What’s it Like to Travel in Albania?

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Albania was the country I was most looking forward to visiting this summer. It fit my dreams — home to a fascinating culture and some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, yet a bit of an underdog. A Balkan country I hadn’t visited yet? Sold!

But the biggest factor was meeting two lovely Albanian girls this past spring. Erisa and Bianka joined my second Central America tour. Both of them immigrated from Albania to the US when they were teenagers and both go back to visit often.

Soon our tour days were filled with stories and anecdotes from Albania, and learning from Erisa and Bianka allowed me to get to know a culture that most people only know from watching Taken.

(Side note: Erisa was watching Taken in the theater and suddenly let out a scream. One of the Albanian mobsters in the kitchen scene was played by a friend of hers. True story.)

So I wanted to enjoy my trip to Albania, but I wanted to make my friends proud, too. I wanted to give Albania a fair chance and get to see the wonderful parts, not just the negative stereotypes.

Here are the things I learned — and what you should know — when traveling to Albania.

What's it Really Like to Travel in Albania?

Albania is one of the least developed countries in Europe.

I’ve visited nearly every country in Europe. Honestly, Albania is the least developed of all the ones I’ve seen, less so than Bosnia, Macedonia or Bulgaria (though it’s worth noting that I haven’t been to Moldova or Belarus yet).

What does this mean? Roads are in poor condition. There are no central bus stations and public transportation is a headache (more on that later). The water isn’t safe to drink. There is hardly any tourism infrastructure beyond a tiny bit in Saranda and Berat. Get outside the tourist areas and you’ll find nobody who can speak English.

Does that make Albania a bad place? Not at all. I’m saying this because you should know what to expect before you arrive. While they’re very different countries, the lack of development in urban Albania reminded me of Cambodia several times.

The average monthly wage in Albania is 45,539 lek ($369 USD). Assuming 22 days of work per month, that’s just $17 per day. Adding that to the difficulty of ever leaving the country and you’ve got a very tough situation for much of the population.

Albania shut itself off from the rest of the world for much of the 20th century, but so many of its residents are facing a different kind of imprisonment today.

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Albania is a Muslim country.

This may surprise you, but about 59% of Albanians are Muslim! About 17% are Christian and the remainder are nonbelievers or followers of other religions.

That said, it’s a largely secular Muslim country, and religion does not influence its government. I could count the women I saw wearing a hijab on one hand — and that includes my time in Tirana.

The only way you’d know the prominence of Islam is that mosques are everywhere. I also noticed that it was rare to hear the call to prayer blasted out early in the morning, a big change from places like Indonesia and southern Thailand.

Butrint NP, Albania

The Albanian language is like nothing you’ve ever heard.

Don’t think a smattering of Serbo-Croatian will help you out here — Albanian, while technically an Indo-European language, is not related to any other living languages. It’s like Basque that way.

In areas like the more upscale parts of Tirana, the city center of Berat, Saranda, and Ksamil, you can get by with English; sometimes, Albanians speak Greek or Italian as their second language. (A taxi driver in Tirana and I spoke entirely in Italian!)

But like anywhere else in the world, learning a few words of the local language will delight the locals. Përshëndetje (per-shen-DET-yeh) means hello and falaminderit (fa-la-min-DAIR-eet) means thank you.

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The Albanian flag is everywhere, and not just on government buildings.

My foreigner friends often rib me about how Americans always have their flags on display. But seriously, we’re not the only ones! People from Denmark, South Africa, Turkey, and Norway, among others, are just as demonstrative with their country’s flag.

And the blood-red Albanian flag topped with a double-headed eagle is seen everywhere throughout the country. Not only that, they sell Albanian flag merchandise everywhere — think everything from t-shirts to posters to tea towels. I noticed the same thing in Kosovo, too, which is home to ethnic Albanians.

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It’s dirt cheap.

Before this trip, I thought Macedonia was the cheapest country in Europe — and Albanian prices are in line with Macedonian prices or even slightly lower. Like everywhere else in the world, you’ll pay more in urban and touristy destinations in Albania and less in smaller towns and less popular destinations.

