Coronavirus: Situation in Albania & the Western Balkans for Travellers

We recognise that you will have questions regarding the impact on existing and future bookings with us. So that you can make the right travel decisions for you, we are providing factual, balanced and pragmatic information with links to primary, trusted sources.

We understand that each person will be feeling a range of emotions with regards to Coronavirus / COVID-19, the steps put in place by the world governments and how it might affect travel plans to Albania and the Balkans this year. We take that responsibility to our clients, team and society to comply and protect as best as we can. When travel restrictions are lifted and for travel in the future, it is for you to decide and feel comfortable and supported in your decision.

Current Situation in Albania

🟢 A nightly curfew is in place and you’re required to wear a mask at all times. All other restrictions have been lifted and replaced with distancing and hygiene measures. You can freely travel in Albania and to a limited degree in the neighboring countries. If your trip departs within 6 weeks then we would like to chat over the options with you.

Number of total Corona cases in Albania as per lastest update.

🟢 Tirana Airport is fully operationalclick for a list of airlines that operate flights
🟢 Land borders with the neighboring countries are open.
🟢 There are no travel restrictions within the country since June 2020.
🟢 Accommodation, restaurants and sights are open.
🟢 Small group activities such as hiking and cycling are permitted.
🟢 Public transport is operates normally

Neighboring countries: No current travel restrictions 
🟢/🟡 Kosovo: Requires proof of vaccination, antibodies, recovery or a RT-PCR test since October 2020. Travelers entering the country via the green border hiking the Peaks of the Balkans and High Scardus Trail are except, no restrictions apply to them.
🟢/🟡 Montenegro: No entry requirements for EU citizens since 5th June 2021. A travel bubble with the neighboring countries Albania, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia is in place. All travelers arriving overland from these countries, no matter their nationality are free of restrictions. Travelers arriving by plane or ferry require proof of vaccination, antibodies, recovery or a RT-PCR test. 
🟢 Northern Macedonia: No entry requirements since June 2020.
🟡 Greece: Pre-arrival online registration is mandatory. A proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative RC-PCR test are required. More information here.

Frequently updated, reliable information is available on the websites of the German and American embassies of the respective countries. 

Please note the above applies to citizens from select countries only. We recommend you check your own government advice with regards to travel to Albania and the Balkans

Austria | BelgiumGermany | Netherlands | United Kingdom | United States | Switzerland 

The global situation is shown on an interactive map by the Johns Hopkins University. While testing regimes vary vastly between countries, Albania has suffered one of the lowest tolls on human life in the world.

Zbulo! Discover Albania’s Advice

  • Like everyone else we are closely monitoring the situation, have taken steps to protect our guests and have assemble sound advice how to minimize risk. We’re happy to answer any questions this article may leave.
  • While remotely the entire Zbulo team is working as usual to provide the service and quality you expect.
  • With widespread travel advisories in place and a rapidly changing situation, please contact us by writing to welcome@zbulo.org or calling +355 69 6731 932 should you be unable to travel so that we can arrange postponement – read on about options in the next chapter.
  • Check your flights itinerary to see if any border closures/restrictions have been put in place. Updates are published on the International Air Transport Association website.
  • As we always do, we strongly encourage you to take out travel insurance that will provide adequate cover.
  • If you want or need to cancel your plans, see the options below and contact your insurance to see if it covers your reason for cancellation. See more under insurance below.
  • Once you have booked a trip with Zbulo! Discover Albania, our terms and conditions apply for any cancellation or postponement of your trip.
  • While dashed travel dreams are certainly disappointing, the impact on the individuals and businesses whose livelihoods depend on income generated by tourism promises to be devastating as described by Forbes.
  • For more information please read the following chapters.

Your Current Travel Options with Zbulo

We want to be clear and transparent, so that you know exactly where you stand if you have booked a holiday with us or are planning to do so.

Change of date
In order to give you ultimate flexibility and time to decide, we’re offering the option to postpone your trip up to 7 days prior to departure to a future date and as many times as necessary for as long as government travel restrictions remain in place. This includes moving back to your original departure date if conditions allow it to run earlier than expected. To further help your decision making, we will waive the standard administration charges on date and itinerary changes. This “credit on future tours” is valid for travel dates up to the end 2022.
Please note that an itinerary change to a higher priced tour may result in additional charges due to complete the change.

Cancellation
Deposits on scheduled groups are fully refundable up till 30 days prior to travel and can be converted to credit for future tours up to 7 days prior to travel. Deposit fees are used to cover the cost of cancellations if less time remains.
Deposits for private tours remain non-refundable, should you wish not to use your deposit as “credit on future tours”, we will amend our terms and conditions to offer a 50% refund.
Please note that different terms may apply to bookings placed through third parties and platforms.

Cancellations from our side
Zbulo does not typically cancel trips, however, local restrictions beyond our control may force us do so. We we will consider cancelling a trip in the 30 days prior to the tour start date based on the current information available. Deposits are automatically converted into “credit on future tours”.

