Tips for Living in Kosovo

MTCowgirl’s Tips for Kosovo Mission Newbies
– Updated September 2009 –
As far as missions go, Kosovo is probably the most comfortable in manner of living conditions, security, and CTO or vacation-jump-off point. Kosovo isn’t an advanced country compared to somewhere like the US. Heck, most of Eastern Europe isn’t advanced if you compare it to back home…but things are improving. If you keep a positive attitude you’ll do fine…adopt a crappy “this place sucks” attitude and guess what…it does for you!!!

Living in Kosovo – Accommodations
Hotels in Kosovo are fairly expensive. The Grand Hotel (not so grand from what I hear!), Hotel Pristina (comfortable but Euro prices), or Victory (rumored to have very nice service & staff) will run you around 30-80E/night if you want to stay in the center of town. But there are some other nice hotels about a 20 minute walk from the city center. But even if you are only here for a short period of time, it is probably cheaper to rent a flat for a couple of months than pay nightly for a hotel.

Whether or not you get a place that is all-inclusive depends on the landlord but if you don’t want to have to run around to the banks and/or payment offices at the beginning/end of the month, it’s best to have your landlord handle the bills.  For things such as internet, please see the section on Communication – Internet.  Sometimes landlords will offer internet included but normally it is extra…but not difficult to take care of paying :)

It seems the magic number for a flat in Dragodan is 500-700 Euros a month, all inclusive (sometimes with central heating, sometimes without.)  Some people are trying to get even more rent but those places are staying empty longer.

The problem is that some internationals don’t bother trying to negotiate and the locals see that there is always a sucker that will take the place for an extraordinary price.  It really has become a renter’s market, something that the local population hasn’t figured out very well yet but for some it is sinking in.
In Dragodan the reality is that the flats are worth about 500 Euros a month at most.  We did find a nice flat a couple blocks from where we are now where the building is brand-new and so is the furniture but some of the renters are less-than-desirable neighbors…but everything was just 500 Euros.
When we went down the hill a bit further and looked at some really hole-in-the-wall type flats with basic furniture and few features people were still trying to convince us that 700 Euros a month was a good deal (special price for you my friend!)  In speaking with friends who rent downtown, the price seems to be somewhere between 350-450 Euros a month, all inclusive.
The Sunny Hill area seems to go for around 450-500 Euros.

You can download the standard rental agreement for UNMIK from the Civpol Intranet site when you are on a UN-networked computer.  The forms are in English and translated on the bottom half to Albanian/Serbian depending on the native tongue of your landlord.  It is a very good idea to have a rental contract especially as winter nears because sometimes landlords can come back to you if you don’t have an agreement and demand more money.  I’ve also known some landlords that charge for electricity but never pay the bills (and when the power goes off, they just shrug and say “what to do?”)  So renter beware…make sure that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself.

It is also a good idea when renting a flat to explain to the landlord that you like your privacy.  For many of the locals (ethnicity doesn’t matter), there is not the same respect for privacy that you would expect back home.

Landlords have no problem going into your flat while you are gone to straighten up (or rifle through your belongings!) or maybe even live in your flat when you leave for vacation (it really happens!)  If you are a private person, make sure that your landlord understands that under no circumstances do you want them in the flat without your permission and make this clear from day one…not when you come home to find someone wearing your bathing suit (this is a true story, not my wicked sense of humor!)

Living in Kosovo – Power & Water
Right now there are very few power outages (*knock on wood*).  However, winter 2005 KEK (Kosovo Electric Company) implemented a power-schedule with three zones – A, B, C – that was based on the percentage of bill-paying customers in the area.  A-areas (payment above 55%, only Pristina that I know of) were to have 24/7 power, B-areas (payment between 35-55%) would have 5 on:1 off, and C-areas (below 25% payment) would have whatever power was left over.  This translated into areas like Gracanica, classified as a C-area, having 1 on: 5 off during the coldest parts of the winter.  The plan was not popular with the local population because the C-areas were usually the most economically depressed and/or minority areas.  There were several local protests and I think the schedule was scrapped and power was imported.
There are always rumors circulating that there will be severe power shortages starting because the power plant is going to run out of coal.  If that happens, it won’t matter how much of your bill you’ve been paying because there just won’t be any power for anyone!

