Visiting Blue Eye Theth as part of a 10 day itinerary for north Albania

Travelling in Albania: Everything you need to know before you go

Travelling in Albania may throw up some questions along the way, both in the planning stages and while you’re visiting. On both our 10 day trip to north Albania and our 10 day trip to south Albania there were quite a few things we hadn’t thought about in advance, which came up as we were travelling. So I thought I would jot them all down and put them in one place to make it easier for you to find when planning your trip. If there is anything else you’d like to know about travelling in Albania, please let me know!

Is travelling in Albania safe?

I must admit, “is travelling in Albania safe” is one of the main questions I get asked. I can honestly say after two trips there that we have never felt unsafe. We have found the Albanian people to be very kind and hospitable and extremely family friendly. The UK government’s foreign travel advice agrees that “reports of crime targeting foreigners are rare.” However, like anywhere, I would always recommend keeping your wits about you in a new place. Keep a close eye on your belongings in busy areas and don’t leave valuable on show in your car, for example.

The main danger for most people travelling in Albania is probably the roads. I would recommend reading my driving in Albania post before you hire a car in the country. But as long as you are a confident and sensible driver you should be fine. Our general rule is to go at your own speed, let the locals overtake you if they want to (which they probably will!). Be aware of sudden braking in towns, when drivers often stop without warning. Plus, on motorways be prepared that drivers rarely use indicators when changing lanes. 

Is Albania a good country to travel in with children?

In my opinion, Albania is a great country to travel in with children. Albanians are very family focused and children are welcome everywhere (including fancy restaurants). We have travelled to Albania with kids twice and have absolutely loved both of our trips. If your children are fans of the outdoors, there is so much to do from climbing in the stunning mountains, to chilling out on the beautiful beaches. In the north of Albania in particular, this is also likely to be some kind of animals wherever you stay, which our little adventurers adored.

One big thing to note though, is that safety standards may be quite different to what you are used to in your home country. For example, at historical monuments, such as the country’s many castles, don’t expect to see any safety barriers. There are lots of sheer drops, so keep a close eye on your children at all times. This also extends to things like play parks (check equipment isn’t broken) and in hotel rooms, which often have steep staircases. 

Can I use my mobile phone plan when travelling in Albania? 

Check your mobile phone plan ahead of travelling to Albania to ensure that you don’t get caught out by huge charges. If your provider does not cover you in Albania (which many don’t, as it’s not in the EU) I would recommend buying a tourist SIM card as soon as you arrive in the country. There is a Vodafone store in Tirana Airport where the staff will set this up for you. The tourist SIM card allows you to make calls and use the Internet during your trip. It cost 29 Euros for 100GB and unlimited minutes and 23 Euros for 40GB and 1000 minutes when we were there.

Can you drink tap water in Albania?

Whether you can drink tap water in Albania depends on where you are staying. Up in the mountains you probably couldn’t find fresher water and tap water is served proudly in restaurants and hotels. Many locals also drink water in the cities too. However, the UK government’s foreign travel advice recommends that you don’t drink it. So we mostly bought bottled water in the cities, especially for the children.

What currency do they use in Albania?

The currency used in Albania is Lek. It is not possible to get Lek from outside the country. So it is best to either take Euros, which you can change once within Albania or to make a withdrawal from a cash machine. If you’re planning to withdraw money, make sure you choose a card from home which offers free withdrawals abroad. But be prepared for large charges to use Albanian cash points (we generally found it to be around £8).

We also found that many places also take Euros, so you can always ask. But I would advise having a little Lek too, just in case.

Something we also discovered, particularly in the north of the country, is that many hotels like you to pay your accommodation/dinner bill at the end of each night, as their tills reset each day.

Can you use a credit card in Albania?

You can use a credit card in some hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions in Albania. But some places will add quite a hefty charge for you to do this, so I would always advise having some cash. 

Do you need to tip when travelling in Albania? 

Tipping in Albania is like many countries in Europe, it is appreciated but not expected. We found that eating out in Albania was very cheap compared to the UK, especially because it is mostly communal-style dining. So we usually rounded up our bill a little to show our appreciation.

Is Albania good for vegetarians?

I will be honest and say that Albania is heavy on the meat and dairy side when it comes to food. This is especially the case in the north, where lots of hotels and restaurants serve set meals. As a vegetarian it should be possible to find dishes without meat. However, I would definitely recommend that you flag it to accommodation providers in advance so that they can prepare. 

In the south, particularly in tourist hotspots, like a beach holiday in Ksamil, you are more likely to offered a menu. Although you may be limited to dishes like pasta, pizza and salads. A popular traditional dish is byrek. This filo pastry, stuffed with fillings such as spinach and cheese, will be suitable for vegetarians.

Most hotels provide breakfast with an overnight stay and this will often be a selection of meat, cheese and eggs. At dinners there will be more vegetarian options available, such as vegetable soups, salads and pasta dishes.  

In the supermarkets it is easy to buy vegetarian food. But keep an eye on prices, as some products are quite expensive, particularly if they are imported.

Is Albania good for vegans?

As I mentioned above, Albanian dishes are usually meat or dairy based. So I think it might be a struggle for vegans to find something suitable to eat everywhere. I would recommend being prepared to eat a lot of the same kind of food, particularly in the north of Albania, where options are more limited. It might also be worth taking along some dried food in your suitcase in case you really get stuck. (For example, we took some packets of noodles with us, for the days that our little adventurers were tired and needed a quick dinner.)

Most hotels provide breakfast with an overnight stay and this will often be a selection of meat, cheese and eggs. However, there will also be bread, preserves and fruit. At dinners there will be more vegan options available, such as vegetable soups, salads, turshi (pickled vegetables) and pasta dishes. I would definitely recommend mentioning your dietary requirements to accommodation providers when you make your booking.

In the supermarkets it is possible to buy vegan food. But keep an eye on prices, as some products are quite expensive, particularly if they are imported.

So I hope you found this advice about travelling in Albania helpful. If you have any other questions please let me know in the comments below.

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