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Albania for Beginners

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Apr 12th, 2005, 09:32 AM
  #1
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Albania for Beginners


I am thinking about taking a trip to Croatia and Albania this summer, but have no idea where to begin with Albania.

What do I need to know? Has anyone ever been there? What are your impressions?
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Apr 12th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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I don't know anything about Albania, unfortunately. I just wanted to say that I am impressed with your decision to travel off the beaten track.

I have heard that Albania is the poorest country in Europe. I also remember reading in a book about Roma (i.e., gypsies; I forget the book's name) that Albania was so poor that the animals at the zoo in Tirana were starving. However, this was many years ago, and things may have changed.

I get the impression that there's not much luxury in Albania. And not too many English speakers (unlike some parts of Europe). From what I can gather, there doesn't appear to be much of a tourist infrastructure.

If Albanians are as nice as the guys who run our local pizza joint (Albanian immigrants), your trip will be blessed with both wonderful people and delicious pizza!

If you do go, please post a trip report if you're able to! I know that I would be interested in reading about traveling in a little-known European country.
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Apr 12th, 2005, 11:41 AM
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Perhaps the following two articles might be interesting to you:

Albania: On the wide site, http://travel.independent.co.uk/euro...p?story=377564.

Ancient stones,buried memories, http://travel.independent.co.uk/euro...sp?story=86904.
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Apr 12th, 2005, 12:21 PM
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Didn't Albania change its name to Molvania?

That's a joke, but I think there's a grain of truth in there. Will be most interested in your trip report.
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Apr 13th, 2005, 04:20 AM
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Thanks for the articles Judy C and I appreciate all of the encouragement.

I look forward to posting a trip report, but find it hard to believe that there isn't a single Fodorite around that has an observation or experience RE Albania...

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Apr 13th, 2005, 06:03 AM
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Here's an old post of mine that may help:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34495991

I only did a day trip from Corfu, Greece to Albania.
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Apr 13th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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Woyzeck, I presume you know that for decades Albania deliberately isolated itself from the rest of the world. Pretty much NO ONE was allowed in, no tourism, etc. You may have to do a bit of hunting to find the info you need.

During this period of isolation we were traveling in Yugoslavia quite close to the Albanian border and we could not get anyone to even TALK about Albania. Whenever we raised the subject, the person to whom we were speaking would roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, and get a look of utter disgust on their face. Then they would change the subject, so invariably that it became a running joke on the trip.

Albania has remained a place of great mystery to me, but not enough to motivate me to put it high on my travel list.
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Apr 14th, 2005, 01:13 AM
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Albania really was completely isolated. And still largely is. Albanian criminals are know to be the most violent (even worse than the Russian Mafia) and controlling most if not all of human trafficing in Europe and huge parts of the drug smuggling. They´ve had some very serious territory conflicts with the Turkish pimps and dealers all over Germany and rest of EU. Honestly, I´ve never heard anything positive about the country. But maybe it´s just the extreme poverty that most people live in that makes the worst characters move around. Best of luck if you really want to go there. The country is in a nice position geographically so there should be nice scenery and weather. Just don´t expect too much from the infrastructure.
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Apr 14th, 2005, 04:51 AM
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I travel to the Balkan region regularly, primarily to Macedonia. What I have gleaned from Albanians as well as Macedonians is that the big cities in the south are safe, but not particularly interesting. Hoxa had no eye for architecture!

The roads are miserable and not entirely safe. My Macedonian "daughter" and her co-workers once drove to Montenegro through Albania. Let's just say that they take the plane now. An aid worker I know travels with military escort.

The north remains very dangerous. Skodar is a fascinating town I am told, but it is rife with criminal elements. The main problem is that when Hoxa fell all the weapons in the country transited into private hands ...

Having said that -- the beaches are gorgeous I hear -- the way I would go in would be from Montenegro and I would stay south and close to the shore.

On the other hand Montenegro is pretty nice
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Apr 17th, 2005, 10:59 AM
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You might find "The Accursed Mountains" by Robert Carver worth a look: it's a very interesting book, but persuaded me not to even think about going to Albania..

The reviews at Amazon (many dissenting) are very informative, too.

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Apr 17th, 2005, 02:20 PM
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I am Albanian. Though I do not wish to speak porly of my own country I would not recomend traveling there unless you have an Albanian friend or relative with you. There are some areas that are truly dangerous especialy if you do not speak the language. The infrastructure is very poor, so I would recomend sticking to the coast.

Having said that. There are several beautiful places in Albania. Kruja is a beautiful old city int he mountains where the castle of Albanias greatest nationa hero Skenderbeg still stands as a museum. The town remains virtualy unchanged. It is however incredibly difficult to get to by car. You had better find a driver with 4 wheel drive and a steady hand .
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Apr 18th, 2005, 06:09 PM
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Does anyone have any information on traveling to Korce, Albania? Particularly from Skopje or Greece (Athens)
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Apr 19th, 2005, 02:09 AM
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I will be going to Albania for the 10th time this summer. I second the suggestion for Kruja to visit the castle, although the roads are not as bad as they once were. We often take a normal car there. There are great things in the capital city of Tirana. I would visit the National Museum there. Vlore is a very nice place and if you go even further south, the beaches are incredible - water so blue that you can see the ocean floor from the cliffs above. As soon as the country gets its economy in order, I predict this to be a hot vacation spot.

