Are you planning to try hitchhiking Albania but not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered!
Hitchhiking is a common way to get around in Albania. In fact, it is the easiest and most practical way to get to many of Albania’s top sights!
Albania was cut off from the rest of the world, under a cruel and secretive dictatorship, until the ’90s. Nowadays, the country is still finding its feet when it comes to infrastructure and unfortunately, public transport is something that Albania hasn’t quite mastered yet!
Navigating around Albania without a car can be really tricky, especially for the average backpacker or digital nomad who is travelling on a budget and can’t afford to splash out on taxis, rental cars or private tours every day. This is where hitchhiking comes in!
I spent a month hitchhiking around Albania and had a fantastic time. I saw some incredible places that I never would have been able to reach on my own, met some fantastic people and learned more about Albania and its people than I ever would have done from staring out of a bus window.
I totally get that hitchhiking can be a daunting prospect, especially for solo female travellers but for me hitching in Albania was one of my most memorable and rewarding travel experiences.
If you’re thinking of planning a hitchhiking trip around Albania but don’t know where to start, then read on!
Why Go Hitchhiking In Albania?
Albania is an amazing country and is well worth a visit. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is some of the best I’ve tasted and there are so many beautiful places to explore!
Prior to my solo trip around the Balkans, I hadn’t spent much time hitchhiking – other than a handful of times in South America – so I definitely wasn’t a hitchhiking pro by any stretch of the imagination!
I would never hitchhike at home in the UK as I’ve always been told horror stories of how dangerous it is. But as I tried to figure out a route around Albania, it quickly became apparent that hitchhiking was by far the best method for getting around.
Every time I asked anybody about bus times or routes I was usually met with a shrug and suggestion of “it’s easier to just hitchhike there”.
Public transport in Albania can be sporadic. The main form of buses are ‘furgons’ – small minibuses which depart from random street corners at irregular times when they are full.
The lack of proper bus stations and timetables can make trying to plan a route to your next destination head-scratchingly challenging.
Hitchhiking in the Balkans is common and there are plenty of people driving around who are more than happy to give you a lift and make your journey easier. The people in Albania are so friendly and open to helping you out, so you never have to worry about not getting a lift.
It rarely takes more than five minutes to find a ride, and once you do, it’s near impossible not to make a new friend and have an absolute blast!
Albanians are a friendly bunch and will often ensure that you enjoy some delicious food and drinks along the way as they share entertaining stories of Albania’s history or stunning views of its landscapes. Some might even extend invitations for their homes so that you can experience genuine Albanian hospitality first-hand!
So if you’re looking for a unique way to explore Albania and meet some locals, then hitchhiking is definitely the answer! Grab your backpack and get ready for an unforgettable trip!
Hitchhiking Culture In Albania
Hitchhiking culture in Albania is quite different to most of Europe. Here, you’ll soon realise that it’s a lot more accepted and appreciated than in other countries. Many people are happy to offer you a lift, even if they’re going in the opposite direction! Albanians tend to be very hospitable and generous with their time and they love to help out anyone in need.
When hitchhiking, it’s a good idea to make sure you have your destination written down and also a map of the area so that you can direct the driver if necessary. Additionally, don’t be afraid to communicate with your drivers – even if you don’t speak Albanian, there’s usually somebody in the car who speaks a little English or has a phone with Google Translate.
I made some amazing friends from the people who picked me up whilst hitchhiking, some of whom I still keep in touch with now.
Albanians love to show off their beautiful country. Many people that I caught lifts with would insist on stopping to show me their favourite beach or viewpoint. One family took my hitchhiking buddy and me to an awesome beach club, another couple insisted on taking us out for dinner and clubbing and almost everyone who gave us a ride would stop at a cafe so we could all get coffee and snacks. One guy even invited us to his cousin’s wedding!
Hitchhiking became more than just a way to get around, it became the best way to immerse myself in the local culture and get to know the people.
It’s also important to know a few phrases in Albanian so that you can communicate with other people and explain where you want to go. “Faleminderit” (thank you) is one of the most important words to learn as it will help break the ice and show your gratitude to anyone who offers you a lift.
My Personal Experiences Of Hitchhiking Albania
Hitchhiking around Albania was one of the best adventures I have ever had!
I have to admit that I was a little nervous during that first day of hitching but once I had done it a couple of times and realised how wonderful and hospitable the Albanian people were then it soon became my favourite way to get around.
I started my hitchhiking adventure by hitching from Tirana to Shkoder.
I’d found a hitchhiking buddy in the form of a fun and bubbly german girl named Loreen. We met at a hostel in Bari Italy and ended up travelling over to Albania together on the Bari-Durres ferry.
We soon realised that we got along like a house on fire and quickly decided that we would stick together. We actually ended up travelling throughout the Balkans together before eventually going our separate ways in Bulgaria. I then went on to Kosovo to explore the rest of the Balkans solo.
