Parliamentary republic, under a constitution passed in 1998.
Head of state:
President Bujar Nishani since 2012.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Edi Rama since 2013.
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Friendly, tolerant people, fascinating Ottoman cities teeming with history, magnificent mountain scenery and charming villages: Albania is a varied destination offering many pleasures. Hikers will love the Albanian Alps or the Tomorri massif, whilst cyclists will find a network of ancient tracks criss-crossing the country. Archaeology buffs can spend hours in the complex sites of Butrint and Byllis, history-lovers have plenty of ancient castles, Ottoman fortresses and the museum cities of Berati and Gjirokastra to explore, and art connoisseurs should visit the little-known medieval churches, with their beautiful frescoes, and the icon collections in Tirana, Korça and Berati.
At the end of a full day's exploration, enjoy menus boasting delicious seafood, mountain lamb, organic fruit and vegetables and, of course, excellent Albanian wine.
Last updated: 01 March 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Public security is generally good, particularly in Tirana, and Albanians are very hospitable to visitors. Crime and violence does occur in some areas, but reports of crime specifically targeting foreigners are rare. There have been occasional shootings and small explosions, but these appear to be related to internal disputes over criminal, business or political interests.
There have been reports of luggage stolen from hotel rooms and public transport, particularly in the coastal resorts of Vlore and Saranda. Be vigilant and keep valuables in a safe place.
In December 2009 Albania officially declared it had met its ‘Ottawa Convention Article 5’ obligations and had reached mine-free status. However, when visiting hill towns on the northern border with Kosovo and Montenegro you should take care, particularly if hiking and follow the signs warning about unexploded landmines and other unexploded ordnance. Demining is ongoing on the Kosovo side.
Driving can be very hazardous. Roads are poor, especially in rural areas. Street lighting in urban areas is subject to power cuts. Elsewhere, even on the major inter-urban arterial routes, there is no street lighting. If you are travelling at night, watch out for unmarked road works, potholes and unlit vehicles. Four-wheel drive vehicles are often more practical on rural and minor roads.
Albanian driving can often be aggressive and erratic. Deaths from road traffic accidents are amongst the highest in Europe. Police have taken some measures to decrease the number of accidents. Minor traffic disputes can quickly escalate, especially as some motorists could be armed. Avoid reacting to provocative behaviour by other road users. If you are involved in a traffic accident, even a minor one, you are supposed to wait until the police arrive. This will usually happen quickly in built-up areas.
If you are intending to import a vehicle into Albania, make sure you have all the necessary papers on arrival at the border. Consult the Albanian Embassy in London before you leave. The British Embassy will be unable to help anyone attempting to bring a vehicle into Albania without the correct paperwork.
An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended.
In 2009 the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safely oversight in Albania.
We can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
There have been instances of passenger boats sinking, usually due to a lack of safety precautions and equipment.
Several beaches along the Albanian coast are reported by the Albanian press to be polluted as a result of inadequate sewage disposal and treatment.
Tension between religious groups and expression of extremist views is very rare, and attitudes to western countries are overwhelmingly positive.