COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Albania is a parliamentary democracy with a market-oriented economic system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest
in Europe, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. Albania's economic integration into broader European
markets is slowly underway and the Albanian economy continues to grow despite uncertainty in the region. Tourist facilities
are not highly developed in much of the country, but are also steadily improving, and some goods and services taken for granted
in Western European countries are not widely available. Hotel accommodations are plentiful in Tirana and in other major cities,
but limited in smaller towns. Albanian is the official language; English is limited except for Tirana’s main tourist areas.
Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Albania for more information on U.S.-Albania relations.
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SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM(STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Albania, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: To enter Albania, you will need a valid passport. U.S. passports need to be valid for at least six months after your departure date. Immigration officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Albania. If you travel without a visa, you may be charged a fee at the port of entry for an entry stamp, which is valid for a stay up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Current practice is for this fee to be waived. However, an entry tax of up to 10 Euros is allowed under Albanian law and may be reinstated without notice; the fee can be paid using the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars.
U.S. citizens can stay in Albania for up to 90 days within a 180-day period, which starts upon first entry. Departing Albania during this period does not “restart the clock.” If you attempt to re-enter Albania without a visa within 180 days of a previous entry, and after an aggregate stay of 90 days, you may be denied entry. You would need to remain outside of Albania for 90 days before re-entering without a visa.
If you intend to remain in Albania more than 90 days within a 180-day period, you must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station in the locality where you are residing. Visit the Embassy of Albania website for information on how to apply for a residency permit and the most current visa information.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Public demonstrations occur throughout Albania, often with little or no notice, and can cause serious traffic disruptions. Although most demonstrations are peaceful, a demonstration in January 2011 turned violent and resulted in four deaths and injuries to many others, including to Albania State Police Officers. Travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. The use of roadblocks and/or blocking of public facilities, has occurred. U.S. citizens should stay up to date with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Information regarding demonstrations in Albania can be found on U.S. Embassy Tirana’s website.
Organized criminal activity occurs in all regions of Albania. Corruption is pervasive. Police and news outlets often report small-scale, sporadic incidents of violence. Although there is no direct prohibition for travel of U.S. Government employees throughout Albania, U.S. Government travelers to certain areas – such as the southern town of Lazarat and to the northern regions of Tropoje and Malesi e Madhe - receive pre-travel security and safety briefings and, in some cases, security support. In most cases, police assistance and protection are limited. You should maintain a high level of security awareness at all times.
U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from patronizing certain businesses in Tirana due to security concerns. These businesses include: Juvenilia restaurant, located behind the Sheraton Hotel just off Sheshi Italia beside Qemal Stafa Stadium, Juvenilia restaurant located on Rruga Sami Frasheri in the Blloku area of Tirana, Bar Venecia, located behind Qemal Stafa Stadium and VESA restaurant, located on Rruga Abdyl Frasheri in the Blloku area. U.S. citizens should avoid these locations.
Power outages occur frequently throughout Albania. Regular outages may also disrupt other public utilities, including water service, and interfere with traffic lights and the provision of normal business and public services.
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CRIME: High unemployment and other economic factors encourage criminal activity. Use caution and protect your valuables in Tirana, just as you would in any major U.S. city. Violent crime aimed at U.S. citizens is rare and criminals do not appear to target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but rather seek targets of opportunity, selecting those who appear to have anything of value. Crime statistics indicate a steady increase in violent crime has occurred throughout Albania since 2009. Organized crime is present in Albania; organized criminal activity occasionally results in violent confrontations between members of rival organizations.
Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crimes are more common at night. Crime statistics show annual increases in all violent crimes, including murder, burglary and armed robbery since 2009. This also includes targeted explosions with 70 such explosions having occurred in 2012. Most were from remotely detonated car bombs or explosives placed at private residences. Although most of these cases are suspected to be the result of targeted violence against specific individuals, you should remain alert to avoid such situations.
Pick-pocketing, theft, and other petty street crimes are widespread, particularly in areas where tourists and foreigners congregate. Pickpockets use various diversionary tactics to distract victims, and panhandlers – particularly children – may become aggressive. U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports and portable electronic devices by pick-pockets. Victims of pick-pocketing should report the crime to the police and cancel their credit cards as soon as possible. Exercise caution in bars and clubs in Tirana, where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past.
Vehicle theft and theft from vehicles are not uncommon in Albania. Carjacking can also occur. You should avoid leaving valuables, including cell phones and electronic items, in plain view in unattended vehicles. You should lock the windows and doors of your residence securely when it is not occupied. In the event you are a victim of a carjacking, you should surrender your vehicle without resistance.
