Driving in Albania could be the ride of the lifetime - though it could easily be your last ride too.
Until 1990 it was only the elite that was allowed to use the total of 600 cars that were in Albania. After 1990, the entire population bought a Mercedes and jumped behind the wheel. They looked at the Greeks and Italians (until then Europe’s worst drivers) for hints on driving and horn-blowing techniques. At the same time, politicians were too busy lining their pockets to divert their attention to the maintenance of roads or other such frills. Therefore the streets of Tirana are full of big German cars swerving to avoid potholes.
If you think it’s bad now, have a look at the Tirana municipality website (www.tirana.gov.al/?cid=2,10,282) to see what roads looked like a few years ago - there’s massive improvement in streets and lighting.
Your first experience of the Albanian roads will be a little daunting – cars jostle, ignoring signs and policemen, whilst horns blare all around. It’s not that bad though – traffic is usually very slow, so even if it looks chaotic, accidents are easily avoided.
At junctions simply creep towards your desired route, picking your way through your fellow motorists. Horns are used to announce your presence rather than to demand right of passage. Pedestrians adopt the role of a small car, and slowly but determinedly walking across a busy road is safe, unlike in many other countries.
Car theft is a worry, so park in one of three guarded parking lots: Rogner Hotel (400 lek); Kalaja Restaurant car park, behind the Palace of Culture.