Important Tips Before You Travel to Albania
Last Updated on June 7, 2022
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There’s no doubt that Albania is a hidden gem in Europe, many people don’t even know it exists! As I now live in Albania, I have gathered many must-read tips if you are going to travel to Albania.
From how to deal with cash and tipping, to which foods to try and how best to interact with locals, these Albania travel tips will help you travel Albania with ease.
Fortunately there aren’t many do’s and don’ts in Albania, so you can spend less time worrying about what not to do in Albania and focus on enjoying the country and its people.
There is so much to see, do and experience that getting to travel in Albania should be at the top of your European bucket list!
Top Tips to Know Before You Travel to Albania
1. Go with the Flow
This is the biggest Albania travel tip because if there’s something you should know about Albania, it’s to relax and go with the flow! Albania is unlike other countries you might have visited.
Don’t expect a bus to be on time, don’t expect everything to go your way, don’t expect anything. It’s good to have no expectations with Albania; that way you will experience the real Albania.
Albanians are very relaxed. Everything takes time, appointments are merely suggestions most of the time.
If someone says to you ‘I’ll have it done by tomorrow’ they probably mean they will have it done for you next month.
🧳 MUST-HAVE: Before you head out on your trip, make sure you have travel insurance. I recommend either SafetyWing or World Nomads.
2. Get Used to the Staring
The staring is something you will have to get used to if it’s not common for your culture. I have lived here for a year and it’s still something I struggle with. Staring is part of the Albania culture.
They love to people-watch, it might just be the favourite Albanian past time. Don’t be offended if someone is staring at you; it’s normal!
3. Say Yes!
One of my favourite parts about travelling in Albania is the hospitality. They have world-class hospitality. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you do – you will be welcomed with open arms.
Saying yes should be an important Albania travel tip because during your time in Albania you will probably be asked many times if you want something to eat, drink, go and see something etc.
Albanians love being hospitable and, I have learned that saying no means nothing.
For example, when I visit my boyfriend’s family, if his mother asks if I want a chocolate, I MUST eat that chocolate – there’s no other way around it.
The hospitality can be a little overwhelming in Albania for tourists sometimes – just say yes, and let yourself be looked after!
4. Go to the Albanian Riviera
You cannot go travelling to Albania and only visit Tirana – you are missing out. The Albanian Riviera is home to some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
You will find many hidden coves, beaches and quaint villages. My favourite little village is upper Qeparo; it’s a half-abandoned village which sits on a mountain and overlooks the sea.
The best way to experience the Albanian Riviera is to start in Saranda and make your way up to Vlora, or the other way around (from Vlora to Saranda).
It’s truly one of the best ways to get out and go travel Albania!
If you’re pressed for time you can spend a week hopping down the coast, but I recommend 2 weeks if you want to really see everything and relax on some Albania beaches too.
💡 PACKING TIP: Make sure you bring a good snorkel, water shoes and a fast-drying towel for all of the beach-going you’re about to do!
5. Eat the Local Food
This is one of the great Albania tips for tourists because many people come here expecting the finest salmon or great sushi. The reality is you’re going to be disappointed.
Don’t expect western food – instead try the local cuisine. Eat what comes in abundance here in Albania!
For example, along the Albanian Riviera make sure you try seafood. It’s fresh, delicious and (most of the time) comes straight from the sea onto your dinner plate.
You can find some good western-style restaurants in Tirana, but it’s not going to be as good as you can probably get while you’re home.
Instead, dive deep into Albanian food – it’s fresh, it tastes great and it’s healthy!
6. Learn a Few Words of Albanian
Albanians really appreciate you trying to speak their language, even if you do get it wrong! The Albanian language is unlike any other language in the world – that’s a fact, not an opinion.
Travel to Albania and you’ll find out there is no other European language that is like Albanian. The Albanian language has its own roots!
Fun fact: the north and the south have different dialects so they cannot understand what each other are saying.
Here are a few words that you should learn:
- Pershentdejte – Hello
- Falemenderit – Thank you
- Gazuar – Cheers or Salut!
7. Know the Prices
Unfortunately, like nearly every place in the world, there are going to be people who try and rip you off because you’re a tourist.
The best thing you can do is to do some research and get to know the prices. In the last year, I have noticed it more in Albania.
I think it’s due to more tourists choosing to travel to Albania and more people seeing the opportunity to completely rip those tourists off by making them pay triple for something.
For example, a taxi from the airport to Tirana should cost around 2000lek. I had a taxi driver try and charge me 5000 for it.
A great tip is to ask the locals how much certain things should cost if you get talking to them. You can also read this article I wrote about the costs of living in Albania as a tourist.
Here, my Albania travel guide for prices gives you some examples of prices for random, everyday things.
8. Learn a Little About the History
Albania has had an interesting but difficult past. To understand the country and the people you should learn a little about the recent history.
From the 1940s until the 1990s Albania was under a communist rule which meant there were strict restrictions. Some compare it with North Korea.
After communism fell, 2/3 of Albania’s population lost all of their life savings due to a pyramid scheme.
When the scheme collapsed, rioting began, the government collapsed and that was the start of a civil war that lasted for around 6-7 months.