Travelers should take standard safety precautions when using Automated Teller Machines (ATM). Try to use ATMs located inside banks and check for any evidence of tampering with the machine before use. Be cautious when using publicly available Internet terminals, such as in Internet cafes, as sensitive personal information, account passwords, etc., may be subject to compromise. Theft of personal items from hotel rooms can also occur.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Albania is 129; however, emergency response support is unreliable.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: There are some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. If you break local laws in Albania your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
While you are traveling in Albania, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. For instance, it isillegal to take pictures of certain physical structures in Albania. Be alert for signage and guidance by security personnel.
In Albania, you may be taken in for questioning if you are not carrying your passport. We encourage U.S. citizens to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. Engaging in sexual conduct with children is also a crime in Albania, as is the production and distribution of child pornography. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. Although this is not a common occurance reported by U.S. citizens, the possibility remains.
Persons violating Albanian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. We suggest that you contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
The Albanian government considers any person in Albania who has at least one Albanian parent to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations such as military conscription. To read more about the Albanian Military Service, which is only available in Albanian, visit the website of the Albanian Ministry of Defence. See also additional information pertaining to dual nationality.
Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards are generally accepted only at major hotels in Tirana, large department/grocery stores, upscale restaurants, and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks are not widely used but can be changed at banks in larger towns or cities. ATMs are widely available in Tirana and in larger towns.
ACCESSIBILITY: While in Albania, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. In December 2009, Albania signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention was ratified by Parliament in December 2012; however, very few of the convention’s terms have been implemented. The national strategy on persons with disabilities adopted for the period 2004-2014 is aimed at improving living conditions through accessibility, support services, employment, and education; at present, it is only partly implemented.
Only limited measures exist to support disabled persons. Most public buildings remain inaccessible and inconsistent inspection has resulted in construction of new facilities that are not always accessible for persons with disabilities. Public transportation for persons with disabilities is very limited.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care at private hospitals and clinics in Tirana has improved in recent years, but still remains below western standards. Medical facilities outside Tirana have very limited capabilities. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care outside Tirana is often inadequate because of a lack of medical specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. There are very few ambulances in Albania; therefore, injured or seriously ill U.S. citizens may be required to take taxis or other immediately available vehicles to the nearest major hospital rather than waiting for ambulances to arrive. If you have been previously diagnosed with (a) medical condition(s), you may wish to consult your personal health care provider before travel. As some prescription drugs may not be available locally, you may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications.
Electricity shortages result in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to store food properly, you should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Tap water is not considered potable or safe to drink. You should purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. Air pollution is also a problem throughout Albania, particularly in Tirana. Travelers should consult their doctor prior to travel and consider the impact seasonal smog and heavy particulate pollution may have on them.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In Albania, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Albania you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The most dangerous aspect of living and working in Albania is the unsafe driving regularly encountered on roads nationwide, and the generally poor condition in which most roads are kept. Road conditions are especially poor in rural areas in winter months and at other times of inclement weather. Sporadic electricity shortages sometimes result in blackouts affecting road lighting and traffic signals. Travel at night and outside the main urban areas is particularly dangerous as road hazards are unpredictable and can be more difficult to see. Disregard for traffic laws is widespread. Traffic accidents are frequent occurrences and often result in serious injury or death. If you choose to drive in Albania, please exercise strong caution and drive as defensively as possible.
Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they do not always run according to schedule and can be uncomfortable relative to buses in the United States. No public bus routes exist between cities; travelers seeking intra-city transit may use privately owned vans, which function as an unofficial system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. These privately owned vehicles may not have permission to operate as a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards or driver training; you should consider the condition of the van before you choose to travel in one. In January 2013, vans carrying passengers were robbed at gunpoint near the city of Tepelene on the route from Saranda to Tirana. Personal vehicles have been robbed in the same fashion. There are no commercial domestic flights and the rail conditions are poor, connections limited, and service unreliable.
You can only use an International driver’s license for one year in Albania. If you wish to drive in Albania for a period of time in excess of one year, you must apply for an Albanian driver’s license.
It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol and, if caught, the police may seize your driver’s license and vehicle and impose additional penalties such as.a fine or up to six months in prison.
Using a cell phone while driving is only permitted when the driver utilizes a Bluetooth or other hands-free device and failure to use such a device can result in a fine.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 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. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Albania dated August 27, 2012 to update all sections.