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State Department: Bosnia-Hercegovina - Consular Information Sheet, June 1, 1999


Bosnia - Herzegovina - Consular Information Sheet
June 1, 1999

WARNING: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the commencement of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military operations on March 24 against Serbia- Montenegro, there is an increased possibility for retaliation against U.S. citizens and interests in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly in the Republika Srpska entity. On March 25, the U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Banja Luka was attacked by demonstrators, and is now closed. There have also been violations of Bosnian airspace by Serbian military aircraft.

U.S. Government personnel have been withdrawn from the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Americans elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina are urged to avoid crowds and demonstrations, keep a low profile, and stay alert for changes in the security situation.

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was halted by the Dayton Peace Accords. However, there are still risks from occasional localized political violence, landmines, and unexploded ordnance. 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.

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.

The popular religious shrine at Medjugorje is located near the city of Mostar. Most pilgrims travel to Medjugorje by road from Split, Croatia, without incident, although the roads are narrow and lack guardrails in many locations.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. 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. The authorities of the Republika Srpska have been known to charge a 40 deutsche mark (DM) visa fee to U.S. citizens when entering, exiting, or passing through that entity. This discrepancy will cease after the new immigration law is adopted by the parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For additional information concerning longer stays, employment, and other types of visas, contact the consular section of the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2109 E Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20037, telephone: (202) 337-1500. Overseas, inquiries may be made to the nearest Bosnian embassy or consulate.

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/SECURITY: An estimated one million unmarked landmines and other unexploded ordnance remain from the war throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. 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.

CRIME INFORMATION: Although street crime is relatively low and violent crimes are rare, petty street crimes such as pickpocketing and breaking into parked 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. The most serious problem affecting travelers to Bosnia and Herzegovina is armed, at times violent, carjacking, especially of four- wheel-drive vehicles. In carjacking situations, the U.S. Embassy advises compliance without resistance. 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 nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 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: U.S. medical coverage is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. 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. 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. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via its home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: 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. Travel by road should be considered risky, as roads are not well maintained and some bridges damaged during the war remain temporary at best. 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. Because of the threat of carjackings and poor road conditions, 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. Road support networks for stranded drivers exist, but are not well-established.

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://cas.faa.gov. 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 the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

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 travelers should not expect to use them to cover expenses. Travelers 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 new currency since June 1998, is pegged one-for-one with the German mark under a currency board regime, which guarantees its stability. The convertible mark is gradually replacing the German mark, which had been the de facto currency in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1992. While German marks may continue to be accepted in some cases, 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%).

Y2K INFORMATION: U.S. citizens contemplating traveling or residing abroad in late 1999 or early 2000 should be aware of potential difficulties. They may wish to consider taking practical precautions against possible disruptions of services triggered by the Y2K computer phenomenon. Monitor our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/y2kca.html for updates on Y2K issues.

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

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens visiting or remaining in Bosnia, despite the Travel Warning, 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)(71) 445-700, fax: (387)(71) 659-722; Internet address: http://www.usis.com.ba. On weekends, holidays, and after hours, an Embassy duty officer can be reached at (387)(71) 445-700.

*****

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated July 13, 1998, to update the Travel Warning, medical facilities, traffic safety, air travel, and registration information and to add information on medical insurance, health, Y2K, and children's issues.

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