40 Things Nobody Tells You About Albania Travel – 2023

Albania Travel Aimara In The Riviera

It’s hard to be surprised by places anymore. These days you can just hop onto YouTube, find your favorite vlogger’s Albania travel series, and click ‘Play.’ But no matter how much you think you’re prepared for this country, traveling to Albania will be an adventure!

This small Balkan country is getting more recognition as an international tourist destination. But the truth is that Albania travel lacks the comforts and conveniences that many globetrotters have become used to. But that’s exactly part of Albania’s appeal!

We spent 75 days crisscrossing Albania! And what did we learn? Could Tirana be one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities? Is the trendy Albanian Riviera worth the hype? Are Albanian people actually friendly to tourists?

Well, you’re about to find out!

Let’s jump into our list of useful, not at all useful, and slightly amusing things nobody tells you about Albania travel!

Estimated reading time: 57 minutes

Ready To Discover 40 Things Nobody Tells You About Albania Travel?

What nobody tells you about visiting Albania

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40 Things Nobody Tells You ABOUT Visiting Albania

1. Albania Was Closed To The Outside World Until 1991

Visit Albania Map
Image source: Canva

Huh? What do we mean by ‘closed to the world until 1991?’

Let us explain… Albania was one of the most isolated countries in the world from 1944 to 1991. The country was governed by one of history’s most brutal Stalinist dictatorships, and travel in and out of the country was strictly prohibited.

Albania finally began to open to the outside world after the fall of communism in 1991. And even though traveling to Albania has become more popular in recent years, its tourism infrastructure is much less developed than neighboring countries.

50 years of isolation will do that to a country 🙁

2. Comparing Albania To North Korea Is Not A Stretch

Albania today is known for its friendly people, pristine nature, and Ottoman-influenced villages. But did you know that one of its other claims to fame is the ridiculous amount of bunkers dotting the country?

Here’s the story: after meeting with North Korea’s supreme leader, Albania’s own paranoid dictator, Enver Hoxha, got the idea to build bunkers across the entire country. Now there are nearly 200,000 bunkers throughout Albania!! Including a massive 5-story bunker located just outside of Tirana built for the insane dictator himself.

So while these two countries don’t have much in common today, communist Albania got many of its worst ideas by mimicking North Korea. Including the extreme brainwashed worship of the dictator Enver Hoxha.

WOTW Tip: most bunkers around the country are pretty small, but you can spot them everywhere! Try and find them while traveling around Albania. You can find them in people’s backyards, hanging from cliff-sides, and in the middle of cities. Whoever finds 200,000 gets a free ice cream from Ways of the World!!! (Terms & Conditions apply)

3. There Are Very Few International Chain Restaurants In Albania

Street food Albania Travel
Byrek is Albania’s version of fast food!

Did you know that there are hardly any international food chains in Albania? That’s right – you won’t find the trusty Starbucks in any city squares around here. Nor will you run into McDonald’s iconic golden arches anywhere in the country.

In full transparency, there is a KFC located directly across from the former dictator’s home in Tirana. And, well, there is another KFC at the airport, and a couple of Burger Kings in Tirana. But thankfully these presence of these fast-food giants is few and far between.

How refreshing to find somewhere not overrun by international fast-food chains. Enjoy it while it lasts!

4. It Is One Of The Most Budget-Friendly Travel Destinations In Europe

Drink Local Wine While Visiting Albania
Cheers to affordable wine tasting in Berat, Albania!

Calling all budget travelers ~ Albania is one of the most affordable countries to visit in Europe!

It’s pretty amazing that a place with mind-blowing landscapes, fascinating history and welcoming locals can be explored without breaking the bank!

Here’s an approximate breakdown of our daily Albania travel expenses:

  • Lodging: $40 daily for comfortable Airbnbs; $70 daily for some nicer guesthouses.
  • Food (per person): $3 – $6 for a pizza or pasta dish; $8 – $20 for a traditional Albanian meal.
  • Drinks: $1.50 for local beer; $2.50 for local wine.
  • Transport: intercity buses cost us $4 – $15, depending on distance.
  • Activities: we didn’t do many organized activities in Albania. Entrance fees for museums and similar places range from $1.25 – $5.

As you can see, Albania travel can be super affordable!

5. Albanian People Are…

Albania Travel Experiences

Friendly, outgoing and amazing!

Even though cheap travel destinations are a plus, your experience in a place often comes down to the people you meet. And you’re in great hands when visiting Albania!

Everyone lucky enough to have explored this glorious country falls in love with the Albanian people.

