After an easy overnight ferry from Bari in Italy we arrived at the port of Durres.
The first thing we had to do was buy some insurance. Although our insurance covers us for all the Schengen countries it does not cover us for some of the non Schengen countries. This is the same for anyone from the UK although policies do seem to vary slightly. Insurance available is 3rd party only and was either €90 for 2 weeks or €145 for a month. We bought 2 weeks as we just weren’t sure how long we would need. This was done at the port.
Next whilst we were still at the port we were directed by someone to get a local SIM card. This was through a company called One. They do a ‘tourist pack’. This is €15 for 35gig for 3 weeks. Luckily there is also the option to top up.
Finally just as we were leaving the port someone asked if we wanted to buy sone LEK, the local currency. As we needed some we changed £100. It wasn’t the best rate but it was convenient.
Everything sorted we were now on our way. We decided to head to Tirana, the capital just for 1 night. We thought it would be the best place to sort out changing some more money.
In Albania cash is King! There are very few places that will except card payments! Not even garages! We had read that it was best to exchange cash, either Pound Sterling or Euros for LEK. There is roughly 129 LEK to £1 or 115 LEK to €1 at the time of writing this blog.
We found a park up on the edge on Tirana and right by a lake. I thought this would be a great spot for a swim the following day.
We needed to head to a money exchange and also get some lunch. We had read about a restaurant with traditional Albanian food so we decided to head there. It was about half an hour walk from our park up.
Here’s a colourful building we saw on the way and also the clock tower. We were only a few days away from Valentines Day so the clock tower is covered with hearts.
Just before we reached the restaurant there were several exchange places. The restaurant was in the back streets and was called Oda .
The staff and management were really friendly. There was a variety of things on the menu, including sheep’s head!
I ordered a mixed a salad! It was huge! For my main course I ordered a pepper stuffed with rice and Dee ordered chicken with rice. Bread was just placed on the table and it was very fresh. I ordered a red wine which came in a little porcelain jug and Dee had a beer.
Neither of us thought the food was anything that special but it was acceptable. The bill came to £23 for everything and we got a complimentary Raki, the local liqueur.
There was only one other table in the restaurant with people eating and we got chatting to them. They were all Albanian although one of them lived in Canada and had come back to visit his sister and cousin. His English was very good!
They asked how we found this restaurant and told us it was the only traditional Albanian restaurant in Tirana!
It was an excellent first day in Albania. We left saying how lovely the people were.
In the morning I got my swim kit together and we went for a walk by the lake. Sadly as you can see from the sign I didn’t get to swim.
We left Tirana and headed North to the coast and a campsite called Buona Vila, it is South from Spille.
We were about 5km away when google maps took us on a long, muddy and bumpy dirt track road!! We knew that there was going to be a bit of road like that before we got there so we assumed that was it! It did seem to go on a long way tho!
Jovanna definitely isn’t meant for off road! Suddenly she protested and we got stuck! We were literally in the middle of nowhere with nothing and no one in sight! Dee tried various things but she did not want to move! Luckily in about 40 minutes a small van and a truck came. The truck was able to pull us out. We explained where we were going and they even escorted us there and made sure we arrived safely. What a relief!
Buona Vila is not a traditional campsite at all. It’s a beach restaurant with some campsite facilities. There are toilets, showers, EHU (electric hook up), Wi-Fi and laundry facilities. It is €10 or 1200 LEK a night to stay here.
As we were there out of season the restaurant was closed. It was being refurbished and a new kitchen put in.
It’s a family run business and we had the pleasure of meeting both Spartaco and his son Ludo. They were very friendly and helpful.
It was very windy during our stay. The beach was wild, full of debris from the sea and the weather. Spartaco told us that in March they clean the whole beach with a special machine and get everything looking nice for the season.
I did swim every day, it was a long walk out before it was deep enough and the wind made it feel colder than it was.
On one of the days I swam at about 8.30am. After swimming we spoke to Spartaco and because I needed to ‘warm up’ he brought us some of his local liquor, raki rrushi. We all had one! It was strong but tasted good and very warming. It definitely did warm me up.
We stayed for 4 nights. We managed to clear and tidy up our van which was long overdue. There was a problem with or door hinge and Ludo took us to a place where they were able to use a grinder to cut the hinge in half. This meant that Dee could then put the hinge back on the door on 2 parts.
There wasn’t any big supermarkets nearby, but we did manage to cycle to the village shop and and get a few things.
The lady was very helpful and allowed me to go behind the counter so that I could see the stock easier. She then allowed me to have a photo with her .
We did cycle up to the castle that you can see in the background. It was closed though as it was being renovated.
Below you can see our van being guarded by the owners dog and a snapshot of the beach.
We loved our stay here and our hosts were the best! If you are in Albania we definitely recommend checking this place out.
Buona Vila is included on my Best of Albania post.
Berat-City of 1000 Windows
Our next destination was Berat which has the nickname of The City of 1000 windows. It is easy to see why.
Berat is located in the south of the country and is surrounded by mountains and hills. The old medieval town of Berat is built into the hillside. There is a collage of window frames all looking out towards the river.
In 2008 Berat became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We found a great park up. It was right opposite the river Osum and the 1000 windows and if you turned 45 degrees towards the town centre it had a back drop of the snow capped mountain now known as Mount Tomorr.
We went for a walk into town and on the way we saw the big red heart you can see us in below. It was for Valentines Day which was that day.
When we went into town everything was decorated for Valentines Day, it was nice to see.
In the evening we went out just to see the town and the 1000 windows at night, on the way back we stopped at a cocktail bar.
We left Berat the following day and headed to Benji Hot Springs. This was somewhere I wanted to go to for ages after seeing photos on someone’s instagram page.
It will be the start of our next post.
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7 thoughts on “Albania-the first week.”
What a fab post on Albania, thanks for the info. Can’t wait to be there very soon. X x safe travels
Ah you’re welcome. When do you get there? I’m sure you will love it . More posts on Albania to follow soon . Jo Dee xx
We’ve enjoyed all your posts, especially this one on Albania. Thank you, Jo and Dee! I remember the times when this country was almost inaccessible for Westerners.
Love from Heidi & Colin.
Ah so glad your enjoying the blog . Hope you are both well. I also remember Albania being inaccessible ! We loved Albania, there are more posts coming from Albania and I think you will like the next one even more! Look out for it . Love Jo Dee xxx
Hi Jo, Berat looks fabulous, and how interesting that Valentines Day is such a big thing, well I know the shops have always got heaps of stuff but not the street decorations. Sweet!
It was lovely ❤️