Ultimate Balkans Travel Guide by Country

Not long ago, the Balkan countries were considered quite off-the-beaten path destinations. That is not so true anymore. From Croatia to Bulgaria, and everything in between, the region is becoming more and more popular.

The area is still ripe for discovery, though, as even the busiest cities, beaches, and national parks won’t be nearly as crowded as other parts of Europe. Especially if you go during shoulder or off-season.

I’ve put together a short round-up of each country in this travel guide to help you figure out the best way to travel the Balkans.

This post contains affiliate links.

Quick Balkans Geography Lesson

Technically, the Balkan Peninsula stretches from Slovenia (east of Italy), south down the coast of the Adriatic Sea to Greece, east to European Turkey, then north to Romania with Serbia in the center.

For this piece, we’ll focus on the following countries in the Western Balkans:

  • Slovenia
  • Croatia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Montenegro
  • Macedonia
  • Kosovo
  • Serbia
  • Albania

Related: 8 Tips for Traveling in the Balkans

Balkans Map

Random Note: You’ll find that smoking indoors is much more common in the Balkans than in Western Europe or the United States. This is especially true in Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia, so if you’re sensitive to cigarette smoke, consider eating outside.

Another Random Note: If you love wine, keep an eye out for wineries in the Balkans!

wine tasting balkans
Wine tasting in the Balkans is a must! © Sydney Baker

The Western Balkans Today

Take a listen and learn…

Lake Bled Slovenia
Lake Bled, Slovenia. © Jackie Nourse

Slovenia

The country in the region least like the rest, Slovenia looks and feels more like its northern neighbor Austria than its neighbors to the south.

As the first former-Yugoslavian country to join the European Union, and until January 2023, the only one in the Schengen Zone, it has more of a Western European vibe than the rest of the Balkan countries.

This makes Slovenia the perfect starting destination if you want to ease into the region. Its cities are full of charming streets, wine bars, and museums, and you are never far from the mountains, lakes, or coastline.

Must-know Facts About Slovenia

  • Capital City: Ljubljana
  • Currency: Euro
  • Languages: Slovenian, Hungarian, Italian
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Slovenia from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for Slovenia

Slovenia follows Schengen Zone rules, which allows 90 days visa-free within every 6-month period for US citizens. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Where to Go in Slovenia

Ljubljana – The capital city is worth a couple of days’ visit. Enjoy live music at wine bars, sip espresso at outdoor cafes, or museum hop!

Julian Alps – A great alternative to the often crowded mountains in France, Switzerland, and Bavaria. 

Lake Bled + Lake Bohinj – Turquoise lakes amongst the mountains where you can chill out, hike, enjoy water sports and even stay in a treehouse!

Skocjan Caves – Deep caves near Ljubljana that are a must-visit while in Slovenia.

Lipica – Admittedly not much here but if you love horses, the famous Lizzapiners can be found in this town.

Piran – The HQ of Slovenia’s tiny coastline if you’re craving the beach.

Transportation in Slovenia

Train – Lines run to and from nearby Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia, as well as further afield like Germany and Switzerland. There are also a decent number of domestic trains. Check the Slovenian Railway website for more information.

Bus – The most popular way to get around the region! International coaches like Flixbus run frequently to and from other cities. For buses within Slovenia check the bus station website.

Car – A great country for a renting a car and going on a road trip, most international rental car companies operate here. This is the best option for flexibility, as most destinations are no more than a couple hours from each other!

PS: We love using Europcar when renting a car in Europe, as we have found them to be hassle-free and reliable in many countries.

Istria Croatia
Spring in Rovinj on the Istria Peninsula of Croatia. © Sydney Baker

Croatia

Game of Thrones made sure this country didn’t stay a “hidden gem” for long, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a spectacular place to visit. It is one of the most diverse countries in the Balkans in terms of landscape, from epic waterfalls to beautiful coastlines and wonderful cities.