Some price examples: I very rarely spent more than $10 (or even $5) on a meal, and only did if I had a few drinks somewhere fancy. I paid 350 lek ($3) for prosecco at the chic bar on top of the Sky Tower in Tirana. Beers? Around $1 at a shop or $2 in a bar. I went on a shopping spree in Tirana and spent about $8 per shirt and $18 per (nice) dress.

Most unbelievably, I paid $18 per night for a hotel room in Berat that had both a double and single bed, air conditioning, an ensuite bathroom, and it was centrally located. Eighteen dollars. I’ve paid more than that in Cambodia for much worse rooms.

Just one thing — get rid of all your Albanian lek before leaving the country, because nobody will change it. (I’ll be giving mine to my Albanian friend Erisa to spend on her next trip home!)

Butrint NP, Albania

Public transportation can be maddening.

Mountain bus rides can be the most beautiful and frightening of overland transportation. Albania kicks things up a notch on the ride from Saranda to Gjirokastra, where several treacherous passes are crossed without any safety precautions. The guardrails, when they exist, are barely knee-high and seem to be more symbolic than protective.

Cities in Albania don’t have central bus stations, nor do they have travel agencies that work with every bus company. For me, getting the right ticket from Saranda to Berat required me to go from door to door, agency to agency, listening to them telling me where to go in Albanian as I nodded without understanding, then finding another agency, again and again, until I found someone who sold those tickets! All the buses depart at different street corners.

As for the quality of the buses, you definitely won’t have air conditioning and if temperatures are in the high 90s (36 C), which they very often are in Albania during the summer, it will be even hotter inside.

Finally, sometimes you’ll arrive and find out that your connecting bus doesn’t exist, which happened to me in Fier. I needed to pick up a bus to Berat and found out that nothing existed and my only option was to jump in the back of some guy’s van. More on that below.

Albanian Shellfish

Food can be hit or miss.

You know, there were times that I really loved the food in Albania, but much of the time I found the food to be uninspiring.

Lots of meat pounded into patties or formed into sausages. Lots of stews. Lots of salads. I hate to say it, but as a cheese lover, I found that most of the cheeses I tried had an unappealing flavor to them, almost like they had started to go bad. (Coming straight from Greece with its stupendous feta exacerbated my impressions, I’m sure.)

But Saranda had wonderful seafood, especially shellfish and octopus, and like elsewhere in the Balkans, you can always find good pizza.

For what it’s worth, my favorite traditional meal in Albania was at a place called Taverna Leo in Saranda. I had the most wonderful stuffed zucchini and squash. But then a few days later I ordered stuffed peppers at one of the nicest places in Berat, trying to recreate the magic, and it just didn’t happen. Those odd flavors crept back in.

Boat in Ksamil Albania

The evening stroll is the place to see and be seen.

Like the rest of the Balkans and much of the Mediterranean, cafe culture rules and so does the evening stroll. As soon as the sun begins to set and temperatures turn livable again, it seems like everyone comes out for the evening to stroll down the street and sit at cafes. No matter how old or young you are, you’re there. It’s what people do.

This was most prominent in Berat. During the day, nobody would be out on the main cafe street (the super-hot summer temperatures may have been a reason), and you wouldn’t believe the difference come evening.

Saranda, Albania

You see children with their grandparents most of the time.

This may just be a Saranda thing, but I often saw Albanian children being cared for by their grandparents, no parents to be seen. It may be cultural, it may be just for vacation, or it might just be a coincidence. Either way, I saw it as evidence of strong and close families.

Berat Albania

Albanians will question why you’re actually there.

Over and over, Albanians were incredulous that I was visiting their country. “Why would you come here when you could go anywhere else?” they kept asking me. My friends experienced the same reactions.

No matter how much praise I heaped on the country, the kind people, the beaches, the mountains, the delicious seafood, Albanians would refuse to believe their country could be a tourist destination.

At one point, a waiter in Berat told me, “You’re lucky. All of us are stuck in this town.” “You’re right. I am,” I told him. “But this is such a beautiful town that you get to live in.” He snorted and walked away.

Where to Go in Albania

I recommend basing yourself in three different regions and exploring from there.

Tirana Albania

Tirana is one wacky and vibrant city.

