OSAC logo

Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

188 all time - 1 last 7 days

Albania 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Albania. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Albania country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Albania at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Albania as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The Albanian government is making a concerted effort to improve the country’s law enforcement capabilities and reduce corruption. Organized crime has a noted impact on Albania, with a network of criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking, extortion, bribery, money laundering, prostitution, and human trafficking.

Recent crime statistics indicate an overall decrease in violent crime; while murders increased by five from 2019, all other violent or serious crimes have decreased. Street crime is common in urban areas, predominantly at night. The most notable crimes are burglaries, theft, and domestic violence. If armed assailants confront you, comply with their demands. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Attacks using small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and targeting individuals in contentious disputes have occurred in the past year. Remain vigilant when parking in unattended parking areas, avoid parking overnight in non-secure areas, and inspect vehicles for suspicious items. If you find something strange, do not tamper with it and contact the Albanian Police immediately. The expatriate community is not a specific target, although members could become victims due to circumstance or proximity.

The security situation in the southern town of Lazarat, which was one of the largest marijuana-producing regions in Europe, has improved. However, the U.S. Embassy prohibits its personnel from personal travel to the area, and strongly discourages visitors from traveling there as well.

Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

Cybersecurity Issues

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Driving can be challenging. Travelers regularly encounter unsafe drivers nationwide, and disregard for traffic laws is widespread. Traffic accidents are frequent and often result in serious injury or death. Those choosing to drive should exercise strong caution and drive as defensively as possible.

Roads conditions in Albania continue to improve. Major thoroughfares between cities are usually paved highways. Many smaller roads in villages or neighborhoods are primarily dirt and rock, and are in poor condition. In the winter, roads through the mountains in northern Albania can be snowy and icy. Flash floods can occur at any time, opening deep and wide potholes, especially in outlying areas.

Nighttime driving is hazardous, with roads lacking proper lighting. Avoid traveling at night between cities because of the risk of automobile accidents. Plan to arrive at destinations before nightfall.

You can only use an international driver’s license for one year in Albania, but must apply for an Albanian driver’s license after one year. It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. The police will seize your driver’s license and vehicle if caught. You may also receive a fine or up to six months in prison. It is against the law to use a mobile phone without a hands-free device while driving.

Passengers of private vehicles have been the victims of robbery, including deaths, in the past two years in Tepelene, on the route from Saranda to Tirana, and on the route from Athens to Tirana. Two Czech tourists died in a carjacking near Theth in 2015.

Fuel and repair services are common in populated areas, but there is no formal roadside assistance. Tires and replacement parts may not be available. Emergency response services are inadequate. First responders have limited medical training and equipment. Accident victims often must transport to the nearest hospital in the car of a passerby.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation options are limited and not generally recommended for visitors. Rail conditions are poor, limited, and service unreliable. Private buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day on variable schedules. Intra-city transit is an unofficial system of privately-owned vans operating without schedules, set fares, or, occasionally, government permission. Many of these vans do not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards or driver training. Consider the condition of the van before traveling in one.

Pickpocketing occurs frequently on public buses. Marked taxis are safe and recommended for use. Passengers should negotiate a price before getting into the taxi. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Tirana International Airport (TIA) is a newer and modern airport. Well-known regional airlines fly to Albania on a regular basis. There are no commercial domestic flights. As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Albania’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tirana as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. 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 with no prosecutions.

Albania has laws against terrorist acts; terrorism financing; collection, transfer, and concealment of funds that finance terrorism; conducting transactions with persons on the UN sanctions lists; recruiting and training people to commit terrorist acts; incitement of terrorist acts; and establishing, leading and participating in terrorist organizations.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Tirana as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest

Demonstrations and political protests are common in Albania. The protests are generally peaceful, but have resulted in violence in the past. During 2019, there were approximately ten large political protests organized by the opposition parties. Most of those protests turned violent and prompted a police response using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd; injuries were reported among police and protesters alike.

