Last updated 20 April 2020.
‘Is Albania safe?’ tends to be a question that many people ask when planning a trip to Europe.
‘Look after your kidneys!’ more than one person told me in a tone that was joking but definitely not joking.
Albania is largely unknown territory to most people. Many haven’t even heard of it, and most of the people that have have garnered their impressions from films such as Taken, which portray Albanians as human traffickers and drug smugglers. Even to me, a fairly seasoned solo traveller, Albania seemed like a land of mystery, a place where I had no idea what to expect.
It’s easy to get carried away with our assumptions about places we know little about, and Albania is definitely one of those places that people associate with danger, but after travelling through Albania and experiencing it for myself, I found that not only is Albania safe, but it is incredibly open and welcoming of tourists! When I returned to the UK, I decided to do some research about safety in Albania in order to present you with not only my experience, but cold, hard facts.
In this article we will look at every aspect of whether or not Albania is safe to visit, from active conflicts in Albania, petty crime in Albania, organised crime in Albania, road safety in Albania and more. I hope that by the end of this post I will have managed to reassure you that Albania IS a safe country and that you should definitely add it to your European bucket list!
By the way, I also wrote an article with 37 reasons why you should visit Albania so make sure to check that out if you need any more persuasion!
Is Albania Safe to Travel To?
Things to Know Before Visiting Albania
The currency in Albania is the Albanian Lek (ALL). You cannot legally get it outside of Albania so you should either bring euros to exchange, or just use ATMs to withdraw money.
ATMs usually take Visa OR MasterCard, not both. You should never use Euronet ATMs as the fees are extortionate.
Although some places accept card payments, Albania is largely a cash society and you should always have some cash with you, especially outside of Tirana.
Albania is incredibly cheap. A coffee will usually cost about 40 euro cents, a meal in a restaurant will be as little as 2-3 euros, and a beer will be around 1 euro.
The Albanian language is shqip and it is different to any language you’ve ever heard before! While many Albanians working in hospitality speak English, speaking Italian is your best bet as most Albanians (even the older generations) speak Italian. Albanians also nod their head ‘yes’ when they mean ‘no’!
Is Albania safe? The facts
To begin, let’s take a look at the stats. Numbers don’t lie, and according to the Global Peace Index, Albania ranks at number 52 out of 163 countries, making Albania safer than the United Kingdom, France and the United States (the United States ranks at number 121 on the list).
GOV.UK concludes that public security in Tirana, capital of Albania, is ‘generally good,’ and states that ‘Albanians are very hospitable to visitors.’ It continues to say that although crime and violence do occur in ‘some’ areas, ‘reports of crime specifically targeting foreigners are rare.’
This means that if you are asking yourself ‘is Albania safe for tourists?’ then the answer is a resounding YES. Probably even safer than the country that you grew up in! Just like anywhere, crimes do occur, but foreigners are generally not targeted, and the chances of you becoming the victim of crime in Albania are slim.
Active conflicts in Albania
When we think about how safe a country is, we often look into whether there is active conflict going on, either as part of a civil unrest or conflict on a larger scale. In Albania, the last unrest was way back in 1997 after civil war broke out, and Albania hasn’t been involved in any international conflict since World War 2, making Albania a very safe country on that front!
Although there is definitely tension between Albania and other countries, such as Serbia, the most that you will encounter as a tourist in Albania is people bitching about Serbian people (and vice versa in Serbia!).
One tiny word of warning to those planning on visiting Serbia – Serbia is somewhat hostile towards America after NATO bombed Belgrade and took Kosovo’s side during the Kosovo war. As an American in Serbia, you will probably not encounter any problems, but people are very against Hillary and Bill Clinton and will have no problems telling you so.
Is Albania safe for American tourists? Absolutely YES. Albanians and Kosovars LOVE America, and locals may even personally thank you for liberating Kosovo! As an American tourist, you will be made especially welcome in Albania.
Albania and petty crime
As a tourist in Albania, I never once felt unsafe.
Whether it be walking home at night or getting a lift from a stranger (hitchhiking is incredibly popular in Albania), I never felt threatened, even as a solo female traveller. In fact, according to World Nomads, walking around in Albania is significantly safer than walking around in the UK or USA.
Petty theft and random acts of violence are pretty much unheard of in Albania, and if a tourist does become a victim of a crime, the police take it very seriously as they are trying to bolster their image and show that Albania is a safe place for foreigners to travel to. Of course, there are opportunists in every country, but crimes such as pickpocketing occur far less in Albania than they do in places in Western Europe such as Paris or Barcelona.
Not only that, but street harassment is basically non-existent in Albania, which is a welcome change to other places I’ve been! While domestic violence is a huge problem in Albania, solo female travel in Albania is safe, and although you might get a few stares, you should not worry about street harassment in Albania.
To put this into some context, allow me to tell you about something that happened while I was in Berat, 120km from Tirana. One night, a young tourist got drunk and banged on a stranger’s door, thinking that it was her hostel. This caused such uproar that the entire neighbourhood gathered around in horror and police were called to banish the girl from the city. This tiny incident was more excitement than Berat had seen in years, and if this doesn’t say something about how little crime actually happens in Albania, then I don’t know what will!
When asking yourself ‘is Albania safe?’ you are probably thinking about negative stereotypes that surround Albanian people, namely that they are violent mobsters and organised criminals.
