Transportation - Get In
Tirana's "Mother Teresa" International Airport is located just 15 minutes away from the city. It is served by numerous European flag carriers such as British Airways, Alitalia, Lufthansa, Austrian, and the low cost carriers Germanwings and Belle Air. A new, larger and modern terminal was opened in 2007. A tourist information center was opened in 2012.
You can book your taxi online with MerrTaxi Tirana 24/7 and it will cost you €10,99. The national toll-free number to call a taxi is 0800 5555. The international number to call a taxi is +355 67400 6610.
At the airport exit there are also numerous taxis 24/7 that can take you to the city. The taxi fee to the city center is €11-€15 (1500 - 2000 Lek). Taxi fees to other locations are available here.
There is a bus that runs once an hour between the airport and Skanderberg Square, called Rinas Express. It costs 350 lek each way and leaves on the hour from both the airport and from Skanderberg Square. It runs from about 8AM to 7PM. The trip takes around 25-30 minutes. From the airport exit doors, walk towards the parking lot past the taxi touts to find the bus stop. At Skanderberg Square, the bus stop is located around the northwest corner, near other bus stops. The bus is not only punctual but sometimes even early, so plan to be there a few minutes in advance. Do not be intimidated by the signs not mentioning "airport" or any variation of it at the Skanderberg Square stop. "Rinas" means the bus goes to the airport. If in doubt, ask the locals, who will be happy to point you to the correct bus.
Another cheaper and convenient way to reach the Albanian Riviera in Southern Albania is by landing in Corfu and taking the hydrofoil to Saranda.
It is not possible to enter or leave Albania via train. There are, however, trains that operate within the country. Though the service is limited, the price is inexpensive. There is no direct service to Tirana, due to closure of the capital's only railway station. As of 2015, Tirana is served by renovated Kashar station located 10 km west of the capital.
You can reach Tirana by coach from
- Istanbul, Turkey (20hr, €35 one-way)
- Athens, Greece (12 hr, €30-35)
- Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia (7 hr, € 15)
- Prishtina, Kosovo (4,5 hr, € 10 )
There is now a daily bus link between Ulcinj in Montenegro and Shkoder. There is also a shared taxi (mini buss) from the parking place next to the market in Ulcinj. It goes at 1PM and costs €5 euros, it takes 1.5 hr. The stop is not marked, a reservation can only be made by finding the driver in the cafe at the corner of the parking place. Ask around and be persistent, as not all the locals know about this. There are also scheduled buses from Kotor to Tirana, passing through Podgorica (at 10:45), and Shkoder.
There are also buses running daily from Ioannina to the border at Kakavia (9 daily, €5.70, 1 hour). From there it's a short walk between the Greek and Albanian checkpoints. Just make sure you don't delay, as the furgon (minibus) to Gjirokastra won't wait for one extra passenger and you will be forced to haggle with predatory cab drivers. In Gjirokaster you can buy a bus ticket to Atens, Greece or anywhere in between. The Buses are new, cheap, air conditioned, and stop along some gas stations.
- Ferries to Durrës arrive from Bari (9h, €50) and Ancona (19h, €70). A high-speed service operates from Bari (3h, €60).[www]
- There are also two reliable overnight ferry services since May 2015 operated by Skenderbeg Lines and European Seaways from Brindisi to Vlore.
- Ferries from Corfu to Saranda every day.[www]
- Ferry between Brindisi and Shengjin re-established in June 2015 by European Seawaysoperating twice a week in the summer.
You can reach Albania by car from anywhere crossing through major cities of the neighbouring countries such as:
- Podgorica, Montenegro
- Ohrid, Macedonia
- Prizren, Kosovo
- Thessaloniki, Greece Thessaloniki is far away from Albania
- Ioannina, Greece
To enter the country, ensure that your International Motor Insurance Card is valid for Albania (AL) along with the Vehicle Registration and a Power of Attorney from the owner if the car is not yours. The border guards are very strict about allowing cars through without these documents.
