For many travelers unfamiliar with Albania, there’s a lot of confusion about the current state of the country that might leave them wondering is Albania safe to travel to. While we love traveling to Albania (and we’ve both traveled here solo), there are some common-sense Albania safety tips that you need to follow while here.
We share our best safety tips for Albania, plus important information about Albania travel scams and crime statistics. In the 2021 context, it’s best to travel to Albania with COVID travel insurance so you can be protected for any contingency.
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Is Albania Safe? 5 Things to Know about Safety & Crime in Albania
Here are five facts about the current state of crime in Albania that you should be aware of. I address how to protect yourself in the next section. So while these things exist, there are things you can do. Being aware of them is the first step.
There is a Small Risk for Domestic Terrorism
While there have been no major terrorist incidents in Albania in recent years, unlike in the UK, Spain, France, etc., there are still some issues with terrorism. According to the Albania 2019 Crime & Safety Report:
Returned Albanian fighters from Syria and Iraq continue to pose a problem for the country. The Albanian government has policies and procedures to document the travel of Albanians to and from Iraq and Syria. In 2018, there were 25 new terrorism-related cases in the judicial system, although no prosecutions were conducted.
Violent Crime is Decreasing
Although violent crime in Albania is usually targetted to locals and not travelers, nevertheless travelers should always be smart. 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. Street crime is fairly common in urban areas, predominantly at night. The most notable crimes are burglaries, theft, and domestic violence claims. If confronted by armed assailants, comply with demands.
Political Demonstrations Can Turn Violent
While most political protests are peaceful, there’s always a chance they can turn violent. In Albania, political demonstrations are frequent. Follow the US State Department’s advice:
Demonstrations and political protests are common in Albania. The protests are generally peaceful but have resulted in violence in the past. The demonstrations vary in size from several hundred to more than ten thousand participants and frequently disrupt traffic.
Avoid demonstrations whenever possible. Alerts and Messages can be found on the U.S. Embassy Tirana Website.
Sexual Assault is a Larger Issue in Rural Communities
Keep in mind that sexual assault is under-reported, but in aggregate sexual assault is more of an issue when in small towns and villages. According to the Albania 2019 Crime & Safety Report:
Sexual assault and harassment is an issue mostly in the smaller towns. The victims tend to be females walking alone.
Lazarat is Still a Target for Local Organized Crime
While most of the country has no heightened travel warning, Lazaret is a special case. According to the US State Department, there is an elevated risk in Lazaret:
The security situation in Lazarat remains volatile due to crime and violence associated with marijuana cultivation. Local police have limited ability to protect and assist travelers.
The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Lazarat as U.S government employees are prohibited from traveling there.
Of course, travel advisories change over time. Check the US Travel Advisory for Albania before your trip, just read them carefully to see what they actually reference.
11 Albania Safety Tips
Here are our essential Albania safety tips.
Avoid political demonstrations
I know it’s tempting. It happened to me in Tunisia and Iceland. You see a large protest rally and you just have to know what’s going on.
Well, in Albania, stay away. In 2018 a political protest resulted in injuries to thirteen police officers. You do not want to be in the middle of a political situation that you don’t understand, especially when you don’t speak the language.
So just stay away from political demonstrations of any kind while in Albania.
Know what to do if something goes wrong
It’s a good idea to know what you would do in a country if something were to go wrong. Besides your embassy’s contact information, keep these numbers handy:
Enroll in your government’s safety program
If you’re an American and you are concerned about the possibility of terrorism or political unrest while in Albania, you can enroll in the State Department’s STEP Program. This lets the government know your travel plans, and they will also email you to alert you if anything happens on the ground.
To be honest, I don’t use it when I go to Albania (though I probably should) since I feel pretty safe there. I have used it while traveling in Tunisia during protests, and I appreciated the up-to-date emails with what to look out for and areas to stay away from.
There is a similar program for Canadians. If you are a citizen of another country, check with your government to see if they provide these services.
Do not drink and drive
We love going to Albania for the wine and raki, but you cannot mix this with a night drive. Even a tiny bit of alcohol in your blood is illegal and will get you arrested (not to mention other Albanian drivers can make driving difficult even without alcohol).
Have your travel insurance information handy
Since you’re a smart, safety-first kind of traveler, you know it’s a good idea to get a travel insurance policy before you leave for your trip.
But what do you do with it once you have it? First, it’s a good idea to have easy access to your policy information so you can make a claim if needed. You can also give the policy info to an emergency contact who’s not traveling with you. In a worst-case scenario, they can access the benefits to help you if you’re unconscious.
Keep your money safe
Don’t every flash your cash. Use a mix of credit cards and cash in the city, and keep everything tucked away.
