Albania is one of the friendliest countries I have visited. This Albania travel guide shows what there is to see and do in the most misunderstood country in the Balkans.
Albania – Misunderstood, misrepresented, misconstrued, and other words beginning with ‘mis'. You may very well have an opinion on Albania, without ever having visited the country. What do you actually know about the country though? Time to set the record straight with this Albania travel guide.
A Mini-Balkans Tour – Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia (FYROM)
My 2016 travel adventures got off to a flying start, beginning with a mini-Balkans tour taking in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia (FYROM). The trip started on January the 18th, and finished on the 3rd of February. Visiting these countries during the coldest part of the winter might not be everyone's cup of tea, but hey, someone has to do it, right?!
To start off with, I thought I would create an Albania travel guide. This was the first country on our Balkans tour. It's a place which everyone seems to have heard of, but few know much about. I've also written two more articles about Albania. One, is about Tirana Tourist Attractions, and things to see and do in the capital of Albania. The other is about the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Berat. Let's get started with the travel guide to Albania.
Albania Travel Information
Where is Albania located? – Albania, or Shqiperia as the Albanian people like to call it, is a small country located in the south-west Balkans. To the west, lay the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, to the south is Greece, to the East is Macedonia (FYROM), to the north-east is Kosovo, and to the north is Montenegro. If you are planning an Albania travel adventure, this map might help.
A Brief History of Albania – Communism ended in Albania in 1992. Since then, the country has been building itself up from nothing. There is currently a boom in development in regards to infrastructure such as roads, utilities, and telecommunications. (Wow, that was a really brief history of Albania!).
What is the Capital of Albania?
Tirana is the capital of Albania. It is a city undergoing rapid development, and is neat, tidy, and orderly. Well, the centre is, in any case. With its wide pavements, pedestrian crossings which drivers for the most part respect, and lack of graffiti, it is a stark contrast to noisy and chaotic Athens!
Skanderberg Square is the heart of Tirana, Albania. Most points of interest within the city are within easy walking distance of one another from here. It is perfectly possible to see the major attractions with 2 days in Tirana, and there are some quirky attractions! We stayed four nights, in order to see some other parts of the country, which included visiting Berat and Durres.
A View of Tirana at Night from the Sky Tower
How to Get to Albania
You can get to Albania by air, sea, and land. We flew in to Tirana International Airport (sometimes known as TIA airport, or Mother Teresa airport) from Athens. There are numerous other international connections. By land, there are border crossings with all the neighbouring countries, and we chose to travel by bus from Tirana to Pristina, Kosovo as part of our onward journey. There are various different methods of getting to Albania by sea. Ferry services run from Greece (Corfu), and Italy. Major ports are located at Durres and Saranda.
How to travel around Albania
Up until only a few years ago, only the brave would choose to drive in Albania. The road system was a shambolic mess, and drivers had a reputation of being a little bit crazy. To some extent, this put us off taking our car, especially in the winter months.
Having seen Albania for ourselves though, I can tell you that this reputation and information is totally out of date. A well made, sealed, mainly flat road runs from the north of the country to the south, and also connects with Kosovo. What traffic there is on it is no crazier than elsewhere in the Balkans. We will definitely take our car the next time we plan an Albania travel adventure!
People choosing not to use their own car or hire a car in Albania, will have to travel by bus. There are all sorts of buses connecting the small towns with Tirana. Due to the relatively small size of the country, it is pretty easy to get anywhere within a day.
Where to Stay in Albania
Albania is still learning and developing when it comes to tourism, but there are plenty of places to stay in all the major tourist destinations around the country. Take a look at the best hotels and hostels in Albania here.
The number of Albanian people who have achieved world wide fame includes Mother Teresa (although she is also claimed by at least 4 other countries in the world!), John and James Belushi (well, they are Albanian by descent if that counts), and Eliza Dushku (again by descent, but as her character Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was cool we will let her off). If you know any more, please leave a comment below!
What did I think about Albania?
I want to sum my experience of Albania up in short, to the point words, keeping in mind that we really only visited Tirana, Durres and Berat, and only travelled on the main, brand new roads. So, I thought that Albania was safe, orderly, tidy, had a sense of optimism, had direction, has massive potential. I found the Albanian people to be friendly and helpful. All in all, I really enjoyed my stay there, and would have liked to have spent longer in Albania.
And that I think, is a good enough introduction for Albania travel. It is a country which I loved travelling through, and one which I returned to again later in the year. This time, it was bicycle touring in Albania. For more alternative short break ideas in Europe, take a look here.