How to Enter Kosovo Legally


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As of the beginning of 2017, 111 UN member states recognise Kosovo as an independent country. However, Serbia still sees Kosovo as part of Serbia which means there is no hard border between the two countries. This has caused a large amount of confusion for travellers who wish to enter Kosovo from Serbia or alternatively enter Serbia from Kosovo due to conflicting information available online. There have also been reports on the internet that suggest if you have a Kosovo passport stamp then Serbia will refuse entry.

Having travelled through both Kosovo and Serbia recently, the purpose of this article is to outline all the possible options for travellers who wish to visit both countries and highlight which routes are likely to cause the least amount of problems.

How to Enter Kosovo Legally

Option 1. Enter Kosovo From Serbia and Exit From Serbia

Serbia does not recognise the border between themselves and Kosovo, so you can freely move between these two countries. Therefore, once you have travelled to Serbia, you can enter Kosovo through the unofficial Serbia Kosovo border crossing without crossing any official  checkpoints. You then can travel back to Serbia before exiting the country.

This is a good option as there is no record of you ever entering Kosovo meaning you won’t have a Kosovo passport stamp and it will help you to avoid any problems at the border in the future if you wish to return to Serbia.

Option 2. Enter Kosovo from Montenegro, Macedonia or Albania and Exit Kosovo via non-Serbian border without visiting Serbia

If you don’t wish to travel to Serbia then you can still enter Kosovo legally by going through any one of its official border crossings with Montenegro, Macedonia or Albania. If you choose this option then it’s important to ensure you don’t enter Serbia during your time in Kosovo and therefore exit Kosovo by travelling through a non-Serbian border crossing. 

Whilst this means you should get an entry and exit Kosovo passport stamp, I personally found passport stamping in the Balkans to be fairly random and likely dependent on the mood of the border patrol officer on the day. 

There are some reports on the internet that suggest if you try to re-enter Serbia at a later date with a Kosovo passport stamp they might turn you away. In my experience, this did not happen when I travelled back to Serbia after visiting Kosovo in 2016.

Additionally, most of the reports on the internet suggest that the worst that could happen is that the Serbian border officer will cross out the Kosovo stamp in your passport when you try to enter Serbia but will still let you into the country. (2019 Update: This is even less of an issue these days and there aren’t many reports of Serbian immigration having an issue if you enter after visiting Kosovo).

It is also worth noting that most of the reports on the internet about problems re-entering Serbia are from a number of years ago when tensions were higher.

prizren
Beautiful and emerging Prizren

How to Possibly Not Enter Kosovo Legally

Option 1. Enter Kosovo from Serbia and Exit Kosovo via non-Serbian border

If you first enter  Serbia, then travel to Kosovo and exit the country through a non-Serbian border it will mean that  Serbian immigration will have no record of you ever leaving the country. This might cause issues if you try to re-enter Serbia at a later date as immigration could claim you have overstayed your visa. 

If you have no intention of returning to Serbia, then you can probably follow this route without any problems, however, you might find that Belgrade draws you back at some point so I, therefore, recommend avoiding doing this.

2019 Update: This doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem these days as passport records are more electronic and there are reports of people having been able to re-enter Serbia at a later date without any problems. If travelling with an EU Identity Card, there shouldn’t be any problems with this route.

Option 2. Enter Kosovo from Macedonia, Montenegro or Albania and Exit through Serbia

If you enter Kosovo through a non-Serbian border, then travel to Serbia via the unofficial Serbia Kosovo border crossing and try to exit through a Serbian border, immigration will have no record of a legal entry into Serbia.

That means that when you try to exit Serbia, the immigration officer won’t see an entry passport stamp from Serbia and you run the risk of being faced with criminal charges.

2019 Update: There are a couple of reports in the comments below of people who have used an EU Identity Card to travel this route without any problems as there is no stamping of passports. This route still doesn’t appear to be possible if travelling with a passport.