The water is normally on during the daytime but turned-off from 11pm until 5am. Occasionally it is turned off in areas when they are maintaining the pipes.

In downtown Pristina, they usually do not have water rationing.  In many flats, landlords have installed water tanks so no matter the water situation, you can shower or wash dishes.  It’s an added bonus that really helps, especially during the summer in the enclaves and elevated sections of town like Sunny Hill and Dragodan.  Some landlords will try to convince you that there are no problems with the supply but be ready to not have water when you come home late from the bar!

Living in Kosovo – Traffic
Shortly after declaring independence, the Kosovo government promptly tore up all the major roads going in and out of Pristina.  This has made for a fairly interesting commute to work for most people and totally screwed up normal traffic flows.  KPS only seems to boost the problems with traffic when they try to direct traffic so if the traffic jam seems bigger than usual you can pretty much bet that KPS is somewhere up ahead making things worse!

I can only imagine what a person who is newly arrived in Kosovo thinks when they take the half-hour trip from the airport to Pristina on a road where basically no pavement exists at this time.  They must really think “what have I got myself into” but eventually the road will be finished, probably not by the September deadline, but sometime in the near future, hopefully before winter hits and life will be much easier because before the one-lane route was really painful when you got stuck behind a slow moving bus or even worse, a tractor or horse-drawn cart.

And yes, you will find lots of tractors, horse-drawn carts, and Kosovo Harleys (a roto-tiller attached to a trailer) slowly making their way down the major highways.  It’s just a fact of life in Kosovo that eventually you will get stuck behind one with a long line of on-coming traffic headed your way and no opportunity to pass :)

Driving in Kosovo is always a treat.  There is very little courtesy on the roads and the term “kamikaze” comes up frequently when describing the drivers.  The Kosovars and some internationals like to drive as fast as possible and sometimes even up on the sidewalks or the wrong-way into oncoming traffic.  However should the kamikaze driver come to a bump or hole you can be 99% guaranteed that they will slam on the brakes with little to no warning and crawl over the bump/hole before taking off again (and again, this is not just my wicked sense of humor!)

The Weather
People always wonder about the weather in Kosovo.  How you deal with the weather really depends on where you are from.  I would liken the climate to Montana, the northwest US.  During the winter, it is cold and there is snow.  It can reach down into the teens and 20′s during the winter but it usually stays around freezing during the coldest parts of the winter.

The weather starts warming up in March for a nice muddy spring.

The common joke is that Kosovo has three seasons (frozen, muddy, and dusty!)

The summer is quite nice but you have to remember that outside the office, few places have air-conditioning. Last summer was pretty mild, temperatures up in the 80-90′s.

To quickly check the weather, you can go to the Guardian Online from Camp Bondsteel or :)
Safety & Security
This is becoming an issue because some people just…well…they just aren’t smart about being in Kosovo.  The local population has a pretty good idea how much money a international police officer or civilian makes each month after so many years.  They know that we like the big TVs, have nice DVD players, and sometimes when one really isn’t smart, we leave large quantities of cash unsecured in the accommodation.  Crimes of opportunity (burglary of homes and vehicles) have always been present in Kosovo but in late 2005, the numbers started to climb.  International homes and sometimes people seem to be intentionally targeted for burglary and there have been several robberies where staff members have been injured.  My advice is to be vigilant and be smart.  Do not leave portable valuables such as laptops, iPods, mobile phones at home when you are at work…take them with you to the office (all the way to the office, for goodness sakes don’t leave them in the car!  That just begs a person to break the window and steal your belongings!)  Do not leave large sums of cash in your accommodation and certainly don’t leave them unsecured.  It is perfectly safe to leave your money in the local bank, no matter the nickname of “fake bank”, it is okay, really!

Of course, even if you are smart, it won’t guarantee that you won’tgetting burglarized but it will reduce your chances of  losing your valuables!

