5 reasons why Croatia is a safe country (and 5 tips to avoid unnecessary trouble)

So you want to travel to Croatia but you have no idea how safe it is. Are threats of terrorist attacks real? How safe is it to walk in Croatian cities at night? Is it OK to travel alone? What about dangerous animals and the occurrence of natural disasters? Here’s what you should know about safety and travel safely in Croatia.

1. High temperatures during summer, low crime ratings throughout the year

Croatia is a pretty safe country, at least according to US Department of State and UK government. Crime and violence levels are low and there have been no terrorist attacks here. Also, the war had ended here more than two decades ago. You can safely explore Croatian cities and islands by night. There’s no fear of mass shootings here because gun control is very strict. A migrant route, which was located in the continental part of the country, far away from the seaside, had been long closed.

What you should take care of: Although pickpocketing and purse snatching isn’t as frequent and widely spread as in other popular European destinations (Barcelona, Paris), you should be aware of your surroundings at all times and take care of your belongings. Don’t flash your newest smartphone on the beach, unless you have someone watching over it while you’re swimming. On that note, never leave your food and drinks unattended. Do we even have to mention you should always lock the door to your apartment?

croatian border check

You probably won’t encounter any unpleasantries if you’re traveling solo, but it’s always safer to stick with the group while you’re walking at night or exploring lonely beaches, forests, mountains and other (semi-)deserted areas. Wherever you travel, be sure to carry your ID card and/or passport since Croatian police do routine checks on identity cards.

And lastly… Men, beware of the bar scams! Let’s just say if a pretty lady invites you to a shady looking bar and wants to order a glass of champagne, ask for a price list beforehand. You don’t want to spend your whole travel money on one drink or get home with visible scars from the trip. If anything should happen, call the police at 112 (common emergency telephone number) or 192.

2. New highway, safe airlines

Whether you’re traveling by car, bus, train or an airplane, you’ll safely reach your destination. Most of the coach lines travel through recently built, wider and safer motorways. On new motorways, you’ll find many petrol stations and diners where you can get a rest and/or replenish your supplies while you’re traveling by car. Sometimes, but especially during summer, traffic jams can appear due to the tourist rush hour, weather and/or (usually minor) accidents so be sure to check out the traffic info on official Croatian Auto Club web page or via the mobile app. National air-carrier Croatia Airlines is one of the world’s safest global airlines. Trains are slow but they get the job done.

What you should take care of: If you’re traveling by (rent-a-)car, drive defensively, especially on a tricky old freeway, where you’ll encounter lots of road curves and, sometimes, even rock-slides. Avoid traveling on both highways during summer weekends (tourist rush hour). If your car breaks down or you get involved in an accident, call for a roadside assistance service at (+385 1) 1987.

3. Wildlife in Croatia is not so wild (or dangerous)

Poison dart frogs, komodo dragons, Gaboon vipers, pufferfish… Yes, all of them can be seen in Croatia, but only in ZOOs and aquariums. Most dangerous animals here are bears and wolves, endangered species that usually roam only through protected areas like nature or national parks. Bears even have a special sanctuary nearby Northern Velebit national park, where volunteers take care of abandoned bear cubs in large enclosures. They’re so cute it’s almost deadly!

Out of 600 species of venomous snakes in the world, only 3 of them chose Croatia as its natural habitat. And only one of those 3 can deliver a fatal bite – horned viper (Vipera ammodytes). Common European viper’s (Vipera berus) and meadow adder’s (Vipera ursinii) bites can sting and you should visit the doctor if you’ve been bitten but they’re normally not deadly. Same can be said about scorpions in Croatia. They’re very small, not bigger than 2 inches, and their bite is commonly no more harmful than the bee’s sting (although you should ask for doctor’s treatment, just in case). Speaking of, you should be more afraid of bee’s, wasp’s, hornet’s sting or tick’s bite since they’re more widespread. Most dangerous spider you should be aware of is the black widow.

