Transportation within Kosovo

I thought it would be helpful to give a summary of how to get in/out and around Kosovo for future travelers and potential Peace Corps Volunteers.

Prishtina International Airport (PRN)

This airport is located outside of Kosovo’s capital, Prishtina. It is small.

Flight prices tend to be the highest in July and August, because that is when the Kosovar Diaspora (those living abroad) return to Kosovo for about a month to see their families. In the winter prices are the cheapest, but this is not the best time weather-wise to visit Kosovo.

As an example, my round-trip flight from Chicago to Prishtina in late September was $580 and in March it was $530. I’ve seen prices as low as $450 in the winter. July and August prices triple, costing about $1,500 from Chicago.

My favorite months in Kosovo are September-October and April-June. These months have mild weather and people are out and about without things being overly crowded.

Getting to the city center is simple, but expensive compared to most transportation costs in Kosovo. A taxi ride from the airport to anywhere in Prishtina should cost 15€, but the taxi drivers frequently try to charge up to 30€. If you hold your ground and insist on paying 15€, they will eventually relent. Tipping is not necessary, but a tip of 2-4 Euros is definitely appreciated, especially if you have bags. The trip takes approximately 20 minutes.

Most taxi drivers do not speak English, so make sure you have the address of where you are going to give to them.

Apparently there is a bus to/from the airport, but I’ve never used it. It only goes to the airport at 10:30 AM and 2:35 PM, so those times never lined up for me.

Buses

14523125_318042468555432_8824404030102293907_n (2)You can get almost everywhere in Kosovo by bus. The buses are also quite comfortable, except on hot summer days.

Buses are timely and pretty easy to figure out, even if you do not speak Albanian. The name of the destination and time of departure will be posted on a sign in the front window of the bus. This is the Prishtina bus station’s website: Stacioni i Autobuseve.

I also used this website to figure out bus times while living in Kosovo: Balkan Viator. It is pretty accurate for western cities in Kosovo, but less accurate for eastern cities. Many PCVs, especially those in the east, found this site the most reliable: Gjirafa.

Here is a map of the bus costs from Prishtina to most major cities:

Bus prices in Kosovo

How to Buy Tickets/Pay:

You do not need to purchase bus tickets in advance or make reservations. Simply hop on the bus, find a seat, and wait for the driver’s assistant to walk around and collect money. This typically happens ∼10 minutes into the drive.

When the driver’s assistant comes around, simply say the name of the city you are traveling to and hand him the money. If you are under 30 and say “student” when you pay, you will likely get a discount of 50 cents or a Euro. No need to show a student ID.

You must pay in cash. Smaller bills are preferred. If you try to pay with a bill larger than a 20, they will give you a glare and may not have change. The assistant will probably give you a receipt. This is your ticket, but there is no need to display it anywhere. Sometimes they will not even give you a ticket, because they can just remember who has paid.

In the summer months buses get PACKED, so be sure to hop the bus early enough to get a seat. After the seats are gone people will cram into the aisles and stand. Almost all of the buses do not have air-conditioning, so be warned that traveling by bus in the summer is miserable. It also gets quite stinky. If you must travel by bus in the summer, try to take the buses early in the morning or after dark.

If you are traveling outside of Kosovo, like to a city in Albania, you usually need to make reservations in advance. Most cities have small travel agencies near their bus station where you can buy tickets. A round-trip ticket to many cities along the beach in Albania only costs 8-10€.

Directions from the Bus Station to the City Center:

The Prishtina bus station is outside of the city center, so it can be difficult to find your way on foot the first time. There are plenty of taxis waiting at the bus station and a trip to the center should only cost about 3 or 4€. Me and Bill (2).jpg

Walking to the center takes 20-30 minutes and takes you past the beloved Bill Clinton statue, so I recommend saving your Euros for macchiatos and going on foot! There are no signs to direct you, but you can easily follow the people walking into the city.

Here are basic walking directions from the bus station into the city: Pass under the small bridge and go up the stairs leading toward the apartment buildings. Follow the curving road that passes between the apartment buildings. This will take you to the main road that leads into the city.

Be sure to wave at Bill as you pass!

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What do volunteers DO in the summer?

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in the education sector, my job during the school year is obviously teaching. But what about the summer?

The school year in Kosovo is similar to most schools in the US. All schools here start on September 1st and most end in mid-June, but the end of the school year depends on the student’s age. That leaves two and a half months where we are not teaching.

So do we have all summer off? Do we just sit around sipping Kosovo’s world-renowned macchiatos?

Of course it depends on the volunteer, but these are the main ways TEFL volunteers in Kosovo fill their time in June, July, and August:

TravelTravel periods

Education PCVs are limited with when they can take their vacation days, so many volunteers use the summer to visit the U.S. or to travel. We can only travel during school breaks, but that excludes the first summer of training and the last summer before we leave Kosovo. So the summer at our halfway point is the perfect time to use our annual leave and travel.

Some volunteers are using their vacation days in one giant chunk, backpacking Europe for a few weeks. I decided to split up my allotted leave into several trips, saving days for winter break and next spring break. So this summer I’ve got a few little trips planned, one each month:

  1. Berlin Solo Trip (June)
  2. Albania with my host family (July)
  3. Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro (August)

To learn about how vacation days work in the Peace Corps, check out this post.

Summer Camps

Several volunteers decided to plan a week-long summer camp at their site. Many of us signed up to help at these camps throughout Kosovo. The camps have been a major success and have had themes ranging from global citizenship to health/fitness to environmental awareness.

Earlier this month I helped out at a camp in a small village where another volunteer lives. The focus of the camp was being a global citizen and taking care of the environment. Even though the village is surrounded by beautiful mountains, most of the children had never been hiking before. The highlight of the camp was taking about 60 of the kids on a hike up into the mountains with a stunning view  of their village from above.

The summer camps are not only beneficial for the kids, but they provide a chance for us to see other volunteers’ communities around the country. In addition to summer camps, many PCVs are running English clubs or working on grant writing.

Helping with Pre-Service Training for the new volunteers

Several PCVs are also leading training sessions for the K3s (Kosovo’s third group of volunteers). Pre-Service Training begins in early June and lasts about 11 weeks, taking place in Eastern Kosovo around the town of Kamenice. (Check out my post about training to learn more.) So far all of the Kosovo PCVs have been in the Education sector, but we just had our first group of 10 Community Development volunteers arrive this summer. Kosovo map label

Because the Peace Corps Kosovo program is so new, training materials and sessions are still being developed, and current staff and volunteers are playing a significant role in this process. Over the next few years our PST schedule and curriculum will continue to evolve.

Sadly I live on the opposite side of Kosovo, so I have not had the chance to meet the new volunteers yet. But in August I will be leading a training session and can finally meet them!

I also found out that two new volunteers will be placed in or near Gjakova, so I’ll have a couple other Americans to share my site with!