Both of the problematic options leave you at the mercy of the border patrol officer. If he’s having a good day you might not even know that there was a problem. If he’s having a bad day, though, you’re at risk of facing fines or maybe even criminal charges. I therefore strongly recommend entering Kosovo legally when travelling to this emerging destination.

Before setting off on your Kosovo trip, make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy. We personally used World Nomads for our travel in Kosovo however it’s important to read the policy details to ensure it’s right for you. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads!

Have you travelled to Kosovo and Serbia recently? Have you had any trouble with immigration? Let us know in the comments below!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When not obsessively searching for flight deals, Michael likes being ultra-competitive at table tennis, gazing at street art, and contemplating life while sipping a dram of fine single malt whisky.

Comments

  1. Hello!

    Thank you for this – I am looking to visit both Serbia and Kosovo and this was very useful. Do you think it would also be OK to fly into Serbia, spend a few days there, then travel to Kosovo and fly home from there?

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Hannah! If you fly out of Kosovo then you won’t have officially exited Serbia from an immigration perspective. I don’t think it would cause any issues for your current trip but you might run into problems if you choose to return to Serbia at a later date.

      Reply
      • Hello,
        I am Armenian, can i visit Kosovo by going to Albania ?
        I mean can i enter Kosovo with an Albanian stamp ?
        Thank you

        Reply
        • There is no problem visiting Kosovo from Albania – you will need to check entry requirements for Armenians though.

          Reply
  2. Hello,
    We’re actually planning our summer-trip right now…
    Flying from Stockholm to Skopje where we’ll rent a car and head for Niš and its surroundings for à couple of days. Thereafter we drive into Kosovo.
    Our plan is to stay there for three-four days and then go back to Skopje and fly back home to Stockholm. But….having read your “article” it seems to be rather à bad idea…☹️

    Reply
    • Hi Helene! I certainly wouldn’t risk it as officially there’ll be no record of you ever leaving Serbia! Maybe from Nis, you can go back to Skopje and then go to Kosovo afterwards?

      Reply
  3. Hi Michael,
    We are planning to do a day trip to Kosovo from Skopje. Next day we are planning to enter Belgrade, Serbia from Skopje, Macedonia. Will the Kosovo immigration stamp my passport?. Will we have problem entering Belgrade next day?

    Reply
    • Hi Deepak! There have been reports in the past of Serbian immigration refusing entry if you have a Kosovo passport stamp however most of the reports are from several years ago and I haven’t heard of recent issues with this. I had no problems re-entering Serbia with a Kosovo stamp in my passport.

      Reply
  4. Hello!

    Iam visiting Serbia and Kossovo end of september.
    We have a flight to Belgrade and then we want to catch a bus to Kossovo.
    So if I understand right, then We won’t have any problems with coming back to Serbia after visiting Kossovo, If I have a stamp in my passport?:)

    Tahnk you:)

    Reply
    • That should be fine as long as you then return to Serbia and exit the country through one of Serbia’s official borders. Don’t exit Kosovo into Montenegro, Macedonia or Albania if you arrive via Serbia as then Serbian immigration won’t have any record of you ever leaving the country.

      Reply
  5. Hi Michael,
    My wife and I are planning a three-week trip to the Balkans in May. We are flying in and out of Belgrade. Our plan was to spend a few days in Serbia before travelling through Kosovo on our way to Skopje, Macedonia. From Skopje, we were going to continue through Bulgaria and Romania before re-entering Serbia (via the Romanian border) before our flight out of Belgrade. Do you anticipate me having any problems re-entering Serbia from Romania since it sounds like I will not have a Serbian Exit stamp, since I would be entering Macedonia from Kosovo, vice Serbia? I noticed when I am doing route planning, Google Maps is continuously having me go around Kosovo from Novi Pazar to Skopje!
    Thanks,
    Don

    Reply
    • Hi Don,
      I wouldn’t advise on taking this route as you won’t have officially exited Serbia when you go through Kosovo. It might not be a problem but it’s definitely taking a risk.
      I suggest to be safe, go from Belgrade to Skopje (stopping in Nis for a day if you want to break up the journey) and then go to Kosovo from Skopje. It does, unfortunately, a bit of backtracking to go back to Bulgaria (as you’ll need to return to Skopje) however it will ensure you don’t have only problems when returning to Belgrade for your flight out!