Tirana was a huge surprise to me! I had no idea I would love it so much. I think most of this was because I stayed in the Blloku neighborhood, an upscale area which used to be exclusively for the elite of Tirana. Blloku is chic, colorful and interesting.

What to Do in Tirana: Some of my favorite experiences were climbing to the top of the the derelict pyramid in the center of town and having drinks on top of the Sky Tower during sunset. And all the shopping, of course! I practically bought a new wardrobe at a Pink Woman boutique downtown and a Tally Weijl store in the Tirana East Gate (TEG) mall outside town. You can also go on a Tirana food tour, go kayaking in Farka Lake, or do a day trip to the gorgeous town of Shkoder.

Where to Stay in Tirana: Definitely stay in Blloku. If you’re on a budget, Propaganda Hostel is excellent (they have dorms and private rooms). If you’ve got more to spend, Hotel de Paris is upscale but still a bargain. Check out more hotels in Tirana here.

Berat Albania

Berat is one of the most unusual-looking old cities I’ve ever seen.

I went to Berat for to see its UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town, and I wasn’t disappointed. Have you ever seen a place that looked like this before? It’s the city of a thousand windows!

Berat is a tiny place and you don’t need more than one full day and two nights here. Spend your time exploring the town on foot. The main cafe street comes to life around sunset — it was amazing to watch it transform from being totally empty to a swarming crowd!

What to Do in Berat: Stroll around the town on foot, have dinner overlooking the bridge, grab a coffee or cocktail and people-watch in the late afternoon. Or if you’re adventurous, go rafting in Osumi Canyon.

Where to Stay in Berat: Berat is tiny; everything is close by. Everything is also extremely cheap! I stayed at the simple Hotel Pasarela, which was on top of a grocery store; Antipatrea Hotel is a bit more upscale. Check out more hotels in Berat here.

Ksamil Albania

Saranda is a great base for exploring Albania’s beaches.

Did you know that Albania is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe? Here you’ll find clear water like the beach above, in Ksamil. (I feel dishonest just looking at that photo, though — it was filled with people and I photoshopped them all out for a nicer photo. It is CRAZY crowded there.)

Saranda, a relaxing resort town, makes a great base for exploring the south. It has a great boardwalk, beaches with free chairs and umbrellas, and several good restaurants and cafes. There wasn’t a lot to do, which made it a good place to chill out.


READ MORE: How to Protect Your Belongings on the Beach


I spent six nights in Saranda and could easily have stayed longer. If the internet were better (i.e. didn’t randomly stop working twice a day), I’d consider it a digital nomad hotspot for summer.

What to Do in Saranda: Visit everything in one day: Buthrotum, Ksamil, the Blue Eye, and Lekurski Castle; visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins at Butrint; go hiking and snorkeling in Krorez Bay; or just head to the near-island of Ksamil and chill out on its beaches.

Other beaches worth visiting are Himare and Drymades, or just drive up the coast and stop wherever looks good! If you’re brave enough to rent a car in Albania, you can see a lot of gorgeous beaches.

Where to stay in Saranda: Hotel Real Sarande is a solid hotel in the perfect location, close to everything. If you want to splurge, Demi Hotel Sarande is upscale and modern with gorgeous views. Check out more hotels in Saranda here.

Kate in Albania

Yes, I recommend Albania for solo female travelers!

I felt very safe in Albania and aside from guarding against theft, I don’t think there are any specific precautions that solo female travelers should take beyond the basics. I experienced zero sexual harassment or sexist treatment and wasn’t so much as hit on by a single Albanian man, even in bars and clubs.

There is one issue: for transportation to some places, you’ll have to get into an unregistered taxi, which is pretty much just a random guy with a car. I had to do this when I found out there was no bus from Fier to Berat. It was the only option.

If you get into this situation, I recommend doing what I did: I took a photo of the driver’s face, took a photo of his license plate, and pretended to make a phone call to a friend saying that I was coming soon and repeating his license plate number clearly.

I do this all over the world and it’s an extra layer of safety — the driver thinks you have someone looking out for you and knows he can’t try anything without getting caught. Is it 100% foolproof? No. Nothing is. But it helps quite a bit.

All this being said, I don’t recommend Albania for new and inexperienced travelers. It’s a challenging country in many ways for even an experienced traveler, and I recommend you cut your travel teeth on a few different countries in Europe before you travel to Albania on your own.

