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Route Planning Where to go, when, what are the interesting places to see
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  #1  
Old 24 Jan 2011
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Exclamation Albania

Going to Greece in may , plan to down the Dalmation coast and thru Albania returning via ferry to Brindisi then up thru Italy. Bit of a mystery to me is Albania, anyone had any problems, any advice welcome. Cheers SAILOR BROWN
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  #2  
Old 24 Jan 2011
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I loved it, but I know someone else who hated it. It's definately different from it's neighbours. If you can avoid Tirana at rush hour do, it's a nightmare.

I had a bit of a run in with what I can only assume was the Albanian mafia (bundled into the back of a very new Mercedes that drove straight through all the police roadblocks flasing their lights) but we ended up having a great time!
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  #3  
Old 25 Jan 2011
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Albania

I did Albania twice-- in 2007 and 2008. At that time, the roads--- even the "major" roads-- were merely rubble and the riding was really fun. I did notice heavy equipment along the roads and they were actually laying good roads. i understand that today the coastal route is All paved. Albania is a beautidful place. It was cheap when i went and i got by on less than 30 euros a day, but I imagine that with a new road it must cost a lot more. I rode from milan through slovenia, croatia, and down to sarande, where I put my bike on a ferry to Corfu. Northern albani ais unattractive, but I recommend getting on and staying on the coastal road, starting in Durres. There is an interesting Roman arena there to see, but i';m not aware of much else. Then i would head down the coast road to Vlore. Along the way, take the turn off to the ruins at Appolonia, outside Fier, but don't stay there-- it's a rough and dangerous town from whjat the local told me. then contuinue down the coast to Vlore, a pretty seaside town. you can go windsurfing there. Continue on down the coast. if you like to relax by the sea, stop at Dhermi, a local seaside spot with a pretty cove for snorkeling. all along that way there are undeveloped beaches you can stop at. I would recommend staying in Himare, a seaside town where locals go. Try the Hotel Joni.. spartan but right at the water;s edge. just before you coast down out of the mountains into himare, look up to your right and you wil see an ancient town. Stop and explore it. It has many ancient buildings, obviously damaged in earthquakes. that is old hinmare. Most of the residents have moved down the road to new himarem, right on the water. you can walk around the town and see the ruins. An old timer I met told me the place was established in the 1st century A.D. Himare is a small pleasant town with little to see, but it's relaxing. have a at one of the many tables set up along the harbor. The real fun is down the road a few miles. you wil see great scenery, as the road takes you up high. you will come to a decrepit army base, and just past that an old pier that is actually a part of a submarine base. Next to that on an outcrop of land is the fortress of Ali pasha. I couldn't believe how cool it was. I stumbled upon it and went to it, and went inside. it's dark and dank and there is no one there... no touristy set up. Ali Pasha was a late 18th century warlord who ruled a vast expanse of what is now Greece and albania. You can just wander around the fortress and explore the areas underneath it. An old man who ran a cafe across the highway told me they were going to make it a controlled tourist attraction, but as of 3 years ago it hadn't happened. Continue on to the beautiful coastal town of sarande--- the place where communist party officials used to take their holidays. i would reccomend staying at the Hotel Delfin at the southern edge of the city, across the street from the ultra fancy Hotel Butrint. the Delfim offers clean, attractive rooms right at he water's edge. I paid 20 euros a night both times I stayed there. On eyear it was a muslim holiday and the hotel closed down, but the ownergave me the keyand let me stay in it anyway and i was the only guest.The restaurant serves a decent breakfast. you will be just a short walk from the promenade for an evening stroll at sunset. The next day continue south about 12km(?) and you wil come to the ancient Roman town of Butrint, Albania's main tourist attraction. It's worth it to go there.
If you want to go to corfu, ride to the harbor office and get a ticket to corfu and you can put your bike on the boat (you'll have to ride it up onto the ship via a plank, since it's not an official vehicle ferry). Otherwise, if you want to go to italy, I'd recommend returning to Durres via the interior to catch the ferry, unless you want to take the ferry from Greece. To get there, go out of sarande the same way you came in, but take the turn off to Delvine, going through Delvine until you hit the main highway to Gjirokaster. To get back to durres, turn left. To get to Greece, turn right. When i did it, the road was a mess of rubble. let's hope they improved it. Gjiorakaster is a very interesting medieval town with an old fortress that became a gestapo prison during the war. If you are really adventurous, you will continue north to Tepelene then take the road east to Kelcyre, then cut north to the beautiful town of Berat-- the "gem of Albania". the road is very rough and you should have a bike that can take it. It's supposedly a major highway, but it's really klike riding off road. You need to get a good map, and there are almost no maps of Albania. most are civilian maps made from soviet army maps and i found them inaccurate along my route. the best is by Fretyrag & Berndt.if you take the road to greece, once you cross the border the road is beautifully opaved and you'll have no problems making great time. The Albanians are the friendliest people I've ever met and they love Americans and Italians.I cannot believe the hospitality that total starngers showed me everywhere i went. Good luck and let me know if i can help you more. I loved Albania, but it isbeing developed at a dizzying pace, so I purposely went before a lot of infrastructure was put in.I t was uncrowded when i went (October both times) but i heard the coatal towns get crowded in summer. Good luck!!
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  #4  
Old 25 Jan 2011
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Hi, i also loved Albania, it is like no other country i have visited, if you have a bike suitable for trail riding there are some excellent long distance trails. Some petrol stations and hotels will accept Euros. Andy
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  #5  
Old 25 Jan 2011
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I was there in 2009 and had no problems. Beautiful country and helpful people!
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  #6  
Old 25 Jan 2011
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Albania: one more thing

