Algeria – How To Get A Visa?

Let’s face it, getting a visa can sometimes be a long and drawn out process with some countries taking the biscuit and going to the absolute extreme with their demands. Even though neighbouring Morocco receives more than 10 million visitors, Algeria has yet to welcome even 20% of that figure.

This is a crying shame considering how many incredible places there are to see in this North African beauty. Algeria’s Mediterranean coastline is one of the most undeveloped and beautiful along the African continent whilst inland the striking desert landscapes of the vast Sahara make up more than 80% of Africa’s largest country.

Question is, how do you get a visa? Well, in the case of a British passport holder you must either know someone that lives there or join a tour group (if you can find one). In a country that’s hoping to diversify their economy and open up to visitors, they sure know how to make it hard just to even visit.

If you wish to apply for a tourist visa you will need the following;

  1. Two (02) application forms duly completed, dated and signed by the applicant
  2. Two (02) recent passport size photographs to be affixed on each application form
  3. The original passport valid for at least 6 months + 2 sets of copies of all the pages (even the blank ones)
  4. Original + copy of the accommodation certificate duly certified by the local authorities (town hall) in Algeria (certificat d’hébergement légalisé par l’A.P.C.) including the name of the person inviting you, their relationship to you and the address where you will be staying during your visit to Algeria or, when applicable, a confirmation of a hotel booking or an official invitation with itinerary from a travel agency in Algeria
  5. Letter of employment or evidence of activity
  6. A prepaid self-addressed special delivery envelope for nationals residing in the UK if the application is sent by post
  7. £85.00 – Fees must be paid in GB Pound only, either by cash or postal order (write your name on the back) made payable to the Consulate of Algeria if the application is sent by mail. Do not send cash by post.

Applications can be submitted in person at the Consulate in London or by post. I was relieved this option was available as I was unable to travel to London and wait for the visa to be processed. It is oddly not in the typical location of Kensington, Westminster or Soho as most other Consulate/Embassies and is surprisingly located in North Acton. The address for the Consulate of Algeria is; 5 Portal Way, London, W3 6RT.

Location of the Consulate of Algeria in London

Location of the Consulate of Algeria in London

When I applied for my visa by post in July 2017 I made sure to leave plenty of time as I was aware that any slight mistake and your visa will either be rejected or sent back to be amended. Sadly this was the case for me, I hadn’t sent number 4 on the list above but thankfully they didn’t charge me and I was able to send everything back for a second submission.

My advice – check, double check and even treble check that you have everything and have even completed all sections on the application form correctly, maybe get a friend or partner to do this for you. During busy periods I was made aware that processing can take up to three weeks but thankfully for me I received mine within just one. I think the visa fees are pretty steep for just a tourist visa, it definitely puts a lot of people off but hopefully as the country continues to open up this may be reduced or scrapped altogether.

You might be wondering, just where do people come from who visit Algeria? Well unsurprisingly neighbouring countries rank highly, as does former colonial master, France;

  1. Tunisia (50.4%)
  2. France (12.9%)
  3. Morocco
  4. Spain
  5. China
  6. Turkey
  7. Italy
  8. Germany
  9. Portugal

Overall Algeria holds clear potential as a tourist destination but it certainly faces some infrastructure, political and visa issues amongst others before it can start to build a reputation as a place to visit.

Come back soon and check out exactly where I visited in Algeria during my trip in August 2017!

Please note that this information may change, it was correct at time of writing in August 2017. For the most up to date details you can visit the website for the Algerian Consulate in London.

Further Information?

If you’d like to discover more information about this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries In The World

The world is sadly experiencing one of its most volatile periods, 2016 has seen an increased number of terrorist attacks, civil wars, military coups and conflicts. Should that stop you from visiting certain countries? Let’s find out…

According to the Global Peace Index, Syria is unsurprisingly the world’s most dangerous country. However, in 2008 they come a respectable 88th out of 162 nations but due to the ongoing civil war, political instability and the threat of Daesh (Isis/IS/Isil) has resulted in the country plummeting to last place.