Croatia also pairs perfectly with Slovenia as a good “starter” Balkan country for those who have perhaps only ever visited Western Europe or similar countries.

Additionally, as the first Balkan country since Slovenia to become a part of the EU and the Schengen Zone, things are changing quickly in Croatia. Those EU funds can be seen in numerous construction projects throughout the country, as well as price increases, and of course, popularity.

Must-know Facts About Croatia

  • Capital City: Zagreb
  • Currency: Euro – You can exchange the Croatian Kuna until December 31, 2023, although it cannot be used for payment.
  • Languages: Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Croatia from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for Croatia

As of January 2023, Croatia follows Schengen Zone rules, which allows 90 days visa-free within every 6-month period for US citizens. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Dubrovnik City Walls
Outside the city walls of Dubrovnik. © Sydney Baker

Where to Go in Croatia

Zagreb – The capital city is often skipped by travelers, but shouldn’t be! Cute cafes, bars in old ruins, numerous museums (including the world famous Museum of Broken Relationships), await you!

Plitvice Lakes National Park – You know those stunning photos of waterfalls in Croatia you see on Instagram? Chances are they’ve been taken here. Hike, take a boat ride, and soak in a different side of Croatia.

Istria Peninsula – This area is very different from the rest of Croatia, both in architecture and in cuisine. Explore seaside towns like Rovinj and Pula, hilltop villages like Motovun and Groznjan, and sample local specialties like Istrian wine, olive oil, and truffles.

Zadar – Croatia’s coolest city awaits you. A seaside town full of hip bars and cafes, one of the few vegan restaurants in the country, and Roman ruins. And don’t miss the sea organ (an instrument built into the seaside, played by the ocean itself!)

Krka National Park – Not far from Split lies this wonderful alternative to Plitvice. Hike for views of beautiful waterfalls, take a boat tour of the Visovac Monastery (located on an island), or explore the Roman ruins.

Korcula – Croatia’s wine island! Just 2.5 hours from Dubrovnik is a whole other world! The island is known for Grk, a unique varietal you’ll only find here, wonderful biking, hiking, and horseback riding tours, and a surprising amount of amazing restaurants in the small town.

Vis – A bit further away than the other islands and slower to be taken up by tourists as it was closed as a military base until the 90s. Now, it’s the ideal place to go to relax, sun tan on the beach, and take a boat tour of the Blue Cave.

Mljet – An island favorite among Croatians and an easy day trip from Dubrovnik. Relax and swim in one of the many saltwater lagoons inside Mljet National Park, or ride a bike from end to end!

Dubrovnik – Of course, the one destination that doesn’t need an introduction. You could spend days wandering the streets, enjoying the wonderful restaurants, hiking the hills above, and going on boat tours in and around King’s Landing, ahem, Dubrovnik.

Transportation in Croatia

Trains – Limited lines run to and from nearby Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia. There are also trains between Zagreb, Rijeka, and Osijek on the coast and Split. Check Croatia Railways for more details.

Bus – The main way to get around Croatia without a car, buses run between most cities and towns, as well as to neighboring Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Montenegro. Check Flixbus or Croatia Bus

Car – A great country for a renting a car and going on a road trip, most international rental car companies operate here. Driving is the best option for flexibility, but tolls can be quite steep. And due to the geography, drives can take longer than expected and require switching freeways multiple times (or going into Bosnia and back to get to Dubrovnik).

Ferry – The only way to access Croatia’s islands is by boat. Ferries leave daily from the mainland ports of Dubrovnik, Split, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, and other smaller towns. Check Croatia Ferries for routes and schedules, the frequency changes from month to month, with summer having the most amount of sailings. Use the CF website as a search engine, but always book direct with the ferry company for the best prices and flexibility.

Sarajevo City Hall
Sarajevo City Hall. © Sydney Baker

Bosnia & Herzegovina

It’s hard to imagine that just a couple of decades ago this country was the center of a major conflict. Today, scars of the past are very much still present and I highly recommend you take a walking tour and visit a few of the numerous museums in the capital, Sarajevo.

