Incredible cultural riches, charming towns, cities, and villages, beautiful beaches, and coves, are just some of the delights you can expect to find in Croatia. Although the threat of landmines and petty crime is high, you’d be forgiven for asking the question: Is Croatia safe for travelers today?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Croatia is actually one of the safest places to visit. Whether you’re traveling solo, as a group, or on a family vacation Croatia boasts hundreds of islands perfect for an island-hopping vacation or for a backpacking adventure.
So we’ve put together the ultimate guide of safety tips so you can travel around Croatia knowing you’ll be keeping yourself safe. So be sure to watch yourself on a night out in Croatia, in the capital of Zagreb, or even in the tourist hotspot of Split.
Is Croatia Safe For A Vacation in 2022?
Generally speaking, Croatia is one of the safest places you can go traveling. Crime rates in Croatia are fairly low but just like anywhere in the world you’ll need to watch out for pickpockets and other petty thefts which is more annoying than it is scary.
Since the end of the Balkan War, Croatia has been working hard to rebuild its reputation and tourism, and over the past decade, tourism has boomed. It’s packed full of things to do from visiting quaint villages and sandy beaches to cool UNESCO world heritage sites and other historical landmarks.
Tourist hotspots such as Split and Dubrovnik are inundated with tourists for around two months of the year (July and August). So if you’re looking to avoid the big crowds it might be worth considering coming outside of these two months. Since the end of the Balkan war, the only real threat leftover from this are the unexploded landmines that mark the landscape. You shouldn’t come across any as long as you adhere to the warning signage and if out exploring or hiking you stick to mark paths. The Croatian Mine Action Center has a map of all the affected areas you can check prior to your adventures.
Other dangers to be aware of are earthquakes, although these are rare, forest fires, and flooding. The likelihood of you encountering any of these is slim but it’s still worth remembering. All in all, Croatia is a very safe place to go traveling and is often a favorite destination for those looking at getting a taste of solo travel for the first time.
While Croatia may be one of the top 20 safest places in the world, you can never be too safe. So it’s worth considering these safety tips before you set off on your adventure-filled vacation. We’ve put together a few safety precautions for you to avoid getting caught out, scammed, or finding yourself roaming the streets of a dodgy area.
- Don’t look like a target. This may be obvious but if you’re wearing expensive jewelry, watches, designer clothes, the newest iPhone, and a big DSLR camera around your neck, you’re basically a magnet to thieves. Keep the expensive items hidden or out of sight if you can.
- Always keep a copy of your passport and important documents on you. In the unlikely event they get stolen, it’s always worth having a copy with you as finding replacements in a foreign country can be a bit of a nightmare.
- Stick to marked paths on hiking trails. Landmines are still a very big and real threat throughout Croatia. So always stick to marked paths and if unsure ask the locals or take a local guide on the hike with you.
- Stay away from political demonstrations of any kind. While most of them are silent, they have been known to turn violent and in general, they’re just not worth getting caught up in.
- Don’t walk around towns with your top off/in your bikini. Believe it or not, it’s actually illegal, so avoid fines by covering up at all times.
- Know where you are going and when. Being aware of the places you are going to and when is always a good idea. Avoid some dangers in Croatia by staying away from certain places and parks at night. Be careful as well not to walk alone, especially as a female, in poorly lit or deserted areas.
- Learn some Croatian. Although everyone in Croatia speaks English, learning some common phrases and sayings will always put you ahead in the local’s eyes. Plus it’s just a good thing to do.
Getting around Croatia is fairly easy with the choice of taxis, Ubers, and other public transport like trains and buses. While buses and trains are considered safe they can be prime areas for pickpockets to take their chances. So if you’re traveling by bus or train anywhere make sure you are fully aware of your surroundings and that you have your bag and possessions close to you, especially at night.
