The other day I saw the article by fellow travel bloggers where already in the title they imply Kosovo is a dangerous destination and you might get killed when going there. Of course, it was supposed to be click-bait, albeit a very poor one, and already in the first sentence they denied their own words.
But that post itself made me angry enough that I’ve decided to add my two cents about Kosovo safety and write this post. So if you’re asking yourself “Is Kosovo safe?” keep reading.
My visits to Kosovo
I’ve been to Kosovo three times: first I went for a day trip to Pristina from Skopje, then I spent a week discovering the country and eventually I returned for few days to Pristina as I enjoy the capital of Kosovo way too much. The first trip was with a friend while two others were solo (not that it matters really).
I managed to see a bit of the country, traveled around independently and always felt safe. There was not even one situation when I was in danger and even if I sometimes felt awkward when visiting a place it was more my mind playing tricks on me than actually something going on.
Actually, the only time I felt uncomfortable was in Mitrovica when a middle-aged Polish guy who was working in Kosovo joined (without asking) me and my friend for a coffee and was bothering us with his stupid talks, but it was more annoying than dangerous really.
Kosovo safety background
The whole world learned about Kosovo when the cruel civil war rolled across the country at the end of the 1990s. Until today you can see numerous international forces guarding Kosovo and especially its most problematic spots (such as Serbian churches or the bridge in Mitrovica) but keep in mind that the war ended 20 years ago and now this is just a normal Balkan country, albeit with some tensions here and there.
As you probably know Kosovo declared its independence on 17th February 2008 but until today only 115 countries recognize it (that includes Poland and as long as my country recognizes Kosovo as an independent state I’m not going to discuss this issue here). Most important, the closest neighbor of the country that Kosovo gained its independence from – Serbia – still considers Kosovo parts of its territory. As a result, there are still tensions and occasional protests happening especially in Mitrovica, where a big Serbian population lives (north part of the city is Serbian while the south is Albanian).
People in Kosovo
I believe people are good everywhere, the nationality or location has nothing to do with it. And I’m very well aware there are bad people everywhere too, but they are fortunately in the minority. People in Kosovo were always friendly, hospitable, and ready to help when it was necessary.
Since there are still not so many tourists visiting Kosovo they are also curious and you can be sure to have some small-talks every now and then, but those are always really nice. Just try to stay away from political conversations as they never end well, no matter where you are and who you talk to, and in Kosovo it’s even more sensitive than anywhere else.
Tensions when visiting Kosovo
While most of the top places to visit in Kosovo are safe there are few precautionary measures you should take into consideration.
Kosovo is known for beautiful Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches that are part of UNESCO list. The most famous are Gračanica, Visoki Dečani and Patriarchate of Peć, but you will find some important Serbian Orthodox churches in the center of Prizren too. Due to the ethnic conflict they might be the target of unease, therefore are often guarded by the international forces. When I visited churches in Prizren I could take a look around but the soldiers paid attention I don’t take any pictures (this might have changed though). I can’t say it was a particularly nice experience.
And then there is Mitrovica. Some of the more adventurous travelers decide to go there, hoping to have a unique experience yet this is just a regular city, with regular people living their lives.
The only difference is that Mitrovica is divided by the river into the Serbian and Albanian sides and those two couldn’t be any more different. It reminded me a bit of Cieszyn (Poland) and Cesky Tesin (Czech Republic) – one city divided by the border with a different language or currency. The riots do happen here occasionally but the city is also heavily guarded by the international forces – during my visit Italian Carabinieri were protecting the bridge over Ibar river – the border between two parts of the city.
When I was there in May 2016 the bridge was in a very poor condition with a metal fence in the middle but a year later I saw pictures with nicely decorated path open to pedestrians. So things are improving! Still, I can imagine how disturbing the image I saw could be to some travelers, with Carabinieri, barricades and all the stories you can hear.
I kind of fell for it too and decided to go to Mitrovica with a friend and fellow blogger Kinga who happened to be visiting Kosovo at the same time. We both have thought it might be a dangerous place and better to visit it together yet we ventured on both sides of the river and all was good (except for the annoying Polish guy), Mitrovica turned out to be a really fascinating place to visit.
Kosovo safety tips
Besides the typical “use your common sense and don’t do stupid things” tips I have two more Kosovo safety pieces of advice:
1. When you plan to visit Serbian monasteries and/or especially Mitrovica ask someone local (for example in your accommodation) about the situation there. Things can escalate quickly and a lot of local stories don’t make it to the international news so local knowledge is your best source of information. In 99% of cases, everything will be fine, the last major riot happened in 2014.
