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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Bosnia - Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Consular Information Sheet
APRIL 20, 2001

TRAVEL WARNING: (Issued April 13, 2001) The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential danger of travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the Dayton Peace Accords halted the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, there are still risks from occasional localized political violence, landmines, and unexploded ordnance. There have been recent outbreaks of mob violence against American citizens and other members of the international community, particularly in the Herzegovina region.

In April of 2001, a number of incidents occurred in which Americans and other foreigners were brutally attacked, pelted with rocks, robbed, and, in one case, held hostage at gunpoint. The communities where the violence took place include Mostar, Medjugorje, Grude, Posusje, Livno, Tomislavgrad and Siroki Brijeg. Local officials have been quoted in the press as saying that they cannot guarantee the safety of the international community. Travel in the eastern region of the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina also poses potential dangers to Americans and other foreigners.

The U.S. Embassy has decided to withdraw official U.S. Government employees and affiliated personnel under its authority from areas of western Herzegovina, and to restrict travel through these areas until further notice. The areas in question include West Mostar, Livno, Siroki Brujeg, Grude, Medjugorje, Posusje, Tomislavgrad and Ljubuski. The U.S. Government is also restricting travel by its employees to the Posavina Corridor, Travnik, Jajice, Vitez and Kiseljak areas. These restrictions are subject to change and Americans who visit Bosnia-Herzegovina should contact the embassy in Sarajevo for updated security information.

Although mine clearance is underway, as many as one million landmines are still scattered throughout the country, and visitors are advised to remain on well-trafficked surfaces and roadways. There are also occasional flare-ups of violence, sometimes linked to protests over the return of displaced persons and arrests of war criminals.

Persons considering travel to these areas should carefully consider the risks and evaluate the security situation before embarking. Those who must travel are advised to avoid crowds and demonstrations, keep a low profile, and stay alert for changes in the security situation. It may not be possible to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in areas where local authorities will not cooperate with or protect USG officials.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Since the December 1995 signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, there has been significant progress in restoring peace.

Although physical infrastructure was devastated by the war, in recent years there has been significant improvement, and reconstruction is accelerating. Utility service has improved dramatically, but gas, electrical, and especially water outages still occur. Hotels and travel amenities are available in the capital, Sarajevo, and other major towns but are expensive. In the more remote areas of the country public facilities vary in quality.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required for travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. A visa is not required for tourist stays up to three months. Unless the traveler is staying at a hotel, all foreigners must register with the local police within 48 hours of arrival. U.S. citizens planning to remain in Bosnia and Herzegovina for more than three months must obtain a temporary residence permit from the local police having jurisdiction over their place of residence and pay a fee of U.S. 50 dollars for one 12-month period. For additional information concerning longer stays, employment, and other types of visas, contact the Consulate General, 886 U.N. Plaza, Suite 580, New York, NY 10017 (212-593-0264 or the Internet address http://www.bosnianembassy.org. Overseas, inquiries may be made to the nearest Bosnian embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

DUAL NATIONALITY: The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of persons who are citizens of both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States. This may hinder the ability of U.S. consular officers to assist persons who do not enter Bosnia and Herzegovina on a U.S. passport. Dual nationals may also be subject to national obligations, such as taxes and military service. Travelers should contact a Bosnia and Herzegovina embassy or consulate for further information. For additional information, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: An estimated one million unmarked landmines and other unexploded ordnance remained throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war, and many people have been killed or injured by these devices. Special care should be taken when near former confrontation lines and the former Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo. To minimize dangers and difficulties, automobile travel should be limited to hard-surface roads because of landmines. Pedestrians should avoid unpaved surfaces. Travelers should use extreme caution, especially in regions away from major urban centers, because of inadequate control by local authorities. Localized political difficulties continue with occasional inter-ethnic violence and bombings. As firearms are readily available, random violence may occur with little or no warning. U.S. citizens must take precautions regarding their personal security. While most Bosnian citizens appreciate the assistance of the international community, outbreaks of anti-foreign sentiment sometimes occur.

The U.S. Government maintains special security procedures regarding travel of U.S. Government employees, officials, and dependents to areas outside of Sarajevo, in particular to the Republika Srpska. U.S. Government employees travel to these areas in secure vehicles and are often escorted. At times of heightened tension, they are often instructed not to travel to these areas. Travel guidelines for U.S. Government employees are subject to change on short notice.

