Albania Tirana

15 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Albania


Last Updated on March 28, 2018.

Albania is one of the most interesting countries I’ve come across in a long time. To say it is unique is not enough and is the place to go if you are looking for a real European adventure.

The seven days that I spent there were full of all kinds of surprises ranging from pleasant to disappointing but combined were ultimately what made it such an exciting country to visit. More than “off the path”, Albania is over the hill and sitting in a mountainous valley of its own. You really never know what you are going to get which should be like music to any modern-day explorers’ ears and why I suggest everyone interested in traveling to less touristed parts of Europe put it at the very top of their list.

1) There are more Albanians outside of Albania than within

If you are doing some traveling through the Balkans, you will probably meet a few Albanians (and see Albanian flags and qeleshes) before you even arrive in Albania. Estimates of the number of Albanians residing abroad are anywhere from 7-10 million, mostly in other Balkan countries (Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece), but there are also a significant amount in Turkey, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States. The number of Albanians actually living inside Albania? Around 3 million.

Albanian Prizren Kosovo

An Albanian and his horse in Prizren, Kosovo

 

2) Albania has an interesting history

In keeping with the aforementioned information, Albania has a pretty interesting history and you would be doing yourself a disservice by not reading up on a bit of it before you go. If not to understand that you are headed to a country that was totally isolated from the rest of the world for the latter half of the 20th Century because of a paranoid android Communist dictator, then to know what people are talking about when they say “Great Albania” because odds are, you are going to hear it mentioned at some point.

National History Museum Tirana Albania

 

3) You are not going to get there by train and you will be lucky if you get there by bus/furgon

Transportation in and around the country was my biggest complaint with Albania. Everything about it was difficult and is the main reason I ended up staying in Tirana the entire time.

First of all, there are no international rail connections to Albania and the national ones are incredibly limited to say the least. Tirana’s train station is an attraction in itself mostly because it’s so hard to believe it actually functions. Does it even function? I still don’t know even after going to have a look for myself.

Train Station Tirana Albania

Tirana Train Station

Buses or furgons (mini buses) are your best bet if you are lucky enough to 1) figure out their schedule and/or 2) find out where to catch them from. The country’s capital doesn’t even have a proper bus station, stops are scattered everywhere, so I was not surprised in the slightest finding a fairly up-to-date bus/furgon schedule that gives departure points like “In front of Bumper Cars” or “Fork in main road to the north” in other cities. Patience is not a virtue in Albania, it is a necessity.

Furgon Tirana Albania

Also be warned that many routes, especially in the south, are suspended during the off-season or when buses aren’t full. I had originally planned on taking a bus from Ohrid, Macedonia to Gjirokastra then making my way up to Tirana but found out only after I had arrived that it would be impossible in November. So it became Tirana or bust.

Tirana Albania

 

4) Just because there is a schedule, doesn’t mean there is a schedule

I wish I was joking above when I said you might find some scheduled bus routes suspended simply because the buses weren’t full but it’s true and I found out the hard way.

Airport Bus Tirana

Suspending a route between say Ohrid and Gjirokastra during the winter? Understandable. Suspending the only bus route from the center of Tirana to the airport because there weren’t enough people an hour and half before my flight? NOT COOL. In fact, grounds for giving even the most relaxed traveler a panic attack.

If money isn’t an object then this won’t be an issue because you can always find a taxi; however, if you are on a tight budget and relying on public transportation to get around, this could be problematic. Catastrophic, even. Thankfully an English-speaking Albanian in shiny high tops saved my day by pulling me into a taxi with the 3 other stranded passengers and we made it just in time at a slightly higher price.

 

5) If you plan to drive around Albania, you are a brave soul

Not that this necessarily affects anything, but you should be aware that only 600 cars existed in Albania prior to 1991 and only Party officials were allowed to drive them. There are definitely countries with worse driving records, but in Albania it’s not only bad drivers that you have to worry about, it’s the actual roads themselves. Even though I heard improvements were being made, many of the ones I saw were in seriously bad condition and not anything you should be going over 40 mph on or navigating after dark.

Albania

 

6) There are some 750,000 concrete bunkers scattered around Albania

Driving through Albania you are probably going to notice quite a few concrete bunkers like the one pictured below. There were over 700,000 of them built during Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship to protect the country from an invasion that never happened so needless to say, many Albanians view them as unpleasant and annoying reminders of the 50 or so years of isolation.

Then there are others who view them as cultural artifacts, business opportunities, blank canvases, and/or resources for steel. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to tour any of the creatively converted bunkers on my first visit like I had wanted. Will just have to save that for the next time…rent one out for a party maybe?

Albania Hoxha concrete bunker

 

7) The Albanian language is an anomaly

Then again I don’t speak Thracian or Illyrian (what are said to be the most closely related), but who does these days? Albanian is an Indo-European language but I could not discern one similarity to anything I’ve heard anywhere else in the world minus a few numbers, “Tuesday” and “Wednesday”.

 

This was bad news for me because picking up some words and phrases in Albanian would have been very useful considering it was the country where I felt I struggled the most only knowing English, Russian and Swedish. If any other language can get you around here, it’s Italian. In line with language (of the body variation), Albanians nod their head “yes” when they mean “no”, and vice versa, though I never had any misunderstandings. Or noticed, for that matter. Still good to know.

 

9) Sometimes Albanians add an extra zero to the end of numbers

Albanians do this sometimes not to be shady but rather out of habit since that is the difference between the “old lek” and “new lek”. For instance, someone might say you owe 1000 lek when they really mean you owe 100 lek.

I found that for the most part that people corrected themselves before they even noticed the shocked expression on my face which is what tells me they don’t do this to try to take advantage of foreigners. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to ask if a price is being quoted in new or old lek if it seems outrageous because getting conned is a possibility in any country.

 

9) Mother Teresa was Albanian

Though she was born in Skopje, spent a great deal of her life in India, and was a citizen of the world, Mama T (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu) was Albanian by blood.

Mother Teresa Tirana Albania

If that doesn’t impress you enough, then maybe you will appreciate some of these other famous peeps of Albanian descent…

John Belushi

 

Jim Belushi

 

Ataturk (maybe)

Ataturk (maybe)

 

10) Tirana is a cool and colorful capital city

I really wasn’t expecting much from Tirana but that’s mostly because I had never really heard much about Tirana. I thought it was going to be concrete and grey like Bucharest, but it’s actually quite green and shockingly colorful. I also found it to be more expensive than Skopje and Pristina, but still cheap compared to western European capitals.

Tirana Albania

Tirana Albania

Tirana Albania

Tirana Albania

Tirana Albania

The green and colorful-ness of the city can be attributed mostly to Edi Rama, the painter turned politician who was mayor of Tirana from 2000-2011. He has been heavily criticized for focusing too much on the appearance of the city rather than its functionality (for example, putting tons of money into painting buildings all colors of the rainbow when electricity and water shortages continue to be a problem), but I think what he did was more beneficial than some people realize. Water and electricity are important, of course, but so are the psychological effects of color and nature.

Tirana Albania

Tirana Albania

 

11) Shopping in Tirana is pretty good

Ok, it’s not Paris or London, but Tirana was definitely the city where I found the best shopping in the region. There are a few big malls (Citypark, QTU, Tirana East Gate) outside of the center, some of which you can catch free shuttles to from just beside the big mosque near Skanderberg Square.

There is also some pretty solid thrift shopping if you are up for that kind of hunt. Rruga e Elbasanit, not far from George W. Bush Street (seriously), or near the “train station” you can find some gypsy markets or makeshift shops selling some legit second-hand items such as handbags, shoes, clothes.

George W Bush Street

 

12) Don’t look both ways before crossing the street in Tirana, look every way

I don’t know what things are like in other Albanian cities, but in Tirana the streets were not a place for the faint of heart. They were like a free for all where cars and buses fly from every direction and would not stop for Mother Teresa herself if she were crossing the street. Eastern Europe and the Balkans are not very pedestrian friendly in general, but Tirana is in a league of its own so keep that in mind and more importantly, BE CAREFUL.

Tirana Albania

 

13) It’s difficult to exchange Macedonian denar there, but not impossible

If you are coming from Macedonia beforehand, I’d recommend spending or exchanging as much of your denars as possible before you get to Albania, or at least Tirana. Could be easier in towns closer to the border.

I was told on multiple occasions that no one would exchange the denars that I had but I finally found one place. It’s sort of opposite the new Orthodox church near Skanderberg Square in the direction of the National History Museum. It’s on the second floor and looks shadier than the other exchange offices.

Also, most places only accept cash.

 

14) One “village” raki equals about three normal ones

Raki, Albania’s national spirit, is like any other rakia/rakija that you may have tasted before if you’ve been in the Balkans or Turkey. It’s essentially moonshine made from grapes and is STRONG.

You can order it in most bars and restaurants, just make sure you pay attention to what kind of bottle it’s being poured from if you want to properly monitor how much you are consuming. If it is coming out of anything other than a bottle that has a printed raki label on it (for example, a plastic water bottle, a suspicious glass jug, or Greek wine bottle), it’s most likely a home-brew that is seriously potent, like three times the strength of one that came from an actual distillery. Learned this one the hard way as well but no photos of that…

Raki Albania Tirana

 

15) Albanian sweets are addictive

Albanian sweets

I really don’t have much else to point out about this except that these “amareta me arra” walnut cookies pictured below are perhaps the most addictive of all. Like DRUGS. And speaking of drugs….

amareta me arra Albanian cookie

 

*BONUS* Albania is one of the largest exporters of cannabis in Europe

I heard about the village of Lazarat before I even got to Albania. Its reputation as the “cannabis capital of Albania” proceeds itself and happens to be found not far from Gjirokastra, where I was originally headed to in the southern part of the country.

 

I don’t know how things stand right now, I’ve read all kinds of reports and heard a mix of things, but Lazarat has been for years a lawless place controlled by drug lords and insurmountable by the Albanian police. It’s definitely not the only spot in the country, just the most publicized, and the reason I think it is something you should know is because drug trafficking is one of the major problems Albania has to work harder on combating if it wants to join the EU. Banning all Albanians from using speedboats in the Adriatic is clearly not enough.

As far as purchasing this crop on the streets for recreational use, I can’t speak from personal experience, but can say I got the sense that it is widely available and pretty popular amongst the younger generation. Stoners, rejoice.

UPDATE: Sorry, stoners…but it appears Lazarat has been burned to the ground. Or has it?

Given that I had only spent a week in Albania and was only in Tirana at the time this was written, it’s hardly comprehensive, but I hope at least a good introduction. If you’ve been to Albania or happen to live there, feel free to make any additions or corrections to this list that you would like in the comment section below.

419 Comments

  • Reply
    ITALIAN/Franca
    March 1, 2013 at 7:32 am

    What an interesting reading! We where in some of the Eastern Europe countries last September and missed Albania, now I wish we went.
    It does sound an interesting place that still has to be discovered by the big tourism industry which is a good enough reason to go, plus those sweets do look pretty tempting :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 1, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      Nice to hear from you, Franca! Thanks! Well if you’re still in Italia, you’re not too far away and you are lucky when you go because a lot of people there speak Italian, much more than English. Seems pretty far off from mass tourism so you’ve got time.

      • Reply
        ITALIAN/Franca
        March 1, 2013 at 7:54 pm

        Ahahaah! I know some of them do, is it maybe to do with the fact that they get the Italian TV? :)
        I’m not in Italy anymore, currently in Laos on my 6th month of traveling.. one day I’ll get there, thanks for the tips ;)

      • Reply
        Aldo
        August 7, 2017 at 2:36 pm

        Going there in 4 days. Cant wait

    • Reply
      Fjolla
      December 4, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      I’m from kösov and you went to one of the big cities Tirane. If you would have went to kosov you would experience what 100% Albanians live like. Edhe haha po Valla shum Te Mira e kan buken shqiptart ❤️❤️

      • Reply
        Larissa
        March 20, 2016 at 12:46 pm

        I live in Kosovo now so definitely getting that experience :)

        • Reply
          KHAKI.ZAMIN
          October 17, 2018 at 12:12 pm

          HI, LARISSA.?

          • Larissa
            October 24, 2018 at 8:06 pm

            HI

      • Reply
        Steven Cucaj
        May 24, 2016 at 9:43 am

        What? Are you saying the Albanians in Kosov are more real than Albanians inside Albania? Are you saying Albanians in Tirana are not 100% Albanian? You don’t make sense.

        • Reply
          Ctravel31
          June 15, 2016 at 10:52 pm

          Calm down, no, he it does not look like he is saying that. read again.

  • Reply
    Shaun
    March 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    I really like the sound of the language! Can’t say I’ve heard anything else like it.

    It can be frustrating when a place lacks the transit infrastructure to explore it more. Almost like you need an extra week-worth of buffer just to get around.

    I tasted raki in Turkey and got the biggest alcohol-shutter (you know, when you take a big shot of booze) I bit my lip! Then I had another…. :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      Haha, that’s the best way to solve that problem!

      You are right about the infrastructure which is why I really wanted to point this out. Not to discourage people from visiting, but so they know to give themselves enough time or plan a flexible itinerary in case they miss a connection or whatever.

      There was one day specifically, my last day, that I was going to do a day trip but I got a late start and everyone warned I’d never find a bus back after dark so it wouldn’t be worth the journey for the 1-2 hours I’d have there. I also didn’t want to take the chances with my flight out the next day, so just didn’t go. If I had a few more days, it wouldn’t have been a problem because if I got stuck, I would have just found a cheap place to stay overnight and come back the next day.

      That is all :)

  • Reply
    Andre
    March 2, 2013 at 11:22 am

    John Belushi is really Albanian??

    I always thought that was a bloody joke from the movie Wag the Dog :D

    Thanks for sharing this great post!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 2, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      My pleasure! Haven’t seen that movie but yep – his parents were Albanian.

      • Reply
        bekim
        October 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm

        his grandparents

        • Reply
          Luna
          January 26, 2015 at 11:44 pm

          His parents, not grandparents.

          • besart
            April 15, 2015 at 9:44 pm

            all of his family were albanians!I am an ALBANIAN <3

    • Reply
      Taulant
      January 9, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Eliza Dushku too, Rita Ora, Ferid Murad(the guy who invented Viagra), Ismail Kadare, Regis Philbin

      • Reply
        Larissa
        January 11, 2014 at 10:06 pm

        Viagra, that’s impressive.

        • Reply
          Lily
          May 29, 2014 at 9:56 am

          I was seosiurly at DefCon 5 until I saw this post.

          • Larissa
            June 12, 2014 at 2:05 am

            LOL, one of the best comments ever. Thank you?

      • Reply
        Ledi Pani
        April 9, 2014 at 6:59 am

        Robert De Niro is part albanian too…

        • Reply
          Weida
          September 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm

          Paul Walker was also part of Albanian..one of his parents was from kosovo

    • Reply
      clifton
      February 22, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Elisa Dushku also is Albanien

    • Reply
      James Hitselberger
      March 1, 2016 at 4:00 am

      Belushi is a corruption of the Albanian surname Beloshmi. Wonderful observations about the country, by the way. Prior to spending time in Albania, I was also curious about this name. As an Arabic speaker, I know the word Balushi to refer to the Baluchi ethnic group which lives in Iran and Pakistan.

      • Reply
        Marin
        March 12, 2016 at 5:55 pm

        I don’t think so. Belushi is a common last name in Albania and it has nothing to do with the Baluchis. It’s actually the name of a fish that is endemic to Lake Ohrid.

      • Reply
        Teuta
        October 17, 2016 at 11:22 pm

        Please check you fact pal, Beloshmi doesn’t exist in Albania. While Belushi is an Albanian surname which as previously mention is also the name of a fish endemic to one of our lakes.

  • Reply
    Ilir
    March 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    This is the best article i read about Albania in a long time.. usually is full of steriotyping claims and bizarre stories which is unfair to people there and the country.

    I’m an Albanian myself and i make sure i visit my country every year from my current residence in UK. I love it!

    Yes, i know that not all i good but you can find problems with any country you visit i guess.. However, on thing seperate Albania from any other country in Europe – ALBANIA IS NEVER BORING.

    Every summer is like a little aventure for me, i never know when my day starts and when it ends.. One quick suggestion to people wishing to visit Albania; You can make many plans in advance, but Albania will dominate your plan and yourself.

    In Albania everything changes so rapidly during the day that is not unusual to find your plans out of control. :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Well said and great suggestion! You will have a much better time if you just go where the Albanian wind takes you :)

      Thanks for the compliment, glad you enjoyed the post!

      • Reply
        Hermes
        September 25, 2014 at 5:06 pm

        A je shqiptare ti. Are you albanian

        • Reply
          Larissa
          November 11, 2014 at 6:56 pm

          No

  • Reply
    Stephen S.
    March 3, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. Parting in a bunker would be amazing :).

    Can’t believe the Belushi Boys are from Albania.

    Going to have to check out this country soon.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Great, glad to hear that! Partying in a bunker with the Belushi brothers would be even more amazing, but sadly impossible.

      Go, go, go – Albania is waiting for you!

      • Reply
        marjus
        June 6, 2015 at 10:46 pm

        why not in albania

    • Reply
      Valerie
      June 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      don’t do it, believe me don’t,

      • Reply
        Larissa
        June 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm

        I don’t agree. Did it (obviously) and enjoyed myself.

  • Reply
    Elena
    March 4, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    I would like to thank you for the post. It was fun to read. Albania is a very unusual country, indeed! I has become my second home three years ago. I still keep discovering new and amazing places to visit!

    People are great here, I must say. They are very friendly and helpful, especially when they find out that you are a foreigner. When I first came to Tirana airport, my husband’s whole family (and by family I mean his parents, and all his aunts and unsles:)) came from Berat (2,5 hours away) to meet me there.

    The language is extremely difficult. I am still having trouble speaking it.

    The traffic drives you crazy, that is for sure! Driving in Albania, is like playing a game with obstacles: people jumping at you from everywhere, cars coming at you on one-way streets, policemen regulating traffic that confuse everyone! Big chaos it is:)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      You’re very welcome, really happy to hear you enjoyed it. Big chaos, but as it was already mentioned here, that is one of the things that certainly keeps it from ever becoming boring :)

      All of the Albanians I met were incredibly hospitable and going out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and enjoying my time in their country. Very open as well.

      Cool that it has become your second home, it will be interesting to see how it changes/if it changes in the coming years!

    • Reply
      Korab
      March 13, 2015 at 1:34 am

      I live in Kosovo, we are also albanian and I had an Indian neighbor who knew chinese and I heard him actually complain that trying to learn Albanian is more difficult than chinese! I agree, after those shocking news I also believe it is one of the most difficult languages, and the woman on the video did not use the formal language in most cases. There are more than 40 albanian dialects in Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece, I once even all coming from the two main Branches the Gheg and Tosk. Once I even asked a Montenegrin Albanian if he knows english because our dialects were so different. And also, the grammar of the language is impossible, I’m studying currently in Hungary, and while studying the language whenever I come to a grammatical or phonetic rule which does not seem logical to me I remember my own language and shut up before I think about complaining haha. So you can basically say that the Albanian language is as chaotic as the traffic! :)

      • Reply
        Larissa
        April 3, 2015 at 1:24 am

        Yeah, this was written quite a while ago and after spending more time in both Kosovo and Albania – I couldn’t agree more! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who finds it impossible and whether or not the woman on the video is using the formal language or which dialect, doesn’t really matter. It was more just to make the point that yeah, Albanian is complicated as hell (but beautiful) :)

        • Reply
          era
          July 21, 2016 at 11:25 am

          I guess all u guys are saying are true.Living in albania is very difficle…but u ll enjoy cause is like misyery…

  • Reply
    Mihai
    March 5, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Speaking of strange languages, seems the Albanian and Romanian languages share about 100 words. Could be the common thracian root or something, or some unknown migration of people from one place to the other (there are some theories but…).

