Under Soviet rule, the healthcare service was adequate, but following the end of the Soviet regime, insufficient funding was made available to maintain hospitals and services, so healthcare fell into decline. Things have started to improve, but still lag well behind the standards you would find in Western European countries, with the range of equipment and medical technologies available being relatively poor.
There is a choice of private hospitals in Tirana, but services and facilities outside the capital are more limited. Some expats choose to travel outside Albania for medical procedures and operations. If you take regular medication, you may need to arrange to source your medicines from your home country, as some medications are unavailable in Albania. Expats moving to Albania are advised to take out a healthcare insurance plan, and should consider including cover for private dental treatment.
The best form of public transport is the bus service that connects different parts of Albania and operates within major cities. Standard buses are reasonably comfortable, and usually have air conditioning. There are also mini buses, or furgons. While buses tend to run to a timetable, furgons usually simply depart as soon as they are full of passengers.
The rail network in Albania is fairly limited and the trains themselves are quite basic. However, travelling by train does give you a chance to take in some of the beautiful scenery of the Albanian countryside. Trains in Albania are inexpensive, and all are operated by the national railway service Hekurudha Shqiptare. Recent redevelopment work in the center of Tirana has resulted in the closure of the old central railway station; this is due to be replaced by a new modern railway station. In the meantime, a bus service operates between the nearest railway station at Vore and the center of Tirana. In 2014, a major development project was announced to construct a tram network in Tirana.
If you wish to drive while you are living in Albania, you will need an international driver’s permit. This allows foreign nationals to drive in Albania for up to 12 months. Expats wishing to drive in Albania for longer than a year will need to apply for an Albanian driving license. The minimum age for driving is 18 years. The quality of roads varies, but in general is poor, which can make driving in Albania hazardous. Road traffic accidents cause a higher number of fatalities than in other countries in Eastern Europe.
Despite efforts made by the government in recent years, Albania continues to struggle with growing crime levels, particularly violent crime. However, much violence is connected to local disputes and foreign nationals are not usually targeted. In recent years, the authorities have had some success in gradually reducing crimes relating to drugs, illegal weapons and trafficking.
Protests, whether political or to complain about local issues such as power shortages, are generally peaceful and pass without incident. However, expats are advised to avoid areas where there are protests taking place.