22 Most Common Tourist Scams in Croatia

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Dubrovnik

Image source: Wikimedia – Chensiyuan

 

Croatia is home to a range of amazing landscapes taking visitors from the sparkling Adriatic Sea to the towering Dinaric Alps.

The country is also known for its iconic waterfalls in places like Krka, as well as long strips of golden beaches that make the perfect spot to sunbathe in the summer months.

As such, Croatia is said to be one of the most delightful countries in all of the stunning Balkan Peninsula. If you are travelling to the Mediterranean Basin, this is a spectacular spot for a vacation.

Most visits here are trouble free and violent crime, particularly targeting foreigners, is very rare.

However, as with any country in Europe, Croatia has its fair share of scams. Read on to learn some of the most common scams in Croatia and how you can avoid them!

 

 

A. TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1. Hostess bars / nightclubs

Croatia nightlife

Image source: istriasun.com

 

How it works:

Croatia is notorious for its hostess bars – e.g. Tkalciceva Street, Bogoviceva and Trg Preradovica in Zagreb.

At these places, you will face a common scam usually targeted at male travelers (like in Hungary, Turkey, etc).

As part of this scam, you may be approached on the streets by a young female who will ask you if you want to get a drink in a local bar or nightclub.

She will then spend the evening drinking with you in the nightlife venue. When you leave, you will handed a large bill for both your drinks. If you refuse to pay, you will be escorted to an ATM by the venue’s bouncers and ordered to withdraw money to settle the bill.

A twist on this scam is to invite male patrons to a massage parlor or karaoke bar.

Another popular scam which bars / nightclubs here pull is that if you were to pay with your credit card, they will overcharge you on their end.

They will not give you a receipt because they claim that there is no such practice or that the machine is down.

Others would simply add an innocuous 0 to the end of your receipt (which is basically 10x the price) without you realizing it.

 

What to do:

When approached on the street by an overly friendly female asking for a drink, firmly decline and walk away.

If you do want to go for a drink with a local, then make sure you pick the venue.

Also, always ask how much the drinks cost before you order. Then, choose to pay in cash rather than with your bank card.

 

2. Drink spiking

Image source: timeout.com

 

How it works:

There have been reports of a rise in drink spiking incident in Croatia (e.g. Hula Hula Beach Bar in Hvar). This happens in bars and nightclubs and often targets male patrons.

When you are in a bar or nightclub, someone may slip a drug or sedative into your drink. You will be rendered unconscious or feel extremely intoxicated.

If this is done by a scammer, he / she will offer to help you back to your hotel room and then rob you there.

If this is done by the bar, you will most likely be made to pay for something you did not order. However, in your state of semi / unconsciousness, you will not realize it.

This is more prevalent at popular nightlife areas in Zagreb, Zadar, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik.

 

What to do:

In a bar or nightclub, do not accept any drinks that you have not seen made in front of you.

Also, do not leave your drink unattended as this gives a scammer time to slip something into it.

Canned or bottled drinks are also a good choice as it is difficult for someone to put a sedative inside.

Finally, do not flaunt your valuables, leave them safely secured in your hotel / hostel safe room which you an further with hotel safety tools.

 

3. Beach thieves

Croatia beach

Image source: timeout.com

 

How it works:

Croatia is known for its beach areas although these are also a hotspot for thieves. Some areas where beach thieves operate include the Pakleni Islands beaches, Gornja Vala in Gradac, and Spiaza Beach in Susak.

Thieves will wait till you go for a swim and then take the chance to steal your valuables if unattended.

Another tactic thieves use is to engage you in conversation or use a distraction technique.

While you are occupied, an accomplice will steal your bag or other possessions.

 

What to do:

Do not leave any items unattended on the beach when you go swimming.

If possible, leave any valuables in your hotel / hostel safe (further secured with hotel safety tools) or ask a member of your party to look after them for you.

Another way is to use a slash resistant anti-theft bag (e.g. LOCTOTE Flak Sak) that can be locked and can also be locked to an immovable object.

Also, be wary of strangers who are extremely friendly to you at the beach. Or anyone who keeps trying to keep you occupied.

 

4. Overcharging restaurants

Image source: thewineandmore.com

 

How it works:

This is something to watch out for with restaurants in popular tourist spots (e.g. Split (e.g. Element, closed), Dubrovnik (e.g. Gusti, closed), Zagreb (e.g. Bulldog Pub at Bogovicena 6), as there are a multitude of ways they can use:

  • Add on an extra cover charge (called “couvert”) without disclosing before the meal
  • Apply a very aggressive mark up if you were to use non local currency
  • Add on items which you did not order and refuse to provide a receipt or paper proof
  • Only provide you a “tourist menu” with much higher prices compared to prices charged to locals

Another sign to be wary of is if you face aggressive touts on the street. Good restaurants / food establishments wouldn’t have to resort to that.

