It’s been almost a month since we left the coast of Italy for the Balkan states (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia & Montenegro) and we’ve been enjoying every minute of it.
Watch our adventures here:
Staying longer in one location has been a welcome change. I have 90 days to chill out in non-Schengen countries, so this means we can stay in one place for a week or two…whooohooo!
The Balkan states made up former Yugoslavia and I think I had the impression that perhaps they would be pretty much the same because they were once the same country… but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they are not…
They speak the same language and eat very similar food but that’s about where the similarities end.
Each time we crossed a border it actually “felt” like we were in a different country. The terrain changed, the houses looked different and locals responded to us differently.
For example, Croatia is overflowing with tourists so we just felt like one of the crowd and prices were also not nearly as cheap it used to be. It’s still cheaper than in western Europe, but compared to the prices in Bosnia and Serbia, Croatian prices seem inflated…
We stayed in two towns in Bosnia and they were about as polar opposite as they could be. The first was in a wooden cabin on a fish farm off the beaten path in Sipovo. The second was in a modern hotel in bustling Sarajevo. Both places accepted us with open arms! It was really wonderful to feel that the locals appreciated us visiting their country. Prices for food varies from place to place. Obviously on the fish farm it was ridiculously cheap. They charged us only 1.50 euros for a fresh 300gr. trout which they cooked for us. We also found a delicious semi-sweet red wine for only 2 euros in a local grocery store. In Sarajevo our meals out, for 2 people, ranged from 6 euros to 20 euros. That’s 3-10 euros per person including drinks…
I think Bosnia is the first place we’ve visited that is cheaper than Thailand for dining out!!!
We only got to stay a few days in Zlabitor, Serbia on our way to Montengro, but again we were surprised with how different the country looked. The mountains got larger and the weather got remarkably colder. Autumn is not the best time of year to visit Serbia, as it is wet and cold and rainy, but we were glad we were able to be able to pass through. We didn’t eat out in Serbia, but our grocery bill was the cheapest we’ve ever gotten. I made a veg Italian meal for dinner and after buying all the ingredients and a local bottle of wine our bill was less than 5 euros…I couldn’t quite believe it!
We’ve only been in Montenegro for 1 day so we’ll post more about Montenegro later.
Here are some facts we learned when crossing the different borders:
- Slovenia is the only Balkan state to be accepted into the EU and Schengen agreement. When passing through Slovenia it was easy to forget that it was part of former Yugoslavia Currency: Euros
- Croatia is part of the EU but has not been accepted into the Schengen zone. This means you must observe border crossings and I was stamped out of the Schengen area once entering Croatia. Croatia is predominately Roman Catholic and seems to have recovered well from their past civil unrest. Tourism is flourishing in Croatia. Currency: Croatian Kuna
- Bosnia & Herzegovina is not part of the EU or Schengen. Recommended to cross at the larger borders as some of the smaller borders ask more questions (insurance etc) It is a bit confusing as to what the standard regulations for crossing into Bosnia are. We traveled in and out of Bosnia about 6 times and each time the border crossing was different so be prepared to roll with the flow. I was also stamped into Bosnia a few times and when leaving I was not regularly stamped out. So I have a few stamps in my passport that doesn’t have a “match” I’m not sure how this will work out in the long run, but each time I left Bosnia, I was entering Croatia, and they were fairly regular with their stamps, so I hope that will help all the other random stamps make sense. Currency: Bosnian Marks
- Serbia is not part of the EU or Schengen zone but border crossings are smooth and simple. Currency: Serbian Dinar
- Montenegro is not part of the EU or Schengen zone and they are more thorough at the borders. They requested us to remove our helmets and present our motorbike registration…strangely this was not requested at any of the other border crossings…