Are you looking for some fun facts about Albania? Here is a list of super interesting facts about Albania you probably didn’t know!
Fun Facts about Albania
Albania is a fascinating country and an up and coming travel destination famous for its tantalising beaches of the Albanian Riviera and excellent hiking sites within Valbona Valley National Park. I wrote this list of curious Albania facts while travelling slowly through this somewhat undiscovered country. During my travels, I got to love delicious Albanian food, the friendly people, the medieval towns and of course, its epic beaches.
#1 Not Albania but Shqipëri
This is one of the facts on Albania you probably didn’t know. Albanians don’t call their country Albania but Shqipëri in their mother tongue.
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#2 Albania is not in the EU
Albania is not a member of the European Union yet. The country applied to join the EU club in 2009 and is in the process of integrating, which entails getting a development fund. They are currently on the waiting list with countries such as Montenegro, Turkey, North Macedonia and Serbia.
#3 Most Albanians live outside of Albania
This is one of the super surprising facts about Albania! The estimated population of Albania is 3 million. However, one of the most interesting Albania facts is that another 10 million Albanians are living outside the country’s boundaries. Countries such as Greece, Montenegro, Turkey, Italy, Germany and the United States have the most significant Albanian communities. The main reason for emigration that started in the early 1990s was massive unemployment in Albania.
#4 You can pay in Euros in Albania
Even though Albania is not a member of the EU, the EURO currency is a widely accepted payment method. So, on your next holidays in Albania, you can use the EU currency or Albanian currency.
#5 You can also pay with Lek
The official Albanian currency is Lek. You may also see ALL as the currency code when looking online. $1 is equivalent to 102 leks ( €1 is 121 leks, and £1 is 142.
#6 MacDonald did not bother to come to Tirana
You already know 5 facts about Albania, and now it’s time for the 6th one. The capital city of Tirana hasn’t got a single MacDonald! Most capital cities in the world have global fast-food chains such as MacDonald, KFC and Burger King, but not Tirana. The only other capital city in Europe that does not have a single MacDonalds is the Vatican City. You may wonder why this is the case? The answer is that Albanians have a rich culinary tradition, and the cooking process is a big part of that, so there is no place or taste for instant food! Thank god countries like Albania still exist!
#7 Albanian buses don’t have a timetable
You heard me right, Albania buses don’t really have an official timetable and only leave when they are full. When touring Albania by bus, the best Albania travel tips I can give is to be patient and just go with the flow. Most buses from Tirana to some of the most popular destinations regularly leave throughout the day, so arrive in the morning and wait for the bus. Drivers also seem to hold a lot of power over the journey and are notorious for altering routes or stopping in random locations. Having said that, I had mainly a good experience during my two months travels in Albania.
#8 Albania is a paradise for vegetarians!
One of the top Albania attractions is its food! If you’re a vegetarian or love eating your veggies, you’re in for a treat. Traditional Albanian cuisine is mostly vegetarian and full of flavour! Popular dishes such as moussaka, stuffed peppers or lime leaves, rice balls, various pies are all veggie friendly! Restaurants typically use local produce in season, and you can expect all the meals to be made from scratch according to the Albanian traditions! I’m a vegetarian myself, and I completely fell in love with Albanian cuisine!
#9 No means yes, and yes means no
This is one of the most funny facts about Albania. When talking to an Albanian, things may get a little confusing. When they disagree with you, they nod their heads and when they say yes, they shake their heads like they’re disagreeing. I know right, super confusing!
#10 Albanian Riviera – the hidden gem of Europe
What is Albania known for is some of the most amazing beaches you have ever seen. The Albanian Riviera is situated on the country’s southwestern coast and is the main drawcard for Albanian tourism. The most popular seaside destination is Saranda, and lesser-known beach towns include Dhermi, Ksamil and Himare. Expect crystal clear water of the Ionian Sea with a perfect turquoise shade! Now you know 10 facts about Albania, keep reading if you’re curious for some more fun facts Albania is known for.
#11 Albania is a safe place to travel
You have already learnt 10 interesting facts about Albania, and now it’s time for some more! Even though Albanian tourism is an entirely new thing in Albania and many places still lack the proper tourists’ infrastructure, Albania is a very safe destination to travel to compared to other European countries. I felt very safe on my Albanian road trip, and I would recommend it to solo female travellers too. One of the top travel tips for Albania is not just to go to the beaches. But, also explore some of the medieval towns that are Albania must see places!