Steps We’re Taking to Protect Travellers on Our Tours

Our client’s health and safety is of the utmost importance to us and with that in mind you will see below the steps that we are taking to protect you and mitigate the risk of contracting & spreading Coronavirus / COVID-19 while you are travelling on our tours.

  • Each van will be thoroughly sanitized at start and end of the trip. 
  • Your van will be provided with hand sanitiser and tissues. 
  • We will dispose of any rubbish bag with tissues at the end of every day. 
  • We use the sanitizing spray to wipe down van surfaces daily.

DO:

  • Notify your guide if you are feeling unwell at the earliest opportunity.
  • Meet and greet your guide and other participants with the namaste gesture.
  • Avoid unnecessary personal contact (hugs, kisses, high-fives etc.) and passing around of objects. 
  • Please make the effort not to touch your face and follow the personal hygiene recommendations.
  • Wash your hands properly and often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze.
  • Put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are not well.
  • Stay at home if you are sick to help stop the spread of whatever infection you may have.

DON’T:

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Do not share objects that touch your mouth – for example, bottles.
  • Do not pass your phone or camera to others.

Above all we want to be as respectful of each of our client’s feelings and concerns surrounding Coronavirus / COVID-19 and we would request that if you are travelling with us, that you make your feelings known in an understanding and respectful way to your guide, so that they, in turn, can make any necessary adjustments and relay information as appropriate to the group.

COVID-19 PT-PCR Test Centers in the Balkans

Please find below a selection of test centers ordered by location. Click to access further details like website, contact information, location and pricing. Tirana Airport launched in June a test center outside the arrivals.
For tests completed at the central labs of Intermedica, ALNET and Genius until 18:00, results are returned within the same day. The expected turn-around is 6-12 hours.

You’re a Zbulo client, ask us or your guide for further details. Testing at your hotel can also be arranged with prior notice. This allows to complete the test upon return to the city in the afternoon and travel with the results on the next day. If you’re not staying overnight in one of the listed locations before flying out, we recommend booking an extension night in Tirana.

Staying Healthy While Traveling on Our Tours

  • Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap for at least 20 seconds is a key method of avoiding contracting and spreading any germs while travelling and is seen as particularly important to avoid Coronavirus / COVID-19. If hand washing and soap are not available then hand sanitizer is recommended.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose unless your hands are clean.
  • Avoid close contact with people that look or feel unwell, their personal items and any surfaces they may have touched. Maintaining a distance of over 1m is recommended by the World Health Organisation.
  • If you are on any medication, then pack additional supplies should your return home be postponed.
  • The World Health Organisation understand that the virus is spread via droplets and those droplets landing on surfaces. It is not airborne and therefore cannot be transmitted through being on the same airplane.
  • Bring extra medication in case you are delayed returning home due to quarantines or border closures.

The World Health Organisation website answers frequently asked questions, provides general advice to the public and daily updates on the situation, which we’re closely following.

Insurance

As always it is important that you have adequate travel insurance which covers your specific needs, including any known medical conditions or activities you plan to do.

It is also worth checking the detail of the policy around travel disruption including delays or cancellations as policies do vary.

If any restrictions were put in place by government, the impact of this is likely to be covered by your travel insurance policy, however, you should check this with your provider. Insurance does not usually cover “disinclination to travel” where Government does not advise against travel. You may be able to pay a premium for cancellation for any reason but you must speak to your insurance company about this. 

What to do if you Feel Unwell on the Trip

The symptoms of Coronavirus / COVID-19 are:

  • A dry cough
  • A raised temperature (over 37.3 C)
  • Shortness of breath

While this does not necessarily mean that you have the virus, the local government and national health services advice is that you call 0800 40 40, a free 24/7 hotline, if you suspect you have symptoms. They can also advise about travel restrictions and other measures in place.

It is requested that you do not visit a doctor’s surgery, hospital or pharmacy. For medical emergencies first call 127 in order to receive instructions before visiting any hospital. For any other forms of urgent support the police will be at hand at 129.

