kamila

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Day trip from Skopje to Pristina, Kosovo

No matter how much I enjoyed Skopje and its crazy statues there was one place that I had to visit during my stay in the capital of Macedonia. You see, for the reason I cannot really explain I’m interested in difficult history, borders, internal conflicts etc. These are the things I can’t fully understand no matter how much I try and by visiting the places affected by those issues I feel I’m getting closer to figuring it all out (well, of course I’m not). So when I’ve realized Kosovo is only a short bus ride away from Macedonia I knew I just have to visit this second youngest country in the world! And so I went for the day trip from Skopje to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.


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Pristina, Kosovo

Short history of Kosovo and issues with entering the country

Technically Kosovo is not a country as it is recognized by 111 out of 193 countries (including Poland) but I personally believe in and support its independence, just like my country does. The troublesome recent history and the cruel events at the very end of 20th century caused by the civil war in the former Yugoslavia led the country to eventually declaring the independence from Serbia in February 2008. As of today only South Sudan is a younger country, existing since 2011. Despite an Albanian majority (as well as the official language and flag in use) Serbia considers Kosovo as part of their country and getting your passport stamped by the Kosovar border control might get you into trouble if you want to continue your journey onward to Serbia. The best way to visit the newborn country is either by entering from and leaving to Macedonia or entering from Serbia and continuing the journey in any direction. After my visit to Kosovo (that left me with two clear stamps in my passport, a pretty obvious evidence of my trip there) I had Serbia in my itinerary but I learnt I can cross their border only with my ID and fortunately using it didn’t cause me any problems.

Pristina, Kosovo

Skopje to Pristina – how to travel between two capitals

At first I was hoping to go to Prizren – second biggest city in Kosovo, with stunning location and amazing monuments, that is probably the highlight of the country. Unfortunately, even if it’s only 80kms away from Skopje the journey takes 3 hours and the buses leave from Macedonia in the afternoon – there’s no way to make it as an easy day trip from Skopje. If I wanted to visit Kosovo I had to go to Pristina. Frequent and fast buses connect the two capitals really well and such a daytrip is a piece of cake!

Pristina, Kosovo

I took the 8am bus from Skopje – the ticket cost around 5€ and the journey was supposed to take 2 hours, after all it’s less than 100 kms. There were hardly any people travelling when we left the bus station but as we picked the people and packages along the way the bus eventually filled up. The grumpy Macedonian border guard asked me couple of questions and (as always) confused he stopped questioning me after hearing about my job. Borders always make me nervous and I was pretty anxious when we arrived to the Kosovar control point but the middle aged guy only asked me what my plans in his country are and how long I’m staying – I wanted to explain properly but he quickly said „Welcome to our beautiful country” and gave me my passport back. I was in Kosovo, my country number 57.

Pristina, Kosovo

First impressions of Kosovo

The first impression of the new country were really good. Even if the day was gloomy, the scenery around was really amazing – hillsides with beautiful autumn leaves, picturesque villages hidden in the valley, tall minarets cutting the sky. Since I’m dealing with a terrible motion sickness and my medicine makes me so very sleepy I napped most of the way and when I woke up we were already in the suburbs of Pristina, where lots and lots of concrete blocks welcome visitors – a typical scene for most of the Central European countries. Fellow passengers already knew very well I’m not a local so as soon as we were approaching the city (and I slightly woke up) they started asking where I want to go, offering help, explaining the way and welcoming in their country. They all also repeated 5 or so times what time is the last bus to Skopje (at 6pm) so I would make it back on time. Even if some of them didn’t know English they tried communicating in Serbian and we didn’t have all that much problems with communication. From the very first moment in Kosovo I felt really welcomed.

Pristina, Kosovo

How to get from the bus station to the center of Pristina

The bus station is not far from the center, some 15 minutes walking along Bill Clinton Boulevard. The wide street is surrounded by concrete blocks among which a sculpture of Bill Clinton with exceptionally big hands can be seen. Next doors a clothing boutique named Hillary is located – coincidence? I don’t think so! What struck me the most from the very beginning was how young and vibrant the city felt, how stylish teenagers and student look like. A little walk further up brought me to the crossroads of Bill Clinton Boulevard and Xhorxh Bush Boulevard (yes, you read the name correctly) where the Univeristy of Pristina is located. If someone is interested in the street fashion then this place is definitely worth checking out as the sense of style among young Kosovars is really good.