Like, highly recommend. Do NOT miss the real story of what happened here.

Additionally, talk to locals. In general, they’re pretty friendly and happy to chat over an espresso or glass of wine.

Nature is an often-overlooked feature of Bosnia & Herzegovina, but you should definitely take at least a day (or more) to hike, bike, and explore the mountains and lakes of the region.

Take a listen…

Ethnicity and nationality are tricky subjects throughout the Balkans, particularly in this country. One’s ethnicity is based on religion — Muslims are called Bosniaks, Catholics are Croats, and Orthodox Christians are Serbs. However, this does not mean that Bosnians (nationals of Bosnia & Herzegovina – the majority of the population, regardless of ethnicity) that identify as Croats are from Croatia, or those that identify as Serbs are from Serbia. It’s all about religion and family history.

Fun fact: Why is it called Bosnia & Herzegovina? You might not think the distinction is essential, but anyone from Mostar or the Herzegovina area will tell you they’re Herzegovinian, not Bosnian.

The country actually has four separate regions. There’s Bosnia, which is the central part of the country, where Sarajevo is, a predominantly Muslim area. Herzegovina in the southeast near Croatia, where Mostar is located, is named for the German word “Herzog” which means duke. In the 15th century nobleman, Stjepan Vukčić Kosača ruled the area and began to refer to himself as a duke. Thus, the name, the Duke’s Lands or Herzgogovina stuck. Mainly Croats (Catholics) live here.

There is also the Republika Srpska, which is actually two different areas, one in the north bordering Croatia, and the bulk of it in the east towards Serbia. The Republika’s population is mainly Serbs who want autonomy or reunification with Serbia. And finally, the Brcko District, a small region in the north en route to Serbia with mixed demographics. No one could agree on which region to include it in, so in 1999 the decision was made to leave it autonomous.

Must-know Facts About Bosnia

  • Capital City: Sarajevo
  • Currency: Convertible Mark
  • Languages: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Bosnia from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for Bosnia

Bosnia allows visa-free stays for 90 days within every 6-month period for US citizens. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Mostar Bosnia
Old Town Mostar, Bosnia. © Sydney Baker

Where to Go in Bosnia

Sarajevo – The country’s capital city is where you go to learn about the complicated history. Take a walking tour (or two, many are offered with different themes) visit as many museums as you can, wander the Old Town, take the cable car to the old Olympic bobsled run, go out and explore the tunnel used during the Siege, or just enjoy amazing coffee at one of the numerous cafes.

Mostar – A popular day trip from Croatia, this old city is worth at least an overnight. Go wine tasting, watch the locals jump off the old bridge (try it yourself if you’re crazy enough), and browse the many shops.

Jahorina – Not far from Sarajevo (you’ll see this mountain from the train to Mostar) is the country’s largest ski resort. Head there in the winter for runs half the price of Western Europe!

Bihac – Just across the border from Croatia, near Plitvice, is this nature-lovers paradise. Hiking trails, rivers, and waterfalls await you just outside the small city.

Kravica Waterfall – Not far from Mostar is a cascading waterfall you should absolutely make sure to visit. The park has plenty of hiking trails and swimming areas to keep you busy for a day or two!

Herzegovina wine country – Just outside of Mostar is Europe’s latest up-and-coming wine destination. The area’s climate is perfect for high-quality vino and you’ll want at least a day to browse the selection!

Neum – The tiny sliver of coast Bosnia & Herzegovina is allowed is worth a visit if you have time. Relax on the Adriatic at one of the resorts or just cool off before continuing on to Croatia.

Train in Bosnia
On the train (the we barely made!) from Sarajevo to Mostar. © Sydney Baker

Transportation in Bosnia

Trains – Limited lines run within the country, connecting the main hubs of Banja Luka, Sarajevo, and Mostar. I highly recommend the train between Sarajevo and Mostar, much more comfortable than the bus and one of the most beautiful train rides I’ve taken in Europe. Book tickets in advance online, but you’ll need to arrive early at the station to collect them!

