Albania is one of the most mysterious countries in Europe. It was closed from the entire world for decades and done so much work to protect itselef with numerous bunkers and complicated foreign policy, that most of the people literally knows nothing about it. Though it was decades ago, but for most of the people Albania is a mystery. Recently i spend 2 weeks travelling to Albania during my journey around Balcans and had an opportunity to check what is true and what is not.
Those who know something about Albania think about it as a European version of India. I never heard about it much, but got only some rumours in my mind. The same was when i started to research it: mainly i have found very bold facts about Albania. So before going, i decided to collect this facts to check whether it’s true or not. In this post i will share what i saw during my 2 weeks here and what rumours or prejuduces are true and what are just imagination.
Main prejudices about Albania and whether they are real:
The country is very poor and in bad condition
I would say, that generally it’s more true. When i entered the country i was literally shocked: it really looks like India with dust, crushed buildings and bad roads. But quickly i have found that it’s not the same everywhere. Some areas looks pretty nice and Albania now doing it’s best to impriove with some huge projects on progress. But still, there is long way to go.
Getting around by public transport is very tricky
That is partly true. It could be really confusing to understand how it works, but after understanding the rules, i was perfectly fine. You can read more about travelling in Albania using public transport here.
The roads are very bad
There were few very bad roads, but generally they are fine. Topography of the region could really be very tricky, so in some parts having any kind of road could be considered as a miracle. And currently lots of new roads are beeing build.
Noone speaks English
Yes, that’s true. Most of the locals would say that almost all young people speak good English, but i would say it’s not that good. Younger people tend to be fine and at least can speak a bit. It depends, but in Tirana i was mostly fine, though 50% of time in grocery stores or cafes i had to use language of signs. Outside of Tirana by some miracle most of the people, who works in hotels or cafes, spoke almost no English. But still, everyone was welcoming and done their best to help in any way they can, so generally it wasn’t big problem and could be more an adventure, than a trouble.
People smokes everywhere
That’s true! Everyone told me, that smoking in public areas is prohibited, but i reality noone cares. Every driver on every bus smokes inside while driving, once i even saw a woman standing inside the regular public bus and smoking, which was shocking. I literally was standing and looking with my “WTF face” at her, but she just smile. In every restaurant or cafe, beach everyone around was smoking. In Tirana it was little better, but Albania generally is the most smokong country i ever been to.
It’s very cheap to travel to Albania, but no tourists are coming
It’s cheap and people are coming, especially in July and August. Around 5 millions visitors are expected to arrive to Albania this year. That’s definetely not as much as in Spain or France, but definetely there will be other tourists. Of course, mostly everyone comes from neighbouring countries, especialluy Italy. But almost everywhere i saw several other english speaking foreigners.
There are lots of stolen Mercedes cars
There are lots of Mercedes cars, but i’m not sure whether they were stolen or bought. Generally, nothing extradinary, but i got no chance to check it.
Apart from bad, there is a lot of great stuff in Albania. For many people it’s just the way they are and there is nothing wrong in it. Not every place have to be standartised or be the same as others. That brings the joy of travel as there is no point of getting outside your hometown to see the same. It’s definetely not that tricky to travel in Albania and there is a lot to see.
There is lots of good i can say about Albania, which makes all this facts to be not very important. Really, when you get to the great historical places or see stunning views, explore amazing hidden places with little people around and not paying too much for it, you don’t care much about the rest. All that little stuff like noone speaks English or your driver is smoking at the end of the day doesn’t matter that much! Albania is not for everyone, but for those with the open heart and willing to get little away from everyday life and have some nice and safe adventure it could be great place to visit!