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.

Last updated 01.04.2020

Current Situation in Albania

Travel restrictions until at least April 3rd 🔴 

If your trip departs within 6 weeks then we would like to chat over the options with you.

  • Number of confirmed Corona cases in Albania: 243 (as of last update)
  • Borders are closed and flights grounded until further notice.
  • Curfew and travel ban don’t allow for travel in the country.
  • Sights, restaurants and shops are closed with few exemptions.
  • Activities such as hiking and cycling are “banned”.

We recommend you check your own government advice with regards to travel to Albania and the Balkans

Austria | Belgium | Germany | Netherlands | United Kingdom | United States | Switzerland 

The global situation is shown on an interactive map by the Johns Hopkins University.

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.

In order to give you ultimate flexibility and time to decide we’re offering the option to postpone to any future date and as many times as necessary, while government travel restrictions remain in place. This includes moving back to your original departure date if conditions allow it to run. 

To further help your decision making, we will waive administration charges on date and itinerary changes. For private tours we have amended our terms and conditions to offer a 50% refund if you do not wish to postpone your trip to a later date. Deposits for trips cancelled less than 30 days prior to departure remain non-refundable. Please note that different terms 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.

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.

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, and presents their advice on international travel in this video.

It is a very useful question and answer session with Dr Carmen Dolea, Head of International Health Regulations at the World Health Organisation. We have watched it in its entirety and it is very reassuring, however the first 2:30 mins are most relevant to travellers that have already booked and those that are planning to. 

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

  • 08.03 First case of the Coronavirus in Albania. 
  • 09.03 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.
  • 11.03 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.
  • 12.03 In Tirana and Durres all leisure venues such as cafes, bars, restaurants, gyms and parks are closed. Public events are cancelled nationwide.
  • 13.03 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. 
  • 16.03 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.
  • 21.03 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.
  • 31.03 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.