Travelling in Albania: Top tips, ATM fees and sim cards
By the time you’re here reading this post you’ve probably already seen through one of my many posts, the natural beauty that lies within the oceans, mountains and people of Albania. I was snap happy from touch down til take off and my jaw dropped a significant amount of times during the 8 days I spent here.
If you have otherwise randomly made it to this post, hi.
Catch up on my Albania adventures:
- Part one: ‘Exploring Albania: Landing in Tirana, Vlöre and Llogara National Park’. Read here.
- Part two: ‘Exploring Albania: Beach life in Dhërmi and Kala Festival’. Read here.
- Part three: ‘Exploring Albania: Coastal drives, Himarë, Puerto Palermo and Sarandë’. Read here.
- Part four: ‘Exploring Albania: Gjirokaster and our last day spent in Berat’. Read here.
Now that we’ve established Albania is the next destination on your bucket list, it’s time to prepare for your adventure.
Albania is a hidden gem, its beautiful but it’s also one of the most underdeveloped countries in Europe. It won’t be long after touching down that you’ll realised you’ve entered a bit of a technology time machine. But that’s part of what makes the Albanian adventure so special.
Here Are My Tips And Tricks For Albania That May Help You Cut A Few Corners, Avoid Awkward Situations And Prepare You For Your Trip:
A lot of places are cash only, so take cash out at the airport
Just like in parts of Asia. Forget the tap and run routine we’ve gotten so used to in London, a lot of Albania is cash only and sometimes even, no till and hand written receipts. There are cash machines in most towns but it’s good to have some upon arrival for your taxi / first lunch and just to save you focusing your first few hours around an ATM hunt.
Local beer is just 78p! Time to par-D
Depending on how long you’re in Albania for, it may be worth changing money before you arrive.
I took money out in Tirana (Albanias’ capital) and it cost me a £7 local withdrawal fee. £7!!! Luckily my Revolut card doesn’t have an ATM withdrawal fee to add on top of that but the £7 was enough and these fees soon add up if you keep taking money out. As cheap as Albania is, you’ll soon be making up for it in credit card fees if you’re not careful!
The roads seemingly operate with zero rules and are slightly chaotic.
Have you been to Bali? Asia? You’ll know what I mean here. The chaos was more so in the city i’d say. Don’t let that put you off though, just allow it to have you pay extra attention when driving.
Watch out for the window cleaners that start cleaning your windows without your permission whilst you’re stuck in traffic and then want money afterwards.
It is not a free act of kindness… make it clear you do not want to have it done otherwise, you will be expected to pay!
The currency is Albanian Lek
- £1 = 140 Lek = $1.30 USD
Plug sockets are European
Carry pocket tissues and anti bacterial hand sanitiser
If you’re out on long road trips you are more than likely to need a wee at some point and pull over to a local gas station / restaurant. In which case I guarantee you’ll stumble across the holes in the floors and be popping a squat, so be prepared. We came across quite a few. Where good hand washing facilities will fail you, make sure you have your own.
Bring a speaker for the tunes
It’s not a road trip without the cheesy tunes playlist to dance and sing through the mountains to is it? The cars we hired didn’t have the best sound systems and didn’t come equipped with aux cables so my Ultimate Ears speaker was a life saver / party starter.
- Get a cheap SIM card!
I don’t usually have to buy SIM cards because my Three contract has international data allowances that cover most countries in Europe and beyond. It didn’t cover Albania though so when I arrived in Tirana (the capital) I headed to Vodaphone and picked up a sim card for like £7 which had 6GB data and calls / texts in Albania. This allowed me to hotspot my phone for work, stream music on Spotify and use Google Maps for navigation. I would say getting a sim card in the city is the best / cheapest option as I know one of the guys in our group got a sim card in Dhërmi (on the coast) and paid twice the amount, only getting 2GB data in return.
Don’t always listen to google maps – ask the locals!
- There were a number of times we put all of our trust in Google Maps and it threw it back in our face / down dodgy dirt paths that took twice as long. I figured it was calculating the quickest route right but was assuming all of the roads were of the same standard. Before setting out on longer journeys, consult a local as they will often recommend one route over another!
Take your swimmers – you won’t be able to resist the waters!
The local fruit (particularly the cherries) is amazing!
Carry some Lek for the castles and national parks. They are only 1-300 Lek but again, most will not take card!
Have You Been To Albania?
What were your favourite spots? I’d love to know!?
Love as always + happy adventuring,
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