- Full name: Republic of Albania
- Capital: Tirana
- Largest city: Tirana
- Official language: Albanian
- Area: 28,748 km2
- Population: 2,876,591 (2016)
- Currency: Lek (ALL) 1 (ALL) = 100 Qindarka
- Foreign tourists: 4 million (2016)
- Travel risks and hazards: Petty and violent crime, dangerous animals.
Albania is a unique country even for Balkans. Albanian language has no relatives and is considered an independent branch. Albania offers hiking tours through its breathtaking mountain ranges and for those who prefer to relax on a beach, the Adriatic coast will deliver some of the best scenery and beaches in the Mediterranean. First-time visitors will certainly notice that the entire country is littered with bunkers. There are some 750 thousand bunkers across Albania that were built by the regime of Enver Hoxha to shelter everyone from the threat of Soviet Invasion. Although Albania has a lot of unique attractions, there are hazards and risks that go along and visitors should beware of.
All tourists traveling to Albania must have a valid passport or an ID card depending on their nationality. Certain nationals are allowed to visit Albania for 90 days without the requirement of obtaining a visa. All other nationals must obtain such a document prior to the visit. Visitors who wish to drive in Albania must have their national driving license and an international driving permit. EU driving permit holders may use their licenses without the requirement of IDP. All other nationals are recommended to obtain an IDP to avoid any legal-related trouble.
Driving in Albania may be quite a challenge. Before the fall of communism in Albania in 1990, there were only about 3 thousand cars mostly driven by government officials, therefore, it wasn’t until late that Albanians began their driving experiences. This late start is the result of disregard for traffic rules and aggressive driving. Many vehicles operating outside of major cities are often unfit to drive lacking proper illumination and are far from safety standards. Sporadic power shortages in the cities lead to confusion on the roads particularly on big junctions with traffic lights. There is a public communication network in the cities however there are no intercity public buses. There are privately owned buses however these are often not licensed, charge inflated prices and do not meet safety standards. At one point in 2013, passengers of an unlicensed intercity van were robbed at gunpoint near Tepelene on their way from Saranda to Tirana.
There are two species of large mammalian predators. These, however, are so few in numbers it is extremely unlikely to meet any of them. Bears and wolves in Albania collectively do not amount to more than 400 specimens. These animals generally avoid human interaction and inhabit areas far from any urban areas. There are several species of snakes in Albania. There are 3 vipers that are capable of injecting venom strong enough to badly injure or even kill a grown adult. It is important to stay very cautious while hiking, going through shrubs or even gardens may be subject to viper habitation. Ticks are present in Albania and are carriers of Lyme disease which humans contract by a tick bite. The disease is very dangerous and difficult to cure. Untreated can result in fatally. Swimming off the Albanian coast is generally safe however there have been reports of shark attacks in the neighboring countries, therefore, these can not be ruled out. Designated beaches, however, should be safe. Albania suffers from monthly earthquakes however these usually do not surpass the magnitude of 5. Excessive rainfall is responsible for more damage than any other natural hazard in Albania. Excessive rainfall causes landslides and floods which are capable of paralyzing traffic and greatly damaging buildings.
There are currently no outbreaks of any diseases in Albania however all visitors coming from countries with a risk of yellow fever excluding the US must provide a yellow fever vaccination proof. There are several other vaccinations that are recommended but not required. These are the routine vaccines also known as MMR vaccines, hepatitis A and B and rabies vaccine. Public healthcare sectors provide free healthcare to Albanian citizens. Expats must pay for their services. The public healthcare sector is improving however many hospitals still lack modern equipment. Due to the increasing popularity of tourism in Albania, foreign businessmen began investing in both private and the public medical sectors greatly improving the current situation nevertheless private medical facilities will provide better service and shorter waiting times as opposed to their public equivalent. Make sure to purchase medical insurance to cover your medical expenses in Albania.
In case of an emergency dial 127.
Albania has quite a bad reputation due to the amount of criminal activity carried out by Albanian immigrants abroad. Albania is generally safe for tourists. When visiting popular tourist spots beware that thieves operate in groups and target wealthy looking people. This affects both tourists and Albanians. Exposing signs of wealth is obviously a bad idea. North part of the country, particularly near the Kosovar border, is a place to be avoided. Certain areas still have landmines, gang activity is prominent in those areas. Tourists should be very careful with leaving their luggage as even hotel rooms are being stolen from. Electronics such as new phones are sought after. Tourists should also particularly watch out for their passports being stolen as it is common. Private car drivers should park their cars in guarded parking lots. Late-model sedans and SUVs are stolen and sold for parts. Albania has a strict drug policy and mere possession may lead to a prison sentence. The country, however, seems to be losing the drug battle as it has been dubbed the Colombia of Europe. Many people make their living off of cannabis cultivation which can be easily purchased almost anywhere in the country.
Albania is becoming increasingly popular coming up in the Balkan region. Unique Balkan culture with middle eastern influences makes it an incredible destination. Remember that planning your trip with Travset.com will give you the quickest information about the nearest emergency services and will also help you purchase indispensable travel insurance for the trip of your lifetime. Please feel free to comment and share the experiences of your travels with Travset.com.