Albania travel guide
Idyllic beaches, warm weather, rich history, spectacular mountain scenery and bargain prices; it sounds like an impossible wishlist for a European destination. Yet Albania fulfils all of these criteria and more. Over the past quarter of a century, this Balkan land has gradually emerged from its austere communist cocoon and savvy travellers have been taking note.
The capital, Tirana, is a curious and cosmopolitan place. Its countless communist-era apartment blocks have been enlivened with licks of brash, bright paint, and in parts of the city these sit shoulder-to-shoulder with Ottoman and Italian architecture. It is haphazard and disorderly, but wildly alive, with the constant whir of traffic and cacophony of voices adding to the buzz.
Leading down to the Greek border is Albania’s greatest asset: the Adriatic coastline (touted as the “Albanian Riviera”). It would be disingenuous to call it undiscovered; the beaches here draw significant sunbathing crowds during July and August. Even so, these heavenly stretches are fresh to foreign tourists - and among the best in the Med. If you can tear yourself off the towel, there are also interesting remnants of Greek, Ottoman and communist history to be explored in nearby towns. Of particular note are the now deteriorated and occasionally repurposed domed bunkers, paranoid follies ordered by the isolationist ex-ruler Enver Hoxha.
Further inland, stony hiking trails weave among the lunar, sun-bleached mountains, where remote rural villages offer up a warm welcome to any inquisitive visitors. With unpaved, pothole-strewn roads and unreliable bus routes, just getting to the country’s interior can be an adventure in itself. But when the logistics of travel prove taxing, there’s always the dangling carrot of lovingly-prepared meals, tasty wine and ever-hospitable locals to spur you onward.
With its winning combination of sandy beaches, engaging history and affordable prices, Albania's once-unsung charms are now being shouted from the garishly-coloured rooftops.
28,748 sq km (11,100 sq miles).
2,937,346 (UN estimate 2019).
102.17 per sq km.
President Bajram Begaj since 2022.
Prime Minister Edi Rama since 2013.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Albania set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Albanian Embassy in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Albania.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Albania, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave.
British citizens can enter and stay in Albania for a maximum of 90 days in every 6-month period without a visa. The Albanian authorities require anyone staying longer than 90 days to apply at a local police station for a residence permit.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Albania guide.
You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Albania
Terrorist attacks in Albania cannot be ruled out.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including places visited by foreigners. Terrorists may target religious sites, including churches.
Political and other demonstrations have been held in central Tirana, with some reported incidents of violence. Demonstrations can cause traffic diversions and other disruption. Demonstrations could happen elsewhere, and may take place outside the capital city.
- check local media for the latest information
- avoid any demonstrations, large-scale gatherings or political rallies
- follow the advice of the local authorities as there is always a possibility demonstrations could turn violent
Tension between religious groups and expression of extremist views are very rare, and attitudes to western countries are generally very positive.
Public security is generally good, particularly in Tirana, and Albanians are very hospitable to visitors. Crime and violence does happen in some areas, but reports of crime targeting foreigners are rare. There have been occasional shootings and small explosions related to internal disputes over criminal, business or political interests.
When visiting hill towns on the northern border with Kosovo, you should take care, particularly if hiking, and follow the signs warning about unexploded landmines and other unexploded weapons. De-mining operations continue in Kosovo.
Laws and cultural differences
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Penalties for drug-related crimes are severe.
The Albanian authorities do not always inform the British Embassy when British nationals have been arrested. If you are detained, you may insist on your right to contact a British consular officer.
Same-sex relationships are legal in Albania. Anti-discrimination and anti hate-crime legislation is in place. Tirana has several gay-friendly bars and a number of LGBT+ support groups.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
There are reports that a small number of beaches are polluted because of inadequate sewage disposal and treatment.
In addition to your UK driving licence, you may find it useful to have a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) in some situations. The 1949 IDP is not accepted any more. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
If you stay longer than one year, or live in Albania, you will need to apply for an Albanian driving licence.
A green card is proof that you have vehicle insurance when driving abroad. You need to carry a green card to drive in Albania.
If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.
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.
Dangers of driving in Albania
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.
There are some local press reports that jet skis and boats being rented along the coasts may lack adequate safety precautions and equipment.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
There is a risk of earthquakes and tremors are common. Serious earthquakes are less frequent but do happen.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Flooding and snow
From December to February, severe weather may cause flooding, particularly in northern Albania. Heavy snowfall in mountainous areas can lead to disruption to transport and services. Monitor local and international media for the latest information.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 127 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on recommended vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Albania guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
There can be high levels of air pollution in Albania. You can find further information and advice on air quality on the World Health Organization (WHO) website and check air quality levels on the World Air Quality Index website.
Tap water and milk
Do not drink the tap water in Albania, as it may cause illness. Only drink bottled water. If you drink milk, make sure it is UHT (ultra high temperature) milk.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Albania
Medical and dental facilities (including those for accident and emergency use) are very poor, particularly outside Tirana. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, evacuation by air ambulance and repatriation.
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Albania.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Albania
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Albania
- dealing with a death in Albania
- being arrested in Albania
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are in Albania and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Tirana.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)