Kosovo is a country that has been and still is a very sensitive subject relating to the last civil fights that took place there. As a matter of fact, fights in Kosovo began in the 1990s when the KLA was born. KLA is short for Kosovo Liberation Army and they turned against the Serbian politicians and police in 1998.
Nowadays, Kosovo still bears the scars of the war that crippled both Kosovo and Serbia altogether. Tensions are high today as fights could spark at any moment, causing major damage to infrastructure and sustaining heavy civilian loss.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Kosovo
Overall Risks in Kosovo: HIGH
According to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Kosovo is rated as being of high risk and high concern regarding traveling and visiting the country. Crime rates are also very high due to the economic situation of the country and armed robbery is pretty common. Firearms are very easy to get in Kosovo and somehow, everybody owns firearms, especially AK-47’s.
Expatriates must be able to closely monitor their homes and install surveillance gadgets as criminal organizations may target their homes. Burglaries are common against expatriates, but an anti-western sentiment is slightly present, but crimes against Americans are uncommon.
Pristina, the capital city is again, a prime concern for everybody’s safety, as petty theft and bag snatches are very common. Cars are targeted by thieves and the smash and grab technique is the most used, especially when valuables are left unattended in the car.
Also, drawing attention to you will make matters worse mainly by the fact of wearing flashy jewelry and watches, so slightly blending in the environment is the key.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Kosovo: HIGH
Risks of pickpocketing and petty theft are ranked as being high due to the number of armed assaults that happen from time to time. As stated above, obtaining a weapon in Kosovo is really easy and gunpoint threat is possible, especially in the nighttime.
But avoiding any unpleasant situations is fairly easy. The currency in Kosovo is the euro and not carrying all your money at you is the key to not getting robbed. Also, it is recommended that you leave any unnecessary goods in the hotel room as well and if you really need to carry some around, be sure not to flash it very often.
Night time in Kosovo is a prime time for committing a crime, so avoid walking around in the night and if you are forced to do so, walk on lighted roads and stick to the main road as well.
Sprees of armed robberies may happen as it happened in 2015. Several expatriates were targeted by gangs in Pristina with the sole purpose of robbery. All of them sustained injuries caused by knives and other sharp objects and fortunately, they survived with only minor injuries. In 2016, the car of an American expatriate was robbed, including the stealing of some highly classified documents.
Scam Risk in Kosovo: MEDIUM
As in any other country, scams are present especially in pubs and bars. Scams with change and money in pubs are quite a thing and always be sure to count the change after you exit a store or restaurant. Also, try to avoid any nightclubs where exotic dancers and prostitution is present. These are quite prone to be linked to transnational terrorism and criminal organizations.
Kidnapping Risk in Kosovo: MEDIUM
Kidnappings are quite uncommon, despite the current situation in Kosovo. Since the country has gained independence in 2008, kidnappings are a thing of the past. However, human trafficking remains a huge problem in the country and the officials are doing their most to confront prostitution and human trafficking.
Terrorism Risk in Kosovo: HIGH
Kosovo has the same problem with Islamic terrorism as other countries in Europe. Transnational terrorism is possible due to the lack of security on the borders. Despite the fact that Kosovo is a European country, many Kosovar are turning to Islam and fleeing to Iraq and Syria to support the ISIS fighters. As such, the Albanian and Kosovar governments are conducting sweeps in the country to locate and neutralize any possible terrorist threat.
As such, since the summer of 2014, a total number of 125 people that had links to ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria have been arrested. Also, a number of 16 suspects that had links to ISIS were also arrested in Pristina. In 2017, an Albanian leader for ISIS fighters was killed in action in Syria by drone bombing. Since then, the US embassy has been receiving threats from ISIS fighters for killing their leader.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Kosovo: LOW
Despite the fact that Kosovo was bothered in the past by war and crime, according to female travelers, the country is safe for women travelers and backpackers. Getting into the country is easy and prepare your passport, because lots of stamps and visas will take place on your passport.
Rape Risk in Kosovo: LOW
The rape risk is also low as the country has very brutal laws when it comes to rape. Since the war has ended, there were no rapes recorded by the police or officials. The country has a very effective program for rape victims in the war.
Risks for People Traveling With Children in Kosovo: LOW
According to families that have traveled to Kosovo with children, the country is safe to visit. Although, some bloggers inform that renting a car could get you out of trouble and since the country is small, you can travel anywhere by car and enjoy the mountains and caves that litter the youngest European country.
A safety tip that is on almost every blog is that, if you think about renting a car to enjoy your vacation, ask the rental company to provide you with a children safety seat to be mounted. Traffic in Pristina is heavy and the roads are poorly maintained.
Natural Disaster Risks in Kosovo: MEDIUM
Kosovo is exposed to earthquakes, as some major fault lines and seismic zones are present: Prizren-Peje, Ferizaj–Viti–Gjilan, and Kopaonik. However, the earthquakes that happen in the country are of small scale. With this being said, the most powerful earthquake registered in Kosovo was a 4.5 magnitude in 2015.
Another threat that is present in winter time is the constant threat of avalanches taking place in ski resorts. If the weather announces heavy snowfall, take all safety precautions.
Transportation Risks in Kosovo: MEDIUM
Roads in major cities are in very good condition and well maintained throughout the year. However, roads outside the major cities tend to go from bad to worse. Road markings are scarce and sometimes inexistent.
Defensive driving is a must in Kosovo and always be on the lookout for livestock on the middle of the road. Many accidents have occurred and they mainly dealt with sheep herds and horse-driven carts. In the nighttime, a driving tip is to keep aware and do not drive too fast.
When choosing to not to rent a car, use metered taxis instead of public buses as they may become overcrowded and they’re perfect territory for pickpockets and thieves. Like in any other country, be careful to choose an established taxi company and not a personal car converted to a cab, as scams may happen. And also, taxis are inexpensive, safe and fast at the same time.
Night-clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Kosovo: MEDIUM
When thinking to hang out one night in the many pubs and nightclubs in Kosovo, there are some risks you should consider not taking. Avoid at all costs nightclubs that have strippers and in which prostitution is present, as they may be linked to criminal organizations. Also, when in a bar in Kosovo, keep alert as drunkards may be present and they may become aggressive.
Always keep an eye on your drink and never leave it unattended, because cases of spiked drinks and poison in drinks have happened.
Health Risks in Kosovo: MEDIUM
When traveling to Kosovo, make sure that your medical insurance covers for the country. The emergency number in Kosovo is 194 and once you call the number, an ambulance will be dispatched to your location. Be aware that the ambulance will go to an EMS triage and not in a specific hospital unless you tell them so.
List of Vaccines You Need in Kosovo
According to the CDC, there is a list of common vaccines to be taken before you visit:
- measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- polio vaccine
- Flu shot
- Hepatitis A and B
- Anti-Rabies vaccine (especially for children as they might get in contact with animals more often)
Most Dangerous Area in Kosovo
Although Kosovo is the youngest European country, there are no areas that are very concerning to your safety, but you must take the same safety tips above in a serious manner.
Concluding Remarks: Is Kosovo Safe to Visit?
As a conclusion to the above information, some people had no encounters with malevolent people in Kosovo and not even in the capital city. However, the safety tips above for travelers are to be taken into consideration.
As the country has been overtaken by separatist groups and civil unrest in the last decade, some unrest could be seen and a small number of protests could happen. Crime and theft is a serious problem and staying away from busy streets and pubs is the right way to go.