ALBANIA

Eat like a byrek.

WATCH VIDEO: Best Things To See & Do in Tirana, Albania

Albania has an estimated 750,000 bunkers all across the country, they were built by the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha.

JST TRAVEL GUIDES:

Albania is the same time zone as France, which is GMT+1. For example, if it is 2 p.m. in United States EST, it would be 8 p.m. in Albania.

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for tourist or business travel to Albania but need to have a valid passport for at least three months from the date of arrival. Americans can also stay up to ONE YEAR in Albania without applying for a residency permit.

Albania is NOT part of Schengen or European Union. For European citizens, you can enter Albania visa-free for 90 days.

Click here for more visa information.

Albania has one international airport, Nënë Tereza (ITA,) it’s located in Tirana. The route from the airport to city center is approximately 30 minutes by car. There are taxis outside of the airport, the ride should be between 22€‎-25€‎.

If you’re traveling to other cities, either rent a car in Tirana. Or use the bus or fly into other domestic airports in Sarandë, Gjirokastër, and Korçë.

In Tirana, there aren’t metros. You can ride the bus in the city, take the taxi (there’s no Uber in Tirana) or walk since most major landmarks are within walking distance.

From Tirana to other cities, you can either rent a car, take the bus, or fly to other smaller domestic airports.

Albania is safe for female solo travelers, but exercise normal street-smart practices.

Summertime typically averages at 24°C (75°F) while winters are mostly at 7°C (45°F.) But if you’re heading to coastal region too, keep in mind that those cities have similar weather conditions as the Mediterranean.

Albania is spoken throughout the country, though there are two dialects: Tosk in the south and Gheg in the north. English is widely taught in school, so you can get around speaking English, but it’s always helpful to know a few words in Albanian:

Hello = Përshëndetje

Good morning = Miremengjes

Good afternoon/Good evening = Mirembrema

Good night = naten e mire

Goodbye = mirupafshim

No = nr

Please = ju lutem

Thank you = faleminderit

You’re welcome = ju jeni të mirëpritur

I’m sorry = më vjen keq

Excuse me = me falni

I’m sorry = më vjen keq

Do you speak English? = A flisni anglisht

I don’t speak Albanian = Unë nuk flas shqip

In general, Albanians are extremely friendly and hospitable to travelers because the country doesn’t receive as many foreigners as other regions in the Balkans or the Mediterranean.

After 1976’s Cultural Revolution, religious practice was mostly wiped out. Therefore, despite that 70% of Albanians are Muslims, they’re non-practicing and the same for the rest of the Christian population.

Here are some important gestures to remember:

  • Greeting: Shake hands even if it’s seeing each other daily, and shake hands again before saying goodbye.
  • Greeting between friends: A kiss on both cheeks.
  • Indicating YES: Move the head from side to side.
  • Smoking: Although smoking in public places was officially prohibited in 2007, police are too busy smoking themselves to fine anyone else. Ashtrays are prevalent at restaurants and cafés.

Albania uses lek (symbol: L) but some places or drivers also takes Euros.

Tipping! When you’re spending more, 10% is expected. If it’s a smaller bill (less than 10 euros, for example,) then rounding up to the nearest lek is expected.

Albanian and European electrical plugs are the same. It carries two different plug types- types C and E. Plug C has two round pins and Plug E has two round pins and a hole for the socket’s male earthing pin. The standard voltage is a 230V supply voltage and the frequency is 50Hz.

Your converter should look like this: This is a Plug C.

You cannot drink tap water in Albania, so you’ll need to buy water from grocery stores.

Most cafés and restaurants have Wi-Fi available for guests to use, especially in Tirana when café culture is prevalent.

You can buy a SIM card at the Tirana Airport or at these stores: Vodafone, ALB Telecom or One Telecom. The most basic package is 500 Lek (4€‎,) it includes 50 minutes, 50 SMS and 50 MB Internet 3G/4G.

Since the fall of Communism in 1991, local government has made efforts to protect LGBTQIA+ people by banning discrimination. But by law, Albania has yet to legalize same-sex marriage and homophobia persists in the country. So be careful when it comes to PDA. Since Tirana is still on the rise in terms of tourism, there aren’t any official gay-friendly neighborhoods or bars.

Albania is a fantastic choice for slow tourism since it’s yet to be discovered by commercialized markets and it’s incredibly affordable to travel from north to south with longer stays. But here are some organizations that are more eco-friendly, you can reach out to both Ecotour Albania and Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania for more information prior to your trip.

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A TIMELINE OF ALBANIA'S HISTORY

The first traces of human presence in Albania goes back to the Middle  and Upper periods near the village of Xarrë, which is current day Sarandë and Dajti. Both are near modern day capital: Tirana.

PHOTO/FACEBOOK Joe Freund
Prehistoric

During the classical period, the Illyrians were known to have lived in the Western Balkan region.

Antiquity

The Greeks settled along the Illyrian coast while Julius Caesar used modern-day city of Butrint as depot for his military campaign during 1st century BC.

7th century BC

Christianity expanded in Byzantium, shown in today’s Durrës Amphitheatre where the religion was preached to locals.

3rd & 4th Century AD

In 395, Roman Empire split into East and West which designated modern Albania into Byzantine Empire.

Early Middle Ages

Ottoman Empire extended toward West Balkan around 1385.

Ottoman Empire

Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, the National Hero of the Albanians successfully rebelled against the Ottomans for 25 years.

1443

The Albania National Awakening was a period when Albanians strengthened its military resistance. It derived from the culture’s heavy Islamic influence and that residents were scared of losing their Albanian-speaking regions to Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece.

1870s

The Balkan War broke out in Albania to oppose Young Turks, but led to Serbia occupying northern Albania and Greece taking over southern region. Eventually, Ismail Qemali (founding father of modern Albania) proclaimed the independence of Albania on November 28.

1911

On 31 January, Zogu was elected president for a seven-year term. He grew close to Italy’s Benito Mussolini. Zogu governed with military forces, the press was restricted and censored. He remained president of Albania until 1991.

1925

Mussolini’s troops invaded Albania. King Zog, along with his wife and children, fled to Greece then London. Soon after, the Albanian parliament voted out Zog and crowned Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III as the new ruler of Albania.

1939