Crossing Borders in the Balkans: How to Get Around Safely

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With the nightmare of inter-ethnic war behind it, the Balkans are no longer the forbidding place they once were. Most countries get along, and travel between them is largely hassle-free.

Bajina Bašta is a town located in the western mountains of Serbia at the border between Serbia and Bosnia Photo © Getty Images/Sebastian Condrea

There are still some hot points that while not dangerous, can present unpleasant surprises to unprepared travelers in the Balkans.

Crossing from Serbia to Kosovo

When traveling through the Balkans, there is really only one holy rule to follow: if you want to visit Serbia and Kosovo, start with Serbia.

Serbia hasn't recognized Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence. It still sees Kosovo as one of its provinces. Therefore, it doesn't recognize a Kosovo visa.

Crossing from Kosovo to Serbia

If you are traveling from Kosovo to Serbia, you must get a Serbian visa beforehand. If you try to cross the checkpoint with only a Kosovo visa, you'll be deemed to have entered the country illegally.

If you want go into Kosovo and back to Serbia, be aware that your Serbian visa (or entry stamp, usually valid for 90 days) will still be counting on your trip to Kosovo. If you stay past the deadline, you could be charged with overstaying your visa.

But many travelers have reported crossing with minimal hassle. Serbian guards, they say, might simply cross out the Kosovo visa and stick a Serbian one on top.

Others have simply been turned away. Save yourself the risk. If you must go from Kosovo to Serbia, go through Macedonia.

Crossing from Albania to Kosovo

All other borders are open, with new roads being built regularly between formerly belligerent nations. For instance, there's a nice new highway between Albania and Kosovo, replacing a harrowing, 10-hour mountain ride.

Crossing from Kosovo to Macedonia

The border crossing between Rastelica in Kosovo and Strezimir in Macedonia is officially for locals only. It's only open from May through September due to weather.

Crossing from Croatia to Montenegro

Summer traffic between both nations can be hectic, and you might have to wait hours to cross. Consider going through Bosnia-Herzegovina instead. There's a catch: you might have to pay 20 Euro for a Green Card for Bosnia.

Crossing from Albania to Macedonia

Most border crossings are only open until 10pm.

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