Albanian buses are called furgons
#13 Ride first, pay later
One of the surprising things about Albanian buses ( apart from the fact that they don’t follow any strict timetable) is that you pay your ticket on arrival at your destination, not before. Clearly, Albanian drivers trust the passengers enough to allow the payment at the end!
#14 Byzantine stone towns & castles
Albania is so much more than its beautiful beaches with crystal clear water! If you like historical towns, you’ll love exploring Albania. Albania has many medieval stone towns that are of Byzantine heritage. They typically also feature a large castle perched on a hill. The best historical towns to explore are Gjirokaster, situated an hour drive from Saranda, Berat, and Kruja, which can be visited on a day trip from Tirana.
#15 Albanians are super helpful
Albanian people are very helpful and honest. If you get lost or have any issues whatsoever while travelling in Albania, you will soon notice that someone will always help you. Including a shop owner that will run after you because you forgot your change!
#16 Albanians are notorious for bad driving
Albanians may be very friendly and helpful, but driving is not their best virtue! When travelling Albania, you will quickly notice that drivers go too fast, don’t obey rules and are notorious for tailgating. Road accidents that cause lots of traffic and delays are not uncommon either. That is perhaps why traffic police are very noticeable on the roads making sure the drivers behave.
#17 Cheapest country to travel in Europe
If you’re looking for some budget travel destinations, Albania should be on top of your list! Everything in Albania is super affordable, from accommodation that costs on average €25 per double room to food (you can eat for €3 ) to transport that costs €1 for a 1-hour bus journey.
#18 Cash is king in Albania
Albanians seem to prefer cash over card payments. While you will be able to pay by card in some high-end restaurants in Tirana, in other parts of the country, paying by cash will be expected of you. Even hotels in Albania don’t seem to be accepting cash, so get used to withdrawing money and carrying a lot of banknotes in your wallet all the time. Luckily, ATMs (cashpoints) are widely available in Albania.
#19 Cars in Albania are relatively a novelty
This is one of the fun facts about Albania for kids. Until 1991, there were only 3,000 cars in Albania for a population of 3 million! This was because, during the communist regime, only party members were allowed to own a car. So, cars are still a recent thing for most Albanian people, and maybe this is why they are not the best drivers in Europe?
#20 Albanians love Mercedes
Mercedes cars seem to be very popular with the Albanians, and even taxi drivers use them! It is because old Mercedes cars are very affordable and reliable, and Albania imports them from Germany and Italy.
#21 Albania was isolated for 46 years
Albania was a communist country in the second part of the 20th century ruled by the dictator Enver Hoxha. The interesting fact about Albania history is that communist Albania was not a part of the USSR nor the Warsaw Pact. In fact, Enver Hoxha was enemies with pretty much any other country, including communist China and neighbouring Yugoslavia. That left the Albanian people isolated from pretty much the rest of the world.
#22 Albanians like their stroll in the evening
If you’re looking for fun Albania facts for kids, this is another one. In Albania, it is customary to walk after dinner to walk off the food and catch up with the neighbours. This activity is called ‘xhiro’. In some towns, Police close the road for people to walk and mingle, and the road remains closed for traffic until the locals are done. Evening promenade makes so much sense during the summer when temperatures in Albania reach 40 degrees Celcius, and it’s just too hot to do anything outdoors during the day.
#23 Albania is steep in history
Albania has a rich history, and any history enthusiast will have a lot of fun exploring Albanian heritage dating back to different areas. There is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint, an ancient Greek city inhabited since prehistoric times, Gjirokaster, a perfectly preserved Byzantine town and a medieval town of Berat with a castle and Ottoman houses, mosques and Byzantine churches. If you want to learn more about history, I recommend hiring an Albania guide.
#24 Cottage cheese is abundant
The most popular ingredient in Albanian cuisine is cottage cheese. Albanians put it in pies, pastries, dumplings as a dip with various dishes and more. If you don’t like cottage cheese, you will struggle to avoid it, but if you’re ok with it, you will be amazed about all its different forms!