Although I’ve been to three of the top 10, when I’m arranging a trip I don’t specifically think “Oh, lets visit a dangerous country”. Does the adventure outweigh the risks?

20160610_Global_Peace_Index

Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries In The World

The Great Colonnade at Apamea was the main colonnaded avenue of the ancient city of Apamea in the Orontes River valley in northwestern Syria. The monumental colonnade is among the longest and most famous in the Roman world.

The Great Colonnade at Apamea was the main colonnaded avenue of the ancient city of Apamea in the Orontes River valley in northwestern Syria. The monumental colonnade is among the longest and most famous in the Roman world.

1. Syria

Did you know that in 2010 Syria was one of the Middle East’ most popular tourist destinations? Attracting millions of people from Italy, France and the UK, it amazes me to this day that the country was seen as a stable and safe place to visit – because it was!

I definitely don’t recommend any visits to Syria for the foreseeable future, but with some of the world’s most ancient sites you can see the country in its full glory in my blog article, uncover what it really looked like before the war.

2. South Sudan

As the world’s newest country you’d think war would be the last thing on their minds, sadly things have spiralled out of control and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for South Sudan. Personally, I don’t have any desire to visit the country due to the lack of UNESCO World Heritage sites, however there’s plenty for naturalists to see with plenty of national parks and even the sight of the world’s second largest migration.

Red Prison in Kurdistan, Iraq

Red Prison in Kurdistan, Iraq

3. Iraq

People thought I was absolutely crazy to visit Iraq, thankfully for me I’d researched and was satisfied that by visiting the Kurdish region in North Eastern Iraq that I’d be okay. The best part about the trip was meeting the incredible people who were super friendly and welcoming.

Sadly the rest of Iraq is pretty much off-limits for tourists due to the ongoing crisis that has engulfed the country ever since the fall of Saddam. I sincerely hope that within the next 10 years the country can sort itself out and more people can discover just how wonderful it truly is. Discover my adventure for yourself, check out my Kurdish adventures.

4. Afghanistan

This one needs no introduction why it’s on the list, sadly Afghanistan has been off many tourists must-see lists for many years. A few intrepid travellers thankfully still manage to visit, even for me I would love to explore so it ranks very highly in my list of places that I’d like to visit but sadly it’s one of the most difficult countries to get a visa for.

5. Somalia

Located in East Africa, Somalia has struggled with a number of major issues over the last 10 years including piracy, terrorism and political instability. Thankfully it is getting easier to visit Mogadishu due to Turkish Airlines investing huge sums of money at the country’s main airport, however there are still huge security risks with regular attempted bombings.

Socotra island, Yemen. Photo: National Geographic

Socotra island, Yemen.
Photo: National Geographic

6. Yemen

Often referred to as the forgotten war, Yemen has been crippled by civil war for the past few years and has sadly been off-limits ever since. As one of the most unique countries in the Middle East, Yemen has several UNESCO World Heritage sites to visit including the Old Walled City of Shibam a.k.a the “Manhattan of the desert”. There’s also the beautiful Old City of Sana’a and the isolated island of Socotra where trees and animals are like nowhere else on earth. When things calm down I will be one of the first people on the reinstated flights to visit Yemen, it has been on my hit list for many many years.

7. Central African Republic

Up until 1960, the Central African Republic was under French rule but sadly since independence the country has suffered from several wars and military coups. C.A.R is a landlocked nation that is unfortunately another country that I personally have no desire to visit, especially as its not only a dangerous country for tourists to visit but also for the local people that live there.

Odessa's main railway station.

Odessa’s main railway station.

8. Ukraine

As one of the largest countries in Europe, I’m shocked to see it on the list as one of the most dangerous. I visited in 2014, just as the uprisings started and although things were very tense, it was still relatively easy to manoeuvre around the country.

At present (2016) it’s almost impossible to travel to the Eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk with the transport infrastructure mostly obliterated. The main airports have been destroyed, rail links cut and with the Government not in control it’s probably wise to stay well-clear.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t visit other parts of Ukraine including Lviv, Kiev, Dnipro and Odessa which are all reasonably safe for tourists, just like anywhere else in Europe. Find out where I visited on my Ukrainian adventures.