2. Visit Kosovo with the open mind. This is really a great country with friendly locals and there is nothing to worry about! I would suggest having a base in Pristina and do day trips from the capital – it’s really easy with good bus connections and Pristina is such a cool city to spend some time in!
Is Kosovo safe? Travelers stories
Since I don’t want you to hear only one, my, version of the story I asked one local and fellow bloggers who visited the country to share their answer to “is Kosovo safe for travelers?” question. I asked people who had a different experience in Kosovo: solo female travel, traveling with children, backpacking, hiking in the mountains, to get a better overview of Kosovo travel. Below you can read what they have to say about Kosovo safety.
Lavdi from Kosovo Girl Travels, a Kosovo local:
“When people hear “Kosovo” they associate it with a war or a war-torn country. Lately, I was in a community in Uganda and they said there’s an area, kind of a ghetto, which they call Kosovo. Of course, as a Kosovo citizen I didn’t feel good about this cross-reference and explained to them that Kosovo went through war twenty years ago but now it is a safe country to live in or visit.
Of course, as in other countries, Kosovo is not petty crimes-free and one should be cautious of its surroundings; however, crimes are rare and visitors are highly looked after. Sometimes, it feels (and in most of cases it is true) like locals become second-hand citizen in certain restaurants/bars/cafes when tourists/foreigners are around. Priority is always given to the guests and this comes from the tradition of making a guest feel like home.
Visitors need to be cautious if there are political tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, since the latter still doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence, and avoid Serb-majority areas such as North Mitrovica and other northern municipalities and Gracanica in case of any protest/demonstrations. Other than that, Kosovo has a lot to offer and is safe for any type of travelers, be it solo, solo woman, backpacker, or luxury traveler.”
Ellis from Backpack Adventures:
“When I decided to go to Kosovo some people were slightly worried about my holiday destination. Most still remember the war and seem to think Kosovo is still dangerous. Regardless of what I was told I was eager to visit Europe’s newest country and see things for myself. I traveled for a week in Kosovo as a woman using public transport.
My experience is that Kosovo is a very safe destination for travelers. I was surprised by how easy it is to travel around and during my week I had no problems at all. People are very friendly and welcoming of tourists. As a women traveling alone I was treated with respect and if it comes to safety it felt no different to me than travelling around in Western Europe,
The war is long over and Kosovo is proud of its independence. You will feel the hopeful atmosphere of a young country dedicated to make a better and peaceful future. That said, it is hard to deny the existing tensions you do come across. The beautiful Serbian monasteries are heavily guarded and Serbia still does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. Politics remain a controversial topic, but as a tourist there is no need to get involved. As long as you stay out of politics it is unlikely to cause any problems for your safety in Kosovo”
Rohan from Travels of a Bookpacker
“When we told friends and family we were going to Kosovo as part of our Balkan road trip we got a lot of questions about the level of safety there.
During our week in Kosovo we felt completely safe including wandering the streets of Mitrovica (both the Serbian and Albanian sides), wild camping in our van and meeting locals in the small towns we stopped in. The roads were new and were some of the safest we’d driven on in the Balkan region. From the jovial border guards to parking wardens and shop keepers everyone was curious, kind and so excited to welcome us to their country.”
Rebecca from Maybe This Way
“Pristina is one of my favourite cities because it exceeded all expectations. I remember hearing about the war back when I was a kid, so I was super curious to visit decades later. The capital of Kosovo was incredibly friendly, super trendy, and I felt very safe the entire time – albeit underdressed because all the women were so fashionable. Pristina had the coolest cafés, great budget-friendly accommodation, and so many people who were willing to help us out. We travelled from Serbia to Kosovo by bus (and back again) in 2018 and did not have any problems throughout our entire stay.”
Stephanie from Sofia Adventures
“I spent a week traveling solo through Kosovo, and I had no issues. You do need to be aware of the current political climate, which can affect safety. While I was in Mitrovica, I had no issues, but I have heard other travelers were afraid to go there when tensions were high.
For American travelers, Kosovars are generally very positive to Americans, but this isn’t true everywhere. As a white American woman in my thirties, I had no issues there. However, I know that sometimes women of color can run into issues.
