Before arriving in Croatia, I had no intention of visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina. If I am being completely honest, I could not have told you where Bosnia and Herzegovina was two weeks ago. But after examining the map, I realized that in order to get to Dubrovnik, I had to go through Bosnia. And if I had to travel through Bosnia anyway, why not actually visit it and spend some time exploring. The beauty of not having a fixed plan and itinerary is that I get to make it up as I go. Bosnia and Herzegovina happened to be one of those last-minute impromptu decisions.
Osijek to Slavonski Brod
I did some research online and knew there was a border crossing between Croatia and Bosnia at Slavonski Brod. It also happened that there were frequent buses running between Osijek and Slavonski Brod. The internet also told me that after I reached the border, I would be able to catch a bus headed to Banja Luka, the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bus to Banja Luka information is actually incorrect and wrong, but I didn’t know that at the time. I hop on the noon bus from Osijek to Slavonski Brod. Easy peasy, standard bus ride. No surprises.
I get to the bus station and inquire about this bus to Banja Luka. The ticket lady shook her head.
“There is no bus to Banja Luka.”
Ok… wait. What? No bus.
What to do. What to do. What to do.
She told me that I could get across the border to Brod, where there should be a bus. That works. I’ll walk across the border.
So I lugged all my crap and walked through Croatian immigration. I was not too sure where to get my exit stamp until a hand rushed out and signaled me from a tiny window in a darkened toll booth. I couldn’t even see the officer’s face, but I gave him my passport and two seconds later, it was returned with an exit stamp.
The two countries are separated by a large river, and the only way to get to Brod and Bosnia was to walk across the bridge. So here I am, my large backpack on my back, the camera bag on my side, and the computer bag on my front, walking across this bridge that is lined with metal plates that you can see through. The drop into the river would have been around 30 feet. I’m not scared of heights, but the fact that I could see into the river while walking across the bridge was not comfortable.
I made it. Thank goodness.
Entry into Bosnia and Herzegovina was simple as well. Two seconds and my passport was returned with an entry stamp. But while English was easily understood in Croatia, just across the border, it was like I was speaking in tongues. A few friendly locals showed me to the bus station, if you can call it that, and it was closed. No buses to Banja Luka.
There was no bus to Banja Luka.
The good thing is that I arrived in Bosnia around 2:30pm. It was still light out, which meant plenty of time to hitchhike. The border crossing was also very busy, and many cars were going in and out of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This meant that I might actually be able to hitch a ride.
Hitchhiking to Banja Luka
I sure as hell was not spending a night in Brod hoping that in the morning there’d be a bus to take me to Banja Luka. So thus began my first hitchhiking adventure in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Hitchhiking is all about location. The great thing about Bosnia is that there is usually only one main highway. And from the border, there really was only one road for cars to take. This means perfect location to stand and hitchhike.
I positioned myself about 50 feet away from the border crossing, past a stop sign but before a parking lot, where my potential ride could stop.
15 minutes later, I got a ride.
My ride was a very friendly Croatian man. He was on his way towards Banja Luka and could drop me off near the city. Perfect. We stopped a few times on the way, once so I could take pictures, once so he could get gas, and once so he could buy some groceries.
After about three hours, he drops me off on the side of the highway, about 11 miles away from Banja Luka city center.
What to do. What to do. What to do.
The downside to hitchhiking is that it is very difficult to hitch into a city once you are too close to it, because most of the time, there will be buses, taxis, or other forms of public transportation.
Still, I tried for about 45 minutes to catch a ride. No luck.
I finally conceded defeat, walked to a gas station, and asked the attendant if there were any buses that would take me to the city center. Luckily for me, the attendant spoke amazing English and informed me that yes, there was a bus to the city center and the bus stop was about a 3-minute walk away.
I made it to the bus station, threw my stuff onto the ground and sat. It’d been a long, long travel day already and there was still 30 minutes before the local bus would get to the stop.
This is when I realized that I had no local currency. In Bosnia, they use the Convertible Mark (KM). And they did not accept Croatian Kuna. There was no bank in sight nor ATM.
Luckily, the bus driver ended up being very nice and allowed me to ride free-of-charge.
And finally, after traveling for 7 hours for a distance of less than 140 miles, I arrived at my hostel in Banja Luka. It was a long day, but I am grateful for all the kind and friendly people I met along the way.
1. There is no bus from Slavonski Brod to Banja Luka.
2. The internet lies and is wrong sometimes.
3. Bosnia and Herzegovina uses the Convertible Mark.
4. English is not as widely spoken in Bosnia.
5. You can hitchhike quite easily from the border to Banja Luka.
Have you ever hitchhiked before?
If so, what tips do you have?
If not, would you ever try?