Mountains in Albania

Is Albania Safe? (Tips + Advice)

Is Albania safe? This is an important question before you visit the country. 

Tourism is increasing every year in Albania and with more and more people wanting to check out this beautiful country, this is only set to increase.

However, a lot of people have concerns about visiting Albania. They hear stories about Albanian gangsters, see the portrayal of Albanians in films such as Taken and have second thoughts.

While some of these concerns are valid, not all of them are. I feel there are a lot of misconceptions about Albania. It’s certainly not the criminal oasis it’s sometimes portrayed as.

I wanted to visit Alania for years, but I always put it off. When I did finally visit, I found a beautiful country, with friendly people with very little trouble.

In this article, I will tackle the question, is Albania safe to travel to once and for all!

Is Albania safe?

Is Albania safe to visit?

Albania welcomed 5 million tourists in 2017 and that number is set to increase as the country becomes an increasingly popular tourist destination.

During my time in Albania, I felt safe the whole time. Not once did I feel I was in danger or uncomfortable, nor did I see any crime either.

This isn’t to say that there is no crime, every country has crime, but it’s not out in the open. Instead of relying solely on anecdotal experiences let’s look at what studies about safety in Albania.

The 2019 Global Peace Index lists Albania as the 51st safest country in the world. This is ahead of countries such as South Korea, France and the United States.

Public security is good and Albanians are very hospitable to visitors. It’s rare for foreigners to be the victims, but it does happen in rare instances.

When travelling to Albania, it’s best to take all the normal precautions you do when you visit any country. If you do this, then you shouldn’t have any issues on your trip, but it pays to be vigilant.

Is it safe to visit Albania right now?

things to do in Tirana

It is safe to visit Albania right now. There have been demonstrations against the government during the past year. Some of these did turn violent, but the majority were peaceful.

Most of these protests are centred in the capital of Tirana. With many things to do in Tirana, it can be easy to get caught up in protests if they happen.

It’s best to avoid large crowds, keep up to date with local media and be vigilant while you’re out and about. The odds of getting caught up in a disturbance is minimal, but the risk is still there.

The Albanian population is a mix of Christians, Muslims and those who have no faith. Despite this, there’s unlikely to incidents related to religion in Albania.

It’s a tolerant country with a low level of religious terrorism. Other than a few isolated incidents, Albania is a safe country to visit.

Albania travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential to have no matter what country you visit. If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you shouldn’t be travelling. Accidents can and will happen and you only realise how important insurance is until you need it.

I’ve experienced issues while I’ve been travelling, thankfully I didn’t need to use my insurance, but it was nice to know I had a safety net.

I always purchase travel insurance and use WorldNomads to keep me safe on the road. They offer insurance to people from over 140 countries specifically designed for travellers.

Top safety tips for travelling in Albania

Backpacking Albania is safe and enjoyable, but it always pays to take precautions and be prepared for any eventuality.

Just because a country is safe doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. You should do the same things in Albania as you would when you travel to any other country.

Below are some of my tips to keep you safe while travelling in Albania.

