Situated on Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, Albania is a small country with ancient history, natural beauty, and delicious Mediterranean cuisine. It should be a thriving tourist hub, nestled between northern Greece and Italy’s azure seas. But with a history of civil uproar, warfare, and low socio-economical factors, is Albania safe to visit?
Tribalism, blood feuds, and organized crime have long been linked to the Balkans, and Albania was once one of the poorest countries in Europe. With so much to offer in the way of heritage sites, dramatic mountains, and sprawling Adriatic coastline, how much should border conflicts still concern visitors to Southeastern Europe?
This guide answers all those pressing questions about the safety of Albania in 2022 and looks at the precautions visitors should take in the cities and border towns. It might be unpolished, but Albania is a diamond in Europe’s crown and shouldn’t be left off your travel bucket list. Find out how to make your Balkan adventure as trouble-free as possible below.
Is Albania safe to visit?
The Albanian mafia once had a powerful hold over the country. Organized crime gangs were the most significant threat to public safety, and conflict with bordering nations threatened Albania’s position in the European Union. But Albania has grown from a poverty-stricken land to an upper-middle-income country. Implementing reforms to create jobs, invest in skills, and build inter-European relations has transformed Albania’s economy and public safety.
Albanian organized crime might still be associated with North and South America and even the Middle East. But the mafia no longer exists in Albania itself, and the country’s people are notoriously accomodating.
With a small population of less than three million, Albania is home to some of Europe’s friendliest people. From the capital city to the mountains and archeological towns, you’ll be welcomed by warm locals with open arms wherever you go.
There are mild risks in the major cities, and petty crime isn’t uncommon. Still, this can be said for Europe on the whole, and Albania still comes out as one of the least dangerous countries on the continent. The most common crimes aimed at tourists include pickpocketing and muggings, mainly in the metropolitan areas of Tirana, Durres, and Vlore, but violent crime is rarely reported.
Is Albania safe for solo travelers?
Albania is one of the least dangerous nations in Europe, so traveling with children, loved ones, or alone is considered safe, including for women. One reason why Albania is so safe for solo travelers is because of the accommodating people. You can find English-speaking locals even in the remote areas, who will always be ready to offer directions, recommendations, and even transport or accommodation to tourists.
Tourism is a crucial factor for the economy that continues to develop with public safety. It is in the interest of all Albanians for their country’s tourism to thrive. As is the same in most countries, females traveling alone should avoid remote areas after dark, even though most Albanians will go out of their way to offer assistance should you need it. Continued disputes in the northern regions, specifically on the border with Kosovo, make these regions unadvisable for tourists.
With years of political warfare and civil unrest regarding the territory of Kosovo, crime can be higher here. The people are also heavily armed in these regions, and several unexploded mines are leftover from conflicts. Never go wandering in unmapped areas and stick to tourist trails if you are venturing through the rural towns.
Is public transport safe in Albania?
Public safety in Albania is generally good, especially in the capital Tirana. This means public transport is not considered dangerous, but travelers should still exercise caution and remain vigilant when traveling by local bus or train.
The public metro and bus systems are cheap and efficient. But safety standards are not high on the agenda, and it’s not uncommon for public transport to get very busy. This means the risk of opportunistic crimes increases on public transportation, and most reports of pickpocketing come from local buses.
Keep your belongings close to you at all times, and don’t flash expensive electronics or jewelry in public. Also, be aware of organized scams. It’s not uncommon for criminals to disguise themselves as vulnerable individuals to persuade you out of pocket or distract while pickpocketers get to work. Only travel with what you need for your day and keep valuables zipped away.
Is tap water safe to drink in Albania?
As visitors to Southeast Asia will be familiar with, thinking about where you’ll get your next drink can be more of a hassle when traveling than we’re used to in the western world. Water in Europe is generally safe to drink, especially in developed cities, but can the same be said for Albania?
Tap water is drinkable in Albania, but it often contains a high amount of chlorine, affecting the taste and irritating your stomach. Locals drink tap water where available, but only 50 percent of rural and urban areas in the country have access to safe drinking water.
Drinking too much tap water is likely to give tourists stomach cramps, so drinking filtered water is advised when possible. You should invest in a good water bottle to protect the environment and prevent excessive single-use plastic consumption. Still, bottled water is also cheap and widely available all over the country.
With chlorine being the primary issue with tap water in Albania, fruit and perishable goods from markets and grocery stores are also generally safe and clean. Always give fresh produce an extra rinse, but you shouldn’t have to worry about harmful bacteria getting into your food in Albania.
