“Is Albania safe to visit?” “Don’t they have lots of guns?” “People at my work said they’ll kill you for your organs” “They have a terrible history of mass murders in Albania”
These are all legitimate comments and questions made by our friends and family when we said we were off to Albania.
Admittedly before planning our trip around Europe on the way to London we’d never actually heard of Albania, but when we talk to people who grew up a little closer it seems to have a bit of a stigma. Why Albania is dangerous seems to vary dependant on the source. Sometimes its run by the mafia. Others they have a big part to play in illegal harvesting of organs. And others say that every man and his dog carries a gun. But one thing everyone agrees on is that you’re crazy if you holiday in Albania!
So is Albania safe to visit? After returning from our trip (alive) the answer is simple. Yes, yes, yes. Albania is certainly safe to visit. It’s not only safe, its incredible. We haven’t found people more friendly, welcoming or willing to help anywhere else on our travels. From our AirBnB host through to the supermarket checkout operators and the teenagers encouraging us to jump off cliffs, everyone made an effort.
Based on the incredible week we had there I would dispute every single reason people gave us that they wouldn’t visit. We happily walked the streets at all hours, drove the roads, left our belongings on the beach as we swam and generally just let our guards down.
Besides from a small bump in the road in 1997 Albania hasn’t actually seen any unrest since WWII. (And if we are making judgements on that then half the world is still unsafe!?) Pickpocketing and random acts of violence are also extremely uncommon. In fact we found that since English speaking tourists are so uncommon Albanias were actually extra friendly and inquisitive about us. English are still so uncommon that one restaurant we went two only had two english menus!
The only stories of bad experiences that we could find online about Albania could have happened in any European country. There are dodgy taxi drivers – they’re everywhere. The public transport is unreliable – it is in Greece too. I got overcharged in a bar – shit happens.
Admittedly though, the one complaint that we did think was justified was the driving conditions. Albania has a reputation for bad roads, and worse driving. Prior to 1991 there were only 600 cars in Albania, so they’ve got a little catching up to do! We rented a car in central Sarande and never really ventured too far off the main roads to Ksamil, Butrint and Borsch. Even still we encountered enormous potholes, unpaved roads and every farm animal that you can imagine. Who knows what we would have found if we’d gone down a side road?
The biggest reason that people are scared of Albania is that they don’t know about it. People always fear the unknown. You wont find it advertised in a glossy magazine, its not yet insta famous and theres no option to book an all inclusive trip! Most people who warn you against it couldn’t even point it out on a map.
Give Albania a chance though and you’ll find that it has beautiful beaches, picturesque countryside and really cheap cocktails! After spending a week there we couldn’t recommend it more!