That’s the beautiful thing about solo travel, you don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be and you could end up meeting your new best friend at any moment!
It was Loreen’s idea to hitchhike and I was skeptical at first. But after a few unsuccessful hours at my laptop trying to plan a route around Albania by public transport I caved in. I realised that the only way I had a chance to see even half the stuff on my wishlist was to try hitchhiking.
We caught our first ride with a Serbian guy who we met at the hostel in Tirana, he had his own car with him and was happy to give us a ride to Shkoder. We stopped off at Kruje castle along the way, which would have been difficult to do via public transport.
After a few days in Shkoder, we tried hitchhiking properly.
Our plan was to hitch all the way down to Saranda in one day. I was a little anxious as we scrawled the word ‘Sarandë’ on a piece of card and set out to find the perfect spot to hitch a lift.
We chose a spot on the main road out of town close to a petrol station. Almost immediately after we stuck out our thumbs a truck driver pulled over. He couldn’t take us as far as Saranda but he could give us a 30 min ride to the next big town. We went for it.
The driver didn’t speak much English but was a very sweet and friendly person and I soon started to feel at ease with this whole hitchhiking thing.
After a few more rides we made it to Durres. We stuck out our thumbs and immediately got a ride. I don’t think we ever had to wait longer than 5 minutes for a lift the whole time we were in Albania!
This driver told us he was going to Berat, which was in the wrong direction if we wanted to go to Saranda. Loreen and I looked at each other and made the impulsive decision to abandon our plans to get to Saranda that day and decided to see what Berat had to offer instead. I soon came to love this spontaneous way of travelling.
That night as I relaxed with a glass of red wine in Berat’s main square, I realised that all my anxiety about hitchhiking had left me. I’d had the most incredible day meeting new people and discovering new places and now here I was in a beautiful city that I hadn’t even planned on visiting. Life felt pretty good.
Over the next few weeks, I had plenty more days like this. Making new friends, ending up in unexpected places, and really taking a deep dive into Albania’s culture. I loved every second of it.
Best Cities To Visit When Hitchhiking In Albania
There are so many amazing places to visit in Albania, and the best way to explore them is through hitchhiking. Here are some of my favourite cities to visit when hitching in Albania:
Durres is home to a stunning Roman amphitheatre and beautiful beaches. It’s also close to Rrokaqulle Mountain, which has some amazing hiking trails for those who like an adventure.
You can also catch the ferry to Italy from Durres.
The capital of Albania, Tirana is a vibrant city full of life. With its unique architecture and colourful streets, Tirana is definitely worth a visit.
Shkoder is a great spot for nature lovers. It’s home to the beautiful Lake Shkoder and the Rozafa castle, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
Valbona is a paradise for hikers. This stunning mountain region is the gateway to the Albanian Alps. It offers breathtaking views and plenty of opportunities to explore its diverse nature. Hiking in Albania is definitely something you should try during your trip.
Nearby Komani Lake is also a stunning place to visit.
Berat is a charming city with plenty of historic sites and beautiful Ottoman architecture. Here, you can find some great restaurants, explore cobbled streets and visit the old castle.
This coastal city is known for its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Greek island of Kerkira (Corfu). You can also find hiking trails, beaches and plenty of nightlife options. Saranda is a great place to base yourself to take day trips around the Albanian Riviera.
Gjirokaster is a beautiful city located in the south of Albania. Here, you can find some fantastic Ottoman architecture and a great castle. Additionally, the nearby valley of Drinos offers fantastic views for hikers.
Ksamil is a small beach town located on the southern coast of Albania. Here, you can find some stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Eating And Drinking In Albania
Albania has a great food and beverage scene. Whether you’re looking for traditional Albanian cuisine or something more international, there are plenty of options to choose from.
I never went hungry whilst hitchhiking. There are plenty of convenience stores selling snacks to fill your backpacks with. Foods like byrek and gyros are commonly sold in every town and are easy to eat whilst on the go. We often saw people selling grilled corn on the side of the roads and would pull over to get some.
In terms of drinks, there’s no shortage of options either. Raki is a traditional Albanian spirit made from grapes or figs and it’s definitely worth trying. Beer is also popular in Albania and you can find plenty of great pubs and bars throughout the country.
Accommodation And Sleeping In Albania
I mostly stayed in hostels during my time in Albania, although I did treat myself to a nice hotel on occasion.
Hostels are great places to meet other travellers who you can travel with. They’re also very affordable, with prices starting from around 5 euros per night.
If you’re hitchhiking, you can always opt to sleep in the great outdoors. There are plenty of places to camp and enjoy nature whilst travelling around Albania. Just make sure you have the right gear and check with locals about any potential dangers.
