HOW TO PLAN A ROAD TRIP IN ALBANIA
Are you gearing up for an Albanian road trip and craving all the juicy details? Look no further, this post has got you covered. This is all about an epic road trip in Albania – find important travel tips to make your trip smooth, including a road trip itinerary.
After my own grand tour in the wilds of Albania, I’m ready to spill the beans.
This country has it all – Albania, the unsung hero of the Balkans, has it all. Charming cities, ancient treasures, and nature that will leave you breathless.
Get ready for a whimsical joyride through the jaw-dropping landscapes of Albania, the magical hidden gem of Europe!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product (at no extra cost to you) after clicking on my link. More about it here.
TIPS FOR AN ALBANIA ROAD TRIP
Before we dive headfirst into your Albanian road trip itinerary, let’s detour into FAQ-land.
IS AN ALBANIA ROAD TRIP A GOOD IDEA?
Is an Albanian road trip a good idea? YEEES, a road trip in Albania is actually a great idea! It is the best way to discover the beauty and diversity of the country. You’ll experience everything from jaw-dropping landscapes to heart-stopping driving maneuvers.
It’s like a rollercoaster ride, a history lesson, and a food festival all rolled into one. So, if your idea of a good time involves breathtaking views, delicious eats, and the occasional bout of mild confusion, an Albanian road trip is more than a good idea – it’s a grand plan!
Also, public transport in Albania is not really extensive, or reliable – and so the best thing is to hire a car and go on a road trip.
Tirana – the starting point for your epic journey! Once you land at Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza, you can pick up your rental car. I highly recommend booking your rental car in advance. But before you hit the road, let’s go over a few important details.
- Make sure your driver’s license is up-to-date and recognized in Albania. If you’ve got a non-EU license, you might need an International Driving Permit to join the fun.
- Usually, rental companies ask that you’re at least 21 years old with a full license held for a year. Oh, and don’t forget, they might have a sneaky maximum age limit too.
- For extra peace of mind during your journey, consider snagging comprehensive insurance. Safety first!
Once you’ve picked out the perfect set of wheels, take a moment to read through the rental agreement. Familiarise yourself with the nitty-gritty details like mileage limits, fuel policies, and what to do in case your car decides to take an unexpected nap or you have a little fender-bender.
While I often road trip countries in Europe in my own car/van, I did rent a car in Albania. I used this comparison site and found a great deal for my Albania road trip. I had a regular 2-wheel drive (manual…because that is what I am used to).
I brought my own car charger adapter and then rented a portable Wi-Fi box at the rental company once I was there (for about 4-5€ a day).
DO I NEED FULL COVERAGE FOR A ROAD TRIP IN ALBANIA?
Choosing full coverage for your rental car in Albania is like opting for Swiss chocolate – it might cost a bit more, but it’s oh-so worth it!
First off, Albanian roads can be a bit, let’s say, unpredictable. One moment you’re cruising on a smooth highway, the next you’re navigating potholes that look like they were dug by a herd of enthusiastic moles.
Full coverage means you can tackle these surprises without sweating about the rental company’s reaction to every scratch or dent.
Then there’s the infamous Albanian driving style. It’s a little like being in an action movie – thrilling, fast-paced, and full of unexpected plot twists. Having full coverage lets you join the fun without worrying about a grand finale involving paperwork and a hefty bill.
So, unless you’ve got the nerves of a tightrope walker and the reflexes of a ninja, book full coverage for your rental car in Albania.
ARE THERE MANUAL OR AUTOMATIC CARS IN ALBANIA?
Despite the country’s reputation for clinging onto tradition like a barnacle to a boat, Albania has embraced the world of automatic cars with open arms. However, they’re still outnumbered by their manual counterparts.
But don’t worry, with a bit of hunting (and maybe a dash of luck), you’ll find an automatic car if needed. Just remember, it might cost a few more $$$ (or Albanian Lek) than its manual siblings because, in the world of car rentals, rarity equals royalty.
DO I NEED A 4X4 WHEEL DRIVE IN ALBANIA?
Unless you’re planning to scale mountains, Ford rivers, or go off-roading like a contestant on a reality TV show, a 4×4 isn’t a must-have for Albania.
