Is Albania safe?
But not all off the coastline is worth visiting and many of the beaches have small stones instead of sand. Instead of Vlore, choose the seaside city of Sarandawith a Mediterranean climate, great beaches, restaurants and nightlife. This is one of our favourite places to stay and you can even visit Greece for the day as ferries run from here to Corfu. Saranda is actually the Greek name for ‘forty saints’ named after the Monastery Church of Forty Saints and a hike to the ruins of the monastery gives a great view over the city and countryside. There’s even hot springs here near the town of Permet and the Benja hot springs are known for their curative effects (just don’t forget your bikini). Other beautiful beaches are Palase and Gjipe.
For more history, Gjirokaster, known as the ‘museum city’ is an interesting day trip with steep cobbled streets leading to a 13th century castle at the top of a mountain. The historic city was influenced by the Ottomans and is a well preserved town which is a great place to stop if you’re travelling overland to Macedonia. Voskopoja is home to churches and monasteries and also has several museums, then there’s Berat - the ‘city of 1001 windows’ also on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Getting around Albania can be challenging and driving is only for the brave hearted. Private cars were illegal for Albanians during the communist era so driving is quite new to the country. There are trains from Tirana to Durres, Vlore, Milot and Shkodra but don’t expect them to be very comfortable. The best way is by local buses or minibuses (called furgons). There are no central bus stations so finding where your bus departs from can be tricky, then once you’ve found it you may find yourself waiting for them to fill up with passengers before they depart. They usually shout the destination to get people on the bus.
Buses from the capital to the coast (Dhermi) take 6 hours, cost 1000 Lek and depart from stop ‘K’ near the river. Buses do stop en-route for refreshment breaks. Read here for the bus timetable. Please note that the bus from Saranda to Korca leaves daily except on Fridays and Sundays. If you prefer to take the coastal route from Saranda to Tirana instead of via Gjirokaster, take the 05.30 or the 21.00 bus. Outside of villages it can be difficult to reach tourist sites. Hitchhiking is really popular so if you find a travelling buddy, it’s just as easy to hitch a ride to get around. Trust your instinct if you decide to hitch alone.
From the Airport
Tirana - Taxis run from outside and cost approx 3000 Lek for the 12km journey to the city centre. The Rinas Express bus runs from 6am to 6pm to the National Museum in the centre and costs only 350 Lek.
At least one week to see the capital and the coast or the mountains. We would recommend two weeks as there are so many areas to see and getting around by bus can take a lot of time.
Travelling onwards (check visas before you travel)
To Montenegro - This is the first joint border crossing in the Western Balkans. There are daily departures from Shkodra to Ulcinj leaving at 6am and 12.30pm. Buses also run from Durres and Tirana.
To Kosovo - The bus from Durres to Pristina takes approx 5 hours and costs £12. The bus departs from Rruga Pavaresia street (the north end by the beach).
To Macedonia - Either take the bus from Tirana or from Pogradec then a furgon to the border Tushemisht then a minibus to Lake Ohrid.
To Italy - From Vlore passenger ferries operate to Brindisi and some allow you take your vehicle across. Click here for Aferry’s website. You can also take a boat from Durres to various ports in Italy. Click here for Venezia Lines.
To Greece - Catch a ferry to Corfu from Saranda but it’s not cheap and will set you back £23 one way or by bus to Athens. Click here for Ionian Cruises
- Can I drink the water? No.
- Is tipping expected? Yes, 10%.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed price in shops but barter with street sellers or taxis.
- Any ATMs? In the main cities such as Tirana, Shkodra, Saranda.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Right.
- Good for vegetarians? Creperies and pizzerias cater for vegetarians.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No
*This is accurate at time of writing but we appreciate things can change. Please let us know if you experience anything otherwise. Thanks...