If you’re wondering how to enter and leave Kosovo legally from Serbia or other countries, this article has the answers to your questions.
Since it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo has been the subject of much international dispute. Along with several other United Nations member states, Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, while over 100 different countries do. So, whether Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe or not even a country at all depends entirely on your perspective.
Either way, regardless of where you stand politically, the rules that determine how to enter Kosovo legally are the same for everyone. In this post, we’ll outline clearly how you can enter and leave Kosovo legally. We’ll also point out a couple of travel circumstances that might cause issues.
In short, however, entering Kosovo legally is not that complicated. Once you get a deeper understanding of the geography and border situation of Kosovo, Serbia, and the other surrounding Balkan countries, you’ll clearly see what your options are.
How To Enter And Leave Kosovo Legally From Serbia Or Other Countries
You essentially have two straightforward options to enter and leave Kosovo legally.
The first one is entering Kosovo and leaving Kosovo without crossing any other borders in the meantime. Option number two is entering Kosovo via Serbia and going back from Kosovo to Serbia via the Kosovo-Serbian border.
The most important thing to understand here is that Serbia does not recognize its border with Kosovo as any legitimate border. They regard Kosovo as a Serbian region. In their eyes, there is no Kosovo-Serbia border because they consider both regions to be one and the same country.
However, because the Serbian authorities do not manage the border between Kosovo and its neighboring countries, they won’t have a record of anyone entering Kosovo (and, in their eyes, Serbia) that way. This may cause problems if you want to travel from Kosovo to Serbia later on since you won’t have a Serbian entry stamp in your passport.
To avoid this immigration problem, you can choose between the following two options to enter and leave Kosovo legally.
Option 1: Enter Kosovo And Leave Kosovo Via Non-Serbian Borders
The best option for people who only want to visit Kosovo and not go to Serbia later on.
This is definitely your best option if you just want to visit Kosovo and not continue to Serbia. You can enter Kosovo without any problems via its border with Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia or via the airport in Pristina, the country’s capital.
When you do that, you’ll get a Kosovo entry stamp in your passport (so, not a Serbian one). Since, to Serbian authorities, there won’t be a record of your legally entering Serbia this way, you might have trouble crossing the Kosovo-Serbia border. Just driving in Kosovo and even (re)visiting neighboring countries (but not Serbia!) won’t be an issue whatsoever this way.
There’s an easy way to circumvent this potential problem, though. When you enter Kosovo via one of its neighboring countries, you can simply leave via one of those three borders, too. This way, you’ll have both an entry and exit stamp of Kosovo in your passport.
Steps To Enter And Leave Kosovo Legally Via A Non-Serbian Border
- Enter Kosovo legally via the Pristina Airport or a border with Montenegro, Albania, or North Macedonia. You’ll get a Kosovo entry stamp in your passport.
- Travel around Kosovo without visiting Serbia.
- Leave Kosovo legally via the Pristina Airport or a border with Montenegro, Albania, or North Macedonia. You’ll get a Kosovo exit stamp on your passport.
NOTE: Crossing the border from Kosovo into Serbia does seem to be less of a problem than it used to be nowadays. We recommend not risking it, though.
There’s still a real chance you’ll be turned away at the Kosovo-Serbia border without a Serbia entry stamp in your passport. If you’re traveling with a passport and have entered Kosovo first, we recommend leaving Kosovo via one of its three other borders and traveling to Serbia via a third country.
Additionally, it’s important to note that EU residents with an EU ID card won’t have any issues with any of Kosovo’s borders—both Serbian and international. This is simply because those ID cards are not stamped upon entry or exit. With an EU ID card, you can cross all Kosovo borders freely and unrestrictedly.
Option 2: Enter Kosovo From Serbia And Leave Via Serbian Border
The best option for travelers who want to visit both Serbia and Kosovo.
Your second option to enter and leave Kosovo legally is via Serbia, which considers Kosovo to be one of its regions. When you enter Serbia lawfully and get a Serbia entry stamp, you can freely travel back and forth to Kosovo across the (unofficial) Kosovo-Serbia border.
Once you’re in Serbia—via the airport in Belgrade or one of its many borders with Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, or Bosnia-Herzegovina—you can go to Kosovo and back as often as you’d like. (You won’t get a Serbia exit stamp when you travel from Serbia to Kosovo.)
In case you’d like to revisit Serbia later on, we recommend leaving Serbia via one of its official border checkpoints. This can either be the Belgrade Airport or a border crossing with one of those numerous neighboring countries.
The reason for this is that when you leave from Kosovo (and not Serbia), you’ll have a Kosovo passport stamp that shows your exit (and not a Serbian one). This way, there’s no record of your leaving Serbia, which could make it seem like you overstayed your visit in Serbia.
This second option is arguably your best one since there will not be any record of your ever having entered Kosovo at all in your passport. You won’t have Kosovo passport stamps, which may avoid potential problems if you’d like to revisit Serbia at some point in the future.
Steps To Enter And Leave Kosovo Legally Via Serbia
- Enter Serbia legally via the Belgrade Airport or from one of its neighboring countries. You’ll get a Serbia entry stamp in your passport.
- Enter Kosovo via the (unofficial) Kosovo-Serbia border
- Exit Kosovo via the same (unofficial) Kosovo-Serbia border
- Leave Serbia legally via the Belgrade Airport or a border crossing with one of the neighboring countries. You’ll get a Serbia exit stamp in your passport.
NOTE: Again, EU residents with an EU ID card can cross all Serbian and Kosovar borders freely and won’t experience any trouble on the way because they won’t have any immigration stamps. So, entering Kosovo from Serbia and all other cross-border movements should not pose a problem for EU residents.
Entering And Leaving Kosovo: The Bottom Line
Simply put, most international travelers will always be able to enter Kosovo legally. Whether it’s via an international border with Montenegro, Albania, or North Macedonia, or via the Kosovo-Serbia border, getting into Kosovo is not an issue.
It’s leaving Kosovo that could cause a problem, but only in one case. If you’d like to travel from Kosovo to Serbia after entering Kosovo first, you might be turned away because you’ll have a Kosovo entry stamp and not a Serbian one.
You can avoid this issue by leaving Kosovo the same way you entered, either via an international border or via Serbia. So, to summarize, you have two options:
- Enter Kosovo and exit Kosovo legally via Pristina Airport or a border with Montenegro, Albania, or North Macedonia without visiting Serbia.
- Enter Kosovo and exit Kosovo via the Kosovo-Serbia border in Serbia (and arrive and leave Serbia via the Belgrade Airport or a border with one of its neighboring countries).