Albania Stories and Tips

Hitchhiking in Albania

These days I'm not doing a great deal of travelling but when I was on a larger trip in the past, I tried to hitchhike everywhere for several reasons. It saved money, I liked it, I met locals and very often it was quicker than public transport.

Albania was going to become an interesting experience from as early as Podgorica in Montenegro, when me and my Slovenian travel partner at the time were kicked out of a Mercedes full of chickens and old ladies for not being prepared to pay a ridiculous fee to go over the border.

There is a lot of minibuses on the road who will stop when they see a white (or possibly any) backpacker on the road. Hitchhiking is usually done by waving down cars in an anarchic fashion as if you are in a film in New York and are desperate to catch a cab, although the thumb method is likely to get some kind of attention too. Nearly every car stops, so it doesn't take long really. Sometimes a payment is required but the Albanians seemed fair and no one ever over charged.

A lot of people drive short distances though, so it can often involve several rides - especially in the more isolated areas. Quite often we had locals helping us, somehow they seemed to think they'd have a better chance of finding us the right rides and I suppose with local road knowledge and the fact that everyone in Albania seems to know each other - they were probably right.

One thing noticeable is that from the afternoon onwards, a great deal of Albanians are drunk at the wheel having stopped for several rakis for lunch. Having grown up in Portugal, being driven in a drunk driver's car doesn't overly bother me and seeing as everyone seems relatively wasted including the minibus drivers, I suppose it doesn't have any effect anyway! The amount of cracked windscreens are evidence of this.

I think the most bizarre antic that took place was close to the Macedonian border at night when we were trying to get to Struga before it was too late, we were encouraged to squish into the back of a mercedes with two bags and two people to join the other two people in the back and the two in the front. These chaps were wasted and were all over the place on the road, heading to a local pub - a policeman was up ahead and I asked why the police didn't do anything, they replied that police "only whistle in Albania" and to prove their point, reversed and chucked my stale loaf hanging out of the top of my backpack, right towards the aforementioned officer! They were right as well, he only blew his whistle!

The next ride to the border was a bit calmer fortunately, with a young couple and a baby! Albania is an easy country to hitchhike in but be prepared to pay a reasonable price at times because it's common practice.

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