22 Most Common Tourist Scams in Croatia

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Dubrovnik

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

1. Hostess bars/nightclubs

Croatia nightlife

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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.

Rule of thumb:

If approached on the street by an overly friendly female asking for a drink, this is usually a scam. The best thing to do is firmly decline and walk away.

If you do want to go for a drink with a local, then make sure you pick the venue yourself. Also, always ask how much the drinks cost before you order.

Finally, choose to pay in cash rather than with your bank card.

 

2. Drink spiking

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 third party individuals, when you start losing consciousness, a scammer will offer to help you back to your hotel room. There, you will be robbed of your possessions. 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.

Rule of thumb:

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.

Drinks like bottled beers are also a good choice as it is difficult for someone to put a sedative inside. If you feel unwell, alert someone in authority such as a police officer who can help you seek medical attention.

 

3. Beach thieves

Croatia beach

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

Rule of thumb:

Do not leave any items unattended on the beach when you go swimming. If possible, leave any valuable possessions in a hotel safe or ask a member of your party to look after them for you.

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

 

4. Overcharging restaurants

There is a multitude of ways for a restaurant to overcharge. 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), etc.

For instance, a restaurant could add on an extra cover charge (called “couvert”) without disclosing before the meal. Or they could apply a very aggressive mark up if you were to use non local currency. Restaurants could also add on items which you did not order and refuse to provide a receipt or paper proof. Finally, they may 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.

Rule of thumb:

Ideally, you could do both online (Google, TripAdvisor, etc) and offline (checking with your hotel/hostel staff) research to identify reputable places to eat at. Further, always ask for a receipt and check thoroughly.

 

5. Pickpocketing

Croatia Split streets

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Pickpocketing is common all over Europe (e.g. Spain, Netherlands) and this applies equally to Croatia. This is particularly prevalent in crowded tourist areas and you should remain vigilant about your possessions at all times.

One of the most common tactics used by scammers is to bump into tourists. They then apologize and pat you down to check that you have not been injured, taking the opportunity to steal your valuables. Pickpocketing is common around train stations like Glavni Kolodvor and Zagreb Zapadni Kolodvor in Zagreb. Other areas such as the Strossmayer šetalište, Upper Town (Gornji grad) and lower Towns (Donji grad) and Hrelić (flea market) in Zagreb are hotspots as well. In the other towns such as Dubrovnik and Split, do be wary on crowded narrow streets.

Rule of thumb:

Take care of your possessions when walking in crowded areas. If someone bumps into you, check immediately that your possessions are secure and walk away to a less crowded area. Finally, consider investing in a money belt or a cheap spare wallet.

 

6. Sprigs of rosemary

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.

Rule of thumb:

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.

 

7. Bosnia Dubrovnik border scam

On TripAdvisor, 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.

Rule of thumb:

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

 

8. Beggars

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.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid firmly.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Train thieves

Croatia train

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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.

Rule of thumb:

Make sure that you secure all your items when you are on a train in Croatia. If someone causes a distraction such as pretending to spill something on you, immediately check your possessions and keep them in your line of sight.

 

2. Flat tire scam

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.

Rule of thumb:

If 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.

 

3. Taxi meter scams

Croatia taxis

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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.

Rule of thumb:

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 to react.

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

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 rely on the fact that you do not know the exact route and 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.

Rule of thumb:

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.

Further, for long routes, it will be wise to do your research to find out how much it would cost roughly.

 

5. Short-changing taxi drivers

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.

Rule of thumb:

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

As there is only one taxi company allowed to operate at Zagreb airport, they 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.

Rule of thumb:

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

Zagreb airport

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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

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. In some cases, using your credit card to pay entitles you to some level of rental car insurance. 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).

Rule of thumb:

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 theft

This is a standard crime around the world.

Rule of thumb:

Avoid leaving your valuables in plain sight in your car.

 

C. MISC

1. Holiday apartment scam

Croatia apartment

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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 pull 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.

Rule of thumb:

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 if possible.

 

2. Staged emergencies

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 with 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.

Rule of thumb:

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.

If you really do want to stop and help, only do so in full view of passing traffic.

 

3. Fights/Crime

King Tomislav Park

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

Rule of thumb:

Avoid traversing through such areas, especially at night.

 

4. Money exchange hidden commission

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.

Rule of thumb:

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 will not be accepted for currency conversion in other countries.

 

5. ATM scam

rigged ATM

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Cases of ATM card skimming frauds in Dubrovnik have been reported. It is the same everywhere around the world, e.g. Brazil, Indonesia. Skimmers are little devices attached to the card slot of ATM machines. They can be really difficult to spot. Card skimmers can record your card details, your PIN code and send all these information wirelessly (text message/Bluetooth)!

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.

Also, take note to cover your pin while typing it in, as there might have been cameras set up to capture your PIN and a card reader to swipe your card.

Rule of thumb:

Only use ATM machines inside banks. Avoid those in secluded areas and avoid using at night. Also watch out for shady/shifty characters in the surroundings.

 

6. Hotel thieves

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 and are distracted by the process. When you are distracted, a thief loitering nearby posing as a hotel guest will move in to steal your suitcase.

Rule of thumb:

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

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  • European Emergency Number: 112
  • Police Emergency Hotline:  192
  • Ambulance Service: 194
  • Fire Brigade: 193

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