Is it Safe to Go on Holiday to Albania? Travel Advice for 2019
One of the most frequently asked questions I get when people hear about my travel adventures around Albania is: “Is it safe in Albania?” And I understand where they are coming from. Albania has suffered a complex history and not much positive media coverage.
When was there war in Albania?
Just prior to the Second World War the country was occupied by the Italian National Fascist Party, and after the collapse of the Axis power, the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania took over. This is how Albania became a communist state under the rule of Enver Hoxha. During this period, Albania was almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, and it was nearly impossible to travel there. The communist regime collapsed in 1990, after which many Albanians fled abroad. Poverty was great, and in 1997 the Albanian Civil War broke out when the government’s pyramid scheme failed and most Albanians lost all of their money. However, economical and political conditions have improved since the early 2000’s, and Albania became a full member of NATO in 2009. Albania is currently undertaking steps to become eligible for being a member of the European Union.
How safe is Albania today? Travelling to Albania in 2019
The first time I solo-travelled to Albania in 2017 I was a little nervous. The main reason was that I didn’t know what to expect. I think most of the worries people have when it comes to travelling to Albania is the lack of information. Before travelling most people will look up information about their destination online. But there aren’t many clear and reliable information sources on the internet telling you where to travel to in Albania, how you should get there, and what it will be like. This creates uncertainty, which is the source of many questions and worries. I decided to be careful, use my common sense, and go see it for myself.
And I’m very glad I did. I initially thought I ought to be very careful and look out for pick-pocketing, annoying people on the street, or any unsafe social situations. But the truth turned out to be completely different. Not once have I encountered any of these circumstances. Within two years I have travelled all over the country, from major cities to rural areas, from crowded squares to tiny villages. I have travelled alone, with friends, other travellers, or with locals I just met. I have travelled by foot, by car, by local bus, by taxi, I even hitchhiked all the way from Tirana to Kosovo! I find that most Albanians are extremely helpful, especially to tourists. Within traditional Albanian culture, guests are treated as part of the family. And this is still true today. I have not experienced or witnessed any pick-pocketing, on the contrary, I once left my camera out in the open and I was extremely lucky to have an Albanian bring it back to me! The traditional code of Besa, which quickly translates as “pledge of honour,” is still embedded in Albania’s culture today. This means that most Albanians value honesty and will be true to their words. This has been true in my experience. Albanian hospitality is one of the greatest I have experienced so far. Through my experience I can confidently say that it is safe to travel to Albania, also as a solo female traveller, and that it is in no way more dangerous than any other place in Europe.
Tourism still isn’t that common in Albania, which is why many Albanians will be curious and interested to know why you chose their country as your travel destination. It is not uncommon to meet people this way, or to be invited for a rakia (Albania’s national drink) or a meal. They want to make sure you’re having a good time and will generally be happy to help you with any questions you may have. This makes 2019 a great year to visit Albania, now that it’s still waiting to be discovered.