Albania rises from the mist of history and mythology, a fascinating spectacle where the past, present, and future mix in a perfect fusion. Albania is nestled between the dazzling Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
Albania provides a compelling story of resiliency, a rich cultural tapestry weaved through the millennia, and a future formed of lofty ambitions and unwavering drive. Albania is both mysterious and hospitable.
Berat Castle is an impressive fortress overlooking the city of Berat, also known as the "City of a Thousand Windows" due to its unique Ottoman-era architecture. Inside the castle walls, you'll find dwelling houses and the Onufri Museum, which houses remarkable icons.
How to get there: Berat is located about 120 km south of Tirana, the capital. You can reach Berat by bus or taxi from Tirana, which takes about 2-3 hours.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, Gjirokastër is a well-preserved Ottoman-era town. Its stone houses and the grand Gjirokastër Fortress are among the main attractions.
How to get there: Gjirokastër is about 230 km south of Tirana. Several buses run daily from Tirana to Gjirokastër, the journey usually takes around 4 hours.
Please always check the local travel advisories and follow the recommended precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Currency and Payments
Albania is an emerging gem in the heart of Europe with stunning landscapes, warm hospitality, and fascinating history. For starters, the official currency is the Albanian Lek, and while credit cards are accepted in most urban areas, carrying cash is necessary for smaller towns and rural regions.
Public transportation in Albania can be a bit challenging. Buses and minibuses (furgons) are common but do not have set schedules. You may find renting a car more convenient for travel. Note that driving in Albania can be adventurous due to local driving customs and conditions of some roads.
The language is Albanian, but English, Italian, and Greek are also widely spoken, especially among younger generations. However, having a translation app could still be beneficial.
Food and Dining
When it comes to food, Albania offers a diverse, Mediterranean-influenced cuisine. It's generally safe to eat at local restaurants and cafes, but it's always good practice to check the cleanliness of the establishment.
In general, Albania is considered safe for travelers and has a relatively low crime rate. However, like anywhere else, some areas are safer than others. Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid isolated areas, particularly at night. Petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur in busy areas and on public transportation, so always keep an eye on your belongings.
When driving, be cautious and stay alert. Road conditions can vary greatly, with rural areas sometimes having poorly maintained roads. Traffic laws are not always adhered to strictly by locals, and road signage can be lacking.
No specific vaccinations are required for Albania, but it's recommended to be up-to-date on routine vaccines such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and flu. Check with your healthcare provider before you travel. Tap water is not always safe to drink in Albania, so it's often recommended to drink bottled water. As for food, as long as it's properly cooked and served hot, it's generally safe to eat.
In case of a medical emergency, dial 112 for immediate assistance. Note that while medical facilities in larger cities are improving, those in rural areas can be below standard. Therefore, ensure you have travel insurance that covers health care and medical evacuation.
If you're a fan of ancient history, don't miss a trip to the UNESCO-listed site of Butrint, where you can explore Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian ruins in a single visit. You can also take a trip to the beautiful Albanian Riviera, known for its unspoiled beaches and clear, blue waters. And: If you're driving in Albania, take note that local drivers often flash their headlights to signal that they do not intend to stop, contrary to the typical practice of yielding the right of way.