Pristina, Kosovo

The National Library of Kosovo – a gem of brutalism

The univeristy park hides the highlight of Pristina, one of the weirdest and most incredible buildings I’ve ever seenthe National Library of Kosovo. The building got its unique and quirky look at the beginning of 1980s, according to the Croatian architect, whose work it is, the design is blending Byzantine and Islamic architecture. Actually it more reminds of a big LEGO bricks bonded with a chain but for me it was also an orgy of the brutalism style, the kind of architecture I enjoy so much! I guess 25% of my pictures from Pristina are of this building, I literally couldn’t take my eyes out of it! The look of the Library still brings lots of controversy, but for me it was just beautiful!

Pristina, Kosovo

A great bazaar to experience

Pristina doesn’t really have the Old Town. The area around Nazim Gafurri Street with remnants of the Turkish bazaar is home to couple of old and impressive mosques as well as the clock tower. But for me the best thing there was a market, just a random one. I really adore exploring this typical Central and Eeastern European selling places as that’s where the face and the vibe of the city can be best experienced. I wander around, observe people, look at the products, compare prices, I try to interact with local and sometimes I buy something… Bazaars are often my favourite places in the visited cities and the one in Pristina was pretty decent as well.

Pristina, Kosovo

Nena Tereze Boulevard – the place to be in Pristina

The core of Pristina and the place where everything happens is Nena Tereze Boulevard – partly pedestrian street full of social, cultural, political and business life. Even if I was there around noon on a random November weekday the place was full of people, numerous cafes had hardly any free seats left and the miners’ silent protest walked through the street. The fence around the government  buildings was full with pictures of people who went missing in 1999 when the conflict in Kosovo was at its fullest. It is such a sad reminder of the recent history of the newborn country. Even if now Pristina looks like a completely normal place and is such a lively city it’s hard to forget the tragic past.

Pristina, Kosovo

Incredible cafe culture in Pristina

To be honest I was pretty surprised how vibrant the capital of Kosovo is. I read before about its amazing nightlife as well as exceptional and super cheap coffee but my expectations were nowhere close to the reality. There were so many cozy and hip cafes to choose from that I wanted to visit each of them. Sadly with my limited time I only managed to sip amazing cappuccinos in two of them. All the hype was true, I can’t recall where I had such a good coffee for the last time and 1€/cup seems to be an excellent price. If I could stay in Pristina for longer I know I wouldn’t be bored, I could spend days sitting in the cafes, watching people walking up and down Nena Tereze Boulevard, reading or writing and just relaxing.

Pristina, Kosovo

Newborn monument in Pristina

I’d probably have spent most of my time in Pristina visiting cafes but there was one more place I wanted to see really badly – the big „NEWBORN” monument. It was unveiled on 17th February 2008, the day Kosovo was born and it commemorates a new, independent country. At first the letters were all yellow and covered in signatures of thousands of Kosovars, including the most important people in the country. Each year on 17th February the monument changes its look. Last year it showed flags of all the countries that recognize Kosovo as the independent state – I was hoping to see that but to my slight disappointment it is now repainted into the military pattern… Still it’s a cool monument and a great way to celebrate the born of the new country!

Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina – a great city to relax!

Those few hours in Pristina passed by really quickly but that’s always what happens when you have a good time! Even if the city isn’t full of attractions or it’s not even pretty I think it’s a great place to spend few days in, just to relax, feel the Balkan vibe, enjoy the cafe culture and go really off the beaten path. I feel a need to explore more of Kosovo, this one day definitely wasn’t enough as it only pique my curiosity towards the country. Next time I will want to see more places, with Prizren and Mitrovica being on top of my list but I also would love to return to Pristina and just be there and enjoy the atmosphere, without any specific plan.

Pristina, Kosovo

Surprising Kosovo

Kosovo surprised me in a positive way. After seeing places that went through major conflicts recently (like Bosnia or Palestine) I was expecting a very poor, remote country at the outskirts of Europe.It was nothing like that! I’m sure Kosovo deals with many problems and it might get into serious trouble when the international aid will be finished but at least it has a big potential and a young population who wants and can make a change. And as for us, travelers and tourist, it is a great destination that really needs to be discovered. So when you are in Skopje do yourself a favour and hop across the border to Kosovo too! Even if only to admire Mr.Chat, known also from streets of Sarajevo and other cities around the world!

