COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is slowly transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Europe, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. The security situation throughout Albania also has improved, though it remains somewhat unstable in certain areas, particularly in the north. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in much of the country, and though Albania's economic integration into European Union markets is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities. The capital is Tirana.
SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal gangs continue to operate in all regions and corruption is pervasive. The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding the travel of U.S. Government employees to areas north and east of Shkoder (with the exception of cities along the national road) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers.
Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana � where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, do sometimes occur, particularly in the early morning hours.
Albania has a high crime rate, with instances of armed robberies and assaults. Carjackings are a matter of some 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 common in Shkoder and frequent in other towns in northern and northwestern Albania. Throughout the country, street crime is fairly common, and occurs particularly at night. Criminals do not deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but criminals seek targets of opportunity and select those who appear to have anything of value. Pick pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pickpockets.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
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.
Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.
Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. 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.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS
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 it 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 often in very poor repair. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is particularly dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often 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 entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT
As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Albania by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.
September 17, 2004