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State Department: Bosnia-Hercegovina - Consular Information Sheet, July 13, 1998


Bosnia and Herzegovina - Consular Information Sheet
July 13, 1998

Warning: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was halted by the Dayton Peace Accords in December 1995. There are still risks, however, from occasional localized political violence, landmines, unexploded ordnance, and carjacking. 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 still occasional flare-ups of violence, sometimes linked to protests over the return of displaced persons and arrests of war criminals. Visitors should avoid crowds and stay away from demonstrations. The risk of being caught in political violence remains highest in Mostar, Brcko, Foca, Drvar, Zepce, Stolac, Zenica, Pale, and Srebrenica.

Country Description: Following the December 1995 signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, there has been significant progress in restoring peace, and recent progress in the Republika Srpska, an entity within the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has accelerated normalization.

Although physical infrastructure was devastated by the war, recently 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 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 in Herzegovina. 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 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 the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2109 E Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20037, telephone: (202) 833-3612. Overseas, inquiries may be made to the nearest Bosnian embassy or consulate.

Areas of Instability: An estimated one million unmarked land mines 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; souvenir hunting in these areas is extremely dangerous. 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. While prospects for a durable peace are increasing, U.S. citizens still must take precautions regarding their personal security. Visitors should avoid crowds and stay away from demonstrations. While most Bosnian citizens appreciate the assistance of the international community, outbreaks of anti-foreigner sentiment sometimes occur.

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. 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.

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 and autofax service.

The International Travelers Hotline of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be reached from the United States at 1-888-232-3228, via their autofax service at 1-888-232-3229, or their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

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 commonsense 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 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: 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 many bridges damaged during the war remain temporary at best. 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. 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. Service stations are rare outside major cities and road support networks for stranded drivers do not exist.

Rail Travel: The railways are presently being reconstructed, and only very limited passenger service is available.

Air Travel: The airports in Sarajevo, Mostar, and Banja Luka have reopened, but commercial service is limited to Sarajevo. Service provided by several commercial carriers has been reliable, although cancellations and delays because of weather conditions occur, especially between November and March.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service 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.htm. 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.

Criminal Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the host country. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bosnia and Herzegovina 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: Almost all of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a cash economy. The de facto currency is the deutsche mark (and the local equivalent the convertible mark.) Although there are exceptions, U.S. dollars are generally not accepted. Travelers should change enough dollars into deutsche marks before arriving. Except in Medjugorje, acceptance of credit cards is unusual, and travelers should not plan 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.

Photography Restrictions: Photographing military installations, including airports, equipment, bridges, government checkpoints, or troops is forbidden. If in doubt, ask permission.

Registration and 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, an Embassy duty officer can be reached at (387)(71) 445-700.

Department of State travel information publications are available at Internet address: http://travel.state.gov. U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling (202) 647-5225 from a touchtone telephone, or receive information by automated telefax by dialing (202) 647-3000 from their fax machine.

No. 98-95

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet (CIS) dated June 18, 1996, to update all aspects of the CIS.

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Sunday, 19 July 1998