Things to do in Albania
Albanian is the official language. Other useful languages include, which is often viewed as the de facto second language because Albania was often occupied by Italy on many different occasions, the most famous being during World War II. English is understandable in Tirana, the capital the most and to a lesser extent outside frequented tourist cities. In the southernmost areas of the country, you might also encounter minority speakers of the Greek language.
The national currency is the lek (ALL). There are 138.30 lek to the euro.
Notice that some Albanians write prices with an extra zero. They are not trying to charge you 10 times the going rate; they are merely using the old currency.
Hundreds of new ATMs have been installed in most major cities. Use the MasterCard ATM Locator or Visa ATM Locator to find them. The ATMs accept most international VISA and Mastercard Credit/Debit cards.
Many rural convenience stores will not accept any other method of payment other than cash (currently in Albanian lek). However supermarkets, the better bookstores and the better boutique stores will accept Credit or Debit Cards. The most widely accepted cards are VISA, Mastercard, and Diner's Club.
Souvenirs: raki, alabaster bunker ashtrays
Restaurants are very easy to find. Albania, like the Balkans in general, has a primarily Turkish influence in its cuisine. This influence stems from over 400 years of Ottoman rule in the region. Recent influences after the fall of communism in the early 1990's have been from Italy and Western Europe in general. Most of what is available in neighboring countries such as Greece and Italy will be available in Albania, particularly in the larger cities.
Many people grow fruits and vegetables around their houses, most popularly all kinds of grapes, (red, black, green), that are used to make raki .
Albania is a very mountainous country, and these mountains have scattered olive trees that influence Albanian cuisine. Salads are usually made with fresh tomato and onion. Most Albanian people make their own bread, and going out for meals is not common.
Some sort of hearty stew is commonly included in Albanian dinners. These stews are easy to make, and flexible with ingredients. They include potatoes, onion, rice, etc.
- Byrek - a type of savory pie is also common, and is made in different ways. One way is with spinach and feta cheese. Another is with ground meat and onion. Baklava is a popular desert and is always made as a desert during New Year's Eve. If going to Albania, expect lamb to be the main meat in many places. Lamb there is naturally fed, and does not have any odor like it does in North America. Two byreks and an ayran is a very common breakfast, so try it to understand why.
- Cheese - lots of different types but mostly feta cheese. In village shops be prepared that you'll get the cheese in less hygienic way then in supermarkets but it's worth to try as it's usually delicious and in very good price (try those higher priced first).
The preferred alcoholic hard drink is raki that is locally produced in small towns as well as in many homes in the countryside; in some instances you may run across men washing down breakfast with a few shots. The number of homemade beers, wines and raki is as varied as the population itself; the quality of these drinks is as varied as the quantity available. Non-alcoholic drinks range from the well-known international and regional soft drink brands to the locally produced ones. You can find any type of pop or soft drink in Albania, as well as natural mineral water, energy drinks, etc.
Boza , a popular sweet drink made from maize (corn) and wheat is a traditional Albanian drink, and Albanians have been known as the best boza makers in the world.
Inside the cities, hotels are abundant and prices per night start as low as ˆ15. Hotels are usually clean and their staff generally speak English and/or Italian.
Outside the big cities, hotels are less common. If, for any reason, you find nowhere to sleep, the Albanian people have always been known for their hospitality, and will treat you like royalty as you stay with them.