9. Sudan

Once the largest country in Africa until the South broke away to become its own country, I’ve wanted to visit this place for a good number of years. Sadly for me, it isn’t very safe and being a temperamental country to get a visa for, you have to plan your trip months in advance.

Sudan is perhaps sadly less famous for its pyramids, but I definitely think this opinion needs to change! It’s said that you’ll be unlikely to see another tourist on your entire trip.

10. Libya

Constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons, Libya’s economy was once a shining light for North Africa but now appears to be in free-fall. When Gadaffi ruled the country with an iron-fist, tourism didn’t feature highly on the Government’s priority list.

A must-see place is Leptis Magna, an UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooking the Mediterranean, these Roman ruins should be more famous but sadly as they are in Libya this is highly unlikely any time soon.

Leptis Magna and the Mediterranean. Photo via UNESCO

Leptis Magna and the Mediterranean.
Photo via UNESCO

Should you even consider visiting a dangerous destination?

Well, as I’ve visited three of the top 10 I’m certainly not going to judge anyone but I am here to help prove that you might be able to visit safe parts of the world’s most dangerous countries. You have to be mentally and physically strong to even think about considering a trip to a country that’s in the midst of some of its darkest days. You’ll lose the benefits of help being around the corner, you also have to be prepared and ready for the worst to happen. I’ve listed my all of my experiences to showcase how dangerous countries don’t always have to be scary, click here to read.

Further Information

Had enough of the danger? Well, thankfully you can also discover the top 10 safest destinations in the world too.

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from any of my trips please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Should you visit a country that’s advised against all travel to?

Admittedly I’m a bit of an adventure junkie, but I also know not to believe everything I read or see in the media. Having visited some of the world’s most dangerous countries during uprisings and civil wars I can confirm that if you plan properly, a visit can be done safely.

Obviously every situation is unique and I’d strongly advise that you seek individual information before you proceed to a war zone, you could potentially make things worse by creating an additional problem.

Well, there’s no simple or easy answer to this question. It’s simply a curiosity that often overtakes your emotions and you get the urge to visit.

Beirut Graffiti

Beirut Graffiti

Lebanon is a key example of somewhere that has areas that are currently advised against all travel to. Having visited in October 2015 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all travel to the Bekka valley region but after hiring a local guide I opted to ignore the advice.

Stupid? Maybe…

Thankfully for me everything was okay. Its a volatile region, things change daily and as long as you follow local advice then you should be fine. Driving through Hezbollah-held towns and coming within 5km of the Syrian border where refugees are escaping the civil war was certainly a daunting experience.

Discover my Lebanese adventure here.

I'd never have believed if somebody had me questioning which city was more dangerous but sadly I think right now Baghdad might be slightly more secure than Damascus.

I’d never have believed if somebody had me questioning which city was more dangerous but sadly I think right now Baghdad might be slightly more secure than Damascus.

I’m one of the lucky ones to have visited Syria just before the war started, although nothing appeared to be wrong clearly under the surface things were brewing.

These days Syria is sadly one of the most dangerous countries in the world, seeing places I visited and loved in the news everyday is rather depressing. I didn’t know a huge amount about the country before I visited, but I came away with some of my best travel memories. I’ll never forget the day I woke up at 4am at a hotel in Palmyra where water was dripping from the lights, I could smell gas everywhere and I thought the air conditioning unit was going to give me Legionnaires disease. Could it get worse? Well no, thankfully I then hopped on my camel and went for a ride around the ancient ruins of Palmyra just as the sun was rising.

Ancient ruins of Palmyra

Syria is one place right now that I’d simply say is totally off-limits, do not attempt to enter the country or you know what things might happen.

Find out what Syria was like pre-war, you’ll be amazed! 

Kiev's Independence Square was still occupied when I visited, however it should now be back to normal.

Kiev’s Independence Square was still occupied when I visited, however it should now be back to normal.

When problems first begin to arise, most people usually cancel their holiday. Not me!

I’d wanted to visit Ukraine for a number of years, a fascinating and diverse country in Europe that always intrigued me. Thankfully I got the opportunity to visit in early 2014, sadly for me the civil unrest was in full swing.

