Albania Backpacking Guide

Welcome to my Albania backpacking guide: the backpacker’s paradise you never knew existed. With its breathtaking scenery, low costs, and lack of tourist masses, it’s time to explore the unexplored.

I absolutely love Albania! It’s indeed one of my favorite countries in Europe. After spending a bit over a month exploring it, I want to share my experiences with you. Albania truly exceeded all my expectations, and I can’t stress enough how underrated it is as a backpacking destination.

So, if you’re a traveler on a budget looking for an authentic European experience minus the tourist crowds, I urge you to pack your bags and head to Albania as soon as possible. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Come with me to discover the vibrant streets of Tirana and the serene Albanian Riviera.

What to Expect: A Simple Overview

Albania, Europe’s under-the-radar gem, is a country that seamlessly blends stunning natural landscapes. It has rich historical narratives and an invitingly warm culture. It’s an adventure-packed destination where you can explore everything from the sun-kissed shores of its Riviera to the ancient, cobbled streets of its historical towns. And yet, it remains one of Europe’s most budget-friendly escapes. It offers really incredible value that transcends its cost-effectiveness.

Albania is particularly appealing to the backpacker community. In urban centers like Tirana, Berat, Shkodër, and Sarandë, the hostel scene thrives, offering a vibrant social scene. Many hostels organize tours, events, and activities that allow travelers to immerse themselves in the local culture and connect with fellow adventurers.

However, as you venture beyond these cities, the scene shifts. The rest of Albania presents a more rustic charm, particularly in the mountainous regions, where traditional guesthouses predominate. These accommodations offer a unique, intimate glimpse into Albanian life. Here, you might not find the typical hostel amenities, but you’ll experience unparalleled hospitality, home-cooked meals, and the serene beauty of Albania’s untouched landscapes. It’s a different kind of adventure, one that brings you closer to the heart of Albanian culture and its people.

Whether you’re partying in the hostels of Tirana or enjoying the tranquility of a mountain guesthouse, Albania promises a diverse range of experiences. Prepare to be welcomed and to (sadly) leave with memories that will make you come back to this enchanting land.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

In Albania, your budget can stretch surprisingly far. With about $20-$30 a day, you can cover accommodation, food, and transportation. For extra comfort, $40-$70 a day allows you to enjoy more luxurious experiences without breaking the bank.

Suggested Budget per Person per Day

  • Low: $20 – $30
  • Middle: $40 – $70
  • High: $80+

Detailed Costs


  • Low: Hostel dorms provide an affordable and social option, with prices ranging from $5 to $15 per night. Ideal for solo travelers and groups looking to meet fellow backpackers.
  • Middle: For those seeking a bit more comfort, mid-range hotels or boutique accommodations typically cost between $20 and $50 per night.
  • High: Luxury hotels or upscale resorts start at $60 per night and can go much higher, offering premium services, exquisite locations, and often breathtaking views of Albania’s landscape.


  • Low: The street food scene and local eateries in Albania offer an authentic taste of the country’s culinary delights, with meals ranging from $1 to $5. Don’t miss the chance to try traditional dishes like byrek or tavë kosi.
  • Middle: A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost between $5 and $15, allowing you to explore a broader range of Albanian and international cuisines in a more comfortable setting.
  • High: Dining at high-end restaurants or opting for international cuisine can start at $20 per meal, perfect for those special nights out or when you want to indulge in a gourmet experience.

Things to See and Do

Here’s a guide to the must-see attractions and activities that encapsulate the very essence of Albania.

Absolute Top Cities

Tirana: The colorful and dynamic capital, Tirana, is a must-visit for its lively cafes, historical sites, and vibrant nightlife. Don’t miss the Bunk’Art museum and the Dajti Mountain Cable Car for panoramic city views.

Berat: Known as the “City of a Thousand Windows,” Berat’s Ottoman architecture and hilltop castle offer a glimpse into Albania’s past. The city’s unique charm and the beautiful Onufri Museum are unforgettable.

Shkodër: A gateway to the Albanian Alps, Shkodër boasts a stunning castle, the historical Rozafa Fortress, and a rich artistic community. It’s also the starting point for adventures into the breathtaking Valbona Valley.

Sarandë: A seaside town on the Albanian Riviera, Sarandë is known for its crystal-clear waters, nearby ancient ruins like Butrint, and proximity to the mesmerizing Blue Eye spring.

Historical Landmarks

Butrint National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage site, Butrint is an ancient city with ruins spanning Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian eras, offering a deep dive into the region’s history.

Gjirokastër Fortress: Overlooking the stone city of Gjirokastër, another UNESCO site, this fortress houses a museum and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and architecture.

Apollonia Archaeological Park: Once a major Greek and Roman city, Apollonia boasts impressive ancient ruins, including a theater, library, and Odeon, set against a picturesque backdrop.

Natural Wonders

Albanian Riviera: Explore beaches with crystal-clear waters with fewer crowds than its Mediterranean neighbors. With jaw-dropping beaches like Dhërmi and Ksamil, the Riviera offers turquoise waters, white sands, and a laid-back atmosphere.

