Albania travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN ALBANIA


Olly Pemberton, from our supplier Exodus, shares his Albania travel tips:

Celebrating Albanian culture


“The passion’s evident from all our guides. All of them are really passionate people and they’re so concerned about people leaving Albania and not having the best time of their life. They really want people to realise how great it is. So they’ll go overboard talking about the history and taking them to places that visitors wouldn’t normally go to. Albanians wear these white felt hats, and in the rural areas people wear more traditional dress, you see it every now and again. They like to cling onto their culture – and quite rightly so. No one’s been able to see their culture for so long, and they’re not about to change it any time soon just to cater for tourists. The fact that you’re still in Europe and you’ve got so much culture and tradition is always quite nice to see. They’re very proud of it, and so they should be.”

Accommodation tips


Olly Pemberton, from our supplier Exodus, shares his Albania travel tips: “We stay in three star hotels and in guesthouses, which are comfortable, just a little more basic. But what you lack in comfort you make up for in experience and the unbelievable hospitality that you just don’t get in the hotels. The hotels are actually very nice, they are three stars but I’d say they’re actually a bit more. Tourism has only arrived in the last 10-15 years, so all the hotels are brand new and you don’t have anything that’s really ramshackle.”

Meeting the locals


“On our snowshoeing and trekking tours, we have a farmer with us who takes us through the mountains. We have a local guide as well who translates, but people love having the local guy who is telling the stories because you’re really getting an experience of the culture firsthand. He’s telling you stories about life during the winter, during the summer, what it’s like living up in this area... Our guests love the feeling of being taken through the area by a local guy who genuinely lives here. They really liked having this wealth of local knowledge, the guide is very culturally aware and he makes sure you’re walking though areas where you can interact with the locals – he’s a proud Albanian himself so he’s promoting Albania as much as he can. It definitely gets a thumbs up from me!”

Have the place to yourself


“The best thing is that you have all these places like Butrint that are Greek and Roman cities. Anywhere else – let’s say you had this Roman city in Greece – this place would be absolutely flooded with tourists. But because it’s in Albania, you’ve got nobody there. You’re walking around amphitheatres, temples... It’s like somebody’s shut the gate and allowed you to go in on your own. It’s brilliant – the fact you can spend time there without crowds bothering you.”
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Why cross borders?


Mark Huggins, from our supplier Undiscovered Destinations, shares his advice on the Balkans: “Combining with neighbouring countries like Macedonia and Kosovo is a natural fit and much of the local history and culture is intertwined. Distances are not great and there is much to see including national parks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, wineries and much more.”

HEALTH & SAFETY IN ALBANIA


TRAVEL SAFELY IN ALBANIA

Health


Visit your GP or travel clinic six to eight weeks before departure to ensure you are up to date with all necessary vaccinations.
Take out comprehensive travel insurance including emergency evacuation/repatriation, and ensuring it covers any activities you may be taking part in while on holiday. Medical facilities are poor in Albania, in Tirana and particularly in rural areas.
Tap water in Albania is not safe to drink. To reduce your use of plastic bottles, bring a refillable water bottle and refill from a larger bottle – or invest in a LifeStraw, which safely filters water. Be careful with ice in drinks, and with salads and other food washed in water.
127 is the emergency number in Albania, or (+355) 42222235 – the country code will be needed if calling using a non-Albanian SIM.

Safety


Despite its reputation, Albania is an incredibly safe place for tourists, particularly in Tirana. The crime tends to be gang and feud related – so foreigners are highly unlikely to be affected by this.
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, can still occur, as with anywhere – so do take the usual precautions, especially in the more touristy areas of Saranda and Vlore.
There are still unexploded landmines close to the Kosovo border, so only travel here with an experienced guide and pay attention to warning signs.
Road travel is the greatest danger in Albania. Roads are in poor condition, and outside of the cities they are unlit. Streetlights in cities are often affected by power cuts. Some vehicles may even be driving without lights, many Albanians drive recklessly, and there are potholes and unmarked obstructions. We don’t recommend driving in Albania – travelling with an experienced driver, and in a 4x4, makes for a far more relaxing (and safe!) holiday.
Photo credits: [Celebrating Albanian culture: NH53] [Meeting the locals : godo godaj] [Why cross borders: Klovovi]
Written by Vicki Brown
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