Updates

  • 15.07.2021 Albania’s second international airport is being inaugurated. For starters Kukes in Northern Albania will be served by flag carrier Air Albania with low cost flights from Zurich and Istanbul, convenient for overseas arrivals and our High Scardus Trail tours. 
  • 01.07.2021 Due to an increase in demand airlines are adding new flights to Tirana.
    • Lufthansa: three times daily from Frankfurt, once from Munich.
    • Austrian: twice daily from Vienna with several connecting flights.
    • Swiss & Edelweiss: twice weekly from Zurich.
    • Eurowings: once per week from Dusseldorf and Cologne.
  • 15.06.2021 29 summer health centers open that provide COVID-19 rapid tests across Albania.
  • 10.06.2021 Active COVID cases in Albania have dropped below 200. New infections are <10 per million inhabitants. Thre are no entry rrestrictions since June 2020.
  • 05.06.2021 Montenegro removes entry restrictions for all EU citizens that spent the previous 15 days in the EU. All travelers arriving overland or traveling the Peaks of the Balkans were already exempt from regulations in May. 
  • 01.06.2021 Albania relaxes local regulations. Masks remain mandatory indoors and in public transport, but not outside or in public spaces. Gatherings of up to 50 persons are permitted now. The curfew lasts from 23:00 to 06:00.
  • 01.06.2021 Tirana Airport opens a rapid testing facility, arrive at least three hours prior to your flight, complete a PCR tests outside the arrivals terminal and receive a result within 90 min.
  • 24.05.2021 Kosovo creates a travel bubble for the green mountain border to facilitate cross-border outdoor adventures like the Peaks of the Balkans trail and Via Dinarica. There are no entry and testing requirements. Beware that this doesn’t apply to regular land borders and the airport.
  • 16.05.2021 Germany’s Robert Koch Institute updates its advice on Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia. Returnees from those countries are freed from obligatory testing and quarantine in Germany.
  • 11.05.2021 At Pristina’s airport Eurolab (see test centers) offers antigen tests with 20 min turnaround time.
  • 09.05.2021 Albania consecutively reports fewer than 100 new cases per 100.000 inhabits for the last week. Germany and other countries remove their travel advisory. As a result travelers don’t require testing or quarantine upon return home.
  • 07.05.2021 Montenegro established a travel bubble with its neighboring countries. Travelers entering from Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia or Serbia are except from travel restrictions. Flying in from abroad, proof of vaccination, antibodies or a negative PCR test is still required.
  • 30.04.2021 Mass vaccination of tourism and hospitality workers start. They’re inoculated with AstraZeneca.
  • 12.04.2021 The curfew is relaxed from 22:00 – 06:00, all bars and restaurants are open following this schedule.
  • 11.02.2021 The curfew is tightened from 20:30 – 06:00. All schooling takes place online only. The government announces that there will be no further lockdowns this year.
  • 11.01.2021 Schools reopen, universities remain online.
  • 04.01.2021 The curfew is relaxed from 22:00 – 06:00.
  • 24.12.2021 The curfew is tightened from 20:30 – 06:00 for the period of Christmas & New Years Eve celebrations.
  • 04.11.2021 The curfew is reintroduced from 22:00 – 06:00.
  • 25.09.2021 The government announces that there will be no lockdowns in case of a second wave.
  • 01.07.2020 WizzAir launches a new base in Tirana with 16 new routes.
  • 23.06.2020 The state of emergency ends.
  • 15.06.2020 At Tirana Airport regular flights with a temporary reduced schedule are restarting.
  • 10.06.2020 Public beaches are open.
  • 01.06.2020 Land borders with the neighboring countries are open. Travel restrictions throughout the entire country are lifted. Private beaches are accessible.
  • 23.05.2020 Highschool students preparing for exit exams return to school.
  • 18.05.2020 Touristic infrastructure is reopening, this includes accommodation, restaurants and the Tirana Airport. Public transport, schools and businesses considered high risk remain closed.
  • 11.05.2020 In a second step private transport is allowed and domestic travel restrictions in unaffected “green” areas are lifted.
  • 27.04.2020 Albania enters the first phase of a staged normalization process, a range of non-critical businesses opens for the first time in six weeks.
  • 31.03.2020 All flights are cancelled and the curfew is tightened. People above 65 are required to stay home, one person per household can apply to leave home for one hour per day.
  • 21.03.2020 All remaining flights are cancelled until further notice, only a single connection with Istanbul remains. The curfew allows pedestrians to move between morning hours and noon time.
  • 16.03.2020 All of the above measures will be extended until March 28 and April 3 respectively and apply nationwide. A general curfew restricts people to stay home, except a short time window to complete urgent tasks outside in the morning and afternoon. Air traffic is slowing down with more flights being cancelled due to low passenger numbers. The government adds emergency care capacity and orders additional equipment, it requires private healthcare to enlist for public service should the situation require it.
  • 13.03.2020 Land and sea borders with the neighboring countries are closed, air traffic continues except of Italy and Greece. A three day travel ban for private and public transport is enforced in central Albania by police and military. This exempts the transportation of goods, those traveling from/to the airport or equipped with a special permit. All retail shops are closed, except of pharmacies, groceries and crucial infrastructure. Banks have closed or limited working hours, ATMs are working. 
  • 12.03.2020 In Tirana and Durres all leisure venues such as cafes, bars, restaurants, gyms and parks are closed. Public events are cancelled nationwide.
  • 11.03.2020 Travelers arriving from Italy and Greece are barred from entering Albania. Those who visited Italy in the last two weeks are ordered a 14-day self-quarantine.
  • 09.03.2020 Schools and kindergartens are closed. Public institutions who provide onsite services are shut down, including museums and government managed sights. The public transport network in Tirana and Durres ceases operations.
  • 08.03.2020 First case of the Coronavirus in Albania.