Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina Report of what it's like to live there - 04/19/21
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?
No, we've also lived in Athens, Greece.
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?
Washington, D.C. There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Sarajevo. The most common routes are IAD-->VIE-->SJJ on Austrian Airlines, IAD-->FRA-->SJJ on Lufthansa, or IAD-->IST-->SJJ on Turkish Airlines. Travel time is about 13 hours. In the winter, flights are often cancelled from Sarajevo due to fog/air quality, so be prepared to get rescheduled a few times.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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 is a mixed bag: it's mostly apartments downtown, a few townhouses/single family houses near downtown, and stand- alone houses with yards about 15 minutes from the Embassy. Sarajevo is a small town so nothing is that far away and there's not really much traffic. If a yard is important to you, make sure you say that in your housing questionnaire. Yards are limited. A lot of the housing inventory is older homes/apartments that need a good facelift. A few modern apartments are being added to the housing pool. Parking is hit or miss; you might get a garage but there's no guarantee your car will fit in it. The garage might end up being used for storage.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are easy to find. There are lots of farmers markets around town (called green markets) where you can buy fresh local produce. I've been able to find several gluten-free options at the DM store (sort of like a CVS in the US). Some larger chains started doing grocery delivery during COVID.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
If I need something, I can usually buy it on Amazon and ship to the DPO.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Donesi and Korpa are food delivery options that most people use. There's not a ton of cuisine variety in Sarajevo but take out is very affordable.
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?
DPO and Pouch. During COVID, mail was stopped and never really returned to normal service. Before COVID, packages usually took two to three weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is readily available and very affordable. Families employ nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, dog walkers, and taxi drivers (some even have car seats). The going rate is 10KM per hour or $6 per hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are many gyms in Sarajevo (Brick Fit, City Gym, Avalon, Hotel Central, etc.) The average membership is 69KM per month or $45/month. Many offer group fitness classes in English. The Embassy also has a gym which is free.
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?
Most large chains will accept credit cards, but this is definitely a cash society. ATMs are common and easy to use and safe. The Embassy also has an ATM.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most people speak some English to get by. The Embassy offers language courses. If you learn a few phrases and greetings, you'll be fine.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and 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?
Most cars will be fine here. SUVs are helpful for the mountains but not necessary. Snow tires are required from November to April but you can buy them locally.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, we upgraded to the fastest possible internet when we started working from home during COVID. We pay 75KM per month or $45/month and we can stream on 4 devices. You can have it installed before you arrive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked phone with you and buy a local SIM card. I have an unlimited call/text/data plan for 70KM/month or $45.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There are several vets in town and some will even make house calls. No quarantine is required. Spay/neuter services are less than $100.
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?
There are a handful of EFM jobs at the Embassy with more being added each year. There are currently 4 EPAP positions. There are also job opportunities at the local school. Telecommuting is common too with the reliable internet, but we are six hours ahead of DC time.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Animal shelter, schools, CLO activities.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Pretty casual. I only wore a formal dress once for a Marine Corps ball.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No, this is a very safe city. I've never felt unsafe even walking late at night with dogs.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is poor in the best of times. During COVID, it was awful. You will most likely get medevac'd for anything (pregnancy ultrasound, broken bone, etc). The Embassy health unit is wonderful and can take care of most basic needs and preventive care.
3. 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 quality is bad from November to March. Embassy homes come supplied with several air purifiers and we bought three on our own to supplement the ones from the Embassy. Most people drive to the mountains on the weekends to get fresh air.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Gluten is becoming more known here so I find some restaurants can accommodate my needs.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Winters are hard in Sarajevo. I recommend taking small trips/weekend drives to break up the long winters. Sarajevo is beautiful from April to October.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Rainy cool springs, nice warm summers, beautiful falls, dark cold snowy winters.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our children were small so I'm only familiar with the daycare/preschools but we were very happy. They are very affordable and most teachers/admins speak English. Classes were a good mix of local and international children.
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?
Very happy with the preschools. Typical tuition is $300-$400 per month including meals. Most places close between 4pm and 5pm which can be challenging if you have 2 working parents. Many families had their nanny pick up the children or hired taxi drivers with car seats to pick up kids and bring them home until parents arrived.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, lots of sports options. Swimming, skiing, ice skating, karate, horseback riding, etc.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Excellent city for families with small children. There are parks and playgrounds all over the city both indoors and outdoors, including many restaurants.
3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Your money goes really far here. If you want to save money, you can. If you want to have help, you can. The city is fairly small so nothing takes more than 15-20 minutes driving and there's really no traffic. The city is very green and has lots of places to walk, run, ride bikes, walk dogs. etc. Bosnia is very kid friendly. We loved our time here.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Be ready for the winters but it will make you enjoy the spring/summer/fall so much more.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?