Aside from things women specifically need to pay attention to, the main safety concern in Kosovo is political violence. This is almost rarely an issue these days, but just be aware of the climate at the specific time you visit.
I never once felt unsafe in Kosovo and would gladly return, but it is a more complicated part of the Balkans than other countries at the moment.”
Alex from Swedish Nomad
“Kosovo has had a rough history, and because of that, tourists have refrained to go there. However, nowadays, Kosovo is very safe, especially from a tourist perspective and the risk of crime is very low. The people are generally very friendly, welcoming and proud of their country and culture.
Don’t be afraid if someone approaches you, they will most likely just want to hear why you’re visiting their country. And they genuinely want to know because so few tourists find their way to the country.
Of course, normal precaution should be taken here as well, just as in any other destination. But, don’t worry about being safe in Kosovo. Just be sure to respect the locals and bring a smile, and you’ll have a great time!
All in all, I would deem Kosovo safer than many cities in the US as well as larger cities in Europe. Most locals speak at least some English, especially the younger generation.”
Elisa from World in Paris
“Is Kosovo safe? The answer is YES!
I visited Kosovo in 2017 during a road trip around the Balkans and I can only recommend it. During the trip, we visited some of its main tourist attractions, like the beautiful city of Prizren, but we also went off the beaten path to explore some of its natural wonders like Rugova Mountains.
In Peja, for example, we did not hesitate to get the most out of the city’s nightlife, on foot on our own, and we always felt safe. The same when hiking the mountains: on our way, we did not cross many people but the paths were well marked and we did everything we wanted without any problem.”
Lisa from TheHotFlashPacker
“I found Kosovo to be very safe. I visited with three friends in November 2018 and we had a wonderful time. I usually travel by bus, but we rented a car for three days in Kosovo.
I’m always nervous to rent in foreign countries as the road rules are somewhat different, signs are in other languages, and sometimes traffic cops are out for no good. But driving and parking in Kosovo was very safe. Signage was ample and roads were in good condition. We had no problem navigating the roads (with a good map app). There were no tolls and we had no problem with police. Parking was fairly easy – with hotels and guesthouses providing nearby parking and we paid less than $1 to park for a couple hours in Peja and in Ferizaj. Overall, I highly recommend visiting Kosovo and renting a car!”
Kirsty from World for a Girl
“I have to admit that when we told relatives about upcoming road-trip in Kosovo and Macedonia, we left out the Kosovo part. Why? Well, Kosovo doesn’t have the greatest of reputation when it comes to positive news stories. It certainly wasn’t the kind of place, our parents would have approved of us taking their 1-year-old grandson to. As soon as we returned though, we were raving about this gorgeous, friendly and charismatic country.
As we were on a road-trip to Macedonia, we hired a car which meant we could visit the picturesque town of Prizren and the captivating marble caves at Gadime. Fortunately, our toddler was still in nappies as there was no pulling over into the woods for a toilet break – there are still landmines around.
We were also pulled over by the local police on a country road. The policeman wanted a ‘speeding fine’ paid then and there. Suddenly, our toddler started wailing and within seconds, the fine was dropped, some kindly advice was given and we were waved on. It is definitely a very family-friendly nation!
Arriving Visoki Decani monastery was a little unnerving as we’re not used to having to show our passports to UN Peacekeepers to enter places. Even here, a monk paused his service to fill our toddler’s hands full of sweets and chocolate.
Honestly, Kosovo is one of the most welcoming places for toddlers that we’ve ever been to. Whilst ethnic tensions still simmer in some border regions, the Kosovo we encountered was safe, peaceful and child-crazy!”
Juozapas from Nomad Joseph
“I’ve been in Kosovo back in 2014. In generally country is very safe as its citizens want to get more tourists. They treat backpackers very well and surprises where something bad happens are very rare. In my opinion, people should know the basic rules of safety which includes keeping your valuables near you.
When I was in Kosovo I was hitchhiking and local guy picked me up. He offered me to stay at his place, but after plans changed he paid for my hotel and we had nice evening with him and his family in the bar. They insisted that they are going to pay the bill and I shouldn‘t worry about anything. In my opinion, Kosovo is very safe country and anyone visiting Balkans should visit it!”
I hope my opinion and these stories will encourage you to visit Kosovo during your Balkan travels. The country really is one of the Balkan highlights, still not fully discovered by mass tourism, and there is nothing to worry about when planning a trip to Kosovo. Have a good trip!
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