9. Talk Politics
When you come traveling to Albania you will soon notice that Albanians LOVE to talk politics. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of problems in the country that are yet to be solved.
There are no jobs, the wages are low and the quality of living is low. Albania is hard to live in and hard to get ahead as an Albanian.
You will certainly have these kinds of talks with Albanians when you vacation in Albania.
10. Talk Philosophy
On top of politics, Albanians also love to talk about philosophy. This is something I noticed within the first year of living here.
You will get into deep conversations about existence, language, the mind and (a classic) why are we here?!
If you travel to Albania you may leave with a deeper understanding of the universe!
📚 P.S. Grab access to my Travelling Albania Guide to get a comprehensive insight into more places to visit in Albania (including secret spots that are not recommended in the usual guides!)
11. Gestures you should Avoid in Albania
Fortunately, there are no major gestures a tourist should avoid in Albania, other than the ones you would normally be wary of using at home!
The only major thing to know about Albania body language is that, when it comes to nodding or shaking your head for “yes” or “no”, it is the opposite in Albania.
Shaking or jiggling your head in Albania means “yes”, and nodding or tipping your head means “no”. This can take some getting used to.
Unfortunately, some of the younger Albanians are used to the western way, so expect there to be the possibility of confusion!
12. Try the Pizza!
This may seem like a strange thing to have on your Albania bucket list, but Albanians make incredible pizza! Italy is only just across the water so it’s a given that they have a little bit of Italian influence.
Also, a lot of Albanians moved to Italy and found work in pizza restaurants and have learned the art of Italian pizza. Now they have brought that back to Albania and you can find quality pizza.
I’m sorry Italians, but I have had better pizza in Albania than I have had in Italy.
13. Take Cash
Albania is a cash society. You won’t find many shops or restaurants take Eftpos. In Saranda, I know of only a couple of places that take a card.
When you come to Albania you should try to go to an atm as soon as you can get some LEK out. Most businesses also take euros as well as Albanian currency. Some ATMs charge a fee for cash.
I have been charged as much as 800lek to get money out. Some have a 500lek fee and some are free! You can also get euro cash out of at least one atm but best to ask a local where that is.
14. Tipping in Albania
One of the first things many people ask when they think about traveling in Albania is about tipping. How does Albania tipping work? Is leaving tips in Albania the right thing to do?
Tipping is not compulsory in Albania, and not generally expected. If you receive excellent service and want to leave a tip, your server will be very grateful.
However, thanks to the influence of tourists, in recent times tipping has become more expected in larger cities.
🚗 Travelling Europe by car? For the best prices on car hire in Europe, opt for Europcar.
15. Don’t Underestimate the Raki
One of the most important travel tips for when you’re visiting Albania for the first time: don’t underestimate the raki!
Raki is the local moonshine and it’s strong, very strong. In fact, raki can be upwards of 70% proof and the great thing, you never really know how strong it is until it hits you.
But raki is not made for getting drunk. It goes deeper than that. You will see old men having a glass of raki with their morning coffee.
Albanians believe raki is good for the heart, good for the bones, good for everything – but in moderation of course.
Raki is also used in hospitals and as medicine for toothaches and wounds. It’s the perfect all-round drink!
Most families who live in a village will make their own raki, and a lot of it so it lasts them a while. If you visit Tirana, make sure you visit a bar called Komiteti. It’s a raki bar with dozens of flavours!
16. Don’t Listen to the Misconceptions
Unfortunately, Albania has many misconceptions. Mostly due to misinformation, no information and the movie Taken.
That Liam Neeson movie has done a lot of harm for Albania’s reputation when actually, only one of the actors who plays an Albanian in it is actually Albanian!
They are constantly portrayed as bad guys, drug dealers, drug lords, gangs etc. Although Albania has a history of some of those things, doesn’t nearly every country in the world?
Albania is completely safe, in fact, I have felt safer here than in western European countries.
The crime rate is extremely low against tourists, in fact non-existent. And the mafia? Well, let’s just say there’s more money to be made elsewhere. You don’t have to ever worry about that sort of thing.
Albanians are incredibly friendly, very helpful and vow to always keep you safe while you’re visiting or living in their country.
If I ever have a situation or need help, there’s always a bunch of people offering to help. Even if they can’t, they will find someone who can!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! If you travel to Albania you will find that is beautiful and very welcoming, with gorgeous beaches and delicious food.
Yes it is – Albania is very safe for tourists, and many of the assumptions people have about safety in Albania are only based on movies.
Albanians speak Albanian – it is a language unlike any other and very difficult to speak for visitors, but you are welcome to try your best!
There are my best tips about Albania! I hope you find them useful when you visit Albania.
Other articles you will love:
- Albania Weather: Best time to Visit Albania
- Albania beaches: 10 of the Best Beaches in Albania
- Your ultimate guide to Ksamil, Albania
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Albania is just amazing and still underrated country. So many things to see here and never miss the food – just lovely!
Anita Hendrieka> Sofia Pratt
It sure is! 🙂
Hey, thanks for the recomendation. Can you please share some information about public transportation?