The genuine friendliness encountered here reminded us a lot of what we experienced while traveling in Turkey. Hospitality and kindness are simply a way of life. And the locals will go out of their way to help you along the way.

We recommend saying ‘yes’ to any invitations to spend time with the people here. There’s about a 100% chance you will be welcomed by Albanian’s favorite thing in the world – which we include in #6 on this list of things nobody tells you about Albania travel!

WOTW Tip: don’t be afraid to ask about the country’s difficult past. Many people who you’ll interact with lived through the brutal dictatorship. There are few conversation topics considered off-limits for locals, and these fascinating chats can enhance your Albania travel experience.

6. Rakija (Raki) Is The Albanian Love Language

Drinking rakija while visiting Albania
Homemade rakija with our new friend in Kruja, Albania.
  • Question: what goes well with your afternoon espresso?
  • Answer: rakija.
  • Question: what goes well with fresh honey?
  • Answer: rakija.
  • Question: do you know what goes surprisingly well with your morning coffee?
  • Answer: that’s right… rakija!

When we tell you that rakija is served everywhere, we mean that rakija is served EVERYWHERE! Albanians will welcome guests with one (or many) sips from their own batch. And locals are even convinced that rakija is super healthy!

One of our most memorable Albania travel experiences was drinking Turkish coffee and rakija at 8 am with an old man we met in Gjirokaster. We didn’t share many common words, but everyone was happy to enjoy each other’s company while watching the sunrise.

Rakija (known in other counties as ‘raki’) is a brandy made by distilling grapes into a clear alcoholic beverage. It is almost always homemade and definitely always super potent.

And while you may end up with a hangover by indulging too much in the local firewater, there may not be much else to worry about when visiting Albania because…

7. Albania Travel Is Exceptionally Safe!

Aimara working on the farm while visiting Albania
Aimara is the only person to worry about in Albania… Just kidding 🙂

Albania has had a reputation for being a haven for organized crime. And the Albanian mafia is totally a real thing. So you would be forgiven for wondering if Albania is safe to visit?

Here’s the answer: yes, traveling to Albania is very safe! See how easy it was for me to dispel those preconceived notions you may have had?

Albanian communities are tight-knit, with close bonds among family members and neighbors. This strong social support system means that the locals are brought up with respect and appreciation for others. These feelings are 100% extended to visitors.

As mentioned earlier, you will be graciously welcomed by the ridiculously hospitable Albanian people. But as you very well know, nowhere in the world is perfect. So keep your wits about you because…

8. You May Encounter Some Scams While Visiting Albania

Okay, the prevalence of scams targeting tourists in Albania is relatively low. But it still happens!

Here’s a list of the most common scams in Albania:

  • Supermarkets/markets may write your invoice by hand and inflate the price of each item. It is nearly impossible to reconcile the final amount because it’s not itemized. Demand an itemized receipt if you feel you are being scammed. Not providing one is against the law in Albania.
  • Be careful of overly friendly people offering to show you the area. If someone with fantastic English randomly strikes up a conversation with you in a touristy spot, the interaction may end in a request for money. This happened to us in Tirana.
  • Ask for the price of things whenever it is not clearly indicated. We paid $6 for a car ferry that lasted 15 seconds #touristtax.
  • Many antiques sold in the bazaars of cities like Kruja, Gjirokaster and Berat are fakes. There’s no way we could ever spot the difference, but this is what we heard from locals.
  • Taxis overcharge tourists. Unfortunately, that is standard practice in many countries. But make sure to read the next thing on this list of things nobody tells you about Albania travel to keep the damage to a minimum!

Rather watch a video about Albania travel tips? Check out the video below!

9. Look For Metered Taxis (If You Can Find Them)

Taxi During Albania Visit
Always a good sign when the driver has to call for directions 🙂

Good luck if you’re looking for a metered taxi in Albania! We can confirm they exist, but they’re not exactly easy to find. Meaning that you will likely be tasked with negotiating your own fare. Again, good luck…

To be clear, taxi drivers are never rude. But they will quote you more than they would a local. And the fact is that you’ll have a tough time haggling due to the language barrier. So if you’re planning to travel to Albania, be prepared to break out your best-negotiating skills, or just accept the tourist tax and enjoy the ride.

Oh, and don’t be worried when running into the next thing once you reach your destination. Youre not walking into a horror movie!

10. Albanian’s Are Extremely Superstitious

Image source: Canva

Umm, why is there a ragged doll dangling in front of this house? Are we about to have our organs harvested and sold on the black market?

No, silly! Remember we just mentioned how safe it is to travel to Albania!!