Eating & Groceries
Good food is no longer an issue. You can find it pretty much everywhere you go. Pristina is awash with restaurants catering to international tastes…and other regional HQs are basically the same. One thing that is different about the food in Kosovo is that it is typically much heavier than what you might be used to. You’ll order a pizza for lunch and will be served a thin-crust style pizza the equivalent of a medium in the US, just for you.  Visit my Kosovo Restaurant Guide for suggestions around Pristina :)

If you like to cook at home, you’ll find a few good butchers and green markets in which you can trust the quality of the food. There really isn’t anything like a “supermarket” here although they call them the same. Some have stated that the food selection in the markets isn’t choice but I disagree.  I remember back in 2000/2001 when the only salad you could get was the Shkup salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions topped with feta cheese and a nasty shriveled-up black olive).  Now you can find all sorts of produce and toss a really nice salad at home with everything you want…and the Shkup salads have improved as well ;o)
It is true that you sometimes won’t find good veggies and meat at the same location. You will most likely want to buy your veggies from a green market where they specialize in it…and your meat from a butcher.  For fresh veggies downtown, I would recommend Dreni Market behind the statue by the Grand Hotel.  Dreni usually have a good assortment of fresh veggies and fruit.  Downtown, there is also a fresh green market near de Rada restaurant (across from Raiffesien Bank).  This grocer seems to stock all the harder to find veggies in Kosovo and has a very nice selection! You can also find decent fresh veggies at InterEx Hipermarket, on the road to Kosovo Polje/Fushe Kosova, but not all the time.  The same goes with the new Era City Market, continue straight past Camp Alpha/Bravo.  They sometimes have really fresh veggies and fruit and other times they don’t look so hot :o

Now, one thing about butchers in Kosovo is that sometimes they don’t seem to know much about cuts of meat.  A lot of times there will be a hunk of meat labeled “Veal” (Mish Viqi) but you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out what the cut is.  And sometimes in the supermarkets there won’t be a “certified” butcher who knows anything about meat but rather just an attendant who just knows how to slice off a certain weight of meat off the hunk in the display.  But the meat is cheap and sometimes you can get nice cuts :)   For fresh meat, the best place to go is called Mishtore Junior which is located on a small side street across from the downtown City Park and across from the Taunita fish market (which is also the best place to purchase fish in Pristina.  You can also try the butcher at Albi Supermarket on the hill going out of Pristina towards Gnjilane.
At City Park in the Industrial Zone about once a week if you catch it at the right time you can purchase awesome T-bone steaks (around 3-4 Euros for a large one) in addition to the cubed goulash or ground beef that are typical with all butchers.  InterEx in Fushe Kosova/Kosovo Polje also has a decent selection…the butcher might be the same company.  If you would like chicken for the BBQ, I would recommend purchasing it from a place we have dubbed “Martini” that is a small qebatore on the side-road off Mother Theresa near the Grand.  If you are walking towards the Government Building away from the Grand Hotel, it is the first side-road on the right.

Beauty & Health
Well, it is easy for the guys, especially if you like a buzz-cut.  You can basically go to any Kosovo barber and get shaved or have your head buzzed for a couple of euros.  If you want a more detailed cut, I highly recommend going to the barber in Film City or Rineta at Heads (explained in detail below).
I have seen some guys come away from local barbers wanting a small trim and ending up with a nearly bald head.  Months of teasing and recovery that you just don’t want to deal with, I’m sure!

For the ladies, I would caution you about hairdressers in Kosovo.  Menda next to Bella Vista may be convenient but they are one of the most expensive shops and I have personally had a couple bad haircuts from them.  Just like in the US, it can be hard to find a good hairdresser that does what you want.  But I fortunately after several bad dos have found a great hairdresser that speaks wonderful English and was trained in New Zealand.  Her name is Rineta and she is the owner of the Heads Salon in Dardania (038 541 555/ 044 610 276).  The location is a little difficult to describe but she is located on the plaza behind the PTK building towards the end of the area on the right side.  If you have trouble finding her, you can always call her and she will send her assistant out to collect you if you go to the bottom of the stairs next to PTK.
There are some good beauty salons where you can have Swedish oil massages, facials, manicure/pedicures, and waxing.  One centrally located that is very good is Decleor (038 226 789/ 044 158 234) across from the Grand Hotel.  While English is not one of their strong suits, the girls there (and it is limited to just service for ladies) are quite professional and very friendly.

