All about public transport in Albania in general and specifically about transportation in Tirana. You will learn about the types of transportation available, ticket prices, schedules, where you can go, and where you cannot. I will try to make this truly confusing question a little clearer. This is one of the few topics that is a major downside of Albania.
- You can read about the pros and cons of travel to Albania for tourists here.
Public transport in Albania: general aspects
Here is some general information that has influenced the development of Albania’s transportation sector today.
- Over 70% of Albania’s territory is mountainous. This fact is fundamental to the development of all transportation. This means narrow roads, a large number of serpentine roads, difficulties in constructing railways, and so on.
- The transportation network and the frequency of regional bus services leave much to be desired. Yes, there are buses in all major cities, and they run once an hour.
- But for tourists who need to reach any attractions, this task is almost impossible. In smaller towns, buses run once a day. If you miss it, you have to wait for a day.
Useful to know:There is a detailed article about taxis in Albania and specifically in Tirana, which you can find at the link. There you can read about how to call a taxi, the fares, how to get to the airport, and much more. I don’t consider taxis as public transport, so there won’t be any information about taxis in this article.
Buses in Albania
Let’s start with buses that travel between cities in Albania.
An important point:Albanian buses are very slow. They stop approximately every 5 kilometers. However close you may think your destination city is, it will take at least 2.5 hours, if not 3. The average speed, regardless of whether the bus is new or old, is about 40 km/h. This figure will help you estimate the travel time based on the distance to the city 🙂
- Bus from Tirana to Shkoder (90 km) – travel time is over 2 hours.
- Bus from Tirana to Saranda (170 km) – 5 hours.
I have written about this in other articles, and I want to reiterate this thought. Albania is designed for traveling by car. It is easy, accessible, and safe in this country. The only reason to refrain from renting a car is if you don’t have a driver’s license.
Without a car, you will either be stuck in one place or spend the majority of your time on a bus and still not see 30% of what you would have seen with a car. You simply cannot reach a large number of attractions using public transport.
- Rating of the coolest attractions in Albania: TOP 30. It includes canyons, waterfalls, hot springs, and more.
Useful information:There is a lot written on the internet about terrible roads and old buses. In part, this is no longer true. In Albania, major infrastructure projects have been underway for the past 2-3 years. They are acquiring modern buses. On routes to major cities along the coast, they are already using buses like the ones in the photo above. They are repairing roads. This process is lengthy, but as of the beginning of 2023, the roads in Albania are mostly of excellent quality.
Tirana Bus Station
I will write separately about the Tirana Bus Station from where all regional buses depart. The information on the internet is conflicting and confusing for many.
It is often mentioned that the main bus station is located in Tirana near the Ring shopping center at these coordinates: 41.334736, 19.800514. Know that there is nothing there. As of the beginning of 2023, it is an overgrown field. Yes, they plan to build a bus station there, but no work has started at all. Knowing the Albanians, it will take another 5 years for the work to begin.
Coordinates of the Tirana Bus Station:All buses in the country depart from the temporary bus station, here are the coordinates: 41.344256, 19.776685. It is also marked on the Travel Map.
To help you understand what this temporary bus station looks like today, it is a concrete area without a cover or benches – just buses standing under the blue sky. There are no ticket offices or anything like that. There is a restroom and a café.
You know what this bus station reminds me of? In my hometown, with a population of 50,000, in 1992, there was something similar. And it’s now 2023! 30 years have passed, progress is taking small steps, and this place has simply been bypassed.
Important to know:From Tirana, you can also take buses to neighboring countries. These buses depart from the international bus station. Here are the coordinates: 41.33313044766455, 19.801557509648745. The international station is located near the Ring Shopping Center, just behind it.
Ticket prices, where to buy, and bus schedules
Another interesting topic about Albania’s transportation. The implementation of advanced technologies in this system is just beginning. There is still no proper website where you can check the schedule and route network of buses in Albania. Buying tickets online is still a thing of the future.
- Buy bus tickets inside the bus. Arrive at the bus station, your bus is waiting with open doors, get on, take any available seat, and then a conductor will come to you separately and sell you a ticket.
