Is Croatia a safe country?

Ban Jelačić squre in Zagreb, Croatia
Ban Jelačić square in Zagreb, Croatia

UPDATED: 11/01/2024

It is sad that we have to ask ourselves questions like this. Many countries in the world are struggling with war, crime, violence, terrorism, and other similar problems so it is natural to wonder how safe a country is before visiting.

Croatia did suffer through a war in recent history, which is why some people still think it may be unsafe. That being said, the Croatian War of Independence called Domovinski rat ended in 1995, almost 3 decades ago.

Aside from the last war being long over, there are many other reasons why Croatia is one of the safest countries in the world.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How safe is Croatia

Croatia is actually one of the safest countries in the world. According to the Global Peace Index, Croatia is 14th on the list of the safest countries in the world as of 2023, out of 163 countries evaluated. Twenty-three different indicators are used to determine the safety of an individual country.

These quantitative and qualitative factors include:

  • Number of internal and external violent conflicts
  • Level of distrust
  • Political instability
  • Potential for terrorist acts
  • Number of homicides
  • Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
  • Domestic conflicts
  • Societal safety

According to the World Economic Forum, The Global Institute For Peace, Croatia was the 74th safest country in the world out of 134 countries in 2023.

The factors used in their research include:

  • War and peace
  • Personal security
  • Natural disaster risk

1. Croatian War for Independence

The last war in this region was Domovinski rat (Croatian War of Independence), which ended in 1995. There have been no conflicts since and there are non on the horizon.

[Read: Day of Remembrance of Missing Persons in the Croatian War of Independence]

2. Terrorism

The country is also safe from terrorist attacks. Croatia is a pretty small European country, which luckily isn’t an interesting target for terrorists. The country’s role in global politics isn’t impactful or important enough.

Furthermore, Croatia isn’t involved in conflicts with other countries nor does Croatia seek them out. Attackers primarily gravitate to larger, more developed Western countries that tend to engage in war beyond their own borders, lead global initiatives, and dictate policy to other countries.

3. Gun Violence

There is a very low risk of gun violence in Croatia. This is primarily because it is not part of the culture and because it is so hard to get a gun. There are multiple steps a person must go through to acquire a weapon including:

  • Acquiring a permit before purchase
  • Submitting to a health evaluation, which includes a psychiatric evaluation
  • Proving that you have the technical knowledge and skills to operate the weapon
  • Proving what the purpose of the weapon is, which must be an approved reason

Those charged with violent crimes, involved in any proceedings related to violent crimes, or who have been accused of violence are automatically barred from acquiring a permit. If you wish to purchase a gun for personal protection, you must prove to a committee at the police station that your life is at enough risk to justify owning a weapon.

[Read: Gun and weapon laws in Croatia]

4. Mutual Trust

Croats have a high level of trust in each other. This is especially obvious in smaller towns and villages where people often don’t lock their doors, cars, or bikes. This isn’t so strange since people in smaller communities mostly all know each other.

On the other hand, there are some signs that this confidence has started to change during the last few years. Poverty has increased, leading to people stealing to survive. They will steal food, firewood from the woods, and steel gutters, which they then sell.

Here are some theft statistics for 2021:

  • 8.224 aggravated (grand) theft reported (13,6% less than in 2020)
  • 685 stolen cars and motor vehicles stolen (2,6% less than in 2020)
  • 7.594 reported burglary (15% less than in 2020)
  • 994 robbery (banditry) reported (10,2% less than in 2020)
  • 1.077 pocket theft reported
  • Bicycle theft decreased by 22,4%

The situation is a bit different in the cities where people can’t leave their homes and bikes unlocked. Too many people live in the cities and they usually don’t know each other personally.

The most popular “trend” in the past few years is bike theft.  These thefts are not very serious, but since the Croatian living standard is so low, people take any theft seriously no matter the size because they often don’t have money to afford a replacement.

5. Daily Life

Croatia has a pretty low level of crime when compared with the rest of the world.

People can walk through the neighborhoods at night without any stress, panic, or fear for their safety. No one ever thinks that taking a walk could be dangerous and everyone walks freely. However, it is always good to carry tear gas in your purse at night if you are a lady. There is never enough caution and your safety is first.

Children can often be seen playing outside the house without any parental supervision, especially in smaller villages. They are able to go to and from school unaccompanied. Teens can go out at night without the fear of danger and can return home by public transport on their own.

