Pristina, Kosovo Report of what it's like to live there - 11/19/16
Personal Experiences from Pristina, Kosovo
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I have lived in Prague, Islamabad, Lagos, Damascus and Ljubljana.
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?
Austria. Flight connection is very good, Austrian Airlines operates daily flights. Bus connections take about 12 hours and are inexpensive. It's also possible to go home by own car; time depends on traffic and on waiting time at the borders, around 10 hours. If you go by road, better have an ID-Card, additionally to your passport; otherwise on the Serbian border, they will send you back, and you have to travel to Serbia via Macedonia, which will cost you additional time.
3. How long have you lived here?
More than one year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We live in Dragodan/Arberia, in a three-bedroom flat with a terrace with a stunning view over Pristina, 4 floors, no elevator. It is close to my workplace, only 5 minutes walking time to the office. There are houses and flats available at any size and budget. Bigger families may find houses in a gated area like International Village to be more convenient.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most things are available, though you may not find the brand you are used to. Prices vary. Local products, seasonal fruits and vegetables are about 1/3 to 1/2 price of Western Europe. Meat (except chicken) is more expensive. Imported goods are more expensive. Whipping cream (made from milk, without sugar) is not available. Pork is available from butchers in Serbian communities (e.g. Gracanica). You will not find a choice of cheeses like white cheese, Kashkaval, Gouda, Emmental cheese, Parmesan; Mozzarella and blue cheese are more difficult to find. Soft cheeses, like Camembert, Brie,... are hard to find and only occasionally available. Balsamic vinegar is very sour; better bring your own. There is a limited range of spices.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Balsamic vinegar; durable cream for whipping, spices, specially Asian spices, coconut milk, freezing bags.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Many. I especially like Liburnia restaurant, Gresa, Pinoccio, Detari (fish and sea food). But in more than one year, I never ate anything really bad.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We are lucky to have Austrian KFOR soldiers here, and allowed to send and receive mail and parcels via them.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available; many speak English or German. I pay 6 Euro per hour for an excellent cleaner, and 300 Euro monthly for a nanny who works 5 days a week, 3-4 hours a day. I heard that there are cheaper options; but I am satisfied.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is Five Star Fitness that has a few branches in Prishtina. Other gyms are also available. I paid 130 Euro for a one-year membership.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
I hardly use them. ATMs are common, but there is often a hefty fee for withdrawing money.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You don't need it actually. Many people speak English or German. Classes and tutors are available.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses are cheap. Trains are rarely available. Taxis are inexpensive as well. They should have a taxi meter and switch it on. A ride within Pristina should not cost you more than 2 or 3 Euros during the day. At night, it's a bit more expensive.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
A small SUV is ideal, as streets are not so good and can be narrow and parking places are limited. Other cars will also work, but you have to be more careful.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Though sometimes it is slow. It took me a few days to install.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Kosovo still does not have an own country code and uses either numbers from Monaco or Slovenia.
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?
Yes, good vets are available.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Most stay at home. It may be possible to find a job at an international organization or as a teacher, but opportunities are limited.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Same as in Western Europe.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are no specific concerns, but it is good to keep eyes and ears open and not walk into demonstrations. Otherwise, same as in Western Europe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Very bad air, due to the Obilic power plant, and to heating in winter. Medical care is not up to Western standards. Get a good insurance which will cover medical evacuation in case of emergency. If in doubt, go to Western Europe for medical treatment.
3. 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?
Very bad, especially in winter. Many people have problems.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Winter can be long, lasting from October to May. Sometimes it is very foggy, and air quality is very bad. Try to leave Pristina as often as you can in the winter.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Can be very cold in winter, with snow. Isolation of houses is a problem. Spring and autumn can be very wet, but also nice and sunny. Summers are generally hot and dry.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
ILG is very good, but recently only from Kindergarden to 5 grade. Best experience. Small classes, very motivated teachers. We are satisfied. There is also QSI (they just started), and for older children, and Pristina High School (from Middle school). I was told that it is good, but I have no personal experience.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
International schools have kindergarten. ILG provides after-school care to 5 p.m. and various after-school activities.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Soccer, swimming, Karate, activities at school, music school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Moderate, decreasing. Morale varies a lot.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Going out to restaurants and bars.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For all, I would guess. But keep in mind health concerns and bad air quality.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is friction with the Serbian community. There might be some kind of gender equality in Pristina, but anywhere outside the city, there's not.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travelling a lot, within Kosovo, and to neighboring countries.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hiking. Going to neighboring countries. Having coffee or a beer in one of the many restaurants and bars in the city.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not so many. The filigree silver work is nice.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Nice people, good food, short distance to nice places abroad, inexpensive.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Good question. Probably about the really bad air and the inequality between men and women anywhere outside Pristina.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Generally yes. Kosovo it is much better than its reputation.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Prejudices. Western manner. Western driving rules and driving expectations.
4. But don't forget your:
Raincoat, rain boots, warm clothes and good shoes for winter, hiking boots, swim suit, humor, patience.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Kosovo by Bradt.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Sometimes, there a power and water cuts. Sometimes for hours. And houses are poorly insulated which means you have lots of costs for heating but when it's really cold outside, you will feel it on the inside. Street asphalt or cobble stone is very slippery when rainy or snowy. They don't clean the snow like you are used to Western Europe. Better leave your car home and walk (if you have good shoes). Pollution is a big concern.