and the most oriental town in Bosnia.
Arriving in Kraljeva Sutjeska feels like stepping through a time warp. Kraljeva Sutjeska and the citadel at Bobovac were once the seat of two Bosnian kings, Tomas and Tvrtko, of the Kotromanic Dynasty. The last Bosnian queen, Saint Katarina, is mourned today by the local townswomen who still wear black scarves as part of the traditional dress. When the Ottomans conquered the fortress at Bobovac, Queen Katarina either fled or was exiled to Rome, never to return to Bosnia.
Bjelašnica and Igman
These two names are synonymous with the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. The war damage to the Bjelasnica and Igman Mountain ski centers has largely been repaired, and new hotels and apartments are built. There are currently three lifts operational on these mountains. Bjelasnica has the better infrastructure and most challenging slopes whil e Igman is a bit easier and also has a children's lift with soft hills to practice on. Bjelasnica has the steepest of all slopes – racing from almost 2,000 meters to the base at 1,200 meters. It's quite a rush – no lines, no waiting.
It is one of the biggest MUST if you come to BiH and Europe. it is the most important city in the Herzegovina region and its cultural capital. Mostar is situated on the Neretva River and with its 10 months of sun, it is also known as our own California. The Old Bridge, protected by UNESCO, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina's most recognizable landmarks, is perhaps the finest example of Ottoman ingenuity and Dalmatian masonry in the western Balkans. Not only does this precious stone structure bridge the east and west banks of the emerald Neretva River, it also symbolizes the crossroads of eastern and western civilizations. People in Mostar are just as warm as the weather...
The Adriatic Sea from Split to Dubrovnik is gorgeous, very clean, and includes 22km of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The closed bay at Neum is protected from the strong open sea winds by the Peljesac Peninsula, and wonderfully calm.
Neum is the only exit of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the coast. The O ld Town of Neum is 2 km inland. Scuba-diving, parasailing, boating and jet skiing can all readily be arranged in any of the major hotels. It all costs a little less than what it costs in Croatia. During the season, it is wise to book in advance. There are over 7000 beds in hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and private accommodation.
People that come to Bosnia and Herzegovina most often describe Bosnian people as friendly and spontaneous.
Few things you should know about Bosnian people:
- People that come to Bosnia and Herzegovina most often describe Bosnian people as friendly and spontaneous.
- Bosnian people place great values on hospitality, friendship and gifts of storytelling.
- Bosnian people drink a lot of coffee. If you spend a day with Bosnian you are mostlikely to hear: "Let`s go have some coffee!" more than few times a day. Going for coffee is social time for Bosnians, and you’ll rarely see a person sitting by themselves in a cafe. Bosnians can sit for hours with their friends, talking about the news, daily gossip, or whatever information passed their ears that week, with a bosanska kafa situated in front of them.
- Most popular meeting places for Bosnians are "kafane" (traditional kind of bar).
- Bosnian cuisine and meals are matter of pride! Bosnian cuisine displays its Turkish influence in stuffed vegetables, coffee, and sweet cakes of the baklava type.
The official currency is the konvertibilna marka (convertible Mark), divided into 100 feninga. Originally pegged 1:1 to the Deutsche Mark, it is presently pegged to the Euro at roughly 1.95 to the euro (1 EUR = 1.95583 KM).
Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 feninga and 1, 2, and 5 marka with banknotes in 10 (orange), 20 (grey), 50 (red-violet), 100 (brown), and 200 (blue-green) marka.
VISA and Master will be accepted in most places, but it no guarantee with American Express. Make sure you have all the cash you need before leaving the major towns, as it is next to impossible to find a money machine or anybody who accepts credit card payments in smaller towns and villages.
Before you leave the country, be sure to convert back any unused KM into something common (Euros, dollars) as most other countries will not exchange KM.
If you are used to Western Europe and North America, you will find Bosnia and Herzegovina surprisingly inexpensive. Food, going out, transport: it all costs very little and the prices get even lower when you leave the urban centres.
Eating and drinking
From whatever angle you look at it: the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina take eating and drinking very seriously. Traditional foods are very hearty and mainly meat based.
Meat is extremely well prepared and often organic. In the urban centres on can find a wide range of great quality restaurants serving mainly Italian, Mediterranean, Viennese and traditional cuisine.
Water: You have no worries when drinking the water in Bosnia from the tap or elsewhere. It is probably higher quality water than you have at home!
Coffee and tea: In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we drink coffee. It is the backbone of social life. Nowadays, coffee is widely available and affordable.The traditional coffee is 'bosanska kafa'. It is similar to what the rest of the world calls Turkish coffee, and it is served with oddly-shaped sugar cubes and 'rahatlokum' (Turkish delight).
There is a tea drinking tradition as well. You’ll enjoy your tea most if you drink what the locals drink. Try the herbal teas. There are a great many types and they generally have a very nice fragrance. They are often organic and come straight from the forest.
Beer: Local beer is cheap. The first word learned by many foreign visitors is „pivo“. A half-liter bottle costs 1 KM in the shop and only 2 or 3 KM in restaurants and bars. Other imports are available everywhere. They are reasonably priced, but of course more expensive than local beers without really tasting any better.
Wine: The wine-making tradition of Herzegovina dates back to Roman times, and in terms of price and quality the savory reds and dry whites of Herzegovina easily deserve a share in the world wine market
Media and communication
Post: Sending letters or postcards to an address abroad is a standard process and can only be done in the post office. Post offices can be found in every city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and most towns as well. Stamps need to be purchased at the post office as well. Packages are a bit more time-consuming but there are express services available at the post office as well as from DHL, FEDEX, and UPS.
Telephone: Country code for Bosnia and Herzegovina: +387
For international calls from Bosnia and Herzegovina dial: + or 00 – country code – city code without the 0 - number. Phone booths are a cheap and you will find them at the post offices. The phones do not accept coins, only phone cards. Phone cards can be bought from the post office or at the small newspaper kiosks. Beware: different phone companies provide their services in different parts of the country and your phone cards may not be valid once you leave the town you bought them in. It is cheaper to phone after 19.00.
Mobile phones: The following three operators provide mobile telephone service in Sarajevo: BH Telecom (060, 061, 062), Eronet (063) and m:tel (065,066). If you are in isolated area, maybe you will have not a signal. Bosnia and Herzegovina signed a roaming agreement with the European operators, however the prices still remain significantly higher. American and Canadian mobile networks do not have roaming. Buying a local SIM card is recommended. It costs 5 KM (BAM) and includes a 3 KM credit. You can buy additional credit or SIM cards with credit on top up at all kiosks and post offices at price from 1 KM to 100 KM. You can also buy additional credit at most kiosks and supermarkets (you tell the cashier at the cash desk what credit amount you wish to buy and your telephone number and the credit will be automatically added to your number via payment terminal).
Internet: Bosnia and Herzegovina strives to follow the trends in IT and communications. Internet connections and wi-fi are available in most hotels and cafes. Wi-fi is available at all larger public square and institutions.