According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, BiH has been assessed as Level 2: Exercise increased caution.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy 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.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Sarajevo as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Please review OSAC’s BiH-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
The vast majority of crimes that affect the American and international communities are non-violent street crime, theft, and opportunistic burglary. Begging, pickpocketing, vehicle break-ins, and other 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. The greatest concentration of crime incidents are in Sarajevo and other larger towns (Banja Luka, Tuzla, Mostar).
As of February 2018, the following information was available for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2017, but statistics for the Republika Srpska and the Brcko District were not available. Overall, there was a decrease in total crime in the federation by 9.07% compared to 2016. There was an overall decrease in violent crime in 2016. There was also a significant decrease in property crimes (down 11.99% compared to 2016) and automobile thefts (down 27.09% compared to 2016). There was a decrease in traffic accidents (down 5.74%).
Violent crime (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 (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 ordinance (UXO) as a result of war. Landmines have injured or killed approximately 1,744 people 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 BiH. 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. Outdoor activities should be conducted in officially cleared areas or with a reputable guide.
For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, “Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.”
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 100 kilometers of paved four-lane highway throughout the country. Intercity roads tend to be narrow and often without guardrails; this is particularly dangerous given the country’s mountainous topography. These dangers are compounded by adverse and unpredictable weather (heavy fog, rain, ice, snow). Night-time driving presents additional hazards, as most roads outside of city limits do not have proper lighting. Extreme caution should be exercised while driving vehicles, particularly at night and during the winter. It is recommended that you arrive at your destination before nightfall. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
Individuals opting to use public transportation should be wary of pickpockets and impostor ticket controllers.
Taxicabs are plentiful, inexpensive, and generally considered safe; look for a functional meter and for the letters “TA” on the vehicle license plate.
Airport services are reliable but limited. During the winter, extreme fog can cover much of Sarajevo, causing flight cancelations.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Sarajevo as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
During the 1992-1995 war, a large number of Islamic fighters traveled to BiH to aid the Bosnian Muslim war effort. Several hundred of them remained active in Islamic fundamentalist congregations and organizations, greatly influencing certain segments of the Bosnian Muslim community.
Some notable terrorism incidents include:
In November 2017, 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.
In November 2015, a gunman walked into a small betting parlor on the outskirts of Sarejevo and opened fire, killing two Bosnian soldiers in uniform. The individual stepped back into the street and opened fire on another soldier sitting in a city bus. The gunman detonated a hand grenade, killing himself. Following a police investigation, it was believed that the attacker had become radicalized and specifically targeted members of the BiH armed forces.
In April 2015, a man walked into a police station in the Republica Srpska and opened fire with an automatic rifle, killing one police officer and injuring two others before being killed by police forces. Upon opening fire, the attacker yelled Allahu Akbar (“God is Great”).
In November 2011, a lone gunman fired a high-powered automatic rifle at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo for a prolonged period. A local police officer was wounded. The gunman was apprehended by local authorities.
Over the last several years, many citizens who traveled to Syria and Iraq have returned to BiH. BiH authorities reported that in 2017 there were no departures for any foreign conflicts or wars. BiH security officials anticipate more returnees due to the successful prosecution of the war against ISIS. Throughout 2017, the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) for BiH conducted several raids, arresting persons suspected of joining or supporting foreign fighters.
Only in rare cases have demonstrations been directed toward U.S. diplomatic facilities.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Sarajevo as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Peaceful demonstrations are relatively common. Most protests are fueled by wage or pension issues.
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.
Since June 2017, over 50 war veterans have camped in protest outside a BiH Federal government building. This protest has remained peaceful and has only surged to 200 individuals at any one time.
In early February 2014, protests incited by disgruntled citizens against the local government broke out in Sarajevo, Tulza, Mostar, and several other cities. Protestors set ablaze the Sarajevo Canton Building and the Presidential Building, and nearly 150 police officers sustained injuries during the riot. The protests continued for several months, though on a smaller scale and generally peaceful.
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 state (federal) level.
BiH has been the subject of natural disasters: earthquakes, floods, landslides, forest fires, droughts, heavy snowfall.
There were numerous small-scale earthquake tremors in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
In May 2014, BiH experienced some of the worst flooding in its history. Following heavy rains, many large rivers overflowed, destroying thousands of homes and displacing citizens 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
LGBT travelers may experience harassment for public displays of affection.
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
American 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
Crimes should be reported to local authorities; 122 is the emergency contact number. For local first responders, please refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.
American citizens are also advised to contact the U.S. Embassy Consular Section at +387-(0) 33-704-000 if they are a victim of crime.
The police and security agencies are broken into state (federal) level agencies, entity level (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, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.” Americans should seek routine medical treatment and fill prescriptions prior to arriving.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.
Available Air Ambulance Services
For an emergency air evacuation, an air ambulance must be brought 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
Feral dogs pose a concern, particularly in Sarajevo. While most dogs appear docile, there were reports of dog attacks in 2017. Efforts to address the dog population are in progress, but there is no immediate solution. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “When Wildlife Attacks.”
The winter brings poor air quality to Sarajevo due to excessive use of coal, wood, and more noxious materials for heating residences. In December 2016 and 2017, Sarajevo and other cities experienced approximately two weeks of dense smog, with air pollution levels that were well above normal.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is no active Country Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
1 Robert C. Frasure Street
Regular business hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700
Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy switchboard operator: +387-(0) 33-704-000
U.S. citizens traveling should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.
Bosnia and Herzegovina Country Information Sheet