    Seems their dictator was even craziest than our own Ceausescu. BTW, Bucharest is NOT ALL grey :). We do have lots of green spaces, lakes/parks crossing the city, neigbourhoods with 100+ years old villas. Just need to know where to find them.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 5, 2013 at 3:01 am

      True but honestly Romanian sounded much different to my ears, even if there are some similar words ~ more Italian. And speaking of Italian, from what I understand some Romanians are quite good at speaking that language as well so seems like you’d have an easier time getting by without Albanian.

      As for which dictator was crazier, definitely debateable, though not one that I want to be involved in :) I really need to revisit Bucharest… I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere but when I went it was October and raining nearly the entire time I was there. Not a great first impression but I’m sure if I went back during spring or summer and hung with the right people, I would discover this whole other beautiful side because I know it exists. Hopefully soon!

      • Reply
        Korab
        March 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

        I would say the Albanian Dictator was much more crazier, the albanians suffered more from him than the North Koreans do today. He left the population to starve in order to build 700K bunkers for a 2.5 million population during that time and have the largest chemical firepower in the whole Balkans. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to hear about the news of a whole village being destroyed by an explosive chain reaction more than 5 years ago because of more than 300 tonnes of forgotten explosives were triggered which were installed during the time of communism. There are also several other accidents but not so great as this one (Check the tragedy of Gerdec), also, in total more than 1200 tonnes of chemical firepower were eliminated found only during the last decade since the time of communism which ended less than 30 years ago.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          April 3, 2015 at 1:26 am

          Wow, I knew about the bunkers and the ridiculous amount of money spent on them, but not the chemical firepower part. Very tragic.

      • Reply
        Unsetledsoul
        November 6, 2015 at 11:36 pm

        Romanian is a Latin language (their ancestors were assimilated by Romans), no surprise that is close to Italian. Albanian is one of those singular languages not associated with any other one, like Greek, Hebrew and Armenian. As the language of a population always under occupation has borrow a lot of words, from Italian, Greek and Turkish.
        As someone that traveled most of Europe in late 80’s I can say for sure there is no other hard drink better than our raki. The Turkish or the Mideastern arak is made of everything but grapes, same with Greek tsipuro and Sljivovica Serbe is made of prunes.
        I left my country 25 years ago and can notice changes almost every time I go there. The coast line has nice similarities with Croatian coast line, the northern part has plenty of similarities with Alps and south east is like the inland part of Greece all this in a place smaller than Rod Island. I always rent a car from my old time friends so traveling inland never been difficult. Enjoy till becomes another Greece or south Italy like.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          November 10, 2015 at 1:27 pm

          That raki is trouble ;) And definitely – won’t be too long before it blends with its neighbor to the south and west.

          • ShqiperiEtnike
            December 15, 2015 at 1:03 am

            I cant agree with you on that one. It unfortunately will be long journey for us to become like our neighbors :(

    • Reply
      Rocco
      February 27, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Actually is more than few similar words between Albanian and Romanian language.Albanians are Illyrian origin and Romanians are Dacian,so going back they have the same roots together with the Trachians. I study Albanian language and I can tell you I understand at least 70% of the Romanian words. Pellasgian language is the main root ,Illyrian and Dacian still leave unfortunately Thracian language doesn’t exist anymore because they adopted Slavic language.

      • Reply
        Larissa
        March 20, 2016 at 11:28 am

        Interesting. I am just starting to come around to Albanian after years of being convinced I would never be able to understand a word of it – living in Kosovo has changed that. Will have to pay more attention next time I am in Romania to see if I can understand or at least recognize a similarity in the languages.

  • Reply
    Jeremy Branham
    March 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Wow, this is great information. Best I’ve read on Albania. I have a fascination with Eastern Europe and love learning about the culture and history. Albania is quite an interesting place. Seems like it is still VERY local and that the tourism aspect could use some improvement. Still a place I would like to visit but it doesn’t seem like an easy place to explore practically.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      Thank you, that’s a great compliment! And “local” is such a wonderful adjective to describe Albania. It would be a far stretch to call Tirana a cosmopolitan capital which kind of makes the entire country feel like a village, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. If it seems like the tourism aspect could use some improvement that’s because it desperately does but then again, I for one would certainly not find it as interesting to travel around. If I wanted practical, I’d just stay in Scandinavia :)

  • Reply
    Tenna
    April 4, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Tung!

    Me an my husband went to Albania in 2009. We went by plane from Amsterdam, we are Dutch, and we rented a car and drove around in the south part of Albania. The hotels are still cheap and very nice. We booked the hotels in front ( my husband did not know what to expect) so I booked the hotels in front so we did not spend a lot of time searching for a hotel. Every night we had another hotel. As the south part of the Albanian also speak Greek, it was easier for me to communicate as I also speak Greek. We went around to Durres, Vlora, a place south at the beach, after that Saranda, up to Gjirokaster, up to Berat, back to Durres nd from there back on the plane. It was just one week, but such a great time we had there. If you like nice beaches and vieuws, and. Some culture we recommend the south part of Albania! I have to because I did not went to the north part, lol.
    It takes some more mails to tell all about our adventures, but I also fell in love with this country. Its time to ga again!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Tung! Yes, I need to go as again too as I completely missed out on all those wonderful places in the south. Sounds like you had a really nice time and great that you survived driving yourselves around in a car. You and your husband are brave (or maybe I am just a wimp) :)

  • Reply
    OCDemon
    April 6, 2013 at 4:34 am

    I had a great time there, and it had a lot to do with how unrelated to the rest of Europe it is. You might as well be wandering around of the ‘stans. Friendly people, colorful buildings, good food at great prices, and no one bothers to visit. Just what I go for.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      I would love to wander around the ‘stans. Very true – not many people bother to visit and the ones that do are usually the more interesting variation rather than irritating. Just what I go for!

      • Reply
        Genti
        November 11, 2015 at 12:04 am

        Hi Larissa. I can see that you replay to everybody who writes in here. Im just wondering, don’t you have better things to do than becoming an ambassador for the Albanian people and culture? Nobody wants to hear your opinion neither me because you never been there and know nothing about Albania. Without experience you becoming a foul by telling people what to do and what not. This is my opinion and I hope I’m not wrong. Just have fun in Laos.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          November 12, 2015 at 11:15 am

          I have way too many better things to doing, especially above responding to ignorant people like you, but I enjoy the interaction and I think the discussions that come from the comment section can be just as informative as the posts themselves. Please have a read again and then maybe search for some of my other posts under “ALBANIA”, and you might realize I’ve been to that country more times than I can count at this point. Have fun on Mars or whatever other planet you happen to be trolling from.

          • Melissa
            May 26, 2016 at 7:25 pm

            Not ever sure where to jump into the conversation but really dislike someone getting on another person’s back for sharing their experience. Returned home a week ago after a trip that included Albania and Macedonia. Had done a bit of research and decided to rent a car for a week. We were actually very surprised how good the main roads were. A very different story within towns and cities. Follow the locals, they are quite adept at avoiding the potholes! Following street signs can be difficult as they change names frequently. Best to just try and stay on what seems to be a main road heading in the general direction that you want to go. We did not find the country to be anywhere near as dirty or garbage filled as we had read about. Maybe the time of year? It is truly a beautiful country with incredibly helpful and friendly locals. Many spoke excellent English, I agree Albanian is a very difficult language. I was as lost as I was in Hungary. I have studied Russian so Macedonian was much more familiar. Could give countless examples of kindness from strangers including locals in Berat getting us to the hospital when my husband thought he was having a heart attack ( he is fine!). Loved the country, just my opinion.

          • Larissa
            June 3, 2016 at 3:27 pm

            Oh my, glad to hear he is ok! And also that you had such a wonderful experience :) I just drove for the first time through Albania last week and actually it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. You just have to be incredibly cautious and I think it still stands that better to drive as much as possible while there is still daylight. Thanks for sharing – always great to hear when Albania exceeds people’s expectations. I’ve found that more often than not, it does.

        • Reply
          Mary azamar
          May 23, 2017 at 7:22 pm

          I totally agree with this person ..you do respond to all of people messages ..this guy was reading my mind ..don’t take it personal 😁

  • Reply
    Nate
    April 13, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Holy shit.

    I just spent a day trip in Albania.

    It’s not Macedonia, is it?

    Kind of blew my mind, but intrigued me as well…

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 14, 2013 at 9:00 am

      It most certainly is not. Where’d ya go? The south is supposed to be lovely and probably much more going on at this time of year than there was in November.

  • Reply
    Joe
    May 4, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Nice to hear somebody writing positively about Albania. Only thing I disagree on is the transport around the country. The bus stop and pick up points are often on the road heading in the direction they are going. It’s not as simple as western Europe but travelling around Albania isn’t that difficult. Especially from tirana it’s easy. I have spent over 5 months in Albania so do know what I’m talking about :-)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      May 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Albania has a lot of great things to offer! I’m sure it gets easier the longer you are there but for someone just traveling for a few days, it can be quite confusing :)

  • Reply
    Maurice
    May 25, 2013 at 3:03 am

    Great stuff! Fascinating, educational and cool photos. Albania is on my list.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      May 25, 2013 at 10:17 am

      Thank you! Glad to hear that :)

  • Reply
    Florand
    June 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Hello everyone,

    Thank you for this sharing and your comments. I am an albanian living in Tirana.
    Its true we have so many things to improve but we are determined to do it every day step by step.

    Thank you for good words and advices also. I am not engaged in the Tourism Industry but if you wanna know smth about my country, just drop me an Email at albcommercial@gmail.com.

    I will reply as soon as I can.

    Wish you a best holiday in Albania! :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Hello Florand, thanks for the offer! I will definitely be in touch if I want to know more. There is no doubt, I will be back!

    • Reply
      MJT
      July 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      I am traveling to Albania next week !
      thank you for your email address, I will email you tomorrow :)

    • Reply
      Florand
      May 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Hi everybody,

      Thank you for your inquiries regarding Albanian places, roads and directions.
      I got some Emails and I really hope to give some valuable advises for anyone who want to know and visit Albania.

      Keep calm and drive to Albania! :)

      Happy summer!

      • Reply
        Alan
        October 12, 2015 at 4:09 am

        Wow this article seems to be from 2013 and I’ve only come across it today! Interesting!

  • Reply
    Alba
    June 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    It’s nice to see that Albania had this impact to you and every other tourist. I’m Albanian who resides in Albania and I must say I have seen so little from my country. All the observations are true, but I would like to say roads are improving, since February there have been many new ones built or at least finished. I would be glad if more and more tourists visited Albania. I live in Tirana, but am originally from Vlora, and would suggest to see the whole Albania, because Tirana is such a small part of it. Hope you come back and visit more of Albania!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 29, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Tirana was interesting but yes, there is so much more to Albania and I only wish I had a bit more time (and the weather was better) to do so. I will be back.

  • Reply
    sebastiano
    July 17, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Hello Larissa!
    Ive discovered your nice blog about Albania and so first of all i want to say thank you for the nice information.
    im going to spend a week in Albania and I really still dont know what im going to do there.. Im a photographer and actually i love take pictures of people – especially all the tradional stuff like dress and so on.. Do you know if there is a special traditional day in september? I would like also to see some nice rural place :) GREAT would be a typical albania wedding but maybe im asking too much now. Anyway maybe someone is reading here .. who knows
    saluti

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      You’re welcome! If you’re interested in getting shots of people, I’m sure visiting some more traditional villages would be your best bet. Unfortunately I didn’t venture out of Tirana but yes, perhaps someone else reading this out there knows?? Have a nice trip!

    • Reply
      clifton
      February 22, 2015 at 10:50 pm

      March 14 specially in Elbasan

  • Reply
    henrik miti
    July 19, 2013 at 7:45 am

    hello larissa
    im albanian and i live in nyc. i go to albania once every 5 years because the plane is expensive but every time i go it always looks like it gets better. i went last year and there was a lot more paved roads. in the 90s there were mostly dirt roads. if you do go again best way to go to other cities is with a furgon. they usually are not hard to find and they always yell the name of the city they going and they flag you down. closest beach area from tirana is durres(30 min) with furgon. what i like was the cafes which were very cheap and very nice inside. every night went to a different one
    and the south does have the best beaches. i have yet to see most myself. last year i went to this one called himare. i recommend that for anyone. most beautiful beach i ever seen. theres also vlore and Saranda which are very beautiful from what i’ve heard

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Yes, I’ve also heard Vlore and Saranda are quite beautiful. I will have to keep Himare in mind for the next time. Getting between cities by furgon is the cheapest and easiest, but can be quite intimidating to use them if you don’t speak the language at all. Just saying :) I just heard even from when I was there last year some roads have gotten better which is great news. Thanks for your comment!

      • Reply
        clifton
        February 22, 2015 at 10:57 pm

        The most of Albanian speaks English .Specially new generation.

      • Reply
        Veton
        May 7, 2015 at 4:13 pm

        I am Kosovo Albanian ,and I would like to share some information about amazing spots in Albanian, for those people whom like to visit Albanian.

        if you want to visit some beautiful places go to Dhermia, and Saranda, there are two long beaches with a nice view, to these two amazing beaches the youngest people gathering together on the summer and having fun, I suggest everyone who has never been there to go and visit that two amazing places. Also in the summer people usually organised a party, you can really enjoy there. I miss Albanian

        Don’t forget Albanian in generally is Amazing. Cheers.

      • Reply
        James Hitselberger
        March 1, 2016 at 4:17 am

        I especially enjoyed the trains for their long rides and the opportunites to read, study the map, and view the scenery. While I was there it was warm enough tonput down the windows. The first time I took a train, I had a ticket to Vlore and had envisioned for myself a trip beachcombing along the southern coast. Alas, I had not understood that I was supposed to transfer at Rrozhgine (spelling is perhaps wrong here). I began to become alarmed at the long passage through mountains and when I arrived at Elbasan I knew from my map that I had arrived way inland. I went as far as Librazhd and instead decided to make that my home for three months. The coast remains for another trip.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          March 20, 2016 at 11:23 am

          Sounds like you’ve had some pretty interesting experiences in this part of the world and what an experience it must have been to call that place home for three months (have never been, just to Elbasan). Thanks for you comments and hope you get to make that coastal trip someday.

  • Reply
    rickyrick
    July 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Larissa
    I’m Albanian myself .Your description about Albania is likeable ,but comes short compared to your flawless beauty :D :P

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      Thanks, Rickyrick – that’s very sweet of you :)

      • Reply
        alvi kalia
        February 3, 2014 at 11:38 pm

        Larissa I live in Albania!Your description about Albania was amazing!!I am proud that the foreings like our little country and one of them is you!I think you should visit Vlora or Sarand a because are more beautiful than Tirana.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          February 11, 2014 at 2:20 am

          Hi Alvi, that’s such a great compliment to hear so thank you very much. I’ve hear so much about Vlora or Sarand at this point so pretty certain those will be some of the first places I head when I finally get back.

          • alvikalia
            March 5, 2014 at 9:34 pm

            :D

          • Esli
            December 4, 2014 at 1:59 pm

            I live in Vlora ;)

          • Larissa
            December 16, 2014 at 10:02 pm

            Nice. Beautiful place!

  • Reply
    juri
    August 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Larissa,

    I am albanian myself. Your post is pleasurable to read. Something very interesting you say is how patience in Albania is not a virtue rather a necessity, that is very true. I study abroad and return to Vlore every summer and see how things are changing quickly and the country is becoming increasingly more visited.

    It is a little sad you only got to visit tirana, as it does not reflect the whole country. In my opinion what makes the country special is the diversity of opportunities for tourism from high mountains and rivers in the north to clean Mediterranean beaches in the south, as well as a nice mixture of the antique (castles in the country sides) and modern buildings and bars in the cities.

    Also, if you are trying to go cheap, you can find camping tents in the South where you can grill and meet locals as well as be hosted and fed by locals in their homes in the mountains in the north (it is safe and cheap).

    If you are a sports person the opportunities are immense: swimming, hiking, kayaking, beach volleyball, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing (without licence ;)), rafting, kitesurfing, skiing ..a lot. Just for most of them you have to figure out your own equipment. Vlore being one of the sunniest cities in the Mediterranean helps a lot in this sense.

    You’re right, transportation is a bit of problem but from what i’ve seen the travel guides try to give you some useful tips. But you can also find ways to travel to crowded places as well as to places for full privacy by the beach or in the mountains. Bike trips are so much fun, just have to be careful with cars, but it is possible.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 26, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing all of that awesome info, Juri. It is sad I didn’t visit anywhere else except Tirana, but that is just a great reason for me to get back there again soon :) I still noticed the diversity though, just on the drive. It is quite a beautiful country and much more wild than other Balkan places that have developed a bit too much.

    • Reply
      Dyonne Tetangco
      August 24, 2016 at 11:55 pm

      Hi Eni,

      It sounds like you are the person to ask about Albania! My boyfriend, his brother and I will be traveling from Athens, Greece to Albania on October 10, 2016. We are not quite sure what the best way to get there. We are going to Athens, then Mykonos, then Naxos, then Crete. We are planning on going back to Athens to go to Albania (but will also explore the possibility of flying out of Crete to Albania).

      We would love to hike the Samaria Gorge, which may be quite a trek. I read Larissa’s wonderful blog, but I would like to know if we would have a hard time getting to Chania in October to visit Samaria Gorge.

      I hope to hear from you, as I can’t seem to find an Albanian to talk to (I’m from California).

      Smiles,
      Dyonne

  • Reply
    Inna
    August 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Albania is wounderful,colourful,beautiful mediterranenan people,full of places to visit,full of night clubs,,,it is not a routine! you can add this:

    Albanian language is among the oldest languages in the world! and Albanian Riviera is magical! The beaches are fantastic…Drymades beach,Dhermi,Vlora,Saranda,Ksamil,Velipoja etcccc …..i LOVE spending my vacations in Albania!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 20, 2013 at 2:17 am

      Yes, I need to check out these beaches already! Thanks for the list

  • Reply
    Bama
    August 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Look everywhere to cross the street? Got it. As someone who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia it’s not uncommon to do that when I cross the streets. So I think I’ll survive Albania. :) Anyway, I love your descriptions of the country. It gives me a clearer picture for my consideration whether or not to visit Albania in the future.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 20, 2013 at 2:18 am

      Haha, I can only imagine Jakarta streets :) Glad you found the post useful and I hope you will indeed visit someday.

      • Reply
        olivia
        November 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

        Just a random question… I am from indonesia and my friends dad is albanian and barely speaks any english.. I would love fro him to learn more about my country… are there any albanian books about indonesia at all?? thanks ^_^

        • Reply
          Larissa
          November 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm

          Hi Olivia, I’m sure there are but no idea where to get your hands on one except maybe in Albania? Not sure if there is anything that can be ordered online… maybe he can search for information on Google.

        • Reply
          ShqiperiEtnike
          December 16, 2015 at 11:42 pm

          Even though im replying like 2 years late, if you still are interesed about it, im sure you can find them here in Albania but im sure that the best way for your dad to learn more about indonesia is having him tell you more about his childhood and albania, that way youll make him feel proud because it has always been a problem for albanians in international relationships that their children dont know albanian or much from its history. This way after learning for yourself itll be easier to help you dad with getting to know indonesia better.
          I doubt ive been of help since im extremely late :(
          Anyway i hope youve already solved this problem :)

  • Reply
    Danielle
    August 18, 2013 at 11:59 am

    So great to hear that you were brave enough visit Albania! I’m an American Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania right now and I have to say that your observations are spot on. I’m glad you enjoyed you time here, and next time you come you’ll have to travel up north to Shkoder and see what it’s like :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 20, 2013 at 2:21 am

      Thank you, always happy to have my observations confirmed as correct :) Shkoder, definitely. Is that where you are living? Must be quite an adventure volunteering there, hope you are enjoying it!

