What’s it Like to Travel in Albania?
It’s dirt cheap.
Before this trip, I thought Macedonia was the cheapest country in Europe — and Albanian prices are in line with Macedonian prices or even slightly lower. Like everywhere else in the world, you’ll pay more in urban and touristy destinations in Albania and less in smaller towns and less popular destinations.
Some price examples: I very rarely spent more than $10 (or even $5) on a meal, and only did if I had a few drinks somewhere fancy. I paid 350 lek ($3) for prosecco at the chic bar on top of the Sky Tower in Tirana. Beers? Around $1 at a shop or $2 in a bar. I went on a shopping spree in Tirana and spent about $8 per shirt and $18 per (nice) dress.
Most unbelievably, I paid $18 per night for a hotel room in Berat that had both a double and single bed, air conditioning, an ensuite bathroom, and it was centrally located. Eighteen dollars. I’ve paid more than that in Cambodia for much worse rooms.
Tirana is one wacky and vibrant city.
Tirana was a huge surprise to me! I had no idea I would love it so much. I think most of this was because I stayed in the Blloku neighborhood, an upscale area which used to be exclusively for the elite of Tirana.
Some of my favorite experiences were climbing to the top of the the derelict pyramid in the center of town and having drinks on top of the Sky Tower during sunset. And all the shopping, of course! I practically bought a new wardrobe at a Pink Woman boutique downtown and a Tally Weijl store in the Tirana East Gate (TEG) mall outside town.
Berat is one of the most unusual-looking old cities I’ve ever seen.
I went to Berat for to see its UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town, and I wasn’t disappointed. Have you ever seen a place that looked like this before? It’s the city of a thousand windows!
Berat is a tiny place and you don’t need more than one full day and two nights here. Spend your time exploring the town on foot. The main cafe street comes to life around sunset — it was amazing to watch it transform from being totally empty to a swarming crowd!
The beaches on the Riviera are glorious.
Did you know that Albania is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe? Here you’ll find clear water like the beach above, in Ksamil. (I feel dishonest just looking at that photo, though — it was filled with people and I photoshopped them all out for a nicer photo. It is CRAZY crowded there.)
Saranda, a relaxing resort town, makes a great base for exploring the south. It has a great boardwalk, beaches with free chairs and umbrellas, and several good restaurants and cafes. There wasn’t a lot to do, which made it a good place to chill out.
I spent six nights in Saranda and could easily have stayed longer. If the internet were better (i.e. didn’t randomly stop working twice a day), I’d consider it a digital nomad hotspot for summer.
It was an easy hourlong bus trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins at Butrint, and a bit north of there, the near-island of Ksamil with its beaches. Ksamil was chock full of families and umbrellas, but you’ll find fewer people on the rockier beaches.