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I'm planning a motorcycle trip from Montenegro to Greece across Albania, next summer.
Until few years ago, Albania was definitely a "no go" place because of heavy risk of criminality targeting foreigners, but recently I heard different opinions about it and now it looks it is become a "doable" country, at least on the main coastal western road and in the main cities.
Do, some of you, have recent and reliable information about the security situation in Albania? I ride a bright red BMW R 1100 GS, than can be quite attractive for potential robbers. Additionally, I will travel alone.
I have quite a good experience of long distance motorcycling travels and I know pretty well the Balkans, but I still feel Albania as a tricky country.
[This message has been edited by pietro.spera (edited 21 April 2005).]
we rode through albania last year on a dr650 and a bmwr80gs, and had our doubts in the beginning as well, but the trip was great! nice and friendly people, many of whom spoke italian (fewer spoke english), but roads and signalisation but not too frantic driving.
you can find more info here on the hubb (try gaea_trui) and on the lonely planet tree, but if you have any specific questions on the route/safety, just ask...
Just arrived at home after a short trip through Albania, from Greece to Montenegro.
All the fears and suspiciouns I had before leaving were unfounded: the coast in the south of the country is marvellous, the cities we explored (Sarande, Vlore, Durres, Skodher) are extremely poor but interesting and Tirane has the tipical charme of the capital cities of countries in transition, a quite nice central square with a huge mess all around.
There are several local motorcycles and, funny to say, a guy we met told us there are no motorcycle dealers in Albania, so all the motorcyle around had been stolen in Greece or Italy...
The roads are very poorly mantained, along the coast in the soouth they are vitually gravel, so an enduro bike is reccomended (I have a GS 1100 and it was perfect).
Anyway, I never had the feeling to be in danger or to risk a robbery. Everybody were friendly and hospitable and most of them speak italian. The only area that should be avoided is the north-east, close to Kossovo, unstable and dangerous.
In general the country remind me Greece, even if extremely poorer. The atmosphere is serene and mediterranean, nothing to do with the gloomy mood of the rest of the Balkans (that I like as well, but for other reasons).
So, in short, Albania was a very nice surprise, I hope to go back there soon and I suggest it as a perfect place for adventurous bikers.
[This message has been edited by pietro.spera (edited 22 July 2005).]
[This message has been edited by pietro.spera (edited 22 July 2005).]
Pietro - I am happy to hear Albania held some pleasant surprises.
I am travelling there soon with a friend of mine and we are trying to find out what we can about safety. We are two female travellers and are looking forward to the adventure but can't help stopping and thinking everytime someone reacts to us saying that we are heading to Albania, Macedonia, Romania and Bulgaria alone. Not that I would say 'No' to having a lovely male biking escort though
Do you reckon there is anything that we should pay particular attention to, given that we are female, while we are there (in late August/early September)?
few days in Albania are probably not enough to give you a complete answer, anyway my feeling was that this is not a dangerous country (or not more dangerous that any other balcanic country) provided that you don't travel at night, stay on major roads, avoid the north-east area near Kossovo, and adopt general common sense rules. Even if mainly an islamic country, it looks absolutely moderate and secular, you can hardly see veiled women. However I'm sure travelling alone for women is not a common practice at all in that country, so expect to attract many attention from locals. If you enter/exit Albania from/to Montenegro, we were told to use (and we did) the border crossing south of the lake of Skodher and to avoid the border crossing north of the same lake. Skodher as well as the name of a tricky city.
As far as I know there are no ferry connection Albania-Croatia, while there are many Albania-Italy and Croatia-Italy.
To Shells and Margus:
I'm mainly based in Sarajevo and I have my motorcycle here till mid-september. So just let me know if and when you are around here: we can have a , a chat and maybe ride toghether for a stretch.
We have also been warned against using the northern border crossing and were planning to head south (sounds much safer!).
Thankfully, dressed in all of our riding gear, the two of us gals will look like regular bikers (maybe just a bit smaller than usual) So hopefully won't attract too much unwelcome attention.
We were thinking that head scarves may be useful and absolutely do not plan to ride at night or anywhere that looks/feels unsafe.
