Kosovo

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 19 August 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. There have been occasional violent demonstrations in Pristina, most recently in January 2015. Keep clear of all areas where protests and demonstrations take place. The level of this advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Kosovo overall.

Kosovo overall

Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan municipalities and North Mitrovica

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Kosovo because of the threat of politically-motivated violence. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. See Safety and security.
  • The overall security situation in Kosovo remains calm but tense. While incidents in the south are rare, violent demonstrations have occurred in Pristina.
  • You should avoid all public gatherings, political rallies, demonstrations and protests given their potential to turn violent.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the northern part of the city of Mitrovica and Kosovo’s three northern municipalities of Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan because of the high threat of politically-motivated violence.
  • There is a high degree of tension at the northern Kosovo border crossings of Jarinje and Brnjak (also known as Gates 1 and 31). If you intend to travel between Serbia and Kosovo, you should consider alternative routes.
  • Serbia does not recognise entry points direct from Kosovo. You should not attempt to enter Serbia from Kosovo unless you initially travelled into Kosovo from Serbia.
  • There is an ongoing risk of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.
  • Australia does not have a resident Embassy or Consulate in Kosovo. The Australian Embassy in Vienna, Austria provides consular assistance to Australians in Kosovo.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. For more information on visa requirements visit the Kosovo Foreign Ministry’s website, or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Kosovo.

Currently, Australians do not need a visa to enter Kosovo. You may be required to provide documentary evidence giving a reason for your visit when entering Kosovo. Upon entry, authorities issue a 90-day entry stamp, which is renewable for longer stays.

Travellers to Kosovo should be aware that Serbian authorities may react with hostility to enquiries about documentation for travel to Kosovo.

The security situation along the Kosovo-Serbia border remains unpredictable. There is a high degree of tension at the northern Kosovo border crossings of Jarinje and Brnjak (also known as Gates 1 and 31). If you intend to travel between Serbia and Kosovo you should consider alternative routes. See Safety and security for more information on the security situation along the Kosovo-Serbia border.

Long waiting times and vehicle queues are common when entering Kosovo from Serbia at Gates 3 and 5 (Merdare and Dheu i Bardhe).

Serbia does not recognise entry points direct from Kosovo. You should not attempt to enter Serbia from Kosovo unless you initially travelled into Kosovo from Serbia. Australians wishing to enter Serbia from Kosovo must transit via a third country unless they have a valid Serbian entry stamp in their passport. Road travel from Kosovo to Serbia is possible if transiting via Montenegro or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

For further information, see the website of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/Political tension

The overall security situation in Kosovo remains calm but tense. While incidents in the south are rare, violent demonstrations have occurred in Pristina.

In the past, violent, armed inter-ethnic conflict has erupted mainly, but not exclusively, in several towns in northern Kosovo, including the northern part of the city of Mitrovica. There have also been incidents along the southern border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Kosovar general public is hospitable towards travellers. However, we still recommend you consult a local guide when travelling as an individual, in particular if travelling to the three northern municipalities of Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan, and the northern part of the city of Mitrovica.

The Republic of Kosovo declared independence on 17 February 2008, and Australia recognised Kosovo’s statehood on 19 February 2008. However, Serbia has not recognised Kosovo’s statehood and still considers Kosovo to be part of Serbia.

Following its declaration of independence, Kosovo entered a period of political transition. In December 2008, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) passed rule of law functions to the European Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).

EULEX’s central aim is to assist and support the Kosovo authorities in the rule of law area, specifically in the police, judiciary and customs areas. EULEX is a technical mission which monitors, mentors and advises whilst retaining a number of limited executive powers. EULEX’s mandate in Kosovo has been extended until June 2016.

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) led international force, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), together with the Kosovo Police Force, are responsible for maintaining security in Kosovo.

You should check local developments before and during your journey. UNMIK and KFOR provide the latest security information on their websites www.aco.nato.int/KFOR and www.unmikonline.org. Security information is also broadcast on Radio KFOR wwww.radiokfor.com.

You should avoid all public gatherings, political rallies, protests, roadblocks and demonstrations because of their potential to turn violent.

Australians should make sure their travel documents are valid and be prepared for a possible deterioration in the security situation in Kosovo.

You should also be aware that the indiscriminate use of fireworks and firearms in ‘happy fire’ can result in accidental injury. In addition, several hundred thousand illegal small firearms are still believed to be privately owned in Kosovo.

Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan municipalities and North Mitrovica: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the northern part of the city of Mitrovica and the northern municipalities of Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan because of the high threat of politically-motivated violence. Unofficial roadblocks are sometimes erected at short notice to block the movement of organisations such as EULEX. In recent years, violent, armed inter-ethnic conflict has occurred in Kosovo, mainly, but not exclusively, in several towns in northern Kosovo, including the northern part of the city of Mitrovica.

