DRIVING IN ALBANIA
The country of Albania features a breathtaking coastline with beautiful beaches, magical mountains, historic cities, and wonderful UNESCO Heritage Sites to explore. Exploring the country and its magnificent cities by car is a great option when visiting Albania. There are some incredibly scenic road trips such as the one from Vlora to Saranda winding down the mountains to the spectacular coast and the Albanian Riviera. There are some lovely countryside roads between places like Gjirokaster and Korce as well as the southern Albanian Riviera that provide wonderful driving opportunities. The majority of the cities are relatively easy to drive around as well with plenty of sightseeing opportunities.Overview
Driving in Albanian can be quite daunting with many chaotic drivers that speed along the roads passing on blind turns, and generally having a lack of respect for road rules. Let’s not get started on Albanian’s use of roundabouts and lack of traffic lights! Which can cause some heart-raising moments with drivers not stopping, randomly cutting across lanes to exit and enter the roundabouts and so much more! Traffic lights only seem to be present in the capital city of Tirana, the rest of the country is sort of a free-for-all. Driving here can be a challenge if you are not a confident, responsible, and somewhat aggressive driver. The country has one of the highest road fatality rates in all of Europe, driving here is not for the inexperienced. It is not unusual to be held up by farm animals and wildlife on the roads in Albania. The rural parts of the country live the simple way of life where horses, carts, and donkeys are not an unfamiliar sight on the country roads. So be prepared to slow down or stop for goats to be herded across the road, or witness cattle grazing by the roadside. You must be 18 years or older to drive in Albania, you will be required to have an international driver’s permit and a valid driver’s license from your home country. They drive on the right-hand side of the road, and pass on the left. Seatbelts are required by the driver and all passengers, third-party insurance is required and speed limits are signposted in km/h (50 km/h = 31 mph).Road Conditions
The road conditions vary throughout the country with many of the city roads and the ones along the coast and leading to the borders being in relatively good shape with road signs, etc. All the roads in Albania are single lanes, there are many-layered with potholes especially in the country and east towards Berat and Central Albania, where many roads have yet to be resurfaced. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is the best way to get around the country, the road conditions throughout the country are improving as tourism increases. Driving outside of major cities at night should be avoided as the roads are poorly lit and hazardous due to road conditions. There can be a huge risk of deep, wide potholes caused by flash floods in remote throughout the year.Road Signs
Albanian roads have basic road signs and markers in the main towns and cities, however on country roads and mountain roads be wary of unmarked roadworks, sharp bends, and potholes. The road network in Albania is split up into expressways labeled with an A, the State Highways are labeled by an SH. The A1 is the longest road (and only toll road) in the country and connects the port city of Durres with the capital city of Tirana and Kosovo in the northeast. The A2 is another expressway that runs from the North by Vlore to Levan. .Speed Limits
The national speed limit on Albanian motorways is between 110km/h (68 mph) and 80 km/h to 90 km/h on rural/main roads, and 40 km/h in towns. Most of the time Albanians completely ignore the speed limits and are always eager to pass foreign drivers. It’s best for you to stick to the speed limits as a visitor, as police easily spot rental cars and are more likely to pull you over than a local.Documents and Laws
Always carry your license, international driving permit, and registration along with rental vehicle paperwork when driving. Keep your headlights on, or you will get pulled over and get a ticket. Dial 112 from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you are visiting. The operators can answer your call in their native language, English or French. Drunk driving is strictly forbidden. Albanian has a zero-tolerance for drink driving. The blood alcohol content limit for drivers of private vehicles is 0.01%.Car Rentals
It is a great idea to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle when renting a car in Albania, due to the sometimes poor quality road conditions and big hills/mountains throughout the country. Car rental companies usually require that you are 25 or older to rent a vehicle in Albania. Most companies will require a credit card for a deposit when renting a vehicle. You must hold a valid driving license from your home country, and usually the second form of proof of identification (passport). You are not allowed to drive outside of Albania unless you have previously planned it with your car hire company.
Petrol stations are readily available around cities and villages. On the main highway, the petrol stops are clearly marked and often don’t offer a wide range of services like elsewhere in Europe, where you would have a resting place with a restaurant next to it.
Petrol Stations in Albanian are normally open and operate from 8:00 am until 8:00 pm in urban locations. Be sure to have cash on hand as not all petrol stations accept credit cards. There are no automatic petrol pumps in Albania, all are manual.