During the recent years, Albania is being promoted as a must visit country by many prestigious travel magazines. The post-communism fear is just a memory and today our country, with all its ups and downs, welcomes visitors from all around the world. Most of the reviews are found to be positive and returning visitors are no longer a surprise to us.
But still skepticism is seen on different forums and people asking if they should visit and how to make the best of their trip to Albania?
Is it going to be easy? What difficulties should I be aware of? Is there any language barrier?
Is Albania different from any other European countries? Do I need to hire a local guide when visiting Albania?
I am taking the time to write down some tips and suggestions anyone should consider before planning a trip to Albania.
Albania is no longer than 2 hours flying from any European capital, thus making it very easy to reach at anytime. There is plenty of information found online about the top destinations to visit in Albania. Albania is totally safe and the cases happened on last 30 years can be counted with the fingers of one hand, this because of the strong cultural heritage (guests are considered sacred in Albanian folklore). Most of the young people speak English fluently and in general people are very helpful while public transport remains a sensitive issue.
Should I drive on my own or should I hire a local guide when traveling to Albania?
It’s not the best road infrastructure you have seen and of course not the worst. With the right driving skills and attention, everything will go according to your plans, and if you are considering to hire a local guide here’s some whys:
1. Authentic experience you barely find on the internet.
Even though a small country, Albania is diverse in its own. Most of the rural areas are not commercialized and one barely can find info on the internet. With the help of the local guides, you will experience the remote villages and hidden gems even the local people don’t know. You will meet local people who are proud to share with you their stories, local artisans or that bakery which make the best “byrek” in town.
2. Save time planning.
Planning a trip is always fun but sometimes it is tedious. Will I be on time for everything? What are the best places to visit in Albania? The best hotels? With a long time in it, a local guide is able to plan and customize anything to your requirements. Albania has it all, from the extreme jagged peaks of the Albanian Alps, beautiful coastline of the Albanian Riviera to the antique Greek-Roman ruins, all you have to do is to tell your preferences to the local guide and enjoy the rest.
3. Worry free.
Traveling to a new country is always exciting. We are all expecting for the best but still we all know that it’s not as blue as the sky. A local guide will help you avoid worrying about which restaurant you should choose, what dish you should order, how to avoid traffic, how to find that museum I have read about or enjoy that glass of wine without worrying about driving in the windy roads of Albania.
4. Help local economy.
Unfortunately Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Economy is based mostly on agriculture but lately tourism industry is growing sustainable. Every coin spent in the country brings happiness to someone’s family and adds the value of the service.
5. Experience the country on different perspective.
With a local guide you can explore the hidden gems of Albania but also observe the reality from the perspective of real people. Unfortunately we live in a world of stereotypes but when you go deep into the country’s culture, talk to locals, be a guest at their home and try the recipes inherited from their grandmother, you will see that all those stereotypes are just a Hollywood business.
Of course, hiring a local guide will cost a tad more but you will enjoy every moment of your trip and most importantly, you now have a lifetime Albanian friend.