Albania on a Budget: From Mountains to Coastline

Whether you're traveling to Albania for a challenging mountain trek or a relaxing beach escape, our insider Nick shares his tips to help you plan your trip.

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Once Europe’s most secretive and isolated countries, Albania still stirs up uneasy feelings with those unfamiliar with it.

While the fall of communism ushered in a period of instability and organized crime, the reality is that today's Albania is one of the continent’s last hidden gems.

Top Things to Do in Albania

Explore the Capital City, Tirana

The capital, Tirana, is the ideal starting point for your trip.

Check out Skanderbeg Square, where you can brush up on Albanian history at the National Historic Museum, or peruse the National Library.

Take a stroll to the Blloku district, off limits to the public during communism, where you can have a coffee, check out an art gallery, or lounge near the lake of Tirana’s Grand Park.

If the weather permits, catch a cable car ride up to nearby Mt. Dajti to watch a magnificent sunset over the Adriatic.

Mountains Around Albania

If the mountains are calling you, head north to Shkodër, the gateway to Albania’s Alps. Here, you can arrange trips to popular trekking destinations including Thethi and Vermosh, where you can stay at traditional family style guesthouses in between jaunts to the rugged peaks.

Before you leave Shkodër, explore stunning Rozafa Castle, nearby Lake Shkodra (the largest lake in the Balkans), and the impressive 18th-century Ottoman Mesi Bridge.

Explore Albania’s South

Albania’s south has a different feel entirely. The coastline boasts beaches as beautiful as Italy or Greece but with far fewer tourists. Vlorë and Sarandë are major coastal hubs, but you should also visit quieter towns like the Greek-speaking villages of Dhërmi and Ksamil.

Inland, you’ll find Gjirokaster and Berat, with UNESCO World Heritage old towns that offer stunningly preserved Ottoman buildings.

Places to Stay in Albania

The hostel industry has been booming in Albania in recent years, so budget-minded travelers are now spoiled for options in major tourist destinations including Tirana, Shkodër, and Sarandë.

You’ll have the most choice in Tirana, where established, backpacker-favorites like Trip’n Hostel and Milingona offer a familiar cozy vibe, while newcomers such as Destil Hostel provide a more modern minimalist environment.

Smaller towns, especially along the coast, may not have many options for hostels, but hotels are ubiquitous around the country and sometimes don't cost much more than a hostel bed. 

You’ll need to be wary of some locations, however, as sanitary conditions can vary, and staff may not speak English everywhere. When in doubt, ask for recommendations at a hostel/hotel in Tirana, as they can find reputable accommodation elsewhere. 

Cost Guide for Albania

Travelers can have an amazing time in Albania without breaking the bank.

Accommodation Prices

  • Hostels range anywhere 8 for a dorm bed to 20 for private rooms.
  • Hotels can often be found for around the same price but may be more costly in popular coastal or mountain areas.

Food Cost Guide

  • Eating out is also highly affordable, with street food like qebap (a spicy minced meat) and byrek costing around 2,50.
  • A nice shared dinner at a restaurant running between 5-15 per person.

Know Before You Go to Albania

Be prepared for amazing hospitality, it’s a strong component of Albanian culture. Locals may not understand you, but they will always try to help and are genuinely interested in foreigners. You’ll probably be offered lots of tea and coffee along the way.

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8 Comments

  • Lynn Stephenson said

    I'm going to Macedonia in May and want to visit Albania whilst I'm there. Any tips or contacts?

  • Reanna Emborg said

    I've always wanted to go! unfortunately I wouldn't be able to go until mid august.

  • Kathleen Rahn said

    Any suggestions on the best time of year to visit Albania (with regard to moderate temps, fewer tourists, etc)? Although I typically don't "do" tours, any recommendations for small group tours?

  • Esmeralda said

    I will not go but I'm Albanian and if you want to write me for questions. Anyway, in Tirana, there are some hostels and also to see there is the park, mount Dajti, a communist bunker (Bunk'art), national muzeum (really cheap, around 1.5$), blloku, main square( Sheshi Skenderbeu) and you can go around the city. our street food is sufllaqe (kebap) or byrek (0.25$). There is also an ancient city of Apollonia that is close to Fier that here is not mentioned. In Vlore, last year there was just one hostel but maybe they will open others and in Gjirokaster there are a couple of hostels. There is one in an old castle building and it is really new and modern. In fact, it was opened from a Dutch guy so they can speak English. Close to Gjirokaster there is Syri i Kalter (Blue Eye) that is a touristic water spring.
    There are buses going to the south but if you want to go in places like Blue Eye or Apollonia you will have difficulty and maybe you need to rent a car or motorbike. In Berat, I think there are hostels too although I saw it many years ago. The place is quite safe and you just have to be careful like everywhere specially if you are travelling alone and you are a woman. For the rest they love foreigners and are really hospitable and will try their best to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Hope everything it is clear.

  • Sabine said

    Don't miss the archeological site of Bettina in the South.

  • Nick St Oegger said

    Lynn, if you are going to Macedonia and are interested in checking out Albania, you should look into exploring Pogradec and the surrounding areas. It is maybe an hour's drive from Ohrid in Macedonia, and is also on the lake. From there you can go to the lovely city of Korça, home to a major Albanian brewery and a really nice old city to explore. You can also check out the village of Voskopoje, which has some really nice old churches and hikes to do. These are all things that are relatively close to Macedonia and would be easy for you.

    Kathleen, I think the best times to go where the weather is still nice and there are fewer tourists would be March-April, maybe even until the end of May, and then again from September to October. The weather is not too extreme in either of these times, and prices for hotels and everything are not inflated like in the summer.

    Thanks for reading and let me know if there is any other advice I can provide!

  • Erinda S.M. said

    Hi Nick,

    Nice intro to Albania :-) Native Albanian speaking here, although I've been living in US for over a decade now. I was really hoping to win the World Nomads Balkan travel writing contest, so I can revisit my heritage roots and write about it to share with the world.

    Anyways, there are many other places in Albania worth exploring, aside from the major attractions listed on this article. Consider adding Butrint and Apoloni to the list for "ruins", Pogradec for a scenic lake side drive, and Osumi canyon for amazing river rafting, among other epic places. I would love to share more if you're interested on a collaborative part 2 article. Feel free to email me at erindasm[at]gmail[dot]com.

    Best regards!

  • Deb Brewer said

    Erinda- Since you are a native, why don't you set up an inexpensive tour for those of us that want to hike and maybe bike in Albania. I am looking for an inexpensive way with explore without having to do all the research and plans myself. (I tried to drive into Albania in 1974- no luck. Then, flew over on my way to Romania in 2007 and really want to go there!)

    If you can't arrange a tour, can you recommend a good tour company?

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