Getting to Albania has never been this easy, with affordable links via land, sea and air. Once you've arrived, keep in mind that as long as you’re on the ground it’s going to be a bumpy ride, whether you take a taxi, bus, car or train.
Public transportTirana’s fleet of buses plies a total of 12 routes between about 05:00 and 22:00. Get on, pay the conductor 40 lek and away you go. It’s unlikely you’ll ever have to wait more than 10 minutes to travel on one, so at these prices and at this frequency, it would be somewhat impolite to complain. The city centre is so compact that the need to use public transport won’t happen very often. All buses are marked with their destinations, making them relatively easy to use.
There's an excellent Tirana bus map, updated for 2023, available on the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative website: https://transformative-mobility.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/SUTi_2023_05_04-URBANI-MAP_Tirana.pdf.
TaxisTaxis are a useful form of transport in Tirana, and, after 22:00, if you’re too tipsy to walk or confidently operate a bicycle, they’re the only game in town. Several companies use meters and can print receipts if necessary. Our experience is that drivers don’t have to be reminded to use them. Rates start at 300 lek for the first 2km (sufficient for most city centre trips) and 95 lek/km after that. Between 22:00 and 07:00 the aforementioned start rate rises to 350 lek. Few drivers speak English, so it’s a good idea to write down the address, or to telephone someone who can explain.
Car rentalPrices for renting a car in Albania start at around €30 a day for the cheapest model. Agencies have desks at the airport, but these are often only staffed on demand, so inform them in advance before you arrive. Make sure you have the rental agency telephone number and a good map before setting off. Albania is now pretty well covered with GPS making mobile navigation easy.
CyclingBack in the good old days when there were 600 cars in Albania, everyone had a bicycle. Now, in Tirana at least, it’s pretty much the other way round. Bicycles were so much a part of the Hoxha regime in fact that there are those who tick all the right boxes as apparent natural cyclists nowadays who refuse to own and ride them for political reasons. There are of course other reasons for choosing not to get on a bicycle in Tirana, the most obvious one being the way people drive their cars.
Despite the creation of many new bike lanes, pretty much the only people you’ll see risking their lives on two wheels are old men buying bread and children riding in the safety of the parks. At least renting a bicycle in Tirana is considerably easier than it was.
TrainsIn an act of madness, Tirana's train station was demolished recently, with the nearest station now being 15km away in Kashar for trains to Durres and Shkodra. With shoddy second hand carriages, excruciatingly slow speeds and broken windows, Albania’s railway network is strictly for the most hardcore of train spotters. All is not lost - Albania was awarded a substantial grant to upgrade the tracks from near Tirana to the Montenegrin border to handle trains going up to 120 km/hr.
A charming Italian documentary about Albania's railways can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnMgqCn5ngM&t=172s.
Long-distance busesWith daily departures to all neighbouring countries using increasingly comfortable air-conditioned buses, travel in the Balkans is getting easier every year. Domestic destinations are often stll served by furgon minibuses, a transport choice often held together with little more than tape and famous for departing only when full. Tirana's current bus station is a depressing parking lot west of the centre, but this summer the new East Bus Terminal should open by the TEG Mall. Tickets can usually be bought on board, at one of the ticketing offices along Rruga Mine Peze, or online (international services) via www.autobus.al.
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DrivingWhist the country’s roads may be improving, the local drivers who use them continue to be among the worst imaginable, with road fatality figures some of the highest in Europe. Disrespectful of the law and seemingly unaware of the fact that pedestrians are soft and break easily, the quintessential Albanian motorist is easily distracted, oblivious to speed limits and would rather undergo torture than wear a seatbelt. Before 1991, only Party officials were allowed to own and drive cars, of which there were only about 600 in the entire country.
Drivers are required by law to have a fire extinguisher, yellow vest and first aid kit in the car, and always drive with the lights on. In cities, be aware of everything, in the countryside, keep an eye out for potholes and donkeys. In mountain areas, having snow chains during the winter is a good idea.
Urban areas and villages: 40km/hr
Dual carriageways: 90km/hr
All other roads: 80km/hr
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