Albania


Overview

Albania travel information including maps of Albania, food, drink and where to stay in Albania, plus the best time to travel in Albania

Albania is the secret Mediterranean. Closed off for decades following its Communist years, it has escaped the mass development of other chunks of the Med, so Albania's beaches remain largely resort-free.

Times are a-changing, however. You will now find decent accommodation in most towns. You'll also find some fascinating sites: castles dot the countryside, old bunkers lay on the beaches and lakes beckon to watersports' lovers (try Lake Shkodër, in the country's north-west, or Lake Ohrid, shared with Macedonia). Also, some pretty untramelled paths wind across the country, 70% of which is mountainous, so hikers will be spoiled for choice.

Capital Tirana is a fun find too: visit the interesting museums then head to a cafe in the buzzing Blloku district for a strong dark coffee and a chance to people-watch in this resurging nation.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Track down the Communist-era buildings and monuments (not many remain), starting in Tirana’s Skanderberg Square.
  2. Step back in time in the historical towns of Kruja, Durres, Gjirokastra and Berati.
  3. Trek in the rugged untouched mountains, home to wolves and bears. Or, if you have limited time, take the cable car up Mount Dajti for amazing views of Tirana.
  4. Wander the magnificent archeological site of Butrint, where you will find Roman, Ottoman, Byzantine, Venetian and Illyrian remains all cheek by jowl, and in a beautiful and tranquil setting.
  5. The 'ghost' island of Sazan, near Vlora, opened to the public in 2015. There are plans for sympathetic development of the former military base, eg a research centre, but for now enjoy the derelict buildings, nuclear shelters and wildlife without any crowds

Wanderlust tips

  • As in Greece, a shake of the head means “yes” and a nod “no”.
  • Albanians are very hospitable and you may well be offered coffee, sweets etc. It is good manners to accept – and to offer to share anything you have.
  • If travelling around by public transport, or going off the beaten track, it may be worth taking some hand gel and toilet paper.

Further Reading

Travel in Albania: vital statistics

  • Capital of Albania: Tirana
  • Population of Albania: 3.6 million
  • Languages in Albania: Albanian (official – derived from Tosk dialect). Greek, Vlach, Romani, Slavic dialects
  • Time in Albania: GMT+1
  • International dialling code in Albania: +355
  • Voltage in Albania: 220V 50hz
  • Visas for Albania: Albania visas
  • Money in Albania: Albanian Leks (ALL). Atms widely available and are linked to all major credit cards. Very few restaurants and hotels accept credit card payments so stocking up on local currency is advisable
  • Albania travel advice: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Albania tourist board: Albanian embassy

When to go Albania

Albania has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers, mild winters in coastal regions, but cold winters including snow in the mountains. Spring and autumn are best for sightseeing and walking.

Getting around Albania

Albania's roads are in very poor condition. Buses and minibuses (furgons) are cheap and plentiful. Minibuses will only usually run once they are full.

There are three train lines, but the trains are so excruciatingly slow that most people don’t use them. There are plenty of taxis in the towns.

Albania accommodation

There are a growing number of hotels of all standards, although only a handful of deluxe ones. The price is not necessarily an indicator of standard. Check whether breakfast is included.

Albanian food & drink

Albanian cuisine is generally very good, with a mix of Balkan, Turkish and Mediterranean influences. Everything is seasonal and organic, so is full of flavour. Lamb and fish are very good, and seafood is excellent along the coast. Vegetarians will fare well, especially in the autumn when there is a huge range of produce.

Albanian wine is very good and excellent value. Raki is widely drunk, as well as other local liqueurs and brandies. Italian and Greek beers are more widely available than local brands.

There is a huge coffee culture, with Turkish coffee drunk at home (and always offered to visitors) and Italian coffees in restaurants.

Health and safety in Albania

Albania is a very safe country for visitors; the biggest hazard is probably the appalling driving. However, there are some desperately poor people so don’t flaunt your possessions and take the usual commonsense precautions against petty theft and muggings.