    • Reply
      Dyonne Tetangco
      August 24, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      Hi Danielle,

      It sounds like you are the person to ask about Albania! My boyfriend, his brother and I will be traveling from Athens, Greece to Albania on October 10, 2016. We are not quite sure what the best way to get there. We are going to Athens, then Mykonos, then Naxos, then Crete. We are planning on going back to Athens to go to Albania (but will also explore the possibility of flying out of Crete to Albania).

      We would love to hike the Samaria Gorge, which may be quite a trek. I read Larissa’s wonderful blog, but I would like to know if we would have a hard time getting to Chania in October to visit Samaria Gorge.

      I hope to hear from you, as I can’t seem to find an Albanian to talk to (I’m from California).

      Smiles,
      Dyonne

  • Reply
    Bimi
    August 20, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Tung !! :) Im an albanian from Kosova . I wanted to ask you if you’ve ever been here ! And if yes what do you think about my state !
    -Also here are some facts: Albanian nation includes these territories Albania,Kosova,South Serbia,Western Macedonia,North of Greece
    ( Cameria),and East of Montenegro !
    This was the reall Albanian borders before 1912 ,when Big Powers gave those lands to other balkanic states like Greece,Macedonia,Montenegro and Serbia !
    -Here are some other famous Albanians in the world : Robert de Niro ( he admited himself in Sanremo festival,you can watch it by yourself),Goerge Washington ( His mother was an Albanian from Korca city),Paul Walker (you can see on his official biography) , The Great Alexander ( his mother was Albanian) , and many many others i just cant rememeber now but i have wrote them all in a paper , and im planning to publish it on the internet , but im still researching about the past of some others ! :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      Hi Bimi, yes! I haven’t gotten a post up on it yet but spent about a week there in Pristina and Kosovo. Didn’t know all those people were Albanian! Robert De Niro is surprising as is George Washington.

    • Reply
      ltn
      January 9, 2014 at 12:06 am

      Bimi

      I am a American/Albanian born in NYC and you were mislead by some nationalist who think that everyone is Albanian. Sort of like that guy from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.
      Robert DeNiro is NOT Albanian and neither was George Washington nor was Paul Walker.
      These rumors are actually more like inside jokes used amongst Albanians living abroad. But I agree with everyone that Albania is a nice place to visit.

      ps. you forgot John Travolta.. lolol

      You can google “Famous Albanians” and it will list all of them.

      • Reply
        Larissa
        January 11, 2014 at 10:05 pm

        I will do that. The more famous Albanians I am aware of, the better.

      • Reply
        Geraldina
        February 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm

        ps. advice to those who like to visit Albania: Go during the summer, the beaches are beautiful, however once fall and winter starts, there is not much to do there and most importantly -(the heating system isnt like in USA, you will be cold, lol.)

        • Reply
          Larissa
          February 27, 2014 at 9:12 pm

          Great tip, thank you! November wasn’t too bad. A bit rainy, but managed to stay warm the entire time in Tirana. Got to get to those beaches!

    • Reply
      John
      January 30, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      Great little article about Albania! I’ve also heard about the beautiful beaches in the south. Sure to get there one day!
      Bimi – Btw Alexander the Great’s mother, Olympia, was Greek from Epiros. Also, after WW1 part of Epiros (North west Greece) was taken from Greece. Don’t pass opinions as fact, it is very misleading. Have a nice day!

      • Reply
        Larissa
        February 7, 2015 at 6:52 pm

        Thank you! They are gorgeous, had the pleasure of spending time around them this past summer. Hope you make it!

      • Reply
        Jimmy
        July 15, 2016 at 6:07 am

        Hi John, just like the other comments earlier that make every Famous person originate in Albania is a misleading one the same goes for your comment. not here to comment history or legends but a small correction should be made as it is a blog about Albania. the fact is that Greece occupied lands lived by an entire ethnic Albanian group of people called Cham and region in centuries was inhabited by them till the WWI and WWII when greek nationalists killed and expulsed them from the country just for the fact that they spoke a different language and had a different religion. the second thing is to read old Greek historians and they will give you a better understanding were Hellenic borders were from ancient times (EPIRUS was a barbarian Land not Hellenic) now to get back to the scope of this Blog. there is true that till today this country still has a lot to do to reach the level of infrastructure of the other European nations but the beauty of it stands at the diversity and lack of the infrastructure for those who want to see wild mountains and clean beaches. best time to travel is between may and june and after August when the bulk of tourists are gone and the heat is not at its peak. As anyone is mentioning south is known for the beaches where you can still enjoy them till October. towns with history and worth visiting in the south are Berat, Vlore Sarande Gjirokaster, Permet, Korce, Pogradec. Not easy to do all these in a week. North of Tirana I would recommend Kruje for a day and Lezhe and Shkoder for another. the New Highway “Rruga e Kombit” gets you to Kosove another Albanian Region JOhn who the Northern Serbs tried extermination and did not succeed like the southern Greeks did a century ago. (don’t get me wrong its not hatred against people these are facts and politics of states) as you pass the border to Kosove , Prizreni under the Mount Sharr is a beautiful city which still holds the old Albanian characteristics as well as history, other towns that are a must to visit are Prishtine, and Peje. if you want to go around another former capital of Albanian people in the old times Scopje gets you back on your way to Lake Ohrid and from there you can get your way to Librazhd and Elbasan you can finish the trip in Durres this last section would be a great trip as it will give you an idea what Romans were seeing thousands of years ago when they traveled the same road called Via Egnatia. oh by the way lots of ruins to see in Sarande (Butrinit) and Fier near Vlore (Apollonia) they were built the same way as greek towns John but from tomb exchavation most of the inhabitants do not show similarities with Hellenes actually they were very different which explain these were not Greek people in these areas. Sorry for the long comment Larisa and mixing some politics in it but people should know that some historic facts about the country and Albanian sensitivity to those issues still exist.
        P.S Tung is abbreviation of Tungjatjeta is a long Hello which actually translated word for word means Have a Long Life it is used mostly when you depart but nowadays people are using as a slang of Hi and By.

    • Reply
      James Hitselberger
      March 1, 2016 at 4:26 am

      Everyone keeps writing Tung! i guess that is an abbreviation for Tungush…. I saw that in books, but never heard it down in Librazhd. Could it possibly more common in Gheg? That reminds me of a bus ride from Sofia to Frankfurt. At one point we got out and there was another bus nearby from Kosovo. It was nice to get out among the ethnic Albanians who were warm, friendly and vivacious compared to my fellow passengers. Wow, what the Ghegs do with vowels! It took me a moment to get used to it.

      • Reply
        Dion
        March 10, 2017 at 7:40 am

        I am traveling to Albania in a week and I ran into this blog. Unfortunately, Albania can be difficult for Albanians as well not just foreigners. After many years living in USA, I feel like a tourist when I visit Albania (born and raised there).

        James, since you were wondering about “Tung” and what it means…first, I have no idea what “Tungush” means.

        “Tung” stands for “Tungjatjeta” which is a form of greeting in Albanian while wishing someone a long life.

        “Tu” (shows posession, yours in this case) – “ngjat” dialect form of “zgjat” (in this case the optate mood of the verb extend) – “jeta” (life). So may your life extend (which does not sound very poetic of course) or may you have a long life (a simplified meaning).

        In order to greet someone you could say:
        “Përshëndetje” which translates into “Greetings” but a verbatim definition has to do with wishing someone health. Or you could say “Tungjatjeta”…both expressions can be used when you greet someone or when you part ways.

        The short form “Tung”, was mostly used from Albanians from Kosovo and ironically it was used twice, so it was not just “Tung” but it used to be “Tung Tung” (so much for a short form). Later in time it got reduced to “Tung” and the last decade or so it has become more popular as a word among many Albanians. They use it as the Italian “Ciao” now to sound cool.

        Larissa, I really liked the mood of your photos. They portray a gloomy and mysterious Albania. Even the colorful buildings in Tirana look gloomy haha.

        The part that saddens me the most about my country is that it does not only lack infrastructure but also Architecture. The best Architecture feature Albania has to offer is a collection of abandoned concrete bunkers that sadly enough have been destroyed because of what they remind people and not because of what they represent.

        They remind everyone of a bitter past, but they are flawless engineering designs constructed to keep people safe. They are also a very expensive reminder of our past that we should have preserved and not destroyed.

        Egypt has pyramids in the middle of the desert and people travel from all over the world to go see them…Albania has concrete bunkers. How amazing it would have been if Albanian government organized tour guides, throughout the country from one bunker to another, and turned all of them into one gigantic museum of history.

        Austria turned World War II bunkers into Tropical Aquariums while Albanians turned a couple of communist era bunkers into kiosks to sell coca cola at the beach…that’s the difference between Western Europe and the Balkans I suppose.

        To end on a positive note, check out these photos on Instagram under Colours of Albania by different photographers. One of my favorite towns in Albania is Berat (even though I am from Vlora) which is similar in concept to Basilicata, Vernazza, Amalfi Coast in Italy and many other coastal towns. You will see some nice photos of Berat in the link below.

        https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/coloursofalbania/

  • Reply
    Lola
    August 28, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Funny! I spent the summer in Europe and I started with Sweden and ended up in Albania. :)

    This is the BEST thing about Albania I’ve ever read. My parents live there, and it’s always my favorite place to visit. I’ve been going every year for the past 6 years, and every year I’m presented with amazing changes.

    What I noticed this year, was how great Tirana is. I lived there for a couple of years of high-school, but after spending weeks at a time in Copenhagen, Berlin, Prague, Paris and Rome, I found it to be the most livable. It’s got a great art scene, a great park, the absolute best thrift shopping anywhere, endless night-life options, it’s safe and you can find pretty much everything there. I didn’t include Stockholm in this, because let’s face it, Stockholm is the best thing.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 29, 2013 at 3:48 am

      Aw, that makes me so happy to hear! Tirana definitely had a lot going on and I would love to go back again soon. Stockholm is awesome, but I was living down in Malmö so my friends would probably kill me if I said it was the best ;)

      • Reply
        Lola
        September 30, 2013 at 7:10 am

        Stockholm is the best. Everyone knows that. People in Malmo know that.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          September 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm

          I don’t know how that is relevant to Albania nor do I agree with you, but thanks for the comment.

    • Reply
      James Hitselberger
      March 1, 2016 at 4:40 am

      Varna is a real treat for thrift shops…and better than Sofia. (By the way, Experienced and informed Americans share a consensus that used clothing is better there than in the U.S.). In Durres and Librazhd, I usually got clothing from open air markets. I never saw any thrift shops per se. I suppose they exist in Tirane by what your readers say. (P.s. Do you know which Middle Eastern city Albania’s capital is named after? No joking!)

      • Reply
        Larissa
        March 20, 2016 at 11:21 am

        I have no idea which Middle Eastern city, would love to be enlightened.

  • Reply
    Eni
    September 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Hey Larissa, I really enjoyed your blog as well as the comments of the readers. I am Albanian and i do agree that Albania is a country that can drive you crazy, but never gets boring. I hope you will find it in your heart to visit again, because Tirana is not the best Albania has to offer (i am from Tirana, live here and love this town, don’t misunderstand me :).

    Here are some tips from a fellow passionate traveller for all those who want to discover Albania:
    If you come in Summer I would recommend you went down to the beaches of Drimadhes, Jal, Gjipe, Livadh, Kakome, etc but try to avoid the first two weeks of August, especially in Drimadhes and Jal, cuz these beaches have become popular recently. Now is the best moment to be down there.

    If you wish to see how the Mediterranean is supposed to look like you have to go to Radhime or Orikum, near Vlora, and take a boat that takes you to the virgin and unspoiled beaches of Karaburun, a peninsula that has still to be discovered by the majority of Albanians themselves. Than you will enjoy a beach entirely to your self. it is amazingly beautiful. There are no roads in the entire peninsula so there are really few people there, but you can find some beaches that have parasols and sunbeds, even though there is almost nobody and no boats as well. Don’t leave without visiting the cave of Haxhi Ali. It is filled with corals, has chrystal clear water and lots of corals. It is the biggest cave of Albania and one of two or three of its kind in the whole Mediterranean.
    I wouldn’t recommend Saranda, too much concrete, but I would propose you went so that you see Butrint, a UNESCO world heritage site and honestly one of the best I have ever visited, and I have visited quite a few. Its location and the fact that it is the ruins of an intire city in the middle of a forest make it great. And do not leave there without visiting Syri i Kaltër (the blue eye), the source of a river in the middle of a forest, it is very cool and it is on the way to Gjitrokastra.
    But if you love the mountains than you have to go north and visit Theth, Bogë, Valbonë and maybe Lura (I am not sure about the last because I haven’t been there in a long time and I have heard they are “murdering” the forest). These places have breathtaking beauty and the first time i visited, the magnificence of the mountains and nature really made me believe in the fairies i used to read about in the Albanian mythology. But bear in mind that you can only visit these places in Summer cuz in Winter they are inaccessible because of the snow.

    And finally, if you happen to come in Spring have a trip in Southeast Albania, from Tirana to Korça (when there don’t skip Dardhë and Voskopojë), Ersekë, Përmet and finally Gjirokastër. It is absolutely gorgeous and the food is so yummy.

    For all those who can only make it to Tirana but still want to see some nature go to Ibë and bathe in the river but most importantly don’t leave before visiting the cave of Pëllumbas, it has prehistoric engravings.

    If you don’t like rain, try to skip November and sometimes January and February too, cuz when it rains here it really poors.

    The food is delicious, even in the dodgiest looking places. I have never been in a restaurant with inedible food here, unlike Paris or some other big cities.

    Voila, I hope to not have bothered you with my long post, but what can I say, you inspired me :)

    Faleminderit dhe mirupafshim së shpejti

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm

      Eni,

      I always appreciate when locals take the time to add their own thoughts on what is so wonderful about their country so thank you. All of this is duly noted and I just hope I can get back soon to explore the rest. WOW there is a lot – faleminderit! :)

    • Reply
      Orges Llupa
      August 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Eni – bringing my American GF for the first time on Wednesday and I’m glad I ran into your post, very thorough even from the perspective of an Albanian whose visited often.

    • Reply
      Dyonne Tetangco
      August 25, 2016 at 12:01 am

      Hi Eni,

      What do you think of going from Athens, Greece to Tirana, Albania to get to the Samaria Gorge? We already booked our hotel in Chania to be close to the gorge, but it sounds like getting to Chania may be close to impossible via bus.

      I hope to hear from you! We will be in Albania Oct 10-14.

      Best,
      Dyonne

  • Reply
    Doug
    September 3, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Great blog. I am off to Albania on an organised tour (too old to rough independent travel!) and will let you have my thoughts when I get back.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 5, 2013 at 6:11 am

      Thank you and sounds good – interested to know how it an organized tour there works. Which company is it?

  • Reply
    Rilind
    September 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Larissa, great article. Everybody who goes to territories where Albanians live sees that ALbanians are not only hotheads(which they are, but only if you mess with them) but also great people, especially with foreigners, they help in every way they can without asking any money, sometimes if you offer them money they get offended, it’s their duty to help foreigners, it’s part of the old book, Kanuni.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 9, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      Thank you and you are right. I found Albanians to be very helpful and like it was some sort of duty to make sure I was taken care of and enjoying the country.

  • Reply
    Stefan
    September 21, 2013 at 4:25 am

    such a nice topic ..
    well albania it’s not only tirana
    my suggestion is ” himara”
    its 4 hours out of the “city of tirana ”
    https://www.facebook.com/gohimara

  • Reply
    Adriana
    September 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    I am Albanian and i live almost 25 years in Netherlands,Talking about the time when i was there,were the most beautiful years of my life.There is no country like Albania,the wonderful climate,the nature,the mountains and the sea.
    Albanian people are the most loving sensitive careing people i never
    meet till now..one thing is for sure,Albanian People know how to love and respect.
    Its quite a shame that the dictator Enver Hoxha Isolate the country at the time,and keep people in ignorance,and closed any opportunety of getting into the world and exploring,meany people lost them lifes and families at years of the revolution,a lot of crimes
    and drug trafic has given Albanians bad name,and seems nothing has change since then,each politician is more bussy to get the power and the chair,then makeing economical reforms…
    i think what albanian need is not presidents or big talkers
    Albanian need someone with heart for people and honest,someone
    that dedicate is life to his own people.I Pray to God each day for That ONE special that will save the Albanians and That Beautiful country.

  • Reply
    Adriana
    September 22, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Please pray for my people and give them blessings.
    with all my love and respect to my country…Always love you..Adriana

  • Reply
    Paul Johnson
    September 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Hi Larissa
    I found you description very interesting. Probably accurate on first impressions. Based on other blogs the south coast is a must visit place. especially kysamil bay just south of Saranda. Berat is also worth a visit. Tirana is a nice friendly city.

    A must do is a train ride between Durres and Tirana. Whilst travelling I found the following useful. it covers travel in Albania and has an edited link to buses and furgons. There is also a trvelling out of Albania page to bordering Countries which is informative.

    The page link is http://traveltoeasterneurope.com/travel-around-albania/

    Regards

    Paul

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 24, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Great, thank you. I have heard the south is gorgeous as well, can’t wait to finally visit.

  • Reply
    Joy
    September 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you for your article :)
    I’m an albanian myself but I live in the US. I love going during the summer. Just a suggestion for anyone who’s trying to visit, Summer is indeed the best time to be there! If you’re in your younger years then you really need to head south by Vlora, Jal, Dhermi, Ksamil, Saranda and so on. That’s where you can really enjoy the night life and the crystal clear virgin waters :)

    It’s like a mini Greek Paradise and less expensive :)

  • Reply
    Alban
    October 4, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Hi everyone here i think you forget DIVJAKE is very nice and beautiful is alot of sands which is very good for health helps bon pain , arthiti and a lot of other staf

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Sounds interesting, thanks for the tip.

  • Reply
    Frank
    October 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Sounds great thank you for the down to earth comments,
    On my list for next year for sure

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      You’re welcome. Hope you have a great time when you finally make it!

  • Reply
    Adam
    October 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    George Washington’s mother was also albanian, you could go google it. I don’t know that much about it.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

      I did read that somewhere..not sure either what that is all about but probably good to have mentioned here.

  • Reply
    Orget
    October 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Interesting article but this is only 5 percent describe of Albania.
    Small country with a lot lot lot of history.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 16, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      You are correct.

  • Reply
    tom
    October 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Poor and dangerous country, would not recomend to visit

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 27, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      It’s poor-er and can be dangerous, yes, but so are a lot of places. There is plenty of beauty to be found there, too. Poor excuse to not visit, if you ask me.

    • Reply
      clifton
      February 22, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Have you visited Albania ?Poor & dangerous ! Surprise

    • Reply
      kosovar
      April 19, 2015 at 2:25 am

      Poor yes And can be dangerous but tell me which place in the world is not? Im from kosovo and highly recomand visiting albania there is so many good things that beat the bad words.

  • Reply
    Jamie
    November 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    This was great to read! My husband and girls lived there for two years and had many experiences. You learned a lot for just being there a week! Kudos! It took me 10 months to be willing to get behind the wheel for the reasons you mentioned! I slowly built up my driving skills. When I could finally drive through Tirana especially those big roundabouts, I felt I had conquered it.

    They are very hospitable, true!

    Raki is an adventure, isn’t it?