Staying at Hotel Ukraine that overlooked Independence Square certainly proved an interesting place to stay, no cars were able to drive through due to the protesters, you were never sure what bangs were fireworks or worse and being a foreigner, people treated you with a great deal of suspicion.

Thankfully for me visiting Ukraine was one of my best trips, click here and find out what parts of the country I explored. 

Is it a risk worth taking?

Weigh up the risks, take all the necessary precautions and at the end of the day its your decision. Be aware that by visiting areas deemed “advise against all travel” you pretty much void your travel insurance!

Where should your next trip be…

If you’d be interested in visiting a unique destination with me, choose from one of the following and join me on a tour, please let me know and I can set this up:

  • Afghanistan
  • Yemen (Socotra)
  • Mauritania
  • Chad
  • Democratic Republic of Congo

Further Information

You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Think You Know Lebanon? Think Again…

Lebanon is currently described as one of the most dangerous countries in the world (according to the U.S), this is total and utter rubbish! The country has been hit hard by the Syrian war with tourism nose-diving, but in fact now is the perfect time to visit! Thankfully I discovered a warm, welcoming community who were thankful to see a tourist.

Lebanon

Why Visit?

Here’s my top five reasons to visit Lebanon:

  1. Amazing, tasty food – you’ll never go hungry
  2. Incredibly warm and welcoming people who can fluently speak Arabic, French and English
  3. Very few tourists, it’s highly likely you’ll have the place to yourself and be the only one at historical sites
  4. Unlike any other Middle Eastern country, Lebanon produces wine and beer and has its own unique culture
  5. Even with all the warnings, I found Lebanon to be a safe place to visit and explore

What Is There To See In Lebanon?

Where do I even begin? This small Middle Eastern country sure packs a huge amount of adventure in to a small space. Everything from hiking, skiing and beaches are available here, one day you can be exploring one of the world’s oldest cities and civilisations then the next you’ll find yourself at a wine tasting, sampling the home-grown delights.

Although you could spend a long time here and not see everything, my advice would be to visit for at least 5 days and try to cram everything in. My itinerary included:

Day 1 – Beirut

Only three days prior to my arrival, a terrorist attack occurred in Southern Beirut. Naturally this would scare 99% of tourists away, thankfully for Lebanon I’m part of the 1% who won’t back down to terrorists!

The city is known for being the “Paris of the East”, the French-colonial influence still exists everywhere. For me, this makes it an exciting destination to check out as many parts of the Middle East are seen as unfriendly to Western visitors. This is simply not true of Lebanon.

Lebanon's tribute to the victims of the Paris terrorist attack

Lebanon’s tribute to the victims of the Paris terrorist attack

If you arrive early enough, my best advice is to simply walk around and start soaking up the atmosphere.

Day 2 – Baalbek, Anjar and Ksara

Although the FCO currently advise against all travel to Baalbek and the Beqaa Valley region (correct as of November 2015) I still decided to visit upon seeking local advice and guidance, thankfully I was perfectly fine. 

Baalbek is the must-see tourist site of Lebanon, it is absolutely magnificent. I had the whole site to myself except one other tourist and some locals who are allowed to visit for free. In Greek and Roman history this site was known as Heliopolis, thankfully for us even in the conflict-prone area the site is still one of the best preserved Roman-ruins in Lebanon and I hugely recommend you add it to your list of places to see!

The Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Lebanon

The Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Lebanon

One of the world's best Roman ruins at Baalbek, Lebanon

One of the world’s best Roman ruins at Baalbek, Lebanon

If you get a good guide they'll give you lots of information and get you some good photos of Baalbek

If you get a good guide they’ll give you lots of information and get you some good photos of Baalbek

Anjar. Where do I begin? Well, sadly it’s been badly restored and that kind of ruins the atmosphere, however be very careful when visiting this area as it’s only 5km from the Syrian border.