The situation remains unpredictable due to tensions between ethnic Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. The situation continues to be volatile.

Kosovo-Serbia Border: Following incidents in January and June 2012, and September 2013, the security situation along the Kosovo-Serbia border remains unpredictable. There have been a number of security incidents at the northern Kosovo border crossings of Jarinje and Brnjak (also known as Gates 1 and 31) in 2012/2013. If you intend to travel between Serbia and Kosovo, you should consider alternative routes.

Crime

While petty crime against foreigners is not significant, travellers should be aware of pickpocketing and bag snatching, particularly in crowded places, including airports and on public transport. Carjacking and car theft also occur.

Violent criminal acts, such as assassinations and murder, are often linked to organised crime and are not directed at foreigners.

Terrorism

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Money and valuables

Kosovo’s economy is largely cash-based. The Euro is Kosovo’s official currency. The Serbian Dinar (RSD) may occasionally be accepted in the Serb-majority area of northern Kosovo. Banks with international ties and automated teller machines (ATMs) are becoming more common, but are not yet fully developed throughout Kosovo. Credit cards are accepted in some hotels, shops and restaurants. Cash payment in local currency is expected, especially in small establishments.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Despite the fact that Kosovo has been cleared of most land mines, there are still land mines and unexploded ordnance in Kosovo, particularly in regions bordering Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, including the Dulje Pass area close to Prizren. Australians are urged to use only roads and paths labelled as cleared by a competent de-mining authority.

Driving in Kosovo can be dangerous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles and poor driving skills. Roads are sometimes shared with pedestrians and farm animals in rural areas. There are many roadworks ongoing in Kosovo, which further contribute to continually changing traffic conditions. For further advice, see our road travel page.

An International Driving Permit is recommended. Always carry identification and vehicle registration papers. Third-party automobile insurance is mandatory and can be purchased upon entry into Kosovo. Drivers of vehicles bearing foreign licence plates must pay for compulsory third party Green Card insurance.

Road tolls must be paid in local currency. Posted speed limits are strictly enforced.

There is a risk of landslides on the main route between Pristina and Skopje in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Heavy snowfalls can severely disrupt travel in Kosovo.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Kosovo.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Kosovo, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

While homosexual activity is not illegal in Kosovo, it is not widely accepted. Overt public displays of affection by persons of the same sex should be avoided. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

You must carry photographic identification, such as a clear photocopy of your passport, with you at all times. It is recommended that your original Australian passport be kept in a safe location.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in Kosovo are severely under-equipped. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Costs for a medical evacuation could be considerable.

Outbreaks of food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis A, trichinosis, brucellosis and rabies) occur from time to time. We recommend you avoid raw and undercooked food, drink bottled water and avoid unpasteurised dairy products.

Levels of air pollution in Kosovo can be high, particularly in winter when heavy smoke from coal and wood burning heaters can linger for days or even weeks. Accidental emission of toxic substances from factories is not uncommon and public health warnings after such accidents are not always issued. Sufferers of asthma or other bronchial conditions should seek medical advice.

Travel in forested areas in Kosovo brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne encephalitis, which can become fatal in some cases. Another tick-borne infection, Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), is endemic to Kosovo. Ticks are common in country areas and are active from spring to autumn. We recommend you take measures to avoid tick-bites, particularly in rural areas. Mosquito-borne diseases are also present, including West Nile Virus. If you suffer from a fever during your visit in Kosovo you should seek immediate medical attention. More information of CCHF can be found at the WHO website.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia does not have a Resident Embassy or Consulate in Kosovo. You can contact the Australian Government at the Australian Embassy in Vienna, Austria for consular assistance in Kosovo.

Contact details are:

Australian Embassy, Vienna

Mattiellistrasse 2
A1040 Vienna
Telephone: +43 1 506 740
Facsimile: +43 1 513 1656
Email: austemb@aon.at
Website: www.austria.embassy.gov.au/

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

The British Embassy in Pristina can provide limited emergency consular assistance to Australians in Kosovo. This does not include passport or visa services. Contact details are:

British Embassy, Pristina

Ismail Qemali 6
Arberi/Dragodan
Pristina
Telephone: +381 (0) 38 254 700
Facsimile: +381 (0) 38 243 062
Email: britishembassy.pristina@fco.gov.uk

If you are travelling to Kosovo, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency; whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Bush and forest fires can occur in summer months (June to September), particularly in northern Kosovo. Extreme hot and dry periods may lead to water shortages.

Kosovo is located in an active earthquake zone. Tremors are not uncommon. Information on natural disasters, including earthquakes, can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities, and monitor local media and other sources for information.

Additional Resources



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.