    If you want to get an even stronger dose of culture, visit a village. Tirana is good, but as you go to smaller cities, then villages, the culture gets more and more old school.

    It’s funny when people say it’s dangerous there. Of course, there will be crime in every place you go to, but I actually felt MUCH safer there than I ever have in the States! What’s worse crime wise there is theft. WATCH YOUR WALLET. Also, car theft is very prominent. But as far as violence, they don’t think to bother you unless you’ve hurt someone in their family in most cases.

    There’s too much more to write, but thanks for posting!

  • Reply
    dafina
    November 27, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Tirana är nog det bästa staden att åka till, är skit glad att du har åkt ditt och delat med dig vår kultur i din blogg! Om du ska åka till Albanien igen så rekommenderar jag dig Sarande och Vlore det är så hemskt fint där och vattnet är super!:)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      November 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Tack, glad you liked it :) Definitely will be checking out Sarande and Vlore next time, soooo many people have been recommending them as well!

  • Reply
    roberto
    December 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    nice writing. I have been in Albania in 2009, I think that it nicely summarizes the main points about this beautiful country. With some efforts, it could become one of the main touristic destinations in the next decade or so. Nice people, nice food, nice beaches and affordable.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 3, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Thank you and I think you hit the nail on the head. It “could become” because it really has so much potential, but it won’t unless it gets some help with infrastructure improvements at the very least. Either way, it’s a gem and rewards well worth any effort it takes getting around.

  • Reply
    Ermira
    December 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    that s not albanish , thats another language IM ALBANIAN ALTER i know.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      I don’t know what you are talking about, but ok.

      • Reply
        Joni
        December 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        The Shqip (Albanian) that the girl speaks in the video is not actually Shqip… The girl is clearly somewhere from Shkodra but has been living away for so long that can’t pronounce most of the words right…

        • Reply
          Larissa
          December 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

          Well someone should have a word with her then.

          • Joni
            December 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm

            You can replace the video with this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz2A5OAaA1I&feature=youtube_gdata_player (it has an unnecessiary intro but the rest is how it should…)

            Also another not famos but important Albanian in history was Pope Clement XI (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Clement_XI)

            Oh and congratulations on the website. I’m kind of a solo traveler myself and your blog is inspiring me even more :)

          • Larissa
            January 3, 2014 at 11:26 pm

            Cool, I just added it below in case someone is interested in the difference between a native and poser native’s accent…or something like that. If I can inspire anything in anyone, that makes me happy, so thanks. I wish you many amazing solo trips ahead :)

        • Reply
          Taulant
          January 9, 2014 at 8:11 am

          She’s from the north & she’s speaking the Gheg dialect. She’s probably Albanian-American & most of Albanian-Americans are from Malsia e Madhe(Montenegro). She doesn’t

        • Reply
          Christian
          June 14, 2014 at 6:16 am

          joni o trap, dmth ajo vajza ne video nuk eshte shqipetare por eshte nga shkodra, haha ajo duket qe ato fjale i ka mesuar nga dikush qe flet gegë more loqe.

          • lidhuni
            December 8, 2014 at 2:50 am

            Christian po joni eshte nje cope budallai mos ja mer per te madhe se nuk eshte se di me shume qe te shkruante diçka te bukur.

            Larissa thank you for your time i mean for writing all these impressions about the land of eagles .
            Last year Albania was the top country for cheap holidays even in France they call it “turisme de crise” because prices in albania are very atractive compared to other countrys in the same area.

          • Larissa
            December 16, 2014 at 9:53 pm

            It keeps making all kinds of travel lists so definitely expecting to see more and more foreign visitors there in the coming years! Definitely a great value destination.

          • Joni
            June 2, 2015 at 6:48 pm

            Qetesohuni! Nuk thash nuk flet shqip sepse eshte nga Shkodra.
            Thjesht vura ne dukje qe eshte dialekt i Shkodres dhe pas kesaj thash qe nuk eshte “shqip” sepse nuk eshte e sakte as si Shkodrane…
            Ne cdo dialekt po te ishte do ishte gabim, shikojeni mire videon qe te kuptoni…

            Taulant e ka kuptuar ate qe kam dashur te them…

        • Reply
          Eli
          July 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm

          People from Shkoder speak Shqip as does every town/city/village in Albania. This girl looks like she has learnt the words from someone/somewhere else hence why she cannot pronounce them properly. Just because someone does not have the same accent as you or dialect does not mean that they are not speaking Shqip. What you said is quite ignorant.

  • Reply
    Mark Catalano
    December 10, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Nice read on Albania. We are thinking about visiting this summer and are a family of 4 (children ages, 7 – 10). We will be visiting from the city of Dubrovnik. Is it practical to have children walking around the busy city of Tirana? Seems traveling around can be difficult, we are leaning towards getting a driver from Dubrovnik.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      Hey Mark, glad you found it useful. To be honest, I would be a bit nervous walking around with children there but that’s just me. I’m sure you all would be just fine as long as you are cautious and as I said, look every direction before crossing anything. On the other hand, having your own driver is always going to be easier so it really just depends if that’s something you’d rather spend the money on for peace of mind.

      • Reply
        Ersi
        March 3, 2014 at 7:38 am

        Larissa, I am an Albanian living in California. If I were a perspective tourist, I would change my plans after reading you article. I think Albania is a wonderful place and if you focus on the negative aspects, no one will ever be open minded to visiting. It makes me a little angry, to be honest, that Mr. Mark asked whether it is safe for his children to walk around Albania and you replied by saying that you would be “a bit nervous walking around with children.” I don’t mean to sound rude but people you need to use your judgement. It is not unsafe at all. What IS unsafe is crossing the street like you own it without taking into account the oncoming traffic. As with everything you have to be cautious and careful. It bothers me when Albania is described in such a manner that people like Mr. Mike feel the need to ask such questions.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          March 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

          Sorry to hear that, but unfortunately that is your problem. I’d say a majority of the people who have commented on this or sent me a private message on the topic have been even more intrigued and interested in visiting Albania after reading this post. This isn’t Conde Nast where everything is sugarcoated and printed in gloss, this is my personal travel blog and I think it’s important to also highlight the negatives as much as the positives because at the end of the day – that is the reality. This is also a place where I’m happy to answer questions such as Mark’s because they are valid concerns and I would have given him the same answer had he been asking about, say, Bucharest or Central London.

          So, not to sound rude, but I think you need to use less judgement if you ever feel the need to leave a comment here again which *fingers crossed*, you won’t.

          • Jimmy
            July 15, 2016 at 6:30 am

            Larissa , I agree with you 100% on this. yeah as an Albanian I would not like it when people question such things just like Ersi above, but the truth is that people who come from other parts of the world where traffic is better regulated (Perhaps LA or Boston or Berlin ?) find it hard to get adjusted with such chaotic driving such as Tirana. it is better to say things as they are. If you go to smaller towns things are totally different you don’t see this type of driving unless someone has had one too many cups of Raki :).

      • Reply
        clifton
        February 22, 2015 at 11:40 pm

        I am from New Jersey and in 2009 I got to spend the whole summer in Albania. At that time I was a young kid like 11 years old. And I loved that place so much. Very safe for children. I liked the most KSAMIL and the water the food and everything was so nice. And friendly people. I recommend the place to be visited and its definitely safer than New York City

        • Reply
          Larissa
          April 3, 2015 at 1:18 am

          Love Ksamil and food is AMAZING :)

    • Reply
      Ervi
      December 27, 2013 at 11:56 am

      First of all, thank you to Larissa for the great job on introducing Albania! Its really the country to visit when it comes to adventure.
      Also thank you to you Mark and all other peoples who choose to visit Albania! Its a very nice and warm country and really needs to start getting some appreciations for that.
      Now to your questions:
      It really depends on which city are you going to visit and the time when you are going to visit it. For example, if you visit South Albania during summer, you will encounter a lot of traffic and confusion (especially for the first times), but nothing that cant be avoided if you are careful and have a good plan.
      As for Tirana, I dont think you will have any problem walking around with children. Sideways are pretty wide and also a lot of streets have been reconstructed. Just make sure to be careful and follow the lights or the traffic cop on crossroads, and everything will be fine (would avoid Tirana during holidays like, Easter or New Year, Independence day, because it gets pretty crowded).
      Please do let me know if you need any more info, will be pleased to help you.

      • Reply
        Larissa
        January 3, 2014 at 11:29 pm

        Hey Ervi, thanks so much for all the great tips! It was my pleasure to report what I could after just a week in Tirana. Headed back there this summer and hopefully to the beaches so I may have to do a Volume 2 somewhere down the road. I will definitely be in touch should I need any more info.

        • Reply
          JeanMcClain
          January 31, 2014 at 2:03 pm

          Hello, if you want beautiful beaches i suggest you ( SOUTH OF ALBANIA) :
          1)DHERMI
          2) HIMARE ( next to dhermi)
          3) SARANDE
          4)SHENGJIN
          5)VLORE

          Check it out on internet, i think you’ll like it!

          PS : DO NOT GO TO DURRES , its dirty there!

          • Larissa
            February 11, 2014 at 2:19 am

            Hi Jean, thanks for both of your comments. I’ve heard that about Durres so think I will definitely head more south when I am finally ready to hit the beaches. Hopefully this summer! Thanks so much for the recommendations, they will really come in handy I am sure.

  • Reply
    Beverly
    January 5, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Hi can you help me on how can I visit Albania? I’am from the Philippines and I don’t have any idea on how to go there.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 7, 2014 at 3:24 am

      Your question is a bit vague but what I can tell you is 1) you will need to obtain a visa from the Albanian embassy in Manila and 2) you fly there, probably from Manila to somewhere in Europe where you can catch a connecting flight to Tirana.

  • Reply
    JeanMcClain
    January 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Hello, your blog is very interesting!I went to Albania with an Albanian friend of me for three weeks.
    We visited Tirana, and i liked it!
    But then we went to South Albania in DHERMI,HIMARE,SHENGJIN,SARANDA.. and those places are just perfect. Sun,Sea,Blue beach,music, beachparties.. i think it was great. If one day you’ll go back to Albania visit those places i mentioned.. If you want to visit more ” Cultural” places, i sugest : Korca ( much churches etc.),shkoder ..

    :-)

    • Reply
      Beta
      September 30, 2014 at 7:18 am

      I won’t go there alone, there are cruises that stop in Albania, I suggest you doing that, because Albania don’t have safe taxi, the driver it self can rob you! I won’t trust any one unless I’m with some one I know!

      • Reply
        Larissa
        November 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm

        Sorry Beta, but I don’t agree with you on this. I found traveling through very safe – not any more dangerous than other European countries in terms of taxis, etc.

  • Reply
    kerrysmallman
    February 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Hi,
    I was really impressed with your article. I’ve been to Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia, but have not yet made it to Albania.
    My friend married an Albanian man, so I asked her to write a guest blog on my blog about Albania. I’d be interested to know if you agree with it :-)
    Regards,
    Kerry
    http://kerrysmallman.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/5-awesome-things-to-do-in-albania-yes-really/

  • Reply
    Jess
    February 20, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I’m sorry you traveled there in November and not between May and September! It is a truly incredible country, and while I love Tirana because it is one of my home cities, it is really the rest of the country that makes Albania an absolute treasure. And yes, the trains do operate throughout Albania, albeit on very slow trains that existed in Communist times — all part of the adventure! Come again, in June, and you will enjoy Albania ten times more. I’m also surprised you didn’t find more people in Tirana that spoke English… English is right after Italian and most young people know some, and everyone is willing to help with directions.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 21, 2014 at 12:09 am

      Oh, absolutely. Getting around Albania in public transportation is the most fantastic adventure if you are up for it! Hope I’ll get to ride one of these trains in the future. We are working on putting together a tour for late summer that will include Albania so real looking forward to seeing it (especially the coast) in its prime :)

  • Reply
    Altin
    February 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I’m from Albania and I’m quite surprised to discover from this post what an amazing country I have lol. It’s actually quite true that we (people) usually appreciate more things that we don’t have :)

    Anyways, it’s very pleasing and refreshing for me to read this post and the comments. It all goes to prove that people are genuinely good (not what TV news tell you). I would love to meet foreign people visiting Albania here because no matter what country you are from, you’re similar to me :)

    By the way I’m from the north part of Albania (Shkoder). Great post Larissa!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 27, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      Yeah, Altin – so much to see apparently! And absolutely there is more good than bad out there so can never put all of your trust in the news. Hope to make it to the north part next time. Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    x-y-z
    February 28, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Larissa next time go south and you will never be disappointed, specially during the summer time in Vlora-Saranda beaches. Remember that don’t forget it:))) Anyway I am glad that foreigner ppl like you visit my country and also having good impressions for Albanians.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 3, 2014 at 8:47 am

      I promise, I will not forget. Thank you :)

  • Reply
    Maz
    March 3, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Hi there! I’m married to an Albanian and I have been there several times. Albania really is a rough diamond and if it could really hammer down on corruption and invest in tourism over the next 5-10 years it could potentially be a top tourist spot. Having said that they still have a long way to go. Every time I go back there have been improvements such as the roads. The South is particularly beautiful although I did not like Dhermi (got bitten to death by mozzies) and I’ve heard that a lot of the night clubs and restaurants have been bulldozed there because they were illegal. The people are warm and hospitable and it is very family friendly. Most restaurants have a playground and when you go out at night it is full of families milling about like in Italy and not England (where I live) where it is definitely not a place to take your kids out at night. Would definitely recommend a visit to anyone who doesn’t mind something a little different!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 6, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Hi Maz! I couldn’t agree with you more and I think it’s important for any potential tourist to know this before they go so they are prepared. “Something a little different” isn’t a bad thing at all and I think actually a major draw. I’m really interested to see how it changes myself over the coming years and I’m thinking I better get to that South sooner rather than later because I’m certain it’s only a matter of time before it becomes very popular as a European summer destination.

  • Reply
    Franco Carusso
    March 4, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    If Benito Mussolino Il Duce didn’t lost his power,, Albania have been the most powerfull country in Europe.

    Il Duce.

  • Reply
    D
    March 22, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Larissa, great post.
    I am Albanian myself, though living abroad. Found your blog searching on google “what to do in Tirana” since I’m planning to go back there for at least 2 years.
    What I was concerned about, is how my non-Albanian husband and son will feel once we’re there, so I was trying to see it from a forigner’s point of view.
    My husband is not much of an adventure type of man as far as infrastructure is concerned. I understand him since it’s quite more difficult to adapt one self downgrade rather than upgrade. As for my son, though I am feeling a little bit guilty about taking him there (smog, dust, sometimes quite uncivilised society) I am planning to follow Benigni’s plot in “la vita è bella” :)
    If anyone’s asking why am I going back, the answer is: for my parents.
    I want them to enjoy and, most of all, bond with their grandson.
    Anyway, compliments! You made me feel more enthusiastic about it.

    If you ever get back there too, please feel free to contact.

    P.S. Agree with Franco

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 31, 2014 at 2:07 am

      Thank you for the comment, sounds like your family is in for quite an adventure – of the good kind. As difficult as it might be at times to deal with what you call a “downgrade”, I think the bonding time with your parents and reconnecting with your country will far outweigh the needed adjustments. I’m just thinking of how I’d feel if I moved there with a significant other… There is much beauty to be found in that country if you can just deal with some infrastructure issues.

      Best of luck with everything!

  • Reply
    Christian
    April 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks for posting this article! Great info!
    My bestfriend and I (both swedes & Balkan enthusiasts) are going to Albania and Montenegro this summer! After reading the great threads with info, you helped us by confirming that we have great trip to look forward to.
    The roadtrip we have planned so far is that we have planned on working our way through Albania from Saranda (we land at Corfu airport, Greece) to Vlora, further on to Tirana and then further in to Montenegro before we finally will end up in Dubrovnik (Croatia) where we fly home!

    Now I am posting here in hope of getting any good suggestions and ideas on places worth visiting a maybe some inputs from someone who has made a similar trip? Me and my friend have 8 days to fill and we are both interested in meeting people, sunbathing and enjoying all types of food!

    Please feel free to write here or send me an email, christianlindquist (a) hotmail.com

    Looking forward to the summer :)

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      June 30, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Dear Christian,

      I am Montenegrin, who has in plan to have a trip to south of Albania this summer(Ksamil is my destination).I am sure it will be great and I would like to thank Larissa for her advices.
      I dont know if you alredy had your trip to Montenegro, but here are my advices what you should see:Regarding seaside coast you shouldnt miss Kotor and Boka bay, Sveti Stefan(peninsula) , and Budva. Regarding mountains you should go to Cetinje(used to be capital of Montenegro while we were kingdom) and all important history museums are there. Its a small city in the mountain and its just half an hour driving from Budva.Capital Podgorica is not that exciting.Bar city by the sea is nice but its a harbour kind of town(it has a nice promenade though).You can also stop in Herceg Novi on your way to Dubrovnik. The north of Montenegro has astonishing beauty too.If you have time to travel there too, thank you should go to Zabljak(beautiful lake and nature).Hope that I was helpfull :) Have a nice trip!

  • Reply
    Brenda
    April 8, 2014 at 4:18 am

    I have traveled to Albania 3 times and I love it there. My boyfriend lives in the farmlands near Kavjaja. I don’t speak Albanian and I don’t think I will ever know more than thank you and good. It’s a tough language to learn. I live in Canada and travel 2 times a year. Spring and fall. I love the fall because there is so much more fruit and vegetables available. The people are gentle. The roads are insane but a visit to the bakery makes everything all better !!! If you have a chance., visit Albania., especially if you love meat :):)

  • Reply
    Sokol
    April 13, 2014 at 7:10 am

    It is a first time long time actually hearing something positive for this beautiful place…
    It has a beautiful month cascading down in beautiful beache
    Beautiful reverse
    Place for bicycling
    It is a heaven for months and climbing
    And yes we also have been the most misfortune country in Europe
    Is not fair for judging the country for short periods of time of democratical
    You can compare Albanian the countries they have been
    democratical centries sense World War II
    Albania like other countries that they come from the rumble of World War II we are coming to
    Another thing about the Albania whoever want to know durion World
    War II Albania was the only country in Europe Eastern Europe that actually was a safe heaven for Jewish they life in the line to save the
    Jewish community
    I am actually grateful to hear this positive thoughts about the place that I love so much
    I don’t think there is any people that has ever suffered as much past or present
    I go there every year and every time I go I see a big difference I see huge improvement for that I’m happy
    Once again I want to thank you for all the beautiful thoughts about amazing place that had some bad luck but the nature still there

  • Reply
    afrim
    April 16, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Hello,

    I am an Albanian myself. I live in Shkodër which is considered “the city of bicycles.” People say that “there is not a lot of things you can do on winter in Albania, but one of the greatest places in the northern Albania is Theth, you might not heard this name, but however, this is a great place to visit. I would recommend it to you certainly if you come in Albania on the summer. It’s a cool place with a couple of hotels and restaurants. What is more, you will find fresh food, fresh water and lots of other amazing things here. I don’t know how much time you have to spend to go to Theth from Shkodër, but you will have such a tiptop time on this place. Further more, nowadays you will find people who speak so good English, especially teens or young people.

    Thank you for writing this post!
    I assure you that this post provides much more information than an usual Albanian knows.

    If you like to find more information about Albania, I will help you.

  • Reply
    cindy
    May 5, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Great article! I was in Albania in 2012 and loved every minute of it! Some of the European nations I visited beforehand said not to bother with it (bad roads, difficult to travel) but I’m glad I didn’t listen to them. I missed Tirana but hit just about everywhere else. Theth was majestic. Everywhere I went people were friendly and helpful. Hospitality is alive and we’ll in Albania! As a woman travelling alone, I always felt very safe there. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Albania, especially if you enjoy trekking, getting off the beaten path, like a travel challenge, and enjoy meeting sweet and interesting people!

