6 Tips for Traveling to Albania

I visited this wonderful country with dreams of an interesting Mediterranean holiday. Albania completely lived up to my expectations of a fun and off-the-beaten-path place to visit, complete with breathtaking beaches.

I absolutely loved my time there, but I wish I’d known a few things before jetting off. Here are my top tips for traveling to Albania, one of the most fascinating countries in the Balkan peninsula.

Things to Know Before Visiting Albania

Basic information about Albania all travelers should know!

  • Capital City: Tirana
  • Currency: Albanian Lek
  • Languages: Albanian, Greek, Romani
  • Time Zone: Central European Time (CET) or Central European Summer Time (CEST)
  • Outlets and Plug Types: Type C, the standard European plug, and Type F, used in almost all European countries and Russia.
  • Electricity: Voltage – 230V. Frequency – 50Hz.

*If visiting Albania from the US, you will need a power plug adapter and voltage converter unless you have dual voltage devices.

My Top 6 Albania Travel Tips 

1. Be Prepared For a Language Barrier

Learn a few common Albanian phrases before you go.

As an English speaker, I’m quite privileged when I travel abroad, as I can usually find someone who speaks my language. However, this was not the case in Albania.

Albania was one of the first places I visited where finding people who spoke English proved difficult. Most youth generally spoke English well, but many over 30 or 40 did not. So, be prepared!

Learn a few general words and phrases before you go, and remember that Albanian is unlike other languages, even those in neighboring Balkan countries. Brush off your charades and body language skills, and you’ll be fine.

Related: 8 Tips for Traveling in the Balkans

Tips for traveling to Albania.
Welcome to Albania! © Sydney Baker

Basic Albanian Phrases

Here are the most basic Albanian phrases to get you started.

  • Hello – Përshëndetje!
  • Excuse me – Më falni
  • Thank you – Faleminderit
  • Yes – Po
  • No – Jo
  • Sorry – Më fal

Bookmark this Albanian phrasebook page and download the Google Translate app before your trip – they will both come in handy! See what other travel apps we love.

2. The High Season is Busy

So, expect beaches to be full.

While US-Americans and Western Europeans might not be as “in-the-know” about visiting Albania, locals and neighboring Balkan tourists have been visiting the country for the wonder that it is for quite some time, especially the coastline!

Unless you’re willing to get really off the beaten path, don’t expect empty beaches in summertime. Unfortunately, Albania isn’t quite the “hidden gem” that the general population of vacationers might be seeking. Crowds can be expected from June through August, with the latter making up the peak of the high season.

For these reasons, I wouldn’t recommend visiting in August (I did only because August was when I could get time off work and school).

So, when is the best time to visit Albania for a beach vacation? If you want summer weather with only a few other beachgoers, I’d recommend late May to late June or September. If you don’t care about swimming or prefer milder temps, April, May, and October are also nice. So that you know, some businesses may be closed in these shoulder seasons.

Travel tips for Albania - visiting Saranda on the Albanian coast
Visiting Saranda on the Albanian coast. © Sydney Baker

And remember, there are many beaches beyond the popular ones!

I stayed in Saranda on the southern coast of the Albanian Riviera and spent some time nearby in Ksamil.

If I’d had more time, I would’ve explored Vlore, Himare, and Dhermi, all north of Saranda, to enjoy some of Albania’s most spectacular beaches. Interestingly, Vlore is the meeting place of the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

If you have time to spare, try out two different bases, like Himare and Ksamil, and take day trips to other places. Saranda is the biggest and best for partying. There are nicer places if you want to relax.

Related: Traveling in the Balkans: Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Greece

3. Buses are Nice… Sometimes

The Balkans are one part of Europe without a great train system or a ton of modern infrastructure. So, if you want to avoid driving (more on that below), you must use the bus system.

Most buses work great. Some are even air-conditioned, and you might find comfortable seats.

However, you may end up with an outdated coach without AC and whose only fan is half-broken and spraying dust at you for a four-hour ride (can you tell I’m a bit experienced with this one?)

Tirana has a central bus station where buses leave multiple times a day to all the main destinations in the country. You can ask your hotel to help you book or check the schedule, as there isn’t a consistent place where they’re posted. Or take a taxi to the bus station, and the driver will sort it out with the bus drivers when you arrive if you let them know where you want to go.

You can also take buses from Tirana Airport to Saranda, Ksamil, and Gjirokaster. If you need help finding buses, ask someone at the arrivals hall. For all buses, you pay in cash when you get on. The airport buses will take Euros if you still need to get some Albanian Lek.

