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State Department: Serbia-Montenegro - Consular Information Sheet, August 26, 1998


Serbia-Montenegro - Consular Information Sheet
August 26, 1998

Warning: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to and around Serbia's southern province of Kosovo. The potential for rapid changes in the security situation there is high. Ongoing tensions between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians worsened in the spring of 1998, with a series of armed clashes throughout the region.

Both the police and Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) are active in the region and each operates numerous checkpoints throughout Kosovo. There have been incidents at both kinds of checkpoints where guards have fired at vehicles whose occupants did not obey their commands. Due to the potential for violence, the authority of the individuals operating any checkpoint should not be challenged.

While American citizens traveling in other parts of the country have not to date experienced security problems, travelers should be aware that sanctions imposed against Serbia-Montenegro may adversely affect their travel plans. Due to the sanctions affecting financial institutions in Serbia-Montenegro, for example, merchants and hotels have begun to refuse credit cards as a form of payment. Travelers will find it increasingly necessary to travel with sums of cash, an inconvenience which increases the potential for theft. In addition, European nations have stated that they will deny landing rights to Jugoslav Airlines (JAT). When this policy is implemented, and especially if Serbia-Montenegro retaliates against European air carriers, those wishing to depart Serbia-Montenegro may find it necessary to leave overland and enter another country in order to board an international flight.

Country Description: The "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" (Serbia-Montenegro) is a moderately developed European country confronting profound political and economic changes. Tourist facilities are widely available, but conditions vary considerably, and some services and supplies taken for granted in other European countries are unavailable.

Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens require a passport and visa, which should be obtained prior to arriving in Serbia-Montenegro. While the U.S. does not fully recognize the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" (FRY), the U.S. maintains an Embassy in Belgrade and the FRY maintains an Embassy in Washington. For further information about entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" at 2410 California Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 462-6566.

Areas of Instability: In Serbia's southern province of Kosovo, ongoing tensions between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians have worsened in recent months to the point of frequent armed clashes, particularly in the Drenica region north and west of Pristina and in the region near the border with Albania. Police checkpoints are numerous throughout Kosovo and the Yugoslav Army is increasingly visible outside garrisons. Armed ethnic Albanian extremists are also increasingly visible and have set up temporary roadblocks at some points. Large demonstrations by both Serbs and ethnic Albanians continue in major Kosovo towns on a daily basis. Ethnic tensions remain high in the Sandzak region as well. Travelers can expect to be stopped by government militia and should cooperate fully.

Medical Facilities: Although many physicians in Serbia-Montenegro are highly trained, hospitals and clinics are generally not equipped and maintained to U.S. standards. Medicines and basic medical supplies are largely obtainable in privately-owned pharmacies. Hospitals usually require payment in cash for all services. 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 U.S.

Medical Insurance: 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 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, Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page and autofax service.

Other Health Information: 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 1-888-232-3299, or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

Crime Information: In recent years there has been an increase in street crime in the large cities. Local citizens frequently complain that they do not feel as safe as in the past. This may partially be attributed to difficult economic conditions and to the growth of an organized criminal class. While confrontational and gratuitously violent crimes are not a concern for tourists in Belgrade, Mafia-style reprisals can occur anywhere, including hotels, restaurants, and shops. As in other parts of the world, travelers should be especially on guard near railroad and bus stations, on public transport, and while walking in city centers. In case of emergency, the police telephone number is 92.

The loss or theft of a U.S. passport overseas should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" provides useful information on protecting personal security and possessions while traveling abroad. It is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402 or the Department of State's website.

Drug 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.

Road Conditions/Traffic Safety: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the U.S. The information below concerning Serbia-Montenegro is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

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

Dangerous areas for road travel include "Ibarska Magistrala", the main road from Serbia to Montenegro running though central Serbia, a two-lane road in bad condition which is usually overcrowded, and a road called "Moraca Canyon" in Montenegro, a twisting, two-lane road which is especially overcrowded in summer.

Taxi service is safe and reasonably priced, although foreigners are frequently charged higher rates. Buses and trams are grossly overcrowded in Belgrade and are poorly maintained.

Travelers entering the country by road should be aware that purchase of local third-party insurance is required. In addition, road tolls for foreign-registered vehicles are extremely high.

Aviation Safety Oversight: Direct commercial air service between the U.S. and Serbia-Montenegro has been suspended since 1992. An application to the U.S. government by JAT-Yugoslav Airlines to resume service is being held in abeyance on foreign policy grounds until further notice. In June 1998, the European Union (EU) approved a ban on direct flights between EU member states and Serbia-Montenegro, which they are now taking steps to implement.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Serbia-Montenegro's civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Serbia-Montenegro'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's Internet website 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.

Customs Regulations: Travelers are required to declare all currency upon entry and obtain a declaration form from customs officials which must be presented at departure. Failure to comply may result in the confiscation of all funds.

Currency: Travelers should carry sufficient cash for their stay. Due to U.N. sanctions, credit cards, personal checks, and travelers checks generally are not accepted.

Registration with Local Authorities: Visitors staying in private homes must register with police officials upon arrival; failure to comply may result in a fine, incarceration, and/or expulsion.

Registration and Embassy Location: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Serbia-Montenegro. The Embassy's website at http://www.amembbg.co.yu/ contains information helpful to U.S. citizens. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade is located at Kneza Milosa 50, telephone (381)(11) 645-655; after hours (381) (11) 646-481. The Consular Section fax number is (381)(11) 644-053; alternate fax number is (381)(11) 645-221.

No. 98-120

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet issued March 11, 1997, to update information on Entry Requirements, Areas of Instability, Medical Facilities, Crime Information, Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Currency Information and the Internet.

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