There are no bus stations in Albania. And don’t even bother with trains.
These were the words uttered by every person I met who’d been to Albania recently. Compared to the rest of Europe, to not have a central bus station was quite surprising. On the other hand, I knew that Albania is one of the least developed countries on the continent. I even likened it to being the Cuba of Europe. But to be fair to both countries, I haven’t yet been to either one so it’s all fanciful thoughts in my head.
And so from Kotor, I ventured south with my Canadian travel mate Amy and 2 other travellers we met towards the formerly communist state of Albania with no set plan in mind. The first leg of the trip was a bus journey along the coast to the town of Ulcinj (2.5hrs, 8.5 euros). I considered staying the night in Ulcinj to get a bit of beach time in but it wasn’t quite hot enough so we decided to press on. The bus to Shkodra in Albania was scheduled to depart in about 1.5 hours (1.5hrs, 5 euros) but since there was 4 of us we decided to take a taxi instead (45min, 30 euros).
The border checkpoints were fast and efficient. Within minutes we spotted roadside bunkers that are relics of Albania’s communist past. Shkodra’s hilltop fortress loomed large on the approach into the city.
Our taxi driver dropped us at the “bus station” for the buses to Tirana. It wasn’t a station by any means, merely a corner on the road to Tirana where the buses collect people. Amy and I decided to press on rather than stay in Shkodra, since neither of us had any strong inclination to stick around. Not that it’s a bad place, we later found out it’s a very awesome place to stay and go off on hiking excursions. A driver soon approached us and we worked out a deal; he would set off immediately (no waiting around for the bus to fill up) for 3 euros per person. Done deal.
Our driver was a bit of a character. He spoke Italian and Albanian and made a bit of a show about putting on his seatbelt at police checkpoints and then throwing it to the side with a bit of flair afterwards. We picked up a few passengers on the roadside here and there, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. 3 hours later, he dropped us off near the Embassy Road in Tirana and drove off. Still no bus station to speak of but we made it!
In summary, the total trip leg by leg:
- Kotor to Ulcinj via bus – 2.5 hours, 8.5 euros.
- Ulcinj to Shkodra via bus – 1.5 hours, 5 euros. via taxi – 45 min, 30 euros
- Shkodra to Tirana via bus/taxi – 3 hours, 3 euros.
We later found out that there is no central bus station in Tirana. Buses to different destinations depart from different locations in the city. Some are corners and some resemble bus terminals. Hostels and hotels usually have maps and timetables.