Serbia, many former USSR states, and some other nations do not recognize Kosovo's independence, but the country is recognized by many other countries. Kosovars have their own Kosovar passport and can visit many countries and territories around the world. They also have their own visa policy separate from Serbia.
Kosovo has many attractions, from the Bear Sanctuary in Mramor to the Patriarchate of Peç in Peja. The Prizren Fortress is cool, and the Visoki Decani Monastery is stunning. You will not be bored while exploring Kosovo.
What will also not bore you is dealing with an expensive roaming bill afer roaming with your provider in Kosovo. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy Kosovar SIM cards to enjoy local rates.
Those with a SIM card from a country from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) should especially watch out with deciding to roam in Kosovo.
Kosovo is neither part of the EU nor the EEA, so they are not bound to the 2017 roam like at home regulation. Be sure to check whether your operator offers free roaming in Kosovo before receiving an expensive roaming bill, as your operator is not required to offer free roaming in Kosovo.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Kovoso. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Kosovo
Kosovo has 2 telecom providers: Vala and IPKO. Both operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
Unlike most countries in the Balkans, and Europe in general, you do not have to show your passport when buying a Kosovar SIM card.
A special reminder for those from the EU/EEA: Kosovo is not part of the EU or EEA, which means that the Roam like Home rule does not apply in Kosovo. Therefore, it is recommended that European citizens with EU SIM cards buy a Kosovar SIM card instead of roaming with their providers. Some providers, however, offer free roaming in Kosovo, but this is not the case for all. Be sure to check your provider’s site to learn whether you can roam for free or not.
Additionally, as of April 2019, some Balkan states, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, agreed to cap roaming costs in their nations. As a result, you will pay €0.025 per MB (or €25.60 per GB), €0.19 per minute, and €0.06 per SMS when roaming with a Kosovar in those other countries.
Although still expensive, their plan is to abolish roaming costs entirely by summer 2021 in other to join the EU/EEA roaming zone, which would then allow EU/EEA SIM cards to roam for free in these nations and vice versa.
In the meantime, you will be better off buying a local SIM card when visiting those countries instead of roaming with a Kosovar SIM card, except for in Albania.
Kosovo and Albania have a separate agreement since 2019 that has abolished roaming fees between the 2 countries, like within the EU/EEA. Although operators may still charge a small operational fee, these fees will be removed then the Balkan roaming deal comes into place.
With that being said, let’s see what Vala and IPKO have to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Vala by Kosovo Telecom
Vala is owned by Kosovo Telecom, which used to be known as PTK. Vala has good coverage throughout the country.
You can buy a Vala SIM card for €3 with 700 MB and €1 in credit in Kosovo Telecom stores. Top-up vouchers are sold from €1 to €40. To check your balance, dial *101#.
Vala has several combo packs, called Pakot E Kombinuara, which you can activate:
- €3: 2 GB, 300 on-net minutes, and 300 on-net SMS for 10 days. Activation: text FOL S to 50555
- €5: 3 GB, 600 on-net minutes, and 600 on-net SMS for 30 days. Activation: text FOL M to 50555
- €5: 8 GB, 200 on-net minutes, and 200 on-net SMS for 30 days. Activation: text INT M to 50555
- €10: 4 GB, 1400 on-net minutes, and 1400 on-net SMS for 30 days. Activation: text FOL L to 50555
- €10: 20 GB, 600 on-net minutes, and 600 on-net SMS for 30 days. Activation: text INT L to 50555
If data does not work after activating a data pack and getting a text confirmation, you may have to text data plus to 50555 to enable data.
You can also get a Vala data-only pack, called Internet Në Mobil, for the following prices:
- €0.50: 500 MB for 1 day. Activation: text 500mb to 50555
- €1.50: 1 GB for 7 days. Activation: text 1gb to 50555
- €2.50: 2 GB for 15 days. Activation: text 2gb to 50555
- €3.50: 3 GB for 21 days. Activation: text 3gb to 50555
- €6: 5 GB for 30 days. Activation: text 5gb to 50555
- €7.50: 8 GB for 31 days. Activation: text 8gb to 50555
Vala customers can use Vala WIFI hotspots in Kosovo. To use these hotspots, connect to VALA and follow the instructions.
IPKO is owned by Telekom Slovenije (Slovenia). They have, just like Vala, good coverage throughout the country. In fact, it is on par with Vala’s coverage.
IPKO SIM cards cost €3 and can be bought in IPKO stores. New customers get 10 GB, 100 minutes, and 100 SMS for 14 days. Once the pack expires, the TiP Aktiv (€5) pack will be activated (2 GB, 200 minutes, and 300 SMS for 30 days).
IPKO top-up vouchers are sold from €5 to €20. To top-up, you have to dial *123*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *123*123456#. Dial *110# to check your balance.