 

What to do:

Do both online (Google, TripAdvisor, etc) and offline (checking with your hotel / hostel staff) research to identify reputable places to eat at.

Further, always check the menu and prices carefully before a meal, and ask for a receipt and then check it thoroughly after a meal.

 

5. Pickpocketing

Croatia Split streets

Image source: stephstyle.com

 

How it works:

In Zagreb, hot spots include train stations like Glavni Kolodvor and Zagreb Zapadni Kolodvor, the Strossmayer šetalište, Upper Town (Gornji grad) and lower Towns (Donji grad), and Hrelić (flea market).

In the other towns such as Dubrovnik and Split, do be wary on crowded narrow streets.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelery / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround him or her and then work like this:

  • One will keep a lookout and block passer-bys from seeing the scene
  • Another will push or distract the target (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it)
  • A third will steal your valuable / slash your bag and then passes it on
  • The last will hide the loot under a jacket / items and then escapes with it

Do watch out for child pickpockets as well.

 

What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done in a crowded environment.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

This is because once you are targeted, you will almost definitely lose your valuables in a split second.

To make it impossible for thieves to steal from you, we recommend:

  • Carry small amounts of cash in a cheap spare wallet that you wouldn’t mind losing. Do not leave it in your back pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables securely in a slim fitting money belt or hidden pouch.
  • Store larger valuables in an anti-theft bag that is slash resistant and lockable. Keep it in front of you.
  • Keep most of your valuables in your hotel / hostel safe, which can be further secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Carry around a photocopy of your passport instead instead of the actual one.

 

 

6. Sprigs of rosemary

Image source: uk.lush.com

 

How it works:

Croatia, like many areas of Europe (e.g. France), has seen an influx of residents from other countries like Romania. Many of these residents are gypsies who engage in a ‘sprig of rosemary scam’, where an older female gypsy offers you a sprig of rosemary.

This is claimed to be a token of friendship or something that will bring you good luck.

Once you accept it she will then ask you for money and if you refuse she will cause a commotion. Often the scammer will say that she will curse you if you do not give her money for the rosemary.

While you are arguing, an accomplice will pick your pockets.

You may find these kinds of scammers around Gomji Grad and the Church of St. Mark’s in Zagreb.

 

What to do:

The best way to avoid being a victim is to refuse to take anything that is offered to you in an unsolicited manner.

Besides rosemary, gypsies may also offer you other items such as small shells or an amulet or medallion.

We highly recommend the use of an anti-theft bag or money belt or hidden pouch, which will make it almost impossible for these thieves to steal from you.

 

7. Bosnia Dubrovnik border scam

Image source: mersad-photography.blogspot.com

 

How it works:

There have been reports of scammers acting as border guards and extorting tourists for money.

At the border control at Brgat Gornji on the D223, the modus operandi goes like this. There will be a building and gate at the crossing which look deserted with the lights turned off.

Once you drive past it, the lights will turn on suddenly and you will be asked to stop. You will be accused of trespassing and your passports will be “confiscated” for them to check.

Once your passports are in their hands, there is no turning back.

 

What to do:

Take the road to Metkovic with the busy crossing instead.

If ever caught in such a scam, you can report it to Bosnia’s Border Police: http://www.granpol.gov.ba/?lang=eng

Also, always carry a photocopy of your passport, and hand that over instead of your actual passport.

 

8. Beggars

Image source: croatiaweek.com

 

How it works:

You will find beggars in tourist hotspots or near the city center, just like in other developing countries (e.g. Vietnam, etc).

These are fake beggars, some of whom are accompanied by “hungry children” carrying dolls.

The child beggars are not to be trifled with as well, as some can get really aggressive.

 

What to do:

Avoid.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Train thieves

Croatia train

Image source: croatiaweek.com

 

How it works:

Take care when travelling on a train in Croatia as thieves are known to operate on many train lines.

This involves the thieves waiting until passengers fall asleep and then taking their possessions.

Or they could try to cause some kind of distraction as a cover for an accomplice to steal from you.

 

What to do:

To prevent yourself from falling prey, first, use a hard shell luggage that is more difficult to break into than one that uses zippers (a pen is all that is needed to open zippers).

Next, consider investing in an extra TSA lock, luggage strap or some cable ties to further secure your luggage. Note that these do not secure your luggage 100%, but are just meant to deter the thief from targeting your luggage.

Third, do not leave your valuables in check in luggage or luggage that you store in the storage compartment while travelling. Instead, store them in a money belt or hidden pouch and in a sturdy, lockable anti-theft bag that is slash resistant.