  1. Keep your belongings in your accommodation – You don’t need to flaunt your wealth, keep your most valuable positions in your room or your locker while you’re out and about.
  2. Be careful at ATMs when getting your money out – This applies to any country you visit. Be aware of who is around you when you take money out and check the machine beforehand to make sure it’s not dodgy.
  3. Copy your passport/travel documents – If you lose them it will be a major headache. A copy will be handy should they go missing.
  4. Learn some Albanian – I was surprised by how many people English, but the more time you spend outside the big cities, fewer people will speak English. Learning some Albanian will help you out and endear you to the locals.
  5. Try to blend in – This can be hard, but as long as you don’t look too much like a tourist, you will be fine. If you’re walking around in the latest hiking gear, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
  6. Buy an Albanian sim – If you’re in Albania for more than 2 weeks, it may be worth buying an Albanian sim card. Albania is not in the EU, so you can’t take advantage of the free-roaming that is available in all EU countries. Buying an Albanian is a way of getting around this problem.
  7. Be careful when driving – As I will mention in more detail below, Albanians are crazy drivers and the roads are not the best. If you’re driving in Albania be extra vigilant and be aware that drivers are not as rational as they may be in other countries!
  8. Prepare for the heat – Summers in Albania can get very hot. Temperatures were regularly above 30 degrees in Tirana when I visited. It got so hit some days that I had to stay inside from 10 am to 2 pm! Pack some suncream, stay hydrated and stay in the shade as much as you can.
  9. Keep your belongings close to you – although Albania is a safe country, crime still happens. Only take what you need when you’re out and about and keep your belongings on you at all times.
  10. You can pay in Euros – One of the good things about Albania is that they accept euros in a lot of places. You’ll need Lek for small purchases, but you can pay in Euros at hotels and toll booths if you’re driving.

Is Albania safe to travel alone?

Buildings in Tirana

The answer to this question is yes.

Despite the impression that Albania is a backward country full of gangsters, it’s actually a forward-looking place that is modernising very quickly.

I spent a lot of time in Tirana and had no problems of any kind. Nor was there any problems when driving in and out of the country.

No matter what time of the year you visit Albania, it’s a safe place to visit. If you’re by yourself, you won’t have any issues.

Albanians are friendly people, they’re more likely to be curious about why you’re in the country than cause you harm. Tourism is still relatively new in the country, so foreigners are often met with a mix of puzzlement and curiosity.

The reality is that Albania is far removed from the impression you can get in Western media and Hollywood. Travelling Albania alone is not something you should worry about.

Is it safe to drive in Albania?

During my 6-month road trip, we drove into Albania from Kosovo and out of it into Greece. We saw a lot of bad drivers during the trip, but the driving we saw in Albania was next-level crazy!

Some of the driving in Tirana was just downright bonkers. From congested roundabouts that were a free for all, to cars driving the wrong way down roads to beat traffic, it was bedlam!

I hesitate in saying driving in Albania is safe because it isn’t. Albanian drivers are erratic and reckless, which is not good if you want to avoid accidents.

According to the WHO, there were 13.6 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. This is much more than most other European countries.

This is not helped by poor roads in rural areas and street lighting not working in areas of the country. This was an issue when we were driving into Tirana late at night coming from Kosovo.

Unless you’re a doing road trip in the Balkans, it’s unlikely you’ll be driving in Albania. If you are, take extra precautions, be vigilant and look out for potholes and dodgy drivers. If you do all of this you should be fine.

I was asking myself, is Albania safe to drive through before we went there, but I can say this is the case despite the wackiness you may see on the roads!

Is public transportation safe in Albania?

Public transportation in Albania is not on the scale of other countries in Europe. For one, there is no rail system to speak of. You will have to rely on buses, furgons or hitchhiking to get around.

Due to the friendliness of people in Albania, public transport in the country is safe. I can’t speak for hitchhiking and would probably advise against it, but getting the bus is fine.

In case you’re wondering, furgons are privately owned minibuses that aren’t licenced. They are a handy way to get around the country instead of buses.

Furgons are a lot more intimate than buses and can get crammed during the summer, but they are mostly safe. You’re unlikely to encounter issues if you use one.

Buses run for popular routes such as Tirana to Saranda and into neighbouring Greece. They are safe and the best way to get around the spots in the country.

You won’t encounter any issues using a bus, but you may see some unusual items such as washing machines or engines as buses often operate as delivery vehicles too!

Is the food safe in Albania?

Kolonat

The food in Albania is safe, there is no question about this. I ate at a lot of different places and the food was great every time.

One of the great things about visiting Albania is that there is a wide range of cuisine available. Due to the proximity and the fact that a lot of Albanians have worked in Italy, food from those two countries is popular.