But, if you pay attention, you will come across different objects that Albanians commonly use to fend off evil and jealous spirits. The ‘evil eye’ amulet, popular in Greek and Turkish culture, is one such object. But far more disturbing are the decaying dolls and stuffed animals seen hanging in front of people’s homes and businesses.

We support keeping away evil juju whenever possible. But lifeless dolls hanging from a window would seem to have the opposite effect. We’re just saying…

Now let’s switch gears to less creepy Albanian customs.

11. You Have To Take Part In Albania’s Best Tradition: The Evening ‘Xhiro’

Join the xhiro when traveling to Albania

What the hell is a ‘Xhiro,’ you ask?

No, it’s not a pita stuffed with spiced lamb, tzatziki sauce and feta cheese. Good guess, though!

The charming xhiro is actually a communal stroll taken through public squares and along main avenues. And it happens every evening before sundown. The xhiro is also the most adorable custom we’ve encountered since starting to travel full-time. That is a fact!

Locals and visitors alike can enjoy this leisurely saunter through the main avenue or promenade of whatever town you happen to be in. Including Albania’s secretly awesome capital city! Which is conveniently the next thing we are gonna talk about.

WOTW Tip: keep a look out for the older gentlemen strolling with their adorable little hats. Or the less adorable, but still interesting, elderly widows dressed in all black. Like many countries in the region, women wear black for their entire lives following the death of their spouse.

12. Give Yourself Enough Time To Explore Tirana

Tirana Albani
Image source: Canva

Is there another European capital as unknown and underrated as Tirana, Albania? We certainly can’t think of one!

A stop in Tirana will be unavoidable for anyone flying into Albania. But with its fascinating blend of old communist aesthetics and modern sensibilities, this up-and-coming city absolutely deserves a few days of exploration.

Where else can you go from visiting a 5-story nuclear bunker to sipping craft cocktails in the same afternoon?

With so many incredible things to do in Tirana, this unassuming capital city can be a wonderful introduction to your Albania visit! And once you are finished exploring Tirana, make sure to add a beautiful historical town to your Albania itinerary.

But there’s no need to be overzealous.

13. Berat, Gjirokaster & Kruja Are Beautiful, But…

Visiting each is overkill!

Berat, Gjirokaster and Kruja are some of the most popular cities to visit in Albania. These towns are renowned for their historic bazaars featuring unique Ottoman-style architecture and the maze of cobblestoned streets that wind around the whitewashed buildings.

The luxury of time allowed us to visit each one of these cities. And Berat, Gjirokaster and Kruja certainly all have their own unique charms. That said, seeing all of them is overdoing it. The aesthetics of each town are similar enough that you don’t need to add all three to your Albania itinerary.

But now you’re left wondering which of these places was our favorite? Well, we really enjoyed visiting Gjirokaster! It has a nice and compact old city, and we found the food and views from the castle to be the best out of all the three cities.

WOTW Tip: these cities are often referred to as ‘Ottoman,’ but calling them as such won’t make you many friends in Albania. Most locals prefer to disregard any contributions made by the occupying empire. It’s best to refer to Berat, Gjirokaster and Kruja as ‘Ottoman-influenced’ cities.

14. Learn About Skanderbeg Before Visiting Albania

Skanderbeg Tirana Albania
Image source: Canva

That intense-looking fellow in the picture is the famous Skanderbeg, Albania’s national hero. He helped to expel the invading Ottoman Empire from Albania and other neighboring countries in the 1400s. Skanderbeg helped to preserve Albanian culture, and people adore him for it.

Skanderbeg’s bravery in fending off the massive invading empire has made him a cult-like hero. Skanderbeg is to Albania what Vlad the Impaler is to Romania.

A statue of Skanderbeg dominates the main square in Tirana. And you can visit his main fortress in nearby Kruja to learn all about this famous Albanian! Having some fun facts about Albania’s hero may even help you connect with the locals.

And speaking of fun facts!

15. Albanians Had No Clue About Bananas

Yep, the things on the list of what nobody tells you about Albania travel just keep getting weirder.

The banana anecdote was shared by our walking-tour guide in Tirana. Here’s the story: when bananas were first imported into post-communist Albania, local people had no clue what they were. They had never before seen this strange yellow fruit. Fruit vendors had to explain how to peel and eat bananas!

I have no other sources to corroborate whether this tale is fact or fiction. But even if the exact claim isn’t true, these stories still highlight just how isolated Albanians were from the rest of the world.

16. Communicating With Your New Albanian Friends Will Be An Adventure

Albania Travel Experience On Gjirokaster Farm
Just to confirm, you said ‘light this whole s*** on fire?’

