Is it safe in Croatia?
Up until very recently, if you asked most people in the US what they know about the Balkans, and they would immediately reply, “War.” When I told people that I was going to spend three months in the Balkans, including two months in Croatia, the first thing a number of people asked me was “Is Croatia safe?”
Yes, Croatia is very safe for solo travelers, including solo female travelers. This post covers my experience in Croatia having traveled solo there for two months (based in Split and Zagreb), as well as supporting statistics. While, of course, bad things can happen anywhere, Croatia has proven itself to be a very safe place for solo travelers.
Do you think it’s safe here?
One early evening in Split on my way back from a leisurely wander through corners of Old Town that I hadn’t yet explored, I ducked into Marvlvs Library Jazz Bar in Split (you have to go when you’re there—it’s every bit as good as they say). While normally bustling, the bar was quiet, with a few patrons enjoying their drinks. I ordered a glass of wine and settled in, happy to be off my feet for a bit.
As it was a quiet afternoon in October, the bartender was free to make conversation. We chatted a bit about Split, and he asked how long I was in town for. I told him that I was there for the month and that I was absolutely loving it. “It’s a good time of year to be here,” he said. “Most stuff is still open, but it’s not so packed. It gets so busy in the summer.”
We chatted some more, and then he got a quizzical look on his face. “Do you think it’s safe here?” he asked.
I might lose my street smarts
“It’s so safe,” I replied, “that I’m afraid I’m losing my street smarts.”
“I know what you mean,” he said. “I’m originally from Argentina, and it always shocks me how safe it is here. In the summer, I am often walking home in the middle of the night, and it’s always fine. I’ve heard about some muggings a couple of times, but never anything violent. I didn’t know how women found it.”
We talked about my afternoon of exploring little nooks and crannies of Old Town, places I might not have ventured elsewhere (blind alleys generally not being advisable). “It took me a while to realize that it really was OK. I still might not wander like that late at night alone, but I am loving the freedom to just explore without being terrified that something awful would happen to me.”
Learning for myself that it was safe in Croatia
It’s true. When I first arrived in Split, I still found myself avoiding the blind turns in the Old Town. I know how to handle myself for the most part as a solo traveler, and it usually involves a fair bit of caution. Generally, wandering down an alley is not a good idea.
However, after a couple of weeks, I realized that there really wasn’t anything to be afraid of, and I tried one of them. It was fine. I tried another one, and soon, I was wending my way through all kinds of places. I mean, sure, not late at night—I didn’t want to push things—but after dark, certainly.
People will tell you that they don’t lock their doors in Split, and it’s true. I can’t say that is a good idea, but it does give a good indication of what you can expect in terms of overall safety vibe.
Two refreshingly safe months in Croatia
In total, I was in Croatia for two months (a little more, if you count my overnight after landing in Dubrovnik before heading to Kotor), based in Split and Zagreb for one month each during the shoulder season and the beginning of the off season.
While I’d say that Zagreb warrants a little extra caution (I wandered at will there, too, but I did come across a little more sketch there), overall, I found Croatia so refreshing. Not only is violent crime rare, which is the case in much of Europe, especially when compared with the States, but petty crime is also low. I knew the statistics—I’d done my homework before committing to my trip, but I still found the overall safety of Croatia a most pleasant surprise.
A caveat—I’m a Gen Xer and grateful everyday that I am no longer a routine recipient of unwanted attention. I can’t speak personally to that situation in Croatia, but I never heard anyone complain about it, and it hasn’t come up frequently in my searches. Also, while I certainly went out, I did not go to clubs or stay out in bars late at night. Generally, I’d advise caution as a solo female traveler in those situations, but, again, I didn’t hear of anything happening.
Is Croatia safe? The data say yes
The US State Department lists Croatia at a Level 1, Exercise Normal Precautions (as of this writing; COVID can have an impact). Croatia ranks 15/163 on the Global Peace Index for 2022 (for the full report in PDF format, see here), and low crime statistics figure heavily into this rating. For comparison, the US is at 129/163 and the UK is at 34/163.
This is not to say that there’s NO crime and that you should throw all caution to the wind (and I know you wouldn’t), but the kind of crimes that tourists are likely to fall victim to are low. Pickpockets operate everywhere, but, especially when compared to Paris or Barcelona, it’s rare. Follow common-sense precautions with your valuables, and you should be fine.
Unfortunately, bad things can happen anywhere, but the data indicate that Croatia is overall a safe country for solo travelers and solo female travelers.
Gentlemen’s club scams
One risk that does come up in research is the so-called “Gentlemen’s Club” scam, where the hapless tourist can inadvertently get themselves on the hook for a lot of money (think massively overcharged for drinks and then forced to pay). Generally, I’d avoid such places and certainly steer clear of anyone who suggests that you go to one.
Use extra caution in transit (and as a pedestrian)
When you’re in transit, whether on a bus or train, use extra caution, as this is a common time when things can be stolen. I did observe that when taking the bus, passengers tend to retrieve the luggage themselves. I never ran into any issues or saw anything hinky, but I’d take care to get right over to the luggage area after disembarking, especially if you have a popular stop.
Do be aware that drivers in Croatia are aggressive and use caution when walking around. This can go for cyclists in urban areas as well. I think I felt more threatened by Wolt delivery cyclists in Split than I ever did by crime.
What has been your experience in Croatia?
Have you been to Croatia? What was your experience? Especially if you traveled there solo, please share in the comments below.