Health

The Western Balkans poses no notable health risks to travellers, though as with anywhere else in the world there are basic things you should be aware of.

Before You Go

Health Insurance

EU citizens are generally covered by reciprocal arrangements in Croatia and Slovenia. They should carry their European Health Insurance Card. Other nationals are entitled to emergency medical treatment but must pay for it.

Make sure you take out a comprehensive travel-insurance policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an ambulance or an emergency flight home. When choosing a policy, check whether the insurance company will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.

Recommended Vaccinations

There are no specific vaccinations required for visiting the Western Balkans. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, rubella, tuberculosis, tetanus and varicella (chickenpox), regardless of their destination. You should also consider being vaccinated for hepatitis A. Since most vaccines don’t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given, visit a physician at least six weeks before departure.

Tick-borne encephalitis is spread by tick bites and is thought to exist in forested areas in the region. It is a serious infection of the brain and vaccination is advised for those in risk areas who are unable to avoid tick bites (such as campers and hikers).

The US Center for Disease Control recommends a rabies vaccination for long-term travellers, those involved in outdoor activities in remote areas, and people working around animals.

In the Western Balkans

Availability & Cost of Health Care

Good basic health care is readily available, and pharmacists can give valuable advice and sell over-the-counter medication for minor illnesses. They can also refer you to more specialised help when required. Outside major cities, medical care is not always readily available, but embassies, consulates and five-star hotels can usually recommend doctors or clinics. Health-care costs tend to be less expensive than in Western Europe, but given you may want to go to a private clinic for anything beyond a doctor’s consultation, comprehensive health insurance is essential.

Tap Water

Tap water is safe to drink in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia and Slovenia, and is also generally safe in Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro – although it pays to check with locals first as there can sometimes be problems in some areas. For instance, it's advisable not to drink the water in Herceg Novi in May as they close off and clean the pipes from the main reservoir (in Croatia) and revert to a local reservoir. Bottled water is cheap and readily available.

Language

The main native languages spoken are Slovenian, Macedonian, Albanian and Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian (basically the same language with small variations). Cyrillic is the main alphabet used in North Macedonia, while in Montenegro and Serbia it is used in tandem with the Latin alphabet.

While most people dealing with tourists on a daily basis speak English extremely well, that's not true of the entire population. English is taught at school, but the older generation are much more likely to know a bit of German, Russian or, on the coast especially, Italian.