But if the idea of navigating lunar-like potholes or rural paths that look suspiciously like goat trails gets your adrenaline pumping, then by all means, get that 4×4! It’s like the difference between hiking in flip-flops or sturdy boots – both will get you there, but one will definitely give you a more “exciting” journey and is safer.
HOW MANY DAYS FOR A ROAD TRIP IN ALBANIA?
Deciding how many days to spend on an Albanian road trip is like choosing the amount of chocolate to put in your hot cocoa – the more, the merrier!
If you’ve got 14 days in Albania to spare, fantastic! There’ll be time to explore every nook and cranny, from the high peaks of the Albanian Alps to the sparkling shores of the Riviera.
Got 10 days in Albania? That’s a solid Goldilocks zone – not too much, not too little, just right.
But what if you only have 5-7 days for a road trip in Albania? You can still have a grand adventure, but it’ll be more of a whirlwind tour. You’ll have to be picky about what to see, and every day will be action-packed.
A little warning: Sometimes you would expect a short drive after seeing the travel distance – but most of the time, even short distances will take quite a long time to drive because of the road conditions and the speed limits. Thus, each extra day in Albania can be helpful to explore the country.
BEST TIME TO DO AN ALBANIAN ROAD TRIP
Picking the best time for an Albanian road trip is like selecting the ripest watermelon – you’ve got to consider the season, the crowd, and your taste.
Late spring is a fantastic choice when the wildflowers are just showing off and the landscape looks like it’s been dipped in a vibrant palette of colors.
On the other hand, early fall offers a fiery display of colors as the leaves put on their best autumnal fashion show. The weather cools down to that perfect ‘not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket’ temperature.
Summer, while beautiful, can get as busy as a beehive at honey-making time. Albania, the ‘hidden gem’, isn’t quite as hidden as it used to be. You’ll find a surge of eager explorers, especially along the beautiful beaches of the Albanian Riviera.
And let’s not forget, Albanian roads aren’t exactly the 8-lane superhighways you might be used to. They can be as narrow as a tightrope and as twisty as a pretzel, making summer road trips an adventure that’s part excitement, part traffic-dodging ballet.
So, take your pick – the blooming allure of spring, the serene charm of fall, or the bustling vibrancy of summer. Each season offers its own unique spin on the Albanian road trip adventure. Just remember to pack your sense of humor, your patience, and a map that’s more reliable than a breadcrumb trail!
TIP: I think, fall is the best time for a road trip. Why? Look at the colors of my pictures – does not the fall foliage look incredible?!?
TOP 10 TIPS FOR DRIVING IN ALBANIA
- Become a Multitasker: You’ll need to master the art of dodging pedestrians, potholes, and the occasional livestock, all while handling a manual gearbox. You could say it’s like playing a real-life version of Mario Kart!
- GPS – The Holy Grail: Google Maps is your new best friend. Albanian road signs tend to have a mind of their own, often appearing sporadically or, for added fun, not at all!
- Patience, Padawan: Albanian drivers have transformed overtaking into an extreme sport. If you find yourself being overtaken in a seemingly impossible situation, just take a deep breath and remember – patience is a virtue.
- Horn Symphony: Get comfortable with your horn. In Albania, it’s a versatile tool used for saying hello, showing annoyance, or alerting goats of your arrival. It’s pretty much the Swiss Army knife of car parts.
- Parallel Universe Parking: Don’t be surprised if you see cars parked in the middle of the road. It’s like a quirky alternate universe where parking rules are mere suggestions.
- Roundabout Roulette: Roundabouts can feel like a chaotic ballet where right-of-way rules are open to interpretation. Remember, confidence is key!
- Fuel Station Fiesta: Albania’s fuel stations are like mini resorts. You can fill up the tank, and grab a coffee. Talk about one-stop shopping!
- Speed Limit Lottery: Speed limits in Albania can change faster than a chameleon on a rainbow. Keep a sharp eye out for those elusive speed limit signs.
- Bumpy Ride: Road conditions can vary from smooth highways to moon-like craters. Consider it a free Albanian massage. You’ll arrive at your destination more relaxed… or more tense. It’s a surprise!
