Getting Around Albania

Albania’s landscapes are stunning but navigating the country can be challenging for visitors. This guide provides practical tips for getting around via rental car, public bus, minibus, ferry, and more.

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The Ultimate Transportation Guide

With jaw-dropping landscapes around every turn, getting around Albania promises adventure. This guide outlines all your transportation options—the pros, the cons, and insider tips for navigating Albania like a local, whether you travel by car, bus, or ferry.

Rent a Car (Recommended)

Renting a car allows maximum flexibility for hard-to-reach places. Be prepared for adventurous mountain road trips. Though roads can be rough in remote parts, the freedom to chart your course makes it worthwhile.

An International Driving Permit is mandatory. Expect hairy mountain passes where you inch by tractors and fearless locals whizzing around tight bends. Give way and relax into the flow—driving here is not for the faint of heart. Parking in cities ranges from orderly to chaos.

Compare rental car companies as older fleets with high deductibles are common. Automatic cars are available but are limited, so opt for manual transmission models. Expect rates around €25-40 per day. Drivers under 25 may pay daily surcharges. Purchase extra insurance to avoid massive damage fees.

Navigating By Bus and Furgon

For budget travelers relying on public transport, mastering buses and furgons is key to maximizing your time and spending. Affordable yet chaotic, these are how most Albanians travel.

Schedules are loose suggestions—confirm routes and times locally. Departures often shift the day of due to weather, mechanical issues, or the driver’s whims. Patience and adaptability are key.

While buses connect major stops, nimble furgons zip to tucked-away mountain villages on demand. Flag one down for a ride. Payment is cash only upon arrival.

Pro Tip: For return trips, negotiate for furgons to pick you up later. Drivers scout for riders to cover their fuel and make some profit.

Furgons – Albania’s Private Minibuses

For an authentic and affordable experience, hop aboard a furgon. These minibusses zip along major routes and reach tucked-away villages.

Furgons rarely follow schedules. Ask your hotel or a friendly face when the next one departs, or flag one down the roadside. The rides may be bumpy and crowded, but the views and conversations make it worthwhile.

Pro tip: Have some loose change ready to pass your fare to the driver.

Buses

Buses can’t be beaten for inter-city routes like Tirana-Saranda (5 hours) or Shkoder-Tirana (2 hours). While still scrappy, they’re more comfortable than furgons.

Finding Bus Stations

The bus system in Albania can be somewhat informal, with locations changing frequently. Here are some key stations:

Tirana: Buses to the north leave from Rruga e Kavajës. Southern destinations like the coast depart from Komuna e Parisit. Confirm locations locally.

Durres: The station is along the western entrance to the city, primarily serving coastal destinations and Tirana.

Saranda: The open-air station is on Rruga Skenderbeu in the city center, connecting travelers along the Albanian Riviera.

Shkoder: The station is just outside the old town near Hotel Rozafa, reaching Northern Albania and Montenegro.

Costs and Timetables

Prices fluctuate slightly, but popular routes like Tirana-Saranda cost 500-800 Lek (5-8 USD or 4-7 EUR) one-way. Beyond 6 hours, expect 1200-1500 Lek (12-15 USD or 11-14 EUR). Have cash on hand as card payment is rare.

While posted, timetables are suggestions more than hard rules. Confirm your departure 24 hours prior as times frequently shift.

Intercity routes like Tirana-Saranda run 3-4 daily buses, usually at 7:30 am, noon, and late afternoon. Even main hubs have limited night buses, so plan accordingly.

Pro Tip: For rural villages, flag down any passing furgon and negotiate an arrival time for pickup. They’ll happily detour for extra cash.

Guided Tours, Ferries and Flights

Guided Tours

Packaged tours offer easy access to top sites with guides and transport handled. Pick day trips or multi-day journeys, then sit back and enjoy.

Ferries and Ports

Various ferry routes connect Albania to Greece and Italy. These allow you to island-hop on your adventures.

The main international ports include Durres Ferry Terminal, which reaches Italy, Vlore Harbor, offering sailings to Italy and Corfu, and Saranda Port, the closest jumping-off point to Greek island hotspots.

Book tickets for ferry routes online well before travel as seasonal demand means boats fill up quickly, especially during the summer high season between June and September.

Domestic Flights

No flights operate within Albania, but expanded service will connect Tirana and the southern coastal region once Vlore Airport opens, likely in 2024.

As infrastructure ramps up over the next years, more convenient domestic air links will allow visitors to easily combine mountain adventures in Theth and relaxing beach time in Dhërmi or Saranda.

Although I was born in Albania, I've spent my adult life traveling there as a tourist. Being a native who visits frequently, I can give you an insider's view of Europe's best-kept secret.
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