Is Albania Safe? Crime, Scams and Travel Safety Tips | #ukscams | #datingscams | #european

Here are six important things you should know to stay safe in Albania. From crime and scams to earthquakes and border tensions, our travel safety expert shares her advice.

Photo © Getty Images/Joel Carillet

Tourism in Albania has been flourishing since the end of communism in the early 1990s. Most locals are friendly, welcoming and willing to help. While you should always use your common sense and the usual safety precautions (be aware of your surroundings in public and be careful with your personal property), this is generally a country where walking around is safer than the UK or USA.

Here are a few tips to stay safe while traveling in Albania.

1. Is crime a problem in Albania?

The short answer, no. It’s pretty safe to travel around Albania. Albania does have petty crime, but no more than a major city would elsewhere. Crime is rare, and most locals are hospitable and welcoming to travelers. Violent crime rarely affects visitors, unlike the questionable driving habits of many locals.

Tourism is becoming popular in Albania and this will boost the economy, however pickpocketing does happen (significantly less than other major European destinations such as Paris or Barcelona) so always secure your belongings and be aware of your surroundings, including on public transport.

Carjacking is rare in Albania, but vehicle theft is widespread, so make sure your vehicle is locked and keep your posessions well hidden in the trunk. Always try to park your rental vehicle in a secure car park where security cameras or attendants are available.

Harassment of women in the streets is rare.

2. Border crime in the Balkan region

The Albania-Kosovo border in the north east of the country is considered unsafe because Albanians are a heavily-armed people (there’s been a lot of cross-border trouble over the centuries).

In general, criminals leave foreigners alone, however there have been a number of reports of travelers being robbed at gunpoint by armed gangs, so keep your valuables secure and out of sight.

Adding to the lawlessness of the north, there are unexploded landmines from wars and conflicts in the region. This includes the cities of Bajram Curri and Tropoje. Stick to paths and marked trails to be safe.

3. Credit card fraud in Albania

Credit card fraud is common in Albania, and you should exercise caution by not letting your card out of sight when making a transaction.

Visitors need to be very careful when using ATMs. Be alert for strangers looking over your shoulders at the PIN number, and also for any interference with the machine itself that could indicate a camera or card scanner that steals your details when you scan your card.

If you fear the ATM may have been tampered with, wait to find another secure ATM that is attached to a bank, and use it during open hours to get help from staff if you require assistance.

4. Travel scams to watch out for in Albania

Bar scams

Travelers have reported being overcharged a lot for foreign beers, especially when costs for food and drink in Albania are generally low (except for some parts of the riviera and the capital).

You may be asked to buy a drink for the bar owner or waitress, and then you will get charged a premium. Don’t do it.

It’s also worth avoiding bars and nightclubs which are associated with any type of prostitution or exotic dancing, as these are the spots where a lot of Albania’s gun violence occurs.

Work experience scams

Many students and gap year travelers like to earn money while making their way around the world and find jobs in interesting places.

Unfortunately there have been reports of some Albanian agencies not being quite what they seem, and potential employees have found themselves without a placement despite parting with a hefty agency fee.

Check the bona fides of any agency as best you can. Ask them for details of past employees and contact them yourself. Legitimate agencies will be happy to hand over details to help you make an informed decision.

5. Firearm use in Albania

It’s estimated that across Albania there are around ~100,000 tons of stockpiled munitions in various depots. These ad hoc magazines present a significant danger from explosion and are only slowly being controlled and dealt with appropriately. In 2008, there was a major explosion close to a motorway just outside Tirana at an ex-military depot.

Guns are widely used in Albania, and it is estimated there are approximately 210,000 illegally held firearms in the country, and there is little security or attention to storage in the average domestic home.

Nightclubs are the sort of place where a bump becomes a shove and then a gang fight or shoot out, with little notice and it’s important to be vigilant at all times.

6. Natural dangers in Albania

While crime isn’t a major threat to your trip, natural dangers may cause delays or disruptions to your plans.

Albania is located in a seismically active region, where large earthquakes do occur from time to time. In November 2019 a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck northwest of the capital, Tirana. In the unlikely event that a serious earthquake does occur while you’re there, review your accommodation’s evacuation plan, and become familiar with the best survival tips for when an earthquake strikes.

Before you go hiking in the mountains or remote areas of Albania, tell someone at your accommodation about your plans. Let them know when you’re planning to return, and give them an idea on where you are going. Keep a close eye on the weather – if there are severe weather conditions, consider delaying your adventure for another time when it is safe to do so.

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