Sarajevo to Mostar by train, as suggested by the title of this post, is one of my favourite train journeys ever!
As a rule, I enjoy most train journeys, even those on the London Underground. OK so I rarely travel during rush hour on the underground and so I probably haven’t experienced it at its very worst, but like I said, as a rule trains = good! So good in fact I dare say that they are my favourite mode of transport (honourable mention for segways).
Don’t laugh, but I honestly think my love for trains started as a child, when I used to watch endless episodes of Thomas The Tank Engine. What can I say, the intro music was catchy! Nowadays I consider train journeys a bit of a treat, mainly because in the UK they’re so darn expensive. I might take the odd train to football, or travel conferences/festivals, but if I set out to ‘travel’ the UK, it’s usually by car as somehow the cost of petrol is still cheaper than the price of a train ticket.
Not all train journeys are super expensive though …
So to Bosnia, and the best train journey I’ve ever taken, Sarajevo to Mostar. Bosnia in all honesty didn’t quite go to plan in the beginning, I had ventured to Sarajevo from London with a wanting to snowboard in the mountains which had once hosted the Winter Olympics (1984) … but there was no snow. I managed to fill a couple of days by sightseeing, taking incredible history tours about the sege of Sarajevo, and then come evening eating everything in sight, but there was an element of relief when the time came to board the train down to Mostar.
Mostar during the middle of the week had always been the plan, and at this point it felt good that something was actually going to plan! I was looking forward to seeing the old bridge (Stari Most), and taking a tour of city and learning about its war torn past.
Sarajevo to Mostar by Train
I left my hostel at the ungodly hour of 6am and caught a tram up to the main train station. I was early, I knew that, I’m always early as I hate to be late – go figure. I was so early that I’d even beaten the ticket office in opening, but once they did open I was obviously first in line. With the aid of Google translate and some sign language I was able to purchase my ticket with little fuss, and I then made my way out to the platform.
After about 10 minutes the platform started to fill up, some like me chose to access the platform via the underpass, others just chose the walk across the tracks from the main station building. The train itself was very nearly on time, as it chugged its way into the station. As I said, there were’nt too many people on the platform waiting to board, but those that were fought ferociously to be first on the train. I didn’t understand why until I myself finally managed to board and so those passengers sitting in the private cabins were those that also pushed and shoved their way onto the train first.
Even at this early hour, my travellers brain kicked in and decided that sitting in a cabin would have been a bad idea anyway, had anyone decided that they wanted to to try rob me I would have been cornered. I was therefore more than happy to take up a seat in the open plan carriage with a few others.
The wood panelled carriage itself wasn’t in the best of shape, but it would do nicely for £4. The seats were well worn and stank of stale smoke – the no smoking signs are more like guidelines it would seem – but they were comfy enough. I slumped down in a single seat, dust flying everywhere as I did so, made sure all my important documents and belonging were secure, and then turned my attention to the window.
What came next was 2.5-3 hours of bliss. You can see for yourself in the video below (which is actually going the other way from Mostar to Sarajevo) just how amazing the journey was, and what value you get for your £4. I can’t even get from where I live to central London (45 mins on the underground) for that amount, let alone travel for the best part of 3 hours across country.
I am however ashamed to say that I did nod off and fall asleep about an hour into the journey. I early hour caught up with me, and when combined with the radiator at my feet and the rhythmic motion of the train, my eyelids conceded and fell like a 10 ton weight. Luckily I had the presence of mind to set an alarm on my phone for 10 minutes earlier than the estimated arrival time in Mostar.
Mostar to Sarajevo by Train
I should have felt guilty about visiting the land of nod on that first journey from Sarajevo, but I got over it once I realised I would be making the return journey in just a couple of days time and would have a second bite at the cherry.
Mostar itself was a delight, and I was very sad to leave. It might have been out of season, but my hostel host Miran, was incredible and made my stay in Mostar near perfect. He pressed that I should return one summer and see Mostar under sunlight, I didn’t argue against it.
Despite there being two trains a day back to Sarajevo (just as there are two train from Sarajevo to Mostar), I chose the early train again under orders (no really, ORDERS!) from Miran. He told me that the late train was too late, and that I wouldn’t be able to see anything out of the moving trains windows. So there I was again 6am ish and waiting on another platform, getting ready for the battle royal of boarding a Bosnian train. Once the train pulled in I once again ducked the cabins and got myself another single seat up against the window. Despite having a drink the night before, I actually felt more awake this time around and decided to arm myself with my GoPro, knowing full well that what I could capture through the train window would be magic.
And it was, see …
So that was it, Sarajevo to Mostar, my favourite train journey to date. What did you think?
Sure there are nicer, quicker trains. Trains with more features, comfier seats and which smell less of smoke. But would they have the same charm? … and more importantly would they put on the same show as did the trains from Sarajevo to Mostar and Mostar to Sarajevo?
… for the most part I doubt it.
Sarajevo to Mostar trains
There are two trains a day link Sarajevo and Mostar, and you’ll find all kinds of depature and arrival times for these trains splattered all over the internet.
According to the Bosnia and Herzegovina Federal Railways Web page, the departure times are as per below. Whilst the below is a good guide, I would play it safe by either visiting the either of the stations in advance to check times, or asking reception at your hotel/hostel if they could ring and check for you.
- Sarajevo depart 07:10
- Sarajevo depart 18:18
- Mostar depart 07:06
- Mostar depart 19:12
The cost of a one way trip is 12 BAM which as of Jan 2015 is equal to roughly $7 / £4.50 / €6. Also, whilst I bought my tickets separately, I’ve heard rumours that if you buy a return ticket, you get a better rate.
Other awesome train journeys I’ve taken
In no particular order, these train journeys are also pretty cool!
- Berlin to Prague
- Bangkok to Vientaine (overnight)
- London to Exeter
- Palma to Soller (Mallorca)
- Bucharest to Sofia (overnight)
- London to Paris by Eurostar … but only because you go under the sea which is awesome!
Not so awesome train journeys
I’ve been lucky and admittedly had few really bad train journeys that I can think of. Bangkok to Chang Mai (overnight) was pretty painful, but only because we’d been told the journey would take 14 hours, when in reality it took 18 hours. Thinking ‘any minute now’ for 4 hours is not fun!
Then there was the hooligan train in Poland from Wroclaw to Krakow, which I’ve never actually written about on my blog, owing to a lack of anything visual to provide you with. All you need to know is that spending 4 hours among drum beating, flare yielding, balaclava wearing Polish football ‘fans’ who don’t particularly love English people, is not pleasant. Had I not been so terrified it might have actually been quite impressive what with all the banners and orchestrated noise … but I was terrified and that is one train journey I have no plans to relive in a hurry.