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Albania        November 2005

We stayed in the city of Saranda in southern-most Albania for 3 days, so we have very limited experience to share.

    We didn't know to ask, but do ask your prospective hotel clerk if the hotel has a back-up generator for the frequent power outages. During waking hours, we had power fewer hours than not each day. It was often out for many hours at a time. Bring a good flashlight and batteries just in case....
    Hotels may quote rates and accept Euro's but may not be prepared to give change in Euros.

    In November of 2005 the exchange rate was about 100 LEKs to $1. We suspect that there was a recent change in the currency as at the fruit stand market the vendor would write our total as 1000 LEK  but pointed to the 100 LEK bill as the correct amount. We could only guess as to the source of the confusion, but it came up repeatedly.
    Not all banks have ATMs.
    Do exchange your large ATM-delivered bills for  100, 200, and 500 LEK denominations if you plan on taking a bus or shopping on the street to minimize overcharging.

    Some of the prices seemed a little step. We paid 15 Euro's for a 1 way ticket per person to travel from Corfu to Saranda; a similar length of trip between Corfu and Igoumenitsa in Greece was just over 5 Euro's.
    A visa is required, even for a few hours. The visa 1-30 day visa was $10 per person and purchased on entry.

    English is the official second language but Greek is the defacto second language in the south. Italian is also used. We did notice that there was an English speaker in the bank we popped into and at the port. Our hotel hosts spoke only a few words of English though their adult son who was there part time was fluent.

    Albania has severe infrastructure problems, especially with the electricity and the roads, though it is rapidly changing. Potholes, at least in Saranda, are an understatement. In Saranda huge holes opened up to the space under elevated roadbeds so it was like a sinkhole into a tunnel. I'd avoid driving, biking and even walking in unfamiliar areas at night.

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