Daily budget Basic €20, occasional treat €35 Drink Bottle of red €4 Food Qoftë (lamb rissoles) €2 Hostel/budget hotel €12/€25 Travel Bus: Tirana–Berati €3.50; train: Tirana–Pogradeci €2
Crime and personal safety
Despite its bad rap, the crime rate in Albania is actually quite low by European standards, and you’re extremely unlikely to find yourself stumbling into one of the famed blood feuds, some of which still bubble away up north. It is, however, worth being aware of a high road accident rate made vividly clear by the alarming number of memorial stones by the roadside.
Police 129; Ambulance 127; Fire 128.
Albania’s hospitals are in very poor shape – most locals go abroad for treatment if they can afford it, and you should do likewise if possible. There are very few ambulances, so should you or a friend come across an accident it’s usually best to hunt down a cab. Pharmacies exist in all urban areas, and are usually open 9am to 7pm.
There are a few tourist information offices dotted around, though hours can be irregular to say the least – they can supply maps and book accommodation, but you’re better off asking for information at your hotel or hostel.
www.albaniantourism.com Official site of the tourist board.
www.albania-hotel.com Good for booking rooms online.
www.albanianhistory.net Collection of historical articles.
www.enverhoxha.info Detailing the “greatness” of former dictator Enver Hoxha.
Wi-fi is widespread, particularly in cafes, and you’ll be able to track down a dedicated internet café easily enough in urban areas.
Albania’s network of post offices continues to grow, and most are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. While their quality of distribution is also improving – from a pretty low base – it’s still prudent to hang onto any valuable parcels until you’re out of the country.
Money and banks
Albania uses the lekë, which is also often used in its singular form, lek. Coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 lekë are in circulation, as are notes of 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 lekë. Exchange rates are currently around 130 lekë to the euro, 150 lekë to the pound, and 100 lekë to the US dollar. Note that many Albanians haven’t yet caught up with the chopping off of a zero in the 1970s – you may be quoted 1000 lekë when they mean 100. Accommodation prices are quoted in euros at all but the cheapest places, and some of the more upmarket restaurants do likewise; in these you can pay with either currency, though will usually save a little paying in lekë. Banks are the best places to exchange money, and are usually open on weekdays 9am–3pm. ATMs are everywhere in Tirana and easy to find in any town, while credit cards are increasingly accepted in hotels.
Opening hours and holidays
Few shops and restaurants in Albania have set working hours, though you can expect restaurants to be open from breakfast to supper, and shops daily from 9am to 5pm. Museums are usually closed on Mondays.
Most shops and all banks and post offices are closed on public holidays: January 1 and 2, January 6, March 14, March 22, May 1, October 19, November 28 and 29 and December 25, as well as at Easter, both Catholic and Orthodox.
Public phones are hard to track down, and almost all use cards; you may be offered these on the street but it’s safer – and cheaper – to buy from a post office, many of which will also have public phones of their own.