Bus – The main way to get around Bosnia & Herzegovina and how you’ll likely arrive in the country. Check Croatia Bus or ask your accommodation or check schedules at the local station.

Car – A great country for a renting a car and going on a road trip, most international rental car companies operate here. This is the best option for flexibility, especially if you’re visiting other Balkan countries.

Food in Montenegro
Dessert for breakfast in Budva, Montenegro. © Sydney Baker

Montenegro

So many people rave about the beauty of Montenegro and after just a few minutes in the country, you’ll see why! The lush green mountains give way to the fairy-tale-like Bay of Kotor where you could spend months exploring different towns along the shore to find the best one to relax in.

Most visitors just pop into Kotor on day trips from Dubrovnik or off a cruise, but this tiny country in the heart of the Balkans is absolutely worth at least a week (preferably more) to explore. It is also quickly becoming more expensive than neighboring countries, with more and more tourists flooding in from Croatia. Its popularity will only continue to rise, so go now!

A note about the name: In Italian “monte negro” means black mountain, which is what the Venetians saw in the thick forests that dot the area’s peaks. The name has stuck ever since.

Must-know Facts About Montenegro

  • Capital City: Podgorica
  • Currency: Euro
  • Languages: Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, Croatian
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Montenegro from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for Montenegro

Montenegro allows visa-free stays for 90 days within every 6-month period for US citizens. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Where to Go in Montenegro

Kotor – Montenegro’s most famous destination and UNESCO world heritage site, base yourself here for a few days. Hike up to the castle that overlooks the city, wander the old town, or take a boat tour of the bay.

Budva – Not far from Kotor, Budva is a cute contrast to other towns on the bay, as after a massive earthquake in 1979, it wasn’t rebuilt in the old style, unlike Kotor and Perast. Still, the Old Town is a lovely place to wander and you can take boats to Sveti Nikola Island where hikes and beaches await you.

Herceg Novi – A true gem and an easy day trip from Dubrovnik (as the closest town in Montenegro to Croatia) this small town is the ideal place to relax, for those in the know.

Bar – The country’s ferry port is a nice place to spend a morning or afternoon strolling or relaxing by the water before catching your boat.

Sveti Stefan – Just down the coast from Budva is this charming beach town, with sandy shores that stretch for miles. The highlight is of course the orthodox church of the same name on the island that juts out from the mainland.

Perast – Another UNESCO world heritage site, Perast will completely charm you. Climb the Bell Tower, marvel at Saint Nikolas’ church, and take a boat to Our Lady of Rocks, an artificial island built over the centuries by fishermen laying rocks to thank God after a narrow escape at sea.

Durmitor National Park – This park boasts dramatic mountains, glacial lakes, and prime hiking trails for adventurers seeking natural beauty.

Transportation in Montenegro

Bus – The main way to get around Montenegro and how you’ll likely arrive in the country. Flixbus and Croatia Bus both operate in the country. However, for the most up-to-date timetables, check the local station.

Car – A great country for a renting a car and going on a road trip, you’ll want one to get out in the mountains and enjoy the beautiful nature this country has to offer. Most international rental car companies operate here. This is the best option for flexibility, especially if you’re visiting other Balkan countries. Just note drivers here tend to tailgate pretty hardcore.

Ferry – Ferries leave the port of Bar daily to Bari and Ancona in Italy, where you can connect to Croatia, Albania, or Greece.

Vlore Albania
Vlore, Albania (yes, this is really what it looks like!). © Sydney Baker

Albania

Long a mystery to the world, as the dictator Enver Hoxha kept the country closed off from the rest of the world between the end of World War II and 1990. During those decades, Albania was one of the most isolated countries in the world. Now, it’s one of Europe’s premier up-and-coming destinations with some of the best coastline in the area, most of which is largely undiscovered.

