Albania Road Trip - The Perfect 10-Days Itinerary!

Albania Itinerary - Road Trip - Riviera - Mirror Beach

Albania, a little country in the Balkan regions in South Europe, is a highly underrated and often misunderstood destination. A lot has to do with the way Albanians have been portrayed in movies like 'Taken', and of course, the brutal communist regime of about half a century post World War 2 that locked away this beautiful gem from the rest of the world! But in reality, the country boasts some of the most enchanting landscapes, a rich history from the Illyrian and Ottoman times , a vibrant culture with the influence of its neighboring countries, and most importantly - unparalleled Albanian hospitality :)

Traveling to Albania was a very spontaneous decision. We wanted to visit an off-beat destination, but at the same time get a little bit of the 'European' experience. After a quick research, we decided to drive across the country for 10 days to get a taste of both - the Albanian Alps in the north, as well as the Albanian Riviera in the south. And then of course, we traveled to some of the most fascinating UNESCO World Heritage sites spread across the country.

So here are our TRIP HIGHLIGHTS >>

If you're in a hurry, you can skip the Q&A below and head straight down to the ITINERARY.

Albania Itinerary - Road Trip - Theth Church

The Theth Church, North Albania

When is the best time to visit Albania?

We visited Albania in the beginning of July. The peak season is from July-August, when it tends to get crowded in certain spots, and the weather in the coastal areas can get really hot (the mountains in the north are still cool though). We recommend visiting the country in the shoulder seasons, that is between April-June and September- October. However, do note that some of the hiking trails in the north (most importantly, the Valbone to Theth trail) are closed to tourists in the winter months up until late-May because of snowfall!

How many days do I need in Albania?

Ideally, you would need at least 10-14 days to fully explore the country (if you have your own rented vehicle). But if you are short of time, then we recommend at least one week where you choose to do either only the north, or the south. Tirana, the capital is situated somewhere in the middle of the country, and this can be your starting point to head towards the north or the south.

The north is known for its mountainous topography - the Accursed Mountains, also known as the Albanian Alps, as well as the ancient capital, Kruje, a very culturally-rich, medieval town.

The south is known for the Albanian Riviera and all the beaches along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, as well as some of the UNESCO heritage towns of Berat and Gjirokaster.

Flights & Visas

Albania Itinerary - Road Trip - Dubai to Tirana Albania

*Please note that this article was written in August 2021. Rules related to visa applications are subject to change*

Please check the website of the Albanian Embassy in your country of residence, to check for visa requirement and the application process. As UAE residents, we can obtain a visa-on-arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days. At the immigration check at Tirana International Airport, we were asked to present any one of our hotel bookings, and a proof of a return or onward ticket. Please note that passports must be valid for a minimum of 3 months from the arrival date.

We traveled via FlyDubai Airlines that has direct flights between Dubai to Tirana. We recommend running a quick search on Skyscanner to check for flight routes and rates based on your location. It takes about 30 minutes to travel from Tirana airport to the centre of the city. By bus it costs 300 Lek (€2.45), and by taxi it costs somewhere around €20-€25.

Do I need to take a COVID-19 RT-PCR test for Albania? Where can I get tested in Albania?

*Please note that this article was written in August 2021, and rules related to COVID-19 protocol are subject to change*

Please check the IATA Travel Centre website before your flight to get the latest updates on the requirements of the country you are traveling from and arriving to. At the time we traveled (July '21), Albania was open to all tourists with no requirement of an RT-PCR test nor any proof of vaccination. However, we required a negative RT-PCR test to fly back into our home country.

Tirana International Airport has its own testing facility, where you can get your results within 90 minutes! Passengers are advised to reach the airport at least four hours before their flight in order to get the PCR test results in time before their departure. There are several other testing centers in clinics across the country, but from our research, the Tirana airport provided the cheapest and quickest option of all.

RT-PCR Test Cost - €35 per person

How do I get around in Albania?

Albania Itinerary - Road Trip - Roads to Gjirokaster Castle

Roads leading to Gjirokaster Castle

Public transport - There is no rail system in Albania, and it's mostly buses or 'furgons' (shared mini-vans). We had heard that they do not run on any fixed time-table, so we are not too sure if they are reliable. However, we did meet a few travelers on our trip who were getting around only using public transport.