      Reply
  6. Michael,
    One other thought…..since I will already be in the southwest corner of Serbia (in Novi Pazar), it looks as though it is not too far out of the way to exit Serbia into Montenegro (near Spiljani) and then hook back into Kosovo a little bit farther south at the P8/R106 border crossing from Montenegro into Kosovo. A little out of the way, but it sounds like it solves the problem of not having the Serbian exit stamp. Am I correct in assuming that this route will be fine?
    Don

    Reply
    • Hey Don, I don’t have any experience with that border crossing but as long as it’s an official Serbian exit point then that should work!

      Reply
  7. Hi Michael
    Thanks a lot for this information! I am a cyclist and thought of entering Serbia at the Kumonovo boarder (Macedonia), then heading to Priština on some small roads. Do you have any idea why google maps doesn’t suggest this route but constantly sends me back to Skopje for entering Kosovo (which is not possible for me because I want to continue to Serbia after Kosovo)? Are there some closed roads on the ‘boarder’ between Serbia and Kosovo? Or is it just a google maps thing and now problem in reality?
    Thanks! Rita

    Reply
    • Hi Rita! I’m not sure about the specifics of that particular crossing however it looks like all of Google’s routes between Serbia and Kosovo go through another country (I put in Belgrade to Pristina and it has the route going through Montenegro!). I suspect then it’s just because Google might not route people through what some believe to still be a disputed border. To be sure, it might be worth asking around when you’re in Macedonia as locals might know more specific details about that crossing.

      Reply
      • Thanks a lot for this quick reply, Michael. As I have never been in the area before, I am not clear about the borders between Kosovo and Serbia – are they not still disputed? If I understood correctly, seeing from the Serbian perspective, there are no borders – so are there no controls or posts on the roads when entering Kosovo from Serbia? How is the reality on the ground?

        Reply
        • The main thing you need to avoid is entering Kosovo via a country that isn’t Serbia and then travelling from Kosovo into Serbia as it will be considered illegal entry by Serbia. If going from Serbia into Kosovo, it is best to go back to Serbia when exiting.

          Reply
  8. Hi Michael, thank you for the information above. I see someone else has asked a similar question as mine above, but the response is based from your travels a few years ago, so I’m wondering if anything has changed?. I will be taking a day trip from Albania to Kosovo this November. I will then go on to Montenegro, and then flying to Serbia. I’m not sure if everyone on the tour bus will get passports stamped on the day tour? If it happens, do you think there will be a problem with me entering Belgrade with a Kosovo stamp on my passport? Do you know where I can get some updated information on this topic? Thank you in advance for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi Mary, As far as I’m aware nothing has changed and having a Kosovo passport stamp isn’t an issue if you want to enter Serbia as long as you haven’t entered Serbia directly from Kosovo. Hope you have a great trip!

      Reply
  9. Hi Michael, Great info. I am planning a 10 day road trip this summer, starting and ending in Sofia. I’d like to spend the bulk of the time in Montenegro, but I would like to make a quick trip to Mostor and Sarajevo. If I go enter Kosovo from Serbia, exit to Montenegro or Albania, then re-enter Serbia from Kosovo – would this work? It may not be worth it – do you think I should consider a completely different route? I’m looking for a beautiful place on the way to the coast.

    Reply
    • Hi Hesh, I suspect that your route could cause problems as you are entering Serbia from Kosovo after being in other countries. I would aim to work out a route that allows you to enter and exit Kosovo from non-Serbian borders.

      Reply
  10. Hello, I kindly appreciate your advice on the following route and if it potentially would cause any border issues.