Another beauty salon that can be suggested is located near the Heads Hair Salon behind PTK and is called Pretty Woman (044 240 192).  The services are a bit cheaper and just as good as Decleor but the location is a little out of the way if you are downtown.  A 40-minute relaxation massage will only cost you 10E at Pretty Woman and a manicure/pedicure combination will cost less than 15E.  You’ll quickly be spoilt here with the low cost of the treatments :)

For bath supplies and cosmetics, I would suggest the EBC store located on Mother Theresa across from the Swiss Consulate.  They have everything from shampoo to Revlon cosmetics there at reasonable prices.  The company has also been opening up locations around Pristina so there might be one even closer to you. 
If you are looking for a good pharmacist, I highly recommend the Barnatore next to Valentino Cafe, across from Police Station #1 (Central KPS Station).

They speak very good English and the pharmacist is quite knowledgeable. Normally if you are given a prescription that the UN Health Clinic cannot fill, this is the closest pharmacy.  Medicines are much cheaper in Kosovo but you do sometimes have to wonder about the quality (many are manufactured in the Balkans).  For prescriptions issued by doctors in the US, I would suggest that you bring at least a six month supply with you when you come to mission.

You may not always be able to find the same (even a generic) in Kosovo or nearby countries.  I discovered that the medicine prescribed to me for migraines in the US is prohibited due to some of the drugs it contains being previously abused in the region and therefore sales were banned.

Charity & Street Children
Buying candy, Kleenex, or any other items from street children is prohibited by the United Nations.
Any person caught doing so can face disciplinary action and/or be repatriated. Too strict? Not really.
The problem is that these children are basically slave labor for unscrupulous parents and “street gangs” of child laborers.  Buying items from them does not benefit them in any way other than further dedicating their life to the hardship they are facing through successful selling.  No matter how pleading the eyes or how much the children beg you to take their gum, you must not do so.

Now that doesn’t mean that you have to turn your back to the plight of these unfortunate children.  Rather, if it is summer buy them a Coke to take with them.  Or if it winter, buy them a hot chocolate.  At least these small tokens will help them and cannot be taken away as easily as money.

If you are feeling more generous, buy the child a meal…even if it just spending a euro for a bit of burek to give to a child laying on the cold ground outside sans shoes.  Of course, one interesting observation from my time in Kosovo is that often the street beggars will remove their shoes to illicit more charity.  You can often find their shoes tucked under the cardboard or hidden in the bushes behind their position.
Romas (aka Gypsies) are a problem in Kosovo.  During the summer months there is an influx of them at many of the street corners and the women more frequently come by the cafes with children in tow begging for money.  It is usually men or children toting children that you find at intersections.  The children will bang on your car window demanding money while the men try to wash your windshield before the light turns in the hopes you’ll give them a euro for the effort.  Saying no to the window-washers does not always work and they will ignore your protests and go ahead and wash the window.  It’s my belief that you should not cave in and give them money for blatantly ignoring your wishes as it can be seen as a positive reinforcement of their bad behavior.

The problem with giving one Roma money at an intersection is that once the others notice you have, they all flock to your vehicle and want a “piece of the action”.  This is a lesson I learned the hard way by giving some candy to some of the children and then a few seconds later my car was completely surrounded with children banging on the windows wanting candy for themselves.

Going Out
Night life is not lacking in Pristina.  There are many cafe bars and a few discotheques that internationals could feel comfortable in.  The usual meeting point before venturing out is the 91 Pub near MHQ.
It seems like everyone starts with a couple drinks there before heading out around 11pm to another club.  Popular places to go on a Friday/Saturday night late (after 12am) are 212, Why Not, or Toyko.
One nightlife spot that I have found to enjoy is the Bamboo Cafe across from the Rilindja building in downtown Pristina.  Bamboo is a wine bar with couches and nice bar service.  The wine isn’t that bad either :)   If you want to go to a popular hangout for internationals then you should try Depot (dee-po) which is located in the back parking area of the Qafa Building near OSCE.  Depot gets crowded after 11:30PM but is a nice place to go with friends for a few drinks and maybe a little tail-shakin’.

