How To Travel Around Albania
How To Travel Around Albania
The bulk of Albanians travel by public bus or private minibuses (known as “furgons”), which depart often for different destinations around the country. Furgons have no timetable (they depart when they are full) and provide access to places where buses are infrequent. Ask around or keep an eye out for clusters of white or red minivans to help you discover Furgon stations. Typically, destination names are shown on the dashboard, but charges are never included (but to get an idea, Tirane to Vlore is about 600 lek). Furgons give an unconstrained “Albanian” sensation.
Every day, many furgons depart Tirana towards Shkoder, Durres, Elbasan, Fier, and Berat. Furgons traveling to southern destinations, such as Gjirokaster or Saranda, often depart in the early morning. Furgons often cost a little more and go a bit faster, but the close quarters with other passengers may make lengthy journeys uncomfortable.
Buses are more comfortable, less costly, on time (though it’s almost impossible to find a published schedule anywhere in the country), and generally well-controlled. Tirane features distinct bus stops for northbound (Shkoder, Leizhe, Puke, etc.) and southbound (Puke, etc.) buses (Saranda, Gjirokastr, Berat, Vlore, Fier, and so on).
Tirana provides limited service to Shkodra, Fier, Ballsh, Vlor, and Librazhd. The train route between Lezhe and Shkodra is attractive. Each day, trains travel between Tirana (Kashar) and Durres up to eight times. Even if the travel from Tirana to Vlore seems straightforward on a map, rich Albanians seldom use the train and, if not in their own automobiles, employ the many minibuses. Trains, on the other hand, provide more space than the sometimes overloaded minibuses.
Due to the scarcity of such experiences in Europe today, a train ride is a must-see. The fares are modest and the journeys are long, but the scenery and ambiance are often priceless. People working their land with primitive equipment, breathtaking vistas and untamed terrains, buildings under construction with different items hanging to ward off the evil eye, and the possibility to meet some intriguing passengers, especially from rural regions, will be among the highlights of this tour. In contrast to Europe, most American gas stations offer sunflower seeds, fruits, chewing gum, and a range of other things.
It should be noted that the train from Tiran to Librazhd in the country’s center first goes west to Durres, hence the trip from Tiran to Elbasan takes several hours despite the actual straight-line distance being just around 30 kilometers. In light of the fact that the western region of the country is not quite as lovely as the eastern region, you may want to consider taking a bus to Elbasan.
The roads linking the main cities have recently been repaved and restored, and they are equipped with the bulk of security elements one would anticipate on a highway. Keep in mind, however, that several highways are currently under construction and have uncontrolled access and exit points. The highways are not subject to tolls.
Avoiding minor roads is recommended. Poor, highly pitted, or nonexistent road surfaces are possible, and a decent pavement might suddenly disappear, necessitating a U-turn and a lengthy double-back. Reasonably, it seems that all expensive automobiles in Albania are SUVs and not low-slung sports cars. Consult with the locals beforehand if you want to leave a route.
The speed limit on highways fluctuates often (sometimes with little apparent reason). In addition, police mobile speed checks are conducted on a regular basis. If your vehicle’s lights are not on, the police will pull you over. Make sure to carry your driver’s license and proof of insurance (ask your car rental company for these) to present to the police.
The driving behavior on the highways is less structured than in other regions of Europe. Automobiles will drive out in front of you, there will be limited usage of turn signals, and passing will be tense. Frequently, double or triple carriageways include lanes. On roadways, pedestrians, horses, and donkeys may cross or walk. In the highlands, roads may be narrow and twisting, with hairpins and serpentines that need frequent gear changes and frequent braking. Drivers are recommended to carry a spare tire and check engine fluid levels to avoid overheating.
Although some maps of the country are out of date or include errors, navigating is straightforward. Since new routes are constantly being added to the Albanian road network, it is strongly suggested to have a modern GPS. In the event that the GPS fails, it is prudent to bring along a paper or online map.
The cities, notably Tirana, are improving, repairing, and renaming several roadways. Consequently, driving inside the city will be slow and difficult. Be advised that Tirana, in particular, has considerable morning and midday traffic congestion.
The mountainous SH8 Vlor-Saranda road is a fantastic ride. It is a traditional Mediterranean road with breathtaking views of the sea from the surrounding mountains. The path to the peak of Dajti mountain is exceedingly rough, yet a 4×4 is (nearly) not required.
At major junctions, you may be approached by gypsy and beggar children. To remove them, gradually push your car ahead and, if required, go into the traffic intersection. The locals will understand.
During Greek holiday seasons, such as Orthodox Easter, the roads leading to and from Greece may become crowded with automobiles with Greek license plates driven by Albanian immigrants on their way to or returning from a vacation in Albania.
Although renting a car is a relatively recent phenomenon in the Nation, it is a feasible option. The majority of rental firms are located at Tirana Airport and in the city of Tirana. Other travel agencies may also offer these services.
Individuals riding bicycles on public roadways are treated with disdain. There are also a limited number of bike parking options. Albania is a challenging but rewarding cycling destination because of these and other hurdles. Frequently, your only option is to ask around to see if you may stay in someone’s home or camp in their garden. There are several roadside cafés and bars where you may get food and drink.
All non-completely private places are legal to camp in, and even if the areas are strictly private, there should be no difficulties with your stay; enquire if you have any worries.
Please be aware that parts and maintenance for modern bicycles are quite difficult to come by.
Although hitchhiking is not extremely common in Albania, many people will pick you up if they are able.