Albania, Europe - Stein Travel
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Albania

Fast becoming one of the world's most remarkable tourist destinations and nestled in the heart of the turquoise blue Ionian and Adriatic Seas, the little Balkan gem of Albania is relatively unspoilt by globalisation and plenty of its culture is still firmly intact. Home of Mother Theresa and great 15th century hero Skanderbeg, and known for its isolation and totalitarian Communist government, the curious thing was that even after the Iron Curtain came down, Albania decided to go it alone. That was until 1992 when the Communist party finally relinquished power and Albania established a multi-party democracy with a coalition government.

Albania boasts stunning beaches, snow peaked mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests and some of the most hospitable people in Europe. Not only that, it also features Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world's archaeological wonders. It provides visitors with a glimpse of Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods. And if that wasn't already impressive enough, all of this is situated on top of a cliff overlooking Corfu!

In the leafy capital city of Tirana, tourists can enjoy the breathtaking views over the city from Mount Dajt or head to one of the many sidewalk cafes to sample some traditional Albanian fare, which has a primarily Turkish influence.

Saranda in the south is known for its unforgettable beaches and colourful springs while Shkodra features the Rozafa castle, a major tourist attraction. Orchards burst with ochre, burnt oranges and yellows in autumn while spring sees apple and cherry blossoms carpet the roadsides. These seasons are the best time of year to visit Albania, as even in September it is still warm enough to swim on the southern coast.

With both coastal and mountain holidays on offer, as well as a cultural experience of lifetime, Albania is guaranteed to knock the socks off all its first time visitors, ensuring a return visit in the not too distant future!

Information & Facts

Climate

Albania has a mild, Mediterranean climate with a good deal of sunny weather with rain very unusual in the summer. Most of the annual rainfall occurs in the mountainous regions of the country during last autumn and early spring. During the summer months the temperatures can reach up to 104 °CF (40 °C) while during the winter months the temperature sometimes drops below freezing at night. During the summer the sea breeze keeps the Ionian coast slighter cooler with temperatures averaging around 73 °F-86 °F (25 °C-30 °C) while in the winter months it cools to 46 °F-50 °F (8 °C-10 °C).

Communications

The international access code for Albania is +355. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (eg. 0044 for the United Kingdom) and city codes are in use (eg. 04 for Tirana and 052 for Durres). Internet cafes are widely available. Vodafone and AMC are the two mobile phone companies, which have agreements with most other European companies. Travellers with European cell phones and roaming enabled should be able to use their cell phones in Albania.

Customs

The attitude in Albania towards women is still highly conservative, especially in the countryside with modest clothing and behaviour the norm. Homosexuality is not illegal but is not accepted as a cultural norm and public displays of affection should be avoided. Visitors should note there may be some confusion as many Albanians nod to indicate no. Penalties for drug related crimes are severe.

Duty Free

Travellers to Albania may bring with them: 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/250g of tobacco, 250ml of eau de toilette/50mL of perfume, one litre of spirits/two litres of wine. Firearms, ammunition and narcotics are prohibited.

Electricity

Electrical current in Albania is 220 Volts, 50Hz. Round pin attachment plugs and Shuko plugs and receptacles with side grounding contacts are in use. Voltage fluctuations are common.

Health

Medical facilities (including those for accident and emergency use) are very poor in Albania, particularly outside Tirana. Comprehensive medical insurance, including evacuation by air ambulance is essential before travelling to Albania. There are high levels of Hepatitis in Albania and rabies is also a matter of concern as there are large numbers of stray dogs. Tick borne encephalitis has been reported in the north of the country and it is advisable to receive vaccinations for these diseases. Tap water is not safe to drink and travellers should only drink bottled water. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for all travellers older than one year of age arriving from a yellow-fever infected area in Africa or the Americas.

Language

The official language of Albania is Albanian but Greek is also spoken in many areas. English is not widely understood but is spoken in some of the hotels and restaurants.

Money

The currency in Albania is the Lek. There are numerous ATMs in Tirana and main towns, as well as bureaux de change where Sterling, US Dollars and Euros are widely accepted for exchange. Although street money changers operate openly, they do so illegally. Credit cards are not as widely accepted as one would expect, except in a few of the most up-market hotels and restaurants. Travellers' cheques are not accepted as payment by hotels or anywhere else but it is possible to cash them outside Tirana. Foreign currency can be changed in banks at exchange offices (kambim valutor). The most commonly accepted currencies are the US dollar and the euro. Banks are open only on weekdays from 8.30am to 2.30pm.

Passport Visa

All travellers entering Albania must have at least six months' validity remaining on their passport as well as Visitor must hold onward/return tickets, all documents for their next destination and sufficient funds for the duration of stay. Travellers who are visa exempt for one month must pay the visa/entry fee of EUR10 at the border.

Safety

Albania boasts a very low crime rate and the area around Tirana, and most of the larger cities are relatively trouble-free, but visitors should avoid travelling at night. It is also prudent to bear in mind the widespread ownership of firearms. Crime against tourists is virtually non-existent although there have been recent incidents of luggage being stolen from hotel rooms and public transport, particularly in the coastal resorts of Vlore and Saranda. Travellers should therefore remain vigilant about their personal security.

Time

Local time in Albania is GMT + 1 hour (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Tipping

Standard tipping rules apply in Albania. It is customary to tip waiters and taxi drivers around 10 to 15 percent.

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