IS ALBANIA WORTH VISITING? 12 MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN VISITING ALBANIA TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP.
Albania is a small but varied country, from world class beaches to extraordinary hiking and mountain scenery. The capital, Tirana, is exciting and ever-changing. Vineyards surround UNESCO heritage sites, olive trees and pine trees adorn the coast and the sea sparkles for miles.
Is Albania worth visiting? Read on to find out more.
Is Albania worth visiting?
Albania is worth visiting. Particularly for anyone looking for an alternative to the usual Mediterranean destinations. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges in places, but makes up for it with oodles of charm, history, beaches, mountains, vineyards and beautiful cities.
Mistakes to avoid when visiting Albania
Is Albania worth visiting? Absolutely, yes. Based on our experience, there are a few mistakes you can avoid making to make your trip to Albania even better.
1/ Best time to visit Albania: Don’t travel in peak season
Albania has become an increasingly popular tourist destination over the last four years. Reports suggest that 2023 has been a record year for tourists travelling to Albania too. In short, Albania has started to get really busy.
We visited in August 2023 and not only was it difficult to get accommodation, but restaurants had queues in some areas and beaches were busy. If you think that Albania will be quieter than the likes of Italy and Greece in summer, think again.
For some people, travelling in July and August may be the only choice but if you want to visit Albania, and you can, we suggest you visit out of peak season.
June is a great time to visit Albania, with temperatures lingering between 25 and 30 degrees centigrade, but the crowds having not yet descended.
September and October are also optimum, with high temperatures remaining (20 to 25 degrees centigrade) and tourists dispersing at the end of August. Prices tend to drop in September too.
2/ Money in Albania: Don’t forget you need cash
Albania is largely a cash based society. It is rare that you will be able to pay with a credit card, normally only in large hotels and supermarkets. Guesthouses, hostels, small hotels, most supermarkets, restaurants and bars will all expect you to pay in cash.
The official currency is LEK, but you can normally pay in Euros. The exchange rate is roughly 1 Euro to 100 LEK, so normally it’s easy to convert.
Fortunately, there are ATMs found in most areas that tourists will visit in ATM. Unfortunately, the charges can be quite nasty – sometimes 5%.
If you plan to visit the Albanian Alps, you’ll need to get a stash of cash ready, as there are no ATMs in the mountains. More on that here.
3/ Money in Albania: Don’t assume that Albania is always cheap
There are so many reasons why Albania is worth visiting, but one of the reasons that many people do choose to visit is that it is considered to be an affordable destination. Particularly, in comparison to Italy.
Whilst it is true that Albania is more affordable than some of it’s neighbors across the sea, it is perhaps not as cheap as you might expect.
Prices for some things, like bus tickets, have gone up astronomically in recent years. For example, the bus from Saranda to Tirana was 1000LEK last year and is now 1700 LEK. A jump from 10 to 17 Euros. In peak season, you can also expect the price of accommodation to rise significantly too.
Here’s an idea of prices that we found in Albania in August 2023:
|Item||Cost (Range) – 100 LEK is roughly 1 Euro|
|Large Beer||150 LEK to 400 LEK|
|Glass of wine||200 LEK to 500 LEK (often you can get a liter of house wine in restaurants for 600 to 800 LEK)|
|Coffee||100 LEK is standard|
|Bottle of water||100 LEK is a standard charge for a bottle of water, whether it is 300ml, 1.5 liter, 5 liter or even 10!|
|Meal for two in a restaurant||1500 to 3000 LEK|
|Pastry in a bakery||80 to 120 LEK|
|Pasta in a supermarket||100 LEK|
|Budget Accommodation (hostel, campsite, basic private room)||2000 to 3000 LEK|
|Mid-range Accommodation||3000 LEK to 5000 LEK|
|Luxury Accommodation||5000 LEK plus|
4/ Transport in Albania: Don’t try to wing it
Although Albania is small, it can be quite tricky to navigate. We love having a bit of spontaneity to our travel plans, but you can only really take that approach to travelling in Albania if you have a hire car.
If you plan to use public transport, we recommend doing a little bit of research before you travel to plan your routes. Public transport in Albania is a little informal, so you won’t be able to plan the exact timings, but you can check in advance which routes are in operation.
We recently traveled around Albania using public transport – you can find our two week itinerary, a road trip without a hire car here.