In other towns, you should go to the bus station the day before departure to check the schedule and purchase a ticket.

Related: How to Travel Europe Cheap. Two Weeks for $1,500 (Including Flights!)

Additionally, if you take local buses, be prepared to be packed in a vehicle beyond capacity.

One friendly guy who gave us a ride one day advised against the local bus, referring to it as a “catastrophe.” We thought he was being hyperbolic until we suffered a cramped bus in 90-plus-degree heat, where people continued to board beyond capacity. We ended up getting off early and just walking.

Local bus stops usually have a schedule posted, which is more or less accurate. You’ll pay cash after you board, collected by a guy who walks through the bus at some point during the ride.

Cars can be a nice option but are also semi-terrifying

The few times we hailed a taxi or took a local up on an offer for a ride were more comfortable in some ways than the bus. However, the curving roads and high speeds deterred me from driving around the country. I was happy to let others take that responsibility for me!

If you’re anything like me, you may want to reconsider any plans for an Albanian road trip!

PS: We love using Europcar when renting a car in Europe, as we have found them to be hassle-free and reliable in many countries.

4. If You Plan to Hike, Don’t Go in August

I speak from personal experience. I chose August because that’s when I had vacation time, but like most of the Mediterranean, this is when both crowds and temperatures are at their highest.

I don’t mind hiking in the heat, but over 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer sun is a bit much, so I missed this part of Albania. I’d love to check out the mountains on my next visit, and I will likely visit in spring or fall to do so.

However, August and the rest of summer are great if you want to ensure everything is open. When you visit in the shoulder or off-season, you’ll have far fewer options for restaurants and activities, plus less frequent buses. So, consider all the options when planning your Albania trip.

Related: How to Get the Most out of Two Weeks in Europe

Hiking in Albania
Avoid hiking in August in Albania. © Sydney Baker

5. The Food and Drink are Amazing

This isn’t so much a tip as an FYI and a big reason to go, but if you’re hesitant to visit because you’re unsure of what you’ll eat, don’t be. Albania is bordered on either side by Greece and Italy, so the high-quality Mediterranean cuisine you expect in those destinations is also standard in Albania.

The coffee is some of the best I’ve had in Europe – I have yet to go to Italy, though. The seafood is just as you would expect along the sea, and you can sample interesting wines from places like Kosovo and Croatia!

Related: 6 Things to Eat Next Time You’re in Kosovo

The mussels in the south are a must-try, as they’re a local delicacy. Good pizza is also easy to find for the reasons listed above. And don’t forget Byrek, a delicious pastry filled with spinach and cheese, and Fergest, a summer vegetable stew served cold.

Other specialties are Tavë Kosi, baked lamb or chicken in a yogurt sauce, and Trilece, a light cake soaked in three kinds of milk.

Albanian food is amazing
So much good food, so little time. © Sydney Baker

6. It’s Cheap, For Now…

I mostly went to Albania on a whim when I desired an affordable beach getaway in August.

I paid less than I would have in other popular European beach destinations like the South of France, Portugal, or Santorini. But from what I’ve heard, it’s less budget-friendly than it once was, especially in peak season.

Rising costs will only continue as more and more travelers begin to discover the beauty of this charming country, so make sure to visit soon if you want the best value!

For context, I paid $70 per night for a one-bedroom apartment located directly on the beach in the heart of Saranda. A nice dinner with drinks and dessert rarely went above $25. And long-distance bus rides range from $10 – 15.

Saranda Albania
Your Albanian adventure awaits! © Sydney Baker

FAQs About Travel in Albania

What is the best time to visit Albania? Visit Albania from May to September for pleasant weather and to explore diverse landscapes, historical sites, and vibrant local culture.

Is Albania safe for solo female travelers? Albania is generally considered safe for solo female travelers, especially in popular tourist areas. Like any destination, it’s wise to stay vigilant, follow common-sense safety practices, and be aware of local customs.

Is tipping expected in Albania? Tipping is not mandatory in Albania, but it is appreciated. If you want to tip service workers for exceptional service, you can round up the bill at restaurants, give tour guides 10% of the tour price, and leave up to 200 Lek per day for hotel maids. If you plan to tip in Albania, always carry Lek with you, as it’s uncommon to tip on credit cards.

What vaccinations do I need for Albania? No specific vaccinations are required to enter Albania. However, it’s important to check the latest travel advisories and consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your health and travel plans.

More on Balkans Travel:

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