Demonstrations vary in size from several hundred to several thousand participants, and frequently disrupt traffic. Protest organizers must apply for a permit from the police prior to any demonstration activity, but this does not always take place. The police closely monitor demonstrations and take appropriate measures. Avoid demonstrations and protests. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Anti-U.S. sentiment is rare in Albania, and the international community is generally well-regarded.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Albania is subject to destructive earthquakes. Tsunamis occur along its southwestern coast, and floods and drought issues are possible nationwide.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

Albania’s electricity supply is uneven despite upgraded transmission capacities with neighboring countries. However, the government has recently taken steps to stem non-technical losses and has begun to upgrade the distribution grid. Better enforcement of electricity contracts has improved the financial viability of the sector, decreasing its reliance on budget support. Sporadic blackouts throughout the country can affect food storage capabilities.

Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft

Albania is vulnerable to money laundering associated with regional trafficking in narcotics, arms, contraband, and persons. Albania’s is a cash economy. Credit card acceptance is limited. ATMs are widely available in the cities. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Personal Identity Concerns

The law prohibits sexual harassment, but officials rarely enforce it. The law includes provisions on sexual assault, and criminalizes spousal rape, but again the government does not enforce the law effectively, and authorities does not prosecute spousal rape. Sexual assault and harassment are issues mostly encountered in the smaller towns. The victims tend to be females walking alone. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+ events in Albania. Albanian law does not permit same-sex marriage and does not legally recognize other countries’ same-sex marriage certificates. The government does not prosecute or discriminate against same-sex relationships. Same-sex married couples cannot apply for family residency permits, but they may register individually. Despite the law and the government’s formal support for LGBTI+ rights, homophobic attitudes remain. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

The Albanian Parliament ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012. However, Albania has implemented very few of the convention’s terms. Limited measures exist to support disabled persons. Most public buildings remain inaccessible. Public transportation for persons with disabilities is very limited. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crime

Albania is an active transshipment point for Southwest Asian opiates, hashish, and cannabis transiting the Balkan route and, to a lesser extent, cocaine from South America destined for Western Europe. Albania is also significant source country for cannabis production. Ethnic-Albanian narcotrafficking organizations are active and expanding in Europe.

Kidnapping Threat

Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

Albania's customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import or export of particular items from Albania. Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

Police Response

The emergency line for the police in Albania is 129. Police now have a visible presence throughout Tirana and other larger Albanian cities; however, their response is often delayed due to limited resources and manpower. Police tend to respond more rapidly to reports from members of the international community. One concern regarding police performance is their low salaries and the resulting potential for corruption. For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

The Albanian Government appears to be making a concerted effort to improve the country’s law enforcement capabilities, particularly in the areas of counterterrorism and organized crime. Corruption and lack of resources within the police present ongoing challenges.

Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Medical Emergencies

Healthcare is a serious problem in Albania. Medical care is inadequate in some areas, and emergency medical services are very limited. There are no trauma hospitals outside of Tirana. Individuals under continuing medical supervision should consult their physician prior to travel. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy website.

Bring a sufficient supply of any required medications. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance (including medical evacuation) before traveling to Albania. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance overseas.

Drink only bottled water, as local tap water does not meet U.S. standards. Review OSAC’s report, I’m Drinking What in My Water?

Air pollution is a problem throughout Albania, particularly in Tirana, due to antiquated industrial and power plants.

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

Receive vaccinations against Hepatitis A and B as a precaution prior to traveling to Albania. Travelers involved in outdoor activities should receive vaccination against rabies due to the large number of stray dogs.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Albania.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is no OSAC Country Council in Albania. Contact OSAC’s Europe team for more information.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

U.S. Embassy Tirana is located at Rruga Stavro Vinjau, 14 in Tirana.

Regular hours: 0800 – 1630, Monday – Friday.

Telephone: +355 (0) 4 22 472 85/86/87/88/89.

Website: https://al.usembassy.gov/

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

 

Related Content

Processing

Warning

Error processing!