I forgot to tell you...as soon as you enter albania you'll need to purchase local currency. ATM's are few and far between, buit they have a few in Skhoder and Tirane, but the problem is the size of your bills. No one has any change in albania, so it is best to go into a bank if you can find one and beg for the absolute smallest denominations they will give you. Even then they wil balk, but it's crazy.I went into a bank in Skhoder and tried to get smal bills and they refused. then I told him i got th ebills from the ATM outside (which was a lie) and they reluctantly helped me. When I went, 100 LEKE was about a dollar. that was the absolute biggest bil anyone would accept.I did find euros eagerly accepted everywhere i went. Whatever bills you present need to be as close as possible to the cost of a transaction. I needed petrol badly when i forst crossed and ended up paying way more for it because the guy had no change to give.Once i was buying a book of matches and when i presented a 100 LEKE note the old lady waved me off and gave me the matches ratherthan give up her change. When youcarry large bills it's like you may as well not have any money at all! Also, don't over buy becaue no one wil change your money back, so if you cross the border you cannot excahneg it at a bank or change house. Good luck!!
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  #7  
Old 26 Jan 2011
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Albania

Many thanks to you all for your comments and tips on Albania, Nobody mentioned crossing the border , is a visa required???????

Am on my V.STROM , with Michelin Annakee tyres , would something more adventure like TKC80 be more siutable bearing in mind the rest of the trip will be on pavement. ????? Cheers Sailor
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  #8  
Old 27 Jan 2011
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Annakees will be fine
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  #9  
Old 28 Jan 2011
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We crossed Albania in September 2010, going from Montenegro (crossed border South of Podgorica) to Macedonia (crossed border towards Ohrid). No visa needed for a Brit. Carnet not needed. Usual green card insurance is OK. Border crossings were relatively painless and quick.

Roads that we were on were all paved but very patchy in quality (even the biggest routes). A bit like driving through roadworks all the time. Road surfaces often filthy with little grip in wet. Road manners of locals left a lot to be desired (e.g. driving the wrong way down dual carriageways, crossing central reservations, etc). No white lines seen on any roads. Millions of speed limit signs (50?kph) on all main roads which are totally ignored by everyone. Agree with previous comment about avoiding Tirana - crappy place with few useful roadsigns. If you stop in the city, kids tend to congregate and attempt to pinch loose stuff off your bike.

Did not travel in the South of the country, so can't comment on that.
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