    I’m planning to travel by bus from North Macedonia (Skopje) onward to Kosovo and then out to Albania… and a fortnight later (re-)enter Serbia through Bosnia & Herzegovina (likely by tour from Sarajevo-Mokra Gora-Belgrade).

    P.S. I have a Singaporean passport so I don’t foresee visa issues per se but just wanted to be enlightened if the above route would be “legally doable”.

    Thank you and I greatly appreciate your advice!

    Reply
    • Hi Edwin, There shouldn’t be any issues with that route from a Serbia/Kosovo border perspective – have a great trip!

      Reply
  11. Hello

    Thank you for the great article.

    From Skopje, I have 2 plans:
    – Skopje- Pristiana and back to Skopje. I will surely get a stamp there (as I am a non EU citizen, I dont have ID card- only passport)
    -Then from Skopje to Nis and fly back home from Nis.

    OR:
    – Skopje- Nis.
    From Nis, I will visit Pristiana 1 day and come back to Nis before flying home.

    Which way do you recommend, regarding the border issue between Serbia and Kosovo?

    In case both cases are the same, then which option will be cheaper? I will mostly travel by bus?

    Thank you for your answers

    Tran

    Reply
    • Hi Tran, Both options should be fine in terms of the border issue with Kosovo. From memory, the buses from Skopje to Pristina are much more frequent than from Nis to Pristina so it might not be feasible to do a day trip to Pristina from Nis. You can check https://www.balkanviator.com/en/bus to get an idea of timetables but keep in mind it’s not completely accurate! Hope you have a great trip!

      Reply
    • I’m planning a trip from the UK to Albania-Kosovo-Macedonia. By bus Tirana to Prishtina. Whilst stopping in Prishtina looking at a day trip to Skopje. Then a few days later fly Prishtina to UK. Do you know of any border issues with that itinerary?

      Reply
      • Hi Gareth, You’re not entering Serbia so the rest of the route doesn’t matter in terms of entering Kosovo

        Reply
  12. Hi Michael,
    I’m grateful that you wrote this article but unfortunately I ran into this article a few days too late. I’m currently in Prizren, Kosovo and I came with a bus from Novi Pazar, Serbia. I didn’t realize there wouldn’t be any checkpoint at this route so my passport was not stamped either by Serbian custom or Kosovo one. I’m leaving from Prizren to Skopje soon and I’m so worried I may get into trouble…

    Reply
    • Hi Chiya, You can go back from Prizren to Serbia and then take a bus from Serbia to Skopje to avoid any problems. If you leave from Prizren to Skopje, you should be able to leave without issues however there could be problems if you try to re-enter Serbia at a later date.

      Reply
  13. I am from Bangladesh and i have a kosovo student visa so now can i visit Serbia without serbian visa and nearest countries like macedonia, Croatia

    Reply
  14. Hello,
    I have travelled from Romania through Serbia-Macedonia-Albania and now I would like to return via Kosovo-Serbia-Romania. Any issues with this route? I’m EU citizen so no passport only ID card.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Andrei, I don’t believe you can travel back from Kosovo to Serbia as you would be re-entering Serbia. However, I’m not entirely sure if travelling with an ID card rather than a passport would make a difference – I suggest contacting the embassy and asking.

      Reply
  15. An important caveat: this post only applies to non-EU citizens. If you’re an EU citizen, just use your ID on the border. No online registry or anything, they won’t know they haven’t ‘scanned you out’ first.

    I have done it myself, flew into Prishtina from a third country and exited toward Serbia, using the ID. No one batted an eye.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing Andras. I’ve heard mixed reports of EU citizens using an ID card to go from Kosovo to Serbia with some being denied entry. Glad you didn’t have a problem!

      Reply
    • Th Serbians actually do electronically register entries/exits at the Serbian-Kosovan border. However, even if you entered Kosovo from elsewhere they will indeed let you in on an ID card

      Reply
  16. Hello everyone!
    Some days ago, I went to Kosovo from Macedonia for one day trip to Pristina from Skopje.
    Right now I am in Serbia coming from Macedonia. I had no problem.
    I only wanted to share my experience in entering Serbia from Macedonia, having gone first to Kosovo from Macedonia.
    Crossing was smooth. I hope all of you have the same experience.)))

