Albania is a “very poor country, people are not quite civilized, there is mafia, there are drugs, and so on”. Nonsense! The only reason why you could exclude it it’s the fear of falling in love with it. And believe me, you will fall in love with it!
I came back from the Balkans not long ago and I can assure you that Albania is the most natural, wild, beautiful and safe Balkan country.
Before going there I heard lots of prejudices but all these made me want even more to discover this “jungle”. I have only stayed 5 days in Albania but it was enough to make me want to come back. Below you will find some conclusions about the beautiful country and I leave you to tell me if you consider it safe or not:
1.It is a cheap country
I ate at the restaurant with less than 4€, a full lunch (soup, main course and water). I recommend you to try the restaurants and the fish based food because they are delicious. Because their kitchen has Italian influences, their pizza is very good (and cheap!). For example, I paid 3.5€ for a Margherita.
2.It is virgin. Still.
If you are tired of overcrowded beaches, of tourists prices, of noise and dirt, then Albania it’s the destination you need.
3.Albanian people are wonderful
I have met nice people before, but the Albanians are the most. Probably it is also because they are not used to see too many tourists around and when they do, they take advantage of it and ask lots of questions or it can happen that they will even invite you to have a meal. They are very hospitable, smiling, always willing to help. Most of them speak English at an entry level and if not, you can help yourself by gestures.
4.The locals grow marijuana
Yes, you read correctly. Marijuana is a true business through which even the police gets its share after it is being sold. What I understood from the locals, on the fields there are lots of marijuana plantations. And because at a certain point there were too many producers, the price dropped to 300€/kg.
5.There are no traffic rules
If you are used to cross the street on the zebra or at the green light, I inform you that you will not succeed there. You have to act like a local if you want to survive in traffic. (For example, you don’t cross on the zebra and you cross on red light). Also about traffic, I noticed that they like to honk at anything, from birds to people. Personally, I would include the driving in the risk category, the drivers being always on the rush. An interesting thing that I noticed it’s that the drivers are used to overcome other cars just before a curve and in order to prevent the car that is coming from the opposite direction, they honk.
6.The sea is incredibly clean.
It was the first time when I have seen a sea of such a color (see below unedited photo).
I don’t know if you were aware that Albania is crossed by two seas: Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea. The most beautiful and cleanest beaches are the ones that opens in Ionian Sea. I recommend you the south-west coast, starting with Vlora and finishing with Saranda.
7.The beaches are rocky
Before choosing Albania as a holiday destination, make sure you have aqua shoes. I forgot about this detail and I felt it quite hard on my own feet. However, if you prefer a sandy beach, I recommend you Ksamil, a beach which will charm you. It is the most known beach.
8.There are no headaches with the formalities
If you are EU citizen you can enter Albania only with your ID, you don’t need a passport. Albania tends towards EU accession, which seems very difficult mainly because of corruption, a problem of which most of the locals that I have talked to complained about.
You will not see too many prices on shelves, so you can negotiate them.
In my opinion, it’s one of the most pleasant aspects. It’s a very easy and cheap way of moving around. And believe me, it can be the most pleasant way to meet good and nice people. For example, I met people who invited me to a restaurant to eat.
11.Rakia and burek
It’s a must to try something traditional! The famous rakia (a sort of palinka but made from grapes), and burek. If you choose to eat burek, ask for a yogurt. You will be surprised to see that all their yogurts are drinkable.
In Albania you learn that if you have a schedule it doesn’t necessary means that you will respect it. So, expect that the drivers will whistle for you in order to alert you that the bus is leaving and expect that the bus will not start until it is full. You will not get a ticket. There is a person inside the bus that is going to each passenger and collects the money. If you do not have enough money, come back to point no. 9 and don’t forget to negotiate. If you travel by bus during summer, do not expect air conditioning. And be ready to spend some good hours in the bus. For example, I stayed 6 hours for a ride of 250 km and inside the bus there were 35 degrees. Do not panic, read point no. 10.
13.Do not expect fiscal receipt.
In Albania you won’t get fiscal receipts. One of the locals explained me this aspect saying that it is much more simple for them to pay only when they get caught or to offer bribe instead of being fair and pay monthly taxes.
In most of the cases the people consider Albania as being unsafe it is because they haven’t been there. The problems that they have there are the problems that you will find in all countries, only that they are not as visible as they are in Albania. I advise you something: don’t believe until you see it. I can only assure you that it is much safer than the West.
And because I made you curious, soon there will be a post with destinations in Albania.