Full solo travel disclosure: I traveled with my bud Jeremy for several nights in Saranda but traveled the rest of the country on my own.

Ksamil Albania

Albania is mostly undiscovered, but it won’t stay that way.

I don’t expect Albania to grow into a major tourist destination in the next decade, but things are absolutely going to change as the country continues developing.

I expect to see many more tourists, especially along the Riviera. I could see Tirana becoming a popular stag do hotspot as well. But one place where I think we’ll see the most growth is in the adventure and outdoors travel industry.

Albania is home to beautiful, pristine mountain ranges. The Peaks of the Balkans trek through Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania is starting to get more attention (for more on that, my friend Katie did the trek recently and is now blogging about it) and I fully expect to see more hiking, mountain climbing, canyoning, rafting, and outdoor lodges spring up in the future.

If Montenegro was lauded as the new Croatia, Albania could very well become the new Montenegro.

The verdict? Albania is great. Go now. Or go in a few years. You’ll be very glad you did.

Essential Info: I recommend bringing a digital guidebook for your Albania trip. My recommendation is the Albania chapter from Lonely Planet’s Eastern Europe guidebook. You can buy just one chapter or the whole book!

Good shoes are essential. I have bad arches and live in comfy but cute shoes from The Walking Company. I especially recommend their sandals if you’re visiting Albania in the summer. They even have flip-flops with arch support!

Also, be sure to bring a portable safe. Leave your valuables locked in this and lock it to something sturdy in your room. I consider my portable safe the most important item I pack.

For keeping your belongings safe when you’re out and about, I recommend a cross body purse that zips made out of a sturdy material. Here are the travel purses I recommend.

Alternatively, get a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. They have a hidden passport pocket in them, which pretty much guarantees you won’t be pickpocketed! I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden.

Tirana is home to Albania’s only commercial airport; an alternative is to fly to Corfu, Greece, from where you can get a short ferry to Saranda. I find Skyscanner tends to have the best deals on flights to Tirana and Corfu.

I traveled from Corfu and arrived in Saranda via ferry from Corfu, Greece. Ionian Cruises has one ferry in each direction each day costing 19 euros ($22) and it takes an hour and 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the Ionian Cruises ticket office is not at the dock but down the street! Get your tickets in advance or you’ll have to hail a taxi in a panic like I did!

I departed Tirana via Montenegro Hostel’s direct shuttle to Podgorica, Budva, and Kotor. It costs 40 euros ($46) and should take five hours. While we had some nightmarish logistical issues due to a Norwegian tour group on the bus before our pickup, it was a very comfortable journey. I highly recommend it, as the alternative is taking several public buses of dubious quality. They also stop for a photo op at beautiful Sveti Stefan.

In Tirana, I recommend Propaganda Hostel if you’re on a budget and Hotel de Paris if you have more money to spend. Check out more hotels in Tirana here.

In Berat, I recommend Hotel Pasarela if you’re on a budget and Antipatrea Hotel if you have more money to spend. Check out more hotels in Berat here.

In Saranda, I recommend Hotel Real Sarande if you’re on a budget and Demi Hotel Sarande if you have more money to spend. Check out more hotels in Saranda here.

Overall, I think visiting Tirana, Berat, and Saranda (plus a day trip from Saranda to Ksamil and Butrint) makes a good weeklong trip. I spread mine out over ten days. If you want to visit other countries at the same time, you could easily expand your trip to Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, and/or Montenegro.

Looking for a group tour to Albania? Intrepid Travel has several in-depth tours that combine Albania with Macedonia and other Balkan countries.  G Adventures also offers Balkans tours that include stops in Albania.

While I found Albania to be an overall safe destination, accidents can happen anywhere and I urge you to buy travel insurance before you go. It could save your life, your health, or your finances. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Albania.

Would you want to visit Albania? Share away!

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128 thoughts on “What’s it Like to Travel in Albania?”