  • Reply
    Anna
    May 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Great blog. The summary about Albania, is really great and right to the point.

    I am not Albanian but Norwegian and I did backpack in Albania last summer. The place is still rural but hey, I’m young and ready for adventure…definitely not interested in a tall glass building to pass my holidays, I can do that for work.

    The people in albania are so good, they can help and are willing to help if you ask and sometimes even without asking. When they do, if you thank them to much or if you offer money, speaking out of experience, they will get offended. They believe a lot on friendships and on the word given. They let you in right away if you just show that you are simple and you do not start your new friendship by being judgemental. You have to know that they think YOU think they are bad because of what us out of the country might have seen in movies and news.

    Albanians like to treat each other on drinks, dinners etc. They will not accept you to give them money back for that but you can repay on other ways, like treating them back or buying something for them as a sign of appreciation.

    Because the country has gone through changes, communism, socialism, democracy and socialism again the economy is still suffering which makes people appear a bit rough, but it’s just an appereance! If you smile at them, they will smile back.

    I was impressed by the girls there, albanian girls are so beautiful and I’m a girl saying that. Men, they’re ok too, it took me awhile to run into my Albanian boyfriend.

    I have Albanian friends and Tirana is something to really visit. The city is has thesecommunistic building which slowly are being substituted with new ones. Being honest I like the old ones as well, as its part of the history of the country and Tirana it’s what it is. In the old building you have plenty coffee shops, cute little spots. Albanians like coffee and raki which is an alcoholic drink around 60%. They measure the persentage different from the rest of the world, so do not get confused when they say its 20%, as they have different standarts. Albania is not a muslim country, nor other, people are very peaceful about religion. They really do not care what religion you are, they have a deep respect for all the religions.

    I have never felt so safe in a city before as in Tirana. While heading at the hostel at summer night, the streets were full with grandmothers and their grandsons playing or just walking around for a fresh evening walk, never found that in any city in Europe.
    The restaurants in Tirana are full with family and young people, there is delicious fast foods which I would not call them fast foods from the quality they deliver, and you can get a spinach pie, a doner or a sandwich for 1buck. Then you can head to pubs, drink the local beer which is waaay cheaper, less than a buck and head to dance places after. It remind me a bit of the Asian countries, where beer, food, dance and beach is cheap. I love Albania and I’m glad I did not listen to people that have never have been there.

    PS. And Robert de Niro is half Albanian. His father was Arberesh from Albania who immigrated in the US and got married to an irish immigrant in the US. So yes, he is Albanian because of his father first, then irish cause of his mother and then American cause of him!

    • Reply
      Mark Mayer
      May 28, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      Your observations of the people are quite accurate. They are the best. I am currently living here in Tirana and the people have made it a great visit. They ARE Muslim. 80% are, but your observation that they don’t practice is accurate. They were actually forced to become Muslim, historically, to avoid being taxed as a non-Muslim. But it doesn’t matter. The people are exactly what Americans need to understand about being Muslim. (I am American). They are kind and religion has nothing to do with it. We have nothing to fear from these people, on the contrary, it is a very safe place. Walk the city. Its a blast! It’s the Brooklyn of the Balkans.

      • Reply
        Larissa
        June 3, 2016 at 3:44 pm

        Haha love that – Brooklyn of the Balkans. Tirana is great, lucky you and great observations re: the religion. They say the first religion in Albania is Albanianism..

  • Reply
    nadia
    May 22, 2014 at 3:43 am

    Loved this article. Im american and husband is albanian. Visited the country twice while we were long distance. Two things I would add to this article are how beautiful albanian women are. Ive visted many countries and albanians are the most pleasing to the eye. And also how hospitable they are. An albanian would rather give you their last peice of bread and be hungry, than allow you to leave their house without eating. Seriously the nicest and most beautiful people ive ever met!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 17, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      Agree, agree, agree! Great husband material too, yes? :)

  • Reply
    Hrisanthi
    May 23, 2014 at 12:53 am

    I am from Korca, Albania. I really haven’t spent much time in Tirane but I have a ton of family there. It’s always interesting to reading about my country from an outsiders perspective. I will say you were pretty dead on about a lot of things. That first video though with the girl speaking Albanian threw me off. She is speaking in a very different dialect then southeners (Korca is in the south an hour away from the Greek boarder). I wish you had mentioned something about our customs. We would never allow you to visit and not offer you something to eat or drink. But overall you were pretty spot on.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 12, 2014 at 2:10 am

      That makes me happy to hear, thanks! Luckily I will be going back in Albania and exploring much more so maybe I can come up with a “15 more things” that includes some of the customs :)

  • Reply
    Marjo
    May 27, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Really interesting stories! I’m going around Balkan some day and I was about to skip Albania. Luckily I ended up to this page and fell in love with Albania. Thank you all.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 12, 2014 at 2:06 am

      Great, so glad to hear that. Albania is definitely not one to be missed, it’s only going to get more popular as time goes on. I’m sure of it.

  • Reply
    Pamela
    June 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Love reading all the wonderful information about Albania. We plan on renting a car in Turkey and driving to Albania. Just wondering if anyone has done this with a rental car.
    Also, how difficult is it to find hotels as we travel around? We will not really know where we will be day to day and just to find places to stay. We will be there end of Sept. To mid-October.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 27, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Pamela. Unfortunately I have no experience with driving a rental car through Albania but I can say I’ve heard lots of places start to close around that time as it’ll be the end of the tourist season – particularly on the coast. Could be good to have some reservations beforehand, but again, I don’t have any experience with it.

  • Reply
    Ari
    June 14, 2014 at 4:23 am

    I just found this lol, but this is a really great article.
    I just wish you would’ve gone to more places, like Durrës or Kukës.
    Not many people go to Kukës and I don’t know why. I’ve spent half of my childhood there and I enjoyed every moment of it(not the city though, just Mamëz). I’ll admit that it’s kinda scary(probably bc I’ve watched a lot horror movies) but it’s also really beautiful. :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 27, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      Someday I’ll get around to it, I ain’t scared.

  • Reply
    Ana
    July 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Hi,
    Lovely post!! One of the best I read about Albania.

    I am going this August to Albania for 10 days… My boyfriend is Albanian and we are going to visit his family… I really can’t wait to go there!!!!! I think I will enjoy my experience there and will make amazing pictures like yours :)

    You said that shopping is quite cheap comparing to London (where I am currently living), did you enjoy shopping there? Would you recommend me any shop?

    Very nice post. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Nafio
      July 17, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Coin,Etc,or the other malls like Tirana East Gate,QTU,City Park you can go with buses there. :)

      • Reply
        Ana
        July 20, 2014 at 11:59 am

        Hi.
        Thanks for your reply.
        Fortunately, we do have a car so will be much more easier.
        My bf is from Shkodra which is not too far from Tirane.
        Hope I will have enough time to visit all. We are planning to go to Velipoja, Saranda, Durres… I can’t wait…still 3 weeks to go.
        :)

  • Reply
    Nafio
    July 17, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    There’s nothing to be scared about people :P One of the most important tradition of Albanians is to welcome all guests so Albanians are really friendly especially with people that come from other countries, I know that cause I’m Albanian :) . Our traditional foods are really delicious I’m sure that you guys never tried foods like this.
    Some people think that we are in war because of the Albanian Mafia or the weed in Lazarat.It not like that we are very friendly like I said.
    If you want to visit Albania you should go to the southern Albania In vlora,dhermi or in saranda,himara.Or visit the nothern Albanian Thethi Or Tropoja.I guarantee you that you will like it :) Thank you very much for all the kind words about my country It means alot to all Albanians :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 17, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Thank you for all the other recommendations, couldn’t agree more :)

  • Reply
    Soni
    July 20, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Hi everyone,
    i know there are some articles for Albania but this is the best.
    I am albanian too and i work in a hotel in Tirana,the first hotel from 1992 and we have guest from over the world and they still are coming back.
    I am not going to describe the beautiful of my country,(most of them you wrote) ,you find out by yourself.
    Maybe it’s not the perfect place ,with perfect infrastructure ,or the cleanest country,but i can tell you that every client who came here comes back.
    This morning i spoke with a klient from Danimark and he told me about this blog.
    I can say that people here feel free,no rules, you will probably fall, probably you become messy with clay but you will not get bored at all.
    I am proud for these words and that my country is known.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 17, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      Soni, thanks for the wonderful compliment, I am glad you liked this article :) I spent quite a bit more time in Albania this year and fell in love even more so hoping to write something else (maybe a Part 2) sometime soon. Albania is on the rise – all I can say is expect more and more guests coming your way :)

  • Reply
    Hans
    July 25, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Wow! These are some of the worst travel photos that i have ever seen. Really interesting country, though.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 25, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      Hey Hans – go fuck yourself. Thanks for the comment, though.

  • Reply
    Led
    July 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    You say albanian history is interesting and then “complain” about railways, public transport, roads and other stuff. Well, apparently you know nothing about albanian history. You have no idea what this country has gone through, and because we are very hardworking people we improved a lot of things, and albania is changing every day. There are problems, yes, but there are also nice people ready to help you anytime. Public transport, not so hard to figure out. And you say albanian language is an anomaly, that is VERY offensive, my guess is that you are just too dumb to figure it out, oh well, you’re BLONDE!! And about Lazarat, let me tell you that things are changed, and now Lazarat it just another village, not the cannabis capital or lawless.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Guess what, Led – Albania isn’t the only country who has “gone through” things historically. At the end of the day I wasn’t actually complaining (minus the part about the bus not going to the airport because, well, that’s just fucked), I was just telling it like it is so people can know what to expect when they arrive. Sorry you took such offense to me calling Albanian an anomaly, but on the European continent, IT IS. Maybe you should have looked up the definition of “anomaly” instead of personally attacking me as a result of your misunderstanding of my use of the word, because I think that’s the root of the problem here..

      And finally, agreed, there are tons of nice people in Albania though you are clearly not one of them. Way to be a shining example of the kind of person a traveler definitely doesn’t want to deal with on a first-time visit to the country.

      • Reply
        Led
        August 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm

        -I know Albania is not the only country who has gone through things, but of course you can say that we love to blame the past because it wasn’t you who faced the consequences. But sure talking is easy, try living through it. Thanks for the suggestion, but maybe you should use it. And before you say that on the European continent albanian is an anomaly, remember that Albania is on the European continent, or maybe you don’t know that.
        And I have no reason to be nice to someone as offensive as you.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          August 5, 2014 at 8:32 pm

          I can say YOU love to blame the past because that is essentially what you were doing. I stopped following after that, have no idea where you are going with this now and personally could care less. Thanks for your input and take care.

  • Reply
    Fabiana
    July 28, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Hey there!

    Loved the post and what are the odds, we’ll be touring by the Balkans during the early days of September, but i’ll reach Albania only on the 8th!

    I’d like to know if you have any tips for me… I’ll arrive in Bucharest and head to Sofia, Skopje, Pristina and then Tirana by car. The little I know of Europe (I’m Brazilian) is the regular Paris-London-Rome area, and I’ve heard the balkans are quite different, although also charming and surprinsing.

    Look forward to your comments, :)

    Fabiana

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 5, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Hello Fabiana,

      Sounds like quite the trip. Not sure how much time you will have but I guess my number one tip is expect things to go at a much slower pace, whether you want them to or not. Good that you’ve already heard the Balkans are very different from the Europe you are familiar with. Absolutely charming and surprising and what they lack in infrastructure and aesthetics, they more than make up for with their warmth and hospitality. Talk to as many locals as possible and above all else – enjoy enjoy enjoy!

  • Reply
    jake
    July 30, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Thanks for this great post and lovely photos! It’s definitely made me want to visit Albania myself. How widespread is English language there? I’m certainly willing to make an effort with the local language in any foreign country but I would like to have a holiday quite soon, so I won’t have a lot of time to learn :(

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      English is more widespread amongst the younger generation, definitely not the older one though. If you know any Italian that could come in handy but in general I’d say you shouldn’t let not knowing the language deter you from visiting. You will get by, even if it requires more hand gestures than usual :)

  • Reply
    ERVIN
    July 31, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I HAVE ONLY ONE COMMENT TO MAKE : THANK YOU LARISSA

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 5, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      :)

  • Reply
    ina
    August 3, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Didn’t expect to see pictures of my neighbourhood here. Article quite accurate though. The only thing I don’t agree are the sweets. I literally can’t stomach them.

  • Reply
    Orges Llupa
    August 4, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Larissa – to echo everyone else’s sentiments, thank you! I found it to be a great and accurate read. Hopefully your into to the country whet your appetite for a trip down the coast – it will round out your impression nicely.

    Safe travels!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 5, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      I’ve got plans to do so this September and I can’t wait! Thanks Orges :)

  • Reply
    suzana
    August 10, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Hello every one,
    I left Albania after college to obtain an aeducation in western countries like Germany and US
    …Who reads about western culture which is missing the spicy ethnic flavor of those like
    India ore China etc

    they will know right away what I mean…
    Life in western countries boring and could be boring (winter depressions) and miserable
    While we can offer e a hot tourist destination like no where else
    Friendly people will greet you instead of killing you (no worries NYC and LONdON subways can be dadly)
    WE do not bother the imperialists tourists rich or poor
    and instead of being racist telling you to go back home they will offer
    delicious food …..bio and tasty
    Pristine beaches are at a low price and public transportation is cheap and very often
    I love furgonat.You can go every where at a low cost …etc
    Doni me per Belulin
    Enough to come back

  • Reply
    Florand
    August 15, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Hello everybody,

    I hope you are having great time whereever you choosed to stayd this summer. Just for the record, I have got 15 guests so far and exhanged about 65 Emails. Nice as a start yeah?!

    Thank you Larissa for this blog, now I am thinking to create a website like freeinfo4albania.com who will serve as a hub for anyone wishing to know more about places. Maybe it will be an social-business style.

    Keep smiling and dont forget to visit Albania. :)

    -Florand

  • Reply
    TheNorwegian
    August 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    This was really funny reading. I’ve been to Albania many times, mostly in Tirana, but also travelling around, since my boyfriend is albanian. And I find everything you write so very true!! Hope you have more experiences to share about Albania.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      August 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Thank you! I will be heading back there in September so I most definitely will :)

  • Reply
    elis
    August 21, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    uoooooou what a great feeling ,listening all these great coments about albania ,and albanian people,,,Larissa thanks for sharing your strory…everyone should visit albania known for her beautiful nature ,hospitality,and great people…everyone should visit albania,,,

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 3, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      You’re welcome and falamenderit for the nice comment!

  • Reply
    julie balliu
    August 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    What a pleasant surprise – a website actually praising Albania!
    I’m so fed up of Brita asking me why on earth I’m going there for my hols/isn’t it so poor/agent they all ignorant/full of criminals/blah/blah…

    Having married an Albanian (I’m British) I have been lucky enough to visit some very remote areas of Albania- seeing real life in rural farms, cheese making, wool spinning and dying, washing in the river, visiting remote museums, trekking, seeing wild tortoises roam, eating wild grapes and figs… and in all seasons.
    I stayed there for about 6-7 months in 2003 and have since visited many times.
    It is the most amazing place ever – history, .turmoil, resistance, friendliness and the people’s overwhelming need to achieve, no matter what. I have only ever experienced kindness, love, curiosity and generosity throughout my stay.
    I urge anyone to take a public mini bus out of Tirana, if only for the day, and explore. The northern regions of burrel, komsi are amazing

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 3, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Great recommendation. Best way to experience the true Albania is in the remote areas. But so it goes for most of the Balkans. Sounds like you’ve had some pretty incredible experiences there and I hope soon I will have the same – heading back there in a couple of days!

  • Reply
    Giacomo
    September 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    My mum’s cousin married an Albanian, and finally after 11 years i wanted to go there I went!
    Believe me: I am pretty sure that in 10/15 years a lot of people will go there for tourism (now people, especially here in Italy, just go to Greece or Croatia jsut because they don’t know anything about Albania, that is changing REALLY fast).
    As for the language (which I speak only a little bit), I often hear this thing about being close to Romanian. If you realize it, the words that are similar come from Latin (Romans were in both places).
    Greetz! Visit Albania!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 18, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      I agree 100% – it’s only a matter of time (and improved infrastructure) before the rest of Europe and the world starts flooding in. Glad we were able to see it before :)

  • Reply
    ardit
    September 15, 2014 at 1:32 am

    So first my friend u need to study marketing or social psicollogy, your advice are so negative and if u have seen just Tirana do not say nothing about albania just write here, i was in tirana, or google better about albania and our lenguage have nothing to do with thracian, the outside politic’s say thracian if was thracian wad same hungarian was even mixed with romanian so do not write things u dont know its bettet ok next time be friend with an albanian to see things that u didn’t saw in your life be4

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 18, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Ok

  • Reply
    julie balliu
    September 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Apparently the Albanian language is the oldest in the world and has survived many changes, including the take over by Turks for 500 years. With 38 letters, rather than the usual 26, it is quite outstanding.
    Just got back from another two weeks out there, mainly in northern mati region, plus few days in capital Tirana. Unfortunately this time I have noticed some detrimental things in Albania… The building of properties is astronomical and what with little or no planning regulations, it’s a bad thing. They are popping up all over the countryside and spoiling the views. Plus no sewage system in place, it’s now all running into beautiful rivers and polluting them.
    I do hope things change soon. I know the pm, edition Tamara, is being very strong with reinforcing planning laws in the capital – I saw it while I was there- pulling down illegal shop fronts – so hopefully hr will apply that throughout the country.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 18, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      I hope so as well. It’s just such a beautiful place with so much potential but infrastructure definitely needs major improvement and the illegal building must stop. Have had more exposure to Albanian in the past month than in the past two years and can still safely say…no chance of casually picking it up, still just as complicated for me :)

  • Reply
    John
    September 24, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Just to correct:
    Albania is not eastern Europe.

    Is southeast Europe.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      November 11, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      It is in the eastern part of Europe – the southeastern part, you are correct.

  • Reply
    Eri
    September 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you for the great post. I am an Albanian, but I can say we can hardly see as much as you do (foreigners) about our country.

    “I don’t know what things are like in other Albanian cities, but in Tirana the streets were not a place for the faint of heart. They were like a free for all where cars and buses fly from every direction and would not stop for Mother Teresa herself if she were crossing the street.”

    This made my day :D LOL

    For anyone planning to visit, feel free to ask if help is needed. :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      November 11, 2014 at 6:58 pm

      Thank you for the great comment and offer of help to the people out there. It’s quite common to not see all that is in front of you, it’s human nature I think :)

  • Reply
    Beta
    September 30, 2014 at 7:04 am

    I’m American Albanian,it’s been almost 20 years I haven’t been there, I like to know how much is to rent a house for one months in down town Tirana, or a beach house?

    Thank you

    • Reply
      bekim
      October 5, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      well in Tirana around$ 500-1000 depend where , beach house roughly
      the same again depend the time of the year

    • Reply
      Rusald
      April 28, 2015 at 4:03 am

      Hello Beta,

      Glad to hear you’re planning on visiting your homeland. Happy to see you are at least interested in seeing the changes. Believe me, it has changed. I hope you enjoy (or enjoyed) your return.

      If you still need info on rentals, I think to rent a home you can probably do that for about $500 max. Anything higher and you may be ripped off. I used to rent in central Tirana (behind the Tirana International Hotel) and my monthly rent was about $350 for a 3 bedroom apartment. Your problem is that you’re not a regular tenant, thus higher prices. Anything higher than $500 and you’re looking at hotel rate. (Generally $35-$45/night for short stays).

