Before arriving in Albania we had heard all kinds of horror stories about the bus system. There’s no schedule, it’s not safe, and the list went on and on. However, after spending 2 weeks using the bus as our Albania transportation we’re here to report how useful it really is! By no means are we saying it’s a walk in the park. Yet, it definitely ran smoother than we thought it would. So if you don’t want to worry about the hassle of renting a car then maybe the bus in Albania is for you! Here’s what to know about prices, schedules, and answering 10 questions you might have about traveling Albania by bus.
Albania Travel Inspiration
- Best Food in Albania: 25 Incredible Dishes & Drinks to Try on Your Trip
- Dhermi Beach Albania: How to Find Paradise on the Albanian Riviera
- How to Get to Livadhi Beach Albania: Fun Coastal Hike from Himare
- Gjirokaster Albania: Top 6 Tips For the Famous Castle Village
- Best Beaches of Ksamil and Why it’s Albania’s Most Popular Summer Town
Our Experience Traveling Albania by Bus
Standing in front of the Saranda stop we stood patiently waiting for our first bus to arrive. As it inched closer to the scheduled time then passed 11:30am, we watched the growing crowd of locals check their watches and look down the street. That was when a small minivan pulled up.
In the middle of traffic, the driver jumped out, opened the passenger side door, and helped a young boy in. We both looked at each other in pure confusion really having no idea if that was in fact the bus we were waiting for. I then asked him if he was going to Ksamil and he ushered us in.
Just moments into the trip I looked at Brigitte and said “So don’t freakout… But I don’t think we got on the right bus.”
Learning From Our First Albania Bus Ride
While we may have gotten on the “wrong bus” we did still get one going the right way, and that’s the important thing! The reason we were confused was simply that we weren’t used to taking this style mini-bus or “furgon” as they’re affectionately called in Albania.
Some furgons were quick and easy while others were long days filled with winding roads. Throughout our trip, we kept telling ourselves that it was easy. However, this is coming from two people who just finished backpacking in Southeast Asia for 6 months, and have taken more buses than we can count.
Also, we would be lying if we said we weren’t relieved when it was over. Before we get into everything you need to know here are some helpful tips to remember while traveling Albania by bus!
Quick Tips for Using the Bus in Albania
- Start your travel days as early as possible and don’t stress about how long it takes to get there.
- To figure out your next bus ask the owner of your hotel, the person at the store, or even the waiter when you’re out to eat. You’ll need to rely on the kindness of locals to figure out the Albania bus schedule!
- The bus drivers will do anything to get you to your final destination. This includes telling you when to switch and even calling you a cab that will be waiting to take you the rest of the way.
Our Albania Bus Route
Saranda → Ksamil: 100 Lek • 11:30am
Saranda → Gjirokaster: 300 Lek • 11:30am
Ksamil → Butrint: 100 Lek • 9:40am
Saranda → Himare: 700 Lek • 11:30am
Himara → Dhermi: 300 Lek • 1:30pm
Dhermi → Vlore: 250 Lek • 9am
Vlore → Berat: 400 Lek • 11:30am
Berat → Macedonia Border: 700 Lek • 4am
Above are the times we took each specified bus on our route. Be sure to check if there are more buses in Albania and times as they can change often!
Different Types of Buses in Albania
Mini-Buses (Furgons): Small vans that travel long distances between the towns. They typically fit 8-12 passengers and stop to pick up people along the way.
Big buses: Larger buses that travel shorter distances. You can utilize these for day trips from cities like Saranda to Ksamil.
10 Questions About the Albania Bus System
1. Is Traveling Albania by Bus Safe?
The first and probably most asked question is about safety. First, you should know that the country as a whole is extremely safe. Ever since the fall of communism, Albania has been working toward welcoming tourists.
After having our computer stolen on a train in Athens several months back we have been extra cautious while traveling, so we would obviously tell you if we felt unsafe about it!
There are many pre-conceived notions about Albania out there, but honestly you wouldn’t know unless you’ve been there. You should feel comfortable whether you’re taking the bus, or getting a rental car in Albania.
2. Is There a Set Albania Bus Schedule?
So now that you know it’s perfectly safe, where can you find the Albania bus schedule? There doesn’t seem to be much available online, and the signs are tough to read around town. However confusing it may be there actually is an Albania bus schedule!
The thing is you really need to ask a local person or physically go to the bus station yourself. A lot of the Albania “bus stations” are not marked anywhere, and are simply drop off or pick up locations of the driver’s choice. This can obviously make it difficult if you’re trying to plan ahead!
Our strategy after getting to a place would be to find out when the bus left for our next destination. Some of these makeshift bus stations are not in the center of town. This way we would know exactly when to come back on the day we left.
3. Where Do I Buy Albania Bus Tickets?
You will buy your tickets directly on the bus. It was sometimes a little bit of a guessing game of when and how much to pay, but typically the transaction happens as you’re getting off the bus at your destination.
