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.
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.
Emergency & Important Numbers
- 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.
Free wi-fi is ubiquitous in all but the most basic hotels. In larger towns many restaurants also offer free access.
Albania has a modern and largely progressive legal system. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty and police are generally polite, though few speak English. In some circumstances, it’s not uncommon to be asked for a bribe, particularly if you’ve broken some traffic rules.
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.
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.
|Euro Zone||€1||124.40 lekë|
|New Zealand||NZ$1||74.40 lekë|
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.
- 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.
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
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.
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 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.
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).
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
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).
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.
Albania uses Western-style toilets and they’re generally easy to find.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.