Are you someone who likes to pick up a few words of the local language while traveling? Well, be prepared to be bewildered by the Albanian tongue. There is literally nothing else like this Indo-European language.

And to make matters worse, Albanian body language is notoriously difficult to read. A head wobble that resembles shaking your head ‘No’ actually means ‘Yes.’ And when Albanians tilt their head forward into a slight nod, they actually mean ‘No.’

Needless to say, understanding the locals while visiting Albania can get extremely confusing. But don’t let these communication barriers stop you from exploring this amazing country!

WOTW Tip: younger Albanians in bigger towns may speak decent English. Conversely, German and Russian are spoken more by older generations. And finally, Italian is a popular second language among Albanians living near the coast.

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17. Locals Love It When You Say A Few Words In Albanian

Learning some essential words and phrases in Albanian shows that you are interested in their culture. It’s also a great way to win the hearts of the people you interact with. Well, the last part may be an exaggeration. But saying a few things in Albanian will definitely win you a smile.

Here are some helpful words and phrases to use while traveling in Albania:

  • Yes = Po
  • No = Yo
  • Hello = Persehndetje
  • Good morning = Miremengjes
  • How are you? = Si jeni (pronounced ‘see yeni’)
  • Please = Ju lutem
  • Thank you = Faleminderit
  • Albania = Shqiperi

Admittedly, these aren’t the easiest words to remember. But nobody cares if you only get the pronunciation half right. You will always get a huge smile when pronouncing your personal version of ‘faleminderit.’ Trying out some Albanian can make your trip so much more fun!

Unlike the next thing on this list…

18. You Will Hate Albania Travel Days!

Unpredictable Albania Travel Days
Waiting for the bus at a random intersection outside of Gjirokaster.

Albania is a place full of surprises – and not always the good kind. Be prepared for long and messy travel days when you visit Albania. 

Getting around this little country is a notoriously challenging and frustrating endeavor. The tourism infrastructure is still highly underdeveloped, which leads to hassle-free travel days being the exception and not the rule. Our most epic Albania travel day took 36 hours for what would have been an easy 100-mile trip in most countries.

But ultimately, it’s all part of exploring Albania. So embrace the chaos, enjoy the ride, and be prepared for anything!

19. Local Buses Are The Best Way To Get Around Albania

Known locally as a ‘furgon,’ these privately operated buses are the easiest way to get between most touristy places in Albania. But they also have a deserved reputation for being in questionable condition and unpredictable.

Here are the top three reasons why getting around Albania by furgon is pure chaos:

  1. There is no reliable resource to look up accurate bus schedules.
  2. Routes and departure times can change without notice.
  3. There is not an actual bus station where you can go to get information. The stations are glorified parking lots where each driver is only responsible for their own bus and route.

On the other hand, the great thing about riding the furgon is that you never know who you’ll meet or what exciting things will happen along the way. We sipped rakija (duh) out of Pepsi bottles with our neighbors, bartered fresh honey for medicine with fellow travelers, and were dropped off clueless on the side of the road on several occasions.

Hooray, adventure!!!

WOTW Tip #1: Gjirafa.com is the best place to find bus schedules in Albania. That said, the information is unreliable and is best used to estimate the number of departures on a given day. DO NOT assume that the schedules are updated and correct.

WOTW Tip #2: ask your hotel or Airbnb host if they can reserve your place on the ‘furgon’ for popular routes. Especially in the busy summer season!

20. You Can Also Ride One Of The Worst Trains In The World (While Supplies Last)

Albania travel by train

Riding one of the most derelict trains in the world is an Albania travel experience that shouldn’t be missed. Well, maybe we shouldn’t encourage train travel in Albania…

Going for a ride on one of these neglected locomotives is not for the faint of heart!

The truth is, Albania’s communist-era trains are something out of a nightmare. These trains are way past their expiration dates with their graffitied exteriors and shabby cars. But there’s something strangely charming about this train. Just be prepared for an ‘interesting’ ride!

Check out our train video (there was human poop)!

These old trains creak and groan their way through the country, giving passengers breathtaking views of the Albanian countryside and a glimpse into its rural communities.

But the trains are also filthy. And the entire experience is made worse by the fact that the most reliable train leaves from our least favorite city in Albania. Keep reading to find out all about it!

21. Skip A Visit To Durres, Albania

Image source: Canva

Durres is Albania’s ‘second city.’ And no more than a ‘second’ is how long we think you should stay there.

A handful of historical sites and its proximity to Tirana ensures that a fair number of travelers wind up in Durres. Unfortunately, the entire vibe in this town feels off.