CRIME: Although street crime is relatively low and violent crimes are rare, petty street crimes such as pickpocketing, and breaking into or stealing automobiles are problems. Travelers should take normal precautions to protect their property from theft and exercise common sense personal security measures such as avoiding travel in deserted areas after dark, walking in pairs, and staying in well-lighted areas after dark. Confrontations with local citizens resulting from traffic incidents or public disagreements should be avoided. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy. Useful information on safeguarding valuables and protecting personal safety while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad. It is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: The lack of adequate medical facilities, especially outside Sarajevo, may cause problems for visitors. The blood supply is not screened for HIV or AIDS. Because many medicines are not obtainable, travelers should bring their own supply of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Private medical practitioners are rare, but the number of private dentists is increasing.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

U.S. medical coverage is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. . Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment or disposition of remains in the event of death.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: An increased number of cases of the disease "Q Fever" has been reported recently in various areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is an animal disease which can infect humans through raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized dairy products, and dust from areas where infected animals -mostly sheep, goats and cattle- are found.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international traveler's hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), via their autofax service at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3229), or its Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

Road travel is possible throughout most of the country, although some roads are still impassable due to war damage and landslides. Bosnia-Herzegovina is among the rare countries in Europe that has fewer than ten kilometers of four lane highway. The existing, two-lane roads between major cities are quite narrow at places, lack guardrails, and are full of curves. Travel by road should be considered risky, as roads are not well maintained, particularly in winter. Driving in winter is hazardous due to fog, heavy snow, and ice.

The driving habits of local drivers are poor, and many vehicles are in bad condition. Many accidents occur when drivers exceed safe speeds along winding mountain roads. Accidents involving drunk driving are an increasing problem. Driving after dark is especially dangerous. Except for Sarajevo, street lighting is not widespread, road construction may be poorly marked, and heavy vehicles move slowly on hills. Travelers are encouraged to convoy with other vehicles, if possible, and to plan their trip to ensure they travel only during daylight hours.

Although the number of service stations outside major cities has increased in recent years, many do not offer mechanical or other services. The emergency number for vehicle assistance and towing service is 987; ambulances can be called at 94, and police at 92.

Speed limit traffic signs are not always obvious or clear. The speed limit on the majority of roads is 60 km/h, and on straight stretches of road it is generally 80 km/h. Wearing seat belts is mandatory. Talking on a cell phone while driving is prohibited. The tolerated percentage of alcohol in the blood is .05.

In order to drive legally in Bosnia-Herzegovina, you must have an international driving permit in addition to your U.S. one. The national authority responsible for traffic information and safety is the Automobile Association of Bosnia-Herzegovina, known as "BIHAMK." Their website, which also offers information in English, is http://www.bihamk.ba.

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Bosnia and Herzegovina's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Bosnia and Herzegovina's air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/iasa.pdf.. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

The airports in Sarajevo, Mostar, and Banja Luka are open, but commercial service is limited. Travelers should be prepared for delayed or canceled flights.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Bosnian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Photographing military installations, including airports, equipment, bridges, government checkpoints, or troops is forbidden. If in doubt, ask permission.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Almost all of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cash economy. Credit cards are rarely accepted, except in Medjugorje, and some major hotels and restaurants in Sarajevo. Travelers should not expect to use them to cover expenses. Traveler's checks can be cashed in banks in major cities, but often with delays of three to four weeks. Cash transfers from abroad may also involve delays. The convertible mark, the Bosnian currency since June 1998, is pegged one-for-one with the German mark under a currency board regime, which guarantees its stability. While German marks are accepted in most shops and restaurants, all official payments have to be made in convertible marks. Any bank in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be able to exchange U.S. dollars into the convertible marks with the usual bank commission (about 2%).

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Bosnia are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo and obtain updated information on travel and security within Bosnia and Herzegovina. The consular section is located at Alipasina 43, tel. (387)(33) 445-700, fax: (387)(33) 659-722; internet address: http://www.usis.com.ba. On weekends, holidays, and after hours, an Embassy duty officer can be reached at (387)(33) 445-700.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 30, 2000 to update information on the Travel Warning, Entry Requirements, and Medical Insurance.

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