    Reply
  17. What about license plates in the ex Yugoslav countries? Would a Belgrade license plate be asking for trouble in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia? Or a Croat one in Serbia, RS, and Serbian parts of Kosovo? Better to rent car from Hungary or Bulgaria? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Alan, I’m not entirely sure about this. To be honest, I imagine a lot of car rental companies might have restrictions about taking a car into Kosovo so you’ll need to check this and possibly to speak to them about any concerns.

      Reply
  18. I don’t fully agree with this.

    Firstly, at the Serbian-Kosovan border, the Kosovans DO stamp passports by law (some officers do get lazy about it though, so insist if you must), which poses no problem with the Serbians, who don’t even “cancel” Kosovan stamps anymore.

    How it works is: the ONLY problem is entering Kosovo from a country other than Serbia, then proceeding directly to Serbia using a passport. You then won’t have a current Serbian entry stamp, and since stamps aren’t issued on the Serbian side of the Serbian-Kosovan border, you’ll be refused entry.

    With an EU/Swiss ID card, however, there is no problem, The Serbs do indeed electronically register entries/exits at the Kosovan border (so while they don’t recognise it as an international border, their computer systems do). However, practice is to freely allow entry to ID card users even if having entered Kosovo from elsewhere on that trip. I’ve done it more times than I wish to count.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing André. Good to get further confirmation that using an EU ID makes it easier to travel from Kosovo to Serbia.

      Reply
  19. My wife and I will be touring the Balkans in April, traveling by public bus’s and taxi’s.
    We are flying into Sarajevo and out of Belgrade. Reading our Lonely Planet, we found out about the border issues between Serbia and Kosovo, and our plan was to travel from Skopje to Pristina, and then North on to Belgrade. According to what we have found on the net, we see that we have to leave Kosovo through a third country so that we can enter Serbia.
    Using the Lonely Planet maps for the individual countries, they show legit border crossings for all of the countries listed in their book. Checking on line for possible bus routes, we are planning on heading West from Pristina to Peja (Pec) and then North into the finger of Montenegro separating Kosovo and Serbia. We would enter Montenegro at the Kulina border, then on to Rozaje and then East to the Serbia border crossing at Dracenovac, and on to Novi Pazar.
    We both have Canadian passports, but my wife also holds a Swiss Id card. We hope we can use this procedure to enter Serbia.
    Thanks, and your whole column is very intersting.

    Reply
  20. Hello! Have you heard of anyone having any luck using a U.S. passport card in Serbia to get around the entry stamp issue? (eg entering Serbia by land using a US passport card and leaving through Kosovo).

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Alex, I would check with the Consulate/Embassy but I don’t believe you can enter any European country with just a US passport card.

      Reply
  21. Hello, everyone. I’m planning a road trip by car through the Balkans next year. I would like to have some more info about the border crossing points between Serbia and Kosovo. We plan to enter Kosovo from Serbia, after visiting Novi Pazar (Нови Пазар). I was looking on Google Maps and I couldn’t find any border crossing point along the Route 206 from Novi Pazar (in Serbia) to Bajskë (in Kosovo).
    Can anyone can tell me if the road is open to crossing to non-UE citizens, or it is only for Serbian and Kosovo travellers?
    Last question, is Brnjak Crossing Point (Vendkalimi kufitar i integruar Bërnjak) open to non-UE citizens ?
    Thank you for your attention.

    Reply
  22. Hi, I’m planning to visit the Balkans in December this year. I’m planning to fly into Croatia and go through Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo,Serbia, Bulgaria, serbia, Romania and fly from Hungary. I suspect I may have a problem with the borders of Kosovo & Serbia. Help would be massively appreciated. Michael

    Reply

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