Albania is an eminently mountainous country, but despite what one might think, the condition of its roads is more than acceptable. In fact, the asphalt is even in better condition than in neighbouring countries such as Greece or Italy.
The signage is good, with constant indications of curves, prohibition of overtaking and other possible dangers such as animals. This does not prevent us from encountering a shepherd with his sheep on inland roads at specific times, or wild animals crossing.
Roads (except motorways) have a speed limit of 90 kilometres per hour. State highways are the most common, and are marked with a SH with a number on a blue field.
District roads are marked with a Rr with a number on a blue field, while municipal roads are in rural and mountainous areas and are differentiated with a K with a number on a white background.
There are some stretches of motorways, or rather dual carriageways as there are no tolls. They are usually two-lane and busy. Motorways have a speed limit of 110 kilometres per hour.
The A1 is the longest motorway in the country, connecting Durrës on the Adriatic Sea in the west with (Tirana) in the centre. The A3 is the second longest motorway and connects Tirana with the Pan-European Corridor VIII, which runs from Durrës on the Adriatic Sea to the Bulgarian city of Varna on the Black Sea. The A2 is the third longest motorway and covers a north-south corridor within Albania.
Albania’s road and motorway network
It is important to note that on the roads we can find tractors or cars, as well as motorbikes, most of them with their drivers without helmets.
As for the mountain roads, the investment in improving their condition is commendable, to the point that some, such as the one that goes from Shkoder to the famous Theth is new (2021) and can be reached (except in snowy weather) without any problems other than the inevitable curves. It is worth noting the difference between sections that have guardrails and others without them or in poor condition.
Keep in mind that in Albania, distances are measured in hours rather than kilometres, and that although a destination may seem close, getting there can take longer than expected. In addition to Albania’s rugged terrain, the speed limit on certain stretches of road is not high.
Driving in Albania
If you have been to Montenegro or North Macedonia you will notice that the drivers are not as aggressive and defiant of authority.
In fact, it is one of the countries where you will see more police watching – and fining – vehicles. So you have to moderate your speed by paying attention to the signs.
It is a good idea to have a physical map or at least carry an application such as Google Maps or Maps Me, which will locate the point where you are travelling. However, it may happen that they are not 100% up to date and there may be sections of Street View that do not show the asphalt as it is or possible detours that have just been opened.
If we have chosen to rent a car , it is advisable to study the itinerary to avoid dirt roads or stones, so that we can anticipate possible scratches that could cost us an unexpected payment if we do not have comprehensive insurance.