When in Albania, you must try Albanian byrek. It is a fried, filled pastry made of flaky layers and stuffed with cheese and sometimes spinach or meat. You can grab a byrek from a local bakery and eat it while still fresh and hot for breakfast or as a snack. Byrek is also popular in other Balkan countries with Ottoman heritage.
#26 Dining out is not rushed
Dining out in Albania is a chilled experience, and you can expect to be able to sit after you’ve finished your meal and not be rushed.
#27 What you see on the menu is what you pay
Albania is one of these countries that charge you the exact price from the menu. There are no nasty surprises when you get the bill with extras such as tax and services charges. The price on the menu is the final price. It is also customary (an excellent and generous custom) to offer free bread and a complimentary fruit platter at the end of the meal.
#28 All religions rhyme together
The most common religion in Albania (58% of the population) is Islam, but you can’t really easily notice that when you travel the country. 10% is catholic, 7% Orthodox and 15% atheist. In some towns such as Berat, mosques and churches stand side by side, and people coexist in harmony. You can also notice that Albanian women have the freedom of wearing anything they’re comfortable with.
#29 Mother Theresa is the national hero
Mother Theresa is probably the most famous Albanian person. She was born in Skopje during Ottoman rule and was a nun and a missionary. She became famous for her charity work in the slums of Calcutta and was honoured by the Roman Catholic church with the title of saint. No wonder Albanians love her so much!
#30 Albania won 1 Nobel Prize
Albanians won 1 Nobel Prize in 1979. Can you guess who got it? Yes, it was the beloved mother Theresa as a recognition of her charity work.
#31 You can get to Greece by ferry
You may be surprised how easy it is to get to Greece from Albania. From Sarande, there is a ferry that takes you to the nearby Greek island of Corfu. The ride is super easy and only takes 30 minutes!
#32 Albanians like their coffee Turkish-style
If you’re wondering what are Albanians known for is the coffee culture. You will notice straight away men and women (mostly men) sitting in cafes and sipping expresso size Albanian coffee. The coffee they like to drink is not Italian espresso but Turkish coffee. The coffee is very finely ground and brought to boil in a special pot called ‘ibrik’ on a stove. I definitely recommend trying it in Albania, but while you’re drinking, be aware of the ‘mud’ at the bottom, the coffee is served unfiltered!
#33 Corruption in Albania is a problem
Albania suffers from a corruption problem. The country is in the 91st position out of 180 countries, where number one is the least corrupted country in the world and number 180 the most corrupted.
#34 Bunker country
Another fun fact about Albania is that it has over 750,000 bunkers! The communist ruler Enver Hoxha ordered to build the bunkers to protect the nation against the enemies. Enver Hoxha did not maintain good relationships with any country, so the enemy in his eyes was pretty much any other country. Today many Albania bunkers are standing abandoned, and some have been transformed into tourist attractions. One of the fun things to do in Tirana Albania is visiting Bunk’art – a museum set in an old bunker.
#35 Traffic lights tax
In 1995 the government introduced a traffic lights tax ( 2,000 lek or €17), and the drivers in Shodra ( a city North of Tirana with a lovely castle) refused to pay, calling it absurd. It turns out that Shodra does not have a single traffic light!
#36 Albania is a paradise for wine lovers
Albania has a long tradition of wine production dating back to Roman and Ottoman times. The country has a perfect location and climate for growing different varieties of grapes. While travelling around Albania, you can notice grape plantations everywhere. If you want to visit one of the wineries, Cobo Winery near Berat is the most famous one.
#37 Albanians don’t queue
The people of Albania seem to be sharing the same heated and impatient nature with other Mediterranean nations. If you’re from the UK (in particular), you will be surprised to know that Albanians don’t really queue based on who arrived first. The system is more chaotic and based on emotions, and who can argue the priority better.
#38 Former oasis for cannabis production
One of the lesser-known facts Albania hold is that one of the cities in the country called Lazarat was known as the cannabis capital of Europe. It is estimated that Lazarat was producing 900 tones of marijuana a year. In 2014, Albanian police raided the place and put an end to the production.
