Closed to outsiders for much of the 20th century, Albania has long been Mediterranean Europe’s enigma. Until fairly recently its rumpled mountains, fortress towns, and sparkling beaches were merely a rumor on most travel maps. But, with the end of a particularly brutal strain of communism in 1991, Albania tentatively swung open its gates. The first curious tourists to arrive discovered a land where ancient codes of conduct still held sway and where the wind whistled through the shattered remnants of half-forgotten ancient Greek and Roman sites. A quarter of a century after throwing off the shackles of communism, Albania’s stunning mountain scenery, crumbling castles, boisterous capital and dreamy beaches rivaling any in the Mediterranean continue to enchant. But hurry here, because as word gets out about what Albania is hiding, the still-tiny trickle of tourists threatens to become a flood.
The monetary unit in Albania is the Albanian Lekë (ALL). 1 Lekë = 100 Qindars.
All major currencies can be exchanged at banks and bureaux de change. Currency markets operate on the street in front of the main post office or bank in most towns, a perfectly legal way to exchange your money and avoid bank commission. You will not be able to exchange lekë outside of Albania so make sure you exchange before you leave. There are ATMs in most towns which you can use to withdraw cash from most international Visa and Mastercard credit or debit cards.
Eating and Drinking
Albanian cuisine is colorful and flavorsome and features a lot of Italian, Greek and Turkish influences. You will find plenty of tasty, spicy dishes to tempt you, Keep a lookout for Mediterranean fish such as sea-bream and seabass, as well as eel. Traditional dishes often use vegetables and yogurt or curd cheese to make the meat go further. You may want to try national specialties such as Koran, a species of trout unique to the Ohrid and Prespa lakes. If you’re feeling daring, you could try Paçë koke (sheep’s head soup). You may also come across Kukurec (sheep’s innards in a gut casing).
Albania offers many high-quality wines, some of it from indigenous grapes such as Kallmet (red) and Shesh (red and white). National drinks include rakia, a clear spirit made of grapes. Coffee is also very popular and is mostly served as cappuccino or espresso in bars and restaurants, or prepared the traditional Balkan way, with grounds and sugar brewed together, when served at home.
Tipping is customary to give the waiter 5%-10% on top of the bill if you are happy with the service. Tipping guides at the end of excursions and treks etc is always appreciated and your tour leader will advise you on the amount for this.
The Australian Government provides up to date information on the safety of travelling to various countries, and all travellers should take note of this advice. Liberty Tours recommends that all travellers take out appropriate Travel Insurance to cover the entire duration of their absence from home. Liberty Tours can assist with obtaining Travel Insurance.
Advice on health risks and vaccination recommendations can also be found using the same link.
In Albania, the climate is Mediterranean on the coast (with mild, rainy winters and hot, sunny summers), while it’s slightly more continental in the interior, though it’s really cold only in mountainous areas.
June: Enjoy the perfect Mediterranean climate and deserted beaches.
July–August: Albania’s beaches may be packed, but this is a great time to explore the mountains.
December: See features and shorts at the Tirana Film Festival, while the intrepid can snowshoe to Theth.
What to pack
In winter: bring warm clothes, a coat, and a raincoat or umbrella. In mountainous areas: bring warm clothes, such as a down jacket, a hat, gloves, and a scarf.
In summer: bring light clothes, and a sweatshirt or sweater for the evening or for the mountains.
Albania is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Meant Time
220 volts/50 Hz – round pin attachment plugs and Shuko plugs and receptacles with side grounding contacts are in use
Albanian (official – derived from Tosk dialect), Greek, Vlach, Romani, Slavic dialects
Muslim 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10% (estimates)