  1. Great report on the trip with good pointers.Ive been wanting to do a trip there to get back to my roots.Im Albanian on my dads side and apparently have distant relatives there.I guess i just assumed it wasnt an American freindly country like alot of other countries.I definitely wanna go within the next few years.thanks for your review

  2. hi
    very-nice blog, indeed.
    just one thing about the prices that you found absurd. in this country the average salary in about 250 us dollars, many people you have in the street eran even less. a waiter is paid 1030 dollars a month to work 6 days per week even up to 12 hours per day. poverty rate is amazingly high, and children living under poverty level is near to 30%… so yes prices are low for you, but not four locals. a room costing 30 dollars per night is out of range for like 80 % of the population. so this is my advice, in your next article, please mention this, as albania is becoming a new touristic destination, if if every business owner in the country understand that 30 dollars per night is absurd, they will raise prices much more, which means that for local tourist, it will become quickly unaffordable. prices for holiday don t always fit the locals possibility, and tourism can destroy a country…. thanks!

  3. Thanks for the interesting facts and experience of Albania, I totally didn’t know a thing of what I just read. What was the biggest surprise to me was the prices and that the population is mostly muslim. The coastline totally seemed to be the most beautiful ones in the Mediterranean sea. Thanks a lot 🙂

    1. Hi, Albania is not a muslim country ande the most of the population is not muslim but atheist or agnostic. I dont know how this girls can write something like that.

  4. Hello Kate!

    I’d really like to thank you for reviewing my country and given some right answers and a lot of information. I’m glad that you had a great trip here in Albania. Albania is gem hidden in Europe, and it doesn’t have only fascinating mountains and amazing beaches, it is also a great spot for outdoor lovers. Faleminderit Kate! -Thank you Kate!

  5. 1)Actually there are 6 other countries in Europe that are poorer than Albania as per economical statistics .
    2) Second the potential of Albania regarding tourism far surpasses that of Montenegro .
    3) Albania is more non muslim than muslim in reality.

    Overall a fair blog post & review , yet at times filled with cliches and prejudices . Albania had 4 million FOREIGN tourists last year per example , which per capita makes it one of the most visited country that you have visited .

    All the best to you 🙂

  6. Mature couple with some travel experience in Europe. Absolutely loved Albania as part of a trip that took us to Paris, Corfu and Macedonia as well. After a bit of research we decided to rent a car to travel through Albania and Macedonia. After reading a number of posts I was not surprised by how incredibly friendly, helpful and curious the Albanians were. Even if they did not think they spoke English well, it was far better than my Albanian! I was surprised that it was not nearly as trashy as I had read about. Also the main roads outside of towns and cities were in quite good condition. The amount of traffic was very light outside of towns. Scenery is truly spectacular- mountains, sea views. We did not use public transportation so I cannot comment on that but car rental was reasonable, less than 20 dollars a day. We did not discover this immediately, but note that the euro is accepted pretty much everywhere. We did not realize this and had a substantial amount of Albanian Lek when we were leaving for Greece on the ferry. We could not find an exchange place nearby but a very kind local business man exchanged all of our Lek for Euros. They really are great people!

  7. Hey Kate, I just read your blog about Albania and I found it very interesting. My family and I are taking a European trip this summer and hiring a car. We are going to drive through a lot of the Eastern block and Balkan states and then down to Greece. On the way back up we are thinking of going through Albania or Macedonia as we are going to spend quite a few days in Croatia. I am wondering what your thoughts are on driving through and spending a bit of time there. Also how important do you think it is to book ahead? For a lot of our trip we are doing couch surfing and trying to have a bit of flexitbility.
    Thanks for a very informative article!
    xoc

  8. I really really enjoyed reading your article! Me and my boyfriend are hoping to take a trip over to Tirana this next year in the spring time. It looks like a very beautiful place, and sounds like there is a lot to do there!! I hope we will have as much fun as you! Thank you for writing this wonderful article! You have probably helped out a lot of people. 🙂

  9. Hello, can you please change the text about Albania ist a moslem country? Albania ist not a moslem country. It is a laic country with different religions. The most part of albanians ar atheist. So I do not like that you campare albania with tailand in this point. There are so big differences.

