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  #1  
Old 13 Jul 2004
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how safe are the Balcans? and albania, kosovo & macedonia?

ALBANIA/BOSNIA-HERZ./SERBIA-MONTENEGRO/KOSOVO/MACEDONIA


Hi,

We plan a motorbike tour through the Balcans this summer and have some questions about safety in this area / practical matters regarding border-crossings. Anyone who can help?

The route would be more or less this: Belgium->Austria, Hungary, Rumenia, Bulgary, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia-Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, A->B.

GENERAL QUESTIONS:

- Any general comment on road conditions/safety on dirt tracks in remote areas/traffic/local driving habits?
- how much time will most border crossings take, given that we will be driving our own bikes with foreign numberboards?
- Any trouble we’re likely to encounter, given the fact that we are two girls on motorbikes with foreign numberboards? (both bikes look old, cheap and dirty). Anything like over-zealous policemen, fines for false infractions, theft, robbery, bike-jacking? Or will we just attract curious glances and occasional stares?
- How about mines on dirt roads?
- How about safety on small roads in mountainous areas? And how about dirt roads and enduro-riding in general? We’ve read wild stories about banditry and car/bikejacking… is that true?
- We’ve heard that people in small villages tend to be rather unfriendly towards strangers, and that foreigners are not welcome there… this strikes us as odd… is it true?
- we' ve heard that women should be extra cautious... is that so? and how do people in general respond to women traveling alone, particularly in rural areas?


- ALBANIA:


- Several travel advisories mention both ethnical tensions and criminal activities such as banditry and carjackings in north Albania, and limited government control. Is that so?
- what about the safety in the north-east region in general? And in specific the north above shkoder, and the Kosovo and Macedonia border area (Tetovo-Struga)?
- How safe is the south-east border region with Macedonia? Korça and eastwards?
- How safe or unsafe is the road between skhoder and kukes, taken into account that we will be driving our own vehicles with foreign numberboards?
- How safe/easy is the border in Morinë (road to Prizen, Kosovo)? And the entire border area?
- How safe is the mountain road from Skhoder to Thethi?
- Any information on the condition of the coastal road between Vlora and saranda?

- BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA:

- Several travel advisories mention armed carjackings and heightened criminality in the Republika Srpska, especially in the region between Sarajevo-Gacko-Zvornik-Foca-Trebinje. Is that so?
- Landmines: will we be ok with our motorbikes on secondary roads and/or dirt tracks?

- SERBIA-MONTENEGRO:

- Several travel advisories advise avoiding south Serbia, specifically Presevo and Budjanovac (and Medvedja). Is that indeed necessary? – and where precisely are Presevo and Budjanovac anyway? We can’t find the districts clearly on any map...
- How safe are the mountainroads (banditry etc) in south-east Montenegro? E.g. podgorica and eastwards?


- KOSOVO:

- what is the current overall security situation? Is only the center (kosovska-mitrovica, mitrovice, pristine, etc) problematic, or is the whole area out of limits?
- How do people in the area react to visitors? (we’re not looking forward to hostile glances and an unwelcome feeling…)
- Several travel advisories mention, apart from the ethnical tensions, high criminality, including violent crimes and shootings… is that so?
- Is it all together possible to get into the area at this moment? And if so, by which border crossings, and which are safe (given the current situation in northern Macedonia)? As far as we understand, it is not possible to enter Serbia via Kosovo, since you will not get an entry stamp in your passport. Is that correct? And does that mean the border at Rozaje is closed for foreigners, or only an entry point to Kosovo?
- We would like to visit Pec (and maybe Prizen). How about the safety situation in this area?
- For the monastry of Pec you have to obtain a Kfor pass… is that true? And if so, how likely is it that we will get one?


- MACEDONIA:

- several travel advisories say that overall the country is safe, apart from the region between skopje, tetovo and kumanovo. Is that correct? How about the smaller roads and rural areas?
- What about the border crossing between skopje and pristina?

Thanks, and of course all travel info/tips/must see’s/beautiful routes and tracks from people who’ve recently been there are very welcome as well…

G&T
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  #2  
Old 14 Jul 2004
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I was in Slovenia, Croatia, and Hungary last week - all three of those countries are up to the same standards as Western Europe in every respect (roads, fuel, hotels, free of hassles).