I’m a big fan of both Greek and Italian food so this was perfect for me. You’ll be able to eat a variety of food in the capital Tirana, but this won’t be the case everywhere else in Albania.

However, in rural towns and cities such as Saranda, you will find more traditional cuisine which is delicious and something you have to try while you’re in the country.

If you find yourself hankering for McDonald’s while you’re in Albania, you’ll be in for a surprise. Albania is one of the few countries not to have a McDonalds.

There is a suspiciously similar outlet called Kolonat, which has a similar logo and menu. If you want some fast food in Albania, this is the place to go!

Can you drink the tap water in Albania?

Mountains in Albania

The tap water in Albania is generally considered to be safe to drink. However, large portions of the population choose to drink bottled water instead.

Normally I drink tap water in most countries that I visit, but I was unsure whether it was a good idea in Albania. I gave it a try in the end and experienced no issues, but I can’t guarantee that will be the case for everyone.

If you’re travelling in the mountains, the water is considered to be clean and delicious. Although it is best to check with the locals first!

What I do recommend is that you take a refillable water bottle with you to minimise the amount of bottled water you consume. This can be difficult when there aren’t many water fountains and bottled water is everywhere.

However, if you buy a filtered water bottle, such as the GRAYL Geopress, you can fill it with tap water and the filter will stop you from drinking any nasty bacteria! 

Is Albania safe to live in?

Beach in Albania

Albania is safe to live in. As its position on the Global Peace Index indicates, it’s a lot safer than many people think.

Albanians are friendly and welcoming people, if you decide to live in Albania for a period, a lot of people will be curious about why, but they will almost always be friendly and courteous.

Tirana is a lovely city and despite being the capital of a communist country until 1991, it’s improving at a rapid rate.

However, there are better places to live in Albania. The country has some of the best and underrated coastline in Europe. If you want to live in Albania, my recommendation would be to go to the Albanian Riviera.

You will find cities such as Sarana, which are beautiful and have stunning beaches. They are arguably safer than living in Tirana and see very little crime.

If you decide to live in Albania you will find a safe and tolerant country that is welcoming to foreigners who embrace Albanian culture and their way of life. 

How is healthcare in Albania?

Albania has a wide range of healthcare available should the need arise for you to use it. As the country is outside of the EU you cannot use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you’re from an EU country.

However, if you need to go to the pharmacy, barnatore in Albanian, you will find most medicine is readily available for a small fee.

If you need to go to the hospital, your best bet is to get to Tirana if you’re not there already. They have a range of hospitals with staff that speak English. There are also private hospitals in the city too.

Other cities do have hospitals, but the standard is higher in Tirana and so is the likelihood the doctors speak a language other than Albanian.

Healthcare is affordable compared to the rest of Europe, but you will pay more if you go to a private hospital.

Useful Albania travel phrases

I have listed a few helpful phrases to use while backpacking Albania:

Përshëndetje Hello                                                          Mirëmëngjes – Good morning

Natën e mirë – Good night                                                 Mirupafshim – Bye

Po – Yes                                                                                         Jo – No

Si Jeni?– How are you?                                                       Si quheni? – What’s your name?

Më fal – Sorry                                                                       Më falni – Excuse me

Faleminderit – Thank You                                                  Ju lutem – You’re welcome

(Unë) nuk kuptoj – I don’t understand                             Flisni Anglisht? – Do you speak English?            

Mund të më ndihmoni? – Can you help me?                  Ndihmë! – Help

Sa kushton? – How much is it?                                         Faturën, ju lutem – The check, please

Concluding thoughts

To answer the question, Is Albania safe? My answer is that it is. Other than the erratic drivers, there is nothing that should dissuade you from visiting the country.

Contrary to the image portrayed in Hollywood films and the stereotypes of Albanian gangsters, the majority of people are friendly and welcoming.

You should take the same precautions that you would in any country you visit. If you do this, you will have no issues.

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Is Albania safe?