 

2. Flat tire

Image source: apairoftravelpants.com

 

How it works:

Some visitors to Croatia may choose to hire a car to drive around.

Scammers are known to look out for rental cars and then surreptitiously slash their tires. When you come back and notice the puncture, the scammer will appear and offer to help you fix it.

As both of you are working on the car, an accomplice will use the distraction to steal from your car.

 

What to do:

Should you notice that your tires have been deliberately slashed, this is a clear sign that you are being targeted. If someone offers to help, it is best to politely decline and seek professional help with the flat tire.

Be very wary if people approach and try to help you as part of a group. Make sure that you keep an eye on your possessions at all times.

Ideally, you should have hidden your most valuable possessions in a money belt or hidden pouch.

For larger valuables, do not leave them lying around – we recommend storing those in an anti-theft bag that can be locked to an immovable object in the car.

 

3. Taxi meter scams

Croatia taxis

Image source: thedubrovniktimes.com

 

How it works:

When you enter a taxi in Croatia the driver may tell you that the meter is broken.

They will then offer you a flat rate and will tell you that this is cheaper although it is almost certainly a scam and it will be more expensive than if the driver had turned the meter on.

As reference, the average meter fare starts at 9.9 Kuna and for every additional kilometre travelled, an additional 4.9 Kuna is added.

Also, be wary of rigged meters – signs to watch out for are sudden jumps or a high fare that doesn’t seem to change. However, do note that taxi rates are 20% higher at certain times (e.g. 10pm-5am; Sundays; holidays) and that is not a scam.

Finally, there is no additional charge of luggage – if the driver charges one, that is definitely a scam.

 

What to do:

When you get a taxi in Croatia make sure to tell the driver that you want him to use the meter before you start your journey.

If he refuses then simply look for a different taxi. Such kinds of situation are more prevalent around tourist hot spots and main transfer locations such as at the Zagreb Bus Terminal, so do be prepared.

Also, make sure to only use licensed taxis in Croatia as opposed to unofficial ones as they are much less likely to scam you.

The more established ones are Radio Taxi Zagreb, Cammeo and Eko Taxi.

 

4. Overcharging taxi drivers

Image source: justzagreb.com

 

How it works:

Taxi drivers in Croatia are known for sometimes driving visitors around a city in order to keep the meter ticking over which increases the fare.

They may also deliberately drive you to crowded areas so that the journey takes longer and the fare is inflated.

Also, another favourite trick is to charge different prices for locals and tourists, and many fall for it since they do not know what the real, local price is.

 

What to do:

If possible make sure to carry your mobile phone with you and use a GPS system that will track your journey.

This means that you can monitor if the driver is taking you on a longer route and can alert them accordingly.

For long routes, it will be wise to do your research to find out how much it would cost roughly, such as using an online fare estimator, checking Uber, or simply checking with your hotel staff.

 

5. Short-changing taxi drivers

Image source: thedubrovniktimes.com

 

How it works:

Another problem that you may encounter when it comes to taxi drivers in Croatia is short-changing customers.

This happens when taxi drivers give you the wrong change as they guess that you are not familiar with the local currency.

 

What to do:

When you arrive in Croatia it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the currency so that it is more difficult for taxi drivers to scam you.

Always take the time to count your change slowly and carefully before alighting from a taxi.

 

6. Airport taxi

 

How it works:

As there is only one taxi company allowed to operate at Zagreb airport, they have huge bargaining power and thus prices are high.

As such, there have been drivers who abuse such power to overcharge tourists.

For instance, a trip to town might cost 200 Kn in total, but a driver can insist that every passenger in a trip pays that amount each.

 

What to do:

Refuse to do so if demanded – only pay on a per trip basis and not on a per passenger basis.

Zagreb airport

Image source: getbybus.com

 

An alternative is to take the airport bus (outside the terminal) to Zagreb bus terminal. There, you can take other cheaper taxis, tram or buses to your desired location.

 

7. Car rental scams

 

How it works:

There have been reported cases of rental car companies (e.g. Hertz at Zagreb Airport) claiming certain phantom damages on your rental car upon return.

It is easy for tourists to get intimidated as they are usually rushing for a flight upon return of a rental car.

Another variation, which is more of a tourist trap than a scam, is the forcing of tourists to buy rental car insurance.

This is because for some, using your credit card to pay entitles you to some level of rental car insurance. So the scam kicks in when the company claims that your credit card doesn’t work.

You are then forced to buy an exorbitantly priced rental car insurance policy (e.g. SIXT Car at Split airport).

 

What to do:

For the first scenario, always check the condition of the car when you first receive it. Take photos of the car, especially of spots where you think there might be a chance of being accused of damages.

