Tirana

Tirana is the bustling and modern capital of Albania.

Understand

A view of downtown Tirana from Skytower

Sulejman Pasha Bargjini, a native feudal lord from Mullet, established the city in 1614. His first constructions were a mosque, a bakery and a hamam or Turkish bath. On 8 February 1920, Tirana was made the temporary capital by the Congress of Lushnje, and it was proclaimed the permanent capital on 31 December 1925.

Tourists usually find Tirana a beautiful and charming city, where the cosmopolitan and small town feeling is intertwined with a lively night life. Tirana is where the old and new Albania meet. Unpaved streets host brand new Land Rovers, iPhone-toting youngsters rub shoulders with street vendors peddling all manners of items, and gleaming glass towers look down on abandoned construction projects. However, Tirana suffers from pollution problems mainly due to the rapid increase in cars in the city and continuous construction. Long gone are the days when Tirana used to be subject to power outages almost daily and this made Tirana a noisy city as the lack of power and lack of traffic lights had cars navigating by honking their horns.

Today the situation has dramatically improved regarding power outages. Tirana is undergoing a major renovation from its communist days. Many of the ugly dull buildings have been repainted, but a lot of work is left to be done. English is rapidly gaining steam as the second language of the city with the youth, but many older residents also speak Italian.

The main business and entertainment area (not by coincidence) has become "The Block" (Blloku) which is the area where in the past, the communist leaders used to live under strict protection. Tirana is a youthful and lively town resonating constant energy. Locals prefer to hang out at the many cafes and main parks. A popular retreat is by cable car to Mount Dajti where one can get a panoramic view of the city from above.

Albanians are very hospitable towards foreigners, despite media frequently portraying them unfairly as thieves and mobsters. Tirana itself is very approachable if you're the adventurous type - crime is rare, if ever directed towards foreigners and the costs are very low by regional standards. The worst experience you may have is with erratic driving style of Albanians.

Tourist office

Get in

By plane

By train

By bus & van

Furgons, buses, and taxis near Skanderbeg Square

Tirana does not have a central bus station, so you may be dropped at various locations in the city. Buses can be used to reach Tirana from other cities in Albania and internationally. There is daily bus service from Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia, Athens (Greece) and multiple services per day to Pristina (Kosovo) and other cities in Albania. Schedules change frequently so check the latest info in your place of departure.

From Macedonia buses comes from Skopje, Ohrid and Struga. Departure time from Tirana: 15:00 and 17:00.

From Montenegro, take a bus or taxi to Ulcinj, then take a bus or taxi to Shkodra in Albania, crossing the border at Muriqan. Buses leave Shkodra frequently for Tirana.

Buses to and from Kosovo depart from downtown (behind museum where one also can find buses to Rinas airport)

Buses and furgons (minibuses) are generally the best method for travelling within Albania, but they are not in the best of shape. There are few bus companies; many are operated by individual drivers. Bus lines have schedules, but are often delayed until the coaches are full or at the whim of the driver. Some international bus stations are far from the centre so it may be worth taking a taxi to the bus stop to save time and energy and avoid getting lost.

By taxi

To calculate and book your journey you can use the Taxi Trip Calculator by MerrTaxi Tirana, which is the biggest taxi company in Albania, operates 24/7 in the capital city and they always use meter. To call a taxi use the national toll-free phone number 0800 5555, or the international phone number +355 67400 6610.

Your hotel will can also arrange a taxi to the border but it is usually more expensive. For example, a taxi from Tirana to the Macedonian border, a distance of 70 miles, will take three hours and cost about €90 with MerrTaxi Tirana. A metered Macedonian taxi from the border to Struga should no more than €6 (December 2009) and take 20 mins, while a taxi on to Skopje would take 3 hours on much better roads and would cost about €120 (Prices January 2008). Passport control will take about 30 mins.

By boat

Tirana is not a port, so you can't get there directly by boat. There are, however, reasonable sea routes from Italy (from the ports in Bari, Trieste, and Ancona) to Durrës, the nearest port to Tirana from where you can take a bus or mini van to Tirana. You could also rent a car or take a taxi and be in Tirana in about 20 minutes.

Get around

By bus

Public transportation in Tirana consists of a number of intra-city bus lines. A single trip cost 30 leks (there are only single tickets available) (2013) and tickets are sold in the bus by a conductor. Buses marked 'Unaze' are for the ring road and travel in a loop around the city centre. There are also lines serving suburban shopping centers and Tirana Airport.

A useful web and Android application regarding Tirana's Public Transportation such as lines, directions, times and costs can be found at Tirana Bus Stations. An Android application is also available for download at GetJar.

By foot

The city centre is small enough to be explored through walking. Walking is a rewarding experience, but beware that there is *no* continuity in sidewalk width, construction material or condition. Sidewalks frequently end abruptly, have large holes or are very narrow. Pay attention while walking or you may end up spraining your ankle or falling in a hole. Street names are subject to change, so locals rarely know them. It is advised to learn a to navigate via landmarks instead of addresses or street names. You can orient yourself using the Lana River and "Dëshmorët e Kombit" street, which roughly bisects the central part of Tirana into four sections. At this intersection of the Lana River and Dëshmorët e Kombit is very recognizable "Pyramid" and "Taiwan Center".