Albania sounds like somewhere where we may be able to finally get ourselves into some offroad terrain (after all the road riding from Western Europe to get there). In your opinion would this be a possibility?
How did you go with accomodation in Albania? We'll be camping along most of our route but have thought it better to find accomodation through Albania. Is it possible to stay with local people along the way?
It'd be great to catch up for a . I'll keep you posted on our routes and progress.
I just returned from a trip through Bosnia, Croatia & Montenegro. If you pass through Montenegro anyway, take your time to not go directly to the border, but make a loop through the Durmitor NP via Trsa to Zabljak. Beautiful dirt track, stunning landscape! No probs camping there in the wild.
Then sidle down to Lake Skodar on side roads. The Montenegrean part of the lake is also very scenic.
Next time I'll follow your trail and carry on to Greece as well ;-) Very beautiful countries down there.
Head scarves are useless, except if you want to visit a mosque. BTW, in general mosques are muck more beautiful in Bosnia than in Albania. Riding at night should be avoided everywhere in the Balkans, both for safety reasons and for trafic hazards.
To get offroad in Albania in some remote place, for me, is exactly what you should avoid. On the other hand the southern scenic coastal road Vlore/Saranda is almost gravel but it is safe as is the main road between the two cities. As Vaufi said, if you want gravel roads Montenegro and Bosnia are plenty of beautiful and much safer tracks.
I now nothing about camping or accomodation with locals as I went to hotel. Anyway, in general, I don't think Albania is the right place for free camping in the wild.
If you like, you can email to me about your plan and we can meet each other in Sarajevo. My email is in the profile.
[This message has been edited by pietro.spera (edited 26 July 2005).]
shells: don't worry too much about the fact that you're women bikers. so were we. it surprises people, but makes them all the more helpful. we didn't have any 'trouble' of any kind at all. language-wise: few people speak english or french, you're better off in italian (1/3). i wouldn't try camping, as there are no facilities. staying with locals is an option, i guess (we met a german guy who did it); we did it in macedonia and bosnia, but not albania. however we found good and affordable hotels in sarande and kruje (hotel panorama-sounds chique no?).
as for dirt roads, i'd save those for bosnia. in fact, you can ride down on dirt roads (slovenia, croatia, bosnia, even montenegro have excellent gravel and sand). in albania i'd stick to the roads, certainly in the north.
the border crossing at shkoder: we crossed on a very small border, muriqani (south of the lake i think, on the road to virpazar in montenegro - nice road).
we entered via greece, then gjirokaster, sarande, burtrint, coast road to vlore (pretty and not half as bad as cardrivers say), via durres to kruje (avoir vieja kruje as a stop-over), and north to shkoder. we avoided the kukes area.
however, we always felt very safe. and welcome.
o, and there's a road tax to be paid upon exit (1 euro per day) and a desinfection tax upon entry (2 euro's i think).
have a frappe, and enjoy, and if you need any other info, just contact us.
I just wanted to add that i crossed from Montengro to Albania on the north of Lake Shkoder in Oct and didn't notice any reason why the border crossing on the south of the Lake is recommended instead. I got the usual 'rich foreigner priority service' where people in the queue and the border guards tell you to go right to the front and others have to wait while you are served. And they didn't ask for insurance. I was on a (loud) Ducati ST2 but the same thing happens to me in that part of the world when on my F650 too.
it seems everyone recommends against the border area with kosovo in the north east. there's nothing to worry about here, i passed it twice in july, once on the road bajram curri - gjakova (althoguh the road here is pretty crap) and once on the road from prizren to kukes (tarmac all the way). so it's no problem, although i think it's best not to go off the road too much for landmines. again, since i didn't hit one i'm not sure where they are but i hear that there are lots around.
and as everyone says albania is a wonderful place. actually my favourite country in europe up until now, friendly people, beautiful landscapes, unique culture stuck between europe and asia, a really fascinating place.
You should definately worry about the northeastern border area. Hijackings happens frequently, something a friend of mine, an Balkan expert in the defence department, personally experienced last year. However, this is the only area at the Balkans that he regard as "risky".
I myself drove through Albania in October, from the northwest to the border to Macedonia. No problems whatsoever.
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