What makes Bosnia and Herzegovina a unique country to travel to?
Bosnia and Herzegovina has experienced significant progress in restoring peace and stability since the 1992-95 war; nonetheless, political tensions among its ethnic groups persist. Progress has been made to reconstruct the physical infrastructure that was devastated during the war, but roads, railroads, and other infrastructural improvements lag behind other countries in the region. Hotels and travel amenities are available in the capital, Sarajevo, and other major towns. In more remote areas of the country, public facilities vary in quality.
The overall crime rate throughout the country remains moderate, although Sarajevo has a consistently high rate of property crime. The Embassy has noted a recent sharp increase in criminal activity throughout Sarajevo in the form of armed robberies, residential break-ins, thefts from motor vehicles, and pick-pocketing. In many of these incidents, members of the international community were victims. On average, four motor vehicles are stolen in Bosnia and Herzegovina each day. The persistent difficult economic situation, including an officially reported unemployment rate of over 40 percent, may be fueling an increase in criminal aggressiveness. Be alert to your surroundings at all times, but in particular, after dark and in locations visited by foreigners such as cafés and restaurants. Take normal precautions to protect your property from theft and exercise common sense personal security measures, such as traveling in groups and staying in well-lighted areas after dark. Try to avoid confrontations with local citizens resulting from traffic incidents or public disagreements. Avoid carrying large sums of money on your person and avoid keeping money in one place. Be careful of beggars or others who may be attempting to distract you or directly pick your pocket. There are also documented cases of pick-pocketing and other scams to obtain money from foreign passengers aboard public transportation (especially aboard trams). Most local citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not use backpacks. People wearing backpacks tend to attract the attention of pickpockets who quite easily gain access to backpacks without the owners’ knowledge. Keep purses and bags closed and avoid placing valuables in purses and bags. Items placed on the chair next to you, hung on the coat rack, or placed on the back of a chair are more easily stolen or pilfered.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, photographing military or secure installations including airports, equipment, bridges, government checkpoints, troops, and the U.S. Embassy, is forbidden. If in doubt, please ask permission before taking photographs. Remember that there are some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but are still illegal in the United States. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not wherever you go.
Persons violating Bosnia and Herzegovina’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Bosnia and Herzegovina are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Arrest notifications in the host country:
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
The official language is Bosnian, a Slavic language that used to be known as Serbo-Croatian. According to ethnic and political affiliation, Bosnians may speak Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian. At school, both Cyrillic and Latin scripts are taught, which are used in the Federation and Serb Republic.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
The lack of adequate medical facilities, especially outside Sarajevo, may cause problems for visitors. Because many medicines are not obtainable, travelers should bring their own supply of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Private practitioners and dentists are becoming more common; however, quality of care varies and rarely meets U.S. or Western European standards. All major surgery is performed in public hospitals.
Individuals with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions may react negatively to the air quality and allergens in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in Sarajevo. Additionally, persons with mental health conditions may not be able to locate English-speaking mental health providers or support groups.
Safety and Security
Landmines remain a problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As of 2013, there were still an estimated 10,000 minefields and an estimated 200,000 active land mines and unexploded ordnances throughout the country. The area of suspected landmine contamination is estimated at over 1,274 square kilometers-- more than 2.5% of the country’s territory. A new Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC) study of the mine problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina has identified a total of 1,631 local communities affected by mines. BHMAC estimates that mines directly affect the safety of 921,513 people. Since 1996, approximately 16,830 people have been injured due to mine accidents, of which almost 600 people died. While most urban areas have been largely cleared, you should still take special care when near the former lines of conflict, including the suburbs of Sarajevo. The de-mining community recommends staying on hard surfaced areas and out of abandoned buildings. Families traveling with children in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be especially aware of the danger posed by mines and unexploded ordnance. For more information about landmines and unexploded ordinances please visit the website of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center.
Localized political difficulties continue and random violence may occur with little or no warning, but politically-related violence in recent years has been rare.
In 2011, a terrorist shooting attack targeted the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, wounding one local police officer. Bosnian criminals may use firearms and explosives to settle personal, business, and political disputes. In 2010, local religious extremists were responsible for a bomb exploding outside a police station in Bugojno; one officer was killed. Local media outlets have reported at least 38 incidents involving the use of hand grenades in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2011. The foreign community is rarely the target of such violence, but there is always the danger of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While most Bosnian citizens appreciate the assistance of the international community, you might occasionally encounter anti-foreign sentiment.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Road travel is possible throughout most of the country, but many roads are poorly maintained and are sometimes blocked because of landslides, de-mining activity, and traffic accidents. Bosnia and Herzegovina has fewer than forty kilometers of four-lane highways. The existing two-lane roads between major cities are quite narrow in places, lack guardrails, and are full of curves. Travel by road can be risky because of poorly maintained roads and morning and evening fog in the mountains. Driving in winter is hazardous because of fog, snow, and ice.
Local driving habits can be challenging given the road conditions, and many vehicles are in bad condition; approximately 100 motor vehicle accidents are reported daily throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many accidents occur when drivers exceed safe speeds along winding mountain roads. Accidents involving drunk driving are an increasing problem. Driving after dark is especially dangerous, and street lighting is not common outside major towns. Road construction may be poorly marked, and automobiles share the road with heavy vehicles and agricultural equipment. Travelers should try to convoy with other vehicles, if possible, and plan their trip to ensure they travel only during daylight hours.
Although the number of service stations outside major cities has increased in recent years, many do not offer mechanical services. The emergency number for vehicle assistance and towing service is 1282. Speed limit signs are not always obvious or clear. The speed limit on the majority of roads is 60 km/h (37 mph); on straight stretches of road, it is generally 80 km/h (50 mph). The use of seat belts is mandatory. Talking on a cell phone while driving is prohibited. The tolerated blood alcohol level is 0.03 percent. Bosnian law requires having a safety vest, spare tire, jack, first aid kit, safety triangle, towing rope, and spare light bulbs in the car at all times.
In order to drive legally in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you must have an international driving permit in addition to your U.S. license.