We entered Albania by Ferry with our Campervan Milli-VAN-illi from the Port of Brindisi, Italy and arrived in Vlorë, Albania on the 20th of April 2023. We spent the next 15 days making our way south along the Albanian Riviera, visiting a few inland towns and villages before crossing into Greece at the Kakavijë Border crossing at the beginning of May 2023.
In this post we will discuss our experience of being on the road, overnighting with our motorhome, our experience of van life in general in Albania, the cost of food and sightseeing, the best seasons to plan your visit and some practicalities for visiting Albania by Motorhome or Campervan. In our opinion, Albania can be a good destination to travel by Campervan or Motorhome if you are looking to experience something a little different from most of Western Europe. There is so much natural beauty and we always felt welcome in our Motorhome. However, there are some important aspects for you to consider before visiting Albania with your Motorhome.
You can find even more details in our Polarsteps Travel Diary for Albania by becoming a member of our Patreon Community. Be sure to watch our YouTube videos from our time in Albania to see for yourself!
The map below shows all FREE overnight stops in Albania in green with the "trees" denoting unofficial overnight stops in nature and the "P"'s denoting official overnight parking areas (red ones are paid and green ones are free) - note that these are not Motorhome specific parking areas. The places that we overnighted at that were not FREE were: Berat 24-hour parking for 5 EUR; Saranda Camping Ecuador for 15 EUR per night including electricity & Gjirokaster 24-hour parking for 5 EUR.
Entry Requirements for Albania (Green Card Insurance)
The IMIC (International Motor Insurance Certificate), also known as the Green Card, is an international certificate of insurance accepted by the authorities of all 50 countries of the Green Card system. The Green Card certifies that the vehicle has the minimum compulsory Motor Third Party Liability Insurance cover as required by the law of the respective country being visited. The document will include the vehicle’s registration number and brand, the contact details of the respective insurance company and the period of validity. You will often be asked to show your Green Card Insurance Document upon entry into a country or in the event of an accident. Importantly, you need to always have the original with you – a digital copy is not sufficient! For more information see the COB (Council of Bureaux) website.
If your insurance does not include Albania in your Green Card (Albania tends to be excluded from most UK and European Insurances), then you will need to purchase an Albanian Green Card Insurance Policy at the border when you enter Albania with your vehicle. This is a very simple and fast process, however, it is important to note that this insurance purchased at the border is ONLY the minimum compulsory Motor Third Party Liability Insurance cover. The border staff will point you in the direction of the official insurance booth where you need to present your vehicle registration documents. You can purchase Green Card Insurance for the required period of 15 days, 1 month etc. and the cost will depend on your vehicle classification. When we entered Albania in April 2023 it cost 49 EUR for 15 days or 65 EUR for 1 month for our Motorhome.
Is English spoken in Albania?
We found this to be quite a challenge as very few people we met could speak English. Even in the cell phone shops in Vlora, this was a bit of a struggle! Every now and then we’d bump into a younger person who could speak some English and when we did, they were always very friendly and willing to assist or impart some local knowledge.
Vanlife Albania - Is wild camping allowed in Albania?
As of yet, there is no real camper-vanning culture in Albania. This is both good and bad. The advantage is that there are not yet any specific laws prohibiting wild camping. There are also very few “no overnighting” signs, although these are slowly starting to appear along the stretch of coast around Dhërmiu and Livadi Beach. As in most countries, the Park4Night App is very useful to find suitable parking spots. When you do find a parking spot, also use your judgment about whether you are likely to be disturbed if you do overnight there. Off-season (April 2023) and during the week, we found plenty of free undisturbed spots. Weekends were much more difficult as there were always late-night activities no matter where we were. We can only imagine that summer could be quite a challenge!
When wild camping, make sure to act in an appropriate manner, with your vehicle appearing to be parked and remember that you are in fact not at a campsite! If you prefer to camp with your table and chairs out, then rather support the many affordable campsites across the country.
Many hotels and restaurants will allow you to overnight in their parking areas provided you have a meal in their restaurant. Some will even happily provide you with fresh water and wifi if available.
We paid for overnight parking in 2 locations. The first was in Berat (5 EUR for 24 hours) which was unfortunately a terrible experience - see our YouTube video for what happened. In Gjirokaster we also paid 5 EUR for 24 hours which at least gave us a peaceful night’s sleep away from any nighttime activities.