Are there any natural hazards in Albania?
So, is it just human conflict that visitors to Albania need to worry about? Europe isn’t the first place that comes to mind when we think of natural disasters, but mother nature is a surprising force.
Albania actually lies in an earthquake zone, and the Balkan region is somewhat seismically active. There have been several earthquakes in the last hundred years that registered above six on the Richter scale. The largest of these occurred in 1979 in Montenegro, and although the epicenter was 70 kilometers from the border, there were 35 recorded fatalities in Albania.
Albania crosses two transversal fault lines, and earthquakes can be strong and cause heavy damage. A 6.4-magnitude quake also occurred in Mamurras in northwest Albania in 2019, from which 51 people were killed. Tremors were felt as far as Tirana, and government regulations regarding quakes have tightened up since.
Although some areas in Albania are registered at “high” risk from earthquakes, this only means there is around a 20 percent chance of a potentially-damaging earthquake in the next 50 years. Familiarise yourself with your hotel’s earthquake protocol and avoid areas that are most at risk if you’re concerned, but don’t let the unlikely event of a tremor ruin your holiday.
Surprisingly, Albania also has a “medium” level hazard for tsunamis, with a 10 percent chance of a damaging tsunami event occurring in the next 50 years. But this just goes to show how natural hazards warnings are calculated. Albania’s long coastline and moderate seismic activity mean tsunamis have to be considered, but this isn’t something visitors need to worry about.
7 Safety Tips for Albania
- Protect your valuables – Petty crimes are the most considerable risk in Albania. The majority of people are warm and genuine, but pickpocketers operate in the more touristy areas, so always keep your belongings close to you and out of sight.
- Exercise caution at night – It’s not advised for travelers to wander around alone at night, especially in remote areas that are poorly lit. Always travel with a friend where possible or opt for a taxi over a late-night walk home.
- Stay alert on public transport – Most crime reports happen on public transportation, and organized crime groups operate pickpocketing scams in most major cities. Avoid traveling on the busses in peak hours and only travel with things you need for that day; leave passports, cash, and cameras at home.
- Avoid certain regions – The only areas tourists are advised to avoid in Albania are the northern regions like Kukes and Tropoje, near the Kosovan border, where the security situation remains unpredictable. Locals tend to be heavily armed, and border conflicts have led to hostile attitudes. There are also unexploded mines and higher rates of prostitution and drug smuggling in these poorer regions.
- Book taxis in advance – Albanian’s are primarily friendly and honest people, but tourists are at risk of scams wherever they travel. Be vigilant at ATMs, avoid negotiating with street vendors, and book your taxis in advance to avoid being overcharged.
- Familiarize yourself with earthquake regulations – Albania is among the few regions in Europe at risk of heightened seismic activity. Make sure your hotel has an implemented Earthquake procedure, and consider staying elsewhere if it doesn’t. Also, avoid staying in very remote or mountainous areas, which are harder to reach by emergency services and at risk of landslides.
- Avoid political demonstrations – Albania’s economy and society have seen massive growth in recent years. But a history of civil unrest has left its mark on the country. Political rallies aren’t uncommon, and a protest in 2018 resulted in more than 50 injuries and multiple arrests in the capital. You don’t want to get involved in a political situation when you can’t speak the language, especially not with the police.
Is Albania a poor country?
Albania used to be the poorest country in Europe. The Balkan nation is now an upper-middle-income economy, but poverty is not uncommon. Many Albanians face poor public services, especially in rural areas and social services are widely inaccessible. The GDP per capita has seen considerable increases in the last 40 years, but it remains lower than most European countries at less than $10,000. Most people with higher incomes are still at risk of unemployment.
Is Albania safe at night?
Albania is generally considered safe at night as one of the least dangerous Balkan countries. But visitors should exercise caution in major cities where muggings occur, and solo travelers are advised not to wander the street after dark. Albania has excellent nightlife, and the roads can be well-lit and busy until the early hours in party areas. But visitors should moderate their alcohol consumption and never leave drinks unattended to protect themselves.
When is the best time to visit Albania?
Albania benefits from a temperate Mediterranean climate with scorching coastal summer heat and bitterly cold winters in mountainous regions. Albania’s beaches are beautiful and popular but can get very crowded in July and August when temperatures sit in the mid-80s. April to June and September to October are great times to visit Albania for sun-filled days, cooler evenings, and fewer crowds.