On the seaside, biggest “threat” you’ll encounter are jellyfish, weevers and sea urchins. Sharks stay far away from the coast, as well as some other dangerous species (scorpionfish, moray eel).

Although there aren’t many deadly species, biodiversity in Croatia is very rich.  National park Risnjak is a home to almost extinct Eurasian lynx, nature park Kopački rit features more than 300 bird species, while islands like Krk or Cres are natural habitats of several rare eagle species.

What you should take care of: Snakes, scorpions, black widow, bears and other dangerous animals here aren’t aggressive, which means they won’t attack you if you don’t provoke them or accidentally step on them. Same can be said about sea urchins, weevers and jellyfish so watch your step on the land and in the sea. Don’t swim far away from the coast. Wear appropriate clothes (long pants, long-sleeve shirts) while hiking on mountains or walking in forests. You don’t need to get vaccinated to enter the country but it would useful to get shots against Hepatitis A and B, rabies and other, more common infections (flu, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, TBE, chickenpox, polio). If you come from one of the EU countries apply for a free European Health Insurance Card to minimize the eventual cost of medical treatment. Once again, if anything should happen, call 112, 194 or 195 (emergency phone for sea rescue).

4. Not so disastrous natural disasters

Strong wind Bura and, mostly human-caused, summer wildfires are the most common types of natural disasters in Croatia. They can cause serious damage to landowners and farmers, even halt the traffic on highways but human casualties are rare. Earthquake magnitudes over 4, on a Richter scale, are also very seldom, not only on land but also in the sea, which is why the probability of a real tsunami is very small here. Meteotsunamis are rare and they cause comparably much less damage than earthquake tsunamis. Speaking of water, Balkan floods over two years ago were an unexpected and unfortunate anomaly – they were the biggest floods and worst natural disaster in Croatia in 100 years.

We have one volcano in Croatia, named Gaveznica – Kameni vrh, but the last time it had erupted was some 22 million years ago or so. Today it’s mostly known as a tourist attraction and a finding site of semi-precious agate gemstones.

What you should take care of: Well, there’s not much you could do against forces of nature but, just in case, check the forecast before traveling or heading out. We’d also not recommend BBQing in the open, especially in forests, since one small mistake can cause a wildfire, severe burns to your body and grant you an exclusive tour of Croatian penitentiaries. If you see a smoke, call 112 or 193.

Technically, mines left over from the Croatian War of Independence are not a natural disaster but they’ve claimed more than 500 lives until now (e.i, more than all natural disasters in Croatia in the last 100 years combined) and you should stay away, far away from the minefield signs and areas since they pose a real threat.

5. CMRS to the rescue

Whether you’ve decided to conquer 1,757 meters (5,764 feet) high Vaganski Vrh, highest Croatian mountain peak, in flip-flops or lost you on the mountain while randomly picking wild poisonous berries, you can always count on Croatian Mountain Rescue Service for help (Hrvatska gorska služba spašavanja or, for short, HGSS in Croatian). CMRS is national, non-profit, volunteer organization specialized for rescue in mountains, rock faces, caves and other unapproachable areas. They can be contacted at 112 phone number. If you get trapped in a ravine while searching for Bulbasaur in Pokemon GO, they’ll help you get out of it, free of charge!

What you should take care of: Staring in the face of death, starving for days on a mountain or falling from a 30 meters (100 feet) cliff, just to get rescued in the nick of time by CMRS can be a great story for grandchildren… But why would you want to tell it in the first place? Are you some kind of depressed masochistic adventurer? In some cases, not even a CMRS won’t be able to help you. So just use common sense and don’t hike in flip-flops, take selfies on slippery cliffs or do anything similarly stupid.

Now that you’re aware of all the perils lurking in Croatia, does the thought of coming here still scare you or you feel more relaxed and prepared for the trip? Yeah, we thought so. 😉 Still, don’t be completely reckless and take notice of some of the dangers we presented here in fun paragraphs called “What you should take care of”.

So just gather a handful of good friends, buy lots of sun cream, take a pinch of common sense and you’re good to go to Croatia.

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