Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.
Business customs in BiH remain an amalgam of old socialist-style habits and newly acquired business practices. However, the business culture is changing. Over the past decade the business community has benefited from the presence of many international agencies, foreign investors, and technical assistance programs. This change, most obvious in the largest business and industrial centers, has introduced new management, language, IT skills, as well as Western-style business practices. Most of today’s managers are fluent in English and are completely computer literate.
The exchange of business cards is a common practice. While most business meetings take place in a formal setting, it is not unusual to discuss business over coffee or lunch. An invitation to dinner should never be rejected; it may be a sign of a serious desire to do business. As is the case in many other countries, local companies prefer to do business with people they know well. Business friendships are highly valued. Establishing a local presence and employing local nationals signal a long-term commitment to the market. Such practices are well received.
Before traveling to BiH, U.S. citizens should consult the latest U.S. government travel advisory on the U.S. State Department’s website and the U.S. Embassy Sarajevo Alerts and Messages section of the website. Americans in BiH, visiting or residing, are urged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to obtain updated information on travel and security.
The CDC rates the COVID-19 risk assessment for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as high and the State Department rates it as Level 2: Reconsider Travel. The Department of State and the CDC recommend unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to BiH.
U.S. citizens possessing a valid passport do not need a visa to enter BiH for short-term stays of up to three months while visiting for business or tourism. Foreigners must register with the local police at the nearest police station within 24 hours of arrival; however, hotels will do this automatically for their guests. Registration is free for the first three months, regardless of the purpose of the visit. Stays of longer than three months (education, scientific research, employment, engagement in a professional activity, medical treatment, tourism, other justified reasons, or because of marriage to a BiH citizen) require a temporary resident permit, and visitors must apply for the permit before the end of their initial three months in BiH. Foreigners must state the reason for the extended visit and submit evidence of adequate financial support for the duration of their stay in BiH.
The maximum duration of a temporary residence permit is 12 months, with the possibility of a renewal. The fee is KM 100 or approximately $60. A police certificate indicating that the applicant has no criminal record is required for this permit and should be obtained from the applicant’s state of residence in the United States.
The local field office of the Foreigners’ Affairs Department of the Bosnian Ministry of Security at http://sps.gov.ba/ accepts applications for temporary residence permit.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following links:
U.S. State Department Visa Webpage
Consular Section at U.S. Embassy Sarajevo
BiH official currency is the Convertible Mark (KM or BAM). BiH operates a currency board arrangement by which the Bosnian Convertible Mark is pegged to the euro (One Euro = KM 1.958). As a result, the Convertible Mark is one of the most stable currencies in Southeast Europe. (Currency note: $1= KM 1.8265 on 6/8/2022)
Telecommunications services in BiH are relatively advanced. There are three 900 MHz GSM/4G networks - BH Mobile, m:Tel, and Eronet with solid coverage throughout the country and roaming agreements with most international mobile operators. All mobile operators feature GPRS service. Unfortunately, internet connectivity remains a weak spot. Many hotels do not offer this service, especially outside of Sarajevo, although this is improving.
Air transport is the fastest and most reliable connection between Sarajevo and the outside world. However, travelers in winter experience frequent delays and cancellations due to inclement weather, especially fog and smog, at Sarajevo Airport. There are three other functional international airports, but the Sarajevo Airport accounts for over 60 percent of total passenger and cargo traffic in BiH. Passenger traffic through Sarajevo is on the rise, with over one million travelers in 2021. Visits by foreign tourists have doubled in the last five years and numbers are projected to continue rising. The other three airports, Banja Luka, Mostar, and Tuzla have experienced growing passenger traffic, which fluctuates depending on the season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.
