Albania is still (2018) one of those “off the beaten track” destinations and travelling remote Albania could seem like a daunting task; rest assured, this is rewarded with authentic, quiet and beautiful hidden gems.
It is worth noting, that in many remote locations, the access roads are only accessible during the summer months (May – September) and they are cut off during winter.
Travelling Albania by hire car is ok throughout the major roads in the country, however driving is a little more erratic than other places in Europe such as, the UK or Germany. We were sticking to the town speed limit of 50km/h and some locals would happily overtake us doing well over 80km/h with oncoming cars.
That said, we felt totally safe and the Albanians we encountered, were more than happy to help.
Here are 4 ways you can travel to remote Albania
– #1 Rental Car –
This is an option when your rental company agree to you using the rental car on the access roads and when you are comfortable to do so; access to remote locations could mean driving on dirt roads with no tarmac, large rocks, pot holes and remnants of landslides. Additionally, you may be required to pass oncoming cars with very little room between you and the edge of a cliff; therefore, comfort with these sorts of conditions are essential.
We decided against taking our rental vehicle on these roads, because any dents or scratches (which happened to the other vehicles) would result in us losing our deposit with the car rental company.
– #2 Transfer –
In Albania, a transfer equals a private transfer. This can be a great way to travel without time restrictions and without other tourists. The driver will pick you up at a time of your choice, but they are usually reluctant to travel after dark. This is due to the conditions of the roads; visibility is better during the day and if they have a breakdown after dark, then they are potentially stuck there until day break.
The prices here are open to negotiation, but they will be significantly more expensive than a public minibus. This is because the drivers might not pick up any other customers on the way back, which means they have to charge as if they had several customers both ways.
– #3 Public Minibus –
This is by far the cheapest way to travel. You will share a minibus with around 10 other people, but this is significantly cheaper than a private transfer.
There are restrictions with times; the public minibusses usually run once per day going to the location and once per day returning. If you have specific time requirements, then you will have to pay extra for a private transfer. Therefore, flexibility is a good thing to have here!
The minibus can be a little cramped with backpacks. Note: if you take a large case, this will sit on the roof of the minibus; therefore in case of wet weather, ensure that your clothes are packed in a waterproof stuff sack and there is a waterproof cover on your case!
We used Gjeto Dardha from Shkoder – Theth. If you are looking for a driver who will laugh with you, stop for mountain tea and take the bumpy ride as easy as possible, then Gjeto is for you.
– #4 Hike –
If you are on the outskirts of an alpine region, there is the option to hike from village to village or camp in the Alps. If you are unsure about any of your outdoor skills, then there is the option to take a guide with you or join one of the pre-organised trips. One of the recommendations we received was for Outdoor Albania.
We opted for a public minibus because we had flexibility with our departure time; therefore, we chose the cheapest option. Additionally, we were reassured that these drivers know these roads and drive these conditions every day.