Alas, one of the most famous nightclubs (or as I like to call it a deathtrap waiting to happen), the Irish Pub across from OSCE has been turned into a casino.  The bar was previously on the off-limits list for OSCE/UNMIK due to violent incidents and fighting. Before it was off-limits, I would only recommend going to the Irish Pub if you like being crushed, unable to move, and want to stink like you bathed in tobacco water when you go home.  A solemn salute to the Irish Pub, a former institution of Kosovo and a way of life for many an international!

Getting Around
Getting around in Kosovo is very easy.  There are several big taxi companies operating in Pristina and smaller ones in other towns.  One of the newer taxi services in Pristina is called Radio Taxi Titanic (038 232 322).

There also is Velania, Beki, and Victory taxi companies.  It is best to take a taxi with an established company as the drivers often radio in their route to dispatch and if something happens (like you leave something in the car) you have a better chance of finding the driver (I learned this the hard way when my phone disappeared!)  Also, the companies run on meters although late at night you can take a fixed rate…it was 5 Euros to Gracanica) so you know that you aren’t getting ripped off.  And the best thing about it…taxis in Kosovo are incredibly cheap compared to other places in Europe.
You can go almost anywhere in Pristina for less than 3 Euros!
So what do you do when it’s time to go on CTO/Leave?
Well, getting in and out is easy (legally of course).  There are several airlines operating daily or weekly flights out of Pristina to major European cities such as Vienna, London, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Istanbul.  If you need a good travel agent in Pristina, I highly recommend the girls at Altavia Travel across from Police Station #1.  They are friendly, helpful, and speak excellent English :)   You can also take the short jaunt down to Skopje for some cheaper flights if cost or time is an issue although crossing
the border in the morning before a flight carries the potential for trouble.  I’ve started flying with British Airways from Pristina.  The service is great and the airline puts you up in a Holiday Inn at Gatwick or Heathrow if you have to spend the night.  The only problem for some people is when you have to switch airports, Gatwick to Heathrow, you must pick up your luggage and transfer it yourself to the other airport.  But compared to some of the horror stories I’ve been hearing with other airlines losing luggage or having bad customer service, British is top-notch!

If you want to shoot over to Belgrade, Sofia, or Greece, you have a couple different options.  First, the SRC runs weekend bus trips to all those locations (including Dubrovnik in the summer).  Depending on the month’s schedule, you can take the bus down one weekend and return the next. Another option is that you can rent a vehicle in Kosovo.  You can get a vehicle from AGS (044-126-028) for half the price (35E) of other companies.  If they don’t have anything available you can try Global Development 4 (044-122-201 – Mr. Aziz) or Europecar (044-116-746 – Mr. Blerim Shkodra).  A rental from Kosovo will cost you around 75 Euros/day with unlimited kilometers unless you can get a vehicle from AGS :)   A slightly cheaper option for renting is to get a lift down to Skopje and rent a compact from Avis.

The last option for “getting outta Dodge” is to hire a taxi to take you from the Kosovo-Macedonia border to Sofia or Greece.  You usually can find information and telephone numbers from people who have been in mission for a while…it is a word-of-mouth kind of deal :)

Communication – Telephone & Mobile
Communication from Kosovo is not always easy. It can be difficult for someone outside of Kosovo to call into the local mobile network (sometimes even when you are in Kosovo!) But don’t despair. Contacting your loved ones is not impossible. When you arrive, you can request a PIN code for your desk phone that will enable you to place calls to the US for 0.10/minute. Also, if your family purchases a phone card from Wal-Mart or better yet, Sam’s Club (a tiny bit cheaper!) they can call you on your Kosovo mobile for around 0.18/minute (if they are patient enough to keep calling if the network is busy!) Calling cards are THE way to go for your family to call you while you are abroad.

