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.
Arriving in TiranaTirana remains the last major city in the known universe without a bus or train station.
Public transportTirana’s ageing fleet of conked-out buses plies a total of 12 routes in a cloud of oily smoke 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.
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 6,000 lek (€45) 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 and it’s possible to use a Sat Nav to get around. Petrol costs about 154 lek per litre. Diesel 160 lek per litre.
- Adria Airways
- Albanian Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- Belle Air
- British Airways
- Olympic Airways
- Turkish Airlines
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. Much in the same way as jogging can be seen as a sign of a civilised society, so it is with cycling. Accordingly, pretty much the only people you’ll see risking their lives on two wheels in the Albanian capital are old men buying bread and children riding in the safety of the city’s vehicle-free parks. Renting a bicycle in Tirana is considerably easier than it was, with people such as the Tirana Backpacker Hostel (www.tiranahostel.com) and the excellent Ecovolis (www.ecovolis.com) both offering rental for a good price.
TrainsTirana's dilapidated train station has been closed and demolished as part of a master plan to build a new one more fitting with the future of the city. Until it's finished however there are no trains in or out of Tirana, with the nearest station now being 15km or so away in the small town of Kashar. Whilst some find this fact embarrassing, others consider it a blessing in disguise. Complete with broken windows and excruciatingly slow speeds, Albania’s current railway network is strictly for the most hardcore of train spotters.
Long-distance busesDespite the importance of bus travel in Albania, Tirana has no bus station and only a handful of scheduled departures, indications of both the general shoddy state of the infrastructure in the country and the importance of local knowledge. Long-distance bus journeys are provided by an increasingly comfortable fleet of air-conditioned vehicles or for the more adventurous in the ubiquitous furgon, or minibus, a transport choice often held together with little more than a prayer and famous for departing only when all the seats are occupied and driven by people for whom safety appears to be a completely alien concept. Most long-distance buses leave in the mornings with only the most popular destinations served after lunch. At the time of writing, many of the streets in the city centre are undergoing extensive road works, a plan aimed at alleviating Tirana’s growing congestion problems that has forced many of the most popular long-distance departure points to relocate. As already touched up, local knowledge is the key to successful long-distance bus travel in Albania. Asking the locals about the current situation is by far the best way of getting where you need to get to without too much fuss. Tickets can usually be bought on board, although for the more popular routes it’s worth visiting one of the ticketing offices which can be found congregated behind the National History Museum and along the eastern side of Blv. Zogu I.
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. Since then, vehicle numbers have ballooned out of all proportions relative to the state of the roads. 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 mountain areas, having snow chains during the winter is a good idea. In cities, be aware of everything, and if you’re a pedestrian remember that to the average Albanian a zebra crossing is just some lines painted in the road. In the countryside, keep an eye out for holes in the road, mountain passes without crash barriers and donkeys. Last but not least, it’s a sobering thought to remember how many people carry guns in Albania. Road rage is not advised under any circumstances.
Urban areas and villages 40km/hr
Dual carriageways 90km/hr
All other roads 80km/hr