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State Department: Bosnia-Hercegovina - Consular Information Sheet, August 11, 1997

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Consular Information Sheet
August 11, 1997

Warning: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war has left landmines and unexploded ordnance throughout the country; railways were bombed and remain inoperable; only the airport in Sarajevo has reopened to limited commercial air traffic. Carjacking is common. The December 1995 Dayton Peace Accords are being implemented with the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) overseeing its military provisions. While progress in establishing a durable peace continues, the situation remains volatile.

Country Description: A cease-fire has been in effect in Bosnia and Herzegovina since October 1995. Following the December 1995 signing of the peace accords, 60,000 NATO-led troops were deployed in Bosnia and that force, in June 1997, totaled over 30,000. Despite the cease-fire, sporadic gunfire and random explosions can be heard around Sarajevo. Widespread access to firearms exists. Thus random acts of violence can occur with little or no warning. Physical infrastructure was devastated by the war and is slowly being rebuilt. Water shortages and electrical outages are not uncommon. Hotels and travel amenities are available in Sarajevo and other major towns but are expensive and limited in the more remote areas of the country. The popular religious shrine at Medjugorje is located within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most pilgrims travel to Medjugorje by road from Split, Croatia, without incident although the roads are narrow and with few guardrails.

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 50 deutsche marks (DM) for one 12-month period. The authorities of the Republika Srpska entity have been known to charge a 40 DM visa fee to U.S. citizens when entering, exiting, or passing through the 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, please contact the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina at 1717 L Street, N.W., Suite 760, Washington, DC 20036, tel. (202) 833-3612. Overseas, inquiries may be made to the nearest Bosnian embassy or consulate.

Areas of Instability: Armed hijacking of vehicles, accompanied in some instances by violence, occurs in many parts of the country. Anti-American sentiments sometimes run high in Serb-dominated areas. Travel to and through the Republika Srpska entity could be dangerous because of the potential for violence. Travelers are advised that an estimated 3-6 million unmarked land mines left over from the war are scattered throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Special care should be taken when near former confrontation lines and the former Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo. Movement should be limited to hard-surfaced thoroughfares to minimize the dangers created by these devices. Unauthorized munitions and ordnance should not be handled and/or taken as souvenirs.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities are minimal, especially outside Sarajevo. 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. 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. Travelers have found that supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proved useful. Further information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control's international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559 or Internet:

Crime Information: The incidence of street crime is relatively low and violent crimes are rare, although petty street crimes such as pickpocketing and breaking into parked automobiles are an increasing problem. 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 the armed, at times violent, hijacking of vehicles. Four-wheel drive utility vehicles are targeted at a higher rate than other style vehicles. If an armed individual demands the surrender of a vehicle, the U.S. Embassy advises compliance without resistance. Confrontations with local citizens resulting from traffic incidents or public disagreements should also 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.

Road Safety/Traffic Conditions: Travel by road should be considered risky as roads are not well maintained and many of the road bridges damaged during the war remain temporary at best. There are few guardrails even along the poorly-maintained two-lane system of paved roads connecting the major cities. The driving habits of local drivers are poor, and many vehicles are in poor condition. Many accidents occur when drivers exceed safe speeds along winding mountain roads. Accidents involving drunk driving are an increasing problem as police rarely check drivers for alcohol consumption. Driving after dark is especially dangerous, as many roads are not lit, vehicles frequently do not have lights, and road construction areas may not be clearly marked. 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. Service stations are rare outside of major cities and road support networks for stranded drivers do not exist.

Criminal Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

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.

Currency Information: Almost all of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cash economy. The de facto currency is the deutsche mark. U.S. dollars are generally not accepted, although some hotels may take them as payment. Travelers should change enough dollars into deutsche marks before arriving. Credit cards are not accepted in most parts of the country, except in Medjugorje, where many hotels and restaurants accept all major credit cards. Traveler's checks can be cashed in banks in major cities, but often with a delay of three to four weeks.

Air Travel: Only the airport in Sarajevo has reopened to commercial traffic. The service provided by a number of commercial carriers has been reasonably reliable, although cancellations and delays because of weather conditions are not infrequent, especially between November and March.

Photography Restrictions: Photography of military installations, including airports, equipment, or troops is forbidden. If in doubt, please ask permission.

Registration/Embassy Location: U.S. citizens visiting or remaining in Bosnia, despite the travel warning, can 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 Obala Kulina Bana #1, 4th floor, telephone number (387-71)667-900, fax number (387-71) 443-596. On weekends, holidays, and after hours, a U.S. Embassy duty officer can be reached at (387-71) 445-700.

No. 97-128

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 18, 1996, to update country description, entry requirements, medical facilities, areas of instability, road conditions/traffic safety, currency information, dual nationality, air travel, photography restrictions, and the Internet.

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