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  #1  
Old 4 Feb 2009
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Montenegro and Albania

Hi

Any useful tips, tricks and hints for the above countries, including state of roads + campsites , how helpful border guards and police are ( or not !! ) insurance etc

Many Thanks

Dave
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  #2  
Old 5 Feb 2009
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Dave

I followed the coast road through both countries last autumn.

Make sure yr helmet is firmly strapped in place if you arrive in Montenegro from the north. However beautiful Croatia is [10/10] the Bay of Kotor is simply jaw-dropping.

Roads were all fine. Campsites much of a muchness with the rest of the Balkans: be prepared to have to hammer yr pegs [no pun intended] into rockhard ground. There's a site called Lloyds in Sutomore that is run by bikers.. not Welsh, despite their name.. good people.. and holds a couple of rallies every summer. Sutomore itself isn't such a draw. Police? Didn't even notice them.

Albania: the jaw-dropping quality here was the friendliness and generosity of the people. Absolutely staggering. And this having been warned, warned and warned again.. by people who've never been there. The condition of most roads was good.. better than the state of the cars, anyway!
The coast road in the far south was being dug up and expanded.. by this summer, if all goes to plan, what was a winding country lane of potholes and gravel will be a 2-or-4 line highway. They call it progress.
I didn't camp in Albania so no comment on the facilities.
I almost feel guilty telling you all this because the surprise of discovering the friendliness for myself was just brilliant.

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  #3  
Old 5 Feb 2009
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dave, i can only second mike´s impressions.
for insurances make sure, your green-card is valid for the countries you want to see.
the albanian customers demand a fee for letting you in. the amount varies and seemed to be highest for serbian people...
don´t ask me why...
we found people there very friendly. no chance to pay for any drink ourselves when we crossed.
on the mainroads (it is a gs-country and basically there are only a few) be prepared for high speed passing suvs. police, if there is any, usually jumped aside when they approached.
unless this would be exactly what you want to see, you should consider to avoid tirana. infrastructure is ages behind traffic needs.
in case you have to pass an underbridge after rain, let a bus or car go first...
there are a few pictures of albania and crna gora in my albums.
if you are interested. look here:

Picasa-Webalben - airhead - escape to balkan

Picasa-Webalben - airhead - escape to turkey

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  #4  
Old 5 Feb 2009
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Not much to add to the two previous posts... Both countries are absolutely fabulous bike areas, esp. if you enjoy enduro riding. In this case leave the coastal roads behind you. The mountain regions have gravel roads in abundance. Landscape is brilliant.

In Albania the rooms are cheaper than our campsites in central Europe. Usually including breakfeast.

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Old 5 Feb 2009
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If you have time

Hi Dave,
I can agree with what others have said.

If you have the time the mountains in NW Greece are must , fantastic riding road and dirt and excellent vistas.

Steve
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  #6  
Old 18 Feb 2009
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Albania

I can only echo what these other folks are saying about Albania. If I was you, I'd spend my entire vacation ripping around the country enjoying it before it gets spoiled! :-)

Here's a response I sent to a previous rider who wanted to know about two-wheeled travel here. Enjoy:

Nice to hear your plans for riding through Albania are still on track. I'll try to answer your questions and give you my opinions which you may or may not find useful. I'll also include the text of a response I gave to someone else earlier. It was not moto-specific, but saves me typing a bunch of stuff twice.

There are two places to enter from Macedonia. At the north end of Lake Ohrid at the border point of Qafe Thane and at the southern end of the lake at Tushemisht. Both are easy to cross at bu the southern crossing gives you the option of visiting the Sveti Naum monastery in Macedonia before crossing into Albania. I reccomend it. On the Albanian side there are the springs of Drilon in Tushemisht and a nice hotel called the Millenium. Also, at the sign of the big fish, turn left and go down to the restaurant at the fish farm Excellent trout and an interesting wine made with rose petals. From Tushemisht you go on to Pogradec and then north along the lake before crossing the pass at Qafe Thane. Lots of bunkers at the top of the pass. And along the lakeside. Basically everywhere. The road down the pass to Prrenjas is pretty cool with a view over the Plain of Domosdoshme, site of an epic battle between the Turks and the Albanians in the 15th century. From Prrenjas down the valley to Elbasan, the road is good. Lots of sweeping turns and a pretty good surface. From Elbasan, take the road up over Qafe Krrabe direct to Tirana as opposed to going to Durres. The road is unbelievable! OK surface, incredible views over the old communist steel/chrome complex in Elbasan, and one of the scariest drives I've ever taken. Sharp curves, no guardrails, and places where the hillsides fall away for 200-500 meters on each side. Not to be missed!

