What makes Croatia a unique country to travel to?
Croatia is a well-developed parliamentary democracy and became a member of the European Union (EU) on July 1, 2013. Facilities for tourism are available throughout the country, and the Adriatic coast is a popular tourist destination.
While violent crime is rare, there have been isolated attacks targeting specific persons or property, which may have been racially motivated or prompted by lingering ethnic tensions from Croatia's war for independence. Foreigners do not appear to be singled out by criminals. We advise you to safeguard your belongings in public areas, especially in bus or railroad stations, airports, and gas stations, and on public transportation. As in many countries, outward displays of wealth may increase your chances of being targeted by thieves.
We urge U.S. citizens to avoid going to so-called "gentlemen's clubs." A few such establishments have presented foreign customers with grossly inflated bar bills, sometimes in the thousands of dollars, and threatened those customers who refuse to pay.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Croatia, 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, and criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States; you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods, for example. 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 Croatia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
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 Croatian language has thirty letters, each with a distinct sound.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Health-care facilities in Croatia, although generally of Western caliber, are under severe budgetary strain. Some medicines are in short supply in public hospitals and clinics. There are numerous private medical and dental practitioners, and private pharmacies stock a variety of medicines not readily available through public health facilities. Tick-borne encephalitis, a disease preventable with a three-shot vaccination series, is found throughout inland Croatia, but is not prevalent along the coast.
Safety and Security
Although hostilities in all parts of the country ended in 1995, de-mining of areas along former confrontation lines is not complete. We estimate that de-mining operations will continue until at least 2018. Mine-affected areas are well-marked with Croatian-language warning signs using the international symbol for mines—a skull and crossbones inside a red, upside-down triangle. Be cautious in former conflict areas, including Eastern Slavonia, Brodsko-Posavska County, Karlovac County, areas around Zadar, and in more remote areas of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, and stay on known safe roads and areas. Mine-clearance work may lead to the closure of roads in former conflict areas.
While civil disorder is rare in Croatia, there are occasional strikes, protests and other public demonstrations. As all demonstrations can potentially turn confrontational or even violent, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid these events whenever possible, and to exercise caution when in the vicinity of any such gathering.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Croatia, you may encounterroad conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Road conditions and maintenance in Croatia vary widely. Modern highways link Zagreb with Rijeka and Split. Construction work is still ongoing between Split and Dubrovnik, causing delays and road closures. Highway tolls are higher than those in the United States and can be paid by cash or credit card. Information on tolls is available from the Croatian Motorways website. Primary roads, including roads along the coast, are generally adequate, but most have only one lane in each direction. Coastal roads are narrow and congested, and tend to be slippery when wet. Rock slides are also possible on roads along the coast, as well as through the mountain regions of Lika and Gorski Kotar. There is heavy congestion on major routes on weekends (towards the coast, for example) and in major cities during rush hours. Congestion on coastal routes, at border crossings, and at tunnels is especially heavy in the summer months. Drivers should be prepared for sudden slowdowns when approaching tunnels at any time of year.
Drivers tend to be aggressive in Croatia. Passing on curves or in oncoming lanes is common on highways and poses a higher risk of accidents. Accidents, when they do happen, very often involve fatalities. Drivers traveling though former conflict areas should stay on paved roads to reduce the risk of encountering unmarked mines and unexploded ordnance left over from the 1991-1995 war. In Zagreb, motorists and pedestrians alike should also pay special attention to trams (streetcars), which in downtown areas may travel at a high rate of speed through the narrow, congested streets. Additionally, drivers in towns and cities should be aware that pedestrians crossing streets in designated white striped crosswalks have the right of way. Drivers must stop to allow these pedestrians to cross.
Right turns on red lights are strictly forbidden in Croatia unless an additional green light (in the shape of an arrow) allows it. At unmarked intersections, right of way is always given to the vehicle entering from the right. The use of front seat belts is obligatory, and passengers in vehicles equipped with rear seat belts are required to use them. Special seats are required for infants, and children under age 12 may not sit in the front seat of an automobile. The use of cellular phones while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited unless the driver is using a hands-free device. By law, headlights of vehicles must be used all winter, as well as during fog and other inclement weather.
According to Croatian law, a driver may drive with a blood alcohol level of up to 0.05 percent; however it is illegal for a professional driver and those younger than 24 years of age to drive with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.00 percent. A driver with an alcohol level greater than 0.00 may be found guilty if involved in an accident. Police routinely spot-check motorists for drinking and driving and administer breath-analyzer tests at the scene of even the most minor accident. Drivers who refuse to submit to a breath-analyzer test are automatically presumed to have admitted to driving while intoxicated. In case of accidents resulting in death or serious injury, Croatian law requires police to take blood samples to test blood alcohol levels. Punishment for traffic violations can be severe, including fines up to 2,000 euros and even prison sentences.
Within Croatia, emergency road help and information may be reached 24 hours a day by dialing 1987, a service of the Croatian Automobile Association (HAK), staffed by English-speaking operators. The police can be reached by dialing 112 or 192, and the ambulance service by dialing 194. Additional road condition and safety information may be obtained from HAK at ( 385 1) 464-0800 (English-speaking operators available 24 hours), or ( 385 1) 661-1999. Croatian Radio broadcasts programs in foreign languages designed for tourists in Croatia on several frequencies. A daily program is broadcast in English at 8:05 pm on channel one, lasting approximately 10 minutes. For a list of frequencies, see the Croatian Radio website.
During the summer season, approximately mid-June through mid-September, channel two of the Croatian Radio broadcasts foreign news, traffic information, and other important information in English and German, in addition to their normal reporting. See the Croatian Radio website for a list of frequencies.
According to Croatian law, U.S. citizens visiting Croatia for tourism or business may use a U.S. driver's license for up to three months, but should also have an International Driver’s Permit. U.S. citizens with an approved extended tourist visa or a permit for permanent residence may continue to use a U.S. driver's license for up to twelve months; however, a Croatian driver's license is required for stays longer than twelve months. A driver must be at least 23 years old and have a valid driver's license in order to rent a car. Foreigners who have been granted temporary residence in Croatia and who are in possession of a vehicle registered abroad (with valid registration documents and insurance) may use their car a maximum of three months following the day of entry into Croatia, after which period the vehicle must be re-registered in Croatia. For specific information concerning Croatian driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Croatian National Tourist Office, P.O. Box 2651, New York NY 10108.
In cases of traffic accidents involving a foreign-registered vehicle, the investigating police officer on the scene is required to issue a vehicle damage certificate to the owner of the foreign-registered vehicle. This certificate is necessary to cross the border. Upon written request, the police station in the area where the accident occurred will issue a Traffic Accident Investigation Record.