- You cannot pay by card! Only cash and only lek.
- Here are some prices for popular bus routes:
- Tirana – Shkoder – 400 lek (4 euros)
- From Tirana – Durres – 150 lek (1.5 euros)
- Tirana – Vlora – 500 lek (5 euros)
- Tirana – Saranda – 15 euros.
Important to know:The state carrier does not go over Llogara Pass. Buses go to Vlora, and then you have to transfer to another bus to Saranda. It will take you a whole day. But there is a private carrier operating on this route from Tirana, and the price is 15 euros for a one-way ticket.
- Currently, the most reliable online service for checking prices and bus schedules in Albania is Gjjrafa. The website is only in Albanian, but you can figure it out overall. The main thing is to correctly enter the name of the city in Albanian 🙂 It’s not the most user-friendly, but it’s the best available.
- You can also check the schedule of all buses in Albania here. The website is terrible, but they regularly update the timetable.
Transport in Albania: Railway
I’ll try to be brief. The Albanian railway is more dead than alive. As I mentioned before, Albania’s mountains prevent the construction of a proper network. Therefore, tourists rarely use the railway today due to the terrible condition of the trains and even worse frequency of service. To grasp the full tragedy of the situation:
- Since 2013, the railway station in Tirana has been closed. It is currently impossible to take a train from Tirana, the capital of the country. The railway station was relocated to the town of Kashar, about 10 km away from Tirana (you can find the location on the travel map). I think there’s no need to continue further.
Below, I will provide a map of the entire Albanian railway network, where everything is intuitively understandable—information on where, when, and how. There will also be a ticket price table. By the way, tickets are also purchased on the train, and cash is the only accepted form of payment.
- The advantage of the Albanian railway: it’s very cheap. You can travel to Shkoder for $1.5.
Useful to know:In 2021, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development granted a loan for the development of the Albanian railway. The government plans to build a railway from the center of Tirana to the airport and expand some existing railway lines. They say it will take 2-3 years. Trust me, it will be at least 5 years. By 2027, if anything, I will update this article.
- The official website of the Albanian railway provides current prices and schedules: https://hsh.com.al
Tirana’s Public Transportation
A few words specifically about transportation in Tirana.
Interesting to know:In Tirana, public transport consists solely of buses.
- There are only 20 routes in total.
- There is no reliable map. This is Albania.
- The fare is 50 lek ($0.5).
- You need to purchase a ticket on the bus. The ticket seller will come to you.
- Tickets can only be purchased with cash.
- Buses run frequently, on average every 7-10 minutes.
- Operating hours are from 6 am to 11 pm.
To understand, in Tirana, there is no metro, trolleybus, tram, or any other mode of transportation besides buses.
Important to know:Tirana experiences heavy traffic congestion almost always. However, the city is small, and all the attractions are located compactly in the center. You can easily explore them on foot, except for two attractions on the outskirts of the city: the cable car and the Enver Hoxha Bunker. They are 5 km away from the center. I walk there. In general, these are the only places where you might need a bus. And even then, you can reach them cheaply by taxi.
- For detailed information about Tirana, what to see, and where to stay, refer to the article at the provided link.
- To learn how to reach the airport from Tirana by bus, read the article about the Albania airport.
Travel tips regarding transport in Albania
In reality, the main tip has already been given. Albania is made for traveling by car. It is through a car that the country reveals itself to you, as enthusiastic travelers know. Public transport in Albania is poorly developed, but in any case, you can reach your destination, albeit not very quickly.
In conclusion, today, public transport in Albania has received a small push for development. European banks have provided funding, some buses have been updated, road repairs are actively underway throughout the country, and there are plans to develop the railway. Who knows, maybe in 10 years, traveling in Albania using public transportation will be fast, easy, and comfortable.
Wishing you beautiful scenery outside the bus window and a smooth journey!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania
- Flights at the best prices with juicy discounts
- Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
- Hotels and apartments throughout the country: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card in Albania
- Taxi and transfers: Intui.Travel