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View Full Version : Has anyone been to Albania lately?


Roger Hicks
03-14-2010, 06:23
Preferably driving, ideally with experience of crossing from Montenegro and then on into Greece? I'm thinking of going there later in the year. Any information gratefully received.

Cheers,

R.

Stelios
03-14-2010, 07:14
Did you say Greece? :)

Roger Hicks
03-14-2010, 07:22
Did you say Greece? :)

Dear Stelios,

Hope so!

Cheers,

R.

Armoured
03-14-2010, 07:25
I spent some time near the Albanian border in Montenegro (Ulcinj), I didn't cross but friends did by car. They didn't have any major problems. I think the area nearest the sea - with plenty of tourists - is probably the easiest to cross (even if it may be busier). The one big difference is they went with a local driver (Montenegrin Albanians), which made communication easier. My friends didn't think much of the little part of Albania they saw, but probably not representative.

Depending on the time of year, Ulcinj is quite nice - majority ethnic Albanian but not that it matters. The main beach is terrible, make sure to walk away from the centre to other beaches further out. We found hotels really mediocre, much better to rent a private room.

nimcod
03-14-2010, 07:43
the only advice id give is try and stick to the main roads red/red-yellow in mapping (uk map standards only maybe?)...

As in my stupidity looking at a map and seeing a quicker route across the middle of the country rather than looping further south and back up again. i came across the 2nd worst set roads i have ever encountered in my entire life, and i drove later through azerbajian/khazakstan/mongolia in that same trip. saying all that, if your driving in a 4x4 or capable larger car you can probably cope fine with some of the smaller roads, but be aware it will take a lot longer than you think due to the potholing and other degredation if you are un-used to it, i was so that maybe why i struggled a fair bit.

Also a ridiculous 50 euro charge on the border crossing for no reason that i can see we were told "insurance" and after an hour of discussion and bartering got told to go back or pay the full 50 euro charge if i recall. Though i sense this may change depending on who is on duty at the time.

The only other things we experienced quite a few questionable drivers on the way through, but other than that the people where friendly and brilliant to have a sign language/appaling albanian on our part talk with, they also thought nothing of two people in a car painted like a zebra turning up at 2am and waking them up to ask directions

Stelios
03-14-2010, 08:09
Don't know anything about travelling through Albania, can surely give you some general knowledge about driving in Greece and that is we are crazy drivers. Not sure what else you'd like to know, I'm from the south :D

Drambuie
04-05-2010, 10:47
Roger,

If you mail me with some specifics I can ask an Albanian guy I know for advice. He works in Huddersfield and travels home for a long break each year. I have am invitation to meet up with him out there some time, later this year.

Alan

MartinP
04-05-2010, 11:19
Sorry, only ever been along the Greek side of the border near the Vikos Aiaaos (? spelling) gorge etc. I'm sure you know what the mountain roads are like !

bagdadchild
04-05-2010, 11:20
I have been to Albania. I travelled most parts of the country except for a few of the most remote areas like Tropoje district. I have visited nearly every country in Europe and I found Albania pretty much the most interesting, original and beautiful place of them all. It is a true wonderland. The coastline is awesomely spectacular south of Vlore and still most of the coastline is untouched with almost turn of the century style villages. In some places along the coast, on the other hand, tourist infrastructure development is rampant so Albanias untouched treasures are quickly disappearing. If you cross at Ulcinj do not miss visiting Lake Skhoder, it's spectacular. Some places off the coast you should consider are Gjirokaster, Berat, Elbasan. Those are real highlights. The drive along the 'Riviera' is breathtaking crowned by a treacherous +1000 meter mountain pass. The road basically drops right down into turquoise colored crystal waters of the Ionian sea. The views are unforgettable. There is little traffic in Albania, but be careful as the roads are extremely narrow and dangerous although mostly in good or acceptable condition. Driving in the mountains is very slow. It's all up and down and nothing but hairpins. Near Sarande on the Greek border are the marvellous ruins at Butrint. Many great places to visit and very kind and hospitable people.

Roger Hicks
04-05-2010, 12:02
Wow!

Thanks for the sudden revival! Slow driving isn't a problem: 1972 Land Rover...

Bagdadchild: thanks for the 'travelogue'. Makes we want to go there all the more -- and soon!

R2D2: Aditi almost certainly won't be with us. Her gap year is over and her nose is hard to the grindstone at university. But thanks for the kind thought: I'll tell her.

Alan (Drambuie): No real specifics -- I don't really know enough about Albania to aski intelligent questions -- but thanks for the offer. If I think of any, I'll send a PM.

Cheers (and thanks again),

R.

bagdadchild
04-05-2010, 13:45
Roger, I am sure you'll have a fantastic time there. Some advice. Albania has a bad reputation for safety but in fact it is one of the safer countries in Europe if one observes a few unwritten rules. There have been a few very serious incidents with foreigners in remote areas over the years but remember Albania was on the brink of civil war not along ago and the poverty nearly caused the country to collapse. The most important advice I give all travellers is not to wander alone in rural remote areas because it is really like the wild west, especially in the northeastern areas and along the border with Kosovo where people you encounter may be armed. There are also land mines along that border. You should also be vigilant in all towns and cities at night because most streets are pitch dark. There are a lot of stray dogs and gaping manholes which will easily break a leg or two on those who fall in them. With that all being said, the vast majority of Albanians are very warm, gentle and generous people!

A great read is the book "Chronicles in Stone" by Ismael Kadare (all of his books I've read are excellent). Its a lovely biography about Kadare's own childhood in the wonderful town of Gjirokaster as well as an excellent account of the mostly tragic events before, during and shortly after World War II in southeastern Albania.

Wow!

Thanks for the sudden revival! Slow driving isn't a problem: 1972 Land Rover...

Bagdadchild: thanks for the 'travelogue'. Makes we want to go there all the more -- and soon!

R2D2: Aditi almost certainly won't be with us. Her gap year is over and her nose is hard to the grindstone at university. But thanks for the kind thought: I'll tell her.

Alan (Drambuie): No real specifics -- I don't really know enough about Albania to aski intelligent questions -- but thanks for the offer. If I think of any, I'll send a PM.

Cheers (and thanks again),

R.

Sparrow
04-06-2010, 01:27
It’s over 15 years since I was there last, very tense back then a lot of piracy going on, I was with a friend who’s an Albanian emigrant on Corfu and has family there and he took me round some spectacular archaeology in the south-west but on dreadful roads, I had gone to see Ithaca which was a disappointment.

My friend tells me the coastal strip is fine now and the “motorways” are OK, although that’s in a Ionian context, however he claims there are “still thieves and murders in the mountains” but I don’t necessarily believe him.

Try to avoid driving when the Italians are in Greece, the Brits and Germans try to follow the rules while the Greeks and Italians have a slightly different approach, causes some confusion. Greece also has on the spot fines for stuff like not wearing seatbelts, 400 euro in that case

zvos1
04-06-2010, 02:02
Roger, don't know much about Albania but make sure if you can spare some time to visit Croatian part of Adriatic coast.:D:D