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Upon arrival in Tirana, even from the outset at the airport, transportation can seem a little daunting, chaotic or even unorganised. Rest assured, there is a system in place so let’s take you through it, so you are prepared from the get-go. Arriving in any unfamiliar country takes some getting used to, but after our easy induction you’ll be hopping on the public buses with ease, hailing a cab, catching a furgon (minivans) like a local and renting a car without hinderance. And before you know it, you’ll be exploring Albania without a care in the world.
You should know that upon setting foot in Albania, you’ll have a plethora of helpers around you, every step of the way. More often than not, Albanians will drop what they are doing in an instant and help you in whatever way possible. Albanians love coffee, and would probably love to buy you one! The country’s citizens are well-aware of the faults in some of the systems and want tourists to feel at ease when dealing with these unfamiliar and foreign procedures. They want to make sure you have a good time when visiting their homeland.
A little bit of Albanian goes a long way, and would further enhance your experience with the nations renowned hospitality. Bear in mind that in major Albanian cities, most people have a knack for the English language. However, to fully experience the smaller towns, you may want to spend a couple of minutes memorising a few basic phrases and handy words before you depart. Thanks to your prior study session, the locals can guide you to the best places, making your visit exponentially richer.
Picking a mode of transportation when traveling around Albania, depends on your preference and indeed your budget. As we previously mentioned, you have a few options in Albania, renting a car, traveling by taxi, bus or even a furgon (local minibuses). Renting a car is a great option if your budget allows it, it cuts your traveling time and gives you the freedom to explore the country more freely. In relation to other modes of getting around, it is the more expensive option, but the local prices are still quite reasonable for most tourists. You can find car rental agencies at the airport and in the reception areas of most major hotels in several cities.
If you’re more of the wander lusting backpacker type, traveling by bus or furgon is the ideal way to reduce stress and ultimately save some cash. Your gut instinct might steer you away from spending a prolonged period of time in an unmarked minibus with strangers, but fear not, it’s totally legit and totally safe! Do make sure there is a destination sign on the dashboard, so you know it has an official destination. The furgon are a hybrid of buses and taxis, most are minibuses and not the size of your regular public transport buses. Sometimes they have a schedule, but more often than not the bus won’t leave until it has reached full capacity. The station location varies from city to city, most are found around city centres or alongside the road. If you mention the word ‘furgon’, most locals will be able to guide you to them, it’s also a great chance to practise those Albanian phrases you learnt before arriving!
Buses usually congregate in large carparks or in clearly marked designated bus terminals. In the larger cities, these bus terminals are the most common and easily recognisable. Inside the bus, above the dashboard, there will be a schedule that details the departure and arrival times. Bear 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, inform the driver of your final destination, so they make sure to drop you off at the right stop.
The final point is, be sure to ask locals for whatever you might need, at any point of your journey. In Albania, asking makes things a lot easier and introduces you to the culture in a more familiar way as well as swiftly making you a part of it all. Ready your passports, pack your bags, book your flights and most of all, don’t be shy! From stunning beaches, sprawling mountains, ancient landmarks, an incredible coffee culture and delicious food, this is a trip you will remember for years to come.
By: Sarah Goolishian
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