When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit is in the spring (April - May) when the fruit trees are in blossom, or in the early summer (June) when the temperatures are still cool. Later on in the summer, temperatures can reach as high as 40ºC, however, the higher altitude of the old town plus a profusion of shady trees reduces the intensity of the hottest days. Mountain breezes especially in the evening refresh and enhance dining outdoors. There is often fine weather in the autumn but colder temperatures are characteristic of winter. Heavy rainfall is common between February and April. Annual precipitation ranges from 75 to 570 mm a month with most rain falling in the winter season.
What clothes should I take?
For spring and summer, light cotton type garments that keep skin covered are suggested to protect from the sun and heat during the daytime. Bring sunscreen and a hat. Shoes should include sturdy walking shoes and sandals. Walking on wet or polished cobblestone streets can be a challenge, especially during or after a rainfall. A pullover for cooler evenings comes in handy. An umbrella may be useful, if not for the rain then to provide shade.
Do I need a visa?
Citizens of most western countries are not required to obtain a visa in advance. This applies to citizens of Australia, Canada, Croatia, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. Visitors will be charged a €10 entry tax on arrival in Albania, though Czech and Polish citizens are exempt. Check the Albanian Foreign Ministry website www.mfa.gov.al for the latest information in English and Albanian.
Can I use credit cards/ ATMS?
Automatic Teller Machines – Bankomat: Gjirokastra has plenty of them along the Main Boulevard in the new town. There are two in the old town: one at the Raifeissen Bank in the Bazaar, which is connected to the Maestro network, and one on Varosh Street next to the post office. All dispense Albanian Lekë only. In general businesses in Gjirokastra do not accept credit cards.
Is the water safe to drink?
The primary health problems encountered by foreigners in Albania are water-borne so it is therefore recommended that you only drink bottled water. The public water supply is not treated to remove giardia and other bacteria and parasites.
What voltage is the electricity?
220 volts, 60 hertz, with a standard European two-prong plug. Albania has serious problems with its electricity supply. Voltage is often far lower than 220 and power cuts are common, especially in the winter when heating demands increase. It is, therefore, advisable to bring a pocket torch.
Do I need a converter/ adapter?
You will need an adapter if you come from a country which does not use the standard European two-prong plug. If you have equipment which may be sensitive to changes in voltage it is advisable to fit a surge protector.
What types of accommodation are there?
There are a range of hotels to suit most needs available; see list of hotels.
When is the best time for trekking?
April, May, September and October are recommended months for visiting walkers hikers and climbers. The summer months of June to August can be very hot.
Can I check my emails?
There are internet cafes in the new town and one in the old town. Expect to pay Lekë 120 to 150 per hour. Some hotels may have connections (see hotel information).
Can I use my mobile?
Calling people is fairly expensive in Albania no matter how you do it. Most people use cellular telephones, either Vodafone (area code 069) or AMC (area code 068) if you are staying for any length of time you may want to consider purchasing an Albanian sim card.
What time zone is Albania in?
Albania is one hour ahead of GMT from October to March and two hours ahead from April to September.
What are the smoking customs?
Smoking laws dictate that smoking in enclosed public places is prohibited, though in winter time respecting the law gets a little difficult.
What are tipping customs in the restaurants?
Tipping is customary in restaurants and a gratuity of around 10% whenever good service has been provided is reasonable. If unsure check establishment policy.
What are typical opening hours for shops?
Albanians typically rise early and work – with a coffee break or two – until early afternoon, when they go home for lunch and often take a nap. During this “siesta” most small shops are closed, though the coffee bars and restaurants sometimes stay open. Everything tends to open again around 1700 or 1800 and stays open until between 2000 and 2200, when Albanians tend to eat dinner.
Can I rent a car?
You cannot rent a car anywhere in southern Albania. If you wish to use of a vehicle, you can hire a taxi with an Albanian driver. You will have to negotiate the price, but expect to pay about Lekë 2000 per hour. There are international car hire companies located in Tirana and details can be found on the internet.
What vaccinations do I need?
It is a good idea to keep up to date with vaccinations against tetanus, polio and diphtheria. For further information travellers should consult their doctor or travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure.
What languages are spoken?
In addition to Albanian, Greek and Italian are widely spoken, French and English (mainly amongst the younger generations) less so.
Are there poisonous animals?
There are four types of poisonous snake and one type of poisonous spider: Mediterranean widow spider (a few fatalities annually mainly of children), Montpellier snake (non fatal), common adder (fatalities recorded but not common), meadow viper (no fatalities) and the horned viper (fatalities recorded); all are unlikely to be encountered in the city but seek medical help immediately if bitten.