Durres is a port city at its core. And that comes with the shabby and sketchy surroundings many port cities tend to have. On top of that, the attractions in town are poorly maintained and frankly not worth seeing.

So just avoid the highway to Durres and make your way to more charming Albanian cities along the coast. And speaking of the coast, the next thing on this list about Albania travel is pretty controversial!

WOTW Tip: it is possible to take a ferry from Durres to Bari, Italy. In fact, we took this exact overnight ferry. And while Bari was lovely, the ferry was pretty crappy (and expensive). We recommend that you DO NOT take this overpriced ferry to Italy. Just don’t do it!

22. The Albanian Riviera Is Overrated (In Our Humble Opinion)

Visiting Albania's Riviera
Image source: Canva

Oh yea, we went there!

We understand that your Albanian travel itinerary may feel incomplete if it doesn’t include the Riviera. But we are here to tell you that we were (mostly) underwhelmed by this area. The fresh turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea is very nice. But the entire vibe they created here left us a tad disappointed.

Here are the main reasons we didn’t love the Albanian Riviera:

  • Most beaches are commercialized, with lounge chairs stretching as far as the eye can see.
  • It felt overly expensive to rent lounge chairs and umbrellas ($10 – $30 US). Lounge chairs are borderline a necessity due to the large-pebble beaches found along the Riviera.
  • Thumping electronic is the go-to background music.
  • If you are like us and prefer to enjoy charming beach towns while on vacation (Kas, Turkey comes to mind), then the Riviera’s coastal towns will likely disappoint. Places like Dhermi, Himare and Sarande are just okay.

Even though we were underwhelmed, it’s totally understandable if you want to hit the beach at some point during your vacation. So we’ll leave you with our top two spots on the Albanian Riviera here…

23. Gjipe Beach & Qeparo Are Riviera Beaches Worth Going To

Even though the Riviera isn’t high on our list of top places to visit in Albania, there are still spots along the coast that we enjoyed checking out.

Gjipe Beach was the nicest Albanian beach that we visited during our visit. Gjipe used to be considered a hidden gem – and the 30-minute hike to reach the sand does limit the crowds to a certain degree – but it does get crowded during the high season. That said, Gjipe Beach is no doubt one of the Albanian Riviera’s most beautiful beaches!

Take a look at our favorite spots along the Albanian Riviera!

Our next favorite place on the Albanian Riviera is the seaside town of Qeparo (pronounced Cheh-PAH-ro). The vibe in Qeparo is more relaxed than nearby beaches like Dhermi and Himare, which we personally appreciate. And there is a lovely little promenade with plenty of cozy restaurants along the water.

WOTW Tip: take a look at the town of Ksamil if you are curious about more relaxed options for a beach vacation in Albania.

24. Visiting Albania In The Summer Is Intensely Hot

The Blue Eye Sarande Albania Travel
The Blue Eye is a great place to beat the heat. Water temps are near freezing!

Are you planning to travel to Albania in the summer? Well, you should know that the temperatures consistently hit the 100-degree Fahrenheit mark (38 Celsius).

We think we both got heatstroke after an intense afternoon lugging our suitcases up and down Gjirokaster’s cobblestoned streets. Both of us were totally destroyed for 48 hours. And I nearly dislocated a rib from projectile vomiting. (Too much information?)

This information might be a bummer for anyone spending their summer vacation in Albania. But maybe consider the following when planning your trip.

Save This Albania Travel Post To Your Pinterest for Later!

What nobody tells you about visiting Albania

25. The Best Time To Visit Albania Is Not The Summer

Sweating through our clothes became a part of daily life during our Albania visit. As a native Floridian and Venezuelan, our heat tolerance is pretty good. But we felt our energy levels drop after several weeks of exposure to the Albanian inferno.

So when is the best time to visit Albania? The fall and spring seasons will be much more pleasant for the average traveler. You can enjoy all that Albania has to offer without sweating your way through it. You will also face much less traffic outside the busiest travel months, which is great because…

26. Albanians Have Terrible Driving Skills!

Have you ever seen a driver pass a car that is simultaneously passing another car? This unfathomable ‘double-pass’ maneuver was captured by our very own eyes while driving through Central Albania.

Albanians are notorious for their aggressive and unpredictable driving. Their goal is always to get from Point A to Point B as fast as humanly possible. Which includes overtaking other drivers on blind corners and having little regard for oncoming traffic when passing.

And while Albanian’s crazy driving habits were annoying, we were very amused by what they do when parking their cars. Albanians have never met a parking spot they didn’t like. They leave their cars in the middle of the road, even if it means blocking traffic from getting around.