      If you plan on going to the beaches, you’re looking at a steeper price because they use them as hotels, but again, anything above $600 for a month may be going overboard. Depends on which beach you’re going to visit. I would definitely suggest you ask someone you may have living in Albania for a referral because through friends you can get a decent place for a good price.

      If you want running water and electricity all day long, you gotta go to the higher end hotels, which will cost quite a bit.

      Hope this helps.

      If you still need help just ask :).

  • Reply
    Mark
    October 19, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Hey I’m not albanian I’m black but my wife is from albanian and we were thinking of moving there are they accepting?

    • Reply
      anton
      November 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Not a good idea.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      November 11, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      Hey Mark, I really don’t have a good answer for you on this – I really have no idea. But maybe your wife has some family or friends with better insight?

  • Reply
    Lieu
    October 20, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    I love Albania. I visited Sarande and stayed in Dhemi one day at the beginning of September. Then i came back Praha but always thinking of Albania..So i decided to trevel to Albania on October with my friend. This time we visited many cities and famous places..Albania is absolutly beautiful.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      November 11, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      It absolutely is, I can’t wait to get back myself!

  • Reply
    Ray
    October 21, 2014 at 2:14 am

    I plan on going to London for at least a week at the end of July 2015 for a friend’s wedding, but thinking of heading to mainland Europe trip for the first week or two in August.

    For those who have lived/visited Albania in early August, how much time would you recommend spending here? 1 week or a full two weeks?

    I have read about the beautiful beaches and UNESCO Heritage sites, and as I enjoy “off the beaten” travel, I really want to make sure I have “seen it all in a country” before moving onto the next place.

    If a week is plenty for Albania, then I might look at 1 week in Albania and 1 week either in Northern Greece or Macedonia.

    Appreciate everyone’s feedback who sees this post!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      November 11, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      A week would be plenty to see the south and perhaps the capital, but if you really want to “see it all in a country”, then I’d go for two. There is a lot to see in the east as well as the north (Berat, Gjirokaster, Korca, Shkodra, etc…)

  • Reply
    Aldo
    October 26, 2014 at 5:56 am

    I am an Albanian who lives in America mostly for work. If it wasn’t for the money, how can any albanian flee such a beautiful country. I love you my Albania. Country of birth and pride.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 16, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      I hear you – Albania definitely has it all when it comes to beautiful places.

  • Reply
    Labeat
    October 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I’don’t know why you called Albanain Language, an anomally language and I’m really pissed off for this! And you should have written more that Albanian people are seperate on more than two states because of the historical conditions , and you should have written more for Kosova, also Albanians people who live on the north-east of Albania and were on war with serbians, and won that war!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

      Should have, could have, would have – sorry you’re pissed, but it’s my opinion.

  • Reply
    gent
    October 27, 2014 at 2:17 am

    Hi Larissa, im from Kosova but visited all the albanians cities, i could say that vlore and saranda are the best in summer, even on september its good there because there arent lots of people. Other than that i find shengjin,himare ,dhermi and places like that boring for people 10-40 years old. They are places to rest and you can’t go at night and see places otherwise as i mentiones it was fun on Sarande and Vlora also if you have kids itnwill be wonderful there :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      November 11, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      Thanks for the tips! I’m hoping to explore much more of the coast next year, preferably in spring or fall as I do think that’s the best. Had a good time in Saranda, Himare, Gjirokaster and Berat this past September.

  • Reply
    Anxhela
    November 26, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Hi Larissa – I’m an Albanian living in New York City and I enjoyed your post very much. Your descriptions are entertaining and quite accurate. It’s refreshing to see a growing interest from foreigners. I haven’t been in a few years but plan to do so this summer and explore the southern region where I am from. Just as a few others mentioned, I would recommend visiting Korca, Vlora, Saranda on your next visit. As always, be cautious wherever you travel and do your research. I can’t wait to see tourism increase as more people discover this hidden gem of a country. I’d love to connect with you on facebook/instagram!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 16, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Hey Anxhela! I was fortunate to have had the chance to visit the south finally this past September – Saranda and Himare, as well as Gjirokaster and Berat. Looking forward to doing some more exploring more next summer as well. Definitely connect – you can find me @theblondegypsy on Instagram and http://www.facebook.com/TheBlondeGypsy.

      No doubt that tourism in Albania is going to increase tremendously with all of the positive press it has been getting – so better to get back sooner than later :)

  • Reply
    Elson Farka
    November 28, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Great article!
    In the video about learning Albanian language online, the woman is definitely not Albanian and the words she pronounces are very incorrect!
    Just saying :D
    Here is my website, thank you
    http://www.learnalbanianonlin.wix.com/learn-albanian

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 16, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      Thanks, Elson. Have had quite a few comments about that but there is no way I could ever know that. Thanks for the link, will have to check it out as I’d love to learn Albanian.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 5, 2014 at 12:15 am

    I am currently in Albania in winter (I know, everyone says to go here in summer but I can only afford to travel in winter, because of cheap off-peak flights) and I would highly recommend heading straight to Rozafa Castle as soon as you arrive in Shkodra – that way you get an incredible view of the whole city to start off your time there. With the buses, I wanted to go from Shkodra to Tirana and people were lovely and happy to point me in the direction of the “bus stop” and as I was wandering along the street I luckily noticed a minibus with “Tirana” in the window – you just wave at the driver and they will pull over for you. Unfortunately I do not speak the language, but I managed to communicate with a group of young people (okay, I could talk to one guy who spoke some English) on the bus who were very interested in me because I am a tourist :] the only problem that I have had so far was when an older man got on the bus, five minutes later he became really angry and yelled at us (the young people) – all that the one of the young guys said was “he has a problem with us” pointing from himself to me. I am not sure what the problem was, as I could not understand what they were saying, but from then on no one wild talk to me. Can anyone tell me what hairball? We were not being loud, we were just taking in broken English. When I got to Tirana (from Shkodra a minibus is 400 leke, which is less than €4) two students tried to help me find my hostel, and then when they couldn’t they asked two strangers, so I ended up being escorted to the street by 4 women! They were all so lovely! (made a nice change!). Food to try: Tavekosi (lamb, yoghurt and rice baked) and ferges (cheese dish – vegetarian or with meat). If you go to Albania soon, go to Tirana to the bunker (ask around for the bunker with 135 rooms – it is only open for 2 months, so everyone knows about it) – you can get a free “bunkart” bus there, or get a normal bus for a couple of euro. The bunker has been closed for several decades and has temporarily been opened and is free – so go before it closes again! I love the colour of the buildings – some houses have just a splash of colour, whereas others are several different colours! In terms of when to go, summer may be more ideal, but if (like me) that is not possible I am here in December and the weather is fairly warm and mild and the hostels still have lovely people in them, so why not go?

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 16, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Hey Sarah – thanks for all of the great information. I totally agree with your recommendation of heading straight to Rozafa Castle – amazing views from there and I personally had it all to myself when I visited in June which you would think should be a busier time). Not sure what the issue was on the bus but nothing too concerning I’m sure. Maybe just a grumpy old man :)

      I recently read they re-opened that bunker but I didn’t realize it was only for two months. Hopefully it goes well and they keep it open permanently because I think the more interesting sites Tirana can offer visitors, the better. Thanks again for sharing your experience! :)

  • Reply
    astrid
    December 6, 2014 at 4:43 am

    Thank you Larissa for your post, l have visited Albania last year and l highly recommend it! I was in the archeeologic sites of Apollonia and Butrint, in the Monastery of Ardenica, Tirana, Durres. I also suggest Unesco hetitage cities of Gjirokastra and Berat, Korca and, for who likes adventure the beautiful Alps in the north! Nature is amazing, just make sure to get a good car, a jeep! ;P

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 16, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      Haha, good car to navigate those roads to definitely key. Sounds like you had quite the grand tour, can’t wait to explore more myself! Korca, Apollonia, Durres and the Alps I have yet to see.

  • Reply
    Ermal
    December 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I would like to explain to all of you … Do never consider The Albanians of Kosovo as living outside of Albania. You must understand that we didn’t want to get separated and to have borders. We were forced to do so because of so many wars since 500 years ago and also because of the sh***y politics, and especially from the war we had with Serbia like 16 years ago. There is still the so called The Great Albania. And will always be. Viva Albania.

  • Reply
    Sameer
    December 30, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    A great article and a one which was not biased. Frankly speaking we all get carried away by some instances or what is shown on TV or films, and start looking at it with contempt, prejudice etc. I always thought about Albania as a country which is notorious for human trafficking where girls were kidnapped by Albanian men and sold to rich Arabs or elsewhere. Blame it on the typical portrayal of Albania in films. But this might not be true in totality or you cannot start looking at a country thinking that every Albanian male does it. We need to look at things with open eyes and not got by what some people say or what you see on tv.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 13, 2015 at 4:12 am

      Thank you and well said – I couldn’t agree more!

    • Reply
      Rusald
      April 28, 2015 at 4:16 am

      All Albanian men are human traffickers (and drug lords, killers, etc) just as much as all Arabs are self-destructive kamikazes….

      I think people need to open their eyes above and beyond what the media “feeds” them… read more on any culture you wish to know about. I totally agree that Albanians are portrayed differently in movies, but movies aren’t real.

      Thanks for taking the time to read more about Albanians; I hope you can visit the country to get a better understanding of how great it can be.

  • Reply
    Wendy
    December 31, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    We just spent a week driving around Albania, went in the off season so better maybe. What I noticed is Albanias have no laws when it comes to driving. The pass where ever and when ever, they drive where there are no lanes. They don’t care about the speed limit, or school zones. They have no idea how to use a round about, nor care to learn.
    Yes they are building new roads lovely 4 lane highways that end without notice, where people run across, ride their scooter, bikes, donkeys or horse on the highway. Sometimes the wrong way.
    The sell everything along the road, turkeys , chickens, goats, sheep, vegatables, shoes, yes everything along a 4 lane highway that they just stop in one lane or the other to buy goods.
    They are years away from the rest of the EU, even Montenegro is more civilized in their laws.
    Don’t get me wrong the landscape is beautiful, but hard to look around when cars are passing you on both sides.
    Loved the experience, but I won’t be back for a while.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 13, 2015 at 4:03 am

      I’d say your observations are pretty accurate and glad to hear that at least you loved the experience even if you won’t be going back for a while. Others though…reading this just might be the push they need to book their ticket as I know plenty (including myself) who would find some kind of beauty to all the chaos :)

  • Reply
    Izoo
    January 4, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    NO more Weed in Albania :(

    Lazarat now is “closed”. Police enter there and burn all weed.

    But you can find good weed for 5$ = 5-10 grams. :)
    or
    2$ for a Joint.

    UPDATE !

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 13, 2015 at 4:00 am

      Haha, yeah…I need to make this update but at the same time, are you sure there is no more weed in Albania? I know it was “closed” and “burned” last year, but the conspiracy theorist/realist in me believes it will rise again (or maybe never even fell) ;)

      • Reply
        Izoo
        March 4, 2015 at 11:23 pm

        Lazarat is CLOSED 99%, but you still can find Weed here.

        In Tirana You can find with 10$/5gr weed. Price is rising…
        Meybe after some years we will legalize it.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          March 5, 2015 at 10:49 pm

          Thanks for the info!

        • Reply
          Sofia
          June 17, 2016 at 8:13 pm

          Hi, Izoo!

          Where in Albania (in which city) would you advise a tourist to go in order to buy a lot more weed at once? like 1 kg. Whom should he speak to? My mother has terminal-stage cancer and it is known that weed oil can treat it. anyway, it is the last thing I can try. Please share this information, as it would be most helpful for me and my mum!

  • Reply
    Pein Tendo
    January 13, 2015 at 11:56 am

    do you know the location of the Albanian girl’s choir???

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 13, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      No, sorry, haven’t heard of it.

  • Reply
    Tom
    January 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Great article! I spent a week in Albania last summer and loved it, such an interesting place and quite different to anywhere else I’ve been in Europe.

    Definitely agree with you on the traffic in Tirana, takes a bit of getting used to when you’re crossing the road, and the furgons are a real adventure… We took one out to Krujë (once we eventually worked out which petrol station they were departing from that day), about 20 people all crammed in the back of this battered old minibus. Then on the way back we ended up getting dropped off on a motorway sliproad in the middle of nowhere, though luckily some locals came to our rescue and got us back to Tirana in one piece…

    We only really saw Tirana and the north, but definitely planning to head back at some point and check out the rest of the country!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 27, 2015 at 5:16 am

      Sounds like an adventure! And for sure sounds like Albania :) Have yet to check out Krujë, hopefully later this year it’ll happen. Highly recommend the southern beaches, Gjirokaster, and Berat on your next trip.

  • Reply
    Leonard
    January 25, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Visiting Albania can be the most interesting experience one has ever had. BUT. To see the most of this beautiful country my best advise would be to perhaps make use of an Albanian local to take you places. Albanians are very helpful people and mostly unemployed. They would probably love to show you the whole country for free. But being generous (£50) would help a student for example greatly and they would return this favour in the most knindness and welcoming manner, showing you around while in the country. For a small fee you will be able to hire a taxi for the whole week (£200)? And that will give you great freedom to travel to the best places. North to South West and East. Don’t go to Albania if you want a comfortable and a lazy holiday. Go to Albania to experience something out of this comerciolized world right next door to you in Europe. People spend £1000s… to visit Asia, Africa etc.. yet they have not discovered their own back garden right here in Europe.

    Anyway, all I can say is; if you are bored with sitting around doing nothing sort of holidays, visit Albania and yiu will not regrets it.

    If you are unsure how to get more information on locals, speak to an Albanian and yiu will be surprised if the helpful response you will get in trying to assist you with organising your best ever holiday.

    All the best!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 27, 2015 at 5:24 am

      Great advice and well said about Albania not being your average lazy holiday. Lazy holidays are so 20th Century – time for some adventure!

  • Reply
    Pancho
    January 26, 2015 at 5:26 am

    Hi there, to all foreigners tourists that will visit Albania and Kosovo in the future (especially alpinists or hiking lovers), if you want to experience the real old culture from Albanians then you should visit the deepest mountains that Albanians live in, there are small villages that still today live Albanians by their old traditions you will be surprised and think that you traveled in a time machine..
    I never experienced such an old culture in those days, especially not in Europe, and I think the reason is that they have been isolated from the rest of the world for too long, maybe its because the Albanian lands were conquered almost in his entire known history that’s why mountains people from Albanians across Balkan have the most different traditions from all ethnicities in the Balkan…
    -The Accursed Mountains and Albanian Alps is a good start but be careful from the mythical creatures that live there .. haha just kidding //..

    • Reply
      Larissa
      January 27, 2015 at 5:29 am

      I need to get to the Albanian Alps – they are #1 on my list the next time I visit that country. Definitely an interesting history and some old traditions around those parts that I hope (and have a feeling) will stay pretty well-preserved for the time being so the time to go is NOW. Also wholeheartedly agree that both Albania and Kosovo is paradise for alpinists and hikers looking for something wild.

      • Reply
        Azemi
        January 28, 2015 at 1:26 pm

        Larissa,

        Its great to see/read you comments – you sound so open minded. Unfortunately, for us Albanians has been alot of prejudices flying around(negative media coverage). It makes me so happy whne I see people like you that do discover my beautiful little country (which is rich in hostory and nature). Infrastructure is improving everyday and I can only see better days ahead for my fellow contrymen.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          February 7, 2015 at 6:41 pm

          Thank you. Definitely improving everyday and I think you are right that there are only better days ahead – can’t wait to go back! :)

  • Reply
    agron
    January 28, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Hi Larrisa,

    I am from Alps and I will suggest you to visit Gjervica mountain, I use to go the every summer, everything is fantastic but water more than fantastic, helps digestion and it is very healthy. Eat very caloric food and after you drink that water, than you feel great. You can visit: lekeni (lake) pafund, around that lake you will find lot of water resources and with vey high qualty water (gold healthy water). People are fantastic, very helpful and honest.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 7, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Agron – yes! Gjervica is on my list, have seen some amazing photos and videos from there. Didn’t know about the healthy water, but that’s always a bonus. Thanks for the info!

  • Reply
    Steve C
    February 3, 2015 at 11:16 am

    While I understand the effort, I find it odd that someone who never left Tirana would write a page on what travelers should know. You’ve never really been here.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 7, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      So maybe you should write one then? Since this is my blog, I choose to write whatever I want and however I want – nothing odd about that.

      While it’s true I wrote this over two years ago after spending only a week in Tirana, I’ve been back to Albania several times since (Shkodra, Berat, Himare, Gjirkaster, Saranda, Elbasan, Ksamil, Vlore, Tushemisht, etc) and have been pleased to find that everything I wrote is still accurate and then some. Thanks for your comment and do let us know when you come up with something better – would be my pleasure to give you a link back here.

      • Reply
        Steve C
        February 8, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        I did write one, and have been for months. I just didn’t think it was appropriate to provide the link to it without your permission. But it is linked above. Thanks for your response; most people would not have bothered.

        • Reply
          Steve C
          February 9, 2015 at 10:50 am

          Sorry. Looks like it didn’t go through.

          livingthehyphen.com

          Thanks, again.

  • Reply
    Paola
    February 12, 2015 at 5:14 am

    I have a friend that was in love to an Albanian guy, was coincidence but he just want the way to lie her all the time and cheat her, but he has the way to be to her like the best guy in the world!
    he was not only the cheater her friends too!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 12, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      That sucks for your friend, hope she gets out of that. Also hope you realize there are cheaters in every country and I can confirm that not Albanian guys are the same :)

  • Reply
    Rexhina
    February 12, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVxNqAQJLIg&feature=player_detailpage
    Hey to you Larisa ! Thanks for the kind words. I hope the next time you come you will see the progress on the way. Yes, its not the best place you can live but there are so many things abour it you wont find anywhere else.

    I sent you a spot from a well known albanian tv and this video is a masterpiece according to me . I hope you find it quite intruing as I do . I am very proud of my coutry and Im pretty sure soon we’re going to be known more novelty and beautiful things.
    Hope hearing again such cool writings from you. xoxo

    • Reply
      Larissa
      February 12, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Hey Rexhina, great video summary of all of Albania’s treasures. Luckily I’ve been back a few different times since I wrote this two years ago and have already noticed progress which is exciting. No doubt Albania is soon to become a real star on the travel scene.

      Thanks for the nice comment and stop by any time – definitely more writings about it on the way! :)

  • Reply
    Matt
    March 1, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Hey Larissa,

    Thanks for this great post, I’m planning a 3 week trip to Albania and this has been the first site with useful and well written information. It really made me more wanna go there. Do you have any recommendations on where to stay or where absolutely not to stay. and how many days would you recommend for visiting Tirana? Sorry for fireing those questions at you.

    Thanks so much in advance

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 5, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Hey Matt, sounds like you will have quite a good amount of time to spend there. Would definitely recommend the coast (Himare or Saranda and explore from there), Gjirokaster, Berat, Shkodra… A couple days in Tirana should be just fine. Would absolutely not stay in Lazarat but aside from that, I think everywhere is worth a chance.

