Budget Backpacking Guide To Albania
Even though it remains relatively unknown by the international tourist crowds, Albania is a real hidden gem in the Mediterranean, filled with historic sites, vibrant cities, great beaches and epic national parks. If you are looking for a destination with a rich history and plenty of things to do, Albania definitely belongs on your ‘Countries to Visit’ list. It doesn’t just offer pristine beaches and rugged landscapes; you can also enjoy it all relatively cheap if you keep these budgeting tips in mind. In fact, as far as budget travel goes, few countries in Europe can offer as much as Albania can these days. It’s a backpacker’s paradise.
Tasty Treats For Less
Eating out in Albania is rather cheap most of the times, especially if you are visiting the towns and cities outside of Tirana. You can find plenty of grilled lamb and mutton on the menu, as well as staple Italian foods such as pasta and pizza. If you are on the coast, you should definitely try the fresh seafood, which is cheaper to buy from small stands rather than the restaurants.
If you are looking for something extra delicious and inexpensive, try the Balkan burek, which is a pastry filled with cheese, spinach or meat. You can also opt for the sufllagê. The Greek-inspired food is a flatbread filled with kebab meat and chips – you won’t be hungry after that.
In terms of drinks, coffee is cheap in Albania, which has a thriving coffee culture. You’ll notice this clearly when exploring places like Tirana, which is home to a few very successful coffee shop chains, as well as independent coffee houses. If you are looking for alcohol, raki is the cheapest drink to opt for.
Spotting The Right Accommodation
In terms of finding cheap accommodation, you don’t have to worry too much when backpacking in Albania. Even the top-end hotels can be cheaper than €150 per night. The budget-friendly hostels could only cost you as little as €10 a night. You can find many Albanian hotels and hostels on travel portals such as Hotels.com, Booking.com and so on.
Alternatively, you could also consider staying in at private accommodation. Another popular option among backpackers is wild camping, which means you can essentially camp anywhere in the wilderness. If you get proper gear before your journey, wild camping is a great option, especially during the warm summer months. Albania’s many national parks are awesome destinations for tent camping, hiking, cycling, rock climbing and other outdoor pursuits.
Public transport in Albania is not very reliable, and you shouldn’t expect the timetables to stick at all. Nonetheless, it’s cheap and a good way to travel from one city to another.
If you’d like to travel free, you can always hitchhike. People in Albania are friendly, but you should keep two things in mind. Let the driver know before getting in that you don’t have any money to pay for the ride. You can do so by stating, “Jo para..Jo problem?”, which means “No money, no problem?” The other thing to remember is that Albanians don’t speak English as fluently as some other European citizens might. Therefore, it’s a good idea to learn a few phrases and expressions before you jump in.
You can also get rental cars very cheap. If you do, you can head off the beaten path and find gems like this old Ottoman Bridge.
Extra Tip For Savings
Finally, exchanging currency is not a problem in Albania. You tend to enjoy a better exchange rate if you do it inside the country rather than before the trip. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to skip the main post office and state bank tills and change at a currency market instead. This removes the commission payment, but do count your money to ensure you’re not scammed. Also, always exchange any leks (the local currency) before you leave the country, as it can be costly to do so outside of Albania.
The Albanian Riviera and other regions in the country are definitely worth visiting, even if it’s just on a day trip during your travels in the neighboring countries. The country is budget-friendly and it offers plenty to see and experience.
Main photo: Artur Malinowski