Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Pristina does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED PRISTINA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Kosovo-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
The lack of economic opportunity is a factor in crime rates in Kosovo. Crimes of opportunity are the most prevalent. Street crimes (theft, purse snatchings) are serious problems, especially in Pristina.
The expatriate community can be a target of crime, as criminals assume that they are affluent. Expatriate community members’ homes, businesses, and vehicles are, on occasion, targeted for burglaries.
- In December 2016, two vehicles owned by official Americans were burglarized. Entry to the vehicles was gained by breaking a window. In addition to valuables being stolen, paperwork for at least one diplomatic registration was stolen.
- In the winter of 2015, several expatriates were victims of robberies in Pristina. The robberies were conducted with sharp-edged weapons and resulted in minor injuries to the victims.
Criminals often commit crimes with firearms, as weapons are fairly easy to obtain in Kosovo. While violent crimes can and do occur, reporting on Americans as victims of violent crime is limited.
Robberies often occur during late night and early morning hours. Some reports have included an assailant utilizing a weapon in an attempt to gain small amounts of cash. Victims appear to have been targeted because they were walking alone, in the dark, and/or were under the influence of alcohol.
Trafficking of persons remains a problem despite government steps to address the issue.
ATM fraud is present in Kosovo. ATM skimmers have been found on keypads and utilized by criminals. It is suggested that freestanding ATMs be avoided, and consumers always check ATMs for irregularities before use.
Other Areas of Concern
Due to ethnic tensions and the potential for political violence, care should be exercised if visiting the northern municipalities of Zvecan, Leposavic, Zubin Potok, and North Mitrovica.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Roads in larger metropolitan areas are typically in fairly good condition, but many are under a continual state of construction or repair. Be particularly careful at night, as lighting along roadways is limited. Roads often lack proper reflective markings and safety measures (lane markers, guardrails). A modern highway is under construction by international contractors.
Driving is far more difficult than driving in the U.S. for many reasons: unfamiliar traffic patterns, largely unobserved traffic laws, stray livestock, horse-drawn carts, infrastructure problems, ongoing road construction projects, and even the occasional homemade vehicle. Defensive driving is a must. If involved in a collision, local police require you to leave your vehicle in place until they arrive. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Ice and snow on the roadways can cause delays and dangerous conditions. Authorities take measures to clear the main roads, but large volumes of snow can delay clearance. Attempt to limit your driving to daylight hours when you can see and be seen better.
Public Transportation Conditions
Taxis are generally inexpensive, safe, and reliable. It is recommended to use established taxi companies instead of a personally-owned vehicle converted to a taxi. Make sure the taxi has a meter and that the driver activates it upon departure. Many meters are located in the rear view mirror and not as a separate electronic device in the car. If there is a question about the status of the meter, ask the driver.
Rail transportation is very limited, unreliable, and safety equipment is often lacking or is outdated.
Buses are often overcrowded and in questionable working condition.
The airport has undergone a major infrastructure upgrade, including a new terminal facility and a new air traffic control tower. The runway remains short, and this can cause visibility issues when combined with fog. Flights can experience significant delays/cancellations due to weather conditions, especially in the winter.
Other Travel Conditions
Pristina has many pedestrians, and the city is walkable. Pedestrians should use caution, as many sidewalks are in a state of disrepair, and drivers often do not respect pedestrians’ right-of-way.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED PRISTINA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
The international/transnational terrorism threat is similar to that faced by most Europe. Kosovo lacks a strong visa program and has generally porous borders. Kosovo has seen a rise in Islamic extremism in recent years. A number of citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for terrorist organizations. Since the summer of 2014, police have arrested over 125 individuals on suspicion of participating in or supporting the fighting in Syria and Iraq.
- In the fall of 2016, police arrested 18 individuals in Kosovo on suspicion of participating in or supporting an ISIL-planned attack in Albania.
- In early December 2015, a police investigation conducted with Italian authorities resulted in the arrest of four individuals suspected of running an Islamic State cell in Kosovo.