- Everything Takes Longer: So, you’ve got your map out and you’re feeling smug because it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump (or 100km) from Point A to B? Well, hold onto your steering wheel, road warrior, because in Albania that “quick drive” could take you 2-3or even 4 hours. So, factor in some ‘Albanian time’ into your plans – the road conditions, speed limits, and speed bumps are indeed a challenge!
WHAT ARE THE ROADS IN ALBANIA LIKE?
Road conditions in Albania can be quite diverse and, at times, challenging. Here’s a brief overview:
- Major Cities and Highways: The roads in major cities like Tirana, Durrës, and Vlorë, as well as main highways, are generally in good condition, offering smooth drives. The A1 and A2 motorways, for example, are modern and well-maintained.
- Rural Roads: As you venture off the beaten path into rural areas, expect road conditions to be less consistent. Some roads may be narrow, poorly lit, and lack clear signage. You might encounter potholes, gravel paths, or roads that are not fully paved.
- Mountain Roads: If your journey takes you to mountainous regions, such as the Albanian Alps, be prepared for steep, winding roads that can be particularly challenging, especially in poor weather conditions. Winter driving in these regions can be treacherous due to snow and ice.
- Construction: Road infrastructure is continually improving in Albania, so you may encounter construction zones and roadworks. These can cause temporary disruptions and detours.
- Traffic: Traffic congestion can be an issue, especially in major cities during peak hours. Also, drivers in Albania are known for their aggressive driving habits, which can include abrupt lane changes and ignoring traffic regulations.
Remember to drive defensively and always be aware of your surroundings. It’s also recommended to have a reliable map or GPS, as road signage can sometimes be lacking or confusing. And, of course, make sure your vehicle is well-suited to the types of roads you’ll be driving on.
ARE THERE PETROL STATIONS IN ALBANIA?
Albania has petrol stations aplenty, popping up as frequently as mushrooms after a rain shower. You’ll find them not just in cities, but also dot rural landscapes, and sometimes in the most unexpected places.
They’re like roadside oases where you can quench your car’s thirst, grab a coffee, and occasionally buy your dinner.
Remember, prices may vary, but they’re usually displayed as prominently as a peacock’s tail feathers. Don’t expect self-service though; an attendant will typically do the honors. They might not fill your car with pixie dust, but your tank will definitely be full!
HOW EXPENSIVE IS PETROL IN ALBANIA
Petrol prices in Albania do like to play a game of hopscotch, bouncing up and down the price range. So, keep an eye out for those figures on the pump – they’re more unpredictable than a soap opera plot twist!
1 liter of gas is about 1.89 €, and 1 liter of Diesel is about 1,9 € as well. However, prices fluctuate and most likely might not be the same on the day of your visit.
ARE THERE TOLLS IN ALBANIA?
In Albania, the open road is your oyster and it’s mostly free, with one teeny tiny pearl of an exception.
The A1 Rruga e Kombit motorway, a stretch of asphalt that gallantly spans west from the Kosovo border towards the buzzing capital, Tirana, does have a bit of a cover charge. This cheeky stretch of asphalt demands a cool 5 Euro for the pleasure of its smooth, well-maintained surface.
This particular road was like a dream come true for me – no speed bumps lurking to shake things up (or at least none that I can remember), no parade of traffic to navigate, and an open road where I could finally shift gears beyond ‘glacial pace’. Honestly, it felt like I had been given the keys to the kingdom – and I absolutely relished it!
Once you’re past this gatekeeper, it’s free sailing all the way. So, enjoy the almost toll-free bliss of Albanian highways, and remember, that 5 € toll is just a drop in the bucket on your grand adventure!
Yes, you can pay in Euro or credit card, but just in case: Have always some Albanian Lek with you.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS ALBANIA?
Your wallet won’t scream in despair every time you dine out. In fact, you can feast like a king on delicious local dishes, and still have change left over for a castle or two! Accommodation costs are as light as a feather, and even the poshest places won’t demand a king’s ransom.
Albania lets you enjoy a royal experience on a court jester’s budget. After all, who said a thrilling road trip adventure had to cost a pot of gold? Not Albania, that’s for sure!