5/ Cultural Points: Don’t go topless on the beach
A small note, Albania is a relatively conservative country. Although you can dress freely as you would in any other European country, one thing that is not tolerated is topless sunbathing. The sames goes for public nudity.
6/ Accommodation: Don’t miss out on guesthouses
Guesthouses in Albania are some of the most affordable place to stay in the country. They are family run and tend to be homes that have been opened up to guests. Most have only a handful of rooms, making them feel very welcoming.
A traditional Albanian breakfast is often included in the room rate and more often than not seems to be cooked by Grandma. Staying in guesthouses can be a great way to get to know more about Albanian culture.
7/ Accommodation: Don’t miss out on camping
Camping is super popular in Albania. Here’s why:
1/ Camping in Albania suits many budgets: Camping in Albania is a great budget travel solution. Campsites have popped up and in part, they serve backpackers travelling through on a budget. They have become almost an alternative to hostels, as they have a sociable communal area and are reasonably priced.
2/ Albania is a stunning country: This year, record numbers of people have traveled to Albania. Why? Well, mainly because it’s an incredible travel destination. It’s perfect for a road trip, as small country and there’s so much to see from mountains to the Albanian Riviera. Campsites just happen to be in some of the best locations in Albania too.
3/ Campsites are everywhere: There are loads of fantastic campsites in Albania. They can be found even in the most popular beach resorts. Most have good facilities and epic scenery around them.
8/ Accommodation: Don’t assume that a reservation is water tight in peak season
On three separate occasions during our trip to Albania, we made a booking at a hotel or guest house only to find out that the room we had booked was not available and we were offered alternative accommodation upon arrival.
Fortunately, the alternate rooms we were offered tended to be nicer than the one we booked! The first time it happened, we thought perhaps it was a bit of a scam. But it actually turned out fine.
We think this is a bit of a quirk of August being very busy and hosts overbooking to allow for guests cancelling last minute. But, it’s something to keep in mind, as it may happen to you if you visit during peak season.
9/ Albania Itinerary: Don’t just visit the beaches
The Albanian Riviera is without a doubt one of the highlights of a trip to Albania, and one of the things things that makes it so worth visiting. But, it’s not the only part of Albania to visit.
The capital city of Tirana is a buzzing metropolis,boulevards are lined with cafes and restaurants. Locals and tourists alike enjoy alfresco dinner in one of the many wonderful restaurants. There’s a lot happening.
The towns of Berat and Kruje offer traditional Albanian culture and history. Both have castles you can explore, conjuring up images of the long distant past.
All of this and we haven’t even mentioned the Albanian Alps, comprising of the Theth and Valbona National Parks. this is where outdoor enthusiasts come to enjoy Albania’s most popular hike.
The country is relatively small, but packed full of attractions. A hire car is a bonus, but you don’t need one to get around. Find our two week itinerary for travelling around the country without a hire car here.
10/ Logistics: Don’t put toilet roll into the toilet
This one doesn’t need much more explanation! Drainage in Albania is not great, toilet roll in the bin, not the toilet.
11/ Health: Don’t drink the tap water
The tap water in Albania is not generally drinkable. When you visit Albania, ensure that you buy mineral water to drink.
We noticed that mineral water tended to cost 1 Euro (100 LEK) whether buying a 30ml bottle, a 1.5 litre bottle or a 5 litre bottle. Therefore, if you are staying in one place for a few days, you can buy a larger bottle.
12/ Food & Drink: Don’t ignore local cuisine
There are some cosmopolitan restaurants in Albania, especially in areas like Tirana and Saranda. You can find Pizza, Sushi and more. However, the Albanian cuisine is worth trying too. You’ll find an eclectic mix of Balkan, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. Hearty fare, with heady spices.
Some of the best meals in Albania can be found in guest houses and unassuming tavernas. Look out for these as you travel around the country. Be sure to grab breakfast at bakeries in Albania too – I challenge anyone not to enjoy a Byrek – a flaky buttery pastry pie filled with cheese.
As for local drinks, be sure to try local beer – Birra Korça and Birra Tirana are two of the most popular beers in Albania. Both are found in all bars, restaurants and shops and are inexpensive.
Local wine is just as good, you can enjoy house wine in most restaurants. The quality sometimes differs, but for the most part it is very drinkable. You can also visit vineyards in Albania for tastings – find out more about that here.
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