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-capped 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!
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.
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
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.
We recommend that travellers always have six months validity remaining on their visa because sometimes passport control can get pedantic about it, despite what the official guidelines say. However, officially, all travellers entering Albania must have at least three months' validity remaining on their passport. They also require onward/return tickets, all documents for their next destination, and sufficient funds for the duration of their stay. Travellers who are visa exempt for one month must pay the visa/entry fee of Ã¯Â¿Â½10 at the border.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Albanian Tourist Office, Tirana, Albania: +355 4 273 778 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Foreign Embassies in Albania
South African Embassy, Rome, Italy (responsible for Albania): +39 06 852 541.
Embassy of the Republic of Albania, Washington DC, United States of America: (202) 223 4942.
Embassy of the Republic of Albania, Beijing, China (also responsible for New Zealand): (86 10) 6532 1120.
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