Living in Croatia?
Health and Safety in Croatia
Before you move to Croatia, you should get booster shots for all standard immunizations: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR); diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus; varicella (chickenpox); polio; and influenza. Moreover, it is highly recommended to get vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, rabies, and tick-borne encephalitis, too. Local health risks include tick-borne diseases, especially encephalitis, lyme disease, and, rarely, spotted fever.
Keep Your Wits about You
Croatia is mostly a fairly safe country. In major cities, pickpocketing is the biggest safety risk. So you should not display ostentatious wealth in public and keep your belongings (wallet, credit cards, and important documents) as safe as possible.
One word of warning: Avoid any sort of “gentlemen’s club”, e.g. striptease shows, table dance bars, etc. These establishments are known for enticing punters into their establishments for free, then suddenly demanding extortionate prices for alcoholic drinks and threatening customers who refuse to pay.
Outdoors, hikers in the mountains and forests should mainly be aware of two things: bad weather and forest fires. It is very easy to get lost in a large Croatian forest when there’s a thunderstorm coming on, or when rain or fog prevents you from finding the right path. Obviously, inclement weather can lead to dangerous, even fatal accidents.
In dry summers, however, fires tend to break out in dense forests with little rain. Please get updated at local information centers, e.g. in national parks and nature reserves, before you go on longer walks or set out for more remote areas.
Landmines from the 1990s Balkan Wars may still pose a threat. However, they are mostly limited to specific areas. These include the border regions to Serbia and Hungary, e.g. Eastern Slavonia, Brodsko-Posavska County, Karlovac County, and areas around Zadar, as well as some of the more remote parts of the famous Plitvice National Park.
If you are planning extended travel in the easternmost parts of Croatia, or in the southeastern hinterland, check up on your destinations with the Croatian Mine Action Centre first. In general, do not leave the roads or enter any abandoned buildings, and pay attention to warning signs. A skull and crossbones symbol, the inscription “ne prilazite”, or areas cordoned off with bright plastic tape are common indicators. If you keep your distance from such places, you should be fine.
Travel Health Insurance
If you are planning a short-term trip to Croatia, you should get a decent travel insurance plan. Those nationals who have to apply for a visa before entering the country, as well as all expats applying for a residence permit, need to show proof of health insurance anyway.
But even if you are not legally required to get a medical insurance policy for your stay, you should not try to cut down on expenses. If you fall seriously ill or have an unfortunate accident during a brief business trip, you might be stuck with a huge hospital bill. EU nationals (though not citizens of EEA member states or Switzerland) can fall back on their European Health Insurance Card in case of emergency. However, a comprehensive travel insurance policy will cover a far wider range of treatment.
Healthcare in Croatia
Long-term residents will probably be required to participate in the public health insurance system. As of 2002, having a public health insurance plan with the HZZO (the official health insurance fund) is mandatory in Croatia. The public healthcare system is financed by means of taxation, as well as payroll contributions covered by your employer. Self-employed residents have to pay for their insurance premiums themselves. Basic health insurance in Croatia cost approximately 400 HRK per month in 2011.
The quality of medical care in Croatia is fairly good, though the average life expectancy is slightly lower than the EU average. However, the country is facing the future financial burden of an aging population and a low fertility rate. Moreover, despite relatively high government spending, the public healthcare sector is suffering from budget strains and personnel shortages.
To ease those financial strains, patients with universal healthcare must make co-payments on doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, and prescription medication. A co-payment of 10 HRK is required for a visit to the doctor or dentist, or the purchase of medication. Hospital stays are charged at 100 HRK per day, up to a maximum of 2,000 HRK.
Quite a few Croatians take out voluntary top-up insurance to cover those co-payments as well. Moreover, there are extra private insurance policies to give you better access to medical facilities and avoid long waiting lists. All expats who can afford it should definitely sign up for such an insurance plan in the private sector.
If you are in need of an ambulance, call 194. Of course, 112 is also the standard number in EU countries for any emergency.
If you simply want to see a doctor for a non-urgent check-up, there are several ways of finding a medical professional fluent in English, or one who might even speak your mother tongue. There are, for example, some English-speaking staff members at the following clinics and hospitals in Zagreb:
- Zagreb Dental
- Dental Clinic Ksaver
- American Dental Center Croatia (website only in Croatian)
- Dom Zdravlja Centar (website only in Croatian)
- SUNCE International Polyclinic
- University Hospital Centre Zagreb
- Clinical Hospital Dubrava (website only in Croatian)
- Merkur Clinic Zagreb (website only in Croatian)
- Polyclinic for Gynecology, Obstetrics and IVF
- Children’s Hospital Zagreb
- Children’s Hospital Srebrnjak
As far as pharmacies in Zagreb are concerned, the Centralna ljekama (website only in Croatian) is available 24/7, and the Ljekarna Frebel (website only in Croatian) is said to provide good service for ordering medication from abroad. If you need medical facilities in another city or a doctor with particular foreign language skills, check with your embassy or consulate or send an enquiry to the Croatian Medical Association.
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