The Balkans is a region located in southeastern Europe that generally comprises the countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece. It is one of the most underrated yet stunning areas not just in Europe, but possibly the whole world! I recently traveled to the western half of the Balkans, and was absolutely blown away. If you’ve been to the Balkans, this is for you: here are 15 signs that you’ve traveled in the Balkans!
1. You’re appalled at standard Western Europe prices
“What do you mean this glass of wine is 5€?!”
“A bus ticket costs how much?!”
After the low prices and excellent value for everything in the Balkans, you struggle with the return to regular (expensive) things elsewhere.
2. You’re disappointed when you go into a bakery and can’t get a burek
The deliciousness of the flaky pastry combined with gooey cheese or greasy meat can never be surpassed.
3. You’re used to paying in cash and exact change
You’re used to pretty much nowhere accepting credit cards, so you typically just get cash out (and you have the ATM fees to prove it). And you’re used to stressing out over how to break big bills (since no one accepts them) and counting lots of coins since everyone loves loves loves exact change.
4. You’re shocked when the bus goes in a straight and logical route
You don’t know what to do when your bus goes from Point A to Point B without stopping at Towns C and D, which are both several hours out of the way. My 6-hour bus to Montenegro ended up taking 9 hours, due to a detour to the capital—which was completely out of the way I was headed.
5. You’re confused as to why the bus doesn’t pick up random people on the side of the road
What do you mean, this bus only picks up passengers at the actual coach bus stations?! You’re used to coach buses that anyone can flag down in the middle of nowhere and hop on.
6. You’ve picked up at least some Cyrillic skillz
If you’ve traveled to Macedonia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, or Serbia, you’re used to most things being in Cyrillic, and have been able to work out a least a few of the letters to sound things out.
7. You’re unimpressed by the scenery anywhere else
Mountains, lakes, plains, forests, seas, coasts… the Balkans have it all. Not much else can compare with the natural beauty of the region. Who needs the French Riviera when you’ve got the Albanian Riviera?!
8. You’ve been warmly welcomed by the people in the Balkans
The people of the Balkans are friendly and hospitable, and you’ve met at least one person who was excited to meet you and genuinely wished you the best for your stay. The locals have a wealth of knowledge that they love to share with visitors!
9. You’ve gotten good at asking tough questions in a tactful way
When talking about the wars between the various countries, or the tensions between different ethnic or religious groups, you try to learn through conversations with locals without offending anyone.
10. You’ve met at least one person who has been shot, lived through a siege, or knows someone who was shot or lived through a siege
In all seriousness: the wars in the Balkans during the 1990s left their mark in many ways. Since the conflict was so recent, it’s not unusual to meet people who have personally suffered in some way. My guide in Mostar casually mentioned that “the second time he was shot” was by a sniper. I also had a guide in Sarajevo who lived through the 1992-1995 siege as a child. It puts a very personal face to the conflicts in the region.
11. You’ve never seen so many stray cats and dogs
After the recent wars in the region, stray animals abound. You’ve seen tons of stray cats and dogs just hanging out around town.
12. You know that Balkan wine is the shit
It’s got twice the flavor for half the price of other wines—Bosnian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, and Croatian wine are some of the best out there! You’ll never throw down money for French wine again. (Beer in the Balkans isn’t too bad, either.)
13. You’ve sat through a traffic jam caused by a herd or animals at least once
Whether they’re sheep, goats, or cattle, having to wait for a herd to cross the road is a standard, every day routine.
14. You have a lower tolerance for tourist-heavy places
You can’t stand the long lines and heavy crowds at more popular destinations like London or Paris. There are simply too many tourists after traveling the lesser-known Balkans.
15. You can’t wait to travel the Balkans again
You know the Balkans is one of the most underrated, surprising, and incredible regions in Europe (if not the world)—and you can’t wait to go back.
Have you ever been anywhere in the Balkans? I’d love to hear about your experiences!