The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism and landmines.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
There is considerable risk from crime in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar. The vast majority of crimes that affect the U.S. and international communities are non-violent street crime, theft, and opportunistic burglary. Begging, pickpocketing, vehicle break-ins, and other related crimes of opportunity are prevalent. Petty theft and pickpocket incidents are common, focusing primarily on tourist areas and public transportation. Residential break-ins, particularly late-night burglaries, are also common; however, reports of home-invasion confrontations associated with burglaries are rare. Crime, while generally non-violent, may occur anywhere and at any time. The greatest concentration of crime incidents are in Sarajevo and other larger towns (e.g. Banja Luka, Tuzla, Mostar).
As of January 2019, the following information was available for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2018, but statistics for the Republika Srpska and the Brcko District were not yet available. Overall, there was an increase in total crime in the federation by 6.5% compared to 2017. There was also a significant decrease in property crimes (down 8.05% compared to 2017) and automobile thefts (down 24.46% compared to 2017). There was a decrease in traffic accidents (down 6.37%).
Violent crime (e.g. murder, carjacking, rape, mugging) not associated with organized crime groups is not a significant concern. There is a substantial organized crime element, with numerous criminal gangs involved in smuggling, trafficking, and other transnational crime. There have been incidents of violent attacks in public places that have been attributed to organized crime. Violence among members of these groups/affiliates is quite common. As a result of the 1992-1995 war, military grade weapons and munitions are abundant. Consequently, violent crimes are often committed with war-era munitions (e.g. assault rifles, grenades). The expatriate community is not specifically targeted, although members could become victims due to circumstance or proximity.
Cybercrime is rare and mainly consists of relatively unsophisticated website defacement and attempts to obtain personal data.
Other Areas of Concern
BiH has a significant presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as a result of war. Landmines have injured or killed more than 1,700 people in BiH since 1996. While the number of casualties has decreased over the years, there are still incidents reported every year. There are an estimated 120,000 landmines in known minefields throughout the country. Several mountains around Sarajevo contain known/suspected minefields, which mark former lines of confrontation or munitions depots with UXO. Most minefields are marked, though some signs and ribbon have shifted or disappeared over time. De-mining experts recommend that people remain on paved or hard-packed surfaces. Conduct outdoor activities in officially cleared areas or with a reputable guide.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Mediocre road conditions, inclement weather, poorly-maintained vehicles, careless pedestrians, and inattentive drivers can make BiH a challenging place to drive. Vehicle accidents are a major concern, as drivers speed and drive recklessly, including passing in no passing zones and on blind curves. Depending on the location, emergency medical care may not be readily available.
The vast majority of roads are two-lane and in poor condition. There are only approximately 170 kilometers of paved four-lane highway throughout the country. Intercity roads tend to be narrow and often lack guardrails; this is particularly dangerous given the country’s mountainous topography. These dangers are compounded by adverse and unpredictable weather (e.g. heavy fog, rain, ice, snow). Nighttime driving presents additional hazards, as most roads outside of city limits do not have proper lighting. Ecercise extreme caution while driving vehicles, particularly at night and during the winter. Arrive at your destination before nightfall. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.
Public Transportation Conditions
Be wary of pickpockets and impostor ticket controllers aboard public transportation.
Taxicabs are plentiful, inexpensive, and generally safe; look for a functional meter and for the letters “TA” on the vehicle license plate.
Airport services are reliable but limited. There are several daily flights to major transit hubs (e.g. Istanbul, Vienna, Munich) in addition to other airports in the Balkans (e.g. Zagreb, Belgrade). During the winter, extreme fog can cover much of Sarajevo, causing flight cancelations.
There is considerable risk from terrorism in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar. During the 1990s, a large number of Islamic fighters traveled to BiH to aid the Bosnian Muslim war effort. Several hundred remained, and are active in Islamic fundamentalist congregations and organizations, greatly influencing certain segments of the Bosnian Muslim community.
The most recent incident with links to terrorism occurred in November 2017 when an individual was arrested in downtown Sarajevo with a large cache of weapons in the trunk of a car. The individual was linked to other people with ties to terrorism. Throughout 2018, the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) for BiH conducted several raids, arresting persons suspected of joining or supporting foreign fighters. Over the last several years, many Bosnians who traveled to Syria and Iraq have returned home, potentially increasing the terror threat.
There is no general anti-U.S. sentiment, and much of the younger generation speaks at least some English. Only in rare cases have demonstrations been directed toward U.S. diplomatic facilities.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
There is moderate risk from political violence in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar. Peaceful demonstrations are relatively common. Most protests are fueled by wage or pension issues.
Since June 2017, war veterans have frequently protested outside a BiH Federal government building. This protest has remained largely peaceful. In October 2017, 5,000 people protested retirement benefits in front of the BiH Federal Parliament Building. This was the largest protest of 2017 but remained peaceful.
Throughout 2018, the “Justice for David” group has repeatedly organized protests in Banja Luka, Sarajevo, and other regional cities. Protests have remained peaceful but often draw considerable police attention. The largest protest reached an estimated 15,000 people.
Incidents of inter-ethnic violence among the Bosniak (Muslim), Croat (Catholic), and Serb (Orthodox Christian) ethnic groups appear to remain low, despite persistent political tension at the federal level.
BiH has been the subject of disasters: earthquakes, floods, landslides, forest fires, droughts, heavy snowfall.
There were numerous small-scale earthquake tremors from 2015-2018.
Following heavy rains, many large rivers overflow. Previous major floods have destroyed thousands of homes and displaced persons throughout the country.
The disruption of critical infrastructure response services after a catastrophic event is extremely likely. Formulating a personal plan is important for such situations.
Personal Identity Concerns
Same-sex sexual activity is legal in BiH. LGBTI travelers may experience harassment in the event of public displays of affection. However, BiH maintains a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.
Local police are generally helpful to the international community but have limited resources (manpower, response capabilities), minimal English (or other foreign language capability), and insufficient capability to deter and/or detect crime.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens detained by the police should contact the Consular Section through the U.S. Embassy switchboard at +387-(0) 33-704-000.
Crime Victim Assistance
Report crimes to local authorities by dialing 122. U.S. citizen victims should contact the U.S. Embassy Consular Section at +387-(0) 33-704-000.
The police and security agencies are broken into federal-, entity- (i.e. the Federation, Republika Srpska, and Brcko District), and local-level agencies for each canton in the federation.
Medical care is limited, especially outside Sarajevo. In the event of a medical emergency, dialing 124 will connect callers to an ambulance service.
Many European-made prescription and over-the-counter drugs are available in Sarajevo and other major towns, but supply shortages are common. For more information, refer to OSAC’s Report, Traveling with Medications. Seek routine medical treatment and fill prescriptions prior to arriving.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
For an emergency air evacuation, an air ambulance must first arrive from another country or arrangements must be made (at a very high level) for a government helicopter to transfer an acutely ill patient to another country. This is very rarely accomplished.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The winter brings poor air quality to Sarajevo due to excessive use of coal, wood, and more noxious materials for heating residences. Throughout winter months, Sarajevo and other cities experience several weeks of dense smog, with air pollution levels well above normal.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is currently no active Country Council in BiH. Contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Sarajevo or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
1 Robert C. Frasure Street, 71000 Sarajevo
Regular business hours: Monday-Friday, 0800-1700
Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy switchboard operator: +387-(0) 33-704-000
U.S. citizens should register with the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Bosnia and Herzegovina Country Information Sheet