Albania is a relatively small country, so you’d think getting around would be a breeze. And with so much natural beauty and cultural heritage, Albania attracts more and more international visitors these days. But moving about the country can be challenging, especially if you’re used to seamless connections and super-fast roadways.
It takes a bit of planning and some mental adjustment to make the most of your holidays, but we’ve got some important tips to help you navigate your Albanian experience like a pro.
Once in the country, there are no internal domestic flights for city-hopping. Domestic online bus tickets and bookings are not as available as elsewhere; be sure you have WhatsApp, as local companies are much more apt to respond by phone.
There’s no modern railway system within Albania (unless you count the nearly defunct communist-era train that runs 1-2 routes on weekends - rustic, slow, with no windows or toilets). So the main ways to travel through Albania are:
Furgons - Private Mini-Buses
Private Car/Driver Hire
Save yourself some stress, and plan your bus travel Albanian-style, because it’s not easy to purchase advance tickets online. Even if you find an online option, not all routes are available to book online and the links provided are often subject to change.
You’ll find that Albanians take things in their own time; their key phrase is, “Avash, avash” meaning, “slowly, slowly.” And that applies to transport, too.
City buses run throughout most cities, and are quite inexpensive.
When planning a bus trip between cities in Albania, the first thing you’ll want to do is locate the bus station. In the capital city, Tirana, there are 3 separate bus stations for domestic travel, international travel and airport travel.
In other towns, the bus “station” is simply a street corner where buses and private furgons congregate, drivers shouting out destination names.
Happily, your hotel owner (or any local) will know exactly where that spot is, help you get tickets, or direct you accordingly. Bus schedules are variable, and when printed, are not always up-to-date.
Albanian bus fares are cheap, with tickets purchased from the bus or furgon driver, either when boarding or when exiting (follow the locals). You’ll need local currency, the Albanian lek, so have cash handy.
Overall, Albanian buses are very safe. Longer trips offer pit stops, but be sure to bring snacks and water along with you.
Mini-buses (furgons) stop many times along the way to their destination, so if you’re in a hurry or don’t like stops, furgon travel won’t be your best choice.
On the good side, if you’re ever stranded on the road anywhere in Albania, you can flag down a furgon, and they’ll always stop for you!
Helpful drivers and local Albanians will go out of their way to make sure you find the right bus. Even if you get on the wrong bus, someone will help you figure it out.
Have a back-up plan, or allow extra time, until you get used to traveling Albania by bus. Once you get the hang of it, it can be fun!
Albanian furgons don’t have WIFI, air conditioning, or heat, so be prepared to experience the weather. Large buses have AC and an underneath luggage storage section, but you’ll need to store your luggage at the back of a furgon mini-bus.
In light of the quirky buses, you can opt to rent a car in Albania and take to the roads yourself. However, Albania has a lot of unpaved roads and circuitous routes (especially when visiting highland or out-of the-way places), so maps are a must.
Major car rental companies offer online reservations, and you can pick up a car at the airport. Online social media forums offer additional local options for vehicle rental, and some don’t even require a credit card.
The legal age for renting a car is 21 (additional fees for 18-21 age drivers). Legally, an international driving license (IDL) is required to drive a car in Albania, but it depends on the rental company, so ask ahead of time.
Hint: Consider renting a car in March, before the high season starts, for savings of 1/3 the cost in September!
Albanian drivers in the capital city are aggressive by most Western standards, so driving in traffic there is not for the faint-hearted.
Practically, pedestrians don’t necessarily have right-of-way in Albania, so don’t assume that drivers will stop for you (even in a cross-walk) unless you make eye contact.
Drivers on the open road regularly pass on dangerous curves, so always drive defensively.
If you have lots of luggage, or are travelling with others, hiring a private car is fantastic for covering long distances in Albania.
There’s nothing like relaxing in climate-controlled comfort, and letting someone else do the driving. This is especially true as Mercedes is the car of choice in Albania (large SUVs are also available for big groups with bulky gear).
Your all-knowing driver will help haul your luggage, stop along the way as you like, and provide inside tips.
Drivers are also experienced in manoeuvring traffic and roadways, easing you through extremely winding roads (if you’re prone to nausea).
You can plan a multi-stop tour (including to neighbouring countries) with a private driver/translator for a fabulous personalized trip.
The downside: Hiring a driver is much more expensive than taking a bus. But, there may not be a direct bus route to your destination, so sometimes it’s worth it!
Taxis are easy to use in all cities and towns, with taxi apps available and central taxi “stands.”Compared to city buses, taxis are more expensive. You can also book a taxi for a long-distance trip, but a private driver usually provides a more comfortable ride.
City Buses: cities are usually walkable, but city buses around town are approx. €0.40 per trip.
Intercity Bus fares – from €1-9, depending on distance
Rental Car: from €35- €60 per day, (high season, June-October) depending on model, and company. €19-35 off-season, October-May
Taxi: within cities, from base rate of 300ALL (€3) + €3/km) (get estimate before entering taxi
Long distance taxi fares: between €45- €174, 2-6 hour ride
Private Car: varies per driver, example: comfortable car, great driver: approx. €100/2 hour ride.
Maps.me - download maps and read map offline with GPS
Eurocar - rental car in Albania possible over border and return
Local rent Albania - car rentals
Discover Cars Albania - rental car company aggregator
Similar to Uber (there is no Uber in Albania), you can download these apps and reserve and car:
Planning a trip to Albania? Read our other Albania travel guides