Is Albania tap water drinkable?
When I travelled to Albania for the first time, I wanted to know if I could drink the tap water. And I found it difficult to get a clear answer online or elsewhere. And when you check into your hotel, it is most likely the first thing you are going to wonder too. So, I decided to write a helpful blog post to answer this question.
Is Albania tap water drinkable? In most places, the tap water in Albania is not drinkable. So, it is better to buy bottled water in Albania, like the local people do as well. Whether the tap water is drinkable varies per area, so check with the locals. In some mountain areas, the tap water is drinkable and delicious.
Albania is still new as a travel destination. Therefore, you might have many healthcare and safety related questions. And it is better to be prepared for your trip, so that you can relax, without worrying. So, let’s dive in a little deeper, to ensure you have all the facts before your trip starts.
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Is Albania water safe to drink?
The Albanian people usually buy bottled mineral water to drink, and they only use the tap water for washing dishes, brushing their teeth and for cooking. Although the tap water is generally safe, the Albanian people prefer to drink bottled water for extra safety. Therefore, on your visit to Albania, you should buy bottled mineral water. It is not that the tap water is unsafe, because the Albanian people use tap water for cooking, washing the dishes and brushing their teeth, but with the bottled mineral water you are extra safe.
Lonely Planet: “Drinking water is generally safe, and is delicious in the mountains, but check with locals first. Many locals in bigger cities prefer to drink bottled water.”
Whether the locals drink tap water also largely depends on the area. When you visit the mountains or the Blue Eye spring, you will see locals fill up bottles of water. Because the local people know that the mountain water tastes great and it is very clean. So, in each area, just check with the locals first.
Moreover, if you look at the travel advice from the UK government and the Swiss government, they advise drinking bottled water in Albania. The UK government goes as far as saying that the tap water may cause illness. And the Swiss government states that the water supply system in Albania is old and incomplete.
UK Government: “The tap water in Albania may cause illness – you should drink only bottled water.”
Swiss Government: “The water supply system in Albania is old and incomplete. That’s why caution is needed with consuming tap water.”
The World Bank also points out that the drinking water and sewerage infrastructure is aged, damaged and inefficient. And they point out that there is a health risk for the population due to the drinking water system.
World Bank: “The drinking water and sewerage infrastructure in Albania is considerably aged, damaged, and inefficient. Leakage in supply systems and sewers is substantial and health risk for the population is significant.”
The government authority that controls the water supply in Tirana is UKT. And the UKT authority state that the tap water quality is up to the legal standard and that it can be consumed normally. According to UKT the tap water is safe for drinking and food preparation. And the tap water is just as healthy as the bottled water.
However, the Albanian people do not take the advice of the UKT or their government when it comes to drinking tap water. Instead the Albanian people rely on bottled water for consumption. When the communist dictator Enver Hoxha used to rule Albania, their used to be a myth that that the Albanian tap water was “crystal clean”. Therefore, the Albanian people no longer take the advice of their own government.
How is the healthcare in Albania?
Travelling to Albania is no more dangerous from a health point of view than any other country in South-Eastern Europe. Basic medical care is widely available in Albania. Almost all medicines can be bought at the local pharmacies everywhere in Albania.
Albania has a public healthcare system throughout the country, but the best care can be given in the capital city Tirana. Some of the health care facilities outside Tirana, are not of a high standard. Therefore, if you get any serious illness in Albania, it is best to travel to Tirana. Because in Tirana there are many private hospitals and care facilities with English-speaking doctors.
When you travel to Albania, it is recommended that you have a comprehensive travel insurance including medical coverage. Moreover, it is smart to have accessible funds to cover the cost of medical treatment. So that, in case of emergency, you do not have to worry about the costs of the medical treatment.
The prices for healthcare are generally low in the public facilities in Albania. However, as a foreigner you will probably choose to stay in a private hospital with English-speaking doctors. And obviously, the prices for a private hospital are higher.
In a medical emergency, you can call the ambulance service at 127. Sometimes the traffic can be busy in the holiday period, therefore, if you need to get to hospital very fast, you can get in the taxi. You can ask the driver for ‘Tek Urgjenca’ (read it as : ‘Tek Urgentza’) meaning ‘To the medical emergency’.
Do I need vaccinations for Albania?
Several vaccinations are recommended, when travelling to Albania:
DTP vaccination (Diphteria, Tetanus, Polio)
If you are from Europe or the USA, you probably already had a DTP vaccination as a child. Therefore, you may only need an adult booster, so that you are protected for 10 more years.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease, that you can get from infected food and water. The compete vaccination against Hepatitis consists of two injections. The first injection protects you for one year. And the second injection protects you for 30 years.
You might need these vaccinations, depending on your personal health and travel plans. Whether you need these additional vaccinations, can only be decided by the health professional. It all depends on your travel plans, your current health and the duration of your trip.
There are additional vaccinations, you may or may not need:
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow fever
- Tick-borne encephalitis
What do I need to travel to Albania?
You need the following for travel to Albania:
A passport is required to enter Albania. Moreover, the passport must be valid for at least 3 months from the date of arrival.
You need a visa for Albania, unless you come from one of the visa exempt countries. If you come from one of the below countries, you can enter Albania without a visa. You can enter Albania for a maximum of 90 days without a visa, if you hold a passport from one of the following countries:
Visa exempt countries:
All European Union citizens, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela
Healthcare is available throughout Albania, but the best care can be provided in the capital city Tirana. The level of healthcare outside the capital city varies by region. Therefore, it is recommended to have a comprehensive travel insurance including medical coverage for your trip to Albania.