Additionally, if you are an outdoor enthusiast, don’t miss the Albanian Alps, where trails are still quite uncrowded.

If you’d like to learn more about the often sad, but very interesting history of this country, I’d recommend the Site of Witness and Memory in Shkoder, and Bunk’art 1 and 2 as well as the National Historical Museum in Tirana to learn more. Additionally, Tirana Free Tours give amazing history lessons as you wander the capital city!

Related: 5 Tips for Traveling to Albania

Must-know Facts About Albania

  • Capital City: Tirana
  • Currency: Albanian Lek
  • Languages: Albanian, Greek, Romani
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Albania from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for Albania

No visa needed for US citizens visiting for less than one year. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Fortress Albania
The fortress in Shkoder, Albania, no this isn’t Ireland! © Sydney Baker

Where to Go in Albania

Tirana – The country’s capital is often skipped by travelers, but don’t make this mistake! Charming cafes and restaurants await you, along with some of the most affordable shopping in Europe. This is also the museum capital of the country, so make sure to visit one and take an afternoon to stroll the large city park.

Sarande & the Riveria – A beach vacation on the cheap; this area is quickly blowing up, so get your trips in now! Enjoy electric blue water, waterfront accommodation, and nightlife that rivals the Greek islands for a fraction of the price!

Berat – An ancient city in the mountains, you’ll want to make a day trip here a priority. The city has kept the Ottoman-era style architecture and on approach, it looks all the buildings are staring at you due to front-facing windows. You can walk the promenade, explore the Berat Castle, and visit the wonderful Ethnographic Museum.

Gjirokaster – Another ancient city, this is the hub for the surrounding mountains and a great place to break up your journey south from Tirana.

Shkoder – In the north of the country lies this often overlooked, but fascinating city. Situated near a large lake of the same name, this is a great stopover between Montenegro and southern Albania. Hike in the nearby mountains, explore the local fortress, or wander the streets, galleries, and museums of the old town.

Vlore & Himare – A bit too far north to be considered part of the “Riviera” both these seaside towns are great options if you want more of a laid back ocean trip. Don’t expect much in the way of activities, these parts are for laying by the beach and enjoying espresso or wine in the sun!

Transportation in Albania

Train – Limited domestic lines operate between Tirana to Durres and Durres and Elbasan, although departures are extremely limited. Check Albanian Railways for more information.

Bus – The main way to get around Albania, buses run regularly to neighboring Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro, as well as to most destinations within the country. You typically don’t need to book in advance, just pay the driver. Just note in Tirana there are two bus terminals; one for international routes and one for domestic, so make sure to tell the taxi driver where you’re headed!

Car – The best way to have full freedom, although driving in Albania isn’t for the faint of heart. Many towns don’t have traffic lights and drivers can be aggressive, so be prepared!

Ferry – A few boats operate between four main ports and Italy and Greece. From Durres and Vlore you can catch ferries to Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi in Italy. From Saranda and Himare you can take direct ferries to Corfu in Greece.

North Macedonia
Ohrid in North Macedonia is a true dream. © Sydney Baker

North Macedonia

While many of the countries discussed to this point are quickly becoming trendy destinations, North Macedonia is one of the few countries in Europe that can truly still be described as a “hidden gem.”

Nestled between Greece, Albania, and Kosovo, this delightful nation is full of vibrant green mountains, scenic lakes and rivers, and interesting towns. It’s also known as a great sun destination — without the crowds or prices of Greece.

A note on the name: The country has undergone many name changes over the years. Initially, after Yugoslavia dissolved, the newly independent country called itself the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” often shortened to the Republic of Macedonia or simply, FYROM.

However, from the beginning, Greece objected to the name because the Greek region of the same name already existed directly to the south. So in 2019, the nation changed its name again to North Macedonia to appease their neighbors (and, hopefully, aid in their bid for EU membership.)

