Taking a DSLR to Balkans
September 16, 2010 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Is it safe to take by DSLR into Hungary, Bosnia, and Croatia?

I'm heading out on a trip for a few weeks into Hungary, Bosnia, and Croatia. I'm getting mixed information on whether it's safe to take my DSLR and some of it is obviously out of date from less safe times. I know how to keep pickpockets at bay, but do I have to worry about outright muggings any more than the rest of Europe?
posted by hylaride to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm a young woman who spent a week in Hungary and another week in Bosnia and Croatia this past year, and I felt safe most of the time--my instincts would say that I don't think you're in much more danger of an outright mugging in Bosnia than you are in Berlin or Barcelona.

One suggestion: do be careful if you take any overnight transportation (I took the overnight train from Sarajevo to Zagreb)! My travel companion had all the cash stolen out of his wallet (but luckily nothing else) while we were asleep--his wallet was in his coat above his head, while mine was in an interior pocket on the jacket I was wearing. Otherwise we didn't have a problem.

Have a wonderful trip!
posted by besonders at 5:58 AM on September 16, 2010

I noticed from your profile you're in Toronto … do you consider yourself streetwise?

If you restrict yourself to the cities you shouldn't have too much trouble as long as you stick to the basics: avoid unlit areas at night, don't go place with folks you've just met and, most importantly, don't flaunt your wealth (the last is applicable in any city, for example, London where I live).

I won't comment on rural areas since I haven't spent much time out there, but cities? Yeh not a problem and you won't be the first.

Have a great trip!

You do have trip insurance don't you? And backup often, just in case someone spills a drink on your camera or something else happens …
posted by Mutant at 5:59 AM on September 16, 2010

For what its worth, I feel safer in Croatia than I do in Italy.
I've been to Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and Hvar. Croatia is a big European holiday destination so standard safety rules apply.
posted by vacapinta at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2010

Best answer: I spent a month last summer cycle touring across Croatia and Bosnia (including in Republika Srpska, which is totally off the tourist trail). Midrange touring bike, fully loaded, usually locked up but only with a cheesy cable lock. I wasn't flashing cash or electronics, and for the most part I didn't party too hard, except for a few encounters with rakia after which a 5 year old could have robbed me blind.

The closest I came to being a vicitm of crime was when a Sarajevo city bus driver didn't give me a ticket and his buddy the inspector nailed me for 60KM or so.
posted by a young man in spats at 6:30 AM on September 16, 2010

Best answer: I've been to Croatia and Hungary with a dSLR and this was never an issue. Those countries are not less safe than any other Central or Eastern European country. Actually, there are some parts of Western European countries I wouldn't like to hang-out in a dSLR round my neck.
posted by rom1 at 7:01 AM on September 16, 2010

You're much safer in these countries than almost anywhere in Western Europe or in North America. I walk home at night down dark streets, alone (and I'm a woman) and never even feel slightly unsafe, which is a far cry from other places. Trains aren't unsafe, but theft does happen. I always sleep in a compartment with my leg up against the door in someway, and therefore, no one can get in without waking me. Works just fine.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2010

BTW, Hungary is not in the Balkans.
posted by rom1 at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sleeper trains are notoriously dangerous in Eastern Europe (specifically Budapest) so if you're ever on a sleeper you should keep your valuables close to your person. The best way to do this is to sleep in a sleep sack (like a sleeping bag, but just a single layer of silk or other fabric-- easy to make yourself) and stuff your valuables next to your feet.

Croatia and Bosnia have low amounts of violent crime and, crucially, tourists aren't often singled out as targets of petty crime. There's plenty of smuggling and organized crime, but that shouldn't affect you. I saw plenty of DSLRs in Bosnia last year, and felt extremely safe walking around at night. On my trip, I met a bunch of locals who just approached me to chat (hanging around bars, waiting for the bus etc) and all my interactions were 100% completely non-shady.

You're so lucky to a) go to Sarajevo and b) have a nice camera.
posted by acidic at 7:05 AM on September 16, 2010

I'm guessing it is sleeper trains that are notorious, not Eastern Europe.

I have only had stuff stolen once. It was, yes, on a sleeper train - headed into Madrid.
posted by vacapinta at 7:08 AM on September 16, 2010

I've been to Hungary and Croatia with a DSLR and I didn't and wouldn't think twice about it. I've also taken it to India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey and so on and slept on trains etc. I don't think your chances of getting robbed in any of these places are any greater or less than anywhere else. Just exercise reasonable caution - as you would in London or Toronto or wherever.
posted by rhymer at 8:21 AM on September 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all! I'll definitely be taking it now.

BTW, Hungary is not in the Balkans

Yes I know, we're just fling in via it.
posted by hylaride at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2010

Response by poster: Mutant,

Yes, I live downtown and am in general streetwise and know not to fall for the basic tricks. I've been all over europe already, but this is my first time out of western europe.
posted by hylaride at 8:43 AM on September 16, 2010

I'm hylaride's partner and am going with him on this trip.

The info we've gotten is a bit confusing because "don't flaunt your wealth" seems to me to mean "don't whip out your $X000 camera". But maybe it doesn't mean that? I am glad to hear that many of you have taken a DSLR to the area and had no issues.

Would the advice for Montenegro/Serbia/Kosovo be different in any way?
posted by heatherann at 8:47 AM on September 16, 2010

What's the point of having a nice camera if you're not going to use it?
posted by reductiondesign at 9:00 AM on September 16, 2010

Would the advice for Montenegro/Serbia/Kosovo be different in any way?
No. In large Balkan cities (especially Belgrade-- visit Strahinjica Bana, aka Silicon Valley which is not a reference to technology) you may be surprised by the amount of wealth you see flaunted. You're much more likely to run into young artists or NGO employees (especially in Kosovo) who want to chat about your respective gear. Granted I spent more time in the historic centers of cities rather than in the working-class outskirts, but had totally safe experiences there too. In the boondocks you'll probably either be ignored or showered with hospitality.
posted by acidic at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2010

You may also want to look into insurance. Often your home/rental insurance company has a special plan whereby for an extra $5 a month they cover some $2000 of photo equipment against all risks, provided you're not doing commercial photography. It's surprisingly affordable and provides absolute peace of mind. Then you just have to worry about losing the photos you've already taken, and that can be solved with uploading regularly to flickr in internet cafes (or whatever) or swapping out SD cards regularly, which are easier to hide and hence harder to steal.
posted by spherical_perceptions at 11:05 AM on September 16, 2010

I took mine to Hungary a few years ago, and felt totally safe with it the whole time, even with the handicaps of being a short woman who isn't fluent in Hungarian.
posted by Eshkol at 12:12 PM on September 16, 2010

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