Please, please do not make the mistake of using your long-distance plan on your telephone, it hurts…really bad (speaking from experience!)

You will also probably want to purchase a local mobile phone card from Vala (Alcatel, +377 Country Code).  PTK, Post & Telecoms Kosovo, has lowered the price for the SIM card to 5E, basically you get the card for free and 5E worth of credit.  You can also purchase SIM cards from people leaving the mission but then you have to contend with people calling you up looking for the other person!  And it’s hard to beat just 5 Euros…also if your phone is lost or stolen, when you keep the card that comes with the SIM from PTK, they can re-issue a card with the same number.
It’s really convenient, trust me!

Vala currently uses the 900 frequency but that may change in the future. In addition to the basic services such as calls and SMS (text messaging is way bigger here than in the US!), Vala now offers roaming and GPRS services (MMS is 0.25 Euros).  You can check the PTK website for more information.
Also now in Pristina, IPKO has launched its new mobile phone service.  IPKO is currently cheaper than Vala when you are calling between IPKO numbers but if you have to call Vala, the cost is the same as Vala itself.  In order to better compete with IPKO’s cheaper service, Vala announced that it would reduce its rates.  A plus side to the IPKO service is that you can have a group “My Circle” of five friends on IPKO service that you can call for just 2 cents per minute.  IPKO offers three different packages to users.
Communication – Internet
Internet access for your home is available so you can easily keep in contact by email.  The two big internet companies are competing hard for providing broadband internet service in the home for the many internationals that are interested.  For just under 10 Euros a month, both IPKO and  Kujtesa are offering broadband internet service with VOIP, game servers, and cable TV. For around 25 Euros a month you can get a 2MBps (that’s 1MBps upload and 1MBps download) connection with no download/upload limit and 50 channels of cable TV.  Someone like me that spends a lot of time downloading music will find the speed of this connection is the most acceptable.

A good feature of IPKO’s service is that there is no monthly bill that you have to worry about paying unlike Kujtesa which you pay in their office each month (and only in cash).  With IPKO you can purchase refill cards just like for prepaid mobile phones and recharge your internet connection…or get your landlord to do it :)   If you need more or less internet during a month, you can purchase the cards you need.  Or say you are going on vacation for a month…you simply just recharge when you get back and don’t pay while you are away!  Quite simple and cost-effective!

Another great way to keep in touch with friends and family is VOIP (Voice over IP) or internet telephony and one of the best companies to provide the free-service is Skype (internet connection is required!).  You can download the program from the Skype website and then whoever you want to talk to should also install the program on their computer.

Then all you need is a headset with a microphone (or just a microphone if you don’t mind everyone else listening to your conversation) and you can talk free over the internet to your loved ones…pretty cool, eh?!  You can set-up the program to call regular telephone numbers as well but that is not free.

Misc. Business Contacts
For those of you that want to print business cards, t-shirts, or signs for parties, I’ve been dealing with an excellent designer named Krenar.  He owns a design studio in Tophane called NightDesign Studio.  You can reach him at 044 -183 212 for directions and more information.  Printing 100 one-sided business cards cards is around 12 Euros if he is still giving a discount (other places charge around 15 Euros for the same order).  He can also print color signs in every size for parties or special events.
Printing t-shirts is easy as well, the printing costs around 1 Euro a shirt if you bring shirts to him or between 3-5 Euros per shirt depending on the quality if he needs to provide them.

For computer equipment, I would highly recommend Comtrade on Bill Clinton Blvd in the University block.  They offer high quality name-brand for affordable prices.  In addition to normal computer accessories, they also offer a small selection of laptop computers and internet recharge cards for IPKO.  The bad thing about the store is that they normally close around 6pm which makes it hard to visit after work.