DOES THE ALBANIAN POLICE STOP FOR BRIBES?
Contrary to some thrilling tales of the past, the Albanian police have upped their game and turned a new leaf.
If you’re stopped by the police, it’s probably because you’ve been overzealous with the accelerator or thought stop signs were mere suggestions. So, keep your Lek in your wallet, and your driving within the lines, and you’ll find your Albanian road trip a bribe-free breeze!
From my experience, I navigated the Albanian highways and byways without so much as a glance from the boys in blue.
ALBANIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
Okay, so, this isn’t strictly a blow-by-blow plan for an Albanian road trip. Instead, think of it as an all-you-can-dream buffet of remarkable spots you could add to your epic Albanian road trip adventure.
The perfect place to start your road trip in Tirana. Well, kind of. Let’s kick things off in Tirana… by promptly leaving it! For this itinerary, I suggest you scoop up your rental car at the airport, then hightail it out of the capital.
End your Albanian road trip on a high note in Tirana – a city that’s as vibrant as a box of crayons and steeped in culture, history, and architectural intrigue. Once you’ve handed back the keys to your trusty road trip steed (aka your rental car) at the airport or city center (whichever your contract dictates), you’re free to roam the streets of Tirana.
Nestled amidst the bosom of the Dajti mountains and hills to the east, and a valley with an eye-catching view of the Adriatic Sea to the west, Tirana doesn’t do ‘boring’. Its buildings are a canvas of pastel hues, the streets are an open-air contemporary art gallery, and the murals? They’re like a kaleidoscope that had a party on the walls.
Perched on the edge of town, Bunk’Art 1 is the Cold War bunker that never had to face an actual nuclear showdown. Today, it has traded in its apocalyptic survival plans for a gig as a museum, telling the tale of Albania’s history through a mix of conceptual art, preserved rooms, and sound effects. Luckily, gone are the days of the communist regime that turned the country into hell.
Consider this communism history tour that includes a journey through several museums and landmarks. It’s like a time machine, only without the risk of altering the space-time continuum. So, you can safely leave your ‘Back to the Future’ concerns at the door!
HOW MUCH TIME FOR TIRANA? I guess, depending on how long you will stay in Albania in total, 1-2 days should be enough to see the best places Tirana has to offer.
WHERE TO STAY IN TIRANA
Get ready for a real treat in Albania – Berat! Smack-dab in the middle of the country, this place is like a box of chocolates for the eyes. It’s got buildings that’ll make your jaw drop, nature scenes that look like they’ve jumped out of a postcard, full of history and a culture so lively, that you might just find yourself doing the traditional Albanian dance.
Berat is known as “The Town of a Thousand Windows“. The town is littered with charming sandstone houses flaunting antique windows, all cozied up on a hilltop and giving everyone below some serious house envy.
Berat Castle, the town’s celebrity landmark, is an old-timer with a backstory that goes all the way back to the fourth century. It’s like a historical smorgasbord with its mix of Byzantine churches and ruins from days of yore. And because it’s perched on a hill, the view from up there is so good it could make an eagle jealous.
Don’t miss a romantic stroll by the Osumi River, where you can admire the city’s good looks, and check out Dimal, a site that’s been kicking it since 200 BC.
If museums are your thing, the National Ethnographic Museum is a must-see. Housed in an 18th-century building, it’s like a time machine showcasing how life has evolved in Berat. But remember, time is a luxury in Berat, so choose your adventures wisely!
WHERE TO STAY IN BERAT
BLUE EYES /SYRI I KALTER
Syri I Kalter is a dazzling blue hole in the heart of Albania’s Delvinë District, so deep it might just reach the other side of the world.
Tourists flock from all corners of the globe just for a peek at this blue-eyed beauty, a unique spring that wears a deep sapphire hole under a soothing turquoise blanket – it’s like the Earth’s got its own jewel.
The daredevils among us have plunged a staggering 50 meters down into this water wonder, but nobody really knows how far it goes.
It’s gorgeous, for sure, but it won’t get upset if you miss it on your whirlwind Albania tour, especially if you’re sticking around for less than 10 days or you’ve got your heart set on the north.
