Albania: Ten curious things the novice traveller should know

 

Tirana

Albania is a fabulous place to visit with a great cultural heritage, good food, and amazing natural beauty where you can enjoy the seaside and the mountains simultaneously. Well worth a stay for a week or so, there are a number of local peculiarities that provide both spice and challenge in equal measure for the unsuspecting traveller.

properganderpress shares some travelling tips in this quirky top ten.

1. Hotel bathrooms do not come pre-equipped with plugs. You can’t buy them either. The Albanian word for plug is … plug.

2. Shower curtains are an unknown concept in Albania and flooded floors are considered a normal part of the daily routine. Often there is a little fan heater on the floor to cope with this!

 

Pyramid built to honour the memory of Enver Hoxha

Pyramid built to honour the memory of Enver Hoxha, Tirana

 

3. The capital city of Tirana’s train station is closed. Durres, about 35 km to the east, is the major rail hub of the country.

4. The bus services are unreliable and often do not run in the afternoons (making it difficult to get back from day trips). Furgons (minibuses) cover many routes and only depart when they are full…. however long that takes.

5. Despite the lack of reliable public transport, the concept of hiring a private driver for the day is almost unheard of in Albania. Not even uni students seem willing to make a quick buck this way.

Stray dog in Tirana

Lonely stray in Tirana on a cold winter day

 

6. Albanians walk very slowly but drive very fast. By and large, they are happy to hurtle into oncoming traffic at breakneck speed to gain a one-car advantage.

7. There are about 7000 stray dogs in Albania, living on the streets, in parks, on roundabouts on busy roads, and in ancient ruins. According to Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj: “Many people who know little about street animals think they are dangerous, while in most cases the animals are simply scared. We believe that a city like Tirana has a place for all, people and animals alike.” A recent vaccination and sterilisation program has reached about 320 dogs to date (these are the ones with ear tags). Our experience of stray dogs was that they were gentle and shy.

8. The likelihood of a museum being open on the day you choose to visit, regardless of website information, advertising material and signage, is fairly slim. If you do get through the front door, staff seem genuinely shocked to have visitors.

Albanian car wash

Car washes are big business in Albania, a nation of car lovers

 

9. The biggest industries in Albania appear to be betting shops (baste), car washes (lavazh), and tyre repair places (gomisteri). There are a lot of Mercedes on the roads.

10. A surprisingly large number of Albanians speak good English, and many speak excellent Italian.

Albanian graffiti

 

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