If you’re in a smaller furgon van the payment is made to the driver, while the bigger city buses have an employee that walks around and collects the money as the vehicle is in transit. As you saw in our prices section, Albania transportation isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg. Yet, you still should ask about the cost before getting on the bus to avoid getting ripped off.
4. Where are the Albania Bus Stops?
As we mentioned the bus stops aren’t normally marked. 90% of the time you simply have to know where and what time to stand somewhere!
This means there are usually no benches or signs available like you might be used to elsewhere in Europe. At first not having an Albania bus schedule or defined stops were VERY overwhelming for us.
Still, as our travel days went on we came to realize the system was surprisingly reliable. Also, the offline maps app we used on our phones often had the bus stops marked which was very helpful.
5. Are the Buses in Albania Expensive?
No way! For the number of kilometers, these buses cover it’s insanely cheap. In comparison with taxis, private transfers, and a car rental in Albania it’s the ultimate way to travel on a budget. For example, the most we paid out of the 8+ Albanian buses was 700 Lek from Saranda to Himare.
That’s the equivalent of just over $6 USD for a 2 hour ride up the coast to some of the nicest beaches we’ve seen in Europe! Sure you may have to switch vehicles a couple of times, but for the price of traveling Albania by bus, it’s more than worth it.
6. How Often Does the Bus in Albania Make Stops?
So this is the one stereotype about Albanian transportation that might be true. The mini-buses do make several stops along the way to their end destination. When I say several, just know that I mean A TON OF STOPS!
Basically how it works is every time someone needs to get anywhere they flag it down on the side of the road and jump on. Even with this added dimension, the bus doesn’t go too far off the main route dropping people off. Just be aware of this if you’re planning on traveling Albania by bus as much as we did.
7. How Comfortable is Traveling Albania by Bus?
By now after seeing our pictures you probably know you shouldn’t expect modern luxuries like air conditioning or wifi. They’re also not going to be as nice as a car rental in Albania, but for the most part, the buses are pretty comfortable.
As a precautionary measure, we did keep our backpacks on us instead of putting them in the back of the bus. Even if the driver encouraged us to do so and we felt perfectly safe, we like having our valuables on us!
This made it a little uncomfortable having them at our feet, but we were used to doing it this way all around Southeast Asia. Also, if you get car sickness you may want to keep some medicine on you for the crazy mountain roads.
8. How Much are Private Transfers or a Taxi?
You’d venture to think that the taxis aren’t that expensive, but for going long distances they aren’t really the best option. The one time this form of Albania transportation backfired on us was going between Himare and Dhermi. For whatever reason, the one bus for that day never came and we had to have our guesthouse call us a taxi.
We were pretty bummed to be paying 1,500 lek for a half hour taxi ride, but all things considered, it could have been worse! We’re not sure if it was a mix-up on our part, or this was just an expected downfall of not having an Albania bus schedule. Either way, it wasn’t that big of a deal long-term.
For private transfers, there are options available especially if you’re going from major cities like Saranda to Tirana. Just expect this to be around 50 euros. Unfortunately, this price is double what we paid for all of our buses in Albania combined!
9. Why Wouldn’t I Just Get a Rental Car in Albania?
As useful as we found the Albania bus system if you don’t mind driving you definitely should! By having a rental car in Albania you’ll be able to get to beaches, towns, and secrets coves that otherwise are just not possible. However, there are some definite negatives that led to us deciding against it.
Responsibility: It really stinks being responsible for a car when traveling. You do have the option of paying extra for full insurance on your rental car in Albania, but if not you’ll be constantly worried about where you’re parking it.
Driving in Albania: After spending many hours on the roads of Albania we can in fact confirm that the drivers are a bit reckless! Most of our bus rides were fine, but we’d be lying if we weren’t worried watching cars pass us around dangerous mountain corners and taking unnecessary risks.
Road Conditions: Some of the roads in Albania aren’t in the greatest condition. Our bus driver swerved around numerous potholes and obstacles on our rides. Not to mention, the mountains of Albania are a whole other animal! Even just getting from beach to beach on the Albanian Riviera requires a drive through the steep mountains.
Price: We’ve talked about this multiple times in our article, and can’t reiterate it enough. The price is ultimately the main factor between taking the bus and other forms of Albania transportation. We calculated the cost of if we would’ve had a car rental in Albania for 2 weeks, and we saved over 300 Euros by taking the bus! Everyone is on a different budget, but that alone should tell you what you need to know.
10. Do People Hitchhike in Albania?
Yes! Hitchhiking is actually a well-utilized Albania transportation method by backpackers. We can’t comment on its safety since we didn’t partake or speak with anyone who’s actually done it.
However, with how inexpensive the bus is it might not be necessary. If you’re a backpacker looking to make friends it’s probably better to wait until you get to your hostel!
Have any questions on using buses in Albania or want to share your own Albanis bus travel story? Comment below and let us know!
Brigitte & Jake
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Albania Travel Planning
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. You can book a private hike through the Gamti Mountain, jump on a Tirana Walking Tour, or day trip to the beautiful village of Berat Albania.
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to explore when traveling. Consider renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another for an epic road trip!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.