NOTE: To read the first part of this article, please click here
Mobile phone, SIM cards, internet services
Most European mobile phone providers will not cover Kosovo in their data / voice roaming packages (yet). So very likely you will be outside your plan the moment you step foot in the country. You might want to consider getting a local SIM card if you don’t want to get crucified by your home telecom provider. In fact, I would make sure I have “Data Roaming” off before entering the country. I forgot about that and I innocently checked my email with roaming on thinking it wouldn’t be a biggie…well..those 3 emails (2 were spam) cost me 23 euros (5 euro per MB). So yeah, please keep this in mind.
If you are going to get a local SIM card, I’m sure there will be plenty of options, but I just walked into the Ipko store. You can find them upon arrival at Pristina International Airport, or once you get to the city. You can’t miss the big red dot logo.
Smoking in Kosovo
In difference to most of western Europe, the question in Kosovo when you enter a bar, cafe, or restaurant is not “May I smoke here?”, but more “Is there a smoke free zone?” Seemingly you can light up just about anywhere.
Getting around Pristina, pedestrian tips
Pristina is a very easy city to get around by foot. No need to hire taxis, jump into buses, the main interest points around the city are all walking distance. One word of caution though…even though local drivers are not per se speed devils, they are very messy drivers. Streets and sidewalks are quite narrow throughout the city, and drivers do see sidewalks as “fair game” when it comes to usage. So expect them to park on the sidewalk and occasionally just drive on them.
Pristina center and downtown area
Perhaps the best place to start your discovery trip of Kosovo’s capital is the famous “Newborn” monument, commemorating the birth of Kosovo as an independent country. From the “Newborn” square most points of interest can be found within a radius of 15 – 20 minutes. Pretty much every spot mentioned/photographed in this article is within that radius.
A short walk away, you can find the Fadil Vokrri Football Stadium which hosts regular FC Pristina games during the weekends and is also home to Kosovo’s national football team.
If you are in for some “playing with fire”, there is a shooting range right next to the stadium where you can practice your marksman skills.
You might also want to check out the Bill Clinton statue conveniently located on the -surprise surprise- Bill Clinton Boulevard. There is also a statue of Madeleine Albright in the Nena Terese Boulevard if you want to complete your tour of revered western diplomat’s sculptures.
The central mosque in Pristina is certainly worth a visit. Be sure to keep in mind, this is not a tourist destination per se, as this is an active mosque visited by thousands of worshipers every day.
As you walk through the streets of Pristina, keep an eye open for the many statues and sculptures throughout the city, as well as the very elaborate and colorful street art.
Pristina is indeed very young, but don’t let that fool you, this is a fast growing city in the direction of a proper urban metropolis. Keep an eye open for the many modern buildings dotted throughout the city center and the many more under construction.
Is Pristina a safe city to walk around in as a tourist?
Using my experience, and all the stories I heard from travelers going down this path, I don’t have any major negative comments about the safety situation. I walked ‘till pretty late at night quite a few times around the center of town and have not felt an inkling of concern. As with any new city, keep your eyes open, and stay sharp -even in the safest of towns you cannot predict the actions of individuals- but I didn’t feel anything in particular that would raise a red flag.
Do people speak English in Pristina?
I have to say, this is one of the points that I found the most surprising. The level of English in Kosovo’s capital is almost on par with northern Europe. Most of the younger generation speak it quite well, but I was amazed by how the older crowd manages with the Anglo speak. Of course you will find people that don’t speak it, but the reaction that follows is simply wonderful; when they can’t speak English, instead of giving you the f*ck off look you would get in Paris or Milan, you can see them twisting their necks side to side in an effort to hook you up with someone that does. Pristina is a city that wants to talk to you, and that little bit, made me fall in love with Kosovo just a little bit more.
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