  • Reply
    Admir
    March 21, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Hello Larissa, i read your article and i really enjoyed it, i am Albanian (Shqipëtar), i know that almost two years passed since you posted this article but i really wanted to correct you on some of your information, which consists in two things. You mentioned that there are more Albanians outside Albania than inside, well thats because most of Albania territory was divided by yugoslavia and greece some decades ago with premission of europe, and now it has remained less than half of the territory that used to be historically. And about the language video you posted,i really have to say that she doesn reflect the literary official Albanian language at all, she speaks a really strong Alabanian (Kosovo) diallect. I can tell she isnt really speaking a correct diallect maybe because she is born in another country and has forgoten the language but this doesnt make our language an anomaly!,, our language is one of the oldest language on history and i am proud of how we did preserve it for centuries, and it is very regular, it is difficult of course but this doesnt make it strange. And one last thing, the cannabis village(Lazarat) is vanished from the new government, so no more cannabis city :D.
    Once again thank you, you are doing a great job, hope you see this,
    Best regards

    References: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/08/24/science/0824-origins.html?ref=science&_r=0
    Maybe some basic (pure) albanian could be helpful for those who plan visiting albania,,,, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6NG0UWGLm6DqwFVTwJFq7w

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 3, 2015 at 1:45 am

      Hello Admir and thanks for the comment. Regarding your corrections, history definitely plays a role in the amount of Albanians outside of Albania but so does emigration. As for the language, there are several comments about this already about it not being the proper dialect or whatever but the main point of including it was just for people to get an idea of what it sounds like. Not learn it. In addition, what I meant my anomaly was not that it was strange but rather incredibly difficult for someone like myself (a native English speaker) to learn as it is unlike any other language I’ve ever tried to study before.

      Too bad about Lazarat, I did know that happened and made a small update note about it at the bottom. Thanks for the links as well, they are great! :)

      • Reply
        Admir
        May 17, 2015 at 7:32 pm

        Hi! Larissa,
        When you say emigration, if you mean that albanian people in history have migrated into this lands which today belong outside borders you are wrong, because very easily history can prove it, and those albanians you see living in neighbour places are native historically, they are autochthonous, and what is more interesting is that they preserved much better the albanian culture than albanians inside albania in general . As for the language, that video is so so so so wrong, that doesn’t express even how albanian sounds like, there is mistakes in writings, mistaken in pronunciation and a heavy dialect which makes albanian sound really ridiculous even for albanians,,,,,, :) .
        I thank you twice for the contribution you did by being active on this topic, best regards.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          May 27, 2015 at 10:51 pm

          I mostly meant people who left after the modern borders were drawn, for example around the time the borders opened up again or when the economy collapsed in 1997, but yes you are right, very interesting how well-preserved the culture is in some places outside of Albania like the Arbëresh villages in Italy.

          Still it really doesn’t make much difference whether the accent is Gheg or Tosk and if there are some small mistakes. In general, it is in extremely difficult language and I say this with experience as I am currently trying to learn it. My pleasure for the article, thank you for your comment contributions :)

  • Reply
    Tagor
    March 24, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Hey Admir, there are a lot Albanians giving Hope that joining EU will be a good party for the Country. Because of that Lazarat was busted, and also because of that INUK destroys here and there some illegal buildings. My Advise: Stay away from the EU until they legalised Cannabis and then be smart and make Buisness without joining that corrupt club of liers. Why should a Country take the Politician-Lyers from Brussels when you can have your own Berishas, Metas und Ramas.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 3, 2015 at 1:49 am

      Truth.

  • Reply
    yu
    April 15, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Hi, me and my friends would like to cross Albania.. We are from serbia and for us it is shortest way to reach Ohrid from Bar. We have Serbian passports and car registred in Serbia.. is it save for us to cross this trip, and see the sights of Tirana and Elbasan? txn

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 26, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Sorry but I don’t have experience with this but my instinct is that you should be ok. I’ve only heard it the other way around – those with plates from Albania or Kosovo can have some troubles in Serbia.

    • Reply
      Admir
      May 17, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Hello there!
      Albania was, is and will be open for everyone for tourism, of course you should feel yourself safe and secure.
      We dont have any problems with our neighbours, it is our neighbours who wants at any cost to steal some land from us, history has proven.
      Wish you a nice trip guys.

    • Reply
      Kastriot
      June 24, 2015 at 8:39 am

      It is safe to go into Albania with Serbian plates as I have seen others do.

  • Reply
    Dusan
    April 19, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    HI LARRISA,
    I am amazed with what came out of that first post of yours couple of years ago on your visit to Tirane……CONGRATS to YOU and all that WONDERFUL people for Albania and elsewhere who contributed to this blog so it earned such high informative reputation on Albania from California to Manila….
    Being Slovenian and resident of Slovenia, former Yugoslavia, I think I know a lot of the past history of the Balkans peninsula, including the hardships of Albanian people thru the centuries. I do have a high respect for Albanians for their honesty and loyalty ever since I was a kid in Serbia, despite all the historical animosities between them and Serbians. I do have some Serbian friends and would like to see that these two great Balkan nations some day turn their aspirations to the future and become friends instead of enemies and for new generations to put the ugly recent past behind.
    Now, this comment was initiated by the previous question by YU on whether it would be safe for Serbian citizens in a car with Serbian licence plates to travel thru Albania. I am looking forward to see the Albanians’ answers to this questions, hoping to give me an argument to convince my Serbian friends to join me in visiting this beautiful country.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 26, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      Hello Dusan, I’m always so glad when I receive comments like this and also reminded I’ve since spent much more time in Albania so I owe a follow up to this post with much more information :) I second your sentiments, it’s frustrating to have to worry about this tension sometimes but in the end I think on both sides there are people who probably wish exactly the same and are very open to leaving the past in the past. Interested to see if there are any responses to Yu’s question as well…

      • Reply
        Kastriot
        June 24, 2015 at 8:54 am

        As you know of the past history between the Albanians and Serbians that is the past. Doesn’t mean we have to forget it but we have to learn to forgive and work together for a better future. As far as for your friends being Serbians and wanting to visit Albania is perfectly safe as long as you are not looking for truble. The media gives bad news to the public that it’s not safe for Serbian to visit Albania or Kosova and for Albanians to visit Serbia but I am speaking from a personal experience that it is safe.

        • Reply
          Larissa
          June 24, 2015 at 5:19 pm

          Thanks for sharing your experience – great to know.

        • Reply
          Dusan
          July 16, 2015 at 11:54 pm

          Hi there LARISSA and KASTRIOT!
          This time I am going to be short. Visited Albania in early June for less than 24 hours but it did impress me in all aspects, except for the magistral road from Elbasan to Gjirokaster (I hope the highway being built there shall be finished before my next visit, which I hope will be soon). We stayed over in a nice little hotel outside Skhodra,went to Rozafa castle and then drove through Tirane all the way to Greece. It is right to say that we were positively surprised even more than expected from what we learned from the forum. People we met were all extremely friendly and helpful, especially the police officers, the food was tasteful and inexpensive, the country very nice (though we left the seaside out – to explore on our next trip!), we felt very safe and welcome, but the thing that amazed me most was the driving culture – on a much higher level than anywhere else in the Balkans – despite bicyclists, pedestrians, bikers… crossing the streets everywhere. On our next trip we will definitely bring along our Serbian friends who we convinced that Albania and Albanians deserve to be visited and made friends with without any second thoughts.

  • Reply
    gander
    April 20, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Hi,
    Is it worth taking Euro’s or Sterling to Albania?
    Or do they only accept Lek ?

    If they take Euro’s or Sterling is the the exchange rate fair in bar’s,cafe’s, restaurants etc

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 26, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      No, you can easily exchange Euros or Sterling though Euros are more common. Exchange rate is more or less the same everywhere.

  • Reply
    Rusald
    April 28, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Hi Larissa,

    I want to thank you for your input and your article. I think it’s one of the most correct, even if it’s not all good things you talk about, the truth is harsh (and some people can’t seem to handle it).

    I’m Albanian, currently living abroad. I’ve lived back and forth between Albania and Canada, for extended periods of time at each place. I think there are things that definitely need improvement in Albania , including the treacherous transportation system and the infrastructure, which was hard even for myself to learn after living abroad for a few years and then moving back to Tirana. I went there last year for a visit, going again this year for another visit.

    I think this article is still very true, but there are many things missing. Perhaps a follow-up article is due?

    I think Albania is currently one of the best and hottest tourist locations to visit. You can literally have it all… Mountains, full of life, rigged, with vibrantly colourful views; beaches, from the cleanest crystal clear waters of the south, to the busy beaches of Durres, and the untouched beaches of the north. There is history everywhere you turn, and a piece of tradition at every turn, in every city. The hospitality is the best out of the entire Balkans region (in my opinion) and the food is exquisite.

    I’ve rarely (if ever, come to think of it), heard a foreigner say they didn’t like visiting Albania.
    The language is very difficult to learn, but luckily, YouTube is making the young people more aware of how to at least understand some English, so if you know English you can make do anywhere you go. Just aim for the young people.

    As for safety, the Albanians are known for their “Besa” (especially the north), otherwise known as their “word of honour”. They will protect someone who is a visitor in their home, at ALL costs.

    It is a rough people as well, some pleasant, but some not so much. Just remember that respect is valued by all. Don’t disrespect the place or the people, and you will do just fine. A word to the wise men adventurers (whoever is sill reading all the way down here), you need to keep your eyes off of the Albanian women; men are VERY protective and take personal offence to staring or even “peeking”. Stay on the safe side. DO NOT LOOK!… O_O (You can really get yourself hurt, no joke…)

    Not sure how many places you’ve visited in your last few trips Larissa, but you need to see Kruja and Shkodra. I would suggest you go out behind the mountain where the city lies on in Kruja, (preferably with an off-road or SUV type vehicle), and climb to the top, the view is spectacular from up there. You can also hunt up there (and in many regions in Albania), and it would be a great place for a quick lunch/picnic. Some advice for the winter travellers, you should try to keep off the rough mountainous regions in the winter months, snowfalls can limit vehicle movements due to the lack of road maintenance.

    Do also visit Shkodra, Thethi and the Vlabona rivers. Amazing places, especially for hiking and trekking fans. I haven’t visited Kosovo much, but it’s also very very beautiful.

    One thing every traveller needs to experience, is an Albanian wedding. Very good experience for anyone who has never seen one.

    I can go on and on, but there’s simply too much to mention in one comment. I just wanted to congratulate you on your article. Hopefully it gets more views and more helpful comments.

    Enjoy your future travels in Albania.

    P.S. To YU, asking about the trip to Albania for Serbians, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem if you plan on just travelling through. Police may stop you along the way, though they generally stop most foreign plates. I would be careful though. The chants in the last football match were not generally pleasing to Albanians; some people weren’t fond of them from what I hear.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      May 28, 2015 at 12:49 am

      Hey Rusald,

      I’m sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment, but I’ve just finished reading it…only took a month ;) No, you really bring up so many great points – particularly that I need to do a follow up article which I absolutely will in the next couple of weeks so do check back here or on The Blonde Gypsy Facebook page. The problem was I just hadn’t explored enough of Albania before I first wrote this even though I heard a lot about all these great things it has to offer – just wasn’t the season and I didn’t give myself very much time. Thankfully last year I was able to travel quite a bit more through and did the coast, UNESCO towns, and Shkodra in the north (in fact I did just write a post about that one: https://fromlarissawithlove.com/2015/05/09/surprising-shkodra-a-spontaneous-day-trip-to-albanias-cultural-capital/

      Not sure if you noticed the flyer at the top but I am also headed back towards the end of this summer and will be leading a tour through both Albania and Kosovo with a local and most of your recommendations are already on our itinerary. I’ve also got a personal invitation to one Albanian wedding so far, so really looking forward to that :)

      Thank you for such a thoughtful comment and all the advice for other travelers, it’s one thing to say things myself, but quite another to have Albanians adding their two cents and also agreeing with what you’ve contributed. Social media is amazing like that. Hope you have a nice trip back to Albania this year!

  • Reply
    Mohammad Imran
    May 1, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Hello Writer,
    Nice to read your experience, I have visited Albania recently in month of February and stayed there for a month. Mostly in Gjirokaster and nearby. Visited that so infamous Lazarat, but it’s not all like I’ve imagined, no drug, no drug lord or mafia. Albanian government ended that cartel with a biter note. My experience was too much similar like yours, but I found this city much organised, peaceful, helpful (can’t say that about police) and historical. I was restricted from traveling much as February is the month off heavy rainfall, speaking of this I witnessed heaviest rainfall in the country’s history and every place nearby the city was flooded including the only national highway running by the city, and I was stuck within the city for 6 days.
    Public transport is something which can lead to panic attack if someone is not aware of schedules or traveling trends here. No railway station at all, no proper bus station but this is the fun part of blind tourism as I take it so, because you get to see and experience new things once you get out of regular conventional touring plans. I enjoyed every bit of it, even those 6 days as I explored this city to its depths in history and it was worth to know. Historical city, protected and recognised by UNESCO, castle of Gjirokaster, Lazarat the infamous village but nothing as such now.
    I was warned by many to the highest level before I visited this country and everyone asked me to cancel this trip because of the image of this country as criminal filled land (mostly not because of crime but those bond alike movies) and it is absolutely rubbish. I found people here loving, helpful, welcoming and more interested in you than you would ever be.
    Food and wine, oh I’m in love, I can say Albanian food have gave life to my taste buds after decades of hefty spices I’ve been consuming, and the wine I tasted here is the best I’ve ever tasted anywhere.
    One of the life time experience.
    I’m visiting this country for rest of my life not just because I liked it, my wife is from this city as well.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      May 28, 2015 at 1:05 am

      Mohammad, that’s a lovely story and I’m so glad you decided to share your experiences here. I sort of fell in love with Gjirokaster too even though I was only there a couple of hours and I cannot wait to return this summer.

      You perfectly sum up why Albania is so exciting/amazing to travel through and why it’s a place you go to have an adventure, not mindlessly sit on the beach all day long though it is possible (so long as you can make your way there). This country is just warming up for tourism so soon I think we’ll both see many improvements in some of these infrasturacutral things and more people heading there. Good news is, which I think you know since you’re married to a local, there are still plenty of hidden places for us to discover for years to come.

  • Reply
    Defrim
    May 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    hello Larissa
    i want to be a tour leader and i’m working on it,just want to say good job,but some things have changed such as transportations,road condintions,situation in Lazarat etc

    • Reply
      Larissa
      May 15, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Well best of luck with that, Defrim. I’ve made a notation in the post about the updated situation in Lazarat. Transportation and roads though…for sure improving, but I’d say there’s still room for much more of that.

  • Reply
    Jev
    May 15, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Wow this article has been commented over two years now, good work Larissa.

    Albania is truly a beautiful country.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      May 15, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      Thank you :) Definitely time for some kind of a follow up because a lot has happened between me and Albania during that time.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    July 6, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Larissa,

    I put my application in for the Peace Corps and Albania is the country
    I would/will go to. I will know in the next month or so, but I have gotten to the point where they put my on the invitation list just a few other steps need to be taken. I would spend 27 months over there. The first 10 weeks I would be learning Albanian. I pray this is the dialect that is useful in the area I am staying. I loved your article.

  • Reply
    diane
    July 27, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    yes, yes, your 15 things to know, was great!!! I loved the photos, and the comments – your information was perfectly fitted for me and my cousin, who will be in Albania from Sept. 8 -18.
    We going on a one week trek through the Accursive Mt.s, preceded by 2 days in Tirana, a day in Berat, and a day in Gjirokastra. In Tirana we are on our own, while, with the other two cities, we’ve hired a tour company to drive.
    My cousin and I have traveled a bit in Eastern Europe, and rarely use tours, but in this case because of language, transportation, and time, we thought it would be best!
    The trek, organized by Meet Walks International, will take us to Shkodra, Nderlysa, Thethi, Rrogam, and back to Tirana.
    We are excited to say the least, and reading your article, although outdated, made it even better.
    I will try to report back, with photos and comments.
    Any suggestions of current things to do, places to eat, etc. in Tirana,
    Berat, and Gjirokastra, would be appreciated!
    My cousin and I love quirky, fun, unusual activities, and authentic food – not expensive.

  • Reply
    gjovani
    July 30, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Rita Ora’s mum is from Kosava what used to be Albania a long time ago and her dad is from Albania and kosavans speak Albanian and Shokder is a beautiful place to visit

  • Reply
    Miray
    August 8, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    Atatürk isn’t Albanian.He was born in Thessaloniki and he is Turkish.

  • Reply
    Mira
    September 10, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I found you blog by accident. And it’s great. I love the Balkans. And it’s great to read your posts also from Finland :D

    This is very much how I experienced Albania. It’s different. I want to go to Balkans next year again. I have been there 4 yrs in a row. Something makes me want to go back.

  • Reply
    lalo
    September 29, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    I just came back (to USA) from Albania last week. Enjoyed all the comments.

    I love Albania, and Kosovo too. They say the Albanians are about 75% Muslim but not actually into religion. I hope to go back first chance I get.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      September 30, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Glad to hear you loved both and yes – lots of “Muslims” more in the cultural sense rather than religious.

      • Reply
        Arifur Rahman
        October 16, 2015 at 10:57 am

        That means they are not pious, right ?

        • Reply
          Larissa
          October 16, 2015 at 8:21 pm

          Well for sure you can find some pious, but the vast majority, no.

  • Reply
    Arifur Rahman
    October 9, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Albania’s been on my bucket for a while now, I can’t wait to go there. Maybe I’ll pop over to the Tirana for a day or two? Or just save it for next time, when I’ll be able do the country justice.

    Your writing continues to make me daydream about far flung places – thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 16, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      My first visit was just Tirana. You’ll need tons of time to explore all so might as well start somewhere!

      • Reply
        Arifur Rahman
        November 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

        Sounds great!

  • Reply
    Tina
    October 11, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you for the great info about Albania I would love to visit sometime in the near future.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 16, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      You’re welcome, I hope you do!

  • Reply
    Illyrian
    October 17, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    @Larissa,

    Have you heard about the Blue Eye, Cursed Mountains or The Fountain of youth?

    If not you have missed the biggest thing in Albania.

    The Cursed Mountains and especially The Fountain of youth are really kept away from tourists (God knows why)

    Cheers.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 25, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Yes all except the Fountain of Youth…where exactly is it? Sounds interesting…

      • Reply
        Morten
        November 28, 2015 at 2:50 am

        Hello. Thanks for the info. I am thinking of moving to Albania this winter. Hopefully traveling by ferry to Durres from Trieste because I can´t fly (dog is too old). I was wondering if you ever saw any pet dogs being walked around on a leash, and just what your impression was their attitude towards dogs are in general, if you noticed? Would it be possible to take him on busses do you think? It´s a bit of an obscure question, I know..

        • Reply
          Larissa
          March 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm

          Sorry this is a bit late, hope you got the information you needed. I can only say in general I have definitely seen dogs being walked around on leashes, mostly in Tirana, but never on a bus. As well there is a huge stray dog problem there so I’d imagine you’d have to really take care in the cities.