Sarajevo International Airport is served by Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Croatia Airlines, German Wings, Turkish Airlines, Swiss Air, Adria Airways, Air Serbia, Qatar Airways, flyDubai, Norwegian, Eurowings, AirArabia, Pegasus Airlines, Wizz Air, LOT Polish Airlines and flyBosnia. Routes connect Sarajevo with Vienna, Munich, Zagreb, Istanbul, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Geneva, Stockholm, Zurich, Cologne, Budapest, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stuttgart, Doha, Warsaw and Dubai. The airport features a cargo center with a fully equipped customs warehouse to serve the needs of cargo traffic. The other three airports – Banja Luka, Mostar, and Tuzla — have occasional commercial charter traffic, which can fluctuate depending on the season. The Banja Luka Airport is the only airport in the RS. The airport offers Air Serbia flights to Belgrade twice a week. Ryanair flies to Gothenberg, Memmingen, and Hahn. Wizz Air flies to Basel/Mulhouse, Dortmund, Eindhoven, Malmo, and Stockholm-Skavsta. Tuzla Airport, located in northeast BiH, about 50 miles from the Serbian border and 34 miles from the Croatian border, only ran sporadic summer charter flights until 2013 when Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air opened daily flights between Tuzla and Malmo (Sweden) and Basel (Switzerland). Since then, Wizz Air has expanded to include flights to and from Tuzla and Goteborg, Dortmund, Stockholm, Eindhoven, Oslo, and Frankfurt. Wizz Air has fueled strong passenger growth over the past two years, with over 300,000 passengers in 2021. Mostar Airport, located in southwest BiH, about 30 miles from the border with Croatia, currently serves only charter flights, handling approximately 90,000 passengers per year. Most of the flights cater to Italian Catholic pilgrims visiting nearby Medjugorje, the site of alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary to local Catholics in 1981.
BiH’s road and railway systems have seen little improvement since the 1992-95 war. There are about 220 kilometers of highway in the entire country, although plans are slowly progressing to complete a north-south corridor that will link Sarajevo to northeastern and southern Croatia (Corridor Vc). Driving time from Sarajevo to either Belgrade or Zagreb is four to five hours, and similar driving time to the coast at Dubrovnik or Split. From Banja Luka, it is a two-hour drive to Zagreb. Rail travel to the neighboring capitals is considerably slower. Car rental service is available from Budget, Hertz, Avis, National, and Europcar as well as other local car-rental companies.
There are three main ethnic groups in BiH: Bosniaks (Muslims), Croats (Roman Catholics), and Serbs (Orthodox). The languages spoken in BiH – Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian – are mutually understandable. In conversation, it is best to refer to the language as “the local language,” or B/C/S.
The water supply in Sarajevo meets World Health Organization standards and, therefore, is not thought to pose a health risk. No lead or bacterial contamination has been found in the tap water in Sarajevo. The local cuisine is very similar to international cuisine and poses no risk. However, fresh vegetables and fruits must be thoroughly washed or peeled before consuming.
Water supply outages periodically affect some parts of Sarajevo. While the city has installed new pipes and pumps in some neighborhoods, it lacks the resources for a comprehensive and much-needed upgrade of the entire system. The effects of illegal construction on the water system further exacerbate the situation.
The drugs found in the pharmacies are usually labeled in the local language, but the drugs can still be identified by the generic name. The dosage is measured by the metric system. The following are recommended immunizations for those traveling to BiH: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Measles, Mumps, Rabies, Rubella, and Polio vaccines. Typhoid fever vaccine and Hepatitis A and B are recommended for those traveling in rural areas or anticipating extended stays.
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death in BiH. It is strongly recommended to use seatbelts when driving or being driven.
Mines and associated devices were used extensively during the 1992-95 war. While many areas have been cleared of the mines, there is still a significant risk especially near the former confrontation lines. The following advice is given to avoid mines: stay on known safe surfaces, stick to approved routes, do not drive on road shoulders, observe local behavior, and obtain mine information http://bhmac.org/?lang=en.
Emergency health service is available in most cities. Emergency numbers countrywide are Police 122, Fire 123, and Ambulance 124.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
BiH is in the GMT +1 time zone. Regular business hours are from 8 am to 5 pm; however, most government agencies close at 4 pm. The Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska observe different holiday schedules. It is recommended to check with the U.S. Embassy regarding local holidays. The Embassy holiday schedule can be found on the U.S. Embassy Sarajevo’s website.
Summer break is in full swing during the months of July and August and appointments can be difficult to schedule.
Temporary Entry of Materials or Personal Belongings
Exemption from customs duties is granted for the following:
Various business documents including promotional materials such as brochures, other business and legal documents, blueprints, tender documents, bids, tickets, vouchers, printed forms, photographs, and recordings.
Goods in the personal luggage of travelers including tobacco products (200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos, or 250 grams of tobacco per passenger per day), alcoholic beverages (two liters of wine or one liter of alcoholic beverages with the alcohol content above 22 percent), 60 cc/ml of perfume or 250cc/ml of toilet water.
Goods that are being used for commercial/promotional purposes including goods used and/or consumed at trade fairs including samples, printed materials (brochures, catalogs, price lists, photographs, videos, etc.), equipment, machines and other products that are being displayed at trade fairs, and various items of insignificant commercial value.