Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Safety in the Balkans

When you tell someone you're going on a trip through the Balkans or on a holiday to Serbia, you might get some funny looks. A lot of people still have funny ideas about these countries, that they're still war-ridden or unsafe. Fortunately the 1990s are long gone, and so is the violence with it. The truth of the matter is, the Balkans are the safest places to travel in Europe! Did you know?

In a UN report, it shows a steady decline in crimes such as homicide, robbery, rape and others against foreigners and in general. In Western Europe, these crimes are on the rise. There can be however local politics that can cause trouble and even danger. So just to be safe check out these tips before booking any airline tickets to the Balkan countries. These aren't however Balkan-only travel tips, they're pretty general and should be used consciously anywhere in the world.

1. Don't dress like a tourist. Leave the bling: gold watches, jewellery, etc. at home or in your hotel safe where it cannot be stolen. Fitting in with the locals isn't hard to do, you will want to find a less conspicuous place for your DSLR than slung around your neck though.

2. Avoid confrontations at all costs, especially in public disagreements with local citizens. If you do see a protest or riot, walk the other way and find safety either in a bar, restaurant, hotel, etc. Getting involved in the wrong crowd at the wrong time could land you in a Balkan jail.

3. Don't discuss travel plan details with anyone in a public place. Never give out your hotel room number or the details about your stay. Pretty self-explanatory, right?

4. There is a lot of pick-pocketing going on everywhere in Europe, Barcelona being the worst for it in the world. So keep it close and walk around in groups as much as possible. At night, it's to your best interest to avoid dim-lit tunnels and walkways.

5. Some Balkan regions lack the medical emergency care that we're used to. Always make sure that your traveller's insurance covers emergency medical evacuation, just in case.

6. If you hire a car, make sure it is from a reputable company and that their insurance will take care of you in case of accident or breakdown. In Bosnia for example, there are many roads without guard rails and frequent fog, so drive with caution when the weather turns.

It all comes down to being aware of yourself and your surroundings. If you travel with a level head, you shouldn't run into any trouble. As mentioned earlier, the Balkans is one of the safest regions to travel in Europe, so enjoy it!