Author Topic: Anyone been to Albania recently?  (Read 1990 times)

Regulator

  • That's Councillor Regulator to you...
Anyone been to Albania recently?
« on: 09 November, 2023, 08:08:36 am »
I’m looking at walking holidays for next year and quite fancy doing a Tomorr Pilgrimage in Albania.

Albania’s supposedly the cheapest place to travel in Europe (followed by Bosnia & Herzegovina) and has been described as “friendly if a little underdeveloped”.  Which sounds just my sort of place. 

Has anyone been recently?  What are your thoughts on solo travel in Albania?

I was thinking of walking from Sarajevo to Medjugore via Mostar in B&H but apparently there’s still a significant risk of land mines on part of the route, which was a little off putting (my last interaction with a [EDIT] landmine didn’t end particularly well).  So Albania looks like the better option.  I might get the bus to Mostar and Sarajevo at the end of the trip.
Quote from: clarion
I completely agree with Reg.

Green Party Councillor

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #1 on: 09 November, 2023, 08:39:34 am »
… there’s still a significant risk of land mines … (my last interaction with a landline didn’t end particularly well).

Reg, I couldn’t miss the chance for a smile: I have not been to Albania but I feel certain there is a significant difference between a land mine and a landline.

rr

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #2 on: 09 November, 2023, 08:45:39 am »
My brother and his wife are there now, they seem to be enjoying it.

PaulF

  • "World's Scariest Barman"
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Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #3 on: 09 November, 2023, 09:06:30 am »
… there’s still a significant risk of land mines … (my last interaction with a landline didn’t end particularly well).

Reg, I couldn’t miss the chance for a smile: I have not been to Albania but I feel certain there is a significant difference between a land mine and a landline.

I think he's referring to the time he tried to disentangle the coiled cable of a wired telephone. Very frustrating and lots of bad words were muttered ;D

Cudzoziemiec

  • Ride adventurously and stop for a brew.
Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #4 on: 09 November, 2023, 10:31:18 am »
… there’s still a significant risk of land mines … (my last interaction with a landline didn’t end particularly well).

Reg, I couldn’t miss the chance for a smile: I have not been to Albania but I feel certain there is a significant difference between a land mine and a landline.
A land mine can only kill you in horrible splatty death or maim you in horrible gory ways. A landline can kill you to the sound of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.


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Sorry, I know nothing about visiting Albania. Some Polish friends went there and enjoyed it immensely, but that was about 20 years ago. Around the same time, standard advice was on no account take a foreign-registered car due to theft. A long time ago.
Riding a concrete path through the nebulous and chaotic future.

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #5 on: 09 November, 2023, 12:07:13 pm »
Rode through Albania on TCR this summer, "friendly if a little underdeveloped" seems bang on to me. Apart from one slightly frosty reception when ordering a cheeseburger at 11am, everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming and at no point did I feel unsafe. Stunning scenery too. Very cheap, although I've heard it's getting more expensive in the more touristy places.

LeFlic

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Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #6 on: 09 November, 2023, 03:43:53 pm »
I have just come back from a week in Tirana.
I was in a city centre hotel and ate nearby but the cost was nothing like many other capital cities.
The touring I did was on a coach and didn't go that far from the city.
Everyone I met was friendly and helpful with English spoken almost everywhere.
Tourism is an important part of their income and there is a lot of new development in the cities as they try to get into the EU.
I crossed the border into North Macedonia (in a vehicle) and it took about 15 or 20 minutes to get through.
In contrast I crossed from Croatia into BH about four years ago and it was very slow and the BH side caused all of the delay.

Regulator

  • That's Councillor Regulator to you...
Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #7 on: 09 November, 2023, 04:11:41 pm »
Thank you both.  :thumbsup:

Initial plan (such as it is) is to fly to Tirana, have a day or two there and then get bus/train to Berat (or somewhere a bit closer if there's accommodation) and then climb Mount Tomorr, possibly over three days (staying in the lodge part way up on the way up and the way down).  After that, get a bus/train to Mostar and then to Sarajevo.  Fly home from Sarajevo.

Interesting to hear about getting into B&H.  I'll have to factor that in.

The alternative is to do Albania on its own and do B&H another time...
Quote from: clarion
I completely agree with Reg.

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Jaded

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Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #8 on: 09 November, 2023, 04:27:31 pm »
Just been speaking to a friend who has been travelling round coastal Med places. She has said almost exactly what LeFlic says. (apart from the last two lines, obv)
It is simpler than it looks.

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #9 on: 09 November, 2023, 04:36:12 pm »

Interesting to hear about getting into B&H.  I'll have to factor that in.


At the border it was simple enough for me entering from Croatia, just a quick look at the passport (UK) and maybe a stamp or two.

Where I entered from Croatia, and where I left into Montenegro, the queue for vehicles to get into B&H was pretty bad. Maybe 3 miles long and not moving fast. Obviously YMMV depending on the crossing/time of year/day, but something to watch out for. Maybe the train would avoid the worst of that, but don't know anything about the trains.

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #10 on: 09 November, 2023, 08:12:01 pm »
I toured in Albania fairly recently and thinking of going again in the next couple of weeks. It's lovely and as above the people are very friendly, English generally spoken, amazing landscape. Away from the tourist spots you can be fairly sure of finding places to stay and eat: the culture is based around going out and grabbing a snack or drink on the "promenade" which happens every evening in even the smaller towns. This is in stark contrast with, eg., Greece where away from the tourist locations it's like a ghost town.