Llogara Pass: A winding mountain pass offering spectacular views of the Ionian Sea and a gateway to the Riviera’s stunning beaches.

Theth National Park: A hiker’s paradise in the heart of the Albanian Alps, featuring the Grunas Waterfall, the Blue Eye of Theth, and traditional stone houses.

Cultural Experiences

Traditional Folk Festivals: Participate in local festivals like the Gjirokastër National Folklore Festival or the Korça Beer Festival to experience Albania’s rich cultural traditions and hospitality.

Culinary Delights: Make sure you explore Albania’s culinary landscape. Don’t miss traditional dishes like fërgesë, lakror, and the sweet delights of baklava.

Artisanal Crafts: Discover Albania’s craftsmanship in local markets and shops, offering handmade textiles, ceramics, and woodwork. The artistic village of Krujë is renowned for its bazaar and historical significance.

Itinerary Ideas

Here are some itinerary ideas to inspire your backpacking journey through Albania. I was able to discover many corners, as Matt and I traveled also once for 2 months in a campervan, but of course, I wanna summarize here the crème de la crème.

4-Day Itinerary: The Cultural Heartbeat

  • Day 1: Tirana

Explore the vibrant streets of the capital, visiting landmarks like Skanderbeg Square, the National History Museum, and the colorful Tirana Pyramid. Don’t miss the lively Blloku district for a taste of the city’s nightlife.

  • Day 2: Berat

Head to the city of a thousand windows for its stunning Ottoman architecture, hilltop castle, and the Onufri Museum. Enjoy a stroll along the Osum River in the evening.

  • Day 3: Gjirokastër

Venture to the Stone City, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to explore its fortress, cobbled alleys, and traditional houses. The ethnographic museum offers insights into traditional Albanian life.

  • Day 4: Return to Tirana

Spend your last day revisiting any missed spots in Tirana or exploring the Dajti Mountain National Park for breathtaking city views.

7-Day Itinerary: Cultural and Coastal Exploration

Follow the 4-day itinerary, then

  • Day 5: Sarandë

Travel to Sarandë, enjoying the beautiful coastal views. Visit the ancient ruins of Butrint and unwind at one of the city’s beaches.

  • Day 6: The Blue Eye & Ksamil

Discover the natural wonder of the Blue Eye, a stunning water spring, before heading to Ksamil for pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters.

  • Day 7: Return to Tirana

Conclude your trip with a leisurely day in Tirana, as it is the only airport in the country. You could also consider going to Crete (Greece), as there are some ferris taking you there.

14-Day Itinerary: The Ultimate Albanian Adventure

Extend the 7-day itinerary by exploring the Albanian Alps and more of the Riviera:

  • Day 8-9: Himarë & Dhermi

Travel along the Albanian Riviera, stopping at Himarë for its beautiful beaches and Dhermi for its vibrant nightlife and stunning coastal views.

  • Day 10-12: Valbona Valley & Theth

Head to the northern Albanian Alps for breathtaking hikes in the Valbona Valley and Theth National Park. Experience traditional mountain life and natural beauty, including the Blue Eye of Theth.

  • Day 13: Shkodër

Visit Shkodër, one of the oldest cities in Albania, known for its castle, the Marubi National Museum of Photography, and the pedestrian-friendly city center.

  • Day 14: Return to Tirana

Spend your final day soaking up the last moments of your Albanian adventure in the capital city.

Where to stay on a Budget in Albania

When backpacking through Albania, is easy to find budget-friendly accommodations. While hostels are more commonly found in cities like Tirana, Berat, and Shkodër, in more remote areas like Theth or Valbona, traditional guesthouses are your go-to for a cozy stay.

Hostel Itinerary

You know us, we love staying at the coolest hostels! Therefore, I wanted to add the perfect hostel itinerary for Tirana, with the hostels we loved most and had more fun at.

  • Day 1: Tirana

Stay at Art Hostel or Vanilla Sky, both are a great start for your Albanian trip.

  • Day 2: Berat

Located in a traditional house, Ana Rest house is the place to stay at. The owners are super helpful, and the location is very close to the town by foot.

  • Day 3: Gjirokastër

We heard about Stone City Hostel from Tirana to Ksamil, it is the most loved hostel in all of Albania, I would say. You can chill on the terrace, a perfect place to meet other backpackers. The rooms were always clean and the staff was amazing. A must-stay during your Albanian trip.

  • Day 4: Return to Tirana

In Tirana, you could go back to the same hostel you stayed at the first day or try the other.

How to get around Albania

Navigating Albania presents limited options. Public transport comes mostly in the form of buses. But worry not, you’ll find private buses operating that will help you move from one place to the other. For those with bigger budgets, having your own car offers unparalleled flexibility and efficiency


Buses are the backbone of public transportation for travelers in Albania. They do connect most cities and towns. While they are affordable and relatively frequent for major routes, schedules can be erratic, and some remote areas are serviced only once a day.

Bus stations often lack detailed timetables. Also finding the stop might be an adventure itself.  Just ask locals or your hostel for the most accurate information.

