Accessible Travel

High footpaths and unannounced potholes make life difficult for mobility-impaired travellers. Tirana's top hotels do cater to people with disabilities, and some smaller hotels are making an effort to be more accessible. The roads and castle entrances in Gjirokastra, Shkodra, Berat and Kruja are cobblestone, although taxis can get reasonably close.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Bargaining

It’s perfectly acceptable to haggle at markets and at shops selling souvenirs. Elsewhere it’s not common. For long-distance taxi rides, haggling is definitely a good idea.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Driving Drivers should be aware that traffic police are ubiquitous – stick to the speed limit and don’t drink alcohol as there’s a zero blood alcohol policy.
  • Theft Be aware of pickpockets in crowded spaces.
  • Drugs Albania has a reputation (not totally ill deserved) for organised crime and drug production and smuggling. Foreign tourists are highly unlikely to get caught up in any of these underworld activities or even be aware of it.

Embassies & Consulates

There is no Australian, Canadian, New Zealand or Irish embassy in Albania. Australians should contact their embassy in Belgrade, while Canadians and New Zealanders should contact their embassy in Rome. Irish citizens are advised to seek consular assistance from other EU embassies in Tirana.

French Embassy

German Embassy

Dutch Embassy

UK Embassy

US Embassy

Emergency & Important Numbers

Ambulance127
Fire128
Police129

Entry & Exit Formalities

Visas

Nearly all visitors can travel visa-free to Albania for a period of up to 90 days.

More Information

All citizens of European and North American countries may enter Albania visa-free for up to 90 days. This is also true for Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese and South Korean citizens. Citizens of most other countries must apply for a visa.

Customs Regulations

Albania has a customs regime typical of any European country: 200 cigarettes, 1L of spirits or 2L of wine are permitted duty free to each individual over 18 years.

Etiquette

  • Mosques Do not attempt to visit mosques during prayer time.
  • Greetings Men shake hands with each other when they meet. Do follow local cues when meeting people in rural areas; it may not be appropriate to shake hands with women if you are a man.

Internet Access

Free wi-fi is ubiquitous in all but the most basic hotels. In larger towns many restaurants also offer free access.

LGBT Travellers

Extensive antidiscrimination legislation became law in 2010, but did not extend to legalising same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian life in Albania is alive and well but is not yet shaped into clubs or organisations. The alternative music and party scene in Tirana is queer-friendly, but most contacts are made on the internet. As with elsewhere in the Balkans, discretion is generally the way to go for LGBTIQ+ travellers.

Money

ATMs are widely available in most towns. Acceptance of credit cards is normally confined to upper-end hotels, restaurants and shops, although every year their usage becomes more widespread.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$179.45 lekë
CanadaC$182.95 lekë
Euro Zone€1124.40 lekë
Japan¥10097.15 lekë
New ZealandNZ$174.40 lekë
UKUK£1140.70 lekë
USAUS$1109.70 lekë

More Information

The lek (plural lekë) is the official currency of Albania, though the euro is widely accepted; you'll get a better deal for things in general if you use lek. Accommodation is generally quoted in euros but can be paid in either currency. ATMs can be found in all but the most rural of Albania's towns, and many dispense cash in both currencies.

Albanian banknotes come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 lekë. There are five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 lekë coins.

Albanian lek can't be exchanged outside the country, so exchange them or spend them before you leave.

Credit cards are accepted only in the larger hotels, shops and travel agencies, and few of these are outside Tirana.

Tipping

  • Restaurants Tipping is appreciated in restaurants (10% is normal) and expected in fancier places.
  • Bars and cafes In cafes and bars it’s polite to leave some change.

Opening Hours

Banks 9am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday

Cafes & Bars 8am to midnight

Offices 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants 8am to midnight

Shops 8am to 7pm; siesta time can be any time between noon and 4pm

Post

The Albanian postal system (www.postashqiptare.al) is fairly rudimentary – there are no postcodes, for example – and it certainly does not enjoy a reputation for efficiency. That said, most items do normally make it to their destination.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day 1 January

Summer Day 16 March

Nevruz 23 March

Catholic Easter March or April

Orthodox Easter March or April

May Day 1 May

Mother Teresa Day 19 October

Independence Day 28 November

Liberation Day 29 November

Christmas Day 25 December

Smoking

  • Smoking While smoking is ubiquitous on the streets and in cafes, there’s been a blanket ban in bars and restaurants since 2007. This is very unevenly applied, however, though during the warmer months smokers largely seem happy to remain outside.

Taxes & Refunds

There is no refund scheme for VAT, and no other taxes payable by visitors.

Telephone

Albania's country phone code is 355. Mobile coverage is excellent, but limited in very remote areas (though most places have some form of connection, including Theth).

Mobile Phones

Albania has good mobile coverage though it can be spotty in mountain areas. Local SIM cards can be used in European and Australian phones. Other phones must be set to roaming to work – be wary of roaming charges

More Information

It’s very straightforward to buy a SIM card with mobile data from any mobile phone/internet provider. Prepaid SIM cards cost around 500 lekë and include credit. Special two-week 'tourist' packages are available. These include phone calls, text messages and internet data.

Mobile numbers begin with 06. To call an Albanian mobile number from abroad, dial +355 then either 67, 68 or 69 (ie drop the 0).

Time

Albania uses Central European Time (UTC+2 in summer, UTC +1 in winter). The 24-hour clock is commonly used, though so is the 12-hour clock.

Toilets

Albania uses Western-style toilets and they’re generally easy to find.

Tourist Information

The country's main tourist board website is www.albaniantourist.com. The tourist information offices with some English-speaking staff operate in Tirana, Saranda, Korça, Gjirokastra and Berat, though they're rarely particularly proficient; the staff at the ZIT in Saranda are a pleasant exception. In general the best advice can be obtained from staff at hostels and travel agencies.

Travel with Children

By and large Albania is a fantastic country for family-travel. Albanians adore children and will treat younger children like kings and queens. Restaurants and hotels will always do their best to accommodate your children's needs and there are no fussy north European/Anglosaxon rules about children being seen but not heard.

Most children will (of course) enjoy the beaches, but the castles of Berat and Gjirokastra also inspire little minds as do Albania's ancient sites. If your children enjoy the mountains, there are some short family-friendly walks around Theth and Valbona.

Practicalities

  • Hotels tend to be friendly and well disposed towards children, but it’s rare to be able to book cots.
  • Safety seats can normally be booked with hire cars.
  • Short distances mean road travel is rarely a major chore.
  • Breastfeeding is acceptable in public, though in some places women will be expected to cover themselves while doing so, and in more rural areas this may be a taboo.
  • Disposable nappies and milk formula are readily available.

Volunteering

The Peace Corps has a large presence in Albania, but other than that there are minimal organised volunteering programs in the country.

Weights & Measures

Albania uses the metric system.

Women Travellers

Albania is a safe country for women travellers, but outside Tirana it is mainly men who go out and sit in bars and cafes in the evenings. You may tire of being asked why you're travelling alone, but you'll rarely feel the target of more than curiosity.

Work

Albania has a large foreign community, particularly in Tirana, but also throughout the country in even its smallest and remotest towns. Most expats in Tirana work for NGOs and the diplomatic corps, while elsewhere in the country it’s tourism and small businesses that attract foreigners. It’s generally easy to get a working visa for Albania if you have an employer able to provide the necessary support documents.