  10. Hi Kate, Thanks for such a thorough review of travelling Albania. I see you’ve also written posts on Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia and some of the other countries in the area. I’d love your opinion on what you think about travelling the Balkans with a baby. Both my husband and I are experienced travellers and have been to about 50 and 90 countries each. We’ve got approximately 8 weeks to see the area and are planning on starting in the Greek islands, then flying into Tirana from Athens. We’re thinking of possibly renting a car in Tirana and driving to Pristina, Skopje, Lake Ohrid, then back to Tirana with stops in between. We’ll then drop the car back in Tirana and continue on by bus to Kotor, Dubrovnik, Mostar, then up the Croatian coastline to Slovenia. We’re planning our trip around April/May next year and the baby will be about 7 or 8 months old by then. I’d love your opinion on the safety and logistics of traveling (especially by bus) with a baby in this area as I can’t find much information about it. We’re not worried about the food or the locals, and we aren’t too pressed for time so will have quite a bit of flexibility, but we’re just a little concerned about safety on busses, and the logistics of having a baby with us during a delay, difficult border crossing, closed road, etc. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Brianna —

      I honestly don’t know if I’m the person to ask, as I don’t have kids and have never traveled with kids as an adult. I don’t know what to look for. But travelingcanucks.com is a great resource for traveling with a baby!

      Location-wise, some of the Albanian buses were scary. The guardrails were nonfunctional and they seemed more decorative. Albania will be particularly hard if you need to run out and buy something, as not as many people speak English. It took me forever to find electrical tape. I think you have the right idea about renting a car in the “rougher” part of the Balkans. But why not continue? I’ve road tripped in both Croatia and Slovenia and it’s the best way to travel. You can always rent in Dubrovnik, drive up the coast and do Slovenia, then drive back to nearby Zagreb (this will be cheaper as it’s in-country).

      Montenegro Hostel runs a direct shuttle bus from Tirana to Kotor. I HIGHLY recommend it. I think it costs 35-40 euros. A much better alternative than taking a million crappy Albanian and Montenegrin buses, especially with a baby!!

      1. Hi Kate,

        Thanks for such a quick reply! And thanks for the great resource of Traveling Canuks, I’ll be having a good look at their site before we embark on any baby-adventures! 🙂

        We’ll definitely consider renting a car in Croatia/Slovenia too, however we were possibly considering flying from Split to Zagreb (which means we’d miss one of your favs, Zadar). We may just decide along the way as we figure out how difficult or easy it will be to travel with baby. And I’ll for sure write down that shuttle from Tirana to Kotor, sounds perfect for us!

        Thanks again for your great blog and your thorough reply to my question 🙂 Best of luck on all your adventures to come!

  11. Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your post about Albania! Is it hard to find an ATM? (I want to pay in LEK.) Just ordered tickets to Corfu and have decided to spend some days in Albania. Looking forward to visit Ksamil, Butrint, Sarande etc. Thanks for your amazing blog post, Kate 🙂

  12. This is all so interesting. I have had a yen to go to Albania in our camper van, driving from the UK. What is it like to travel around? And would it be safe and easy enough to camp anywhere off the road?

  13. With in the past 3 years I’ve been in a relationship with a guy from Albania and I’d have to agree that the culture is different but I find it very beautiful. My dream is to visit Albania soon so I can experience the culture for myself, if you or anyone has any tips I could use let me know! Faleminderit ????☺️

  14. My husband and I visited Albania last May. Had read some things online that turned out to be completely true. The people are fabulous! Kind, curious and much more fluent in English than we are in Albanian. We were put off by what we read about public transportation but we’re concerned about reports of terrible road conditions. Decided to rent a car for a week. Best decision. Inexpensive, and outside of cities the roads were in surprisingly good condition and uncrowded. In some cities ( notably Vlore and Berat) road conditions and construction are challenging! We truly loved this country and would recommend visiting to anyone who does not mind a few travel challenges.