#39 Raki is the national drink
Raki is the traditional drink of Albania. Raki is liquor and can be made out of any fruits. In some areas of Albania, such as Pogradec and Korca, raki is made out of plums. Other regions make it from berries. Raki is consumed as a welcome drink and in various social situations, but today it is mainly drunk by the older male generation.
#40 You can stay in Albania for 1 Year
One of the cool facts about Albania is its welcoming visa policy for tourists. Did you know that you can stay in Albania for up to one year without the need for applying for a visa? Yes, you can! Albania has so much to offer and is super affordable, so spending one year exploring this gorgeous country seems like bliss!
#41 Land of eagles
I mentioned earlier that Albanians call their country Shqipëri, which translates to ‘land of eagles’. Scholars don’t have the exact answer to why Albanians in the 16th century started calling their country the land of eagles instead of Albania. But many legends try to explain it. Today, the eagle (shqiponja) is the symbol of Albania which can be seen on the national Albania flag, postcards and traditional clothes.
#42 Scarecrow to deter evil spirits
Albanians still believe in superstitions! It is customary to hang a scarecrow on a newly built building to deter bad spirits and attract luck. A scarecrow can be a stuffed doll or even a teddy.
#43 Haircut and a slap
To all the guys out there, if you need a haircut in Albania, don’t be surprised to get a friendly slap on the back at the end! The slap is accompanied by the phrase “Me shendet”, which means cheers or I wish you health.
#44 The Civil War was sparked by a financial scam
You might have heard about Albania’s civil war in 1997. What you probably don’t know is that the civil war was caused by a collapse of pyramid schemes that were something resembling informal banks offering colossal interest rates. They were the first attempts after communism ended of forming a free market. Many people sold everything they owed to invest in those schemes thinking that this is what capitalism looks like elsewhere in the world. You can imagine how angry they felt when the whole system collapsed, leaving many people bankrupt.
#45 The country of many flowers
Albania is home to many species of flowers, 3,250 to be exact! That makes up 30% of Europe’s flora, and the best place to see some of the flowers are Albania’s National Park, such as Llogara.
#46 Albanian souvenirs
Albania produces many interesting handcrafted souvenirs that fill their traditional bazaars with colours! Strolling along the colourful bazaars of historic towns, such as Gjirokaster, is one of the fun things to do in Albania. The most popular items are carpets made of the finest wool, pottery, silver jewellery, clothing with embroidery and musical instruments.
#47 The country of fresh produce
Travelling Albania, you will quickly notice the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables sold in small, local shops and even on the side of the road.
It is not surprising then that agriculture in Albania is one of the country’s most important sectors.
#48 Albania’s canyons
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that Albania has many canyons that were practically unknown during communist rule. Now, the country is an excellent rafting destination. One of the most famous canyons is 3 million years old Osumi Canyon, often referred to as the Colorado of the Balkans.
#49 ATM charges
Most ATMs in Albania charge foreigners a hefty fee for cash withdrawals. This is not good news since the country doesn’t really accept card payments. However, I’ll give you one of my secret Albania tips. One bank doesn’t add any fees, so make sure you write down its name for your next Albania holiday. It is called Credins Bank.
#50 Greek-influenced cuisine
Albanian cuisine is considered to be of a Mediterranean sort with high consumption of fruits, veggies, seafood and olive oil. In fact, Albanian food resembles a lot the Greek food, with the most popular dishes such as moussaka, pastitsio, Albanian stuffed peppers, tzatziki, stuffed wine leaves and feta salad.
#51 Albania has its own Alps
Albanian Alps or the Accursed Mountains are located in the North of the country, and after the Albanian Riviera are the country’s most visited region. Going hiking in the Thethi or Velbona National Park can be a fun day out in Albania for those loving the great outdoor.
#52 Albania has some excellent beer
Albania has many breweries and is known for many excellent local beers. The largest brewery is Molto Brewery, based in Tirana that produces Birra Tirana. Other beers worth trying in Albania include my personal favourite Korca, Peja, Elbar and Prost.
#53 Albanians haven’t won any medals yet
Albania is amongst a small group of countries that haven’t managed to win any medals in the Olympics yet. The most popular Olympic disciplines in Albania include weightlifting, shooting and wrestling. You can do it guys!