4. Sun protection
Although many people believe a tanned skin, is a healthy skin. From a health perspective, a tanned skin was damaged by UV radiation and the skin is trying to protect itself. Make sure, you have sunscreen with at least SPF15 with you for your trip to Albania. Moreover, you could save money by bringing sunscreen with you, because sunscreen can be pricy in Albania.
Is it safe to travel in Albania?
It is safe to travel in Albania. Recent crime statistics show that the number of violent crimes in Albania has gone down. Moreover, there are some pickpockets in Albania, just like in any country. So it is always smart to keep your personal belongings safe.
It is surprising that so many people ask whether travel in Albania is safe or not. I believe this is because Albania is an unknown country for many people. If you ask ten people to pinpoint Albania on a map of the world, many of them will fail. Moreover, Albania is still unknown as a travel destination. So, if anything the safety question, is more of a fear of the unknown.
On your visit to Albania, the locals will make you feel incredibly welcome and safe. The Albania people have great traditions of hospitality and they treat foreigners with a lot of respect. If anything, they will come up to you out of curiosity. And offer you help with directions and they will answer all your questions. Afterwards, you will most likely be invited into their house for a coffee.
Albania is a safe country, but it always pays to be cautious and not to take any unnecessary risks. For instance, foreign government websites advice to avoid demonstrations. Moreover, you should stick to the paths and market trails at the Kosovo-Albania border, due to landmines from the Kosovo war.
Let’s explore the safety in Albania in more detail, so that you are prepared for your trip. Moreover, it is always good to know, when and where to be cautious.
As a foreigner, you are very unlikely to encounter violent crime in Albania. Moreover, recent crime statistics show a decrease in violent crimes. Which means there is a decrease in murder, robberies by force and armed robberies.
Furthermore, violent crimes in Albania do rarely affect travellers. And tourist are not usually targeted. When violent crimes occur in Albania, they are usually due to an internal dispute over criminal, business or political interests.
Mugging and pickpockets
There are pickpockets, muggings and thefts in Albania, so keep your belongings safe. Pickpockets do operate in Albania, but the number of petty thefts is much lower than in big European cities, like Paris and Barcelona.
It is smart to take some precautions, so that you can avoid any theft. Firstly, street crimes are most common in the cities and mostly at night, so be cautious is of your belongings if you are in the city at night. Secondly, touristic areas and public transportation are popular areas for pickpockets. So be extra cautious in these places. Thirdly, avoid showing off your expensive camera, phone or a watch. Fourthly, theft from vehicles is common in Albania. So, either hide your personal belongings or take them with you when you park the car.
When it comes to muggins, it is always smart to keep your personal belongings safe. And do not leave any valuables unattended. As you would in any country.
There are some taxi drivers in Albania, who try to overcharge foreign visitors. Therefore, it is always smart to take a metered taxi. Or as an alternative, you could ask the locals or your hotel for the correct price for your destination.
Most of the foreign government websites, advice to avoid any demonstrations in Albania. In February 2019, there was a demonstration in the centre of Tirana, due to unhappiness with the government.
Although the demonstrations are usually peaceful, some violence has occurred in the past as well. And some people were injured, when the police was trying to control the crowds.
Simply said, avoid demonstrations in Albania during your travels. And should any demonstrations occur, while you are in Albania, watch the news so that you know what places to avoid.
There are some landmines in the North-Eastern border between Kosovo and Albania. These unexploded landmines remain from the Kosovo war in 1999.
The areas where these landmines remain are clearly identified with signage and market off with visible tape. So, if you remain on the paved roads, you are safe. You should avoid ditches, open fields and the shoulders of the road in the Kosovo border area.
Credit card fraud
Credit card fraud in Albania is quite common. So, it is best to take the necessary precautions. Do not let your credit card out of sight, when you are making a payment. And be careful at the ATM machine, not to let anyone see your pin number.
Albania has petty crime, like any country in the world, but it always pays to be cautious.
Is it safe to travel to Albania by car?
It is safe to travel by car in Albania, but you need to be prepared for your trip.
On many websites, you can read about the poor quality of the roads in Albania. However, the government of Albania has recently invested in many of the roads. The roads in Tirana, Berat and the Albanian Riviera are of good quality. However, some of the more remote and mountains areas, still have dirt tracks and gravel paving.
To avoid any bad quality roads, it is always best to check with the local people. There are many young Albanians, who speak English and will help you along. Bear in mind, that a route that looks shorter on the map, can be longer due to the mountains and road quality. In the winter, there can be dangerous show and ice on the mountain roads, so avoid the mountains in this period.
Moreover, if you plan on driving in the mountain areas or remote areas, it is recommended to rent a four-wheel drive. For your safety do not take the risk and rent a cheaper regular car.
Moreover, driving in Albania in the cities or on the highway can be chaotic. Some of the drivers will be impatient. And pedestrians and livestock walk on the road frequently. So, make sure that you are alert and patient, while driving.
And finally, it is best to avoid driving at night, because the street lighting is poor in some areas. Due to the lack of light, you might not see any potholes in the road or unlit vehicles. If you do drive at night, be sure to use your lights, because the police are very vigilantly stopping unlit cars.
Is Albania safe for solo female travellers? Albania is a safe country for solo female travellers. Many Albanian people will go out of their way to help you, without expecting anything in return. You might be asked why you are travelling alone, but it is nothing more than curiosity.