Anjar looks amazing, but get up close and you'll see the lack of technique during restoration

Anjar looks amazing, but get up close and you’ll see the lack of technique during restoration

If you’re looking for a unique souvenir to take home, look no further than some of the Hezbollah merchandise that was being sold as you leave the archaeological site…I didn’t see it being sold anywhere else!

Speaking of souvenirs, I bet many tourists wouldn’t necessarily know about Lebanese wine. I visited Chateau Ksara, one of the best available in the country for a wine tasting session and thankfully picked up some nice Christmas presents along the way. Definitely worth checking out.

Discovered by accident, these tunnels are now used to store wine for up to 100 years!

Discovered by accident, these tunnels are now used to store wine for up to 100 years!

Day 3 – Byblos, Jeita Grotto and Harissa

Byblos, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, prominently situated on the Mediterranean sea. With a very fine example of a Crusader Castle, a visit to Lebanon wouldn’t be complete without visiting Byblos!

Byblos, Lebanon

Byblos, Lebanon

Before visiting, I hadn’t really read anything about Jeita Grotto, other than it was an essential part of any trip to Lebanon. Thankfully for me they weren’t wrong, these caves were absolutely magical and although you weren’t allowed to take photos inside, I managed to snap this beauty.

Jeita Grotto caves

Jeita Grotto caves

Once you’ve finished underground, head over to Jounieh to take a cable car up to the Our Lady of Lebanon statue that stands tall and proud overlooking the city, just a short ride from Beirut.

Our Lady of Lebanon

Our Lady of Lebanon

Harissa, Lebanon

Make sure you visit Harissa, you’ll get the best view from Our Lady of Lebanon

Day 4 – Beirut

If you haven’t quite crammed everything into the first day you’ll need extra time to explore further. By not choosing to do a day trip today you’ll also get a well-deserved lie in!

Walking around Beirut is a bit like an obstacle course, there’s many factors to take into account including drivers who do whatever they like and you’ll take your life into your own hands just trying to cross the road.

Beirut traffic is an absolute nightmare!

Beirut traffic is an absolute nightmare!

Lebanon sadly hasn’t had a public train service for many years, there had been plans to build a high-speed line but sadly due to finances and the Syrian civil war this appears to have been put on hold. In Beirut, there’s a small section of track in the Mar Mikhael area that you can even walk down, it’s safe and there’s no risk of being hit by a train as there’s none left in the country!

There's no trains left in Lebanon, but in Beirut I found these last remaining tracks that you could walk along.

There’s no trains left in Lebanon, but in Beirut I found these last remaining tracks that you could walk along.

If you arrive with no expectations, you’ll be wowed and amazed by just how much Beirut is changing. The marina area for me was lovely, the water was incredibly clear and I’ve never seen so many fish, proving how pristine the water is.

Beirut marina

Beirut marina

I used Google Maps on my iPhone to plan what I was going to see, then I downloaded them to ensure I wouldn’t get lost with no internet. I’d strongly advise getting a paper map too, just in case.

Day 5 – Tyre, Sidon and Mleeta   

Situated in Southern Lebanon, the cities of Tyre and Sidon, now referred to as their Arabic names Sour and Saida, were previously under Israeli occupation during the war. Thankfully the sites are still very much intact after being under threat.

Entrance fees were quite cheap, costing only 8,000 Lebanese Pounds (approximately £4) to gain access to both Saida Sea Castle and Sour Roman ruins.

Saida Sea Castle

Saida Sea Castle

Other than a few local couples exploring the site I had the place to myself, on such a beautiful sunny day it was the perfect time to visit. After being subjected to several wars, the castle interior houses nothing of significant value but from the outside it looks stunning. You’ll need to look for some old photographs to discover its original beauty, also note that there are no guides available at this site.

Saida Sea Castle

Saida Sea Castle

The Southern city of Tyre (Sour) was one of the ancient powerhouses of the world, located at a key trading route meant the city thrived from the wealth. These days sadly the city is mostly known for being at the forefront of war, used by Hezbollah in 2006 against Israel.

There’s still lots to see here, spend some time walking around the heavily damaged hippodrome which has some panoramic views across the whole site.