Ideally, return the car early so that you will not be subjected to time pressure –  the rental company can drag the car inspection session to force you to pay up and be done with it.

Also, when you receive your credit card statement, double check to make sure that you have not been charged excessively.

For the second scenario, always check up what kind of insurance coverage you have.

Your credit card might provide some level of rental car insurance if used for payment. Or your other insurance policies might have already provided some coverage.

If you purchase insurance from the rental car company, go through the rental agreement to fully understand the terms.

 

8. Car break-in

 

How it works:

This is a standard crime around the world.

 

What to do:

Avoid leaving your valuables in plain sight in your car.

Either keep them securely with you at all times in a money belt / hidden pouch or anti-theft bag, or hide them in the boot / covered up area of the car.

 

C. MISCELLANEOUS

1. Holiday apartment scam

Croatia apartment

Image source: promajna-tours.hr

 

How it works:

There have been a number of unfortunate cases of tourists falling for such scams, where charming apartments they see online and which they have pre-paid for do not exist!

Another variation is that the apartment exists, but not as what was reflected in the photos.

This is usually because some owners allow overbooking, in case any tourist pulls out at the last minute. As such, you may be reassigned to another apartment or room.

Finally, some tourists have even been charged a tourist tax by the landlord. That simply does not exist.

 

What to do:

To be sure, one way is to call up any local phone numbers provided on the listing.

Grill the “landlord” by asking as many specific questions as desired. For instance, you could ask the dimensions of the rooms, how old they are, etc.

Or you pick something unique as seen in the photos and question it. Or you could pretend something exists in the photos online, and test if the “landlord” can call your bluff.

Finally, do not pay in full upfront, unless it is a reputable hotel. Also, if asked to make payment off the platform and to a foreign bank account, that should be a clear red flag.

 

2. Staged emergencies

 

How it works:

This scam targets tourists who may have hired a car or motorbike to get around Croatia.

As you drive along the road you will be confronted by a group of people with some kind of emergency such as a flat tire.

If you stop to help, they will rob you of your possessions.

 

What to do:

It is best not to stop if you see a group of people asking you to slow down. This is particularly true in deserted areas.

If you want to help, you can alert a person in authority such as a police officer. But if you wish to step out and help, only do so in full view of passing traffic.

 

3. Fights / crime

King Tomislav Park

Image source: maxpixel.net

 

How it works:

Not technically a scam, but do be wary of fights and crime. The fortunate thing is that they are usually isolated to certain areas.

For instance, places with a history of fights include the Ribnjak area and clubs called “Turbo-folk“.

As for places with high criminal activity, the King Tomislav Park is one.

There, you will find intoxicated people and people high on drugs, as Croatia today still remains a transit point for drugs smuggled along the Balkan routes.

 

What to do:

Avoid such areas especially at night.

 

4. Money exchange hidden commission

 

How it works:

Be wary when you see a much more favourable than usual exchange rate.

This is usually done to draw people in without them realizing a hidden commission.

 

What to do:

Always ask / check if there’s a hidden commission. Else, it would probably be more worthwhile to withdraw from an international ATM.

The next tier would be exchange agencies, post office and banks.

The last tier, which you should avoid, are at airports and hotels.

Finally, spend all Kuna if you are not a frequent traveller to Croatia. This is because Kuna is accepted for currency conversion outside Croatia.

 

5. Rigged ATM

rigged ATM

Image source: thisismoney.co.uk

 

How it works:

Cases of rigged ATMs in Dubrovnik have been reported. It is the same everywhere around the world, e.g. Brazil, Indonesia.

The standard set up is the installing of card skimmers to capture your card details, and a pin hole camera (or someone standing nearby) to capture your PIN.

Some telltale signs are a glue residue around card reader, loose parts of the machine or if suspicious items are placed on the machine which could be used to house a camera.

Also, if you see something protruding or not fixed tightly, that should be a clear red flag.

 

What to do:

Only use ATM machines inside controlled environments such as banks. Avoid those in secluded areas and avoid using at night.

Also watch out for shady / shifty characters in the surroundings.

When typing your PIN, make sure to cover it up.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet. That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.

 

6. Hotel thieves

 

How it works:

A common problem in Croatia may come when you reach your hotel. Once there, you set your luggage down as you go to check in.

Once you are distracted, a thief loitering nearby posing as a hotel guest will move in to steal your suitcase.

 

What to do:

Don’t assume that your hotel is a safe place. Keep your luggage in your line of sight even when you are checking in.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Croatia police

Image source: croatiaweek.com

 

  • European emergency number: 112
  • Police emergency hotline:  192
  • Ambulance service: 194
  • Fire brigade: 193

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