Tranquil mountains surround Kosovo, whose picturesque towns and dramatic landscapes have escaped the notice of mainstream tourism. Ottoman mosques, striking forests, rolling green vineyards and sublime monasteries await those who visit the heart of the Balkans.
Regarding its history, Kosovo broke from neighbouring Serbia in 2008, following a long and bloody dispute. Many international states recognised its independence and helped welcome in a new dawn. Today, Serb minorities are located in the north, while the rest of the country is largely Muslim and Albanian speaking.
The Sar Mountains National Park is one of Kosovo's top attractions, where nature lovers can spot bears, lynxes, wolves and chamois. Ski enthusiasts can enjoy incredible slopes and favourable year-round conditions at Brezovica ski resort in the Sar Mountains.
Foodies should definitely tour the capital, Pristina, where the local fare carries a Turkish and Albanian influence. The flourishing city also has a number of coffee shops.
Kosovo has a largely continental climate, though Pristina is considered an oceanic climate zone. Generally speaking, summers are long and dry, and winters are mild and rainy, with occasional heavy snowfall in the mountains.
It can get surprisingly hot in summer (between May and August), with temperatures sometimes reaching as high as 90°F (32°C). The warmest month is July, when high temperatures average around 79°F (26°C). Winters are cold and snowfall is common. The coldest month is January, which experiences an average low temperature of 23°F (-5°C).
Rainfall is abundant, particularly in the short spring and autumn. October is the wettest month, and August the driest. Visitors should note that the climate does vary according to region and geographical features.
Kosovo is a year-round destination, but summer is the peak tourism season and the optimum time to visit. Popular cities like Pristina can get crowded during this period. November to April is the least popular time, with the exception of ski season in January and February, which sees visitors flock to the slopes. This is the best time to ski in Kosovo. Spring and autumn are potentially very pleasant but it can be rainy.
The official currency of Kosovo is the Euro, divided into 100 cents. As elsewhere in the ex-Yugoslav republics, the most frequently exchanged currencies are the Euro and US Dollar (Pound Sterling is rarely used). Money should be changed through official exchange offices only. ATMs are not hard to find in Pristina, but more difficult (or impossible) in smaller towns and villages.
Albanian and Serbian are the official languages, but English is widely spoken especially among the youth.
Electrical current is 230 volts (50Hz). European round two-pin attachment plugs are most commonly used.
US nationals: US citizens must a have a valid passport to enter Kosovo. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 6 month period.
UK nationals: British citizens must have a valid passport for the duration of their stay to enter Kosovo. No visa is required for a stay of up to a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens must a have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their departure date to enter Kosovo. No visa is required for a stay of up to a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
AU nationals: Australian citizens must a have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their departure date to enter Kosovo. No visa is required for a stay of up to a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
ZA nationals: South African citizens must a have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their departure date to enter Kosovo. No visa is required for a stay of up to a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
IR nationals: Irish citizens must a have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their departure date to enter Kosovo. No visa is required for a stay of up to a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens must a have a passport that is valid for six months beyond their departure date to enter Kosovo. No visa is required for a stay of up to a maximum of 90 days within a six month period.
Foreign passengers may be required to provide documentary evidence to local authorities when entering Kosovo, giving a reason for their entry and stay. A 90-day entry stamp will be issued, which is renewable for longer stays. It is recommended that visitors have at least two blank pages in their passports for stamps. NOTE: It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from the travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
There are no specific health risks for Kosovo and travel is usually problem-free from a health perspective. Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations are recommended and it is also advised that visitors be up to date with their vaccinations for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria. A typhoid vaccination may be recommended for travellers who will be eating and drinking outside of major hotels and restaurants.
On a related note, travellers should avoid drinking tap water unless it has been boiled or filtered. A rabies vaccination may be recommended for travellers who may have contact with wild animals while in Kosovo.
Medical facilities in Kosovo consist of private medical clinics and the government sponsored University Clinical Center. Quality controls are lacking in many medical facilities and their services are very basic. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended before travelling to Kosovo.
Tips should equal 10 percent of the bill unless the restaurant adds a service charge to the total.
Kosovo is a relatively safe destination, though petty crime and pick pocketing can occur. Travellers should be especially cautious at large markets in Pristina.
Travellers who venture outside of the capital should be aware of unexploded ordnance from the conflicts. Much of it has been cleared from roads and paths, but visitors should seek advice from KFOR (NATO-led international peacekeeping force) before exploring the more remote parts of the country. That said, the situation is quickly improving, as mine-clearance programmes operate all over Kosovo.
Visitors should not drive vehicles that bear Serbian plates. Though perfectly legal, the car may be a target for random attacks or vandalism from locals. Northern Kosovo sees sporadic violence, particularly in north Mitrovica and a few other flashpoints where Serbian and Kosovar communities are in close contact.
Perhaps understandably, Kosovars tend to be suspicious of foreigners, and reserved in their dealings with them. A very direct communication style is favoured. Visitors might be surprised at how ingrained smoking is in the culture - being offered a cigarette by a new acquaintance is entirely commonplace, and should be seen as a sign of acceptance. Note that, as in many western countries, in Kosovo "Yes" is indicated by nodding one's head; however, if the chin suddenly becomes raised (sometimes accompanied by a clicking sound), this indicates an emphatic "No". Clean shoes are treated as a matter of self-respect in Kosovo.
Kosovars of all ethnic backgrounds are hospitable to foreigners, especially westerners. Invitations to lunches, dinners, receptions, even religious family gatherings, and other official or private family hospitalities are normally offered and should be accepted if possible.
Foreigners should be prepared for small talk to dominate much of the discussion and should not be concerned if Kosovars do not immediately get down to business. If offered, foreigners should be prepared to accept tea, coffee or other beverages, which are signs of respect for the host. (Note: Many Kosovars smoke, and a ban on smoking in public places is sporadically followed.)
Meetings require business attire, but a formal suit is not expected. It is preferable to print business cards with one side in English and the other side in Albanian and/or Serbian. While not expected, a foreigner should offer their local contact a gift if the latter gives them one. The thought counts for more than the item's value.
The international dialling code for Kosovo is +383. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Internet access is widespread, especially in Pristina. The central post office in Pristina is open from 7am to 7.30pm, Monday to Saturday and 8am to 2pm on Sundays. There is good cell phone coverage and roaming agreements are in place with major international operators.
Visitors may import the following goods duty-free: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. One litre of wine and one litre of spirits is permitted, as is 250ml of eau de toilette and a reasonable amount of perfume. Weapons and ammunition are prohibited.
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