Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina Report of what it's like to live there - 09/26/17
Personal Experiences from Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing in made up of town homes and single family homes mostly outside of the downtown core of the city. There are also apartments in the downtown area, along with a few homes. Typical commute time from one of the town homes or houses is thirty minutes or more depending on traffic. Unless you have an apartment, expect lots of stairs in your embassy housing. You will likely receive a house with two or more floors. If you live in an apartment downtown, you can walk or drive to work. The commute is about 15 minutes, maybe less depending on traffic. The water cuts off ever day between midnight and six in the morning. It also cuts off at random times during the day, throughout the year. Plan accordingly.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The availability of fruits and vegetables is very seasonal in Bosnia. Costs are cheap in comparison to the United States, but the fruits and vegetables you buy at post perish a lot faster after purchase. Other than the local fish that gets trucked in from local fish farms, the seafood that makes it to Sarajevo is imported. You can buy pork from Konzum (a Croatian chain) when it is available. You can also get pork in the Republic of Srpska. There is also a small exchange in the embassy that you can buy foodstuff from the U.S..
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
None. Most food items or household goods could be bought in Sarajevo, a neighboring country, or online.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Very few restaurants are non-smoking, so if smoke is a problem you will likely not be eating out a lot. Donesi.ba is used by the expat community for takeout/food delivery. Konzum has a grocery delivery service you can use by visiting their website. There is also a "Blue Apron-like" service that will send you a curated box of fruits and vegetables but the quality is often miss more than a hit.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic pouch or DPO.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help, nannies, and babysitters are inexpensive and generally employed by the community. There are a finite number of babysitters and nannies available. As such, competition for their services is high. Unless your babysitter or nanny only works for you, chances are you are going to run into scheduling problems if you plan on going to events or parties without your kids because your nanny or babysitter will likely be busy if you didn't plan in advance or make arrangements.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym and CrossFit. There are CrossFit classes in the city too, along with an olympic pool, rock climbing, horseback riding, skiing, etc. In general they are not particularly expensive. You can pretty much find the facilities you are looking for.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A little. Most people speak some English, but it is nice to learn some of the language to make life easier for yourself.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, it is not a disability-friendly city.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe. People have using local trams and buses at post as well. All affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You can bring any car- there is no particular car that is better or worse for roads here. You should invest in snow tires or chains though, regardless of the car. The roads are brutal in winter.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. It takes about a week to get installed if it has not already been installed before you arrive. Fairly stable, and you can stream.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You should bring an unlocked phone to post. Prepaid simcards from BH Telecom are available at their stores in the Super Konzum and any of the downtown stores. Very inexpensive.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Most spouses work at the embassy or at the school.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are volunteer opportunities with relief organizations, animal shelters and orphanages.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Air pollution. Medical care is poor here. You will need to be medically evacuated if something happens. Dental care is terrible.
2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air pollution is a big problem. It is not limited to the winter, it is year-round. It is untenable in the winter. In the summer and spring (when the temperatures start to warm up) it gets better but it can still be pretty horrible even if the day looks clear. If you have children, especially children with breathing problems, you should seriously reconsider bringing them here, in my opinion. If you are coming here, you will need to buy extra air purifiers for your home. You will also need to buy air pollution masks for everyone in your family.
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Dry. Cold or cool for most of the year save for summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is the French school, and QSI. If you have high school or middle school children, you should probably use the school allowance for a boarding school or consider another post if you are unwilling to be separated from your children during your tour.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are a number of Montessori schools for preschool. Where you live in the city will likely influence your choice of preschool.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes. There are swim classes, horseback riding classes, camps, cooking classes- Bosnians love kids and there are a wealth of kid-centric things here.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It's a moderate-sized expat community. The happiness you find will be a result of making your own fun. Morale varies and depends on where you live and what you do. It is generally poor.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Facebook groups, InterNations, Meetup.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Bosnians love kids, and in that regard Sarajevo is a great place for families. Single people have it much harder for the usual reasons.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
There are a number of things to see outside of Sarajevo, but most people head to nearby Croatia, Montenegro, Hungary, Slovenia, and further because they are so close.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Lots of affordable art for sale downtown. Paintings, prints, ceramics. There is also the metalwork which is more expensive but worth picking up a piece or two.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
If you like skiing, this is the place to be.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How bad the air pollution was.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Not with children.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations of community.
4. But don't forget your:
Air pollution masks and extra purifiers.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Zlataâ€™s Diary by Zlata FilipoviÄ‡.