Americans are generally well-received, particularly in Kosovo-Albanian communities, but there is a small population that can be considered anti-American/anti-Western. Some ethnic Kosovo Serbs remain suspicious of the U.S. due to the NATO bombing of Serbia during the war. Returning foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria have been known to perpetuate anti-American sentiment in Kosovo.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED PRISTINA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Political tensions can run high among the local government and its constituents. Political parties have tried to sway votes in Parliament by utilizing violent methods, the most common being deploying tear gas during assembly sessions. These sessions are commonly accompanied by protests attended by civilians outside Parliament.
- In August 2016, the Kosovo Assembly building was attacked with a shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled grenade, causing property damage to the building.
- In the same month, hand grenades were thrown at a television station and the home of the director of the station.
These attacks were found to be politically-motivated and were claimed by members of political opposition parties.
Kosovo has experienced minor civil unrest in the form of violent political demonstrations due to high unemployment and dissatisfaction with government actions. Protests occur in Pristina regularly, often in the downtown area near government and international organization buildings. Protests can be attended by anywhere from 50 to upward of 1,000 people. The frequency of protests increases during times of political tension. In other areas of Kosovo, protests are more likely in ethnically-divided areas or areas of ethnic tension.
In 2016, violent protests occurred in the downtown area of Pristina that resulted in arrests of protestors and injuries to both officers and protestors, and damage to public property. Protestors often throw Molotov cocktails, bottles filled with paint, and rocks toward property and police. Several of the protests in the last half of 2016 were against the government’s demarcation agreement with Montenegro and the Association of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo.
Vetëvendosje, an ethnic Albanian nationalist political movement, and other opposition parties frequently organize protests against the government and international (including U.S.) organizations in Kosovo. These protests have sometimes involved physical intimidation and violence.
In Mitrovica, tensions remain high between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, in part due to barricades, both physical and political, restricting freedom of movement.
In other areas of the country, Serbs are met with protests and violence, especially during religious holidays and pilgrimages.
Kosovo is susceptible to earthquakes. There are three principle seismic zones: Prizren-Peje, Ferizaj–Viti–Gjilan, and Kopaonik.
- In July 2016, an earthquake in Skopje, Macedonia, was reportedly felt as far north as Mitrovica.
- The USGS reported two earthquakes in Kosovo in 2015, both under 4.5 magnitude.
The Pristina municipality estimates that 70% of new private construction (primarily single-family homes, new apartment blocks) built since 1999 does not comply with established construction standards, and a major earthquake could devastate these buildings.
Cell phone service can be limited outside Pristina.
Kosovo experiences frequent electrical failures. Power generation facilities are in need of upgrades/replacement. The Kosovo Electricity Corporation (KEK) is a public utility and the sole public supplier of electricity. Its coal-fired power plants (KEK A and KEK B) are located near Pristina. These generating units are nearing or past their planned operating life. The Kosovo A power plant generates 2.5 tons of dust hourly from burning lignite.
Hotels, hostels and house-sharing opportunities are abundant in Kosovo. Motel-like “villas” are found outside Pristina and often rent for an hourly rate. Travelers should use caution when sharing a home or apartment with unknown persons.
Perceived and actual corruption is widespread in Kosovo. Senior-level public officials have been accused of bribery, racketeering, and other forms of corruption. Corruption is widespread and reflects a “cost-of-doing business” mentality prevalent in many parts of the region. Anti-corruption efforts suffer from a lack of cohesion, forceful action, and follow-through measures, including prosecution.
Despite having EU-compliant legislation on IPR protection, there is a general shortage of awareness. Legal professionals often lack the expertise to deal with IPR cases. This situation is an impediment to franchise growth in the Kosovo market.
Counterfeit currency (euro) is an increasing trend in Pristina, and shopkeepers are reporting occurrences to local police.
Kosovo has developed an EU-compliant legal framework to protect the integrity of personal information for citizens and residents. Implementation of these safeguards remains uneven. American investors should be aware that the business environment depends heavily on family and regional connections. Personal or proprietary information may be available to a broader audience.
Personal Identity Concerns
Kosovo has a majority Muslim population, and embraces those traditions and conservative life. The younger generation of Kosovo Albanians tends to be accepting of non-traditional Muslim lifestyles; however, communities outside Pristina tend to be less so. Non-acceptance of different lifestyles, races, or disabilities have not resulted in crime or assaults against individuals.