The road between Ioannina, Greece and Tirana (E853/SH4) is of sufficient quality. Construction works between Tepelene and Fier are mostly finished (2014). The new portion between Rrogozhine and Durres is also mostly complete (2014). This is the main North-South route between Montenegro and Greece.
The road between Struga, Macedonia and Tirana (E852/SH3) is of a sufficient quality. There are a lot of slow moving vehicles along the curvy mountainous route so extra caution must be exercised especially around corners or during over-taking. A new motorway is being constructed between Elbasan and Tirana (2011).
The road between Prizren (Kosovo) and Tirana (Albania) (E851/A1/SH5) is to the levels of quality found in other parts of Europe. Extra caution should be exercised along some bridges near the Kosovo border, as they have not been widened while uncontrolled access points are becoming dangerous. Also beware that cows run free on the motorway: there is no fence and before dusk they return home using the motorway itself.
The road between Shkoder (border of Montenegro) and Tirana (E762/SH1) is of sufficient quality for driving but there are a lot of slow moving vehicles and uncontrolled access points so extra caution must be exercised especially during over-taking. A portion between Milot and Thumane has been widened to dual carriageway standard as of 2012.
There are two border control points in the north of Albania with Montenegro. The narrow windy road from Ulcinj, Montenegro to Shkoder via Muriqan/Sukobin (E851/SH41) is used mainly by locals. As of 2014, the new Montenegrin section near the Albanian border was completed. However, it is worth a try to avoid heavier traffic on the newly built main road (E762/SH1) between Hani Hotit and Shkoder. Ask any police officer to point you in the right direction from Shkoder. They are helpful, courteous and friendly.
Albania is geographically a small country and as such it is possible to leave by taxi.
A taxi from downtown Pogradec to the Macedonian border at Sveti Naum is about 5 euros (and less than 10 minutes). After Albanian exit procedures, walk about .5km down the road to the Macedonian border control. The beautiful Sveti Naum church is very close by, and from there you can get a bus north around the lake to Ohrid (110 denars). (prices April 2010)
A taxi from Ulcinj in Montenegro to Shkoder in northern Albania costs about €30. It takes 1hr. You do not have to change at the border, the taxi will bring you all the way. (price June 2010)
Some taxis can take you into Greece; however most will not go further then Ioannina.
Transportation - Get Around
Most people in Albania travel by public bus or private minibuses (called "furgons"), which depart quite frequently to destinations around Albania. Furgons have no timetable (they depart when they are full) and in addition to big cities provide access to some smaller towns where busses don't frequently run. Furgon stations aren't always in obvious locations, so you can ask around to find them, or keep an eye out for groups of white or red minivans gathered together. Destination place names are generally displayed on the dashboard, prices are never posted (but to get an idea, Tirane to Vlore is about 600 lek). Furgons are loosely regulated, and provide a real "Albanian" experience.
From Tirana, many furgons a day depart to Shkoder, Durres, Elbasan, Fier and Berat. Furgons departing to the south like Gjirokaster or Saranda tend to depart fairly early in the morning. Generally, furgons cost a little more and go a little faster, but can be uncomfortable over long distances because of the close quarters with other passengers.
Buses are more comfortable and cheaper, and although slower, they run on a time schedule (though it is almost impossible to find a printed schedule anywhere in the country) and are generally well regulated. There are different bus stations in Tirane for North bound buses (Shkoder, Leizhe, Puke, etc.), South bound buses (Saranda, Gjirokastër, Berat, Vlore, Fier, etc.).
Limited services operate between Tirana and Shkodra, Fier, Ballsh, Vlorë and Librazhd. The train route from Lezhe to Shkodra has scenic beauty. The Tirana (Kashar)-Durres trains (and vice versa) depart up to 8 times a day. The train timetables are available here. The trains in Albania are still in poor condition, despite the route from Tirana to Vlore looking convenient on a map, the more wealthy Albanians never use trains and if not travelling in their own cars, use the many mini-buses. On the other hand, trains offer more space than often overloaded minibuses.