P.S. There is another “Blue Eyes” in the north of the country even more stunning – in my humble opinion.
BUTRINT NATIONAL PARK
Butrint National Park is a bit like the “class nerd” of Albanian tourist sites. Not only did it become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 (talk about overachieving), but it’s also crammed with more than 3000 years of historical smarts from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian cultures.
The park is pretty much an open-air museum, featuring old-school relics like a Roman theater, a Venetian castle (lacking any gondolas, unfortunately), and a basilica (which was out of holy water on my visit). These antiques have stood the test of time and are in surprisingly good nick for their age.
Situated right next to a postcard-perfect lagoon, the park also doubles as a runway for wildlife – we’re talking wolves, reptiles, otters, and even jackals. Bird lovers might get a little too excited here, as there are countless species flitting about and numerous spots perfect for a bit of bird-spotting.
Journeying through the ancient city will take you about two to three hours – just enough time to squeeze in a beachside picnic or a frolic in the neighboring forests.
In short, Butrint National Park is like a buffet of awesomeness, with something delicious for history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and everyone in between.
Welcome to the Albanian Riviera, where the sand is golden, the water is bluer than a Smurf, and the beach bars are buzzing. It’s like the French Riviera’s less snooty cousin – all the charm but without the price tag or the need to perfect your French accent. It has actually some of the best beaches at the Mediterranean Sea.
Remember, it’s completely normal to experience symptoms of a swooning romantic or an awe-struck poet here.
Dip your toes into the sparkling Ionian Sea at Dhermi Beach, or strut your stuff on the golden sands of Ksamil, an Instagram darling that’s just showing off at this point.
Visit the village of Himara, where you can explore Byzantine churches and then devour fresh seafood like a ravenous seagull. And if you’re into diving, don’t forget your snorkel, because the Albanian Riviera is teeming with vibrant marine life that’s ready to pose for your GoPro.
Night owls, you’re in luck! The Riviera knows how to throw a party. Picture this: moonlit beach parties, dancing under the stars, and cocktails that are more colorful than a parrot convention.
The secret ingredient of the Albanian Riviera? Its people are as warm as the Mediterranean sun. They’ll welcome you with open arms, hearty meals, and stories that could fill an epic novel.
So, pack your sunscreen, your most flattering swimwear, and your sense of adventure.
The drive along the beautiful coastal road is a beautiful experience by itself.
Roll up, roll up, and step right into Gjirokastёr, the city that’s as fun to explore as it is to pronounce. Known as the “City of Stone,” Gjirokastёr will have you feeling like you’re strolling through a giant rock garden, only with a lot more history and less weeding required.
First stop, Gjirokastёr Castle. This beast of a fortress is so old, that it was probably hosting parties when the knights were still young! It offers panoramic views that will make your camera swoon and houses a fascinating museum – with an armory that would make any medieval warlord green with envy.
Wander down the cobbled streets (trickier than a game of hopscotch after a rakia or two) of the old town and marvel at the well-preserved Ottoman houses. Each one is more charming than a basket of kittens!
Don’t miss Skenduli House, where you’ll get a crash course in traditional Albanian living. It’s like stepping into a time machine, only without the risk of altering the space-time continuum.
Gjirokastёr: where history, charm, and good food come together in a delightful dance!
THETH / ALBANIAN ALPS
Ready to fall head over heels for Albania? Buckle up, because you’re about to embark on an adventure to its northern wonderland – so beautiful it might just kick Switzerland down a notch on your bucket list!
Welcome to Theth, a tiny village tucked in the mountainous cradle of the Albanian Alps, the Hollywood A-lister of nature’s ensemble. Its stone houses topped with wooden roofs seem as if they’ve leaped straight out of a storybook.
But it’s not just Theth. Oh no! The entire region is a masterpiece with its own national park boasting waterfalls and hiking trails that are postcard-perfect.
The small but mighty Church of Theth is a must-see too, set against the dramatic backdrop of mountains and a sea of green. In short, northern Albania is a secret too good to keep. Spoiler alert: You’re going to love it!
