Until 2 days ago I had no idea travelling to Kosovo would be this difficult. From Skopje in Macedonia to Pristina, capital of Kosovo it’s just 90 kilometers. But someone told me if I go to Kosovo then I would be denied entry to Serbia, and I was planning to visit Serbia next.
So what’s the story? Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence and considers Kosovo part of its territory. If you enter Kosovo from Macedonia, Albania or Montenegro, Serbia considers your entry to its territory illegal and there is a 90% chance that it won’t allow you enter Serbia after that. If you have an Iranian passport this possibility will be very close to 100%.
To remedy this problem I bought a ticket from Skopje’s bus terminal for €6 to Bujanovac in south of Serbia. My guess was that I could find a bus or train from Bujanovac to Pristina but I was wrong.
Taxi drivers that had surrounded me in Bujanovac were asking for €50 to get me to Pristina but when they realized I am an Iranian they all folded and went away 😅. They probably had never seen an Iranian tourist and thought all Iranians are illegal immigrants.
There remained only one guy named Rajab who still insisted to drive me. In the end we agreed on a €20 fare for him to take me to Gjilan city in Kosovo. Rajab didn’t know even one of English and with body language asked me many times if my papers are in order!
Upon arriving at the Serbia/Kosovo border the process of checking my passport and visa took longer than usual on both sides and even Kosovo police asked me to step out of the car and answer a few questions. Questions like why are you travelling to Kosovo, how many days are you planning to stay and how much money do you have. These questions were completely normal for and I’m used to them but Rajab was so scared and his face was already pale and was already regretting to had accepted to drive through the border. 😂😂😂
We passed the border after 15 minutes and until Gjilan in less than an hour Rajab finished one pack of cigarettes.
Scenery outside of Gjilan was very beautiful and green, like Gjilan in my country, Iran. It was 5pm that I arrived in Gjilan. I paid Rajab €20 as we had agreed and after having kebab got on a bus that took 2 hours to take me to Pristina. My journey from Bujanovac to Pristina was finished after 6 hours one that should have taken only 2 hours.
Later I learned that if I had gone straight from Skopje to Pristina, I definitely would have been denied entry to Serbia from Kosovo. They even check your passport in bus terminal and if you entered Kosovo from a country other than Serbia, they won’t sell you the bus ticket to Belgrade. So if someone enters Kosovo from Macedonia and wants to travel to Serbia after that, he/she has to go to a third country first, like Macedonia, and enter Serbia from there.
Serbian police on the Serbia/Kosovo border don’t even stamp your passport as they don’t recognize that border as an official border.
ODA Hostel is located in the center of Pristina and feels like a house. To enter you have to take out your shoes and there is a carpet in its lobby. A bed in a 6 bed room cost me €10.
Guests tonight are from all over the world: Spain, France, Albania, Chile, New Zealand and United States.
You can see this flag, which is Albania’s, all over Kosovo. Majority of people in Kosovo are from Albania.
The problem with ODA hostel was its internet which kept disconnecting all the time. 😑
At night I walked around Pristina for a couple of hours. Except a walking street there isn’t much else. If you have a limited time and a tight schedule for your travels, I suggest don’t spend any time for Pristina.
Next morning I visited the city park and an old cemetery which was on a hill. I could have a good view of city from cemetery.
Gracanica city is 30 minutes away from Pristina. The famous Gracanica Monastery which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List is located there.
There is no bus from city center to Gracanica on Sunday. I had to go to bus terminal, get on a bus to Gjilan and take off after 30 minutes. It was too much trouble and it would have taken all my day so I decided not to visit Gracanica Monastery and instead got on a bus to my next destination in Kosovo, Prizren.
If you ever got a chance to visit the monastery please share your experience with me and site visitors. 🌺
Iranians need a visa to visit Kosovo. However, if you have a Schengen visa which is multiple entry and have used to at least once before, you can visit Kosovo without any other visas. I used my Schengen visa to enter Kosovo.
