Bosnia and Herzegovina is truly beautiful – a country that definitely deserves more visitors than it already gets, due to the outstanding nature and the unique architecture. By merely looking at a couple of pictures of this country, you are bound to feel drawn to it: the majestic castles, the medieval ruins, the magnificent waterfalls and mountains, all these make it a destination worth adding on your bucket list.
Notwithstanding, how safe is Bosnia and Herzegovina for tourists? We cannot help but associate this country with the civil war that took place in the 1990s. Of course, the country was widely affected by this, from numerous viewpoints, as you might expect. At the same time, there are other concerning aspects worth pinpointing; which is what we’ll focus on in our Bosnia and Herzegovina safety guide.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina
Overall Risk: MEDIUM to HIGH
Is Bosnia and Herzegovina safe to visit? Even if, for most tourists, their visits to this country are usually event-free, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be precautious and informed regarding the potential threats.
First things first, note that incidents that entail injuries and deaths due to mines take place on an annual basis. To that end, active land mines, minefields, together with unexploded ordnances are a continual threat all over the country. This is why it is quintessential to remain on hard surfaced areas and avoid getting in the proximity of abandoned buildings. Such buildings that pose significant danger are also located in the suburbs of Sarajevo.
At the same time, demonstrations of political character might take place. These might be quite disruptive, causing property damage and injuries. This is why you should always exercise caution if you find yourself in the proximity of such demonstrations. It is best to avoid them.
In regards with terrorist threats and violent accidents, in 2018 and 2017 two individuals were arrested because they were in possession of weapons and other explosives in Sarajevo. The authorities suspected them of being lone wolf operators. On a different note, in 2014, somewhere in the proximity of the military base in Sarajevo, a terrorist aimed at attacking several off-duty soldiers.
Furthermore, on occasions, local criminals use explosives and firearms in order to provoke disputes. More specifically, in 2017 alone, there were merely ten reports of individuals that used explosives against private properties and local businesses in Sarajevo. Even if, typically, foreigners aren’t the target of such attacks, collateral damage might still happen.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risk: MEDIUM
According to official information, foreign communities are mostly affected by non-violent street crime such as pickpocketing, theft, as well as opportunistic burglary. At the same time, vehicle break-ins, pickpocketing, begging as well as similar crimes of opportunity are rather widespread, especially in the cities.
Pickpocketing incidents are usually prone to happen in tourist areas and in the proximity of public transportation hubs. And even if such criminal incidents don’t usually turn violent, they are quite commonplace. For the most part, the cities in which crimes usually take place are, as you might expect, Sarajevo, Banza Luka, Mostar and Tuzla.
On the other hand, even if violent crimes might still take place on occasions, they aren’t as concerning. Nevertheless, there is still significant concern regarding the activity of organized crime gangs, which are involved in trafficking, smuggling and transnational crime. In fact, some public incidents that took place were actually attributed by the authorities to the actions of organized crime groups. Due to the civil war, military grade munitions and weapons are widespread, as we already pointed out, which poses several risks.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
There are several Bosnia and Herzegovina safety travel tips that can be quite useful when it comes to avoiding theft and pickpocketing. In general, foreigners are easy prey for pickpockets. For example, if you wear a backpack, you should avoid keeping your most valuable belongings there, as they might end up getting stolen.
The same can be said about carrying your pocket in the back pocket of your pants. Experienced pickpockets do an excellent job at stealing from foreigners without them even noticing it. So, it is really important to keep an eye out for strange individuals that might be watching you, or bumping into you, to distract your attention. At the same time, you should pay attention to beggars. In some cases, beggars aim at distracting foreigners, so that other members of the gang can come and snatch your bag, wallet, so on and so forth.
Scam Risk: MEDIUM
Our Bosnia and Herzegovina safety guide further outlines the importance of being mindful regarding the most common scams in this country. In general, scammers target the most populated cities – the same goes here. Therefore, if you’re visiting the most popular cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as the capital, you should keep an eye out for scams.
Firstly, if you’re planning on using the public transport during your trip, you should know that there might be imposter controllers, pretending to behave like the official controllers. At the same time, even if taxis are quite safe and inexpensive, you should know that some drivers might not be fair and honest, in the sense that they might ask you for a higher fare. This is a common practice used especially in the case of tourists, because they are unaware of the official taxi fares in the country.
Also, make sure you always look for the letters TA on the vehicle’s license plate, to ensure that the taxi you’re taking is licensed. This will minimize the likelihood of getting scammed. Aside from that, if someone tells you something about paying an unusual fee that you know nothing about, he/she might be trying to pull a scam, so be cautious. If you’re traveling by tram or by train, you should pay attention to strangers that crowd you, as this could mean that they might want to steal your wallet.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
As a rule of thumb, if you want to deter unwanted incidents, you should take the same precautions you would when you’re traveling to any other place. Even if some destinations might be safer than others, the likelihood of scams cannot be eliminated altogether, which is why you should stay alert.
