Essentials


Transportation

TAXI

Taxis abound and are comparatively inexpensive. Ask for meter for shorter trips. For longer trips (airport, malls, industrial zone) you probably will just be given (or given the option for) a flat rate (typically 5€), although airport trips will be much more.

There are taxi queues strategically located (and identified on the folding map). Hailing cabs is hit-and-miss. If possible, call for a cab but have a good sense or directions for where you are going.

  • Taxi Beki (044 503 603)
  • Taxi Victory (044 111 222)
  • Taxi Dallas (044 111 666)

Most trips in the downtown area will be around 2€.

Updates: One-way to or from the airport will run you 15-20€. I befriended a wonderful taxi driver named Merced (calm, reliable, punctual, functional English) and rely on him for all my runabouts.

BUS

Evidently, you just hop on and a ticket person collects .30€, which is good for the length of the trip on that particular bus. Note that these buses can be very crowded and, in turn, make you more susceptible to health and theft concerns.

Updates: I have taken the bus many times and have never had a problem, save occasionally boarding the wrong bus. The standard rate is, I think, 40 cents.


Communication

IPKO is the Ma Bell here in Prishtina; however, I went with providers servicing or most convenient to the UP campus.

PHONE

Using your U.S. mobile phone is outrageously expensive. Best to get a cheap mobile with SIM card for local calls. (I use SKYPE on my laptop to call phones in the U.S. for a small charge and to make free video calls.)

The Nokia “unlocked” phone I brought from the U.S. was the wrong frequency, and I had to buy a new Nokia here. 25€ for the most basic model. Note that the standard passcode on all phones is 0000 unless you change it.

My service provider is VALA, originally established by the U.N. and now provided by PTK. Go to a PTK (located on folding map) to register for and buy a pre-paid SIM card (5€ to start). You will need your passport to register. When your credit falls below 1€, you will need to add credit by buying a supplement card from a PTK.

Evidently, it costs a small amount to place a call but nothing to receive a call.

NOTE: If you have a laptop with internet, you can buy credit on Skype and call any landline or mobile number in the U.S. for less than 2 cents a minute! (A 16-minute call today cost me less than 50 cents.) Of course, you can Skype video call (computer to computer) for free.

CABLE/INTERNET

There are two options: IPKO (reported to be the best) and Kujtesa (the only one to service the dorms).

With your passport, local address and phone number, you can set up an account and pay by the month. I pay 29€ per month for very fast internet and 80+ television channels. There are four package plans; mine is the least expensive one that provides wireless (wi-fi). So far, I have been pleased with my service.

Updates: When I moved to my apartment in February, I had to change to IPKO. I pay less now (20€ per month) but haven’t been quite as satisfied with the service. Skype has proven to be indispensable–not for video calls but rather for calls to land lines, e.g., to my home bank, credit card companies (for travel alerts), to family and friends, etc.


Heath & Hygiene

Shoes

Unless invited or instructed to do otherwise, always remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. There may be slippers to wear or, more likely, you’ll just continue in your socks.

Laundry

Even apartments with washers won’t have dryers; most washers just spin forever and then you use racks to air dry. Drop-off laundries may be your best–or only–option.

Standard rates are 2€ per kilo for wash, dry, and fold or 2.5€ per kilo for wash, dry, iron, and fold  (my preference). Specify 30 degrees (rather than 60) so your natural fibers will retain their original size.

No experience with or comments about dry cleaning.

Water

I buy all my drinking water , usually around 30 cents for 1.5 liters, whether it’s still or sparkling (gas, as they say). I boil tap water for coffee (instant Nescafe, the standard in much of Europe) and use tap to brush my teeth. I did have minor stomach problems (loose bowels) a couple of days but am fine now.

In our building, tap water is not available (shut off) 6-8 hours every night. Hot water exists 2-3 hours after I turn on my water heater; this is less convenient but probably saves lots of electricity. This given, showers probably will end my days rather than begin them.

Showering

Most bathrooms here are tiled with drains in the floor. There is a shower corner with a shallow tray/basin to catch most of the water, if drainage is good. Even when it is, a shower usually means using water only to wet and rinse: I don’t think long hot showers are possible. Standard practice is to wear flip-flops anytime you’re in the bathroom; I also wear them when I shower.

Toilets

I have encountered only one squat toilet during the past month. Most places seem to have “sitting” toilets with small and large flush options. Although warned at the DC briefing that flushing toilet paper isn’t recommended (or sometimes possible), I cannot do otherwise but try to restrict myself to 6-8squares of paper and haven’t had a problem. My apologies if this is TMI, but bath-rooming is essential and one of those things most Americans take for granted.

As for squat toilets, men (myself included) excel at peeing on the floor; adding a hole for aim just makes it sport. Yes, there is a protocol for how to use these toilets (particularly when uni-sex), but I haven’t learned it yet, and I pity any unaware female who has to learn the hard way.

Do note that in much of Europe, you have to pay to get into and/or use a bathroom. The standard price seems to be .30-.50€. Keep small change with you for this purpose!

Updates: I have a washer in my apartment and do all my own laundry: almost two hours to wash a load and then at least 24 hours to dry, which I do on a rack inside to avoid outdoor dust and pollution.

If you drink the free water that comes with coffee and meals (which I do), then you’re drinking tap water. I think that’s what caused my “distress” during my first month.Who knows? I really haven’t had any significant problems since then. 95% percent of the time, however, I drink bottled water.

I have had to deal with more and more squat toilets and have nothing happy to report. My advice is to go a nice(r) restaurant should you need to sit. You may encounter toilets that have a nozzle near the back of the toilet seat that connects to a hose and a valve. This is like a built-in bidet: you turn on the water and “cleanse” yourself with your left hand (only) and then use a few squares of paper to blot dry; those squares then go in the trash can rather than the toilet. I have not been able to adjust to this practice. Mea culpa.

Chances are that there will be no toilet paper or soap (or even water). Always carry a pack of kleenex (“palomas”) for the toilet and a pack of antibacterial wet-wipes (or Purell) for your hands afterwards.