Taxis, Buses, and Furgons
a quick guide to navigating public transportation in Albania
Learning to find your way around in a new city can be a daunting challenge – especially if you are short on time. Tirana, presents an additional challenge in that there isn’t a whole lot of information available in English.
The most important things to remember about public transportation in Albania is that the quirkiness is part of the adventure and fun of the country, and that waiting is merely another opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee and people-watch.
Traveling Albania by Bus and Furgon (minibus):
Traveling between cities is done either by Furgon, or by bus. Buses usually follow (albeit somewhat loosely) some kind of timetable, while furgons leave once they are full.
Most of the travel by both furgon and by bus happens in the early morning. By early morning I mean 5 or 6 am. For example, there is only one bus going over the mountains to link Korca with Gjirokastra. That one bus leaves Korca at 6:00am – don’t sleep in!
Stops for furgons and buses heading to a specific destination are sometimes (but not always) found in the same general location. These locations, however, are scattered around the cities (in places usually related to the direction they are going) and these locations can change without warning – so if you need to travel on a specific day, double-check your departure location the day before. If you can’t find the exact bus stop, both furgons and buses stop to pick people up if they have extra seats, so you can always stand along the highway going to the city you want and flag transportation down. All buses going to the coast travel the road to Durres. All buses heading to the south-east go through Elbasan. You can catch north bound buses near Zogu i Zi at the city bus stop just beyond the buses to Duress.
A few Furgon and Bus departure points in Tirana:
This list is by not even close to comprehensive, but I hope it will help some people navigate transportation to a few of the more popular destinations. I will update it as I verify current departure locations.
- Zogu i Zi roundabout (sheshi): Both Furgons and buses heading to Durres or north to Shkodra or to Fusha Kruja leave from the area of Sheshi Zogu i Zi. Either just off the roundabout on the Rruga Dritan Hoxha road heading west, or from a small street off of Rruga Asim Vokshi (F.Kruja).
- Next to the Qemal Stafa Stadium: Buses heading southeast for Elbasan, Pogradec and Korça depart from the east and northeast sides of the Qemal Stafa Stadium. Buses
- Rruga Muhedin Llagani: Buses to Gjirokastra (early morning), Fier, Vlore, and Ubrique line up along this small street.
- Elbasanit accross from Hotel Ilyria: Mini buses heading south and southeast leave from this point. This is also the departure point for buses that will drop you off at Petrele Castle and near Pellumbas (for those planning to hike to the cave). Most buses have departed from this location by mid morning.
Notes on International Travel:
International ground transport to and from Tirana is conducted entirely by Private Bus (Coach) companies. There is no central Bus Terminal in Tirana, so you just have to know where to do to find the ticket office and pick up point for the bus you want. Many international buses leave from the triangular intersection at Rruga e Kavajes just west of Sheshi Skanderbej, which would be a good place to start.
The bust to Skopje, Macedonia leaves twice per day from a small office on the boulevard near the Train Station (currently non-existent train station – don’t worry people still call the empty lot “the train station”).
If you are going to Montenegro, you might want to contact Montenegro hostel who helps organize private transfers for travelers since there is no direct bus service.
If you have trouble locating the departure point and ticket office for your destination, check in at Tourist Information next to the UFO building behind the National History Museum. They usually have current information about bus service.
Tirana’s Bus System:
Most visitors will find that central Tirana is very walkable. If you want to get off the beaten path (by riding a bus) – here is some information to help you get started:
- Fare: Tirana bus fare is 30 Lek. A conductor collects the fare and will you a ticket.
- Frequency: During the rush hours most of Tirana’s buses run frequently (every 5-10 minutes) but in the middle of the afternoon when the city takes a long afternoon break you might end up waiting for 20 minutes.
- Major Routes – some information that’s helpful:
- Buses that say “Qender” originate (or terminate) in the vicinity of the central Skanderbeg Square. There are many buses that terminate next to the Et’hem Bey Mosque (you will see destinations posted on signs next to the bus), but others stop behind the National History Museum.
- Buses that say “Unaze” travel around the ring road that circles the center of Tirana.
- The Rinas Express links the National History museum with the Tirana International Airport.
- A free shuttle bus to the “CityPark” shopping center leaves from behind the National History Museum (right in front of the tourist information office) every half hour or so. It is a large bus with “CityPark” painted all over it…you really can’t miss it! (it makes stops along the way as well).
- Tirana East Gate is the other big shopping mall in Tirana. There are two buses that go out that direction (toward Petrele and Elbasan) both leaving from next to the Palace of Culture (the building with the Opera in it – across from the Et’hem Bey Mosque). The TEG bus is an express bus that only makes one other stop along the way. The city bus Qendra-Sauk-TEG is a local bus. Both cost 30 Lek.
- To get to the Dajti Express Gondola, take the Porcelan Bus from the Skanderbeg locations next to the Et’hem Bey Mosque and then catch the free Dajti Express Shuttle from there. Or you can take the new Linza bus which will get you within walking distance just tell the driver ‘Dajti Ekspress’ when you get on.
- System Maps: finding information on the main bus lines is challenging (to say the least). tiranabuses.com has an android app that maps the city (and major bus routes) but the web version is less helpful. For maps – your best bet is the Tirana In Your Pocket PDF Download which has a city map at the end that shows the major bus routes. Again, though – the routes are hard to read on a computer and you might be better off picking up a print copy. Moreover, neither of those resources show all of the routes that run in town.
Taxis in Tirana:
While many online sources claim that taxis in Tirana do not use meters, every taxi I’ve ridden in has. The fare has consistently been 400 lek off-peak and 500 on peak for destinations within the central part of town. It is possible to call and reserve a taxi, but I’ve had no trouble just walking down the block to one of the city’s many taxi stands where taxis park to wait for customers, or flagging one down on the street.
A few other resources:
The following websites are useful in trying to unravel the question of intercity transportation in Albania. Also, the Information Center behind the National History museum can help you figure out where to catch the bus that you need.
Montenegro Hostel is by far the best resource for travel inside Albania on the internet right now. I’ve taken to skipping the other resources and going straight to them. They also arrange transfers from Tirana to points in Montenegro since the bus connections are still an adventure.
Matinic.us – A list of furgon routes and departure points – sometimes not as up-to-date as it could be (buses from Tirana to Durres, for example, now leave from Zogu i zi) but this the best resource for inter-city transportation in Albania right now.
travelingalbania is a less helpful in terms of finding Furgon stops in Tirana, but it does list departure times which could be helpful in understanding how frequently a particular service runs.
Hitchhiker’s Handbook has good information about national bus service locations and also great specific tips about hitchhiking in Albania.
Oh, and transportation is Albania is a great adventure: don’t forget to have fun!