Pristina, Kosovo


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Skopje to Pristina – practical information

Kosovo border crossing

You need to have a valid passport to enter Kosovo, you will get a stamp that will immediately make your visit to Serbia much more difficult. The best way is to either arrive to Kosovo from Serbia and continue your trip further or arrive and depart from/to Macedonia. Check with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you can enter Serbia with ID only, Polish people can do that and it helps me to avoid problems with my passport stamps from Kosovo!

Getting to Kosovo

Recently there are more and more low cost flights to the Balkans – you can easily fly to Skopje and even to Pristina (I paid 60€/return from Berlin to Pristina in May 2016). You can find the best deal at SkyScanner, that’s where I always look for flights too! BalkanViator is the best source of bus schedules in the Balkans, it never disappointed me! From Skopje buses to Pristina depart more or less every hour, the journey takes a little bit over 2 hours. In November 2014 and May 2016 I paid 5€ for one way ticket

Accommodation

It’s actually much cheaper to stay in Skopje than in Pristina. Is stayed twice at Public Room Anja and I can definitely recommend this place for the location and unbeatable price. Check out the prices and details here! But there are lots of affordable accommodation to choose from in Skopje! If you decide to stay longer in Pristina there are some good options too, just less of them!

Further read on Kosovo

Travel insurance

I never travel without an insurance as you never know what might happen. In countries like Iran, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t even imagine not having an insurance! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!


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18 Gru '14

There are 25 Comments.

  1. Thanks for such an interesting post. I haven’t given much thought to visiting Kosovo – bit it is definitely going on my list now. And I’m with you – that library is fabulous!
    Michelle – Very Hungry Explorer latest post…MY FAVOURITE HOTEL ROOM VIEWSMy Profile

    • kami
      19:56 07/01/2015

      Kosovo is kind of forgotten place unfortunately. but that’s what makes it so interesting at the same time! thank you! :)

  2. Venci
    15:37 02/04/2015

    Lot of things to see in Macedonia! Just amazing. I believe that I’ve must have missed a lot the last time i was there. :( Planning to go again this summer.
    Greetings from Italy!
    Thanks Kami

    • kami
      22:45 06/04/2015

      Pristina makes a really great day trip from Skopje so make sure to visit it next time you’re around! Thanks!

  3. Interesting post! In a few weeks I’ll be visiting Kosovo myself, for the same reason you’ve visited. The photos are intruiging. I have to see this country!

    • kami
      22:05 28/07/2015

      I hope you will enjoy it! Kosovo is just one of this quirky places you visit just so you can say you’ve been there! I’m actually hoping to return there next year!

  4. Bill
    05:18 18/10/2015

    Hi. I hope to make the same trip as you did. My question, will I have any trouble later in my trip trying to enter Serbia if I have Kosovo passport stamps? I plan to also travel to Serbia from Skopje but after visiting Kosovo. Thank you.

    • kami
      10:47 15/11/2015

      I’m so sorry for such a late reply Bill! I’m afraid you would have problems – Serbians would consider you entering their country illegally if you go to Kosovo first. Check with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you can enter Serbia using any other document – I could do that with my ID only and so from now on I don’t show my passport at the Serbian border anymore

    • Crazydre
      01:29 12/12/2016

      No Bill, it’ll be fine. Macedonia-Kosovo-Serbia is what isn’t OK. Serbia-Kosovo-Serbia and Macedonia-Kosovo-Macedonia-Serbia is totally fine

  5. margo
    11:34 02/01/2016

    hi hi,
    wow, im heading to the balkans and feel happy i found your post after some searching on different things.. i had no idea about the serbia / kosovo entry issues.. hmmm you said that if one enters and leaves via macedonia, then its ok? or is the issue still the fact that theres a kosovan stamp in your passport, so serbia will have an issue… ? thanks in advance, happy travels! :)

    • kami
      23:30 07/01/2016

      hi! Where in the Balkans, except of Kosovo, are you going to? Such a great area, I’m heading there as well next month! If you enter/leave Kosovo from/to Macedonia you will end up with the stamp in the passport and once you go to Serbia you might have some problems. Best would be to enter/leave via Serbia. Also check if maybe you can cross Serbian border with your ID (for Kosovo it’s always a passport), I did it and it was all fine. Happy travels!

    • Crazydre
      01:31 12/12/2016

      Serbia-Kosovo-Serbia and Macedonia-Kosovo-Macedonia-Serbia is OK. Macedonia-Kosovo-Serbia is not, but if you’re an EU/Swiss citizen and have a national ID card, you can cheat your way in with the Serbians.