Tyre (Sour) Roman Collonade

Tyre (Sour) Roman colonnade

Tyre Hippodrome, Lebanon

Tyre Hippodrome, Lebanon

One place that I wasn’t expecting to be taken was Mleeta. A museum dedicated to the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war, this wasn’t on my itinerary and so it was a bit surreal seeing everything for myself as every vehicle, shell and bunker was original and genuine. I’ve decided not to post pictures of it on here out of respect to both countries and instead show the natural beauty of Southern Lebanon.

Beautiful Southern Lebanon

Beautiful Southern Lebanon

How To Get There

Lebanon only has one international airport in Beirut, currently it’s a fly in, fly out destination due to the civil war happening in Syria in the North and East whilst on-going disputes with Israel mean you cannot go South.

Many major airlines fly to Beirut, from the UK this includes British Airways and the national flag-carrier MEA (Middle East Airlines).

Beirut Airport, Lebanon

Beirut Airport, Lebanon

Visit Lebanon for yourself

I highly recommend a visit, to book your stay go to Booking.com and search for Lebanese properties.

Click here using this link!

Is It Safe To Visit Lebanon?

YES!!!

That’s my simple answer. Of course there are issues that the country is dealing with, but in general terms the majority of the country that a tourist would visit is safe for you to see. Everywhere I went everyone told me not to visit Tripoli as the situation on the ground changes daily.

If you decide to hire a car to drive yourself round you’ll need nerves of steel as the Lebanese drive like crazy! I saw a number of fatal accidents whilst travelling through the country, trust me just hire a guide!

Current Issues

Yes, it is true Lebanon is currently surrounded by conflict, however they themselves are not at war. The country is struggling financially due to the burden of having their population increased by 3 million in the last 4 years. A shocking statistic I discovered was that 1 in 5 people (possibly even more) who live in Lebanon are refugees.

Not long ago the country found itself without a rubbish collection, there is still political issues and you’ll notice huge piles of rubbish on the pavements at the side of the road. It won’t hugely affect you and after a while it becomes the norm.

Beirut Graffiti

Beirut Graffiti

It’s strongly advised not to visit Tripoli as the situation there changes frequently. Daesh (ISIS) do not occupy any part of Lebanon and are only present at a tiny section just across the border from North Eastern Lebanon, however it’s unlikely you’ll visit this place.

Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Want to see the REAL Europe? Visit Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Tourism in Bosnia Herzegovina is booming, with arrivals up year-on-year thankfully the country hasn’t yet reached its peak potential in terms of tourist numbers. According to the World Bank, BiH attracted a grand total of 529,000 tourists in 2014, however most of these only usually arrive on a day trip from Croatia who in comparison welcomed more than 12 million tourists in the same period.

For me though this was perfect, not many tourists = prime discovering opportunities!

A quick history lesson

Many of you will only know Bosnia and Sarajevo for one reason…the wars. I cannot write an article about the country without mentioning it’s incredibly sad history.

If you wish to discover how the Siege of Sarajevo unfolded check out this YouTube video.

Well that’s enough about the tragic history, Bosnia is looking forward and is trying to rebuild not only the capital but the country too. It still bares war scars which are still clearly visible in some parts of Sarajevo even today, 20 years after the war ended.

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebević mountain

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebević mountain

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebević mountain

A destroyed hotel on Mt Trebević mountain

The fantastic view from one of the destroyed hotels I found up on Mt Trebević mountain

The fantastic view from one of the destroyed hotels I found up on Mt Trebević mountain

My Bosnian Diary – Sarajevo

Arriving in Sarajevo is a real culture shock, there are people practicing every religion all mixed in together. I found the city to have a vibe more similar to Turkey in some parts, however it’s very unique in the fact one minute you are staring at a mosque, if you turn around you’ll see a church and potentially even a synagogue.

After leaving the E.U country of Croatia and arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina I felt like I could be on a different continent, but I’m not, I’m still in Europe.

Baščaršija - the fantastic old bazaar gives Sarajevo that eastern feel

Baščaršija – the fantastic old bazaar gives Sarajevo that eastern feel

Bosnia Herzegovina is one of Europe's poorest countries, unfortunately you'll still see many sights like this.