All of this can make driving in Albania chaotic. But even though their driving skills lack refinement…

27. Don’t Be Afraid To Rent A Car During Your Vacation!

Renting. acar while visiting Albania
Our trusty rental car dominated the Albanian Alps.

Okay, so Albanian drivers are insane. We’ve just covered that point about Albania travel. But renting a car is a great way to visit some of Albania’s more remote destinations.

The country’s roads are generally in good condition, the views are stunning, and the number of drivers on the streets is minimal. These factors can make for some very pleasant road-trip opportunities in Albania.

Renting a car is much easier in more touristy cities like Tirana, Sarandë and Shkoder. Unfortunately, there’s also a good chance you’ll need to pay cash for the rental and deposit (more on that in #34 on this list). This is especially true if you are renting from a locally-owned business.

But still, having a car while visiting Albania is totally worthwhile! And getting off the beaten path is where you’ll find the country’s true gems.

WOTW Tip: traffic police are everywhere. And there is a very high chance that they will instruct you to pull over for what seems like no reason at all. But don’t worry, they will just send you on your way when they realize you are a tourist.

28. You Have To Go On A Road Trip!

Albania Travel Highlight Lake Ohrid
Views of Lake Ohrid from our guesthouse in Lin, Albania

Albanian’s questionable driving style should not deter anyone from going on a little Albanian road trip.

We thought Korca, Permet, Voskopoje & Lin to be perfect stops for a Southern-Albania road trip! Cruising around the scenic mountains and countryside in this remote area was magical. And while the Albanian Alps are perhaps the most famous destination for nature lovers, Southern Albania deserves more attention!

Lin and Voskopoje have the most breathtaking guesthouses! Take a look at our favorite accommodations in Albania: 1) paradise on the lake in Lin, Albania, 2) peaceful guesthouse in pristine Voskopoje, Albania.

Here’s what makes each of these places great:

  • Korca: a peaceful little city with beer gardens and venues to enjoy traditional song and dance.
  • Permet: the place to be for hot springs and whitewater rafting.
  • Voskopoje: a gorgeous mountain village with amazing food and beautiful hikes.
  • Lin: the best place in the world to disconnect from everything. Expect stunning lake views and super-friendly locals.

Southern Albania Roadtrip! 🇦🇱

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    Voskopoje and Lin were arguably the most beautiful places we saw during our Albania visit. And as we alluded to above, the following stops on this list are right there with them when it comes to incredible natural beauty.

    29. It Is 100% Worth It To Visit The Albanian Alps!

    Albania Alps Travel
    Enjoying the mountain views around Theth!

    You can not forget about the beautiful Alps when planning your Albania visit! Head towards the northern border near Montenegro and Kosovo, and immerse yourself in one of Albania’s most stunning regions.

    Take a look at our vlog from the incredible Albanian Alps!

    The mountain villages of Theth and Valbona are the most popular bases for travelers visiting Albania’s Alps. Keep in mind that even though these two places look close on the map, getting from one to the other requires serious logistical planning. The most adventurous way to go between Theth and Valbona is on an epic hike through the mountains.

    In case you are wondering, we did not partake in this particular hike. Instead, we selected Theth as our mountain village and ventured out on some shorter excursions from there. And we really loved it!

    WOTW Tip: the Albanian Alps are great for anyone to see. But the real beauty of this region lies in its hikes. The vast majority of visitors were dedicated hikers. The trails vary from moderate treks of a couple hours, to hardcore multi-day hikes!

    30. Spend A Few Nights At Komani Lake: Albania’s Gem

    Visit Albania Komani Lake

    Komani Lake is one of the most picturesque places we’ve ever seen! Komani feels like a river flowing gracefully through some of Albania’s most jagged mountains.

    Most people cruise through the lake on a ferry from Koman to the start of the road to Valbona. But it’s also possible to book round-trip tickets (including bus transfer) from Tirana or Shkoder.

    And while taking the scenic boat trip is extremely popular, there are incredible places to stay along the water and bask in the glorious nature for 2 – 3 nights.

    The ferry is the easiest way to see Komani Lake, but remember to check out the amazing Komani Lake guesthouses, where you can wake up in an Albanian paradise.

    Spending several days surrounded by Komani’s postcard setting was a highlight of our Albania travel experience! But, if we’re being picky, there was one thing we didn’t like about Theth and Komani Lake. But you’ll have to read the next thing on this list of things nobody tells you about traveling to Albania to find out about it!