Tirana is an interesting place to stay with all necessary services. There is a youth hostel on Rruga Elbasan that is pretty cheap. It's at the first traffic light after you pass the American Embassy. Their website is below. Lots of other hotels from crappy up to hideously overpriced (read: Sheraton). The Hotel Imperial is a nice place to splash out for a comfortable room. Depending on what you want to do and see, there are lots of possibilities in Tirana. Great nightlife, lots of bars, clubs, cafe's, and beautiful girls.

From Tirana may want to head out to one of the beaches near Durres if you are the beach type. If not, you'll go north along a pretty good but very dangerous road to Lezhe and then on to Shkoder (Shkodra). Nice castle there overlooking the city. If you're up for a little dirt road travel and want to see the mountains, you should head inland once you pass Shkoder and head for Theth. Beautiful, wild mountains. Great hospitality. Take lots of gas.

The road network in general is improving. You will see lots of construction. Albanian drivers are terrible. You must drive very defensively. I advocate "aggressive defensive driving". This basically means to expect them to do the stupidest thing possible, prepare for the worst, and seize every opportunity to overtake and put the danger behind you. Use your horn. A lot.

Anyway, that's all for now. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

Here's the other stuff I wrote before:

Good to hear you are planning on coming to Albania. It's a fascinating little country with a lot of quirky aspects. Some are very annoying quirks, some are funny, and others maddening.

The first question to address is how will you get around. If you are coming with a vehicle, then your possibilites are wide open and you can do lots of stuff. If you plan on riding public transportation it will take more time and limit your options somewhat. August here is the peak tourist season with the majority of the tourists being Albanians who head to the beaches and Kosovars who come for the same reason. The number of international tourists is on the rise, but still a small part of the overall trade. It will also be hot here.

Tirana is a combination of the best and worst of Albania. The city has grown rapidly with some of the growth being uncontrolled. The complete chaos of urban anarchy that existed in 1995-1998 has been cleaned up and the parks have recovered almost completely. The center of the city is vibrant and offers services on a par with any other Balkan capital. There are an unbelievable number of bars, cafe bars, and restaurants offering everything from traditional Albanian food to Indian to Chinese. There is also a lot of poverty, dust, and garbage, particularly in the periphery of the city. It can be something of a shock if you aren't prepared for it.

As for hotels, it depends on your budget and travelling style. There is one youth hostel in Tirana that is supposed to be pretty good. It's centrally located and has a webpage at www.tiranahostel.com.

At the top of the scale is the Sheraton which goes for about 150-200 Euro a night. The Rogner and Tirana International are also in that league. The next step down is the Xheko Imperial which is a smaller boutique hotel with wonderful facilites that is right in the heart of the restaurant/nightlife district called The Bllok. It's website is www.xheko-imperal.com. There are a slew of other small hotels of varying quality and convenience scattered around Tirana that can be found on the internet. The Diplomat, The Mondial, The Grand, it all depends on how much you want to spend and what standard of facilites and service you require. If you find something and want my opinion on a specific place, drop me an e-mail.

Near Tirana, there are many interesting things to do. In the city there is the national museum, art museum, opera, the mosque and clock tower, the central square and boulevard, and some examples of Ottoman neighborhoods still exist. There's also a cable car up to the National Park on Mount Dajti which has great views, is cooler in summer, and there are several good restaurants up there. Nearby is the castle of Petrela as well as the city of Kruje which houses a fantastic ethnographic museum and an interesting museum dedicated to Abania's national hero, Skanderbeg. Kruje also has a restored Ottoman market street with interesting architecture and souvenir shopping.

The best beaches in terms of cleanliness are located in the South. From Vlora on down there are scattered small towns with some facilites and beautiful beaches. They include Vlora, Radhime, Orikum, Palasa, Dhermi, Jal, Himare, Qeparo, Borshi, Kakome, Saranda, and Ksamil. All of these villages/towns have some level of accomodation and all lie in beautiful scenery The beaches on the Ionian tend to be smaller, with pebbles rather than sand, and the water is colder than the Adriatic beaches which lie north of Vlora.

