I never thought I’d visit Bosnia.
It wasn’t a destination on my bucket list, I’ll be honest. My familiarity with Bosnian culture consisted of references to the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and bleak news broadcasts about its status as a war-torn country in the 90s.
Yet, there I was in 2019, planning a solo roadtrip through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro… and back to Austria. And, the shortest path from Montenegro to the airport in Vienna was through Bosnia—now officially named Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Though I didn’t know quite what to expect, I added a night in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina to my list.
What caught my attention about Mostar was its iconic bridge: Stari Most. I’d seen it in a few Instagram photos but never realized it was located in Bosnia till researching that trip. I had to see it in person! So, that’s how I chose Mostar over other Bosnian cities.
Driving to Bosnia with no internet
I drove to Bosnia from the southeast—from Kotor, Montenegro (another place to put on your bucket list NOW). The drive was between 3 to 4 hours, and took me through stunning mountain ranges and rural countryside. And through very spotty internet signal. Google Maps went in and out of telling me where to go, so I had to use it like an actual map. Thank goodness I was born before the era of GPS so I actually know how to do that!
The problem arose when I neared the city of Mostar and still didn’t have an internet connection on my phone. It’s one thing to follow a map across long, country roads with a few turns here and there… but a whole other level of map-reading skills to navigate narrow, winding, one-way streets in heavy traffic!
Another problem? I had to contact my Airbnb host when I was about 30 minutes away so he could meet me. But how with no signal?
And then, just outside the city, I spotted a gas station that advertised wifi. You better believe I pulled over! Once inside, I learned only paying customers were given the password. Done. I grabbed an intriguing foreign candy bar, paid, and got that password!
Quickly, I messaged my Airbnb host to let him know I was just outside the city and then prayed I would have a better signal once inside the city. Thankfully, I did. I’m pretty sure it was 3G and very weak, but my GPS belted out all the directions I needed. Of course, I still missed a few streets—they were SO narrow and randomly placed!—but after doing one (errr, two) loops around a radius of several blocks, I managed to find the right street and a place to park. Whew!
Is it worth visiting Mostar?
You may be asking this question. Maybe not. But I’ll tell you anyway.
Yes. YES. I loved Mostar. It was one of the most unique places I’ve visited in Europe! I wish I’d stayed more than one day, but that’s all the time I’d allotted on my trip, just passing through.
What I love about Mostar
Remember that bridge I previously mentioned? I purposely chose my Airbnb because it had a view of the bridge from the balcony! That view alone was incredible. But walking the bridge is a must.
After checking in, I wandered the stone streets of Mostar, with the goal of crossing that bridge. Did I mention it’s a pedestrian-only bridge? It is. Not large by any means, but quite tall for a pedestrian bridge. In fact, it’s common for people to jump off the bridge for fun—and Mostar even hosts an annual bridge jump that started hundreds of years ago! You can read more about that here.
All in all, it’s an iconic bridge, and even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if you aren’t crazy enough to jump off—I sure am NOT that crazy—just crossing it is its own unique experience.
Old Bazaar in Mostar
On the way to Stari Most, I walked through an old bazaar unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Mostar is heavily influenced by Turkish culture and it showed at the bazaar. Imagine a Turkish bazaar, with stalls of wares and trinkets lining both sides of a pedestrian street. That’s exactly what I saw in Mostar, only on a smaller scale. It was magical!
I purchased a number of small gifts for family and a few items for myself I knew I wouldn’t find anywhere else. I don’t know about you, but for me, the best souvenirs and gifts are the stuff you can’t buy on Amazon or at your local mall.
Not only was my Airbnb host so kind, but I experienced that same kindness from everyone I interacted with—whether working through a language barrier, or learning what currency is accepted. Fun fact: in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you can pay with Euros, Bosnian Marks, or Croatian Kunas. I had Euros left from the earlier portion of my trip, and wound up spending the rest. And then some, because a few vendors at the bazaar also took credit cards.
Pro tip: When you pay with a credit card in a foreign country and you’re asked if you want to pay in that currency or convert to USD, always choose to pay in that currency. Generally, your credit card’s conversion rate will be better because you avoid any conversion fees at the point of sale.
Speaking of credit cards, let me tell you about my dinner experience… and yet another example of hospitality.
I chose a restaurant located right next to the river with a perfect view of the bridge, Stari Most. Well, a perfect view if you sat outside. So I did. In the cold and sudden rain that, thankfully, stayed away till I was done exploring. A large awning kept the entire patio area dry, and I enjoyed a tasty meal of chicken kabobs, traditional flat bread, and veggies.
When it came time to pay, I handed my credit card to the server, who informed me that they only accepted cash. Whoops! I had no cash.
“Do you have an ATM?” I asked hopefully. Sure enough, there was an ATM… but… not at the restaurant. The server explained I would have to walk a block or so to the nearest one. And he just let me go! I didn’t have to leave anything as collateral to ensure I would come back. Of course, I am not one to dine and dash, so I ran IN THE RAIN on slippery cobblestones in search of this ATM.
It wasn’t too hard to find, but, as I inserted my card, I realized I didn’t remember the cost of my dinner. Freezing cold and wet, I made a split second decision and took out a bit more than I figured I’d need, knowing I’d have no trouble spending it the last few days of my trip. Haha!
Back through the rain I ran. Back to my server, who did not seem surprised that I returned. The fact that he even let me leave so trustingly is something I did NOT expect. And gosh, was I grateful. I mean, what would I have done?! Wash the dishes? I don’t know, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.
Is Mostar safe for tourists?
On this trip, I traveled solo, and as a female, I didn’t feel unsafe whatsoever. While I didn’t explore the ENTIRE city, I did venture out of the main touristy area to other busy parts of the city in the dark—it got dark pretty early, being November. I even popped into a convenience store near my Airbnb, and never had a moment of insecurity about my safety.
And, I’ll add that whenever I traveled solo, I was VERY aware of my surroundings.
Final thoughts on Mostar
If you have an opportunity to visit Mostar… GO. My visit was too short—just an afternoon and evening, and I left the next morning. Ideally, I would’ve liked a whole extra day. That said, I think two full days in Mostar would be perfect!
The continent of Europe has a LOT to offer when choosing a travel destination, and it’s easy to gravitate toward the popular, well-known cities. I say that because I’ve done the same thing. I’ve been to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona, and several other larger cities… and I have to say that some of my favorite experiences in Europe have been in the smaller places. Places like Mostar.
To me, Mostar was absolutely more Eastern Europe than Western. Having only previously experienced Western European cultures, it was a pleasant change. I’m glad I went out of my comfort zone and added it to that trip’s itinerary!
So, have I convinced you to put Mostar on your list?