10,887 sq km (4,203 sq miles).
1.9 million (2014).
170.8 per sq km.
Head of state:
President Atifete Jahjaga since 2011.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Isa Mustafa since 2014.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are used.
Depending on your global perspective, Kosovo is either Europe’s youngest nation or not a nation at all. Since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008 it has received only partial recognition as a sovereign state by members of the United Nations. Its fragile footing and wretched modern history might make Kosovo an unlikely travel destination, but the country can be extremely rewarding for those keen to find out what lies beyond the headlines.
Cultures and religions have been clashing in modern day Kosovo for centuries, but between the periods of unrest, this small, landlocked country has pioneered peaceful coexistence and mutual enrichment of cultures. While Muslim Albanians dominate the population today, followed by Orthodox Christian Serbs, there are many other groups with their own unique cultures and ways of life.
Granted, roadside memorials and the occasional khaki-clad NATO soldier can make its cruel past somewhat hard to forget, but historic spots such as Janjevo and the UNESCO-listed Dečani Monastery showcase a distinguished Kosovan history that has been overshadowed by the recent catalogue of horrors.
Europe’s youngest capital, Pristina, is an increasingly eclectic city with a vibrant café culture, but pretty Prizren is the city that has most visitors smitten. Cobbled streets, ancient walls, Ottoman mosques and Orthodox churches lend a romantic air to this riverside town, while the popular Dokufest Film Festival and Hasi Jehon folklore festival give credence to its status as a cultural capital.
Much of the Kosovan countryside is uncharted territory for tourists, but dramatic mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls and limpid lakes are tailor made for adventure travellers. Combine all this with decidedly un-European prices and it’s not hard to see why visitor numbers are rising.
Whether you’re sipping coffee in cosmopolitan cafés, hiking through the hinterland or visiting crumbling historic sites, in Kosovo, when you look beyond yesterday’s headlines, you’ll find an affable land of surprising beauty.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime. Watch out for pick-pockets particularly in airports and on public transport. As a foreigner, you may be a target for criminals who may assume you are carrying large amounts of cash. Four wheel drive and luxury vehicles are also popular targets. Report all incidents of crime to the local police and get a report.
Isolated incidents of armed violence and vehicle explosions in major cities are usually linked to organised crime and not directed against foreigners.
Check local developments before and during your journey. In the event of civil disorder, stay at home and restrict your movements as much as possible, especially after dark. Avoid public gatherings, political rallies and protests
There is still some danger from residual mines and other unexploded ordnance left over from the 1999 conflict. The main areas of risk are on the border with Albania, in the Dulje Pass area (in central Kosovo), in the west and south of the country and in the mountainous region between South Serbia’s Presevo Valley and Kosovo.
Take care when travelling in all these areas, and keep to the main roads. Most of the remaining dangerous areas are in high mountainous regions covered with dense vegetation. If you see anything suspicious, don’t touch it, but report it immediately to the police or the nearest KFOR patrol.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the municipalities of Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic, and to the northern part of the city of Mitrovica due to occasional violence there.
There were a number of security incidents in the north in 2012/13 affecting the route between Kosovo and Serbia via Gate 1 (Leposavic) and Gate 31 (Zubin Potok). Use alternative routes for travel between Kosovo and Serbia if possible.
Demonstrations at border Gates 3 and 5 (Medare and Dheu i Bardhe) in southern Kosovo in 2012 resulted in some clashes. If you intend to enter Kosovo from Serbia at Gates 3 and 5, you should take care and be prepared for a long wait. Queue lengths often vary depending on the time of day and can be 1-2 km long.
The standard of roads varies from fair to poor. Roads are particularly bad in rural areas and after bad weather. There is a risk of landslides. You should avoid travelling at night if possible.
You can drive using a UK driving licence. You must have vehicle registration and ownership documents and a locally valid insurance policy. European Green Card vehicle insurance isn’t valid. You should buy local third party insurance at the border or from the nearest town at the earliest opportunity. Make sure you have enough cash in Euros to pay for insurance and fuel. The quality of fuel varies. Delays at the border crossings between Kosovo and Macedonia are common.
Many Serbian car hire firms will not allow their vehicles to be driven in Kosovo, and vice-versa, due to concerns about the security situation. There have been some incidents where Serbian registered cars have been targeted in more isolated areas of Kosovo.
Taxis are readily available in Pristina, but the condition of the vehicle and standard of driving vary.
The rail service from Fushë Kosovë (Kosovo Polie) to Zvecan (Zvečan) and Leshak (Lešak) in northern Kosovo is currently suspended.
Trains can be slow, particularly in winter when there are often long delays.
Incidents in South Kosovo are much rarer, but there have been occasional violent demonstrations in Pristina.