Absolutely *do not* consider taking a train, unless you are up for an adventure of the type 2 kind. Public transport of the four wheeled kind is far easier and much faster.

I've also been close to the route you're thinking of in B&H. The walking route will take you over the mountains and some legs may be fairly long (I'm guessing here, but I know there are decent paths and mountain biking is popular). As for mines, yes there are lots left, and booby-trapped buildings. But if you are sensible they shouldn't be a cause for concern, any marked path is safe. Standard advice when in a mined area, don't step off the path (eg, to have a wee) and don't under any circumstance explore the numerous abandoned villages. Camp only on a known good location.

Borders are rarely a problem on foot or bike, you are expected to go straight past the queue of vehicles and with a British passport you will get through quickly. Make sure you get a stamp, but FCO advice about registering at a police station is 100% wrong.
Quote from: tiermat
that's not science, it's semantics.

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #11 on: 09 November, 2023, 08:57:11 pm »
A couple of other thoughts, having read the rest of the thread...

Albania’s supposedly the cheapest place to travel in Europe (followed by Bosnia & Herzegovina)

It's not, that accolade definitely goes to Belarus, by a country mile, though it's difficult and likely not cheap to get into. North Macedonia is cheaper than Bosnia Herzegovina outside of the major cities in both.

Quote
I might get the bus to Mostar and Sarajevo at the end of the trip.

I didn't like Mostar. It's basically a tourist hotspot with streets full of stalls selling identical cheap tat and European restaurants selling fast food. The bridge is the only thing to see, and it's quite obviously a modern pastiche. Sarajevo is definitely worth visiting for 2-3 days. But you should bring plenty of tissues.   :'(
Quote from: tiermat
that's not science, it's semantics.

Regulator

  • That's Councillor Regulator to you...
Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #12 on: 10 November, 2023, 09:42:15 am »
A couple of other thoughts, having read the rest of the thread...

Albania’s supposedly the cheapest place to travel in Europe (followed by Bosnia & Herzegovina)

It's not, that accolade definitely goes to Belarus, by a country mile, though it's difficult and likely not cheap to get into. North Macedonia is cheaper than Bosnia Herzegovina outside of the major cities in both.

Quote
I might get the bus to Mostar and Sarajevo at the end of the trip.

I didn't like Mostar. It's basically a tourist hotspot with streets full of stalls selling identical cheap tat and European restaurants selling fast food. The bridge is the only thing to see, and it's quite obviously a modern pastiche. Sarajevo is definitely worth visiting for 2-3 days. But you should bring plenty of tissues.   :'(

I've just finished 'Minarets in the Mountains' (which has in part inspired this trip).  It provides some inspiration for non-tourist spots to visit, both in Mostar and Sarajevo, as well as in Albania.

This would also be my first trip back to Bosnia since November 1995.
Quote from: clarion
I completely agree with Reg.

Green Party Councillor

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #13 on: 10 November, 2023, 10:26:36 am »
A couple of other thoughts, having read the rest of the thread...

Albania’s supposedly the cheapest place to travel in Europe (followed by Bosnia & Herzegovina)

It's not, that accolade definitely goes to Belarus, by a country mile, though it's difficult and likely not cheap to get into. North Macedonia is cheaper than Bosnia Herzegovina outside of the major cities in both.

Quote
I might get the bus to Mostar and Sarajevo at the end of the trip.

I didn't like Mostar. It's basically a tourist hotspot with streets full of stalls selling identical cheap tat and European restaurants selling fast food. The bridge is the only thing to see, and it's quite obviously a modern pastiche. Sarajevo is definitely worth visiting for 2-3 days. But you should bring plenty of tissues.   :'(
If that is the case, Mostar has changed a lot (since my daughter went to school there).

Oldbank certainly had a lot of shops catering for tourists. However, the copper and silver work was done on-site, along with the paintings. You could watch people working.
Cafes sold 'balkan' coffee, with the balkan attitude that you were expected to linger.

Numerous restaurants cooking bosnian dishes (beware the smoked meats, they are *very* smoky and can be too much). One of our best meals was in a place called the 'cat restaurant' because of the number of stray cats outside. When we ordered  some italian wine, the waiter said in an indignant tone "Don't you like Bosnian wine?" I said I'd never drunk any, so a couple of glasses were produced for tasting. Many carafes later, we staggered out. Maybe it helped that my daughter spoke some Bosnian by then.

Regarding border crossings; I've done the coach trip from Mostar/Dubrovnic multiple times. The bosnian guards very carefully check for anyone with a Serbian passport; if found, they are taken off for interrogation and their luggage is searched. It takes a while.
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Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #14 on: 11 November, 2023, 10:26:13 am »
That's a fair point, and local knowledge is immeasurable when visiting anywhere. I dare say I would have had a better experience not just arriving and wandering about aimlessly. There are plenty of things to do and see a short distance from Mostar itself too. I didn't see much evidence of local crafts you mention, and it's likely that the rising tourist influx has spawned the identikit market stalls that have been springing up all over the region in recent years. Places I've revisited recently after a gap of a few years have changed this way and are almost unrecognisable.

I'd probably amend my earlier statement to say I found Sarajevo far more interesting of the two.
Quote from: tiermat
that's not science, it's semantics.

Re: Anyone been to Albania recently?
« Reply #15 on: 11 November, 2023, 04:28:57 pm »
OK, I'm booked to go cycling there next w/e so I'll be able to give an update on "recent solo travel in Albania" shortly  :P
Quote from: tiermat
that's not science, it's semantics.