Can't comment on the rest, haven't been to them lately.
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  #3  
Old 15 Jul 2004
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Dear G&T
From our experience, last year in Slovenia and Croatia absolutly no problems, this year we went down through Bulgaria to Greece (fantastic mountain roads) and across to Italy by ferry and had no trouble anywhere.
My only word of advice is don't leave your helmet on your Bike seat when taking photos on top of windy mountains - I did (ouch! that was expensive, and it rolled a long way down!)
I will send you some general info on Romania, enjoy the trip.
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  #4  
Old 15 Jul 2004
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....can't see an email address for you?
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  #5  
Old 16 Jul 2004
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Hi,

KOSOVO
I do NOT recomend enyone to travel in Kosovo,
it is far to dangerous!
Very high risk of land mines on roads,
even KFOR vehicles blow up regularly in recent time!
Shootings may happen,all over the place,at eny time of the day!
No one can garanty a personal safety to you!
Not even UN police or KFOR,or eny body else.
Situation is completly out of hands of the authoritys,and left to criminals,terorists and drug traficants!

It is a complete madness at this time!
Not so as in Irak,but not far from that eather!

Generaly the borders are open,both direction.
And it is not true that you can't enter Serbia from Kosovo.


You could get trough if you are VERY LUCKY but I would not take that kind of risk,
and there is not much to see there anyway!
But if you like that kind of thrill,well then...


ALBANIA

Not so unsafe now,as it was before,but avoid remote areas,especialy border regions with Kosovo!

Do not travel at night!
Even local people dont!

Driving habits - as rush hour trafic in downtown Istambul!
No trafic culture at all!
No turn lights,no trafic lights,...thay just get in the car and go where thay want to go regardles of others!

Some drivers do not use lights at night,thay say that thay see just fine without them!

As a guy closest to the region,and with some knowlege of the situation,
I would advise you NOT to travel in Kosovo and avoid Albania if posible.

The rest of the region,Serbia,Montenegro,Bosnia is totaly safe for travel,in eny region of the country.
Border crossing shoud not be more than 10-15 minutes,that is if some of the policeman does not, find that is very pleasent tallking to you ladies :-)

Do not expect much confort in remote areas (motels,hotels,restaurants)

Have a nice trip!

Feel free to mail me with questions regarding Serbia and Montenegro.

Cheers


Jondoe
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cheers

jondoe
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  #6  
Old 16 Jul 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by gaea_trui:
ALBANIA/BOSNIA-HERZ./SERBIA-MONTENEGRO/KOSOVO/MACEDONIA


- BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA:

- Several travel advisories mention armed carjackings and heightened criminality in the Republika Srpska, especially in the region between Sarajevo-Gacko-Zvornik-Foca-Trebinje. Is that so?
- Landmines: will we be ok with our motorbikes on secondary roads and/or dirt tracks?


I dont think that is a risk for you,espacialy if your bikes look 'cheep,old and dirty'
There is some activity in that direction all over the region,but done by profesionals,
and are well planed,and only on luxus cars like Porsche,Mercedes,BMW,...etc

- SERBIA-MONTENEGRO:

- Several travel advisories advise avoiding south Serbia, specifically Presevo and Budjanovac (and Medvedja). Is that indeed necessary? – and where precisely are Presevo and Budjanovac anyway? We can’t find the districts clearly on any map...

That is a border region with Kosovo,
it is west from city of Vranje,on Belgrade-Nis-Skoplje-Thesaloniki highway
The people living in the regions are majority Albanians with dreams of indepedance.
There ware some sporadic etnic conflicts in recent past,but not that unsafe as thay say.

- How safe are the mountainroads (banditry etc) in south-east Montenegro? E.g. podgorica and eastwards?


It is safe in all of Montenegro,do not miss the mountain areas of it,north-west and north-east espacialy,it is beautyful!


- KOSOVO:

- For the monastry of Pec you have to obtain a Kfor pass… is that true? And if so, how likely is it that we will get one?

I'm not sure about that.If you need an armed escort by KFOR opinion,thay may be in short with staff to arange one.
Tough,thay are in short of staff to guard the
serbian children when thay go to school,
so the children stay home!

- MACEDONIA:

- several travel advisories say that overall the country is safe, apart from the region between skopje, tetovo and kumanovo. Is that correct? How about the smaller roads and rural areas?
- What about the border crossing between skopje and pristina?


Safe,but avoid rural areas in border regions with Kosovo and Albania!

Thare was a pair on 2 BMW F650 did Bosnia-Serbia-Kosovo-Macedonia last year,on they way to Asia.
I can remember thare names.
Check the 'E-Zine' from spring-summer last year

Cheers


Jondoe


G&T
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cheers

jondoe
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  #7  
Old 16 Jul 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by jondoe:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="">quote:</font><HR><font face="" size="2">Originally posted by gaea_trui:
ALBANIA/BOSNIA-HERZ./SERBIA-MONTENEGRO/KOSOVO/MACEDONIA

Thare was a pair on 2 BMW F650 did Bosnia-Serbia-Kosovo-Macedonia last year,on they way to Asia.
I can remember thare names.

