Earth > Europe > Southern Europe > Balkans > Albania
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The road network is not very complicated, and getting out from and past towns is usually just a matter of walking in the right direction. Roads do tend to go through the towns, but keep an eye out for signs for shortcuts to avoid tedious walking when transiting.
People are usually friendly and ready to help. Be aware some drivers expect money, since private taxi is a major form of public transport. A very easy way to avoid misunderstandings (if you are strict about hitchhiking) is to say "autostop, jo lek" - "hitchhiking, no money" while showing the thumb up sign ("jo" is pronounced "yo"). This is very clear to drivers and they will either drive away or pick you up anyway.
Hitchhiking with a sign can be useful to differentiate yourself from the other people using public transportation, but on smaller roads a thumb is enough (and might actually make things easier since people might not be going far and it's hard to know what to put on your sign).
Many private minibuses join the main cities via the main roads. There are no bus stops, so they may stop when they see you hitchhiking. They are quite cheap, for example a ride from Tirana - Shkodër (120 km) costs 500 Lek (about EUR 3.5). Thus, it may happen that they pick you for free if you say that you don't have money.
Also, make sure to keep an eye on the road -- if the driver makes sudden turns and other similar actions while driving it is likely that he is either a taxi driver or that he thinks he is doing good by bringing you to the local bus station, and would expect some money from you. You therefore will have to be reiterative on stating that you travel by autostop. This kind of driver behaviour usually is not valid for the company car or truck drivers': they are already salaried and won't be offering a taxi service to you.
Women hitchhiking alone do not encounter more issues than the average European country.
Albania has a good hitchhiking reputation. The government financial trust in police force has lifted up the safety level in most areas of the country; however, it is paramount to remain cautious, and hitching by night as well as in some areas might not be too wise. Beware of the poorest area and hitching next to slums since you will be quickly dragging the attention of dozens of children lurking at your bags, and would make almost impossible for you to get out of there, so if you find yourself around such place just walk away and ignore the people until you are in a better area.
Be careful at the borders, because officers can be corrupted and there are many problems with smuggling of cigarettes, drugs and guns. Border controls are more "exact" than in the rest of the Balkans.
- Kosovo-Albanian border crossing
- rozwal had not issues whatsoever, guards were very friendly and inquired about our purpose of stay (November 2011).
- Montenegro-Albanian border crossing
- Harveypekar 2010. I tried at Podgorice, but ended up stuck for 2 hours. I made the sign for "a little bit" and made it to Tuzi, where it's better. Even though the touts will discourage you, and shout at cars that you won't pay, I got a ride after 30 mins in an Albanian car. Backsheesh for leaving Montenegro was 5 beers, and entering Albania 200 leks. My drivers paid that. Beware that the road to Skoder is really slow and could take well over an hour. I heard the crossing on the coast is barely visited, and only by tourists, with way less hassle by border guards.
- Qafë-Thanës-Struga border crossing
- Quarim had problems at the border check to Macedonia (direction Struga, Ohrid) in 2008, he gave a bribe that the officers let him pass.
- Klaudyna reports a very different experience: We crossed the Macedonian - Albanian border on foot and started hitchhiking straight after crossing, about 100 meters away from the officers. We thought it's was going to bring us in trouble and we were trying to be as discreet with it as possible. They noticed us of course, but their reaction was quite different from what we expected - they stopped a car for us and told the driver to bring us to Tirana coz there is not much traffic and otherwise we would have waited forever.
- rozwal had not issues whatsoever (November 2011).
- Kutikuti : I crossed the Kosovo - Albanian border in September 2011 without any control whatsoever. There were guards and offices, but noone actually bothered to check if I had a passport. When I arrived in Shkoder, I told the receptionist about the situation, hoping that she would direct me to some police station or anywhere official, but the only thing she said was "never mind...".
- Kakavia Greece-Albania border crossing
- Arriving from Greece, Igoumenitsa, Ioannina and Kalpaki, is not a high traffic road but anyway very easy to reach. As crossed the border, you will have a big square, with cafes, shops and so on, you can change money there, but you will be assaulted by anyone try to rip you off. Better move to the petrol stations, you have one, 200m down, closer but a bit less traffic and another one, better, 1 km later, after the junction with kakavia village, already on the way to Gjirokaster, the first albanian city you will meet.
- Arriving from Albania, there are quite frequent busses on the Greek side of the border in the direction of Kalpaki (3,60 eur), Ioannina. (July 2013)
- Fedecicco I passed it (july 2012) without any problem, no corruption nor serious problem met. Only an enormous mass of albanian taxi drivers assault you as you cross the border by foot. Just said them no, almost nobody spoke english, and continued my way.
- Val I passed the border (July 2014) with german passport, not even one question asked. I honestly doubt his english would have been good enough at that point as he looked very shy and not knowing what to say when he gave me back the passport.
Eating & Drinking
In Tirana (and probably in other cities, too) you can find very cheap local food markets with really good and fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, olives, etc. Local olive oil and freshly baked bread is something everyone has to taste!
Do not drink tap water in Albania.
This statement is partly false, I asked around and it seems to depend on the area you are in. For example Gjirokaster is very well drinkable. ** Val I had no Problems staying one week drinking it. Next tip, if you are in Dhermi area, ask in big hotels they sometimes have a water cleaning filter in their system and you can fill up your bottle easily. Mind of a Hitchhiker drank the tap water in Albania for one month and was perfectly fine.
Accomodation & Sleeping
In Tirana one can easily get accommodated in so called private sector: these are people who have their apartments arranged to accepts occasional tourists. It is safe, quite cheap (you can talk about how much you can pay), you get friendly company (if needed) and tips how and where. To find these kind of places just ask some more tidily looking folks on the street, or in Internet cafes and other similar places. There is a nice and individual hostel in the center of Tirana. Tirana Backpacker Hostel, Rruga Elbasanit 85, Tirana. For free you can stay at Couchsurfer house. Albanians are very good hosts and they can help you by showing the city you will stay or giving directions.
Mind of a Hitchhiker had an awesome time freecamping and squatting in Albania. There's lots of building going on in Albania, especially at the coast in Sarandë there's a whole rise of ugly concrete structures, presumably to launder money. There's not enough people who actually buy those apartments, so squatting is really doable for the night if you manage to sneak in unnoticed. There's empty buildings in the whole country. If you walk about 4km north of Dürres centre there's a few beaches and hills excellent for pitching a tent.
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