Kosovo police are the law enforcement entity. Their uniforms are light and dark blue (supervisors wear white shirts); their vehicles are white or navy blue. While many Kosovo Albanians speak some English, a working knowledge of Albanian or a translator will be necessary when contacting host-country emergency services.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens detained by the police should immediately contact U.S. Embassy Pristina’s Consular Section, for American Citizen Services, during normal business hours, and the Embassy duty officer when the Embassy is closed. In addition, any incidents of police corruption, bribery, or harassment should be reported to U.S. Embassy Pristina. In Kosovo dial 038-5959-3001. If you are calling from the U.S., please dial 011-381-38-5959-3001.
Crime Victim Assistance
Kosovo police’s emergency number is 192. If you or other Americans become victims of crime, you should contact the police and then U.S. Embassy Pristina's American Citizen Services unit.
Kosovo Police work closely with EULEX’s (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) international police contingent. In the event of a security incident that the police could not manage, EULEX would serve as the second responder, while the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) would be the third responder. As part of their routine duties, KFOR soldiers conduct border patrols and provide other security services (explosive ordnance disposal tasks) that cannot be handled by local authorities.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
The following medical facilities offer 24-hour emergency medical treatment:
- American Hospital: 038 221 661; 044 503 255 for all emergencies, including ambulance service, cardiac and vascular emergencies.
- University Clinical Center: Tel: 038 500 600 ext 2341 or 3572
- International Istanbul Medicine Hospital: For cardiac or vascular disease only. Tel. +381m-500-601. This hospital is second emergency choice for cardiac and vascular diseases.
Available Air Ambulance Services
These companies are generally accessed by an ongoing contract with a business or individual but may also assist a non-member.
It is recommended to procure health/medical insurance that is recognized in Kosovo and which covers routine and emergency care as well as medical evacuation for the duration of your stay.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Air quality during the winter is notably poor, mostly due to coal burning in homes and businesses in/around Pristina. There is often visible smoke and smog, which translates to respiratory issues for residents. According to a European Commission report, “air pollution in Kosovo causes 835 premature deaths, 310 new cases of chronic bronchitis, 600 hospital admissions, and 11,600 emergency visits each year.” The European Union has described the KEK plant as the worst single source of pollution in Kosovo.
The U.S. Embassy Pristina does not consider tap water to be potable. It is recommended to drink distilled or bottled water. It is recommended to follow food safety precautions to prevent food-borne illnesses. Foods should be cooked long enough and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illnesses. Fruits and vegetables should be washed, peeled, or boiled. The CDC recommends avoiding all unpasteurized dairy products.
The CDC recommends that all travelers be up-to-date on all “routine vaccines.” The CDC also recommends vaccines for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies for individuals with high occupational risks and for individuals who are likely to be exposed to rabies-infected wildlife. The CDC notes that tick-borne encephalitis is prevalent in forested areas of Europe, and there have been documented cases of avian bird flu (H5N1) in several countries in Eastern Europe. The annual incidence rate of tuberculosis is high in some countries in the region. West Nile Virus was detected in Kosovo and neighboring countries in 2012. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Kosovo.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is currently no active Country Council in Kosovo. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Pristina or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Pristina
30 Nazim Hikmet Street (Dragodan area), Pristina, Kosovo
Operating Hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1700
Embassy Contact Numbers
Operator: (381) 38-5959-3000
Facsimile: (381) 38-548-614 or (381) 38-549-890
Consular/American Citizen Services
Email address: PristinaACS@state.gov
Duty Officer Tel: +381 38 5959-3000 & ask for the Duty Officer
Regional Security Office: +381 38 5959-3114 & ask for the Duty RSO
Marine Post One: +381 38 5959-3114
The State Department encourages Americans traveling or living abroad to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that allows U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Enrolling in STEP will help the U.S. Embassy to contact you and provide assistance to you in an emergency. The information you provide in STEP will make it easier for consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to contact you and your loved ones during an emergency — including situations where your family or friends in the U.S. are having difficulty contacting you with important news.
Kosovo Country Information Sheet