I spent a couple of nights wild camping in Albania. Sleeping on a beautiful beach under the stars and waking up to the sound of the waves was a truly unique travel experience that I won’t ever forget.
Safety When Hitchhiking Albania
I personally didn’t experience any dangerous or sketchy situations whilst hitchhiking in Albania, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen!
It’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and to use your own judgement. I would never hitchhike at night or in an unfamiliar area without checking it out first.
Make sure you have a map handy so that you can get an idea of where you’re going if the driver doesn’t speak English, and try to tell somebody where you’re going before you set off, such as hostel staff or your fellow travel buddies.
Overall, I would say that hitchhiking in Albania is safe but of course, you should always use your common sense, trust your gut and be aware of your surroundings.
15 Practical Tips For Hitchhiking Albania
Hopefully, by now I have convinced you to give hitchhiking in Albania a go. It’s definitely a worthwhile adventure.
Here are a few tips to help make your hitchhiking trip a success:
1. Try to team up with another traveller and travel in pairs as this will make you feel safer. Hostels are a great place to meet people. I also met other hitchhikers just standing on the same road and joined forces with them.
2. If you are a solo female traveller, try to look for families or couples to get a ride with rather than lone men; as this will generally be a lot safer for you.
3. Hitchhiking in Albania is an incredibly cheap way to get around the country, meaning you can save all your money for the important stuff, like food and beer!
4. Sometimes drivers will ask you for money to cover fuel. Keep a few small notes on you to be prepared for this.
5. Be prepared to make some unexpected stops. Many of my most memorable experiences while hitchhiking in Albania were when I had to take a detour or stop off at a random small village.
6. Be flexible with your plans, try to be spontaneous and just go with the flow if your new Albanian friends suggest stopping off at a beach, viewpoint, coffee shop or even their grandma’s house!
7. Make sure to have a plan of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, especially if it is dark.
8. Carry a sleeping bag or tent with you in case you need to camp for the night.
9. Always stay alert and trust your gut instincts – if something feels wrong, don’t hesitate to turn down the lift.
10. If you are travelling with a friend then have a code word that you can use if you start to feel uncomfortable and want to turn down a ride.
11. Don’t forget to bring a map, just in case!
12. Make sure to stay hydrated and take regular breaks when hitchhiking – it can be tiring standing by the side of the road waving your thumb around for hours on end.
13. Hitchhiking is an adventure, be sure to appreciate the journey and not just the destination. Take the time to try to get to know your drivers and take note of their tips and suggestions. You might just find a hidden gem!
14. Use Google Translate or an Albanian phrasebook to communicate with drivers who don’t speak English. Try to learn a few words in Albanian too, drivers will appreciate you trying to say thank you (“Faleminderit”) in their language.
15. Use a hitchhike website or hitchhiking forum to get up-to-date tips from other hitchhikers who are currently in the area. There are also some great Facebook groups devoted to hitchhiking in Europe.
And lastly, enjoy yourself and remember that you’re having an adventure – don’t forget to make memories!
FAQs: Hitchhiking Albania
What is the best way to get around in Albania?
Hitchhiking is one of the best ways to get around in Albania. It is popular, cheap and convenient. Plus, it is a great way to meet locals and have an adventure!
Is hitchhiking safe in Albania?
Hitchhiking in Albania can be safe as long as you use your common sense. Make sure you follow the tips above, stay alert and trust your gut instincts.
Is hitchhiking illegal in Europe?
No hitchhiking is not illegal in Europe. However, hitchhiking in Europe is much more common and accepted in the Balkans than it is in Western Europe.
How many days are enough in Albania?
I recommend that you allow at least 7 days to explore Albania. This should give you enough time to experience some cities, mountains, beaches and historical sites without feeling too rushed.
Is hitchhiking legal in Albania?
Yes, hitchhiking is legal in Albania and is also very popular and encouraged! As long as you stay safe and use your common sense, it’s a great way to get around the country and explore some of its amazing landscapes.
Albania Travel Guide PDF
I’ve created a travel guidebook for the Albanian Riviera. For just £5 you get a beautifully designed 21-page ebook, featuring a 7-day itinerary for Albania. Check it out along with my other travel itineraries.
Final Thoughts: Guide To Hitchhiking Albania
I hope this guide was helpful in giving you an insight into hitchhiking Albania. Whether you decide to take up the adventure, just keep these tips and safety recommendations in mind for a safe and enjoyable journey.
For me, hitchhiking in Albania was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an adventurous way to travel around the country.
Albania is a stunningly beautiful country with warm friendly people and plenty of adventure to be found. I truly believe it is one of the best places to hitchhike in the world.
Overall, hitchhiking in Albania is a great experience and it can make your trip even more enjoyable. Just remember to stay safe and enjoy the journey!
Good luck, and happy hitchhiking!
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