Last updated 21 July 2021.
‘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 twice 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 as well as my best safety tips for Albania.
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
Albania is a very undeveloped country. There aren’t really any central bus stations, public transport is a nightmare, the roads are in poor condition and tourist infrastructure doesn’t really exist outside of Saranda and Ksamil. This isn’t a bad thing at all, but it does make travelling in Albania a little bit more difficult than travel in other countries.
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.
For hotels in Albania, I recommend using Hotellook to get the best rates.
To rent a car, use Rental Cars.
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’!
Albania is technically a Muslim country, although the population is not actively very religious. I can count on one hand the number of ladies I saw wearing hijab and almost every Albanian drinks alcohol.
If you’re planning a trip to Albania, then I strongly recommend buying travel insurance. I NEVER travel without insurance, and I’ve seen too many others get landed with huge medical bills as a result of not having had insurance, that it’s something I’ll never neglect to buy. My recommendation for great travel insurance is World Nomads.
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!
There are frequent political protests in Albania though, and while the vast majority of these take place without incident, there is always the potential for things to turn violent at a protest, and so my advice would be to avoid these.
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?
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.
What’s more, violent crime in Albania is actually on the decrease. According to the Albania 2019 Crime & Safety report, ‘Recent crime statistics indicate a decrease in numerous violent crime categories; this includes murder/attempted murder, robberies by force, and armed robberies.’
Another great thing to note is that street harassment is basically non-existent in Albania, which is a welcome change to other places I’ve been!
While Albania definitely has a problem with domestic violence, 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, 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. The place where most organised crime in Albania occurs is in Lazarat, where there is a problem with violent crime linked to marijuana cultivation and local police have a limited ability to assist travellers who fall victim to crime there.
However, outside of Lazarat, organised 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.
Credit card fraud in Albania
One fairly common type of petty crime in Albania is credit card fraud.
Be careful to cover your PIN when entering it into an ATM, and always check behind you to make sure that nobody is looking over your shoulder. Make sure that you have your card numbers and the phone number of your bank written down so that you can quickly cancel your cards if you become a victim of this type of crime.
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. You should also be aware that Google Maps WILL get you very very lost!
It is also important to note that even having a tiny amount of alcohol in your bloodstream when driving is illegal in Albania and will get you arrested. Whatever you do, don’t drink and drive in Albania.
If you decide to rent a car in Albania, I recommend Rental Cars.
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).
Safety tips for Albania
While Albania is a safe country, you should always use your common sense and exercise caution when travelling, especially if you are travelling alone.
Here are my top safety tips for Albania:
– Avoid political demonstrations. I said this before, but it is worth repeating here. While the vast majority of political demonstrations in Albania pass without incident, protests always have the potential to turn violent, and you don’t want to get swept up in a situation that escalates.
– Know the Albanian emergency numbers and keep them stored in your phone. The number for the ambulance in Albania is 127, the police is 129 and fire services are 128.
– Get travel insurance. I cannot stress the importance of having health insurance when you travel, and my go-to for backpackers is World Nomads, because it is an insurance designed specifically for long-term travellers and backpackers, and you can change or extend your policy while travelling. Click here to read my World Nomads review.
– Keep your travel insurance documents with you. If you get into an accident, it is always a good idea to have copies of your travel insurance documents to hand to show to the police or people at the hospital. I always make a copy of mine and email the copy to myself so that I have it stored in multiple places.
– Make a copy of your passport and ID and have this with you at all times as well. Again, I email this to myself or make sure that it’s stored on Google Photos for easy access.
– Check with your host whether the tap water is safe to drink where you are. In Berat, you will be perfectly fine, but in Tirana the water is not so good, and most hotels and hostels have water filters that you should use instead.
Tours in Albania
When I travel, I always like to support small local businesses and learn more about a culture by taking part in a small organised tour. Here are some of the best tours that you can do in Albania:
Go wine tasting and stay at an agrotourism farm in the village of Roshnik, near Berat. Options include horse riding, mountain trekking, swimming in the lake, wine and food tasting.
Enjoy a half-day cruise of Skadar Lake and the River of Crnojevic.
Hike Gamti Mountain and enjoy views over Bovilla Lake.
Visit Osum Canyon and Bogove Waterfall in Berat.
Visit The Blue Eye and Lekuresi Castle from Saranda.
Enjoy a 2-day private tour of Theth National Park.
Enjoy a guided tour of Apollonia National Park from Vlora.
Experience a full-day tour of Zvernec Monastery with lunch (from Vlora).
Take part in a half-day tour of Llogara National Park.
Enjoy a private tour of Butrint Archaeological Park.
Of course, there are plenty more tours on offer in Albania but these are my top recommendations!
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 13 Best Beaches in Albania – Guide to 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
Travelling in Albania – Your Ultimate Albania Travel Guide
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*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.