Must-know Facts About North Macedonia

  • Capital City: Skopje
  • Currency: Macedonian Denar
  • Languages: Macedonian, Albanian
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting North Macedonia from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for North Macedonia

North Macedonia allows visa-free stays for 90 days within every 6-month period for US citizens. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Sveti Naum Monastery North Macedonia
Surprisingly, the Sveti Naum Monastery is home to numerous peacocks. © Sydney Baker

Where to Go in North Macedonia

Skopje – The country’s capital could be mistaken for many cities, with architecture and riverfront walk reminiscent of Paris, an Old Bazaar that brings Turkey to mind, and charming cafes and leafy streets that could be Athens. However, the most interesting feature are the over 250 statues commissioned in 2014 to bring tourists to the area. You can’t go more than a few steps without encountering a massively imposing statue or fountain.

Ohrid & the Lake – The shining star of this landlocked country (Macedonians have to drive to Albania or Greece to enjoy the sea) is the massive Lake Ohrid, the perfect place to relax. The town of Ohrid is adorable with plenty of cafes, a fortress, and churches to keep you busy. And of course, don’t miss the Sveti Naum Monastery, accessible by a scenic boat ride every day.

Galicica National Park – Not far from Ohrid is this massive national park, with the best hiking and mountains in the country. Allow at least a day or more to truly explore the beautiful scenery!

Bitola – Located between Ohrid and the Greek border, this charming town is full of cafes, parks, and markets, although less crowded than the capital city.

Related: How to Get from Ohrid to Meteoria, Greece

Transportation in North Macedonia

Train – Limited lines operate between Skopje and Serbia, Kosovo, and Greece. Domestic routes run between a few cities. Check North Macedonian Railways Transport for more details.

Bus – The main way to get around North Macedonia and how you’ll likely arrive in the country. Routes run regularly between the country and Albania and Kosovo. There are also frequent domestic lines. You can book directly at the bus stations and it’s recommended to do so a day in advance (although there’s usually room.)

Car – The best way to access the mountains and enjoy the outdoors. Most international companies operate here. The best option for flexibility, especially if you’re visiting other Balkan countries.

Prizren Kosovo
The Stone Bridge in Prizren, Kosovo. © Sydney Baker

Kosovo

Europe’s youngest country, founded in 2008 when it declared independence from Serbia (much to Serbia’s chagrin) and is still relatively unknown to tourists. If foreigners are aware of Kosovo, it’s likely related to the conflict in the 1990s, when Serbia tried to prevent the country from becoming independent and carried out ethnic cleansing.

Today, tensions are still present, but Kosovans or Kosovars enjoy life in relative peace and you’ll have minimal issues visiting the country. Most Kosovars are ethnically Albanian and much of the country was part of Italian-controlled Albania until Yugoslavia formed, so the two countries remain closely linked.

Today, Kosovo is a true undiscovered treasure and is home to adorable small cities and beautiful nature. Don’t miss this amazing destination on your next Balkan trip!

In addition to Serbia, the United Nations as well as many countries, including Spain and China, refuse to recognize Kosovo. This can have implications for your passport and entry, more on that in the visa section.

Related: What to Eat in Kosovo

Must-know Facts About Kosovo

  • Capital City: Pristina
  • Currency: Euro
  • Languages: Albanian, Serbian
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Kosovo from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for Kosovo

Kosovo allows visa-free stays for 90 days within every 6-month period for US citizens. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

*Since Serbia does not recognize Kosovo, you may encounter issues visiting Serbia with a Kosovo stamp if you entered through another country (i.e. Albania or North Macedonia). I’ve heard mixed stories about this, and I didn’t receive a Kosovo stamp on my visit in 2023. So, enter and leave Kosovo through Serbia to ensure issue-free travel to Serbia.