However, believe me when I say that Albanian people are the warmest and most hospitable people I’ve met in over four years of travel. Not only is it part of Albanian culture to be honest and welcoming (an old Albanian adage says that Albania is first God’s country, and then that of its guests), but due to Albania travel only recently making its way onto people’s holiday bucket lists, Albanian people are delighted to see tourists enjoying their country and will go out of their way to make sure your trip runs smoothly.
I can’t count the number of times that people would ask me where I was from before beaming at me and telling me to enjoy Albania. The reaction was even stronger when I was with people from Australia and the USA – people just can’t believe that young travellers are coming all the way from Australia to some random village in Albania!
I also couldn’t tell you about all of the random acts of kindness I’ve experienced from Albanians. From the girl at the market who told me the prices I should be paying for everything, to the man who saw my friends and I struggling uphill with our bags and drove us to our hostel, to the guy who called us an ambulance and came to hospital with us after my friend drunk too much raki (how embarrassing).
I honestly cannot stress enough the open and hospitable nature of Albanian people, and so if you’re wondering ‘is Albania safe to visit?’ or even ‘is Albania safe for solo female travellers?’ the answer is absolutely, 100% YES.
Again, while domestic violence is an issue in Albania, and while violence among Albanian men is not uncommon, these are not things that will affect tourists in Albania. I do not say this to trivialise these very real issues, but simply to point out that the victims of crime in Albania are Albanians, not tourists, and so this should not deter you from travelling to Albania.
Albania and organised crime
It is true that most crime in Albania (and the Balkans in general) is of the organised variety. Crimes involving drugs and human trafficking do sadly occur in Albania (Albania is a large source country for human trafficking victims, meaning that victims are taken from Albania to work in countries such as Spain and the Netherlands), and while this is terrible, it doesn’t affect travellers visiting Albania*, and so shouldn’t be something that deters you from visiting the country as a tourist.
As with most organised crime, this type of crime in Albania goes on behind the scenes, and while corruption is a big problem in Albania, as a tourist you will not have any problems.
Additionally, while it can’t be denied that Albanian mobsters are not people that you would want to bump into on a dark night, the vast majority of them are not actually in Albania. Albanian mobsters are where the money is – in Western Europe – meaning that you’re highly unlikely to get ensnared in a drug smuggling ring whilst enjoying a night out in Tirana.
Driving in Albania
It is true that the best places to visit in Albania, particularly the best beaches in Albania, can only be reached by car, and so many websites will advise people travelling through Albania to rent a car and drive.
However, you should know that the most dangerous thing for tourists by far in Albania is road travel. Roads in Albania are often poor, the streets aren’t always lit, and Albanians are known to be aggressive and erratic drivers. Deaths from road traffic accidents in Albania are among the highest in Europe, and so if you are planning to rent a car in Albania then be very careful.
Is Albania safe for solo travellers?
Is Albania safe for solo travellers? Yes. However, would I necessarily recommend Albania for solo travellers?
Although Albania is safe, travelling through Albania can be challenging, and I would not recommend solo travel to Albania for inexperienced solo travellers. I visited Albania after 2 whole years of solo travel, and I ended up being very glad that I met a group of people in Tirana who I ended up travelling Albania with!
In Albania, English is not widely spoken, public transport is very unpredictable (with most cities not even having central bus stations or timetables), and things don’t always go to plan. I had my fair share of mishaps in Albania, and not only was I with friends, but I consider myself to be a very savvy and experienced backpacker.
For inexperienced travellers who want to experience the Balkans, I would recommend nearby Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina which are still just as beautiful, but more used to tourism and thus can cater better to newbie solo travellers!
However, for experienced travellers who are wondering about whether they should travel to Albania solo, I would say hell yes! Travelling in Albania can sometimes feel like travelling in Southeast Asia or South America, and those experienced with those parts of the world will definitely find their experiences useful when travelling Albania!
Travelling around Albania is definitely for the more adventurous traveller, but your bravery will be rewarded tenfold. Albania is a country that is absolutely full of untouched beauty, from mountains to waterfalls, beaches to Roman ruins. Hostels in Albania are of a great standard, very cheap, and very sociable, and if you are a budget traveller then you will be pleased to know that prices in Albania are closer to those in Southeast Asia than anywhere else in Europe (with the possible exception of Ukraine).
Is Albania safe? Final thoughts.
In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that Albania is an incredibly safe country for tourists, even solo female travellers. Petty crime rates are extremely low, people are welcoming, there are no active conflicts, and people are so trusting of each other that hitchhiking is the main means of getting from A to B for both locals and foreigners. You’re much more likely to see groups of old men playing chess on the side of the road than you are to see gangsters gunning each other down, and the only thing you really have to be careful of is not to drink too much of the free raki (fruit brandy) that will inevitably be offered to you!
Albania is, to date, one of my favourite countries in the world, and I cannot recommend you go and visit it enough. It might seem somehow ‘other,’ and you may not be able to point to it on a map, but don’t let that deter you. Albania is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Have you ever been to Albania? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section! Want more Albania content? See my Albania posts below!
37 Reasons to Visit Albania
The Best Beaches in Albania – The Best of the Albanian Riviera
Guide to Gjirokaster – City of a Thousand Steps
Berat, Albania – City of a Thousand Windows
Wine Tasting in Albania with Kantina Alpeta
Road Tripping Through Kosovo and Albania
Tirana, Albania – A 3 Day Itinerary
*The media likes to pretend that girls like me are hugely likely to get trafficked, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Victims of human trafficking are people from poor countries, usually from marginalised communities, who are desperate to escape poverty. Privileged girls from countries such as the UK and USA are not who traffickers are looking for.