Albania

AlbaniaAlbania Quick Facts

Population: 2.9 million
Language: Albanian
Religion: Muslim (70%)
Currency: Lek

 

Terrain: Mountains
Riding Months: May to October.  Avoid summer months if you don’t like hot weather.
Drives on the right

 

Visa Requirements for American Citizens: None
Visa Requirements for European Union Citizens: None
Motorcycle Info: Make sure you purchase proper motorcycle fees at the boarder. Authorities may wave it for you, however it may be a problem when exiting the country, so just get it!  You can see if they are necessary at the border crossing, usually there are a list of fees on the window.  Or for up to date information, check with an Albanian Embassy.

Traveling in Albania

Albania Motorcycle Pigs

Albania is an amazing country. While the cities are over packed and not that impressive (as well as hot and way too much traffic), the nature and mountain ranges make up for it and are a great place for off road riders.

People are pleasantly friendly, but don’t expect many of the older generations to speak English. We were there in 2008, and the English speakers we did find where boys ages 7 or 8.  So as this generation grows up and as English is taught more and more in schools, you can expect English to be understood by a wider audience.

One of the main things very noticeable in Albania (besides the awesome toilets which were simple holes in the ground!) was the absence of women.  Out and about in the town and in the coffee shops one sees mostly men hanging out, or young boys.  Women you would find working in some of the shops and restaurants, but they didn’t seem to hang as much as the men.

Theth National Park mountain valley AlbaniaIf planning a trip to Albania and you are a woman, I highly recommend having at least 2 men with you.  Never venture out by yourself.  It is not common for women to be alone and they will think the worse of you if you are.  The one time I ventured out alone, I simply went outside by the water of a small hotel we were staying at (I was dying in the hot room).  Within 5 minutes a guy came up and started to put his arms around me! I quickly realized this wasn’t a good idea and went back up to the hotel with my two travel buddies.

I was riding my own motorcycle on this trip.  It was common for young boys to come up to us with eyes wide, asking to rev the engines of the motorcycles. Well, they asked the boys.  With me, at least 3 times young boys grabbed the throttle and just revved it without so much as a question! I smacked one boys hand when he did this, and the surprised/angry look he got in his eyes when he realized a woman had told him he couldn’t do something!

Albania Dejes RiverOf course this wasn’t the case with all young men we met. Those who did spoke English were very nice and helpful.  So don’t get a bad impression of Albanians. However from experience women need to be extra smart when traveling in this country, and should not travel alone.

Cigarettes seem to be a commodity in Albania. Many times we were offered cigarettes as a sort of welcome, and we even ended up purchasing a pack of cigarettes just to pass out to those who helped us!

Driving in Albania was very interesting.  Down by the coast it was very hot and flat and the cities were packed, there was tons of traffic, and it didn’t seem like there were very many rules! You could expect a car to pass you angrily even when you are going 10km/h over the speed limit! We had many close calls with cars in this area, so make sure you are extra careful and aware, and never, ever, ever assume like the car sees you. If someone is being an @$$, pull over and let him pass.

Where to Ride

Theth National ParkThe coasts are hot and crowded with cities – some riders may fancy cities, but if you are looking for some good off road riding, I suggest you head towards the mountains. Anywhere Albania has national parks (which you can see on Google Maps) you can bet there is some great riding.

From personal experience, I recommend you head to Theth National Park in Northern Albania. From Boge you will experience amazing off road riding through the mountains.  When you reach the small town of Theth, grab some food and sleep there if you aren’t keen on camping, for there is another day of off road riding until you reach Shkoder.  Please note that this was in 2008, no guarantees the roads have not yet been paved.

If all the national parks in Albania have riding this good, then any off road rider is set for a great vacation!

Albanian Survival Phrases

yes = PO (poh)
no = JO (joh)
please = TË LUTEM (ter lootehm)
thank you = FALEMINDERIT (fahlehmeendehreet)
I don’t understand. = NUK KUPTOJ. (nook kooptoy)
Do you speak English? = FLISNI ANGLISHT? (fleesnee ahngleesht)