Whether you’ve got the Balkan bug or you just want to plan a weekend partying all night on Belgrade’s splavs, one of the city’s unique diversions, especially for those of us living in this city without a river, you might have questions about how to travel from Kosovo to Serbia. Here in the Balkans many of us expats love the region’s idiosyncrasies, but there is just one that is infinitely frustrating and — dare I say — downright detestable.
As an expat who’s been working in the Balkans for more than seven years now, I’ve fielded my share of questions about bus schedules (which are more often than not still not published on the internet), phone plans and, most confounding of all, the logistics of traveling from Kosovo to and through Serbia, which for many still remains an odyssey. I’ve always wanted to find a link to send these curious, mobile folk and as the old adage goes, if you want a thing done well, do it yourself. So here goes.
If you’re from Kosovo, you have no problem getting to Serbia. Most of the countries of Europe may be closed to you if you don’t have a visa, but neighboring Serbia beckons! A 2011 deal on free movement between Belgrade and Prishtina means all you need is your ID card. You will receive a temporary paper visa that you MUST have when you leave Serbia and return to Kosovo. If you’re traveling with Kosovo number plates, you can buy a temporary license plate at the border and your insurance is now recognized by Serbia, which will save you at least one hundred euros.
You can stop reading here if you are from one of the other former Yugoslav countries (you probably have anyway) besides Bosnia, since Kosovo has applied a visa regime due to non-recognition, which likely includes the precise crossing where you can enter and exit Kosovo. If you’re from a European country that issues national identity cards to its citizens, then you can cross at any border between Kosovo and Serbia by using only your ID card!
But if you’re like me and other nationals of countries that don’t make national IDs, a group of people who are used to their passports opening a lot of doors, or, erm, borders for them,* you can only enter Serbia from Kosovo if you originally entered Kosovo from Serbia and don’t have proof that you went elsewhere. You need to have a Serbian entry stamp that was issued less than three months before your attempted (re)entry.
There are several borders you can use – the most direct trip to Belgrade, for instance, is Merdare, near Podujevo. You can also cross north of Leposavic at Jarinje and west of Mitrovica at Brnjak. To the east, you can cross at Konculj (Dheu e Bardhe or Bela Zemlja), which goes towards Bujanovac and at – my personal favorite name – Mucibaba, which goes towards Presevo. There is a tiny border north of Prapashtica called Mutivoda, which goes in the direction of Medvedja.