Being an American in Kosovo
An advantage to being American is that the Albanians have great respect for our country.  Kosovo was probably one of the few places in the world that had demonstrations in support of the US War in Iraq.
The Albanians also celebrate the 4th of July with us, changing their normal 2nd of July holiday to match ours.  Even old Albanian men who don’t speak English will try to tell you “USA, Clinton, shume mire. Thank you!”  In some homes you will find a picture of Bill Clinton next to one of a UCK Commander.  There is even a boulevard in Pristina called “Bill Clinton Boulevard” and is the main road through Pristina to the airport.  On one of the large apartment complexes, there is a four-story picture of Clinton waving to the passersby.
We used to be able to shop at the PX down at Camp Bondsteel but that has changed since the latest change-over.  I guess we are no longer welcome and cannot access the base unless on official business or invitation.  I’ve also had the misfortune of being kicked out of the American PX in Film City by some Italians.  Guess we aren’t welcome anywhere now :(   I’m going to miss my Diet Pepsi and Tostitos!

Local Language
Now, in the beginning, the UN suggested that you don’t learn any of the local language…but learning some simple things can help…as long as you know how when to use your knowledge. For example, learning how to count in the local languages (Albanian/Serbian depending on where you are stationed) is particularly helpful when shopping. One word of caution with body language, when you signal the number 3, use your ring, middle, index fingers. Using your thumb, index, and middle finger is a sign for “Serbian Victory” and insulting to Albanians.

Some Mission Essentials:
1.) Comfortable, casual clothing. Despite whatever the contractor tells you at orientation, you will not be in uniform all the time.  And for us civvies, well you won’t want to wear a suit all the time!  So bring your favorite jeans, t-shirts, whatever because you’ll be hard-pressed to find good clothes in Kosovo.  If you do end up purchasing clothes here, you’ll find that most of the shirts will shrink to near-childlike proportions after a wash and most of the clothes are “European” style which doesn’t sit well with some of the more conservative American guys I’ve met (unless you like tight-tight shirts with funny logos/sayings on them!) You’ll want warm clothes for the winter (20-30′s and 30% humidity) and good summer clothes for hot temperatures (80-90′s with 30-60% humidity). For the police, you might want to bring one suit or at least a nice pair of slacks/shirt/tie (but definitely not a closet-full) in case you need on in your travels and/or want to attend a business function.
2.) Long-johns. As mentioned, it gets cold during the winter so having an extra layer helps. Gloves, hats are good too although CPI might supply you with some…but having an extra pair never hurts! The ones for sale on the streets here are fairly cheap quality and won’t last more than a month or two and don’t really keep you warm anyways (speaking from experience!)
3.) Laptop/Electronics.  Double-check the power source to see if it supports 220v. Most modern laptops do and it will tell you right on that little box attached to your power cord. Actually, that goes for all electronics you might want to bring with you. You can buy good transformers at Brookstone for your US electronics…and even some cheap but not bad quality transformers in the open market in Pristina.  Another handy device that can be purchased at Brookstone for international traveling is called the I-Go which is a set of power plugs for various devices that is dual-voltage and gives you the chance to plug your laptop, iPod, Blackberry, PS2, Gameboy and whatever else you have with you into your car, the airplane seat, and the regular electrical outlet.
4.) International mobile phone. Your standard US cell phone may not work in Kosovo. You need an unlocked GSM900 telephone. Most mobile phones in the US are locked, meaning that they will only accept a SIM card from your current US carrier…but that usually can be taken care of by visiting one of the many local mobile shops ;o)  Tri-band mobiles are the best if you plan on traveling a lot while on CTO.  If you want to roam with your US phone in Kosovo, check the rates and providers that your company has contracts with. I’m roaming with TMobile for $3.99/minute but I do not always have a signal because of the providers are out of Serbia and do not have continuous Kosovo coverage.
5.) Prescription medicines. Talk to your doctor and try to at least get a 6-month supply (or even a year) of whatever you might need. You may find yourself over here and not be able to get the type/brand you are familiar with and you also do not always know where it is from or the quality. Simple things like aspirin are available no problem.
6.) Camera. Coming over here is a great opportunity. You will meet people from all over the world, have the chance to travel the world…why not capture your experience on film?!?!  You can have film developed locally for good prices and with good quality.  Or better yet, digital is the way to go for easy sharing of pictures with loved ones back home.
7.) Email account. Get a free email account from Yahoo/Gmail/Hotmail so you can keep in touch with friends easily.