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When you first arrive in Tirana, even from the airport, transportation can seem a bit chaotic or unorganized. Rest assured, however, as there is a system in place and we can guide you through it. Once you become a bit more familiar with the local transportation system, catching a bus, taxi and furgon (local minivans) or renting a car becomes second nature. Soon, you’re on your way to exploring this amazing country!
Know that upon stepping foot into Albania, you will have armies of helpers at your side every step of the way! More often than not, Albanians will drop what they’re doing to help you find your way . They love coffee and would love to buy you coffee! Albanians are well-aware of some faults in the system and want tourists to feel at home, often personally seeing to it that you have a good time while visiting their country.
For better access to their hospitality, a little bit of Albanian goes a long way. Keep in mind that in major Albanian cities, most people have a good handle on English. However, to fully experience the small towns, you may choose to invest a few moments prior to your trip to learn some basic phrases. This way, the locals can guide to the best places, making your visit exponentially richer.
Choosing a mode of transportation depends on your preference and budget. As mentioned above, in Albania you can either rent a car, travel by taxi, bus, or furgon. Renting a car can be a great option if you have the budget. It cuts down on your traveling time and gives you the leisure and freedom to truly explore the country. It can be expensive relative to other modes of transportation but the local prices are still affordable for most tourists. You will find car rental agencies at the airport and inside the reception halls of most major hotels in several Albanian cities.
If you’re more of the backpacker type, traveling by bus or furgon is the ideal way to reduce traveling stress and ultimately save more money. Ignore your initial gut reaction that may steer you away from getting into an unmarked van with strangers. It’s actually totally safe! So long as there’s a destination sign on the dashboard, the furgon are totally safe. Make sure, however, that there is a destination sign, usually placed in the dashboard. The furgon are a hybrid between buses and taxis. Minivan-sized, they’re often smaller than buses. They sometimes have schedules but most often wait until the van is full in order to depart. The location of furgon varies from city to city but most are found around city centers or along roadsides. If you mention the word “furgon,” most locals will guide you to them. A great chance to use your Albanian!
Buses usually congregate in large parking lots or in clearly designated bus terminals. In larger cities, these bus terminals are the most common and easily recognizable. Inside the bus, above the dashboard, there will be a schedule that details departure and arrival times. Keep in mind that each bus has its own schedule. Many buses make stops on their way to a destination so when you first get on the bus, tell the bus driver your final destination so he makes sure to drop you off at the right stop.
To conclude, be sure to always ask locals for help at any point during your journey! In Albania, asking around not only makes things a lot easier but introduces you into the culture and swiftly makes you a part of it. So, get your passports ready and don’t be shy! This small country has a lot to offer and won’t disappoint in the least. From stunning beaches, mountains, and ancient churches to ‘happy hour’ coffee time and delicious food, you will remember this trip for years to come.
By: Sarah Goolishian
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