G&T


</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


Just found it.

Thare names are Cliff & Jenny Batley
Ware on there way from UK to New Zeland

Here is there web site :

http://www.twowheeltrekkers.com/


Cheers


Jondoe
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jondoe
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  #8  
Old 16 Jul 2004
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I was traveling Balkan with my motorbike and my girlfriend in the past 5 years for many time. I passed all the Balkan countries and there were no problems at all. The only area where could be some problems by travelling by night is Albania in the area bordering with Kosovo and Montenegro.


You should have all the regular documents and visas if they are required on the borders check.

It is very appreciate and good to know some local specifics for some area. It is not recommended to point out yourself too much or to make too much comments about political, religious or national questions without beeing inform well about local orientations.

The infrastructure is good enough, except in Albania, where you can expect also some bad roads suitable mostly for the enduro motorbikes.

If you are travelling for the first time in this region maybe it is the best for you to leave out only North Albania, Kosovo and East Macedonia.

Best regards!


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  #9  
Old 16 Jul 2004
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ok, thanks all for the info... we'll read it through carefully and let you know if we have extra questions...

thank you, kovacic, for your reassuring info... however, we would be planning to pass through south macedonia (bulgaria-> albania), which should be ok, then slwoly up through albania, and we would cross the border to montenegro via shköder-podgorica, but without detours, using the main road (i suppose that should be ok?). as for kosovo we'd only want to go as far as pec and back... is that ok?

and one other practical thing: we've heard that servia doesn't give you an entry stamp if you enter via kosovo which causes trouble when leaving the country... is it ok if you enter and exit kosovo from serbia (because you already have an entry stamp from the albanian-montenegrian border then?)

thanks all,
g&t
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  #10  
Old 16 Jul 2004
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jondoe,

thank you very much for all the info! we have some extra questions about serbia/montenegro, but i'd have to have a proper look at all the info you already sent first to make sure i don't ask you everything twice, so i'll get back to you this weekend.

one question already:

any specific roads you can advise us? beautiful scenery/nice tracks? we will probably both driving relatively light endurobikes... and we'd love to venture into the mountains in montenegro...

thanks
g&t
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  #11  
Old 17 Jul 2004
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Hi gaea_trui,
a friend of mine just returned from Montenegro/Albania/Macedonia and Kosovo trip. If you need fresh infos, mail him on mail@vastag.com .
Regards,
AnteK
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  #12  
Old 19 Jul 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by gaea_trui:
we've heard that servia doesn't give you an entry stamp if you enter via kosovo which causes trouble when leaving the country... is it ok if you enter and exit kosovo from serbia (because you already have an entry stamp from the albanian-montenegrian border then?)


Yes,thay can not give you an entry stamp,
cause that is not a border crossing.
'On paper' Kosovo is a part of Serbia,
and there is no 'real'border Kosovo/Serbia
You should get an 'Serbia & Montenegro' stamp when you enter Kosovo,as it is a part
of Serbia & Montenegro,but cause things
are complicated,with UN protectorat,and everything,that does not work.
And you cant get one on 'administrative' border with Serbia,couse it is not a border crossing....

Confusing,aint it?

I think you should have no problem leaving
Serbia & montenegro with out an entry stamp.

If you just want to visit Pec,you can enter
Kosovo from Montenegro,via road from Berane-Rozaj-Pec ,
ang get back the same way,and than on to Serbia.

About senic road proposals,
tell me general route that you would like to do,so i can have some idea where you want to go,or you dont realy know where you want to go....

Cheers


Jondoe
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jondoe
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  #13  
Old 20 Jul 2004
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hello jondoe,

back to the scenic road proposals issue... we're still thinking about our exact route, so if there's something you think we shouldn't miss, just let us know and we'll reroute...

what we had in mind was more or less this: enter via shköder->uljinc, check out the surroundings of lake skadar, and drive up to kotor and cetinje.
continue towards durmitor national park and tara canyon, where we hope to find some nice & windy mountain roads and/or (safe) dirt tracks (not too difficult however as we'll be riding a suzuki dr650se and an bmw gs 80 (i think... eh... trui?). any suggestions of nice roads in this area would be welcome, but on the map it all looks rather great... seems the scenery is great everywhere...
then maybe a brief visit to pec, and on to bosnia towards mostar or sarajevo, depending on where we'll cross the border.
o, and we've heard from a cyclist that the pass between podgorica and ivangrad is so beuatiful, but see various roads and mountains on the map, so if you can help us out on that one, that would be great...

