Is Croatia Safe to Travel? – 13 Safety Tips and Warnings From a Local!
Despite of the fact that Croatia has arguably the most beautiful coastline in the world, awesome restaurants and lots of culture to marvel at, travelers aren’t sure if it’s worth visiting because it’s had a rough history that is quite common for Balkan countries. Well, I’m here to put things into perspective and show you just how safe Croatia is.. and isn’t.
I’ve been living in Croatia for over 15 years now. My family and friends are from Croatia and I was practically raised here, but I’ve lived in the US as well. I’ve spent time in all the larger cities in Croatia (Zagreb, Split, Zadar, Rijeka, Pula..) and I’m spending this summer in Zadar. I want to provide my readers with a balanced perspective that I’ve acquired as a local and as a traveler in Croatia.
These are the top 13 things you should know about Croatia’s safety in order to better prepare for your trip:
1. Low crime rates compared to most countries
You’re WAY more likely to get shot or driven over if you live in the US or almost any Western country for that matter than if you were in Croatia. Not to mention more exotic countries like India, Egypt and Thailand that have the absolute worst traffic regulations ever.
I believe that the main reason Croatia is quite safe is a very homogeneous cultural and national background. Except for Zagreb, there aren’t any large metropolitan areas. Even Zagreb, which has about a million people, is not plagued by multicultural tensions. More than 90% of the inhabitants are Croatian by origin, and the rest are tourists enjoying the culture and nightlife.
While it’s not considered to be an affluent country, Croatia doesn’t suffer from an inhumane divide between the rich and the poor. You won’t find any “homeless cities”, which are becoming a common occurrence in parts of the US, especially in California, and more specifically L.A. So you won’t accidentally stumble into a hornet’s nest as you’re exploring a city or a rural area, even at nighttime.
2. It’s safe to travel alone
The majority of Croatians are friendly people, and if you’re travelling during summer, you will find that there are more tourists than Croatians. But when did you hear anything bad happen to a tourist in Croatia? It’s a very rare occurrence.
When some violence happens, the news outlets like HTV Dnevnik will immediately report on it. This only goes to show how rare it is and how self-conscious Croatians are about safety.
I’ve been going out alone to clubs and bars and meeting women on and off for years, and never have I got into a conflict with anyone. All night clubs nowadays have security guards and you can expect a quick response even if things go sour. Even walking the streets alone at night is safer than in most countries, especially in smaller cities.
Zagreb and Split have fan groups, the BBB (Bad Blue Boys) and Torcida, which do have some violent members. But they usually engage in their own inner conflicts and aren’t interested in bullying tourists.
Other than that, there isn’t any violent gang to worry about in any part of Croatia. As long as you mind your own business and enjoy the culture and food, you’ll be one of the millions of tourists having a good time.
3. Beach theft isn’t (too) common
There are many wild beaches you can go to if you wish to be alone. You can take a car drive or travel with a bike to most of them if you’re located in cities on the coast. Zadar, Split and islands like Ugljan, Hvar and Krk are especially good in this regard.
There are so many of these beaches that there’s a very low chance of encountering a thief. If you go to larger sandy beaches where there’s lots of people, there are usually lifeguards monitoring the area from their towers.
This is especially true if you’re staying in a camp like Zaton and Borik which have a concession for a large chunk of land, together with the surrounding beaches. If anything happens on land or while you’re swimming there are trained personnel in the form of lifeguards and security guards available to respond.
Having said that, it’s still definitely not advised to take valuables to the beach. Large sums of cash, credit cards, expensive smartphones and tablets can attract unwanted attention.
Take only the essentials, especially if you’re travelling alone. If you’re in a group, have at least one person watching out for your stuff while others take a dip. Check out my guide on how to keep valuables safe on the beach for 15 other tips that are easy to implement.
4. There are only a few dangerous animals
Croatia has a moderate climate, so there aren’t many venomous snakes and spiders to worry about. If you don’t stray into nature during summer time, you probably won’t see any at all. I haven’t seen a dangerous snake or a spider for years and I’ve been on hiking trips a dozen times over the past couple of years.
The most dangerous snake in Croatia is the Nose-horned Viper (known as Poskok), while the (only) dangerous spider is the Mediterranean Black Widow.
Wolves, bears and boars are the only other animals I would be concerned about getting close to. Having said that, you’re unlikely to meet any of these creatures during your visit unless you purposefully go out to find them.
There are also no dangerous sharks or other sea monsters to worry about. Sure, a shark may wander into the Adriatic Sea every once in a blue moon, but they’re a rare sight anywhere near the coast.
Arguably the most dangerous sea animal is the sea urchin. If you’re entering water on a wild beach in the middle of nowhere, pay attention to where you place your feet. Otherwise you could fall victim to these spiky sea villains. They’re not venomous, but applying full pressure with your foot on one of these baddies could require medical assistance to remove the spikes.
5. Don’t swim too far of the coast
Now this is unfortunately becoming a problem across the Mediterranean. There are more speedy boats and jet skis than ever. Every summer there are a few accidents involving swimmers who were too far from the coast and got hit by a boat or a boat propeller.
To avoid this from happening, I highly recommend swimming relatively near to the coast. After all, you can go the same distance by near the coastline as you can by swimming away from the coast.
Also, don’t use a small boat or any other vessel to wander off too much from the coast. The sea current and waves can sometimes prove too difficult to out-maneuver. For some reason, Czech tourists have a tradition of doing this and there are usually a few of these incidents involving Czech tourists every summer. No one knows why!
6. It’s easy to find good accommodation
Since tourism is basically the only “industry” that Croatia has, many locals have apartments and they’re getting quite technologically savy. You can find apartments for rent both in cities and rural areas especially during summertime through sites like Airbnb.