The Adriatic beaches include Divjake, Kavaje, Golem/Durres, Gjiri Lalzit, Lezhe/Shengjin, and Velipoje. The water is warmer, the beaches are broad and sandy, and they all have some level of accomodations. Durres/Golem is the primary destination for most beachgoers. It is an 11-km stretch of sand running from the port of Durres south along the bay. It is terribly overbuilt in the north and central sections. I have also heard many people complain about the pollution in the water there. Durres is the best place for beachfront clubs and bars and is loaded with youngsters out for summer holiday during August. It also has some interesting historical sites and a museum that are worth a look.

Away from the beach, I recommend Berat as a must-see. It's a UNESCO heritage and has a fabulous castle with a great museum featuring the works of Onufri, one of the greatest iconographers. There are a few hotels there in the old quarter which are nice and reasonably priced.

Other hisorical sites which merit a visit are (from north to south):

Shkoder - Rozafa Castle
Lezhe - Castle
Kruje - Castle
Petrela - Castle
Durres - Roman Amphitheater/Venetian fortifications
Elbasan - Turkish fortress
Appolonia - Greek Ruins
Bylis - Illyrian/Greek Ruins near Patos
Ardenica - Orthodox Monastery between Lushnje and Fier
Berat - Castle
Gjirokaster - Castle
Butrint - Illyrian/Greek/Roman/Venetian/Turkish ruins. UNESCO world heritage site. Must see.

Good food is everywhere here. Just remember, near the sea: eat fish... in the mountains, eat meat. If you drink, the local wines can be quite good and Birra Korca is fantastic (particularly the dark variety).

For mountain trekking, Theth and Valbona are located in the Albanian Alps and offer spectacular scenery. The trip to Valbona is particularly challenging and involves riding the Koman ferry, one of the worlds most spectacular boat rides on Lake Koman. If the water in the reservoir is high enough in August, that is. If you only want to go walking in the hills, just pick a point on the map. Most of Albania is mountainous and most of it is unexploited for tourism. If you prefer an organized trip out into the wilderness, contact Outdoor Albania at www.outdooralbania.com for kayaking, hiking, 4x4 touring, etc. A good outfit with lots of local knowledge.

Lake Ohrid is beautiful and there are hotels along the western shore, the city of Pogradec at the southwest corner, and Tushemisht/Drilon on the southern end. Drilon has some springs which are the source of water for the lake as well as wonderful trout farming/dining.
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  #7  
Old 18 Feb 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tirana Transplant View Post
The road is unbelievable! OK surface, incredible views over the old communist steel/chrome complex in Elbasan, and one of the scariest drives I've ever taken. Sharp curves, no guardrails, and places where the hillsides fall away for 200-500 meters on each side. Not to be missed!
Last summer I rode through over 20 countries on my way to the UK. That particular road was the highlight and Albania was definitely the best part of the trip.
Stephan
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Old 18 Feb 2009
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Oops!

I forgot to include my e-mail in the post above and got PM'ed but couldn't reply as I haven't been an active enough poster yet. Anyway, colebatch, please e-mail me at sksintirana@hotmail.com if you see this post.
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Old 18 Feb 2009
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thanks mate ... will do
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  #10  
Old 18 Feb 2009
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I'll be in Albania sometime in September next year and from what I've heard and red so far it's gonna be one of the highlights of my trip

Anyway maybe it's tome for a "Who's in Albania, When?" Thread.

So ya!
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  #11  
Old 20 Feb 2009
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What is the weather like around the Balkans in April? bearing in mind of course this is a colder / dryer than normal year and should continue to be a hotter summer.
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  #12  
Old 20 Feb 2009
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İ have been to both countries for the last 3 years...

Like said, both are beatifull... had no trouble what so ever.

Montenogro ... Niksic-Pluzine and Nikcis-Plejevljla ... just beatifull.

Albania ...From Montenogro border to Greece, and the mountains ... Elbasan to Tiran from the mountains ... a must !

Hmmm...i guess i should go there, his year also...
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Old 20 Feb 2009
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Originally Posted by usl View Post
İ have been to both countries for the last 3 years...

Like said, both are beatifull... had no trouble what so ever.

Montenogro ... Niksic-Pluzine and Nikcis-Plejevljla ... just beatifull.

Albania ...From Montenogro border to Greece, and the mountains ... Elbasan to Tiran from the mountains ... a must !

Hmmm...i guess i should go there, his year also...

Do you have pics of Montenegro especially Usl? Can you post some here or do you have a website ?

Thx
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  #14  
Old 20 Feb 2009
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İ cant post it here.... but you can check the pics from kemalaltay.azbuz.com ... please keep in mind i am not a photographer ... but i catch a sight from time to time...
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