National Library Prishtina
The interesting National Library in Prishtina, Kosovo. © Sydney Baker
Prizren Kosovo
Traditional Ottoman-style house in Prizren. © Sydney Baker

Where to Go in Kosovo

Prishtina – Kosovo’s capital doesn’t have much in the way of big sights, but it’s still worth a visit. Marvel at the odd National Library, Bill Clinton statue, and check out the ever-changing NEWBORN monument. And don’t miss out on the cafe culture. It is unmatched. No Starbucks here, but there is the Kosovan (and superior) chain, Prince Coffee House.

Prizren – Considered the country’s “cultural center” you’ll find cobblestone streets, cafe-lined rivers, and numerous mosques and churches to visit. If you want to get out in nature, this is a great area to do so. You can take the short (but steep) hike up to the fortress — just don’t be fooled by what looks a simple climb, it is brutal in the heat. 

Peja – Where most of the Orthodox churches in the country are located. It also has great access to nature, as Rugova Canyon (one of the largest in Europe) isn’t too far away. There is a via ferrata there that may have you shaking in your boots!

Transportation in Kosovo

Train – Domestic routes run daily between Prishtina and Peja. Check TRAINKOS for more details.

Bus – The main way to get around Kosovo and how you’ll likely arrive in the country. Routes run regularly between the country and Albania and North Macedonia. There are also frequent domestic lines. You can book directly at the bus stations and it’s recommended to do so a day in advance (although there’s usually room.)

Car – The best way to access the mountains and enjoy the outdoors. Most international companies operate in the country. The best option for flexibility, especially if you’re visiting other Balkan countries.

Balkan Travel Tips
Splashes of color over cafes in Belgrade, Serbia. © Jackie Nourse

Serbia

Serbia has a not-underserved reputation as being rougher along the edges than other Balkan countries. The nature of the area is lovely, but not in the obvious way of the eclectic water of Albania or North Macedonia or the epic waterfalls of Croatia and mountains of Bosnia & Herzegovina. You have to look a bit harder to appreciate the landscapes and urban quirks.

Related: Belgrade, Serbia City Guide

Related: Best Belgrade Restaurants – A Budget Foodie Guide

Must-know Facts About Serbia

  • Capital City: Belgrade
  • Currency: Serbian Dinar
  • Languages: Serbian, Albanian, Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian, and Bulgarian
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Serbia from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter, unless you have dual voltage devices.

Visa Info for Serbia

Serbia allows visa-free stays for 90 days within every 6-month period for US citizens. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

*If you’ve visited Kosovo prior to traveling to Serbia and did not enter via the Kosovo-Serbian border, you may be denied entry. More information can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Where to Go in Serbia

Belgrade – The largest city is a bizarre mixture of amazing cafes and gelato shops, crazy nightlife, and great budget accommodation.

Novi Sad – The architecture here is definitely leftover from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and feels totally different from the rest of the country. The city is great for people-watching at cafes and enjoying a different side of the country.

Tara National Park – In the west of Serbia lies this mountainous escape where you can enjoy stunning lakes on great hiking trails and quiet forests.

Negotin Wine Region – In rural Eastern Serbia, you’ll find a surprisingly vibrant wine scene, where you can sample interesting varietals accompanied by Balkan cheese.

Transportation in Serbia

Train – Lines operate between Belgrade and Istanbul, Skopje, and Sofia. Domestic routes run between Belgrade and Nis, Novi Sad, and Subotica daily. Check Serbian Railways for more details.

Bus – The main way to get around Serbia, routes run regularly between the country and its’ neighbors. There are also frequent domestic lines. You can book directly at the bus stations and it’s recommended to do so a day in advance (although there’s usually room.)

Car – The best way to access the mountains and enjoy the outdoors. Most international companies operate in the country. The best option for flexibility, especially if you’re visiting other Balkan countries.


A year in each country would never be enough to explore all that the incredible Balkan peninsula has to offer.

We hope this Balkan travel guide helps you in your travel planning, and if the Balkans aren’t on your list yet, do yourself a favor and put them there immediately!

More on Traveling in the Balkans

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