There are also local agencies and ads which are easily found online. Just type in “Croatia rent” and you’ll find the top rated websites and the offers posted there by locals with photos and often with reviews.
Having said that, the prices can vary drastically from one place to the next and depending on the season. Hvar and Dubrovnik are incredibly expensive, in terms of accommodation and everything else. Zadar, Rijeka, Pula, Sibenik, Split and many islands provide a more reasonable option for most tourists in regards to general expenses.
7. Croatia is politically stable and part of the EU
Croatia has had a parliament and a democratic system ever since it became independent from Yugoslavia in 1991. It became part of the EU in 2013.
While there are certainly problems with political corruption to this very day, none of this is of much concern unless you’re looking to invest in a business in Croatia. Then you will likely face the bureaucratic monster that is plaguing the Croatian people. But this really doesn’t effect regular tourists in any way.
8. Withdrawing money and buying is super easy
The only reason Croatia survives economically is tourist money. The Croatian currency (kuna) is one of the most stable currencies in the world. Many stores and restaurants also accept foreign money, especially dollars and euros.
Paying with credit cards, prepaid cards and cash is equally acceptable in most places. There are also plenty of ATMs, banks and currency exchange offices in cities, towns and (most) villages.
A Payoneer card can also be used to withdraw money from ATMs in Croatia. I personally make withdrawals on ATMs of OTP bank, but I’m pretty sure it’s possible on every ATM.
As far as shopping goes, bargaining is not a common practice in Croatia. The price that’s laid out is usually the correct price and the seller will not be happy about lowering the price any further.
Bargaining is just not part of the country’s shopping culture, whereas in places like Cairo and Istanbul the vendor would be offended if you didn’t at least try to bargain with him.
9. The locals are chill and appreciate tourists
Many locals make money from travelers by renting our apartments or working within the tourist and catering industry in some fashion. So making a pleasant atmosphere for tourists is something that Croatians strive for in general, as a country and as individuals. Croatians are also easy-going and relaxed.
They’re more open to having conversations than say, Finns, Swedes and other more reserved people, and rarely mind being asked questions about the localities by the proverbial disoriented visitor. Unless the visitor is behaving obnoxiously of course (violent, disrespectful to others..) there are always people around to lend a helping hand.
10. Watch out for bicycle thieves
Bicycle theft is one thing you should be careful about in Croatia. Thieves steal bikes, bike seats and any expensive accessories that can be taken off. They even stole my friend’s wheel once! And I had my bike stolen two times.
Last summer I went to the beach with my bike. I came back and noticed something was a bit off. Then I realized that someone changed my bike seat. They took my new bike seat and replaced it with theirs. What’s actually funny is that I prefer this old bike seat! But you get the idea.
I always say that the best investment I’ve ever made is a thick chain for my bike, which I like to call Black Mamba as it’s quite intimidating. When I go to the city, the park, beach, library or anywhere else, I make sure to lock my bike with my Black Mamba to an immovable object like a bike stand or a bench. I haven’t had any trouble since, except for the bike seat swap.
If you’re renting a bike, ask if their insurance covers theft and what their policy is in regards to theft. You don’t want to be put in a situation where someone steals the bike you just rented and you have to pay the full price to the renting company.
Having said that, you will definitely find my bicycle security guide helpful. In this guide I’ve included tips on how to secure not only the bike frame, but also the wheels, seat and helmet, along with the best anti-theft devices for the job.
11. Don’t keep credit cards and too much cash in your car
This is not a good idea, as many cars can get broken into easily. Just recently there was a case where a thief stole over 15 000 euros from 2 cars owned by tourists.
He used an interference device to block the key signal when the owners were locking the door. They eventually caught him because he continued to operate in the same parking lots.
If you still want to keep your valuables in a vehicle, invest in a portable safe or lockbox, and secure it to the vehicle with a thick security cable or a chain. I also recommend installing one of these anti-theft car devices to improve the overall security of your vehicle.
12. Always check the price before ordering a meal or drinks
Every year there are a few cases of small restaurants or night clubs overcharging foreigners. Sometimes the price is 100 times greater than usual.
In night club scenarios tourists often put drinks on a tab without even asking for the price. At the end of the night they are often surprised at the price.
I recommend asking for a receipt for every drink and checking the menu first! If it’s not available, ask the waiter or the bartender for the price before ordering.
13. Get travel insurance
Regardless of where you travel, no one can guarantee your safety 100 percent. Heck, you’re not 100% safe at home either. Anyone who’s watched Home Alone is aware of that fact. 🙂
The trouble with travelling however is that of being in a foreign land where you’re not as familiar with the laws and customs. It’s definitely encouraged to have travel insurance in case your luggage or valuables get stolen or if you catch any health issues during your trip.
Relying on Goddess of Fortune to reimburse stolen goods or provide healthcare is too often exposed for being an unreliable strategy. Travel insurance however, can provide a soft landing in case of unavoidable accidents.
Travel Nomads is a travel insurance company used by thousands of tourists travelling in a group or solo. You can get a quote on their website tailored to your trip and other specifics to see exactly how much the insurance would cost you.
Final Word: Is Croatia Safe to Travel?
Just like every other country, Croatia has it’s good and bad sides. Security and safety are definitely one of the positives. There is less violent crime compared to other popular tourist destinations such as Turkey and Greece.
The political situation is also entirely stable and has been ever since 1995 when Croatia ended victoriously its War for Independence. Now the only real dangers involve petty bicycle theft and the occasional car break-in.
Of course, the dangers can multiply if you act irresponsibly by carrying large amounts of cash or attracting attention in other ways. But if you behave like a regular tourist, I’m confident you’ll be much safer than in many other tourist destinations. Hope this helps!