Bosnia Herzegovina is one of Europe’s poorest countries, unfortunately you’ll still see many sites like this.

Within the Old Town you'll feel more like you are in Turkey than Bosnia

Within the Old Town you’ll feel more like you are in Turkey than Bosnia

In 1984 Bosnia & Herzegovina (then Yugoslavia) fought off competition from Japan and Sweden to host the Winter Olympics, the first time ever to be held in a communist state. Purpose-built stadiums and venues were created including the Bobsleigh and Luge track on Mt Trebevic.

Sadly during the Siege of Sarajevo, the Trebevic mountain range was an ideal location for the Serbian forces and the Bobsleigh and Luge track was used as protection whilst shooting through purpose-built holes, however it now appears that these have now been filled in and you can no longer see them. Although it’s a place of incredible sadness, I highly recommend visiting this place as it’s one of my top travel experiences.

According to various sources the Government are planning to renovate and reuse the bobsleigh and luge track for the European Youth Olympic festival due to be held in 2017. However when I visited in May 2015 it still very much looks abandoned, the forest is starting  to reclaim the land and it is now a really peaceful place to see and possibly enjoy a picnic. Throughout the mountains you’ll find various abandoned/bombed out hotels, restaurants and residential homes to explore, with respect naturally.

I had a fantastic trip visiting the bobsleigh track, highly recommended!

I had a fantastic trip visiting the bobsleigh track, highly recommended!

Although the experience was a bit surreal, you get a sense of what life must have been like during the war.

Although the experience was a bit surreal, you get a sense of what life must have been like during the war.

One of my favourite photos from the trip, the bobsleigh track in its true glory with all its twists and turns.

One of my favourite photos from the trip, the bobsleigh track in its true glory with all its twists and turns.

The finishing line...sadly never to be used again. Or is it?

The finishing line…sadly never to be used again. Or is it?

Between 1992-1995 Sarajevo was a city cut-off from the outside world and from itself, the Serbian forces had surrounded the city which was now split in two with only the airport as a buffering ground which nobody could cross.

Thankfully in secret a Bosnian Civil Engineer had created plans to build a tunnel between the two parts of Sarajevo known as the “Tunnel of Hope“.

This proved to be a lifeline for many people as various items could be brought across via the tunnel, cigarettes were especially used as a bargaining tool. These days you can see only a very small section of the tunnel as the rest was filled in with concrete by the Government. This decision was taken mostly due to the tunnel being directly underneath Sarajevo International Airport runway, they feared that it might collapse from the weight of landing aircraft.

The Sarajevo Tunnel Museum is definitely worth a visit, it’s next to the airport so it could be a good option to see when you first arrive in the country. Currently it costs 10 KM (Bosnian Convertible Marka) which isn’t a huge amount and is definitely worth the experience seeing what these poor people went through just to survive.

The entrance to the Sarajevo Tunnel, the opposite side cannot be accessed as the Government have filled the majority with cement due to its location being under the runway of an international airport

The entrance to the Sarajevo Tunnel, the opposite side cannot be accessed as the Government have filled the majority with cement due to its location being under the runway of an international airport

Inside the Sarajevo Tunnel you can imagine how tough it would have been to crouch or be bent over slightly just to walk for 40 minutes to reach the other side

Inside the Sarajevo Tunnel you can imagine how tough it would have been to crouch or be bent over slightly just to walk for 40 minutes to reach the other side

Sarajevo - the surrounded city

Sarajevo – the surrounded city

As you can see the building still bares bullet holes

As you can see the building still bares bullet holes

Throughout Sarajevo, despite having undergone major restoration projects, you’ll still find shelled buildings with gun shot holes still visible. However a lot of the places which were almost destroyed including the Holiday Inn Hotel and the Bosnian parliament building have now been completely modernised and renovated.

Just one of the many tower blocks that still bares the war scars in the city

Just one of the many tower blocks that still bares the war scars in the city

The Holiday Inn hotel was almost completely destroyed, however it has been fully restored and is still a hotel. You'll also notice the 1984 Winter Olympic logo on the side of the building.