#54 Albanians respect their elderly
One of the most amazing facts about Albanians is their respect for the elderly. You can spot it while travelling on a local bus. When an older person enters the bus, other passengers immediately help them climb the stairs and free the seats for them.
#55 Their military island is the next hot tourist hot spot
The mysterious Sazan Island strategically positioned at the entrance to the Bay of Vlore was a military base with nuclear bankers and tunnels scattered around the island. Even Albanians don’t really know exactly what was the communist regime up to on the island as no civilians were allowed in. Today, the island is on the itinerary of tourist boat excursions for its pristine beaches and exciting history.
#56 You can drink tap water in Albania
I’m a big believer in drinking tap water everywhere I travel to do my part in reducing plastic usage. So, when I found out that tap water is good to drink in most of Albania, I was delighted. I also encourage you to drink tap water but check with your host in every new location, as some places like Sarande are the exception.
#57 You can experience traditional shopping
Large supermarket chains have not yet dominated Albania, and you can still experience traditional grocery shopping where every small shop specialises in a different thing. So, to get your Albanian bread go to the bakery. Fruits and veggies are sold in the greengrocer; meat is sold in the butchers, fish and seafood in a fish shop and milk and eggs in a diary shop. You get the idea!
#58 Albanians don’t have Amazon
The world largest online shopping platform hasn’t made it to Albania, sorry guys!
#59 Albania never belonged to Yugoslavia
Contrary to what most people think, Albania was not part of Yugoslavia. At the time of the existence of Yugoslavia, Albania had its own separate communist regime led by Enver Hoxha. The Albanian dictator was known for falling out with most other countries.
#60 High-risk country
Albania, together with the Netherlands, are the European countries with the highest flood risk. In 2010, over 70,000 families in Albania had to be evacuated as a result of a devastating flood.
#61 First atheist state
One of the interesting facts of Albania is that it was proclaimed the first officially atheist country. It was the country’s dictator Enver Hoxha that declared Albania atheist in 1967 and forbade practising any sort of religion under the threat of imprisonment.
#62 Albania’s neighbours
Albania shares borders with Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.
#63 Sex-selective abortion is a thing
You won’t find this fact in any Albania travel guide… Albania is one of the few countries in the world that allows sex-selective abortion. One of the surprising facts about Albanian people is that some families still prefer to have a baby boy over a girl, and they are ready to abort the pregnancy after finding out the sex. Ouch!
#64 Hello in Albanian
‘Hi’ in Albanian is Përshëndetje. What a spelling!
#65 Home to the second most beautiful city in Europe
According to the Japanese Association of Travel Agents (JATA), Japanese tourists voted Berat the second most beautiful city in Europe. While this fact is a little random and farfetched, Berat – the city of thousand windows is undeniably one of the best places to visit in Albania!
#66 The Albanian code of Honor
Albanian have something called ‘Besa’ – the code of honour, which also means to keep the promise. Besa originated in the 15th century when a set of customary laws was written for Albanian tribes. An old Albanian proverb says: ‘Before the house belongs to the owner, it first belongs to God and the guest.’ (BBC) So, if you ever wonder why Albanians are so friendly and hospitable, it comes from the tradition of ‘besa’ or the Albanian way.’ Besa is one of the most essential facts about Albanian culture worth remembering before your next vacation in Albania. Also, Besa and Besnik for men are popular Albanian names.
#67 Albania is not the only country that speaks Albanian
Kosovo also speaks Albanian. These two countries were one before history divided them.
#68 Albanian roots in western pop culture
The pop singers Duo Lipa and Rita Ora have Albanian roots.
#69 Albania is superstitious
You can’t know all about Albania without mentioning its most popular superstitions!
If your hands aren’t cold, you’re not honest.
Spilt coffee will increase your bank account balance.
Touching your throat when you have a sore throat will make it worse.
If you don’t hold your hair after seeing a dead mouse, your hair will fall out.
#70 Speedboats are banned in Albania
In 2006 Albanian government passed the law to ban speedboats in the country in an attempt to crack down on human trafficking to Greece and Italy.
#71 Albania is mostly mountains
Three-fourths of the country is monotonous.
#72 Albanians take a day off to celebrate summer
Albanians celebrate a bank holiday on the first day of summer. They make Ballokume – a traditional dessert made of cornflour, eggs and sugar.