It is important to note one safety risk and that is walking in crosswalks. These can often be ignored by drivers, so make sure you are fully aware of your surroundings when walking across the street. There is also a lack of cycling paths, so be careful if you ride a bike, especially in larger cities such as Zagreb.

Lately, scooters called romobili are a popular means of transportation in larger cities. They can be found everywhere and drivers often drive too fast, so be careful because they often show up out of nowhere.

6. Violent Crime

When we compare Croatia to other European countries, the crime rates committed with knives and firearms are insignificant. Murders in Croatia are very rare.

It’s the same when talking about reported cases of sexual assaults and rape. However, it is important to mention that many sexual assaults and domestic abuse go unreported because they are scared and the state apparatus doesn’t do enough to protect them.

[Read: Realities of domestic abuse in Croatia]

Here are the crime statistics (from 2021):

  • 101 hate crimes reported
  • 100 war crimes reported (50 more than in 2020)
  • 33 reported criminal acts from the field of terrorism and extreme violence (45% less than in 2020)
  • 2.425 reported acts from the field of organized crimes (11,6% more than in 2020)
  • 4.627 reported acts from the field of economic crimes (2,1% more than in 2020)
  • 912 reported acts from the field of corruption crimes (69,5% more than in 2020)
  • 1.563 reported acts from the field of cybercrime (31,6% more than in 2020)
  • 1.315 reported suicide attempts (1,4% less than in 2020)
  • 572 reported suicides – 78,1% were men
  • 103 reported murder attempts
  • 17.399 offenses against the law and order (0,5% more than in 2020)
  • 7.602 reported crimes from the field of domestic violence
  • 194 rapes reported
  • 19 attempts of rapes reported

More detailed statistics from MUP for 2021 is available here.

7. Natural Disasters

Croatia is lucky to have an ideal geographical location. However, the effects of climate change have begun to leave their mark in 2020. For Croatia, 2020 was a year of change in all aspects.

On March 22, 2020, Zagreb was hit by a great earthquake of magnitude 5,5 on the Richter scale. This earthquake has caused great damage in Zagreb, Zagreb county, and Krapina-Zagorje county. It was followed by many subsequent milder earthquakes that occurred in the following months. The consequences of this earthquake are not yet solved. Many people in Zagreb were left without their homes.

Another big earthquake occurred on December 29, 2020, near Petrinja. Its magnitude was 6,2 on the Richter scale and it was noticeably much stronger and more dangerous. This earthquake could be felt in the whole of Croatia and parts of Austria, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, and Romania.

The Petrinja earthquake was devastating and many people had to leave their homes. This area was chaotic for weeks and everyone rushed to Petrinja to help affected residents. Some residents of Petrinja who have been left without their homes still live in containers. The government started to built new homes, but the reconstruction of the city is too slow.

[Read: How to prepare for and handle an earthquake in Croatia]

Storms, floods, and droughts occur occasionally. For now, they are not too dangerous, although they might be in the future. During the past years, several quite strong storms occurred. They left consequences to agriculture and destroyed the plantations of many Croatian farmers. Strong winds and storms also destroyed many roofs and cars.

Droughts occur more and more often and plant irrigation is becoming inevitable during summer. This as well increases the risk of fires. The drought that occurred in Europe during the summer of 2022 seems to be the worst in the last 500 years. Croatia is one of the most affected countries by 2022’s drought in Europe.

Wildfires occur in summer along the Adriatic coast, mostly in Dalmatia. They are often caused by arsonists but sometimes they are a natural occurrence due to high heat and lack of rain.

Croatia is a safe country

Overall, Croatia is very safe for living and traveling. The war was over a long time ago and walking on the street is safe even at night. Murder, terrorism, and serious natural disasters are practically non-existent in relation to their population. The number of criminal acts is negligible when compared to other countries.

Much of Croatia’s high level of personal safety is attributed to the Croatian culture and the people’s strong sense of community. Even in cities, each individual neighborhood is its own community where everyone knows each other.

[Read: The kindness of strangers]

Baba neighborhood watch
Image by Arnie Papp

Aside from Sara: I’ve lived in Texas, California, Florida, New York City, Amsterdam, and Budapest and traveled to many other places. I have always felt safest in Croatia. I can walk home on my own at 2:00 in the morning and feel completely secure.

There is no reason to worry about being pick-pocketed when in the city centers as long as you aren’t completely reckless. I have immense confidence in the baka neighborhood watch and know they will raise the alarm if needed. :)

To better understand Croatia and its people, view our guides on Croatian culture:

View our other safety posts

Global peace index 2022
Statistics on safety in 2021 by MUP

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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