Driving in the Albanian Alps can be challenging – especially if you are not used to driving narrow and very windy roads. Just take it easy, drive slowly and you should be fine.
THE NORTHERN BLUE EYES / ALBANIAN ALPS
In the northern corner of Albania, there’s a sibling to the Southern Blue Eye, a spring pool that flaunts a magnificent palette of blues – a sight that’ll make your eyeballs do a little jig. However, the Northern Blue Eye knows how to put on a show with its own personal waterfall and a constellation of hiking trails scattered around it.
This beauty is nestled in a postcard-perfect scene with jagged mountain crowns and a deep river valley hugging it from all sides. The stunning landscapes, wildlife, and avian rendezvous make this a haven for nature junkies.
Now, if you’re wondering where this paradise is, it’s just a leisurely four-mile trek from Theth Village. Just follow the trail and let it lead you to the spring’s doorstep. If you’re feeling especially adventurous and immune to cold, you can even take a dip into the breathtakingly chilly waters. It’s like taking a swim in a sapphire!
TIP: You can also drive quite close to the Blue Eye and then you have to do a 45-minute uphill hike to get to this Albanian gem.
VALBONA VALLEY / ALBANIAN ALPS
Valbona Valley, nestled in the Albanian Alps, was my favorite place in Albania! Why, you ask? Well, it’s only one of the greatest natural showstoppers Albania’s got up its sleeve.
The Valbona National Park here is spreading its arms over a whopping 8,000 ha of awesomeness, laced with 200 km of hiking trails.
As you ascend towards the valley, you’ll encounter the striking Shoshani Canyon, a place that should be on every Instagrammer’s bucket list. Keep on trucking and you’ll reach Dragobia Village, which stands like a bouncer outside the VIP lounge of Valbona Village. Here, the landscape turns into a runway with the road strutting right through the middle, guesthouses posing as fashion boutiques on both sides.
The grand finale of this show is Rragami i Shales village, perched high and proud by the stony riverbed, marking the start of the famed Valbona – Thethi trail. Now, the term “Valbona” is Italian for “the Good Valley”, and boy, do they hit the nail right on the head with that one!
This district is like the popular kid in school, sharing borders with Kosovo and Montenegro, and hanging out with Thethi National Park.
In short, if Valbona Valley isn’t on your travel list yet, you’re definitely missing out on some major fun!
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the gem of northern Albania, Komani Lake, the artificial reservoir that’s pretending it’s the real deal. Cradled by hills dressed up in dense forests, this picture-perfect lake serves up mesmerizing shades of blue and green that’d make a peacock jealous.
It’s like Disneyworld for wildlife – you might spot a variety of birds and critters here, making it a hotspot for feathered-friend followers.
For a VIP tour, hop on the ferry (you can bring your car along for an extra fee) for a magical mystery tour along the winding Drin River.
Picture this: 43 miles of emerald waters snaking through the mighty Albanian Alps, with canyons so vertical they’d give acrophobics a run for their money.
This exhilarating ferry cruise between the cities of Koman and Fierze is a daily affair, weather gods permitting. Just check the schedule before you pack your sailor hat. Komani Lake: it’s Mother Nature’s favorite child and soon to be yours too!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THIS ALBANIA ROAD TRIP
Your grand tour of Albania, the hidden gem of the Balkans, all wrapped up like the last slice of byrek at a family gathering. From the dizzying heights of the Albanian Alps to the sparkling sands of the Riviera, you’ve seen it all, driven it all, and probably eaten it all too.
You’ve navigated roads that twist and turn more than a mystery novel, faced off with sheep traffic jams, and discovered that Albanian petrol stations are as elusive as a decent Wi-Fi signal in the mountains. You’ve been charmed by the hospitality, dazzled by the scenery, and filled to the brim with delicious local dishes.
But remember, Albania isn’t just a place, it’s a state of mind. A place where the unexpected is the norm, where every corner hides a new adventure, and where the phrase ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’ takes on a whole new meaning.
So as you bid goodbye to this unique country, remember to take a piece of Albania with you. Not literally, of course. Souvenirs are available in the gift shop, not from the historic sites! Safe travels, road warriors, and until the next adventure!