Driving or Hiring a Driver - We rented a car and drove ourselves, which gave us so much flexibility and freedom to explore areas we would have otherwise never seen. Driving in quite an experience! The highways are great, the direction signages are straightforward, and the views are absolutely stunning. Expect a lot of hairpin bends too, especially around the mountain regions. However, watch out for some really crazy, dangerous drivers inside the major cities, like Shkoder and Tirana, where people (and pedestrians!) tend to flout traffic rules. But it was definitely not impossible to drive, and as long as you stick to the speed limits and practice safe driving, you should be fine :)

GPS Apps - Google Maps is the usual go-to navigation app, BUT in Albania you can't completely rely on it! It did take us on crazy detours, so we highly recommend using Maps.Me side-by-side to cross-check your route. Maps.Me was also useful during our hikes in the north as it identifies hiking trails as well.

Google Translate - This is hands down, one of the the best inventions ever! English may not be widely spoken or understood in Albania, but with an app like this, you can manage to have a somewhat-complete conversation with the locals.

Where can I rent a car from?

Albania Itinerary - Road Trip - Renting a Car

Our rental car! The only one that was left in all of Tirana - what happens when you travel during peak tourist season

There are many car rental offices right outside Tirana airport. You have options from Avis, Europecar etc. to local companies as well. The advantage of renting your car from the airport is that you can drop it off there at the end of your trip. However, we arrived during peak season when all the affordable cars were sold out, and we had no choice but to look for options inside the city centre.

During peak season, a basic sedan (such as a Nissan, or a VW Polo) starts at €25 per day for a manual, and €30 per day for an automatic car. It was quite a challenge finding a car at this price point, but we finally managed to do so. THE ONLY one car that was left available in all of Tirana - a bright, yellow Nissan sedan 😂 We found it at a local rental company called Makina Me Qera Danieli (which translates to Danieli Rental Cars) and you can contact them on WhatsApp at +355 693191919. You may find trouble communicating with them in English, but we used the Google Translate app and copy-pasted our translations and managed to converse. :)

Budgeting for the trip

The Lek (plural Leke) is the official currency of Albania, although the Euro is widely accepted. The money exchange centers in Dubai did not have any Albanian Lek, so we carried Euros with us and converted some of it to Lek at a local exchange centre in Tirana.

1 Euro = 120.97 Albanian Lek (dated August 2021)

Food, accommodations, and getting around in Albania, in general, is so much more affordable when compared to other mainstream destinations in Europe. Listed below are our average expenses on our trip (we travelled during peak season), but your final budget would also depend on your travel style and preferences.

Average price for a 2 or 3-Star hotel/guesthouse, inclusive of breakfast - €35 per night

An average meal for one person (main course + drink) - €4

Average rate for a basic, automatic rental car (not including fuel) - €30 per day

Accommodations in Albania

Albania Itinerary - Road Trip - Valbone Vila Dini

One of the best hotel experience ever at Vila Dini, Valbone

Finding an accommodation in the country is very easy, and they are quite affordable as well. From hostels and guesthouses, to AirBnBs and luxury star hotels, there is something to fit into any type of budget! We traveled during peak season, and we were mostly staying in either hotels or guesthouses, spending an average of €28-€35 per night for a spacious double-bed room, inclusive of breakfast. There are plenty of group hostels too, but we chose not to stay in shared-spaces as precaution during the pandemic.

NOTE : *We have listed the exact names and costs of accommodations under the relevant headings in the itinerary below this Q&A.*

Food in Albania

Albania Itinerary - Road Trip - Berat Traditional Food Lili's

At Homemade Food Lili's , treating ourselves to some traditional Berat cuisine

We would return to Albania just for the food! Albania's rich gastronomical scene has its roots in the Ottoman empire, and Turkish influences are quite noticeable too. Modern day dishes are hugely influenced by Greek and Italian cuisines. THE BEST PART - quite a few of their traditional dishes are completely vegan, and that made our dining experiences so much more enjoyable and easier than in other countries we have visited.

Some of the MUST-TRY Albanian dishes are

  • Byrek (Savoury crepes with a spinach filling)

  • Imam Bayldi (Stuffed Eggp