Campsites and Camping in Albania
There are many affordable campsites across the country, particularly along the Albanian Riviera. Just note that many of these campsites are closed off-season. The Camping.Info website can be useful to find available campsites varying from family-run to commercial. Also, keep in mind that many of these campsites are rather basic and have expanded from tent camping sites to accommodate motorhomes. As such, they may not have the full “camper van service facilities” that you would find in Western Europe.
How much do Campsites cost in Albania?
We went to one “campsite” (Camping Ecuador) in Sarande which cost 15 EUR for the night, including electricity. It was a great location, right at the Bistrice River mouth to the sea.
Are there Motorhome Service Areas in Albania?
As of yet, there is no real camper-vanning culture in Albania. This is both good and bad. The downside is that there are not that many motorhome service stops available throughout Albania. Many campsites may also not have the full “camper van service facilities” that you would expect to find in Western Europe. Don’t expect to find chemical cassette and grey waste emptying facilities or shore power easily available, not necessarily even at campsites!
We were very happy that we are fully self-sufficient and we suggest that you should be too if you want to experience the best that Albania has to offer. If you are dependent on having to empty a chemical cassette toilet and require shore power, then travelling through Albania could be a bit of a challenge!
We never struggled to find fresh drinking water and also never had to pay for water. We mostly filled up our fresh water at motorway fuel stations, although it should be noted that many of these only have ‘non-potable’ water available.
LPG is easily available throughout the country at fuel stations if you have a refillable LPG system.
Using the Park4Night App does help to find suitable overnight and motorhome service areas throughout Albania.
Roads of Albania
We had heard horror stories about the condition of the roads in Albania. To our surprise, there seem to be extensive ongoing roadworks which have already resulted in some fantastic new roads. Of course, this also meant that we encountered ongoing roadworks along some sections of the road, but we can imagine that in a couple of years' time, all main routes will be greatly improved.
Secondary rural and mountain roads are another story. The flow of traffic may frequently be blocked by goats, cattle, farming or construction vehicles. These roads are often scattered with ever-expanding potholes or even worse, destroyed by landslides. That being said, almost all roads are quite driveable but can be very slow going.
There are no Vignette requirements or toll roads in Albania at the moment. Note that there is a payable vehicle ferry on the road south of Ksamil through the Nutrint National Park.
Driving in Albania
The Albanian drivers were not half as bad as we had expected. Yes, they usually overtake at speed whenever they have half a chance, but they do so without driving too close or hooting. We never experienced any aggressive driving in the two weeks that we spent in the south of Albania. Understandably it might be very different around Tirana.
Fuel costs in Albania are slightly lower in comparison to the rest of Europe. We found the price of fuel to vary somewhat from fuel station to station so look out for the cheapest place to fill up. Make sure that you are aware of the speed limits. Albania has very strict laws on drinking and driving.
Travelling with pets in Albania
One thing that you will notice as soon as you enter Albania, is that there are many stray dogs. This was not a problem for us as most of the dogs are very tame and friendly. However, if you are travelling with pets of your own, then we can imagine that this will be an added complication which you should be aware of.
Cell & Data in Albania
Both "Vodafone" and "One" have plenty of shopfronts within walking distance of the port and have similar "pay as you go" offers available for foreigners. All you need is your passport. We opted for "One" as they have a user-friendly app which shows updated usage information and also allows for recharging via the app. If you intend to use your SIM card throughout the rest of the Western Balkans, make sure to get a package that allows for this roaming. We took the "UNLIMITED L+" (1300 LEK) and the "UNLIMITED BEATS+" (1600 LEK) and they have worked well throughout the Western Balkans.
Most camping sites, hotels and restaurants have free wifi.
Food and Supermarkets in Albania
Although you will find the occasional brand-name supermarket, Albania does not have a supermarket shopping culture. You are best off buying fresh fruits and vegetables from roadside vendors, meat from local butchers and bread from small convenience stores (they all seem to have fresh bread in the mornings). We found brand-name imported Western European products to be incredibly expensive (sometimes up to 3 times more than in Italy). Local and seasonal produce are however very affordable.