  15. Hi Kate.

    I have been to albania once 2 years ago and am not going back Honestly am surprised about your positive comments of that country. I am Hungarian but living in UK currently. Albania is the poorest country by far. I think you have exaggerated your experience there,I understand you run a blog and a business so is not easy to say harsh things.
    Infrastructure, roads, etc very bad condition. They trying to build some new highways especially up north but in general that country made me feel doomed . Not to mention the WiFi was a joke or the electricity was cutting off during the day. I experienced that in Saranda, locals told me that in summer times the sourounded villages have no electricity twice a day so to provide for the tourists at Saranda. In winter time is much worse. Also speaking to people there, usually summer time all the ex pats coming back from all over the world for cheap holidays, Saranda destroyed after 1997, where every one was building big apartments on top of each other, and converted the riviera to a cement monster, money laudring from drugs was the reason they told me. I love my country too, but the patriotic or nationalistic feeling I got from Albanians is no where to compare. A lot of them missed the time when Greeks where leaving there, especially South albania the Greek element is obvious, Saranda, ksamili, budrinti, hinare, gjirocastre all Greek cities according to people there.
    Something else that didn’t strike me well is when we stopped by traffic police and wouldn’t let us go unless we give then some euros. We told them we are tourists etc they wouldn’t care less. Absolutely disgusting. I had a good time in fieri and patos with friends there who told me that the policemen get paid peanuts, and taking money from tourists is an extra pocket money.

  16. Hi Kate,
    My wife and I toured Albania in late March 2015 on our own. I am planning to visit Albania again
    in mid-2017. Browsed the Internet to search for new information about Albania and came across
    yours.

    Firstly, before departing Vancouver, Canada to Athens, we were told that Albania is a dangerous
    country and should avoid going there. However we were determined to go to Albania. Apparently, on our flight from Paris to Athens, a gentleman sitting on the same row as ours, is Albanian. And we felt relief when he assured us that there were too much bad and negative comments about Albania which is not true.

    We took a long distance bus from Athens to Saranda and were so welcomed in the bus when all the passengers were Albanians and we were the only 2 non-Albanians. When they asked where we were from, they cheered when we told them we are Canadians.

    Throughout our stays in cities of Saranda, Tirana and Shkoder and visiting UNESCO sites
    (Butrint and Gjirokastra ) we felt very safe and not once felt threatened. Albanians were so helpful
    and friendly. One evening in one of their local restaurants, the Albanians we spoke to reassured us
    that visitors are well respected and would not do harm to visitors. This we found to be very true as
    we had walked numerous streets in the evenings and only saw smiling faces and some even wished us “good evening”.

    Arriving in Tirana (after leaving Saranda), we could not find the hotel. So I walked into a shop to
    ask for direction. The shopkeeper told his assistant to look after the shop and told us to follow him
    as he walked us three blocks to this hotel. It took almost 20 minutes. We were amazed at his willingness and kindness to walk with us to the hotel.

    And in Shkoder, the hotel receptionist recommended a fine Albanian Restaurant that we should dine.

    We followed the direction but could not locate this restaurant. So again I walked into a Bakery/Pastry Cafe to ask for direction, showing the staff the name of the restaurant. She went to
    the back of the cafe and then another lady came out. The staff we spoke to, told us to follow her staff. We were shocked when this female staff walked us to the restaurant, crossing three major streets and a small park. Then she pointed to the building where the restaurant is located.

    The helpfulness, kindness, willingness to help visitors from Albanians that we had encountered through our travel of Albania have left a very lasting memory inside us.

    We told 3 other Canadians that we met at Lake Bled,Slovenia of our fantastic experience in Albania and reassured them that Albania is a very safe country to visit when they mentioned about
    skipping Albania.

    We will be visiting Albania again in 2017.

  17. Thank you for sharing your experience. Albania is a place worth visiting, with beautiful places to visit and delicious food to try.

  18. Hello Kate, I will be visiting Athens in April and I was thinking on visiting the neighboring countries and I was wondering what would you recommend to getting around the countries? Flying or busing would be the best way?

    Thank you!

  19. Mariana van Aswegen

    I loved reading this! I have a love affair with unknown, underrated countries, just like you can find in the Balkans. Your post is packed with tips and I was basically on my way there (figuratively speaking) when I got to the part where you warned inexperienced travellers to go there. That in itself is the best tip ever, as Im sure it can be a bit of a culture shock if you arrive there. But I also like how you commented on the friendly people and how they want to know why you would want to visit their country. Thank you for a wonderful read!