A train ride is a must-see, as there are few such enjoyments in Europe these days. Tickets are very cheap and the journeys are very long, but the views and the atmosphere are usually priceless. Among the things you will see in this unforgettable journey are people working their land with primitive tools, beautiful landscapes and wild terrains, houses under construction with various things hanged on to guard against the bad eye, and a chance to meeting some interesting passengers mainly from rural areas. On most stations you'll find people selling sunflower seeds, fruits, chewing gum and many other different things - very unusual in Europe.
Note that the train from Tiranë to Librazhd in the center of the country first goes west to Durrës, so that the trip from Tiranë to Elbasan takes several hours, while the actual direct distance is about 30 km. So you may consider to take a bus to Elbasan, also because the western part of the country is not nearly as scenic as the eastern part.
The roads between the important destinations have been recently repaved and fixed, and offer most of the security measures one would expect on a highway. However be aware that some highways are not fully completed, and contain uncontrolled entry-exit points. There are no fees for using the highways.
Beware of minor roads. Road surfaces can be poor, deeply pitted, or non-existent, and sometimes a decent paving can suddenly disappear, necessitating a U-turn and lengthy doubling-back. It seems all the expensive cars in Albania are SUVs, rather than low-slung sports cars - and for good reason. Ask the locals in advance if travelling away from a highway.
Highways have frequent changes in speed limit (sometimes with little apparent reason). And there are frequent police mobile speed checks. Police will also stop you if you have not turned on your car lights. Ensure you travel with driving licences and insurance documents (ask your car hire company for these) to present to the police.
Car-driving behavior on the highways is not as orderly as elsewhere in Europe. Expect cars to pull out in front of you, little use of indicators, and hair-raising overtaking. Lanes on dual or triple carriageways tend to be observed. Also expect pedestrians, horses or donkeys cross highways or walk on them. In the mountains, roads can be quite tight and windy with hairpins and serpentines requiring frequent gear shifting and braking. Drivers are encouraged to always keep a spare tire in case of emergency, and check engine liquid levels to avoid overheating.
Navigation is pretty easy although some maps of the country are out of date or contain errors. It is strongly recommended to have an up to date GPS, as new roads are being constantly added to the Albanian road network. In case the GPS does not work, its good to have an alternative good paper or internet-based map.
In the cities, and especially Tirana, many roads are being upgraded, fixed, and renamed. Because of that, traveling by car inside the city will be slow and difficult. Be aware that especially Tirana suffers from great traffic congestion during mornings and midday.
A very nice ride is the SH8 Vlorë-Saranda mountain road. It is a typical Mediterranean road and offers an amazing view of the sea from the mountains. The road to the top of Dajti mountain is very bad, though does not (just about) require a 4x4.
Gypsy and beggar children may approach your car at major stop lights. Nudge slightly forward to get them off your car and if necessary go into the traffic intersection to get rid of them. The locals will understand.
Note that, around Greek holiday seasons, including Orthodox Easter, the roads leading to/from Greece can be crowded with cars with Greek plates of Albanian immingrants going to Albania or returning to Greece after their holidays.
Renting a car is a good option to choose, but the practice is fairly new in the country. Rental companies are available mainly in Tirana Airport, and Tirana proper. Various travel agencies may offer such services as well.
There is a lack of respect for people riding on bikes on the highways. Also there are few places to put your bike. These and other challenges make Albania a difficult cycling destination, but a rewarding one. Often, asking around to see if you can stay in somebody's home / camp in their garden is the only option. Food and water are easily available in the frequent roadside cafes and bars.
It is OK to camp in all not strictly private places, and even if the places are private there should be no problems with your stay, ask if you doubt.
Be aware that it's very hard to get parts or repairs of modern bicycles.
Hitchhiking is not very common in Albania; however, many people will pick you up if they are able.