I have seen this country develop in leaps and bounds to the point that it is almost unrecognizable each time I go - that's a lot of development in 11 months! Anyone who has not gone recently (my last trip was in December) cannot give you an accurate picture as this place develops so quickly. Just be wise - don't walk around alone late at night, etc.

I would start in Tirana and just take day trips to Vlora or Kruja. There are several very nice hotels there now including the Rogner where dignitaries stay and the first 5-star hotel (Sheraton) is pretty new.
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May 2nd, 2005, 02:27 PM
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Wow, is it just me or are people trying to persaude you not to go???

I am of Albanian decent but have never visited. I am taking my 1st trip to Albania and Montenegro this summer. I know that there is definitely some work to be done as far as infrastructure goes but come on...it's not a hell hole!! I have heard that the people in Albania are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. I hope you find this to be true in your travels.

Check out some of the pages of people that are either from Albania or have visited there on virtualtourist.com. So far I've found it to be most useful in my planning. Don't forget to post on those boards or send e-mails...you'll get lots of answers to your questions and will soon have to narrow down where you want to go.

Good luck Woyzeck and remember, 5 years from now you'll be one of few that will recall the awesome beauty of some of the most amazing beaches on the Adriatic back when they weren't packed with tourists!

Cheers!
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May 11th, 2005, 11:39 AM
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I went to Albania, but it was in 1996. We took our car on the ferry from Brindisi (Italy) and drove accross to Macedonia and on to Bulgaria. No one would allow us to drive a rented car to Albania because of the rampant car theft. I am the only person I know who has been there. At that time, practically no one there had a phone, so we contacted a friend of ours in Rome who is Albanian, and he sent a letter of introduction for us ahead to his family. It was a lot like 18th century travel, as the contact who received the letter from Rome was waiting for us on the docks when the ferry arrived at Vlore (Valona in Italian, as it was once Italian controled...hence the good pizza) and got us through the rather nasty immigration lines. He took us home to his wife. They moved out of their own bedroom so that we could sleep on their best mattress...they slept on the floor in the living room. They fed us their best food and would not accept any money for the room or food when we left them. When we left their village, they accompanied us to a place where a cousin of theirs met us and took us to his village, and so on. I know there has been a lot of political upheaval since we were there, but I do believe all has quieted down since the late '90's. The food is simple and delicious. Lots of fresh grilled fish and vegetables, goat sometimes, and fresh water fish (really delicious) at Lake Orrid. It helps to speak Italian or at least French. I suppose the infrastructure has improved in the last 10 years, but when we went, gas stations were few and far between, and did not sell unleaded gasoline. Thankfully, we drove an old car that took leaded gas! Roads ended without warning, so a Jeep would have been a good idea. It was a wonderful, unforgettable experience. The people are gentle and feel honored (and VERY curious)that you are visiting their very poor country. It IS the poorest in Europe...in fact it's hard to believe that you are in Europe at all. There are MANY antique orthodox churches to see. Best thing: Butrint on the south coast. When I was there it felt as if I was Indiana Jones discovering a lost Venetian city. The coast has its share of eyesores, but there are parts that are completely narural with water so clean you can see your toes. Did not go to Tirana, but I don't think we missed much. The smaller cities are fascinating. We had to bring cash, as credit cards and traveller's cheques were unknown. (Money belt, under-shirt cash wallet, and another cash wallet strapped to calves under trouser legs). Do not leave cars un-guarded (there are little men who do this) and NEVER leave anything of value in the car or the trunk and you will be fine. The border police can be irritating (they wanted to send us back to the other side of the country when we reached the Macedonian border because they did not like the stamps in our passports), but with a tiny "donation", we were on our way. By all means, GO!!! A bottle of disinfectant was also useful, as were rubber thongs. There were simple hotels popping up all over the place (especially alone the coast), so I assume there will be no shortage of these by now. At the time I went, there was only one guidebook available, but I bet Lonely Planet or rough guide will have something by now. Hope this helps. If you want more info, ask me.
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May 11th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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Haileysmom, I'm impressed! And intrigued. Thanks for posting the mini trip report.
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May 11th, 2005, 02:17 PM
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After reading your post, I was curious about Albania, too. You may want to look at www.virtualtourist.com for additional info on Albania. I like to consult the trip reports and resident tips on out of the way places.
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Dec 13th, 2013, 11:49 AM
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Have you clicked on the 'view by country' box at the top of this page? Then selected Albania? You'll get more threads about Albania than just using the search feature here.

Several years ago a delightful young man spent several months backpacking through Europe, travelling by bus and train. He went south from Croatia through Montenegro to Albania and then on to Macedonia. I can't seem to find the threads now, but his name was tyler nofziger and he has a blog, and also links to his facebook, twitter and myspace pages so you may be able to track down his travel blog - it was very well written and posted with lots of pics and useful info. It would be worth reading if you can find it.

Good luck, and please post back here with your impressions and experiences in the form of a trip report.
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Dec 13th, 2013, 12:19 PM
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<< Have you clicked on the 'view by country' box at the top of this page? >>

When the OP posted in 2005 there was no "view by country" available.
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Dec 13th, 2013, 01:46 PM
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Oh stupid me!!!

I usually check dates, but obviously didn't today. Blame extreme tiredness due to working too hard over festive season, and beg forgiveness!
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