    WOTW Tip: branching from Lake Komani is the Shala River (the photo above with the kayak is taken there). Shala River is known as the ‘Thailand of Albania’ due to its turquoise-colored water. These are worthless comparisons used to make destinations seem more exotic. Anyways, Shala River has developed into a party scene in recent years. So we recommend getting there early before the crowds of boozers descend on the place.

    31. Albanian Food Can Be Hit Or Miss

    Eatnig Pizza While Visiting Albania
    Pizza is a trusty and cheap food option in Albania!

    Albanian food can be very good… when it’s good. Unfortunately the average restaurant you pop into won’t consistently serve epic Albanian cuisine.

    We had our most memorable meals at these restaurants:

    Finding great meals in Albania takes some effort. We found the standard fare to be salty and usually overcooked. Maybe that’s why we remember the handful of exceptional restaurants that we listed above.

    WOTW Tip #1: there is not a huge street-food scene in Albania. The one food that can easily be found in local shops is the trusty ‘byrek.’ Byrek is Albania’s version of borek, the savory pastry popular across the Balkans and in Turkey.

    WOTW Tip #2: the quality of Albanian produce is ridiculously amazing. You can never go wrong by ordering salads in this country. The ‘village salad’ (sallate fshati in Albanian) is always to die for!

    32. Albanian Dishes Are Super Diverse!

    Albanian food is impossible to put in a box. Its diverse cuisine is as varied as the landscapes, and popular dishes vary depending on where you are in the country.

    Food along the Albanian Riviera has Greek influences – and seafood dominates the menu. This is in stark contrast to the rich and hearty casseroles and stews like tavë kosi and fërgesë served in Central Albania.

    And if that wasn’t enough, the dishes served in Ottoman-influenced cities like Gjirokaster and Berat might remind you of your favorite Turkish foods. (Just don’t call them Turkish!)

    WOTW Tip: Albania also has great wines, especially around Berat. The wines are made using grapes native to Albania!

    33. Traditional Albanian Cuisine Can Be Pricey

    While there are a lot of exciting and delicious Albanian foods to try, the truth is that they can be expensive. 

    Our advice is to be aware of prices when eating at places without a set menu.

    It is common for guesthouses and restaurants running a farm-to-table kitchen to charge between $12 – $20 per person for a meal. While this is reasonable for many countries, the amount feels excessive when finding a $4 meal elsewhere is easy.

    These restaurants also tend to serve more food than most people could even think about eating in a single sitting! We found traditional Albanian cuisine something we only could enjoy on special occasions. And keep in mind the next thing on this list if you do decide to splurge on a meal!

    WOTW Tip: eating pizza and pasta is a great way to cut down on food expenses. As if you needed an excuse!

    34. You Will Need A Lot Of Cash When Traveling In Albania

    Are you one of those people that love to rack-up the credit card points to help offset your travel costs? We are sorry to inform you that cash is king in this country. So one of the most essential Albania travel tips is to always have enough cash with you!

    Can you remember the last time you paid cash for a car rental or hotel? Well, if you are lucky enough to visit Albania, you’ll get to make all these transactions with wads of cash. The vast majority of businesses aren’t able to accept credit cards.

    You won’t have many opportunities to take out your favorite travel credit card during your Albania visit.

    All the more reason to follow the advice on the next thing on this list when you’re ready to hit the ATM!

    35. There’s A Secret Way To Avoid ATM Fees In Albania

    Credins Bank Albania

    Taking cash out of the ATM in Albania can really put a dent in your wallet. Thankfully there is one place that won’t hammer you with excessive fees. Let us introduce you to Credins Bank!

    We have to thank our walking-tour guide in Tirana for this helpful tip: Credins Bank is (allegedly) the only bank in Albania that doesn’t hit you with excessive withdrawal fees. They actually don’t charge any withdrawal fees at all.

    Remember to look for the trusty blue and yellow colors when it’s time to take out cash! We spotted a Credins Bank in most bigger towns around Albania. And we always made sure to top up our stash of Albanian Lek.

    WOTW Tip: Euros are accepted for things like car rental, hotels and other ‘big-ticket’ transactions.

    36. If This Happens To You You’re Not Being Scammed

    ‘$10 for three onions???’ Talk about sticker shock!

    Okay, now take a deep breath and let me explain what’s happening: Albania’s national currency is the Lek. The national bank removed a zero from the Old Lek to update the coins and notes in circulation. So what used to be 1000 Old Lek became 100 New Lek.

    The issue is that many businesses still handwrite invoices, and they calculate using Old Lek.

    We thought we were being ripped off in a small supermarket and ended up storming out (after neatly restocking our groceries, of course). Later we learned about Old Lek vs. New Lek. Ummm… our bad!