  6. Petra Hedvika
    15:20 02/03/2016

    Thank you for this article, I will be in Skopje in May and I just found another daytrip, thanks to you. I was waiting so long to get finally somewhere stamp to my passport, haha. Really interesting page, glad to find it. Greetings from the Czech Republic.

    • kami
      19:59 05/03/2016

      Thank you for your nice comment Petra! Pristina is a very easy day trip from Skopje and I’m sure you will enjoy it! The weather in May should be already very pleasant, I’m going there at that time too! And a passport stamp is always a nice bonus! Cheers from Poland!

  7. Frank
    21:47 14/08/2016

    Concerning about border crossing back to Serbia after visit Kosovo through Skopje. What u meant by ID will be OK? Like US driving license? Is it possible not to have passport stamped border crossing into Kosovo?

    • kami
      12:13 31/08/2016

      Best would be to check with your Foreign Ministry what document you’re allowed to cross the border with. For European Union ID card (not the driving license) is fine. When you go back to Serbia with the stamp of Kosovo you might have problems but they should eventually let you in. From my experience I can say that 90% of time Kosovo will stamp your passport but you can always try asking them not to do that. Good luck!

    • Crazydre
      01:27 12/12/2016

      No, US citizens need a passport and cannot „cheat” their way in. In EU/EFTA countries, however, we have so-called national ID Cards, which function across Europe except Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, plus Turkey and Georgia.

      Kosovo does require ID cards (other than Kosovar, Serbian and Montenegrin ones) to be biometric, meaning many nationalities, such as French and Romanian, need a passport in practice.

  8. Haddid Harem
    08:54 06/09/2016

    Hi KAMMI, that was nice article. I dont know should people have to entering from serbia to kosovo ? I hope one day I can visiting to the beautiful city of pristina. thank you

    • kami
      21:54 13/09/2016

      I heard that there are no problems entering Kosovo from Serbia. I hope you will visit it one day too!

  9. Crazydre
    01:15 12/12/2016

    „You need to have a valid passport to enter Kosovo, you will get a stamp that will immediately make your visit to Serbia much more difficult”

    Actually, you can enter Kosovo with an ID if it’s biometric. Polish ones aren’t, but Swedish ones (for example) are, so I never bring my passport when going to the Region, including Kosovo.

    Also, having Kosovo stamps is NO problem for the Serbians; rather, the problem is that if you enter Kosovo from anywhere other than Serbia and then wish to proceed to Serbia, you won’t have a current Serbian entry stamp. The Serbians will then say you entered Serbia illegally and refuse you (further) entry.

    If you go to a „normal” Serbian checkpoint, and they see your Kosovo stamps, they’ll simply put an invalidation stamp on them.

    • kami
      23:08 12/12/2016

      Actually you are the first person and the only source so far that tells about biometric IDs but then I was researching this information a while. Also all the people I talked to who had Kosovo stamps had then some unpleasant situation at the border with Serbia, and it didn’t matter if they went there from Macedonia during the same trip or years later. But it’s good to know it’s not that bad after all! Thank you!

      • Crazydre
        02:09 13/12/2016

        This is the Website of the Kosovan government http://www.mfa-ks.net/?page=2,158

        „Citizens of: EU and Schengen Zone Member States; Holy See; Principality of Andorra; Principality of Monaco; Republic of San Marino, Republic of Albania, Montenegro, and Republic of Serbia are allowed to enter, transit, and stay in Kosovo for up to 90 days for a six-months period with a valid biometric identification card.”

      • Crazydre
        03:25 13/12/2016

        „Also all the people I talked to who had Kosovo stamps had then some unpleasant situation at the border with Serbia”.

        What exactly happened to them? If trying to go Macedonia-Kosovo-Serbia with a passport, you’ll be refused entry by the Serbians, even if the Kosovans never stamped you, simply because you don’t have a current Serbian entry stamp.

        If entering Serbia from Macedonia with Kosovan stamps, of course the Serbs may not like it, but they would have to let you in eventually.

        • kami
          08:36 15/12/2016

          They were entering Serbia either from Macedonia or Montenegro, with Kosovan stamp in the passport and usually the border crossing involved long waiting, some shouting and threats, one of my friends has a page from the passport ripped off. These were all stories from 1-3 years ago but I still prefer to be on the safe side here and just cross the border with the ID

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