Kosovo

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 27 February 2014.   It has been reviewed and reissued with editorial amendments. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Kosovo overall because of the threat of politically motivated violence.

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.
  • The overall security situation in Kosovo remains calm but unpredictable.
  • You should avoid all public gatherings, political rallies, demonstrations and protests given their potential to turn violent.
  • Civil disorder continues in the northern part of the city of Mitrovica and Kosovo’s three northern municipalities of Leposavic, Zubin Potok and Zvecan. We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to these areas 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 not use these routes. If you decide to travel in these areas, you should exercise extreme caution.
  • 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.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Kosovo. The Australian Embassy in Austria provides consular assistance to Australians in Kosovo.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
click on image to expand

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Further information on visa requirements is available at the Kosovo Foreign Ministry’s website.

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 not use these routes. If you decide to travel in these areas, you should exercise extreme caution. See Safety and security: Civil unrest / Political tension 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.

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

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

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

Civil unrest/Political tension

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.

The overall security situation in Kosovo remains calm but unpredictable. We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Kosovo because of the threat of politically-motivated violence. 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.

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) led international force, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), together with the Kosovo Police Force and assisted by EULEX police, is 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.nato.int/KFOR and http://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. Each year, people are injured through the misuse of fireworks and firearms at celebrations. 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. There remain some impediments to freedom of movement in northern Kosovo. The situation continues to be volatile.

Kosovo-Serbia Border. Following incidents in January and June 2012, 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 not use these routes. If you decide to travel in these areas, you should exercise extreme caution.

Crime

While acts of petty crime against foreigners are not significant, travellers should be aware of pickpocketing and bag snatching. Criminals are known to target foreigners in crowded places including markets and on public transport.

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

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques may not be accepted by some money changers. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in Kosovo.

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.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

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.

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

Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Kosovo, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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.

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 below Australian standards. 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. 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. The National Institute of Public Health in Kosovo has reported that since April 2010, there have been 84 suspected cases of CCHF, including five deaths. Cases have been reported in the municipalities of Malisheva, Rahovec, Suhareka, Klina and Gjakova. 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

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Kosovo. The Australian Embassy in Austria provides consular assistance to Australians 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/

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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Kosovo is located in an active earthquake zone. Tremors are not uncommon.

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.

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.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.



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.