Solo to Albania? Solo to Tirana? Are you crazy? I can’t count the number of such questions my friends asked me before I ventured on my first solo travel to Albania. And my first solo travel ever. Tirana is one of my favourite European capitals since that time and it has surprised me in a very positive way many times. Read the post to find out what Tirana is like and if it is safe for solo female travellers.
Is Tirana safe for solo female travellers?
Is Tirana safe? Is Tirana safe for a solo girl? I asked myself those questions quite many times. I imagined Tirana to be a city where you shouldn’t go out after dark unless you want to risk getting mugged. In reality, the central streets of Tirana in the late evening are full of people. Especially the areas around the Skanderbeg’s Square, Pyramid and in the Taiwan district are very busy. The city has an amazing energy with lots of young people. I felt save all the time, there wasn’t even one moment when my safety would be threatened. Honestly, when I was walking alone to the hostel after dark, I still felt safe (remember, though, that it was still very central!)
Biking culture in Tirana, Albania
Both Shkoder and Tirana surprised me in terms of the number of biking people. For a moment I thought I was in the Netherlands. Everybody bikes: elderly men in hats and sunglasses, teenage girls in shorts, elegant women in high-heels, grandmothers, men going to work. I was totally taken aback to see that bikers enjoy quite a high priority on Albanian roads, unlike in countries such as Turkey. Moreover, there are lots of bike stands on the pavements of Tirana. Some are not in the best condition, but as long as they serve their function, it’s fine.
Is Tirana safe after dark for solo female travellers?
It is probably one of the factors that contributed to me feeling safe. I don’t know about the outskirts of Tirana, but the centre is well-lit and even the potholes are not that threatening (especially if you keep in mind they are always on the streets, not on the pavement). All the main streets, boulevards and parks have plenty of street lamps.
Messy cables and wires in Tirana
Never before have I seen such a thick spider web of cables than in Tirana. Just imagine how well-qualified Albanian electricians must be to make sense out of such a mess!
Modern urban design in Tirana
A round skyscraper turning square at the top? Fancy, colourful windows in a new block of flats? A restaurant in the DYI fashion? A green beer garden full of flowers between two old, greyish buildings? A cartoon-like casino? Fountain park? All of those attractions are in Tirana. How imaginative those people are!
Green areas and parks in Tirana, Albania
Tirana is green! Not only are there pleasant parks in the centre, but trees grow along each main street of Tirana. When temperature gets too high, once can also easily find some shade by the Lana river.
When Margo and I got off the bus in Tirana, we had no idea where to find our hostel, so we asked two guys drinking coffee at the nearest restaurant to point which direction our street was. Guess what they did. They paid for their coffees, got up, took some of our bags and walked us to the hostel. They literally left us at the gate of the Tirana Backpacker Hostel.
Another time, at the post office, when the staff realised I speak no Albanian, they instantly took me out of the queue and opened a new desk just to ensure my postcards reach their destinations. There are many other examples.
Street life in Tirana
Just wait till late afternoon and evening and you’ll see people taking to the streets of Tirana. They occupy benches in parks, have picnics in parks, socialise standing on the streets or in numerous fancy restaurants and pubs.
Are there stray dogs in Tirana?
Somehow, I have not seen any stray animals anywhere in Tirana. It just seems very strange, especially when I recall hundreds of wild cats and stray dogs everywhere in Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro, and Georgia (plus countless cows). What’s more, no dog shit on the pavement.
Getting about Tirana
Every road takes you to the Skanderberg’s Square. You can’t get lost. Besides that, Tirana is not that large. The only drawback is that bus stations are in different locations of the city and depending on where you go, you have to go somewhere else.
Bonus: Selling books on the streets. Selling “Mein Kamp” on the streets. I wouldn’t expect that!
The ten things listed above are just the most striking examples out of many.
Albania as a whole played a trick on my expectations and that’s what the next post will be about.