Is Bosnia safe? The lowdown on safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina
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Last Updated on July 27, 2021
Is Bosnia and Herzegovina safe to visit? The short answer is yes. But safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina is more complicated than a simple yes or no answer.
With the Bosnian War still a part of the collective memory, it is understandable that many visitors have concerns about safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But those who hope to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina need not stress about safety. While there are a few common scams and safety precautions to consider, for the most part crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina is low and Bosnians are incredibly friendly.
Nevertheless, here are all the safety concerns to keep in mind when travelling to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Political Tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina
This is incredibly complicated, especially without an in-depth history lesson. What you mainly need to know to stay safe is that Bosnia has, what they call, two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska (Serbian entity). Although there is one government, there are representatives from both entities looking after their own interests. It is often referred to locally as the most complicated political system in the world.
For you own safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is unwise to share your political feelings, especially if it is in favour of the entity you are not in at the time. While this is unlikely to cause any extreme safety concerns it won’t make you any friends and it just isn’t worth risking a fight!
Landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Photo by Dagney McKinney
Don’t worry, safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina really is not an issue. However, for those hoping to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina and discover untouched regions might want to reconsider.
After the Bosnian War landmines covered the country, and many died as a result. The government prioritised clearing residential areas first, then roads, popular tourist areas, hiking routes and other frequented places. Sadly, the truly off the beaten path spots, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s wilderness, have never been completely cleared.
This does not mean that hiking is not safe in Bosnia and Herzegovina! But those hoping to do so will need to stick to the marked paths. Alternatively you can arrange to go with a guide.
Crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina
There is very little crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina and even less violent crime. However, tourists need to be careful and use common sense as with anywhere. Most crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina that effects visitors is pickpocketing and petty theft in the major cities of Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka.
While violent crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina is extremely rare, there have been several incidents of disputes being handled using hand grenades and rifles in the past two decades. Luckily these numbers decrease every year and the last recorded incidents were in 2017. It is also rare for tourists to be involved in these violent confrontations. These weapons are left over from the Bosnian War when they were handed out indiscriminately to the general population, including children.
Common Scams in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The main crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina is pickpocketing. In any major city, tourists need to be vigilant and aware, as with any popular European city. Although some pickpockets in Bosnia and Herzegovina work alone, many work together and employ scams to trick people.
A common scam to look out for is beggars trying to sell you something or asking for money while one of their associates robs you. Aside from keeping an eye on your possessions at all times, the best way to prevent this from happening is to avoid using large backpacks and standing out in a crowd whenever possible.
Tourists also need to be vigilant on trains and other public transport. These are where they are most likely to be targeted.
Taxi scams are common in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Always get in taxis marked with a “TA” as these are official. Non-official taxis will sometimes quote inflated prices, or use a rigged metre that jumps up faster than a normal metre.
Road Safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina suffers from poorly maintained roads which is only exacerbated by old vehicles and harsh weather. In cities, pedestrians need to take extra care crossing the street. Those hoping to drive in Bosnia and Herzegovina might be unprepared for the condition of roads in rural areas.
Many visitors to the country consider drivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be reckless. To stay safe on the road, be on the lookout for people passing on blind curves and in no-passing zones. In rural areas, be careful of pedestrians walking on roads without sidewalks.
In the winter the roads can get exceptionally icy. Coupled with early sunsets and poorly lit streets outside of the cities, road safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the winter can be difficult.
Natural Disasters in Bosnia and Herzegovina
When it comes to natural disasters, Bosnia and Herzegovina gets hit by everything. Earthquakes, landslides, forest fires, floods, droughts and heavy snowfall are not unheard of. Although these events aren’t common and are unlikely to be dangerous, it is best to avoid rural areas during harsh weather.
Herzegovina (the south of the country) is most likely to be affected by droughts and forest fires during summer heat waves. If you visit during a heat wave, check local warnings before going hiking.
Pollution in Bosnia and Herzegovina
One safety concern in Bosnia and Herzegovina that often gets overlooked by visitors is pollution. Although the country is relatively unpolluted most of the year, during the winter months the air fills up with PM 2.5 particles and can become toxic.
The main source of pollution is coal-power plants and industry. However, this is exacerbated during the winters when people burn even more coal to stay warm (not all homes have electric heating). Many towns and cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are nestled within valleys with low winds and the air gets trapped.
A brief visit to the country will not do any lasting damage to a healthy person. However it can make for a miserable holiday for those with respiratory problems, chronic illnesses or other vulnerable groups.
If you decide to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the winter and fall into one of these groups, consider bringing a surgical mask designed to protect from PM 2.5.
So is Bosnia and Herzegovina Safe?
On the whole, yes – Bosnia and Herzegovina is completely safe!
Despite all these warnings and the small chance of crime, there is no real reason to worry about your safety in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnians are kind and welcoming and eager to share their culture with visitors. Other than wandering unaccompanied into the wilderness, you really only need to take the same precautions you would anywhere and use common sense. But do not let this deter you from travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina because it is just as safe as anywhere else!
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