Pristina, Kosovo Report of what it's like to live there - 04/29/14

Personal Experiences from Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina, Kosovo 04/29/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our third expat experience--we also have lived in Cairo, Egypt, and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is Washington, DC. The trip here can be made in two flights, from IAD to Vienna or Frankfurt or any one of a number of options--sometimes it's actually less expensive and a shorter overall duration to have two European layovers. The final leg is on a small plane. The total flight time is ten hours, give or take, not including layovers.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We moved here in spring 2013 and anticipate leaving in spring 2015.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

We are a U. S. Foreign Service family posted to Embassy Pristina.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is available "downtown"--it isn't really downtown, because the Embassy is on the outskirts of town, but this housing is almost all within easy walking distance from the Embassy. These are apartments or single family homes. Some are on the small side, but newer additions are quite large.

The other option for housing is in a planned, gated community outside of town. It's 15-30 minutes to drive to the Embassy, depending on traffic and road construction; 10-15 minutes to get to downtown shops and restaurants. Embassy housing in this community consists almost exclusively of townhouses. There is a playground, a basketball court, and a pool in the community. This community is a 5-minute drive from a popular supermarket; there also are a couple of nice restaurants within a few minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Your perception of whether or not there is a lot available will depend on where you're coming from. If you're coming straight from the U.S., you may be disappointed with the variety. If you're coming from a post in a developing country (as we were), this will feel just like the U.S. to you. Embassy employees can join the employee association and have access to an on-compound commissary that helps to fill in many gaps, and we can do bulk commissary orders as well. We have DPO shipping for embassy families, so Amazon is a good resource for filling in the gaps. Also, many things that are not available here are available in Skopje, Macedonia, less than 2 hours away with an easy border crossing.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are no American restaurants available here. However, local restaurant options are good and inexpensive.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available. The going rate is 5 Euro/hour.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't use them. Credit card fraud is rampant.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Chapel services on NATO bases for those who have access, Calvary Chapel, a local Evangelical church with English translation, a couple of Catholic or Orthodox churches with English translation, LDS.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I don't know any and I get along well.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I have not used the local trains or buses. From all reports, the buses are safe, inexpensive, and predictable, once you figure out how to use them, which reportedly can be difficult. Taxis need to be called rather than waved down on the street. They are safe and affordable--approximately 5 Euro from housing on the outskirts of the city to the Embassy, or 4 Euro to downtown.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There is no quarantine and as Kosovo is not part of the EU, it's pretty easy to bring pets in. However, some pet shipping companies will not ship them directly here because they do not have a relationship with anyone on the ground here; we were quoted a very high price to fly our two cats into a neighboring country and drive them here. We were able to bring them in as accompanied baggage instead. There are several vets available, with varying levels of ability. I have no experience with kennels.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

This is not a good post for those who require specialized medical care. Even for rather routine specializations, most people choose to travel to Skopje, Macedonia (less than 2 hours away), to receive care. Expats who develop more serious health problems while here routinely travel to Thessaloniki, Greece (I think 3 or 4 hours away), for treatment. Local options are available but not particularly recommended.

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2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is pretty good most of the time--but I live just outside the city, away from the worst of it. Those who live downtown say that air quality in the winter can be a problem, but it's nowhere near as bad as some other posts.

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3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

I enjoy the climate here, but that's because I enjoy winter and I've been without it at our two previous posts. If you don't like cold weather or snow, you won't enjoy the winters here. Summers are a bit warm but not horribly hot.

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Expat Life:

1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for singles and couples--for a long time, post was limited to families without children. Since post was opened to families with children, the embassy culture has changed so that it is VERY welcoming to children. There are several indoor play areas and outdoor parks in the city. Nannies are readily available. The only potential problem is the quality of educational options, but as my child is not yet school age, I have no experience with schools and will leave further comments to those who do have such experience.

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2. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

This is a great jumping off point for touring the Balkans. The people here are friendly and, for the most part, love America and Americans. It's a good place to save money (though that would be limited if you take full advantage of the opportunity to tour the Balkans!).

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3. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, absolutely.

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