IPKO has several combo packs, called TiP plans, which are their combo plans. They can be activated by dialing *110*110#, on My IPKO, or by dialing the USSD activation code:
- €1.50: 1 GB, 100 minutes, and 100 SMS for 7 days. Activation: dial *110*0#
- €2.50: 1 GB, 100 minutes, and 200 SMS for 21 days. Activation: dial *110*1#
- €3.50: 1.5 GB, 150 minutes, and 200 SMS for 30 days. Activation: dial *110*4#
- €5: 2 GB, 200 minutes, and 300 SMS for 30 days. Activation: dial *110*5#
- €7: 3 GB, 250 minutes, and 300 SMS for 30 days. Activation: dial *110*7#
All IPKO TiP plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. To cancel auto-renewal, dial *110*9#.
Only need data? You can buy one of these IPKO data-only plans, which all come with 5GB of IPKO WIFI:
- €0.50: 500 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *900*0#
- €1.50: 1 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *900*1#
- €2.50: 2 GB for 14 days. Activation: dial *900*2#
- €3.50: 3 GB for 21 days. Activation: dial *900*3#
- €5.50: 5 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *900*5#
- €7.50: 7 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *900*7#
All IPKO data-only plans auto-renew if there is enough data. To cancel auto-renew, dial *900*9#, To check your data balance, dial *900#.
Youngsters between 16 and 28 can buy a HEJ! SIM card, which comes in two variants. Do note that IPKO will need to confirm your age before you can take advantage of HEJ!, which means that you have to go to an IPKO store and show your passport before you can activate any HEJ! Package.
HEJ! Has these 2 packages:
- €3: 3 GB, unlimited Instagram, unlimited on-net minutes (HEJ!), and unlimited on-net SMS (HEJ!) for 30 days. Activation: text hej2 to 50888
- €5: 5 GB, unlimited Instagram, unlimited on-net minutes (IPKO), and unlimited on-net SMS (IPKO) for 30 days. Activation: text hej4 to 50888
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Kosovo
So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Kosovo. However, that is not the only way to be online in Kosovo. I have already briefly mentioned that you can roam with your provider, although it can be expensive in most cases. Besides that, you can use free WIFI connections, mobile hotspots, or international SIM cards.
Roaming in Kosovo with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is CCT Wireless from the British Virgin Islands, then you would be roaming with CCT Wireless in Kosovo.
You may have read horror stories of people coming back from a lovely holiday, only to be confronted with a roaming bill in the thousands. This can still be the case if you do not review your roaming options before going on a holiday. Luckily for you, I have written about the roaming options you have with various providers around the world, which you can read here.
Some operators offer roaming plans. Others allow you to roam for free in Kosovo, while several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee. As you can see, roaming does not have to be a horrific experience. If your provider is generous and lets you roam for free in Kosovo, then you do not even need a local SIM card (although I would still recommend doing so, as your connection speed will be much slower as a roamer than someone who is a customer of the network).
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Pay As You Go roaming should be avoided, as that is how travelers get high roaming bills. One provider charges you about 1000 USD per GB in certain destinations, which is insane. If you really want to roam, check whether your provider has attractive roaming plans. Else, you will be better off with buying a local SIM card.
Using Free WIFI connections in Kosovo
This does not require a lot of explanation, but using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to connect to the internet because you do not have to pay anything. Nothing beats free stuff, right? Well, not so fast.
First, you need to find hotspots in Kosovo. In some countries of cities, you will find so many hotspots that you can try them out one by one and find the one with the fastest speeds. In other places, however, WIFI connections do not seem to exist.
In the case of Kosovo, you can find some hotspots here and there, like the free ones offered by VALA, even to non-Vala customers.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
Using a Pocket WIFI (Mobile Hotspot) in Kosovo
Pocket WIFI is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Travelwifi offers Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI, starting from $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Getting an International SIM card for Traveling in Kosovo
International SIM cards are, as the name implies, SIM cards for international use. Well, that does not explain anything. Although most providers allow you to use your card abroad, some actually restrict this possibility. An international SIM card lets you go abroad without having to change SIM cards when visiting multiple destinations. They have been made with the traveler in mind.
All of this sounds lovely, but international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Kosovo. Not only that, some offer poor service as well for high rates. Some reputable companies I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in Africa require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Kosovo
Getting a SIM card from either Vala and IPKO would do you well when considering a Kosovar SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards like OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots like Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in the Balkans? Check out my Balkans SIM card buying guide covering the other Balkan states, such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, (Croatia), Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia (and Serbia).
What about other places in Europe? My Europe SIM card buying guide covers all destinations in Europe, including those not part of the European Union/EEA, such as Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my SIM card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Kosovo
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Kosovo. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Kosovo drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Kosovo
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Kosovo. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Kosovar hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Kosovo
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Kosovo, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!