As an under-rated European destination, Albania’s dramatic landscapes and welcoming locals make it a great country for travellers itching to get off the beaten track. If you wish to explore its fortress-like towns, rugged mountain ranges and shimmering coastline, here are some things to know before travelling to Albania…

Climate & Weather in Albania

Albania’s climate varies depending on the region, with a largely Mediterranean climate along the coast and a slightly more continental climate in the interior. Winters on the coast are mild and rainy, while summers are warm and sunny. Average temperatures can climb to 33°C during the summer and drop to 4°C in winter. While temperatures are slightly cooler inland, it only gets really cold during winter in the mountainous areas. Rainfall is most abundant in the hilly and mountainous areas facing west and south.

Currency in Albania

The official currency of Albania is the Lek (ALL). Most banks, large supermarkets and international hotels will accept major credit and debit cards, however smaller businesses and taxis normally only accept cash. ATMs are available throughout the capital, Tirana, as well as in other main towns and it’s a good idea to bring an international card to avoid transaction fees on card payments. Bureaux de changes are also available, with sterling, US dollars and euros widely accepted. While tipping is not expected in Albania, a 10% tip is greatly appreciated if satisfied with your service.

Food & Drink in Albania

Albania food features a blend of Ottoman, Italian, Greek and Turkish influences, with smoked meat, various stews, fresh fish, rice and pickled cabbage as staples within many dishes. Spit-roasted lamb is another popular dish and often served in the form of qebab (kebabs), served with kos (yogurt). Other commonly found recipes include fergesë (a stew made of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, onion, feta cheese, and yogurt), tavë kosi (chicken or lamb baked in yoghurt) and jani me fasule (white bean soup). Burek (pastry filled with meat, cheese or spinach) and sufllaqë (sliced kebab meat and fries in flatbread) are popular snack foods, while baklava and trilice (milk and cream cake) are standard desserts.

Coffee is a popular drink in Albania and usually served as espresso. Albania’s national drink is raki, a spirit made from fermented plums or grapes, with an anise-like flavour. The country also produces good red wine, and beer is widely available. In general, it’s recommended to avoid drinking tap water in Albania, so bringing a filtered water bottle is a good idea to avoid plastic waste.

Transport in Albania

There is a limited rail system in Albania, so buses and furgons (privately owned minibuses) are the main forms of public transport. While there are timetables for public buses between the main towns and cities in Albania, they can often be unreliable and not run on time. Furgons are privately owned minivans which operate independently of the bus service and are an affordable transport option. They don’t have set timetables or fares, so these will have to be negotiated with the driver, but they can be found departing from various bus stations or flagged down on the roadside. Renting a car is another option for getting around Albania, however it’s worth being aware that road conditions can be poor in some regions. Taxis are available in Albania’s main cities, although be sure to use registered companies and avoid unlicensed street taxis.

Language in Albania

Albanian is the official language of Albania, spoken by almost 98% of the population. There are two main dialects of the language, southern Tosk and northern Gheg, which are mutually intelligible. The remaining 2% of the population speak Greek, Romani, Bulgarian or Serb. Around 40% of the population speak English, so it’s worth learning some Albanian phrases before travelling in order to communicate with locals.

Etiquette in Albania

Body language used to indicate ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are the opposite of what you may be used to in the UK: a shake of the head means ‘yes’, while a nod can mean ‘no’. However, younger generations are increasingly adopting international norms (which only adds to the confusion!).

Health & Safety in Albania

Albania is generally a very safe country to travel around and Albanians are very welcoming to visitors. Crime and violence do occur in some regions but reports of crime against foreigners are rare. However, as in any city, don’t leave valuables unattended, remain vigilant in crowded areas and be sure to have travel insurance for your possessions. Always keep your passport, air ticket and other valuable items in a safe place.

Landmines have historically been an issue in Albania and neighbouring Kosovo. While Albania has now been declared landmine free, if visiting hill towns on the northern border with Kosovo you should take care and take note of any signs warning about unexploded landmines.

Driving is another hazard in Albania, as road conditions are poor and street lighting is subject to power cuts. Take care if renting a car and driving within the country and avoid driving in rural areas where roads are unmarked and can be dangerous.

Things to Bring to Albania

European adapters, sun cream and sunhats and are essentials when visiting during the summer months, while warm clothing and waterproofs are advised for the winter. Insect repellent is another must-bring as mosquitos are prevalent here, especially in the Balkan Peninsula; it’s a good idea to pack enough, as these products can be expensive to purchase once there. Comfortable walking shoes are also a must for exploring the cities, as well as rural and mountainous regions.

Contact one of our Albania specialists