I spent six nights in Saranda and could easily have stayed longer. If the internet were better (i.e. didn’t randomly stop working twice a day), I’d consider it a digital nomad hotspot for summer.
It was an easy hourlong bus trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins at Butrint, and a bit north of there, the near-island of Ksamil with its beaches. Ksamil was chock full of families and umbrellas, but you’ll find fewer people on the rockier beaches.
Other beaches worth visiting are Himare and Drymades, or just drive up the coast and stop wherever looks good!
Yes, I recommend Albania for solo female travelers!
I felt very safe in Albania and aside from guarding against theft, I don’t think there are any specific precautions that solo female travelers should take beyond the basics. I experienced zero sexual harassment or sexist treatment and wasn’t so much as hit on by a single Albanian man, even in bars and clubs.
If you get into this situation, I recommend doing what I did: I took a photo of the driver’s face, took a photo of his license plate, and pretended to make a phone call to a friend saying that I was coming soon and repeating his license plate number clearly.
I do this all over the world and it’s an extra layer of safety — the driver thinks you have someone looking out for you and knows he can’t try anything without getting caught. Is it 100% foolproof? No. Nothing is. But it helps quite a bit.
All this being said, I don’t recommend Albania for new and inexperienced travelers. It’s a challenging country in many ways for even an experienced traveler, and I recommend you cut your travel teeth on a few different countries in Europe before you travel to Albania on your own.
Full solo travel disclosure: I traveled with my bud Jeremy for most of my time in Saranda but traveled the rest of the country on my own.
Albania is mostly undiscovered, but it won’t stay that way.
I don’t expect Albania to grow into a major tourist destination in the next decade, but things are absolutely going to change as the country continues developing.
I expect to see many more tourists, especially along the Riviera. I could see Tirana becoming a popular stag do hotspot as well. But one place where I think we’ll see the most growth is in the adventure and outdoors travel industry.
Albania is home to beautiful, pristine mountain ranges. The Peaks of the Balkans trek through Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania is starting to get more attention (for more on that, my friend Katie did the trek recently and is now blogging about it) and I fully expect to see more hiking, mountain climbing, canyoning, rafting, and outdoor lodges spring up in the future.
If Montenegro was lauded as the new Croatia, Albania could very well become the new Montenegro.
The verdict? Albania is great. Go now. Or go in a few years. You’ll be very glad you did.
Essential Info: Tirana is home to Albania’s only commercial airport. I traveled overland and arrived in Saranda via ferry from Corfu, Greece. Ionian Cruises has one ferry in each direction each day costing 19 euros ($22) and it takes an hour and 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the Ionian Cruises ticket office is not at the dock but down the street! Get your tickets in advance or you’ll have to hail a taxi in a panic like I did!
I departed Tirana via Montenegro Hostel’s direct shuttle to Podgorica, Budva, and Kotor. It costs 40 euros ($46) and should take five hours. While we had some nightmarish logistical issues due to a Norwegian tour group on the bus before our pickup, it was a very comfortable journey. I highly recommend it, as the alternative is taking several public buses of dubious quality. They also stop for a photo op at beautiful Sveti Stefan.
In Saranda I stayed at this modern Airbnb rental with a stunning balcony view for an absurd $35 per night. It can sleep up to seven. Keep in mind there is no kitchen whatsoever besides a small fridge. Hotels in Saranda can be found here.
In Berat I stayed in this incredibly comfortable hotel room via Airbnb with air conditioning for an even more absurd $18 per night. You can find other hotels in Berat here.
In Tirana I stayed in a private ensuite room at Propaganda Hostel, which is in an ideal location in the chic Blloku neighborhood, for 27 euros ($31) per night. Other hotels in Tirana can be found here.
New to Airbnb? Sign up here and get $25 off your first stay from me!
Overall, I think visiting Tirana, Berat, and Saranda (plus a day trip from Saranda to Ksamil and Butrint) makes a good weeklong trip. I spread mine out over ten days. If you want to visit other countries at the same time, you could easily expand your trip to Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, and/or Montenegro.
Looking for a group tour to Albania? Intrepid Travel has several in-depth tours that combine Albania with Macedonia and other Balkan countries. G Adventures also offers Balkans tours that include stops in Albania.
While Albania is a safe destination, accidents happen everywhere and I always recommend buying travel insurance before you go. I never travel without it and always use World Nomads.