I use a Pacsafe Citysafe backpack, which has a pocked inside with RFID technology. This helps to make sure my credit cards won’t get scanned from afar.
It also has interlocking zippers, which means if someone does see that I have extra cash on me, it will make it harder for them to pickpocket me.
If you don’t want to buy a new backpack with safety features, you can use a money belt instead.
Have a hard copy of your card numbers, phone numbers, and passport information
If something does go wrong and your cards and passport get stolen, you need to be able to get them replaced. Have a hard copy in case your phone also gets stolen. This way you can call your banks, your embassy, and then your travel insurance company to get everything replaced without needing access to the internet.
I like to have one copy in my backpack, one copy in my day bag, and email a copy to myself in case I literally get everything stolen.
Never leave your stuff unattended
It’s tempting to leave your stuff unattended when you’re in a restaurant or cafe, especially if you’re traveling solo. How much easier would it be to just leave your backpack at the table while you go to the restroom?
Don’t! Never leave your stuff unattended. Don’t leave your cell phone out on the table. If you’re out in a public place that has a lot of tourists, sit with one of your chair legs through the loop of your backpack.
Be the hardest target, not the easiest. That starts with not letting your stuff be easily snatchable!
Pay attention to your surroundings
Pay attention to your surroundings. The one time I thwarted a pickpocket (in Italy, of course) was because I saw him out of the corner of my eye. He caught me looking at him, and he removed his hand from my backpack.
If I hadn’t have been paying attention, he would have gotten my cell phone, my cash, and my passport!
Make sure you can generally see and hear what’s going on around you so that if something is about to happen you’ll be aware.
Don’t drink the tap water in rural areas and small towns on the Albanian Riviera
While you can generally drink the tap water in places like Tirana and Saranda, it’s not safe to drink in small towns. Instead, opt for bottled water or bring your own Grayl Water Filter so that you can filter the tap water yourself.
Women need to use extra caution – just like everywhere in the world
There are very low rates of reported crime against women in Albania, and it’s not a country where catcalling is a real problem.
However, that doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be just as vigilant in Albania as they would be in their home towns or big cities.
Don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t drink too much if you’re traveling alone, be wary of any men who try to get your attention, etc.
Another thing to consider is that while there are low levels of sexual assault reported in Tirana, you should be just as wary of other travelers you meet as any locals.
So, How Safe is Albania?
Overall, Albania is a great place to travel, and I haven’t had any issues there as a solo female traveler. However, you want to use the same caution against pickpockets, sexual assault, etc. as you would anywhere in the world.
In addition, if political protests flare-up or there is a terrorist incident, it’s better to know ahead of time what you will do. Hopefully, you will have a safe, fantastic trip, but it’s better to be prepared just in case.
5 Things to Pack to Stay Safe in Albania
We have a complete packing list for Albania, but make sure you bring these five items with you!
Lonely Planet Western Balkans is a great guidebook for your visit to Albania, and it’s great if you’re also visiting any combination of the following countries: North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. It can be really hard (sometimes impossible) to buy a physical guidebook in English once you’re in Albania, so if you like having your guidebook in your hands you will need to bring it with you from home.
Unlocked Cell Phone: Allison and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (I use a Samsung and she uses and iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams!
If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use an Albanian sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!
Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Allison and I use (and they also make men’s versions). It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag.
A Sturdy Moneybelt: If you don’t want to get a new bag with anti-theft features as I use, you can use a money belt instead. I prefer to have these features built into my bag instead, but I know for a lot of people a money belt is a less expensive investment than a new bag.
Grayl Water Filter: While the water is safe to drink in the country’s larger cities, you need to avoid it in the small towns and villages inland and on the coast. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste.
Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
Where to Stay in Albania
We are working on hotel guides for Albania’s major cities. When traveling to Albania, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. The country is gaining in popularity as a tourist destination, so some of the best spots do sell-out early (especially in summer and on the coast)!
More Albania Travel Resources
First, start by reading our post on planning a trip to Albania. It covers everything from visas to vaccinations to what to pack, so it’s a great jumping-off point for your travel plans.
If you’re curious about the currency used in Albania and how tipping works, we recommend our Balkan currency guide to learn all about the Albanian lek and tipping culture. We also have a post on Albanian cuisine!
If you’re looking for even more places to add to your Albania itinerary, we have a bunch of ideas for you from us and other bloggers in this collaborative post about the 15 best places to visit in Albania! If you love UNESCO sites, make sure to check out Gjirokastra, Berat, and Butrint!
We are working on all of our Tirana guides, but for now, we have posts on the best restaurants in Tirana, the best Tirana cafes, and the best Instagram spots in Tirana, plus how to visit the Tirana Christmas Market.
Pin this Albania Travel Safety Guide for Your Trip
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.