  • Reply
    ShqiperiEtnike
    December 15, 2015 at 1:59 am

    Tung! ;)
    I have to say I enjoyed this post but there are a few things with which I can’t agree, anyway it’s understandable since it was your first time there. :)
    I doubt that you can read true and reliable information on our history anywhere, more especially the 50 years of dictature because the communists changed and rewrote the history in benefit of their own party, resulting that nowadays few people know the true story of our country and rewriting it is still an issue because of how it affects different political forces and situations. Bunkers aren’t really that nice keeping in mind that women and men had to work all day long just to keep the dictator calm of his absurd illusions, in my opinion bunkers should be destroyed because they ARE a symbol of 50 years hell and dictature and treating them as historical objects is a terrible excuse because real historical objects are destroyed every day. In earlier comments I read some opinions about our dictator, and believe me when i say that he was the worst dictator of all times. He killed everyone opposing him by putting them in a row and having his servile ‘servants’ shot them with guns and the dictator even filmed those scenes and rewatched them with his wife when he felt down. The number of terrible and unimaginable things he has done is so long that i need to write a new comment for.
    Letting our history aside the foreign languages we speak were mentioned. To know what foreign language an albanian speaks you need to pay attention to his/her age, 9-18 is the age group with the best knowledge of english, people born while the exchange years (1990-2000) don’t have a distinguished language from the other age groups, people aged 30-40 know italian mostly because when they were kids they could get waves from the italian tv illegally and it was a language taught in school, too. Older people all know some russian because that was the only foreign language taught at school for most of dictature years, that because of the relationship the dictator had to keep with other communist countries like Russia and China in oreder to keep the power to himself. You mentioned that Tirana is colorful and has a lot of green park because of Edi Rama? Well, when he was still city mayor (am i using the right word?) Skanderbeg Square was a total grey mess, and i know that psychology is important but try tell that to a woman with 5 kids that has to wake up at 4 am in order to get water and she’ll get a broom and start kicking you with it. Edi Rama, is the son of one of dictature’s criminals, who lived in Paris before returning here, by selling the stolen icons from our churches during dictature and he lived under a bridge. And today he bears the title of our Prime Minister getting this country worse than in the nineties, destroying our roads, stealing our money with 2 times the usual taxes and by projects written in paper and payed for but without an actual result, stealing our freedom by putting poor dying people to jail because they ‘stole’ energy and even paying spies in order to have excuses to put more people to jail.

    I’d like to continue but its really late and I dont have the energy.
    Since Im writing this late there are chances i might have been unclear at some points and i apologize and you are more than welcome to ask me about anything.

    Sorry for the long post! Hope I didnt disturb you and I wish you a good day and stay wherever you are ! :)

    P.s.:Im really glad people actually visit my country and even write about it :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 20, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      To be honest, I think this is one of the most interesting comments this post has received in the past 4 years – so thank you! Insight like this is important for foreigners to read in order to better understand where the Albania of today has come from and why some things about it cannot be compared to other countries in Europe. Either way, it is a beautiful country with some really wonderful people who I hope can benefit from tourism regardless of the rampant corruption that still exists.

  • Reply
    Luciano Albanese
    January 7, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Hello everybody. ESPECIALLY YOU LARISSA 😀

    Im overwhelmed reading all this interesting info about Albania which i so much miss , ESPECIALLY from a non albanian which really gives the clear & honnest big picture about an ancient & unique country which i have not visited in 20 years due to a very busy life in the USA. “the american dream” which is work work work 😏. I myself come from fier a city about 30 min from vlore which indeed has changed immensely in a better way since i remember ,from pictures & videos i have seen recently & i can not wait to take a long trip to make up for years i missed. I take the liberty to thank you again in the name of all my countrymen for showing the real albania. Can not get a better description of a country or its people than coming from a foreigner that has no need to sugarcoat anything!!! Thank you & everyone involved . 👐👐👐👐👐 Big Albania🙏🙏🙏✌

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      I’m familiar with Fier, have passed through it several times. Really appreciate the nice words and hope you make it back soon as it is indeed changing rapidly, even in the eyes of someone like me who only first visited in 2012.

  • Reply
    Jetnor
    January 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Well you are right most of the time in your description, An update if we can call this so, the transportation has changed very much in last year, at least from Tirana there are buses that go to every city whether they are full or not and the prices are normal because they have to hand you a ticket. And the roads have changed for good, i mean the ones that go to every city at least, im not talking for the ones that go into villages there is still work to do there. And if you dont want to be overpay for stuff you buy, do your shopping on supermarkets that you can find everywhere. And you should probably visit Albania during summer and make a trip on its coastline,its amazing..!!

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks for the information. Major highways and roads have definitely improved but as many of the best places to see are some of the villages and smaller towns, it’s important people know they may be faced with challenging driving conditions.

  • Reply
    Tafil shuli
    January 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Boll me kto ma se na mytet fare. we all know the truth Albanian Albanian if really was that great country 2 miljon didn’t have to leave the country for last 25 years

    • Reply
      Larissa
      March 20, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      I would say the reason for 2 million people to leave the country in the last 25 years has nothing to do with its appeal as a tourist destination. Your email address leads me to believe you have some connections with Greece or are from there and if that is the case then you can probably understand better than anyone why someone who lives in a paradise for tourists might chose to leave it behind for better work/stand of living opportunities elsewhere.

  • Reply
    Leo
    February 4, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Great post Larisa!
    Anyone thinking to travel to Berat 2016 feel free to ask for information I’m going there for one yea vacation! I speak English and some Japanese or if you want more info about Albania please email me on leo.legakoshpk@gmail.com

  • Reply
    Erjon
    May 15, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Hello Larissa and Readers,

    I’m Albanian from Tirana, living in Vienna (Austria) and married with Japanese wife.
    When my wife was coming to Albania was the scariest person in the world I would say (first time is obvious).
    Since 2008 till now we spent every Summer in Albanian beaches like others wrote Saranda, Vlora, Durres, Shkodra(Velipoje) and surely visiting mountains.
    Advice for all guys that will visit the country, simply follow your heart, ask the young people for navigation and the old ones for the history and food diet.

    Regards.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      May 17, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks for the comment and great advice :)

  • Reply
    marcelo pagano
    May 20, 2016 at 6:15 am

    Hi larissa, great blog, im off to the balkans in 3 months for a 2 month trip ( i’m from Argentina ) very useful information
    Best Regards

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you – hope you have a wonderful time!

  • Reply
    Lee
    May 25, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Hi,
    Really enjoyed this post and the comments too.
    I just wondered the best way to get to Tirana, given that there are no trains and driving seems sketchy (to say the least).
    I was hoping to hire a car at Tivat Airport and drive a loop through Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    Does this sound doable?
    Keep up the good work,

    Lee.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      For sure, a great idea actually! I just rented a car and drove between Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro and was just fine. There are definitely some crazy drivers but as long as you stay cautious, you should be fine through all of those countries.

  • Reply
    Alban
    May 29, 2016 at 3:16 am

    Great article Larissa thank you :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 3, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      My pleasure :)

  • Reply
    Rob
    June 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Found this site out of curiousity. Just watched Channel 4 news at 7pm 1st June 2016. Young Albanians at Dieppe, France etc trying to get to Britain and saying they have rights. I expected to find a war-ravaged country and desperation. Okay, it might be poor. I didn’t expect to read about people going to Albania for excitement, beauty, and quirky lifestyle. Funny old world we live in. So is it just Albanians wanting to do the same and find some excitement and a new life or does it go deeper than that?

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 3, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      You never know unless you go (or read firsthand from someone who has). For sure the economic situation is not the best in Albania for many people which is a huge reason why so many want to leave. Unemployment is high and average monthly salary extremely low, but definitely not war-ravaged or dangerous.

      • Reply
        Enea
        June 17, 2016 at 3:13 pm

        haha, hello everyone. I’m Enea Sota from Fier, Albania.
        I’ve heard a lot that we are angry and rebellious people, and that Albania is not a safe place. The truth is that we came from an isolated near ancient world to a post modern world in a instant of time, and the 1997 civil war that started because government stole the peoples money thru Ponzi scheme, we didn’t know anything about Ponzi, Gotti, and other people, so government(criminals) took advantage over people, and the war began. That is what gave us the bad name, and maybe poverty a bit.
        I can say no more, if you came to Albania, you will have a great experience, and you will go back to your country and say your friends how fantastic the trip was.
        I’m not saying this just because i’m albanian.
        Maybe my country is poor, but we have rich hearts, we love humans, from all around, we love sports, school, science, culture, and we care a lot for each other.
        But the thing is that if you want 100% safety, that’s just not possible on the entire universe.

  • Reply
    Gracia
    June 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Many thanks. It was a great reading. Lovely and helpful, Larissa.

  • Reply
    Natalie May
    June 12, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Hey great blog,
    From Ireland but living in UK now. Lived in Corfu for 5 years – well went on a weeks holiday and stayed 5 years. I used to sell trips to Saranda etc in a travel shop. I have been to Saranda before but in February 2006. Going back now for 2 weeks arriving Tirana and travelling down the country. Really looking forward to it and the info I have read here is really helpful.

    I will add some new info when I get back after 23rd July

    Regards,

    Natalie

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 7, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Have a wonderful time! That is one of my favorite drives from Tirana to Saranda via the coast. Sure it will be different, looking forward to hearing what you thought about it.

  • Reply
    Sean Ripperton
    June 21, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Hi, Larissa and everyone. My grandparents, Constantine Passios and Constantina Kalevas, came to the U.S. from Bularat/Vouliarates around 100 years ago. I want to visit the village but speak no Greek or Albanian. Does anyone have suggestions on (1) where to stay (Sarande looks promising, although I’m open to anywhere; would northern Greece be better?), (2) how to secure a guide/interpreter for my visit to Bularat/Vouliarates, and (3) the best time of year to visit?
    Thank you!
    Sean Ripperton
    Richmond, Virginia, USA

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 7, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Sean, sounds interesting. I am not familiar with that village but Saranda looks like a perfect place to base yourself. Before or after high season (so not at all in July or August). My favorite time to travel in Albania is September. Sure you can find a guide in Saranda but don’t know of one myself. Good luck!

      • Reply
        Sean Ripperton
        July 8, 2016 at 12:26 am

        Thank you, Larissa! September 2017 seems like the perfect time to go. I’ll start planning!

  • Reply
    Cassie
    July 10, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    update this article..its 2016 people, the cities dont look like that anymore. Why do you always say crap about your county while you miss it when you’re gonne

  • Reply
    Maxi
    July 31, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Just spent a night in Sarande.

    The beaches in the city is the habour, but tough sea is not dirty. The buidlings were made by Mafia and look like the Russians helped to build them. The city itself didnt exist 100 years ago and therefore has zero history. Sinti and Romanies alias gypsies are ‘working’ along the promenade.

    HOW the fuck ALL OF YOU WANNA SEE THAT AGAIN???
    Now we going to go north… still have epectations.

    • Reply
      Agron
      August 11, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      Stay in your own Country, do not come to Albania again, we do not need you, OK, NEVER AGAIN COME HERE!!!

  • Reply
    TRACEY YORKE
    August 3, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Would you know how long it would take from airport tirana
    going to vireo-oriikum and is there taxi?

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 4, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      For sure you can get a taxi anywhere in the country but as for pricing I have no idea. Might take about 3 hours depending on traffic and construction.

  • Reply
    DNA
    August 4, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Nice article and pics. FYI, the capital of Kosovo is Prishtina, not Pristina. Yes, the latter is common in the international press, but it’s wrong.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 4, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Thank you

  • Reply
    Hamz A
    September 7, 2016 at 12:19 am

    Thanks for writing this all those years ago. I found it inspiring and as a result travelled to Albania plus Kosovo and Macedonia a couple of weeks ago.
    We went as a family, me, wife, two kids aged 5 and 3 and we had a fantastic time. We visited Tirana and Durres in Albania and enjoyed both. We would have liked to travel further South but by all accounts it was at least 7 hours drive to Saranda and even without kids that’s a bit of a mission. Tirana train station is closed. Buses are hard to pin down. The only vaguely reliable method to work out travel links from Tirana is to visit the agencies near the ‘Skanderbeg Square’ and ask one by one. We realised the info on various websites couldn’t be relied on.

    So travel was tricky. The rest of it was great. If it’s sights and marvels you want I’d say there’s enough to see in Tirana for a couple of days. But we just simply went for a stroll every day and enjoyed the vibe. There was loads to interest the kids, bearing in mind it was all new to them and it was a cool place. There were enough little parks to break up the strolls and we rented bikes. The roads didn’t feel too hectic.

    The people were very friendly. We’re from England and unsurprisingly our knowledge of other languages is limited but we had no difficulty finding people who spoke English in Tirana and felt welcomed.

    Most Albanians were a bit down on Durres. We stayed in between Durres and Golem. It wasn’t bad as I’d been led to believe although we went slightly towards the end of high season so perhaps quieter. The public beaches were a bit grubby in fairness but we just paid a small amount to use beaches attached to hotels or the pools outdoors and we were content.
    I’d say it’s worth a trip and a relatively cheap trip out the ordinary.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 5, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience! So nice to hear you enjoyed your time so much with the family, Tirana has really turned into a wonderful little capital. You are right, the trek down the coast is pretty lengthy and actually best to do if you rent a car because buses can be a nightmare to try and get to the best places. Haven’t been between Durres and Golem, I went north to the Cape of Rodon recently though and it was gorgeous – only about an hour from Tirana, too!

  • Reply
    Gezim Hajarullah
    September 29, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Italian is the most widely used foreign language in Albania, owing to its close proximity to Italy. It is spoken by many, even if not fluently, also due to Italian TV broadcasts reaching Albania. The Italian presence there during Fascism also made it an Italian colony for a brief period under Mussolini during world war-2. Greek is probably the second most understood foreign tongue and English a distant third. Owing to her isolation under communist rule and the last Eastern European country to emerge from behind the iron curtain, English is still not widely understood there, making foreign travel difficult here.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      October 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      I disagree a little, I have found it manageable to travel around without knowing Albanian and Italian – usually you can find someone from the younger generation to communicate with in English. And if all else fails, hand gestures can usually work too :)

  • Reply
    Emma
    January 25, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    We are thinking of going to Albania in April and driving lol. We must be crazy but I prefer the word brave :P
    Great blog, thank you for this! It’s very helpful.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      April 15, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Hope you made the plunge, you won’t regret it and it is really is fine – the infrastructure is improving all the time!

  • Reply
    Panagiotis
    February 20, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Dear Melissa,

    I am planning a trip to Albania this summer and the article you wrote was the most accurate. Let’s say exceptional information. Though since I am a Greek, I would appreciate it very much if you could use the exact formal names of the countries. There is no country of Macedonia, Macedonia itself is a Greek region known for the Great Alexander etc etc. The official name and the one used from EU, NATO and Council of Europe is FYROM(Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia). Your article is so nice, please give Greeks a chance to read it without being frustrated.

  • Reply
    Tina
    March 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    No need to go to Mars. Albania is good enough place.
    You will get pleasantly surprised and learn few new lessons
    of life. So why go to Mars?
    As for their language, its self explanatory.
    Ottoman invasion took Albanians from their original homeland
    Albani. A lake in Asia. They mixed with so many nations in
    Ottoman empire, that their language become richer, with new
    expressions. They mixed with Ilirians.
    Good thing they do not spell their words.
    So be nice to them, they suffered enough.

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 19, 2018 at 5:56 am

      I love the internet.

    • Reply
      Loku
      June 29, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      What the fuck are u talking about !!?? Lake Albani in Asia ??? Go to fuck yourself u and whoever told u this manipulate propaganda. U think that people are dumb and will belive this bullshit that come from ur anus mouth?? First when u talk,check ur hole behinde u and clean it. Fucking bitch

  • Reply
    Tony Albania
    May 24, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Welcome To Albania <3

  • Reply
    stephen
    July 17, 2017 at 5:14 am

    what about driving north to places like shkoder, theth and kukes?? I guess my question is… is north albania as safe as the southern parts?? I’m visiting in September. thnx

    • Reply
      Adam Johnson
      July 22, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      We just came home to AUS this week from being in Albania for 3 weeks. We went ti Shkodsr from Tirana and it was very safe. The roads were reasonably good and the people there were very friendly. Just like the rest of Albania!

      • Reply
        Larissa
        June 19, 2018 at 5:58 am

        Yes, I agree with Adam. I haven’t been to Theth, but I know plenty of people who have and I believe road conditions have improved quite a bit up there over the past couple of years. As for driving to Shkoder and Kukes – I’ve done it probably two dozen times and find it just as safe as the south.

  • Reply
    Monic
    August 28, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Is Albania safe for women?

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 19, 2018 at 5:58 am

      Yes.

  • Reply
    language Translation
    October 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    I seldom drop comments, but I read a few of the comments on 15
    Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Albania | The Blonde Gypsy.
    I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright.

    Is it only me or do some of the remarks look like they are coming from brain dead folks?
    :-P And, if you are writing at additional places, I would like to follow anything new you have to post.
    Could you make a list of all of your shared sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or
    linkedin profile?

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

      Well, you know, you gotta love the internet :) I have a whole new section on my blog now dedicated to the Balkans:

      https://fromlarissawithlove.com/the-balkans/

      You can also find me around social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) @theblondegypsy or by clicking on any of the social icons below.

  • Reply
    John Donaghey
    January 15, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    I am looking forward to visiting Albania in February, my first visit , I will be with a party of middle aged Brits and are travelling to the north of the country near to Kosovo where we shall snowshoe/ hike. Unfortunately there is a perception by a lot of people here that Albania is a source of much criminality ,I hope only to experience the good things because most of what has been said indicates this to be true ! Perhaps I can let you know what I think upon my return ?

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 19, 2018 at 6:02 am

      Hope you had an amazing time – sounds like an incredible trek! I’m sure most of those stereotypes were blown away by the large majority of wonderful people there. Would definitely love to know how it went!

  • Reply
    Jesper, The Biveros Effect
    February 28, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    We will probably be heading to Albania this spring/summer, so thank you for the short guide. Some really interesting facts and we will see if the roads has improved the last 5 years :)

    • Reply
      Larissa
      June 19, 2018 at 6:05 am

      They absolutely have! If you haven’t already gone, feel free to check out all of my other Albania articles for some other great places aside from Tirana:

      https://fromlarissawithlove.com/category/albania/

      Hope you had/have a great trip!

  • Reply
    Lewis D
    July 3, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Your posts are really interesting. I’m going to Albania later this month, so it was a great heads up. Do you have twitter? I’d love to follow your travels some more…

    • Reply
      Larissa
      July 6, 2018 at 6:21 am

      Thank you :) And yes, I do! @theblondegypsy
      Enjoy Albania!

  • Reply
    just LARISSA
    July 27, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    omg LARISSA is reply to all since 2013 so fun,
    where u live in kosovo? are u still there how is live

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 30, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      You know, I get behind, but I’ve tried. I lived in Prishtina, Kosovo for two years but I don’t live there anymore.

  • Reply
    Caterina
    July 28, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    It is an interesting article and Albania/Tirana is indeed on my bucket list, because of this whole factor of mystery and less popular destination. Being Romanian, I cease to understand why you describe Bucharest like that. I am sure you cannot compare Tirana with it, in any way, but all cities have their charm. Old Bucharest has a charming french appeal to it, not to mention all the big parks found in all the sectors of the capital. I’ve been there only 2 times, but I was impressed. I am really curious what made you describe it this way. By the way, have you been to Iasi, my home city? XOX Caterina

    • Reply
      Larissa
      December 30, 2018 at 11:11 pm

      I would love to visit Iasi, but unfortunately haven’t made it up that far north in Romania yet – it’s definitely on my list! I’ve been in Bucharest only twice (in 2011 and in 2014) and both times found it to be mostly grey and concrete which is why I described it as such. Would love to go back and see how it’s changed and seek out more green spaces, but they weren’t immediately apparent to me on either visit. Old Bucharest was completely under construction/renovation the first time I was there though I of course could sense it was indeed one of the most charming parts of the city. Hope to be back in that part of the world again soon and explore much more :)

  • Reply
    Tori
    January 12, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    My daughter and I are just going on our first trip to Albania. I read your blog and look forward to my trip! Thanks for the wonderful photos!

  • Reply
    Natasha Miller
    January 14, 2020 at 5:07 am

    This has got to be one of the cutest articles! Quite funny and I loved the photos.

  • Reply
    Fiona Cutts
    March 4, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    OMG – so happy to read this. Having spent 7 or 8 months of the last corona lockdown year in tranquil Montenegro, I was totally unprepared for my journey to Tirana, and Tirana itself – I have had a beyond, beyond crazy 48 hours, and your brilliant and amusing blog explains some of what is going on!

    So grateful – and I wonder what crazy next for me?????

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