For routes connecting major cities like Tirana, Durrës, and Sarandë, private minibusses (known also as Furgon) are also an option – for light backpackers. You’ll see them driving around and you can stop them just by waving your hands. If they do stop they might have a spot for you and if they don’t stop don’t think you did something wrong, they might not have a free seat.

It is also good to know that Flixbus does also operate in Albania. It has stops in Durres, Elbasan, Shkoder, Tirana, Vlorë, and some other local villages. You can also use it to go to/from Montenegro and North Macedonia.

Car Rental

For those prioritizing flexibility and time efficiency, renting a car is the best way to explore Albania. Car rentals are available at airports and in major cities. If you are European, your driving license might be enough (depending on the company so check it out beforehand), but international driving permits are generally required for foreign drivers.

Having your own vehicle allows you to discover hidden gems, from secluded beaches to mountain villages, at your own pace. Roads in Albania vary in quality even though they are much better than people were saying. I would say many roads are even better than the ones in south Italy.  Having said that, I do recommend you to drive cautiously, especially in rural areas.

Best Time to visit Albania

High Season (June to August)

During the high season from June to August, Albania basks in hot, sunny weather, making it perfect for beach enthusiasts. Beaches are packed with locals and plenty of Italians, accommodation prices go high and places like the Blue Eye convert into a nightmare due to so many people. I would totally avoid these months if you can.

Shoulder Season (April to June, September to October)

This season offers the best of both worlds with pleasant weather (warm but not too hot), fewer tourists, and an excellent opportunity for outdoor activities and cultural exploration. Bear in mind some services on the coast might begin to dwindle as October approaches.

Low Season (November to March)

It is cooler and can be rainy, with snow in the mountains, making it ideal for winter sports and cozy city breaks. However, be aware that some coastal and remote areas may offer limited services.

Backpacking Essentials & Safety Tips

Safety Tips

Albania is quite a safe country, much more than what you might have heard back home. Nevertheless, here you have some safety tips.

Beware of pickpockets: Even though I felt very safe everywhere, even in Tirana, I do recommend you to keep your valuables close in busy areas. Utilize safety lockers in hostels or guesthouses to safeguard your belongings.

Vigilance on the Roads: Driving in Albania might present challenges unfamiliar to you. Avoid driving under the influence of alcohol, and exercise extra caution on less-traveled roads, which may be narrow or twisty, particularly in less urbanized areas. Also, be aware there are many goats on the roads.

Travel Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers theft, loss, medical emergencies, and travel disruptions, like Heymondo. Read here our full article about Heymondo travel insurance.

Cultural Norms

Hospitality: Albanians are known for their warm hospitality. Accepting an invitation for coffee or a meal is a great way to experience local culture.

Respect Traditions: Be mindful of local customs, especially in rural areas or when visiting religious sites. Dress modestly and ask permission before taking photos.

Things Not to Do

Don’t Ignore Traffic Rules: While driving, be cautious and always adhere to local traffic laws. Pedestrian rights are often overlooked, so be vigilant when crossing the street. Also, when driving in rural areas, make sure you don’t speed up, you can still many animals on the road – like goats or donkeys.

Avoid Sensitive Topics: Be mindful of Albania’s history and avoid discussing topics like politics or regional conflicts without understanding the local perspective.

Don’t Disregard Nature: When enjoying Albania’s stunning landscapes, practice Leave No Trace principles. Avoid littering and respect wildlife and natural habitats.

Resources and Planning

Find all our favorite websites and apps for travel planning here.

AlbTransport: This is an invaluable app for navigating Albania’s public transportation system. It provides schedules and routes for buses and ferries, helping you plan your journey from one city to another efficiently.

Visit Albania: Powered by the Albanian Tourism Board, this app is a treasure trove of information on cultural sites, natural wonders, and local events. It offers detailed guides and tips to help you explore the country’s rich heritage and landscapes.

Camping Albania: For those interested in camping or exploring the great outdoors, this app lists the best camping sites across the country, including amenities, prices, and user reviews.

Weather AL: An app dedicated to providing accurate and up-to-date weather forecasts for different regions in Albania. This is particularly useful for planning your activities and ensuring you pack appropriately for the weather conditions you’ll encounter.

MerrTaxi: A popular app for hailing taxis within Tirana, offering reliable service with the convenience of booking a taxi through your smartphone. Prices are competitive, and it’s a safe alternative to public transportation, especially late at night.

Tirana Bike: The city’s bicycle-sharing service has an app that allows users to find nearby docking stations, check bike availability, and rent bikes. It’s a great way to explore the city while being environmentally friendly.


As you can see, Albania offers an unparalleled blend of beauty, history, and cultural richness. With its affordable travel costs, friendly locals, and stunning landscapes, I am sure you’ll get an unforgettable experience. Imagine wandering through ancient ruins in the morning, lounging on pristine beaches by afternoon, and sharing stories with fellow travelers in cozy hostels by night. This is the essence you can find backpacking in Albania. So pack your bags, download those local apps, and set your sights on Albania.

Safe travels,