By bicycle

The ecovolis bicycle sharing program was launched in 2011 . Bicycles can be rented from a number of locations at Rinia Park and along Deshmoret e Kombit Boulevard. A full day ride costs 100 lek (approx. $1USD as of 2012). The system is not electronic in that you must interact with a salesperson. Bicycles should be returned to the station of origin. Ecovolis also offers bikes for longer 24/7 rents at the shop. For all other bike equipment or repair, Rruga Qemal Stafa is Tirana's unofficial "bike street" with lots of little, inexpensive bike shops. New combined bus and bike lanes have been opened recently on some main streets. However, cycling in the street can be quite dangerous as lanes are narrow or occupied by parked vehicles (but car drivers have become more careful during the last years). Bike only lanes however are located on Skanderbeg Square, Deshmoret e Kombit Boulevard and on sidewalks along Lana River and Kavaja Street. As of 2013, renting a bike is not possible on weekends.

By taxi

A ride across town should cost 400 lek during the day, 600 lek at night, approximately 4-5 euro. Negotiate a price before entering. merrTAXI offers authorized taxi reservation: 0800 55 55 (toll free within Albania).

Speed Taxi: This taxi company is also a good taxi company which has taxi fare meters, so you are sure that they won't charge you a random price. Speed Taxi's number is: +355 4 2222555

Official taxis have a list with fare prices inside the vehicle. During the day flag-fall starts at 250 Lek (as for MerrTaxi) and 300 Lek during the night or holidays.

Most informal taxis or irregular ones do not use the taximeter. You can negotiate the price before entering the cab, or ask them to use the taximeter and save money.

By car

If venturing out with a rented car be advised that parking is a major problem. Driving offers an unique experience in Tirana for those willing to brave it. Driving aggressively and seizing opportunities will help you get around at normal pace. Timid and passive drivers should avoid driving in Tirana as they will likely be frustrated.

The city still misses road signs with directions (for example how to get out of the city). In case you have troubles just ask people (don't show them a map because Albanians are not used to seeing maps and even policemen don't know how to handle a street map.) Also, keep in mind that the word "Car" sounds identical to the Albanian word for "Penis" so do not be surprised if you get stared at if you say it. "Auto" or the Albanian word, "Makina" are suitable stand-ins.

Car rentals in Albania are available from multi-national firms such as Hertz, Avis and Europcar, and can be booked online. However, local companies often have cheaper rates, examples include Noshi Rent-a-Car and Albarent.

See

Holy Places

Et'hem Bey Mosque inner walls

Museums

Landmarks

Et'hem Bey Mosque & Clock Tower
Skanderbeg Square in downtown Tirana

Do

Go for a walk in the evening along the main streets or at one of the several parks and sit for a coffee or drink. Take part in the vibrant nightlife by visiting one of the numerous nightclubs. If you are adventurous and brave enough, try the peculiar experience of driving in the city's streets by renting a car, or rent a bicycle from a bike renting station. You can also cruise the city with a limousine or venture out in the picturesque suburbs either south or northeast/west of Tirana. Below are some venturing suggestions:

Suburban Tirana

Coastal retreat

Festivals

Some of the most popular events are Summer Day celebrations in Mid-March, and Independence Day festivities on November 28. Recently, a number of prestigious festivals have become a tradition in the city's calendar of events:

Buy

There are plenty of ATMs accepting Cirrus/Maestro and VISA around the city (and there is one at the airport).

Bookshop

Shoes

Souvenir

Market

Malls

Eat

There are many excellent, inexpensive restaurants in Tirana serving all kinds of food. Traditional cuisine can be found at:

Traditional

Budget

Small shops and roadside vendors throughout the city sell foods such as sufllaqe, doner, and gjiro for less than 200 lek. Also try the local specialty, byrek.

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Raki is Albania's national alcohol; try Boza for something non-alcoholic, the most famous of which is Pacara Boza,  +355 69 2481122. 1 bottle of 1.5 l ~ 100 lek.

Blloku is the main nightlife spot in the city.

Sleep

Budget

Budget options in Tirana are hindered by a government 1000 lek per-person tax levied on all the hotels.

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Internet Cafes

Stay safe

Being victim of a crime is not a major concern in Tirana. Petty thefts or scams do exist, but in no larger scale than in many other cities. Beggars will approach people in the central areas, but simply ignoring them is usually enough to make them go away. In suburban areas, groups of stray dogs may intimidate foreigners. The best advice is to simply ignore them and keep walking.

You should take some precautions when walking around the city. The main advice is to simply watch your step. Although many parts of the city are maintained, there remain holes and worn-down street parts. Cars also seem to drive more recklessly than in most European cities, and assume a right-of-way, so care is needed in crossing the street. Not even a green light is always a guarantee of safety! Try to see when the locals cross the street and cross with them.

Stay healthy

Hospitals

Cope

Embassies

  • Iran, Rr. Mustafa Matohiti no. 20,  +355 4 2255038, fax: +355 4 2230409.
  • Poland, Rruga e Bogdaneve,  +355 4 2234190, fax: +(355) 4 2233364.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, January 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.