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After years of communist isolation, Albania is emerging as a great holiday destination. It offers visitors the chance to experience local culture which has barely been touched by modernization, an opportunity that is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Drive from ancient sites such as Berat, through dramatic mountain scenery in Tirana and on to the pristine coastline - this stunning country has much to offer.
Many of the main roads between the large cities have been revamped over the past few years; however, there is no national recovery service, so ensure your car is well maintained. Some minor roads can be rather worn but as a rule, roads are well signposted.
Driving licences: UK drivers are permitted to drive here providing they carry both the photo ID and paper sections of their UK licence, and an International Driver’s Permit.
Which side does Albania drive on: the right.
Motorways: 80mph (130kph)
Rural areas: 49mph (80kph) or 55mph (90kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.01 per cent, stricter than the UK limit of 0.08 per cent. Drivers with alcohol levels higher than 0.01 per cent may face severe penalties.
Driving age: 18 years.
Seatbelts: must be worn by all passengers. Young passengers should use a car seat or appropriate restraint.
Mobile phones and GPS: using a mobile phone while driving is only permitted in conjunction with a hands-free device. Failure to do so may result in a fine. GPS is allowed and advised, as many printed maps are outdated due to recent road network improvements.
Cost of fuel in Albania: petrol is slightly cheaper here compared to the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit card payment is not widely available at fuel stations but can be used for car hire payment.
Insurance: third-party insurance is provided with car hire, but this doesn’t cover all eventualities, for example, damage to tyres. Breakdown and other forms of additional insurance are optional.
Traffic and parking: in Tirana, traffic can be bad and parking difficult to find. There is only one main parking garage in the city centre, with parking in unmarked spots prohibited.
It is not possible to enter Albania directly via train, you will have to travel to Montenegro and travel by bus or taxi in to Albania. There’s a limited, slow train service between Tirana and Shkodra, along with routes to Fier, Ballsh and Pogradec. However, the trains tend to be in poor condition, although they often offer fantastic views of the lush scenery. Ticket prices are cheap, for example a ticket from Tirana to Durres will be about £1.00, but buses are often a much faster way to reach your destination.
Taxis can be taken to the border, changing to a different taxi on the other side. They are a common way to get around towns and cities. Taxis run on a meter and have fixed rates; in Tirana a journey of one kilometre is about £1.70.
Public buses are comfortable and generally run on time, but many citizens get around using furgons. These minibuses have no timetables, simply leaving when the bus is full, but provide access to the cities and some small towns. The stations aren’t clearly signposted, but can be found by asking around. Destinations are displayed on the dashboard.
Ferries from Bari and Ancona, Italy, both dock in Durrës. Bari also offers a high-speed service alongside a regular ferry service. A reliable overnight service runs from Brindisi, Italy, to Vlore. Ticket prices for these three services are between £40.00 and £60.00. Daily ferries also run from Corfu, Greece, docking in Saranda.
Albania has only one international airport, Tirana International Airport Nene Teresa, also called Rinas International Airport, which is around 11km, or a £1.50 shuttle bus ride, from Tirana city. A good number of European airlines fly here, including British Airways from London Gatwick.
Albania is something of an untouched treasure, offering plenty of history and culture to all who visit.
Dajti Mountain is a popular tourist spot. Found in Tirana, the mountain gives a stunning view of the country. Butrint is another must-visit for those seeking history. The southwestern national park is a memorable place to visit. There are a number of ancient Greek and Roman ruins here.
The country has no end of castles, and many cities have at least one well-preserved site. Many castles, such as Skanderbeg Castle in Kruje, are now popular museums housing a number of ancient artefacts.
The coastline of Albania, with its clear turquoise seas and numerous islands, is another popular tourist spot. From Vlore along the Albanian Riviera, the beaches tend to be rocky, while the area north of Vlore to the Montenegrin border is made up of sandy beaches.
Llogara National Park in the southwest is also a must-see for visitors. The Llogara Pass is located near here and offers a stunning view across the Albanian Riviera. Located nearby is Caesar’s Pass, which Julius Caesar marched through in pursuit of Pompey.
The coastline has a Mediterranean climate, meaning hot, sunny summers and mild winters. Mainland Albania can get uncomfortably hot during the summer, with temperatures as high as 35ºC. During the winter, inland areas see a large amount of rainfall. Although temperatures rarely drop below freezing, there is heavy snowfall from November through March in the mountains.