thx,
g&t
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  #14  
Old 28 Jul 2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by gaea_trui:
hello jondoe,


what we had in mind was more or less this: enter via shköder->uljinc, check out the surroundings of lake skadar, and drive up to kotor and cetinje.
continue towards durmitor national park and tara canyon, where we hope to find some nice & windy mountain roads and/or (safe) dirt tracks (not too difficult however as we'll be riding a suzuki dr650se and an bmw gs 80 (i think... eh... trui?). any suggestions of nice roads in this area would be welcome, but on the map it all looks rather great... seems the scenery is great everywhere...
then maybe a brief visit to pec, and on to bosnia towards mostar or sarajevo, depending on where we'll cross the border.
o, and we've heard from a cyclist that the pass between podgorica and ivangrad is so beuatiful, but see various roads and mountains on the map, so if you can help us out on that one, that would be great...

thx,
g&t

Yes.DO NOT MISS Skadar lake,
I sugest that you take road from
VLADIMIR to VIRPAZAR than to RIJEKA CRNOJEVICA
on to CETINJE,LOVCEN,KOTOR,
do not miss BOKA KOTORSKA fjord,
litlle fishing vilages...
Than you can go to PODGORICA,via main road,
or if you like some dirt/macadam
you can go north from RISAN-DRAGALJ-GRAHOVO-OSJECENICA-
-NIKSIC and on to PODGORICA via OSTROG monastery if you like,the monastery is very beautyfull,'carved' in to the mountain...
but it could be a bit croudy on a weekend days.

From PODGORICA i sugest to avoid main road to KOLASIN,trough 'Moraca canyon' there is TOO MUCH trafic,
and road repairs,crazy suicidal drivers,...
insted grom place BIOCE go to the right,
and on to PELEV PRIJEG,LIJEVA RIJEKA,MATESEVO,
from MATESEVO you can take the road to ANDRIJEVICA via an astonishing mountain pass,
maybe the one your frend mentioned,
and hop to the PEC via MURINO,CAKOR.
From PEC go north to ROZAJ via KULA pass,
than north-east to NOVI PAZAR,
from there you can take tarmac road to SJENICA,
or a dirt/gravel road NOVI PAZAR-"Sopocani" monastery-MELAJE-UGAO-SJENICA trough amazing "Pester" hights.

From SJENICA go west to PLJEVLJA-TARA cannyon-ZABLJAK-DURMITOR national park,do not miss a swim in "the eyes of the mountain" lakes on Durmitor.

From DURMITOR I sugest you to go to PIVA cannyon,via dirt/macadam track ZABLJAK-PASINA VODA-TRSA
from PIVA cannyon go north-west to Bosnia,
via main road to FOCA(aka-SRBINJE)
than on to SARAJEVO
Do Not miss out MOSTAR,a the reconstruction of famus 'old bridge' is finished,
and the city it self is nice.
I sugest to go back from Sarajevo to ILOVICE-DOBRO POLJE and than south-west to KALINOVIK-NEVESINJE-MOSTAR
or from Sarajevo go west to KONJIC than south to BORCI-BORACKO lake-PRIDVORCI-NEVESINJE-MOSTAR

From MOSTAR you can go to JAJCE and "Pliva waterfall" do not miss!
and if you then plan to go west to europe,
you can go west JAJCE-BOSANSKI PETROVAC-PLITVICE(Plitvicka jezera- Plitvice waterfall)
Dont miss it!It is amazing.
If you have time you can take a bit of a detour to PLITVICE via numerous dirt/macadam roads,
or go via "Lika" KNIN-GRACAC-GOSPIC
some nice waterfalls south of Knin.


Best time to ride Montenegro is after September 1st,
after the summer breake,there is not much crowd,...


Eny road you take on the map should be ok,
everyone of them is beautyfull in its own way!
Some times,the locals may advise you not to ride some road,and take the 'main' instead,
but not listen,thay think you are a spoiled tourist,or like them,like to ride on a crowdy
main road,and overtake on blind corners,
spend hour's stuck in the line cause road works,or if an trafic accident acures it takes hour's till thay clear the way.


I think thats about all,that I wanned to say,
if eny cuestions...

If not...

Have a nice trip!


Cheers


Jondoe
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  #15  
Old 28 Jul 2004
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thanx a million, jondoe!!!

can't think of anything else to ask, after this wonderful reply. we'll surely report back when we get home. (and indeed, september would have been better, but our bosses at work had a different opinion about that...)

thanx!
g&t
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