The Holiday Inn hotel was almost completely destroyed, however it has been fully restored and is still a hotel. You’ll also notice the 1984 Winter Olympic logo on the side of the building.

Something that I thought was a very sweet touch whilst walking through the city was seeing the Sarajevo roses, these were explosion marks on the ground from the impact of the shells that have now been painted red to look like a rose. Such a beautiful thing to see from something so tragic.

Just one of the many Sarajevo Roses

Just one of the many Sarajevo Roses

The main boulevard from the Airport to the City centre was an ideal position for sniper shooters to target residents as it was a large/wide street with many high-rise buildings which is what lead it to be dubbed “Sniper Alley“. This location saw some of the war’s most horrific war crimes and even today you can still see some of these scars on numerous residential buildings.

Once a place that people feared to go in case they were shot by a sniper is thankfully back to being the busy and functional main avenue in Sarajevo.

Once a place that people feared to go in case they were shot by a sniper is thankfully back to being the busy and functional main avenue in Sarajevo.

Many people just presume Sarajevo is still a war zone or that there isn’t much there to see. Well they’d be wrong, brand new buildings are popping up all over the city including the Awaz Twist Tower which was built in 2008 and has 36 floors.

A very modern building more appropriate in somewhere like Dubai now towers over the Sarajevo skyline.

A very modern building more appropriate in somewhere like Dubai now towers over the Sarajevo skyline.

If you don’t like heights then the lift might be a scary experience, it goes from zero to floor 35 in 30 seconds, check out my video coming back down from the top.

Why visit the country?

Look one way and you’ll see a church, look the other and you’ll see a mosque or hear the call to prayer, it’s a fascinating experience.

Natural beauty doesn’t even begin to describe Bosnia and Herzegovina, yes it still has war scars with many buildings abandoned, falling down or being reclaimed by nature. However, this is all part of the charm and there’s so many places that are totally off the grid as far as  tourism is concerned.

Sadly some parts of the countryside are still off-limits due to unexploded land mines scattered around, however thankfully you can hire guides who know the safe routes.

I never imagined Sarajevo would look this beautiful...a must on any travellers list of place to visit.

I never imagined Sarajevo would look this beautiful…a must on any travellers list of place to visit.

Beautiful Bosnia

Beautiful Bosnia

How to visit Bosnia & Herzegovina

From the U.K sadly there’s currently no direct flights, however there are several good choices for a stopover including Zagreb, Istanbul or Belgrade.

I opted to fly from Zagreb which was only about 40 minutes but was comfortable and quick.

Many people choose to do a day trip from various places in Croatia such as Dubrovnik or Split, however I wouldn’t advise this as all you’ll see is Mostar and there is so much more to this country.

Visit Bosnia & Herzegovina for yourself

I highly recommend a visit, to book your stay go to Booking.com and search for Sarajevo.

Click here using this link!

On arrival in Sarajevo

Sarajevo International Airport is as you can imagine rather small, but that’s not a problem as it means you’ll get through twice as fast as a normal airport. Once you’ve passed through passport control, baggage and customs you’ll be greeted by lots of excited locals waiting for their loved ones to walk through the arrivals door.

Sadly it was just me, so once you brush past all of them walk straight outside you’ll see a few taxis waiting around. The first ones have a monopoly on the airport and will try to charge you what they like, however be aware of what the actual price should be.

From the airport to the city it should cost no more than €10 approximately 20 KM (Bosnian Convertible Marka), they tried to charge me twice that rate so don’t get fleeced.

Sarajevo has the second oldest tram network in Europe making it a must-try when visiting the city. WARNING: Some are very old and battered!

Sarajevo has the second oldest tram network in Europe making it a must-try when visiting the city. WARNING: Some are very old and battered!

Visiting neighbouring countries

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a great place to add to your list of countries to visit on a Balkan tour.

After missing my train to Mostar at 7.15am I opted to take the bus all the way from Sarajevo to Split in Croatia. Although it’s a long journey (8 hours) its relatively affordable at a cost of €28 but make sure you save some change for the driver because for him to take your luggage he’ll also want an extra 2 KM.

Discover more

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.