Albania – Europe’s Most Underrated Country

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Greetings,

I’m writing this from an apartment in Tirana aka the capital of Albania and the center of all the action, so to speak. Myself and a friend Alex made our way into Saranda on what was supposed to be a few days stop in Albania before moving on, two weeks have gone by and we’re still here. Heck, if I didn’t have a flight to London tomorrow we’d both be looking into renting an apartment and setting up shop. I’ve been to 60+ countries and can tell you wholeheartedly that Albania is a fun and affordable one to visit…

Saranda is on the Albanian Riviera which is underrated / not even mentioned most of the time and that makes me scratch my head… The Greek Islands are some of the most popular places on the planet for summer vacationers and now the coasts of Croatia and Montenegro are starting to grow in popularity each year, perhaps even snowball in popularity? Well guess what? Albania is right in the middle and if you’re on Corfu, you can get to Saranda on a short 20E and ~40 minute ferry.

Around Saranda there are plenty of others spots but it’s November so it’s quite slow. That still didn’t stop myself and a friend from renting an apartment for a week and kicking back. We also rented a car and checked out some very cool sights such as Butrint, Ksamil and of course the Blue eye. The weather until a few days before we left was brilliant and I even went swimming in November,  in Europe… Never thought I’d say that and coming from someone who lives in the Caribbean, I’m not a fan of cold water.

During the summer Saranda and similar areas must go off. While exploring the scene like I always do, couldn’t help but notice these massive outdoor nightclubs by the sea. Also, it turns out that most of the tourists coming down are from Poland, Czech Republic and the like so it’s like a whole new world if you will since other popular spots in Europe during the summer tend to mainly be North Americans or those from Western Europe.

Final topic on the riviera, it’s in the Ionian Sea which is situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea which are both beautiful. So you know, the Adriatic Sea is my second favorite sea on this planet behind the Caribbean.  I really enjoyed my time on the Albanian Riviera, met some incredibly friendly locals and to say prices of everything are beyond affordable would be an understatement. Let’s start moving a little north, shall we?

Along the coast of Albania there are several spots and we bypassed all of them as well it’s November and I need to be in London. Do look at a map though, there is a city called Durres which is as old as any other you’ll find along the coasts of these seas which is right across from Bari, Italy. I’ve also been on the coast of the Adriatic in Italy and it’s beautiful. I suspect Durres is very similar to the coasts of Croatia and Montenegro where I spent a good portion of my summer this year, it’s a beyond pleasant place.

So now let’s talk about Tirana… What do you really know about Tirana? I knew nothing but only heard of random travelers who came through for a night or locals in neighboring countries who said it was dangerous. Some told me it was really starting to come into its own and they were right. Tirana is a terrific spot and for those digital types who travel around with laptops and little luggage, it’s a perfect place to get down to business.

There is an area called “the Block” which I wrote about in a piece called “Tirana Nightlife” and it’s solid times. I went there with my friend on Saturday and it was terrific. I even brought out my GoPro to film a video for my Youtube channel. I was a bit apprehensive at first but everyone I met was extremely friendly and besides being the only two North Americans on the entire block from what I saw, we were very much welcomed and integrated nicely.

There is no real fast food spots but lots of meat being grilled on every street corner. English is quite widely spoken and 55% of the population is Muslim from what I’ve read but besides some mosques, you’d never know. If you’re renting short term apartments, it’s quite reasonable but we met an Albanian gent who lived in Canada for years and is now back who told how us prices for say a month or so… Just to give you an idea, myself and my friend have been hitting a gym with sauna, pool, steam room and all that jazz for $5 a day; supposedly it costs $20 a month.

I feel like I’m in southeast Asia at times because the idea of buying groceries is ridiculous. I’m eating like a king and ordering whatever I want and never really breaking $5 a meal. Granted, if I wanted to be a glutton I’m sure I could but I’m just eating like a normal chap and eating well, very well. Large pints of beer for a $1.50 and “meatballs” which are more like sausages for $0.25 each; insanity. That said, also lots of healthy options for those so inclined and I’ve been hitting up lots of salads and the like as well.

I’m going to cut this short now as I’ve got lots to do before my early a.m wakeup for the flight to the UK. I just wanted to pen this so hopefully some of you thinking about this place will read it. Albania has a weird reputation and everything I heard  / was warned about turned out to be lies. I’ve now been here ~2 weeks and have had an amazing time. As I said earlier, if I didn’t have other obligations I wouldn’t be leaving because I really quite like it here…

Oh it’s mid-November and I was walking around in shorts today…

Coming to Europe next summer? Hit up Albania and you’ll be glad you did.

I’ll be back at some point during the summer, LOTS more to experience here.

Tips hat,

4 Comments

  1. Jonny Blair

    November 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Hi Rob/Lloyd. Great post here and Albania is a country I’ve been recommended too recently so will have to check it out. Hope I give it the time it deserves. Also first time to see your site and it looks great – will have a look around. Safe travels. Jonny

    • Rob

      November 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Hi Jonny,

      Glad you finally made it here and thrilled I finally made it to Albania. I’ve been meaning to come for years and most of those who have spent some time here have told me it’s nice.

      The post says it all but give yourself some time, you’ll appreciate it here.

  2. Eni

    November 18, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Hi Rob,

    I really enjoyed this post. It was nice to experience my country through your eyes and senses.

    I wanted to give you just a couple of tips that will hopefully enhance your experience of my country next time you visit, since I read you’re probablly coming back. Make sure to visit the accursed mountains in the north, the mountains canions and lakes of the south west, the Karaburun peninsula and the rest of the Ionnian coast (Saranda is not the best that the Albanian Riviera has to offer, in my humble opinion).

    As for Durres, the coast of that part of the Adriatic is really different from the Croatian and Montenegrin coast. The sea is quite shallow and the beaches are big, sandy and have lots of trees and other Mediterranean vegetation. The beach of Durres has been over exploited, but the beaches around durres are very pretty, if you like that kind of scenery. Anyways, there are lots of sites to visit in Durres and the food there is amazing.

    Enjoy!

    • Rob

      November 18, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Hi Eni,

      Thank you very much for these tips, I will be back and look forward to the mountains in the north and exploring more of the Albanian Riviera; this time in summer though!

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