The transport network for getting around Albania is the part that still has a long way to go. The road infrastructure of motorways is increasing and improving, but in the absence of investments that could come with EU accession, it is not easy to get around the country by public transport. According to the Albanian government, transport communications are among its top priorities.
Until 1991, the total number of cars in Albania was between 5000 and 7000. In 1991, the Albanian government lifted the ban on private car ownership. As a result, car imports grew enormously, often with second-hand but high-end vehicles, such as the frequent Mercedes.
MOVING BY PLANE
As there is only one airport in Albania, Tirana airport, there are no internal flights to get around by air.
MOVING BY CAR
Without a doubt, the rental car is the best option to move around Albania with flexibility, without depending on timetables and the infrequency of public transport, and allowing you to get to places where it would be impossible to travel by other means.
Roads and motorways
Today the road infrastructure is improving; there is an excellent motorway from Tirana to Kosovo, and the coastal route from the Montenegrin border to Butrint near Saranda is in good condition. There are three official motorway segments in Albania: Thumanë-Milot-Rrëshen-Kalimash (A1), Levan-Vlorë (A2) and partly Tirane-Elbasan (A3).
Tourists drive rental cars and motorbikes without problems, apart from traffic and bad drivers. Driving at night is not very advisable because of the lack of lighting, and following another car on the road is a good idea, as there are rarely any road markings or street lighting.
There are about 18,000 km of roads in Albania, of which 7,450 km are considered “main roads”. Although the government continues to make substantial investments in road improvements, some main roads are still in poor condition and construction sites are often poorly marked. The BAC is 0. Unless posted signs indicate otherwise, there is a 50 km/h speed limit in urban centres and a 90 km/h limit in rural areas.
Road and motorway network of Albania
GETTING AROUND BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
One of the most frequently asked questions is “how to get around by public transport in Albania”. It is the million dollar question and there is no easy answer. Travelling by public transport in Albania requires patience, flexibility and no set timetable.
Bus and furgon (shared minibus) are the main forms of public transport in Albania. Fares are low, and you either pay the driver on board or when you hop off, which can be anywhere along the route.
Municipal buses operate in Tirana, Durrës, Shkodra, Berat, Korça and Vlora, and trips usually cost 40 lekë.
Albania had an outstanding railway network, a legacy of the years of autarchy under the communist regime. With the fall of communism most of it fell into disrepair and although there are plans to restore it, trains are now an ineffective means of getting around the country. Travelling on one of the few lines in operation is an adventure because the journey times are rather approximate. The alternative used by the locals are buses or shared vans.
Train lines in Albania
Tirana’s central station, built in 1949, was demolished in 2013 and a new terminal was rebuilt in Kashar, 10 km from the capital. The connection to get there is covered by a bus service.
Albanian taxis are recognisable by their yellow colour, and most of them have a taximeter. Fares are usually pre-determined according to the distance travelled, but can sometimes be negotiated in advance. The meter must always be turned on; if the driver does not turn it on automatically, you should insist on this. If they refuse, you can pay the driver as you wish because if they can’t give you a receipt, you are not actually obliged to pay.
Be aware that around 70% of drivers do not speak English, and it is best to show them a map or offer the location on your mobile. Taxis are a relatively cheap way to travel and get around even between cities in Albania. If you are in Tirana, Speed Taxi uses an app to order taxis, while Green Taxi, uses only electric vehicles.
Taxis are plentiful in Tirana and can easily be hailed on the street or held at one of the city’s many taxi ranks.
Privately owned vans or minibuses facilitate intercity travel in Albania. They do not have fixed departure or arrival times, but depart when full. Prices vary, and you need to negotiate when you get on, checking what the locals pay – don’t let anyone overcharge you because you’re a foreigner. In Tirana you can find them near the Shiponja roundabout (the 24-lane roundabout with the big double-headed eagle in the middle) just opposite the other bus station. Here you will see many men shouting place names at you, locate the minibus of your choice and get on. If you are in another city and looking to travel somewhere else, just head to the main bus station and you will see vans.
Boats and ferries
Although there are several ports serving Albania from Ancona, Brindisi and Bari to Durres and Saranda, there are no domestic ferry routes between coastal towns. Therefore, ferry lines come from Italy or Greece (island of Corfu).
On the other hand there is a ferry from Koman Lake to Fierza (Komani Ferry), a place that can only be reached on foot (for stalwart hikers) or via Kosovo. The Butrint Cable Ferry crosses the Vivari Canal at Butrint in southern Albania.