Saturday, September 18, 2021

How To Travel Around Albania

EuropeAlbaniaHow To Travel Around Albania

By bus

The majority of Albanians travel by public bus or private minibuses (called “furgons”), which leave regularly to various locations across the country. Furgons have no schedule (they leave when they are full) and offer access to certain smaller communities where buses do not often operate. Furgon stations aren’t always apparent, so ask around or keep a look out for groups of white or red minivans gathering together to locate them. The names of destinations are usually shown on the dashboard, but costs are never provided (but to get an idea, Tirane to Vlore is about 600 lek). Furgons are unrestricted and provide a true “Albanian” experience.

Many furgons leave Tirana every day towards Shkoder, Durres, Elbasan, Fier, and Berat. Furgons going to the south, such as Gjirokaster or Saranda, usually leave early in the morning. Furgons, on average, cost a bit more and go a little quicker, but they may be unpleasant over long distances because to the tight quarters with other passengers.

Buses are more comfortable and less expensive, and although they are slower, they operate on time (though it is almost difficult to obtain a written timetable anywhere in the nation) and are usually properly controlled. Tirane has separate bus stops for northbound buses (Shkoder, Leizhe, Puke, and so on) and southbound buses (Saranda, Gjirokastr, Berat, Vlore, Fier, and so on).

By train

There are limited services between Tirana and Shkodra, Fier, Ballsh, Vlor, and Librazhd. The railway line from Lezhe to Shkodra is picturesque. The trains from Tirana (Kashar) to Durres (and vice versa) run up to eight times each day. Despite the fact that the route from Tirana to Vlore seems to be easy on a map, the more affluent Albanians never utilize trains and, if not in their own vehicles, use the many mini-buses. Trains, on the other hand, provide greater room than often overcrowded minibuses.

A train trip is a must-see, since such experiences are rare and far between in Europe these days. The tickets are inexpensive and the trips are lengthy, but the sights and atmosphere are typically priceless. Among the sights on this unforgettable journey will be people working their land with primitive tools, beautiful landscapes and wild terrains, houses under construction with various things hung on to ward off the evil eye, and the opportunity to meet some interesting passengers, mostly from rural areas. Most stations have individuals selling sunflower seeds, fruits, chewing gum, and a variety of other items, which is uncommon in Europe.

It should be noted that the train from Tiran to Librazhd in the country’s center first travels west to Durrs, thus the journey from Tiran to Elbasan takes several hours, despite the fact that the real straight distance is approximately 30 km. As a result, you may want to consider taking a bus to Elbasan, especially because the western portion of the nation is not nearly as beautiful as the eastern part.

By car

The highways connecting the major cities have recently been repaved and repaired, and they have the majority of the security features one would expect to see on a highway. However, keep in mind that certain roads are still under construction and have uncontrolled entry/exit locations. There are no tolls on the roads.

Minor roads should be avoided. Road surfaces may be poor, severely pitted, or non-existent, and a good pavement can suddenly vanish, requiring a U-turn and a long doubling-back. For good reason, it seems that all of the costly vehicles in Albania are SUVs rather than low-slung sports cars. If you want to go away from a roadway, consult with the locals ahead of time.

The speed limit on highways varies often (sometimes with little apparent reason). In addition, police mobile speed checks are conducted on a regular basis. If you haven’t switched on your vehicle lights, police will pull you over. Make sure you bring your driver’s license and insurance papers (ask your vehicle rental business for these) to show the cops.

Driving behavior on the roads is not as organized as it is in other parts of Europe. Cars will pull out in front of you, there will be minimal use of indicators, and overtaking will be hair-raising. Lanes on multiple or triple carriageways are often seen. Expect people, horses, and donkeys to cross or stroll on roads. Roads in the highlands may be narrow and winding, with hairpins and serpentines that need frequent gear changing and braking. Drivers are advised to have a spare tire on hand in case of an emergency and to monitor engine fluids levels to prevent overheating.

Although some maps of the nation are out of date or include inaccuracies, navigation is quite simple. It is highly advised to have a current GPS, since new routes are continuously being added to the Albanian road network. In case the GPS fails, it’s a good idea to have a decent paper or internet-based map on hand.

Many roads in the cities, particularly Tirana, are being improved, repaired, and renamed. As a result, driving inside the city will be sluggish and difficult. Be warned that Tirana, in particular, suffers from heavy traffic congestion in the mornings and around noon.

The SH8 Vlor-Saranda mountain route is a beautiful ride. It’s a classic Mediterranean route with a spectacular view of the sea from the mountains. The route to the summit of Dajti mountain is extremely poor, although it does not (almost) need the use of a 4×4.

At key intersections, gypsy and beggar youngsters may approach your vehicle. Nudge your vehicle forward slightly to get them off, and if necessary, move into the traffic junction to get rid of them. The locals will get it.

It should be noted that during Greek holiday seasons, such as Orthodox Easter, the highways traveling to/from Greece may get congested with vehicles with Greek plates driven by Albanian immigrants heading to or returning from their vacations in Albania.

Renting a vehicle is a viable alternative, although the practice is relatively new in the nation. Rental businesses are mostly found at Tirana Airport and in Tirana itself. Such services may also be provided by other travel agents.

By bicycle

There is a lack of regard for individuals riding bicycles on roads. There are also few locations to park your bike. These and other obstacles make Albania a tough but rewarding cycling destination. Often, the only choice is to inquire around to see if you may stay in someone’s house or camp in their garden. Food and water are readily accessible at the many roadside cafés and pubs.

It is permissible to camp in all non-strictly private areas, and even if the areas are strictly private, there should be no issues with your stay; inquire if you have any doubts.

Be warned that parts and maintenance for contemporary bicycles are very difficult to get.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is not particularly popular in Albania; nevertheless, if they are able, many individuals will pick you up.