  20. Hello, we are arriving yo Corfú on September 2nd at night, we pretend to stay that night and then move to Sarande, stay one night and visit the places you mentioned, then move to Berat to stay for the night and then move to Dubrovnik. We have to take our flight on September 6th. What about the transportation between Sarande to Berat and from Berat to Dubrovnik? Thanks un advance

    1. My advice? You’re moving WAY too fast. Albania is very undeveloped. Overland travel is long and difficult. Berat to Dubrovnik would take bloody forever and a million different buses.

  21. Hi Kate! Just came across this post after my trip to Albania this summer. It’s so funny how people can go to the same places and have such different experiences! The biggest difference (as a fellow cheese lover) was the amazing cheese I had while there! Haha – glad you enjoyed your time there 🙂

  22. Looks so great. My first idea when traveling to the Balkans was to not even go to Albania. I read some about it and thought maybe I could spend two days in Tirana. Now I have 6 nights in my plan to spend in Albania. 1 in the Accused mountains, 3 in Tirana, and 2 in Southern Albania. It will be a big part of my 27 day trip through the Balkans. August 2018.

  23. This is a great blog to read, it’s honest.

    I’ve been to Albania 20+ times over the last 12 years as my in laws are there. I think one thing to note is that Albanians believe in hospitality, it’s bred into them and is part of there beliefs. Everyone will go a long way to ensure you are happy and make you feel welcomed.

    If you ever go back, or if anyone is planning to visit then rather then restaurants try asking some locals outside the centres where to eat. Most of them will take you to their family home and feed you, welcome you as part of there family – this is the real food of Albania. These recipes are past down generation to generation and is the history of the country.

    I think this will create another incredible part of the experience.

    Thanks again – keep up the blogs (and the travel!)

  24. Thank you Kate,

    This is a great article. I will be traveling to Albania for about 2 weeks or so starting from around June 20. I am a solo traveler too and my concern is getting around using public transportation. I’d rather not rent a car because I will be on my own. It seems to me it is possible though challenging at times to travel using public trans. Thanks for the info.

  25. Hi! I am traveling by myself and have a question regarding planning. So I wanted to go to Vlore then to Borsh, then I wanted to do Dhermi but in these places, it doesn’t look like there are any hostels..I need to get back up to Tirana to get my flight but was wondering if it’s worth staying in Sarande? I want to visit the Ksmir island for a day trip but the main thing I am worried about is being alone the whole time, which is why I would like to stay in hostels. It doesn’t seem like there is one in Dhermi aside from the campsite. Would you recommend staying in Sarande most of the time? thanks !:D

  26. Albania is not a Muslim country. Doesn’t it seem odd to you that until 90’s it was atheist and now it became 90% religious? The vast majority of Albanians are indifferent to religion (see atheists or agnostics). The reason why they don’t declare so has to do with the association that atheism had with communism. During communism, many religious temples were destroyed and also priests and imams were imprisoned or even killed. Nobody wants to identify themselves with the people who did that. Therefore, the majority would just declare a religion for traditional reasons while being a non-believer.

  27. Is this a country best avoided for those who can’t stand cigarettes and have difficulty enjoying travel in countries where cigarette smoke is ubiquitous?

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply. In countries like Ireland and Belgium, there are strictly enforced laws about where smoking is and isn’t allowed. So even if a lot of people smoke, they’re limited as to where they can do it — an athlete or pregnant woman pretty much won’t come in contact with cigarette smoke in these places unless they deliberately seek it out. My experience in Eastern Europe has been that smokers, even if there are laws prohibiting them from it, freely smoke in restaurants, on buses, in hotels, etc. I’m trying to gage if Albania is more like Georgia and Armenia or more like Belgium and Ireland.

  28. Marc,
    Hi Kate, first time reader of your blog, and I enjoyed it very much. Very thorough descriptions and easy to read, felt like I picked up a lot of information without having to pore over too many pages of info.
    On your page where people enter their email address to subscribe, you asked “Would you visit Albania?” I was looking up pictures for desktop backgrounds on my computer and came across Albanian beaches, and this led to your blog. So after seeing the beautiful beaches and reading your descriptions, I would visit Albania, but not as the main destination. I haven’t made it to Greece yet, so I would most likely combine the two, with the majority of the trip in Greece.
    Thank you for the info and I look forward to reading more of your stories!

    Marc

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