Albania, like the Balkans in general, has a primarily Turkish influence in its cuisine. This influence stems from over 400 years of Ottoman rule in the region. Recent influences after the fall of communism in the early 1990s have been from Italy and Western Europe in general. Most Albanian people make their own bread, but going out for meals is very common. Some sort of hearty stew is commonly included in Albanian suppers - easy to make, and flexible with ingredients which usually include potatoes, onion, and rice.
Our two favourite dishes were Byrek - a common type of savoury pie filled with spinach and feta cheese or ground meat and onion and Tavë Kosi - a simple dish of baked lamb and rice served with a yoghurt sauce. This is often referred to as the national dish of Albania. Eating out at typical local restaurants is also very affordable in comparison to Western Europe.
Albania Sightseeing & Highlights
Albania has a beautifully diverse natural landscape, with a stunning coastline, scenic inland countryside and snow-capped mountains, that you could easily visit Albania without spending anything on actual sightseeing. We found that entrance fees to most tourist sights are much cheaper than in Western Europe, seldom costing more than 3-5 EUR per person.
Not surprisingly most visitors to Albania makes their way straight to the capital of Tirana - nowadays a buzzing city with a mash-up collection of traditional restaurants and trendy bars amongst wonderfully garish-painted buildings. To seek the true Albania you should head to its mountains and explore drowsy hillside towns filled with friendly locals - Berat and Gjirokastra can easily be mistaken as open-air museums of life during the Ottoman times. For hiking head to the stunning valley of Valbona where the limestone mountains tower offers incredible biodiversity.
From an affordable ski destination at the snow-capped peaks of the interior to its Ionian coastline with immaculate, undeveloped beaches Albania will be a revelation. In a mountainous country with a long coastline, the main activity attractions are pretty obvious – there are some amazing places to swim along the Ionian coast, while the most accessible hiking is in the national park area of Mount Dajti.
Best Season to Visit Albania
For a relatively small area, Albania has a high number of climatic regions. The country lies at a latitude subject to a variety of weather patterns throughout all seasons and with a coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas along with its highlands along the Balkan mass it creates remarkable diversity.
The coastal lowlands experience more typical Mediterranean weather; with the highlands a Mediterranean continental climate. In both the lowlands and the interior, the weather can again vary markedly from north to south. The lowlands have much milder winters, averaging about 7 °C with summer temperatures averaging around 24 °C. Northerly and northeasterly winds blow much of the time and the best winds for kite-surfing in Albania are usually from March to November.
Inland temperatures are affected more by differences in elevation and low winter temperatures in the mountain regions are caused by the continental air mass that dominates the weather in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Average summer temperatures are lower than in the coastal areas and much lower at higher elevations, but daily fluctuations are greater. Daytime maximum temperatures in the interior basins and river valleys are very high, but the nights are almost always cool. During the rainy season, precipitation can be heavy with many storms accompanied by high winds and torrential downpours.
We visited Albania during the last two weeks of April. The weather was only good for about half of that time. When the sun came out, the temperatures were very pleasant, however, it was never really warm enough to want to swim. This was a real pity as the Albanian Riviera really has some of the most beautiful blue waters that we have ever seen!
Many campsites only open in the middle of May or the beginning of June, so this is probably a better time to visit. The peak summer season can get very busy with both local and international tourists, so we would suggest avoiding this time if you want to wild camp with a motorhome.
Winter can be very cold and finding services while travelling with a motorhome would be even more challenging.
June - Enjoy the perfect Mediterranean climate and deserted beaches.
August - Albania's beaches may be packed, but this is a great time to explore the mountains.
December - See features and shorts at the Tirana Film Festival, while the intrepid can snowshoe to Theth.
Practicalities of Travelling Albania
Albania makes use of its local currency, the LEK. We immediately realised that Albania is a predominantly cash-driven society. Even when we did find a "One" cellphone shop that was prepared to accept our Mastercard, they did so very reluctantly. There is no shortage of ATM machines lining the main street of Vlorë. We found cash withdrawal fees (charged by the local banks) to vary from one bank to another, with "Credins Bank" having a zero local bank withdrawal fee. Note that you may be charged a withdrawal or conversion fee by your own bank depending on your own bank account.