#73 Southernmost glaciers of Europe are here
The Albanian glaciers are located in the Accursed Mountains on the border with Montenegro and Kosovo.
#74 Albanian king survived 55 assassination attempts
King Zog I, who ruled in the first part of the 20th century, was the only king to survive that many assassination attempts!
#75 The language of Albania is one of a kind
The Albanian language is not connected to any other language and is super hard to learn. The only other country that speaks it is Kosovo. Albanian also has various dialects, with the most popular being Gheg and Tosk dialects.
#76 Woolen slippers are the best souvenir
Opinga are the traditional Albanian shoes made of wool and worn by both genders. If you want to bring back from Albania a fun gift, buy a pair of opinga.
#77 Albania has 11 islands
Albania has 11 islands, the biggest being Suzani Island mentioned earlier, and the most famous for its pristine nature is Ksamil. You now read about 77 facts about Albania; keep reading if you’re still hungry for more.
#78 Albania is home to the world’s oldest lake
Lake Ohrid, situated between eastern Albania and southwestern North Macedonia, is the oldest lake in the world and the deepest lake in the Balkans, with a maximum depth of 288 meters!
‘Thank you’ in Albanian is ‘fa-lee-men-deree’.
#80 The Kanun – Albanian set of customs
Dating back to the 15th century, Kanun is a very detailed set of laws and customs. It covered all spheres of life and served as guidelines. The one thing that prevailed until today is hospitality which is seen as a sacred duty. If I had to choose one thing, what is Albania most known for, I would say hospitality.
#81 Albania is a member of NATO
Albania may not yet be a member of the EU, but they are a member of the NATO club since 2009.
#82 Korabi is the highest peak
Korabi is the highest peak measuring 2,751. It is also the highest peak in Macedonia.
#83 Lord Byron was a fan of Albania
The English poet and the leading figure of the Romantic movement Lord Byron visited Albania in 1809 and immediately fell in love. He wrote about horse riding and magnificent Albanian dresses.
#84 300 days of sunshine
Albania is an excellent getaway for some sunshine with 300 sunny days a year!
#85 Albanian Qeleshe hat
Qeleshe or geleshes is the traditional Albanian hat made of wool and still worn in some rural areas.
#86 Why Albania
The name ‘Albania’ comes from Illyrian tribe of the Albanoi and their centre Albanopolis living in the second century BC. Later on, the name Albania was replaced with Shqiperi.
#87 Lake Skadar
Lake Skadar, located in the north, is Albanian largest mass of water.
#88 Albania has a high unemployment rate
The unemployment rate in Albania is as high as 12%, and this is the main reason, so many Albanians leave the country.
#89 4 UNESCO sites in Albania
These are Butrin, Gjirokaster, Berat and Ohrid.
#90 Colourful revolution of Tirana
Edi Rama, an Albanian politician and painter, is responsible for the current look of the Albanian capital. He cleaned up the rubbish and brought back the green areas in Tirana.
#91 Trains hardly exists in Albania
Albania doesn’t have many trains and people mainly travel by furgons (buses).
#92 National athem – Himni I Flamurit
Himni I Flamurit is the Albanian national anthem since 1912.
#93 Albanian Independence Day
Albanians celebrate their national day (flag day) on the 28th of November. It’s also a bank holiday.
#94 Albanians also take siestas
If you visit Albania in the middle of the summer, you will understand why siestas are a thing. The temperatures reach 40 degrees, and being outside midday is utter torture!
#95 Dalmatian Pelicans
Albania is home to the endangered species – Dalmatian Pelicans.
#96 Mild winters
The winter temperature in Albania rarely goes below 13 degrees during the day.
The most significant port where Albania receives most of its international cargo is located in Durres.
#98 Albanians eat a lot for lunch
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, when local people eat stewed meat, vegetables and salads.
#99 Tave Kosi
One of the most famous Albanian food is Tave Kosi – baked lamb or chicken in yoghurt.
#100 Power is the same in Albania
Power sockets in Albania are the same as in the rest of Europe, so if you’re not European, prepare your power adapter.
I hope you enjoyed this list of 100 fun facts about Albania! Feel free to leave a comment. Otherwise, I really can’t recommend enough Albania as your next travel destination.
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