In addition, you should try to blend with the locals, avoid wearing a backpack or wearing your wallet in your back pocket. It is common sense to avoid displaying your wealth, as this could simply draw unnecessary attention to thieves and scammers looking for their next victims.
Kidnapping Risk: LOW
According to official statistics, the kidnapping rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t that troubling. Of course, this doesn’t mean that this type of crime is basically inexistent; it merely means that it is less prevalent than in other countries. The official rate of kidnapping experienced a range of fluctuations throughout the years, and recently, it has significantly diminished.
On a different note, though, perhaps one of the most prevalent crimes in this country, statistically speaking, is related to bribery and corruption.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
Even if kidnapping isn’t such a major concern in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by all means, this doesn’t entail that you should leave your guard down. You should still choose your itinerary responsibly and avoid going to remote areas after dark. Plus, you should avoid leaving your drink unattended while you are in a bar, pub or restaurant. In this way, you won’t have to worry that someone has spiked something inside.
Rape Risk: LOW
What could we say about the rape risk in Bosnia and Herzegovina? The good thing is that this isn’t necessarily a prevalent issue in this country, either, as it is highlighted in official reports. And while this is reassuring, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant during your travels to this country.
- How to Avoid Unwanted Incidents?
Unwanted incidents can usually be avoided by embracing a sensible behavior. Always be mindful of your surroundings, choose your itinerary wisely and make sure you travel with someone you can trust.
Terrorism Risk: HIGH
It is quite troubling that Bosnia and Herzegovina is struggling with a notable terrorism threat. This is, perhaps, the thing that determines most tourists to have mixed feelings regarding this country. To that end, terrorism attacks could take place at any time. The places in which they are most likely to happen include airports and transportation networks and hubs, places of worship, schools, government buildings, tourist attractions, markets, shopping centers, hotels, so on and so forth.
With that said, make sure you factor in this before planning a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that you exercise additional caution during your visit.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone: LOW
Is Bosnia and Herzegovina safe for solo women travelers? Should you attempt to go there by yourself? Aside from the heightened risk of terrorism and the other issues we mentioned beforehand, women traveling solo should feel safe during their journey. And while most cities in the countries are safe for exploring, don’t overlook that there are still several unexploded landmines in the mountains, and not only. Therefore, make sure you always walk on marked paths.
Risks for Families Traveling with Children: LOW to MEDIUM
Furthermore, families traveling with children should, on the whole, feel safe during their visits. In spite of this, however, we would like to further outline that the threat of terrorism ought to be taken into account, as attacks are common and they might happen especially in the areas that are frequented by tourists. At the same time, the unexploded landmines also pose a range of dangers to families with children – granted that you want to do a lot of exploring in the country. On a different note, the driving conditions in the country are quite poor, partly because of the poor infrastructure, and also because of traffic congestion.
Hence, if you’re planning to visit the country by car, do take this into account. Aside from this, extreme weather conditions could make driving difficult. Plus, secondary roads don’t have any service stations. At last, make sure you always have comprehensive travel and health insurance for the entire family before embarking on your adventure.
Natural Disaster Risk: MEDIUM to HIGH
How safe is Bosnia and Herzegovina for tourists if we were to assess the risks of natural disasters? Throughout the entire year, earthquakes and small tremors occur on a regular basis. However, the good thing is that, in general, the consequences aren’t really severe. At the same time, forest fires are also likely to take place in Bosnia and Herzegovina – specifically in the southern part of the country.
Essentially, such fires occur during summer heat waves. Still, the areas that are usually more susceptible to this aren’t that popular for tourists. Aside from that, the authorities aim at keeping the fires under control.
Moreover, after heavy rain, there is the risk of flash floods and landslides – and this applies to all parts of the country. In such situations, we advise you to consider the advice provided by the officials.
List of Vaccines You Need for Visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina
Our Bosnia and Herzegovina safety guide continues with a couple of recommendations regarding the vaccines you should have before traveling there. Aside from the routine vaccines, you should have the following, as well:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Final Thoughts: How Safe Is Bosnia and Herzegovina for Tourists?
In summary, we think that our Bosnia and Herzegovina safety guide has answered the majority of questions you had in mind regarding traveling to this beautiful, yet underrated country. Although we cannot say that Bosnia and Herzegovina is 100 percent safe for foreigners, this can hardly be said about any destination, as there are specific risks that come with traveling, regardless of the destination.
As long as you approach a sensible behavior, you should be on the safe side. Without a doubt, this country has plenty to offer, and visiting it will be a highly rewarding experience on several levels.