    So be aware of being charged in Albania’s old currency. Hopefully, this Albania travel tip saves you from similar embarrassment.

    WOTW Tip: take out the amount on your invoice minus the final zero if you suspect you’re being charged in Old Lek. For instance, if the amount due is written as 1500, just hand them 150 and things will be fine. As far as we know, charging people in Old Lek is not done maliciously.

    37. You Might Leave Albania With A New Family

    Farm stay near Gjirokaster Albania
    Our cozy cottage on the farm!

    No, our real family does not live in Albania. But our super-awesome Albanian family does!

    We spent four nights living on a small family-run farm near historic Gjirokaster. And even though we wished for a memorable experience, we could never have imagined the warmth and hospitality we received during our visit.

    We spent our days doing our best to participate on the farm. From milking cows (and sheep) to feeding chickens, we dove headfirst into true rural living. And every evening was spent sitting around the table with our new family drinking rakija and bonding despite not sharing many words in common.

    Check out our video about life on the farm! Anyone interested in this unforgettable travel experience can find the farm accommodation here.

    Our farm family invited us back to stay an extra night and prepared an epic feast to say farewell. They roasted AN ENTIRE LAMB in the wood-fire oven, baked fresh bread, and served veggies straight from the garden!

    Farm life was easily the most rewarding experience of our entire trip. We encourage everyone to consider staying on an active farm when planning for things to do in Albania.

    38. Albanians Think It Is Awesome That Americans Visit Their Country

    Visiting Albania is now more common than in the past. The truth is that this previously isolated little country is no longer a hidden gem. But most travelers visiting this South Balkan country come from elsewhere in Europe.

    You won’t hear many American accents while wandering around Tirana, and especially not when you venture into the countryside. So there is still a lot of intrigue from locals when they learn that people are visiting from the USA.

    Not that there is anything particularly special about American tourists, but the US was integral in neighboring Kosovo’s fight for independence from Serbia in 2008. Albania and Kosovo consider themselves “One nation, two states,” so there is a fondness of the US and its people for recognizing Kosovo as its own country.

    As an American, you may meet locals in Albania who are originally from present-day Kosovo. You’ll likely hear how much they love Bill Clinton, and they will eagerly invite you to visit Kosovo.

    39. Americans Are Eligible For Extended (Visa-Free) Albania Travel

    Do you have a valid American passport? Congratulations. You have fulfilled all legal requirements for staying in Albania for up to one year! That’s right, there are no visa requirements, proof of income or any other bureaucratic headwinds to interfere with a long-term Albania visit.

    Digital nomads rejoice!

    This is a great opportunity to really explore a fascinating country. So if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination where you can live and work as a digital nomad, Albania may be just what you’re looking for! Remember it’s also a very affordable place to hang-out for a while.

    40. We Adore This Country And Encourage Everyone To Visit Albania!

    Albania travel in Sarande

    Let’s wrap up with our final thoughts about visiting Albania:

    • The highlight of our Albania travel experience was the people.
    • Putting yourself in positions to connect with Albanians will be highly rewarded.
    • Stay in guesthouses, say yes to rakija, and make new friends!
    • The diversity of sites you can visit in Albania will blow your mind!
    • Travel with patience. Albania can be frustrating if you let its inefficiencies get to you. Just embrace the chaos and go with the flow!

    We like to believe that we’ll return to every country we visit. Realistically this may be wishful thinking. However, Albania is one of those places we know we will come back to. Even if it’s just to spend time with our new family on the farm near Gjirokaster!

    So pack your bags and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in surprising Albania!

    Thanks for reading!


    Have any questions about visiting Albania? Reach out in the comments or DM us on Instagram!

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    Home » Destinations » 40 Things Nobody Tells You About Albania Travel – 2023

    7 thoughts on “40 Things Nobody Tells You About Albania Travel – 2023”

    1. The banana thing is real, when i was a little boy we were traveling to north macedonia with Bus with my family i was around 2 years old, born in 1990.
      A foreign woman gave my mother a banana , and my mother was looking at it and didnt know what to do with it, the other woman understood anf showed my mother how to open and eat it.
      This is a story my mother likes to tell since she thinks its funny ^^

    2. I went over a lot of blog posts about Albania (we’re more of the adventurous, mix with locals backpackers type) and I think your post is one of (if not) THE best.
      Thank you so much for the tips!

      1. Gordon Letschert

        Thanks for the incredible compliment! We love Albania – and we really hope this post helps other people fall in love with this incredible country. Have fun!!!

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