Travel Consideration: Albania







Contributed By RealAdventures

June 12, 2000

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential danger of travel to Albania. The security situation throughout Albania remains unstable. During the political and economic unrest in 1997, many weapons were looted from government arms depots and remain in unauthorized civilian hands. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers.

The crime rate is high throughout Albania, with instances of armed robberies, assaults, bombings and carjackings. Armed crime is rampant in Shkoder and other towns in northwestern Albania. Throughout the country, street crime is fairly common and occurs particularly at night.

Albania is the poorest and least developed country in Europe. Facilities for tourism are not well developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of Tirana, the capital.

A passport is required. An entry card will be issued at the point of entry for $45.00 (U.S.) that is valid for a stay up to 30 days. An extension up to 180 days may be obtained by applying at the local police station. After 180 days, the Ministry of Interior accepts extension requests. There is a departure fee of $10.00 (U.S.), payable in U.S. dollars or local currency (lek). For additional information, please contact the Embassy of the Republic of Albania at 2100 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 223-8147.

Organized criminal gangs are endemic to all regions; gangland-style assassinations and street fights can erupt without warning. It is not unusual to hear sporadic gunfire in Tirana and other Albanian cities. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is particularly dangerous and should be avoided given the possibility of encountering armed robbers in isolated rural areas and deplorable road conditions. The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding the travel of U.S. Government employees outside Tirana, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. In most cases, traditional police assistance and protection is minimal. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times.

Albania has a high rate of crime throughout the country with instances of armed robberies, assaults, and bombings. Carjackings are a matter of considerable concern, especially for drivers of four-wheel drive and sport-utility vehicles. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime is rampant in Shkoder and other towns in northwestern Albania. Throughout the country, streetcrime is fairly common and occurs particularly at night. U.S. citizens are not deliberately targeted by criminals, but criminals seek targets of opportunity, selecting those who appear to have anything of value. Pickpocketing is widespread; many U.S. citizens report the theft of their passports by pickpockets.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Beyond rudimentary first aid treatment, medical facilities and capabilities are limited. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physician before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications.

U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: None

Major roads in Albania are passable, but often in very poor repair. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on the roads through the mountains in Northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but may be unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost wholly without schedules or set fares. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs in Albania are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Albania is largely a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are rarely accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers checks can be changed at banks in larger towns.

For information on international adoption of children, and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone (202) 736-7000.

U.S. citizens visiting or remaining in Albania are strongly encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. Americans are asked to inform the Embassy should they depart Albania. The U.S. Embassy in Tirana is located at Rruga E Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(42) 32875, fax (355)(42) 74957.







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