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 ACS Unit 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 Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
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 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 (Banja Luka, Tuzla, Mostar).
As of February 2017, the following information was available for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2016, 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 8.35% compared to 2015. There was an overall decrease in violent crime in 2016. There was also a significant decrease in property crimes (down 15.5% compared to 2015) and automobile thefts (down 18.2% compared to 2015). There was a slight uptick in traffic accidents (up 1.4%).
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 killed approximately 600 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.
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. There are several daily flights to major transit hubs (Istanbul, Vienna, Munich) in addition to other airports in the Balkans region (Zagreb, Belgrade). During the winter, extreme fog can cover much of Sarajevo, causing flight cancellations.
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.
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.
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”).
Over the last several years, it is estimated that many citizens traveled to Syria and Iraq, making BiH one of the main source-countries per capita of foreign fighters in that war. Throughout 2016, the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) for BiH conducted several raids, arresting persons suspected of joining or supporting foreign fighters.
There is no general anti-American 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
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 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 disasters: earthquakes, floods, landslides, forest fires, droughts, heavy snowfall.
- There were numerous small-scale earthquake tremors in 2015 and 2016.
- 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
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) travelers may experience harassment in the event of 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. 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
Kosevo Hospital +387 33-297-000 (switchboard). The urgent-care center at Kosevo hospital, KUM, can be reached at +387 33 297 708 or +387 33 297 955. Staff may not speak English.
Nakas State Hospital can be reached at 387-033-285-100. The Nakas hospital emergency department is at +387 33 285 261.
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
Abandoned dogs pose a concern, particularly in Sarajevo. There are over 11,000 abandoned dogs throughout the city, and many of them are in packs. While most dogs appear docile, there were reports of dog attacks in 2016. Efforts to address the dog population are in progress, but there is no immediate solution.
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, 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 currently no active Country Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Please 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
Regular business hours: Mon-Fri, 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