Official taxis are considered one the safest options for getting around and they even have an app so you can book them in advance from your phone without the worry of getting ripped off. The two biggest taxi firms in Croatia are Cammeo and Ekotaxi. You’ll know they are an official taxi by the yellow taxi sign with the number on top of the car. Make sure if you hail one, it’s got these details and a working meter before setting off on your journey.
Ubers are also considered safe modes of transport in large cities like Zagreb and along the Croatian coast. Be sure to check the price of the taxi before setting off and if you feel it’s too high or you’re not comfortable don’t be afraid to refuse the taxi and get another one.
Places to Avoid
While Croatia is generally considered a safe place to visit for tourists, just like anywhere there are some areas that are worth avoiding. Zagreb is one of those places that is worth avoiding for several reasons. One reason why many suggest avoiding Zagreb is due to its higher risk of petty crimes such as pickpocketing.
Night clubs in Zagreb also tend to be a no-no for tourists as violent fights are commonplace and scams are rife. You’ll also find that many nightclubs are notorious for overcharging tourists, however, that’s not to say all nightclubs do it. Many of the popular beaches along the Adriatic coast are a hotspot for pickpockets as well so it’s worth keeping your belongings close to you or in a locking beach bag.
The main areas to avoid after dark are the Zagreb Bus Terminal, Ribnjak Park, and King Tomislav Square as they are rather seedy locations. However, most areas of Croatia are safe for tourists and are worth visiting, but just like anywhere keep your eyes peeled and your valuables close to you.
Scammers are everywhere these days, online, in the streets, and even in pubs and restaurants, so it’s useful to know what the most common scams are. In Croatia, there are some well-known scams to be aware of so you don’t get caught out.
The ‘Buy Me A Drink’ Scam
In this scam, a young woman will ask you if you want to get a drink at a nearby bar. If you accept she’ll spend the night drinking the most expensive cocktails or drinks on the menu and charge it to your tab, leaving you with an expensive bill to pay at the end.
If you don’t have the cash to pay the tab off the bouncer will escort you to the nearest ATM to draw out the cash. If you decide to pay by credit card though, they’ll add an extra 0 to the end of the bill. While this may not seem like much of a scam, it’s likely to cost you a hefty amount of money.
The Picture Scam
This scam is fairly popular in Dubrovnik. In this scam, you will normally be asked by a local if you can take their picture. Upon agreeing they will hand over their camera and you’ll proceed to take their picture.
When you return the camera to them, they will ‘accidentally’ drop it and claim you damaged or broke their camera. They will then demand you pay for the damage. The best way to avoid this is to just say no unless you are 100% sure they are not a local.
Friendly ATM Helper
Anyone that claims to be helping you at an ATM will often have an ulterior motive. While they may be offering to help you avoid local fees their actual intention is to scan your credit/debit card with a skimmer and watch as you enter the pin so they can drain your account later.
Make sure you always cover up the number pad with your hand when you enter your pin and refuse help from anyone at an ATM. Sometimes it’s better to have a credit or debit card that has no international fees or use cash instead.
There are plenty of scams that pickpockets will try. Two of the most popular scams are the Guessing Game Scam and the Bird Poop Scam. In the guessing game scam, you will often see a man with three boxes and a group of people around him trying to guess which box the ball is in. Someone from the group will give the right answer and the man will hand over money as a prize.
This continues over and over again with different members of the crowd. As the commotion attracts more and more people, members of the group will go around pickpocketing as many valuables as they can without anyone noticing.
In the bird poop scam, someone will throw a bit of white paste on your shoulder. Your initial instinct will be to look up thinking it was bird poop. You’ll then have a ‘friendly’ local offer to help clean it up and while doing so they will pickpocket you. It will happen so quickly that you won’t even notice.
Stopping this sort of scam is relatively easy, remember not to accept help unless it’s a real emergency, and secondly make sure you’re valuables are closely attracted to your body using a money purse, internal pockets, and even in a travel scarf with hidden pockets.