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A complete travel guide for Albania

We traveled to Albania in June 2022 with the intention of staying here for 2 months. After our experiences in Georgia we were keen to discover more of what the Balkans has to offer. We explore the cities of Tirana and Durrës, Albania and check out things to do, as well as some of the underrated attractions that should not be missed. Great food, lovely people, beautiful beaches and seafronts; Albania should definitely be on your list! In case you did not know, we absolutely love history and Durrës in particular has some excellent places to visit in that regard, including a Roman amphitheatre! We also learn much about Albania's sad, troubled past and its recovery, shedding a whole new light on this country for us.

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Introduction to Albania

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Did you know

Did you know...

Here are a few facts about Albania that may surprise you!

✓ As like many of its fellow Balkan countries, Albania has many castles and historical sites.

✓ In 1967, Albania proclaimed to be the first atheist state in the world, although according to a 2011 survey, 61% - 80% of Albanians now identify as Muslim.

 Albania is the 18th smallest country in Europe and ranked 145th in world standings.

The population of Albania is less than 3 million, 35th out of the 50 countries in Europe. More than half of the Albanian population actually live outside of the country. 

True figures vary, but there is said to be a staggering 700,000 bunkers and tunnels in a country which is smaller than the U.S state of Maryland. They were built by paranoid former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruled the country with a brutally oppressive regime between 1941 to 1985.

The Albanian language is amongst the oldest in Europe and even the world.

 Albania was isolated from the world for nearly 50 years until the fall of the communist dictatorship in 1991. It was one of the poorest countries in Europe with mass poverty and corruption, however in recent years, owing to a rise in industry and tourism, it is now seen as an up-and-coming country in the region.

 Over 70% of Albania is covered in mountains.

Albania is one of a very few countries in Europe that do not have a McDonalds.

✓ Owing to over 3000 species, Albania is home to 30% of Europe's plant collection.

The city of Lazarat is widely touted as the 'capital of cannabis', and is the biggest exporter of cannabis in Europe.

Scarecrows are actually seen as a good luck charm in Albania.

✓ When an Albanian agrees with you, they will shake their head. A 'nod' actually means 'no', unlike many countries where this would be the opposite.

✓ Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, aka Mother Theresa, is the heroine of Albania and the only Albanian to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

✓ Albania is part of NATO and formally became a candidate to join the European Union in 2020.

✓ The Albania Flag is a red, with a silhouetted black double-headed eagle in the center. The red stands for bravery, strength, valour and bloodshed, while the Eagle represents the sovereign state of Albania.

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Things to know when visiting Albania

Things to know when visiting Albania

Here are a few stats and tips that we picked up in our time here. Let us know if there is anything we should add!

Total Population: 2.86 million

Capital City: Tirana (520,000)

Currency: Albanian Lek (ALL) | Driving: Right Side

Measurement Standard: Metric (km)

⪢ Entry Requirements:

There is a long list of countries that have visa-free entry into Albania and the country welcomes tourists and foreigners as a vital part of their economy. If you are allowed to enter without a visa (such as UK or EU) you can stay for a very generous 90 days, with 1 year granted to US citizens. Your passport must be valid for at least three months from the date of your arrival in Albania. However, there are some exceptions, so it is always best to check with the Albanian embassy or consulate in your country before traveling.

⪢ Currency:

The official currency in Albania is the Albanian Lek (ALL). It's advisable to carry some cash as credit cards are not accepted everywhere, especially in rural areas. Convert your currency here.

⪢ Language:

The official language is Albanian. While English is spoken in tourist areas and by younger generations, it's helpful to learn a few basic Albanian phrases to enhance your experience. 

⪢ Natural Beauty:

Albania boasts stunning natural landscapes, including pristine beaches, picturesque mountains, and scenic lakes. Don't miss exploring the Albanian Riviera, the Albanian Alps, and Lake Ohrid.

⪢ Cultural Etiquette:

Albanians are known for their warm hospitality. It's customary to greet people with a handshake, maintain eye contact, and remove your shoes when entering someone's home. 


The word 'besa' works like an honour code. When you require help you can use this word, and it is respected and responded to by most Albanians.


Also, known as Xhiro, Albanians typically take an evening walk every night to exercise and socialize. In many places, roads close to cars during these hours. Many people gather at various places, walking and talking until nightfall.

Tipping is something that is usually appreciated and anywhere between 10-15% is very acceptable.

⪢ Cuisine:

Albanian cuisine is a delicious blend of Mediterranean and Balkan flavors. Be sure to try local dishes like Byrek (savory pastry), Tavë Kosi (baked lamb with yogurt), and Baklava (sweet pastry). The national drink of Albania is Raki, an anise flavoured liquor popular in Eastern Europe.

⪢ Public Transport:

Albania has an extensive bus network that connects major cities and towns. Buses are the most common mode of public transport, and it's advisable to check the schedules in advance. Generally, it is very affordable when comparing to other European countries.

⪢ Health & Safety:

Albania is generally a safe country to visit. However, exercise caution in crowded areas, watch out for pickpockets, and be mindful of your belongings. In the main we felt very safe throughout our time in Albania and although there is crime, it does not typically involve foreigners.


Tap water is generally deemed to be safe in Albania, however most locals still prefer bottled water, which is what we would also advise.


Another point of note is that there are few garbage cans in most cities, but there is a plenty of wheelie bins. Typically these are placed in rows of 4-6 bins and service entire blocks. Sadly they have no lids and are usually very full and smelly. 


Albania has one of the highest levels of smoking in Europe. An estimated 40% of Albanians smoke, and it is acceptable to smoke on the streets and in many restaurants and coffee bars.

⪢ Cultural Sites:

Albania is home to many historical and cultural sites. Explore the ancient city of Butrint, the UNESCO-listed city of Berat, the ruins of Apollonia, and the vibrant capital city, Tirana. Albania has a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. It has been influenced by various civilizations, including Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and more.

⪢ Dress Code:

Albania is a predominantly Muslim country, but it embraces religious diversity. While there are no strict dress codes, it's respectful to dress modestly when visiting mosques or religious sites.

⪢ Public Facilities:

While major cities have modern amenities, rural areas might have limited infrastructure. It's advisable to carry essentials like tissues, hand sanitizers, and bottled water with you.

⪢ Affordability:

The capital city of Tirana is listed 162nd for cost of living out of 227. Despite that low score, Albania as a whole is widely regarded as a comparably affordable country to live in when considering things like food, utilities and rents.

⪢ Connectivity:

Wi-Fi and internet access are widely available in urban areas, including major cities like Tirana, Durrës, and Shkodra. In rural and remote areas, internet availability may be more limited or slower. The coverage of Wi-Fi networks is generally good in urban centres, hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shopping malls. Many accommodations, including hotels and guesthouses, provide complimentary Wi-Fi access to their guests.

Mobile data coverage is also widespread in Albania, and most major cities and towns have 4G/LTE networks. Mobile data plans are available from various service providers, and SIM cards can be easily purchased for use with unlocked mobile devices. Albanian sim cards can be purchased easily and are around $10 USD for 10GB month packages.

Remember to check for any travel advisories or updates before your visit to stay informed about the current situation in Albania. Enjoy your trip and embrace the rich culture and natural beauty of this remarkable country!

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