Prizren, unlike Pristina, is very beautiful.
A river which flows through the city with lovely bridges over it, beautiful mosques and lush mountains that surround the city. It is somehow like the cities in northern Iran.
It was Sunday and there were a lot of tourists from neighboring countries like Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.
Like many other cities in Balkans, city castle located on a hill is the best place to get a great view of city. With 20 minutes of walking from city center you can get to the castle and you don’t need a ticket to enter.
Kosovo is an interesting country. Almost all of its people are Albanian and their language is also Albanian. Most Serbs moved out after the 1998 war but there are still some in northern parts and around big churches.
A big majority of people in Kosovo are Muslim which is because of Ottomans 500 year presence there. Of course they have their own Islam. Women don’t wear hijab, they don’t do the mandatory pray for Muslims except on Fridays and they don’t fast in Ramadan. They also drink alcohol except in Ramadan during which even bars don’t serve alcohol.
I noticed that when Azan is being played by the mosques everyone puts down their beer bottles and resumed drinking once Azan was finished. Eating Halal food is also very important to Kosovar.
Here in Kosovo people like Bill Clinton for his role in ending the war with Serbs. They named a boulevard after him in Pristina. There is also a statue of him there.
And naturally Kosovars are not fund of Russia because they are on the Serbs side.
Many countries still don’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and Iran is one of them. Wherever I said I’m Iranian I was replied with smiles, not like Bosnia and Herzegovina though.
People here don’t like Europe and believe because they are Muslim, Europe has left them alone.
With a passport from Kosovo one needs visa for almost all countries. There are even some countries that won’t allow Kosovars to visit their country, they don’t recognize a passport issued in Kosovo.
Currency in Kosovo is euro and it is kind of a cheap place for a visitor. Its nature is mostly mountainous and very beautiful.
This morning I came to Peja in western Kosovo. This city is called Peć in Serbian.
The bus took 2 hours from Prizren to Peja and cost €4. As I understood bus fares in Kosovo are calculated hourly. €2 per hour.
In Kosovo there is no need to buy a bus ticket, you just get on a bus and later someone will collect the fares. Peja is definitely more beautiful than Pristina but cannot compete with Prizren.
Main reason I decided to come to Peja is visiting two very especial monasteries which both are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The 700 year-old Patriarchate Monastery is only 2 kilometers from Peja city center. Seeing monastery’s garden and nuns while gardening was interesting.
Next was Visoki Decani Monastery. I got on a bus to Decani city 20 kilometers south of Peja. From there I walked for 2 kilometers till I arrived at Visoki Decani Monastery.
This monastery is also 700 years old and is for monks.
You need to have your passport with you to be able to visit both monasteries and must enter before 5:30pm.
Taking pictures from monasteries is forbidden and is enforced seriously. I was able to take a few pictures without them noticing. Visoki Decani Monastery has a guide who will answer your questions very patiently.
Nuns and monks live in monastery all their lives and pray. They are not allowed to get married.
Inside Visoki Decani church there is a coffin belonging to the monastery’s maker whom the guide said his body is still intact after 700 years!
If you ever decide to become a monk first you need to have 4-5 years of training then other monks will decide if you have what it takes to become a monk or not. 🙂
You won’t need more than 2 hours to visit Peja and its old city center. Its old market is mostly jewelry and clothing shops.
My stay in Peja was one night. There was no bus from Peja to Serbia, early in the morning I drove a bus from Peja to Pristina and bought the 11am ticket to Belgrade for €16. There was only one other bus to Belgrade that day at 10pm. I really hope after going through all this trouble to enter Kosovo from Serbia, I won’t have any problems entering Serbia again.
My whole stay in Kosovo was 3 days in Pristina, Prizren and Peja.
All my costs staying in Kosovo became €75 plus €26 for going from Macedonia to Serbia then Kosovo and €16 bus ticket from Pristina to Belgrade capital of Serbia.
Travel date: Spring 2017
Ahmad Khani Iranian backpacker and travel lover