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The Adventurous Tourist’s Survival Guide To Driving In Albania

The survival guide to driving in Albania

Driving in Albania is a challenge similiar to navigating the desert in the Wild West, back in the prohibition era. There are many hazards to test your patience, skill and endurance, so I’ve put together this handy survival guide for driving around Albania.

Blue Eye Springs
Discover hidden springs driving in Albania

Beware of Albanian drivers

Albanian drivers have no respect for road rules. The highway is crammed full of bruised and battered premium cars which have seen better days. This is hardly surprising considering the reckless road manoeuvres we repeatedly witnessed.

Drivers overtake on blind corners, they abandon their cars rather than park them, and use their horns with relish. Those entering the roundabout have right of way, creating some pulse raising moments.

Beware of animals

Animals on the road in Albania
Typical road scenes in Albania

Rural Albania abides by a simple way of life with subsistence farming, goat herding and more traditional forms of transport, such as horse and cart or donkey, a frequent sight.

Driving around Albania, you will frequently slow to a crawl, as scores of goats are herded across the road by a weather beaten farmer. If it’s not goats, don’t be surprised to see cattle grazing by the roadside or roaming freely through town centres. Then there’s the pigs, sheep, donkeys, dogs and occasional cat to avoid.

Beware of blindly following your sat nav

The term ‘road’ is loosely interpreted in Albania. Once you leave the main highway, you will often be on narrow, cliff hugging roads which offer more hairpin bends than a Formula One course. Oh Top Gear, you would be envious!

Then there’s the roads that are really tracks. A quick look at Google maps makes you realise that Albania is far from googled as even Tirana does not show. My best tip here is simple: the roads that show as yellow on Google maps are the ones you want to be on. Under no circumstances opt for one of those little roads that join the yellow roads.

Day one: Tirana

Mountain roads in Albania
The quickest way to Berat, apparently (Photo: John Spears)
Mountain driving in Berat
This must be the road to hell (Photo: John Spears)

They are perilous, tiny tracks where the surface is frequently reduced to rubble, dust and stones with little semblance of safety barriers or tarmac. They weave their way over the mountains and are only suitable for battered old Mercedes or 4WD. Definitely not for our Betsy, although she did a marvellous job of proving her adventurous spirit.

driving in Albania
Our Betsy in Berat

We spent a terrifying hour on these tracks, seemingly driving in circles, whilst praying that we would not lose control and slip into an abyss.

Beware of the mountains

Albania is two-third mountains and driving here takes time. Lots of it! If a journey is 100 miles, then you will need to allow five hours. The constant winding around mountain after mountain takes time (any may threaten to resurface your breakfast!). Admittedly, it is stunning and there’s plenty of interesting stuff to capture your attention but plan accordingly, especially if you have a flight to catch.

Albania mountain roads
The cliffs of Albania

Beware of drink driving

Albania has a zero tolerance policy for drink driving. To be perfectly honest, you need your wits about you on these roads, so even if this were not the case, I would not recommend even a thimble of alcohol before jumping in the car.

Why you should drive in Albania

All this may make you think that only a fool would voluntarily hire a car, however please don’t let this put you off. Hiring a car will allow you to see much more of the real Albania. You will be able to take detours to hidden springs, waterfalls and quaint towns which dot the landscape.

Gjirokastra castle
Gjirokastra castle

You can travel on your own schedule without worrying about carting luggage on public transport. You will see beautiful mountains, stunning coastline and communities enjoying evening chats and drinks or grilled corn on the cob. In short, you may gain a few grey hairs in the process, but you will also leave with better insight into this small nation and almost certainly a few stories to entertain your pals back home.

Albanian scenery
Albanian coves
Saranda bay
Sunset in Saranda

Have your say

Maybe you have hired a car in Albania. What was the highlight of your trip and do you have any advice for other people considering a trip to Albania?

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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips



    Hi i am about to do this for a week in Albania, wondering which company you used? Did you find it expensive? I’m not sure whether to pick up and drop off in duress or Tirana … I’m crossing from Montenegro? Advice appreciated!

    • Hi there, I can’t recall which car hire company I used but if you use
      Holiday Extras – We take the hassle you take the holiday
      it will search all the companies. We found Albania excellent value and picked up and dropped off in Tirana. If you opt to drop off at a different city, it will cost you more. We didn’t go to Duress so I can’t really comment on that.

      How are you getting from Montenegro to Tirana?

  2. 5 hours for 100 miles sounds insane, but I believe it because I have had my share of journeys in conditions like these! But it is comforting to know that driving in Albania is still recommended and better for exploring around!

  3. It sounds like driving in Albania is an adventure of its own! Great tips, especially about which roads to follow on GPS.

  4. I can totally relate to crazy drivers and drivers not respecting some road rules when I was driving in Kenya. I have never considered visiting here, however after reading this article you have really put across how beautiful it is. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Albania is our neighboring country but I have never consider visiting it before. Well after reading your post I think that if I am careful I can go.

  6. That was totally brave of you to drive in Albania. Five hours to go 100 miles! That’s totally insane.

    • I know, mental! Great views though and to be be fair my husband was doing most of the driving with a pal. I just sat back and closed my eyes to try to ignore the chaos.

  7. Seems like people in Albania drive the same as people here in the Philippines so I might survive driving there 😀
    However, I’m glad they have zero tolerance policy for drink driving. It’s not only dangerous for you but for other drivers as well.

  8. Man, it’s bad when you need a whole cautionary post about driving in a place 😀 that said, thank you for sharing all of this. I never would have thought about being so careful regarding Google/Sat Nav, but it makes total sense. Safe travels!

  9. Driving abroad definitely has plus points and negatives – I’m not a confident driver back home so I think I’d need a valium before taking on roads in Albania! Although it does look beautiful, I think I’d be safer on a donkey 😀

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