After we wrote an article about the wild camping in Albania and our favorite camping spots, this week we take a look at how we get there. Because plotting a route in Albania is a challenge in itself. In this article we share our #vanlife experiences with the (life-threatening) roads in Albania. In short: we tell you everything you need to know about the roads in Albania.
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Vanlife in Albania – the roads
As soon as we go through our Instagram informed us that we were going to Albania with our camper van Fred, we were pointed out several times about the bad roads in Albania. So we were somewhat prepared for the worst. Yet we didn't really know what to expect, because what is a 'bad road' for one person is still doable for another. Believe us, a lot of the roads in Albania are really bad.
Let's explain it like this. There are a number of highways in Albania, which are well maintained. Then you have the regular paved roads, which you can find between most famous cities. These are also generally doable, apart from some potholes and bumps that you have to avoid. And then you have most of the roads, the unpaved roads. The funny thing is, on Google Maps it is not always clear which roads are unpaved. One 'white road' on Google is paved while the other is unpaved.
Unforeseen obstacles on the roads in Albania
You should always be well prepared that even a beautifully asphalted road can just stop. Without any warning, the regular road ends and turns into a dirt track full of potholes and bumps. The locals are used to this and will overtake you at every opportunity.
You can also clearly see that Albania is still developing in the countryside of Albania and between the different cities. You should therefore not be surprised if you encounter a fully loaded covered wagon, or heavily packed donkeys, even on the highway. You will also have to stop regularly along the way for herds of sheep and goats crossing the road. You will also find countless dogs sleeping in the middle of the road, or taking every opportunity to try and bite your tires.
Traffic rules on the roads in Albania
Roughly the same traffic rules apply in Albania as in the Netherlands. However, they are taken with a grain of salt. Solid lines only exist in theory, a maximum speed only applies if the police are lasering, you can overtake on the left and right and first comer takes priority. The Albanians are very kind to their fellow man. You will be signaled neatly everywhere when a police check takes place.
Our experience with bad roads in Albania
We thought we had mapped out a logical route through southern Albania in advance along all Albania attractions, where we would drive from the Osum Canyon (Corovodë) to Permët. From 'Kosinë' we would then return to the regular road SH75. The 'white road' that we had previously driven from Berat was really fine, so that didn't seem a problem to us. However, this was a disaster! Almost immediately the new tarmac road turned into an overpaved road that was full of deep potholes. Because it had just rained a lot the day before, there was logically a lot of mud formation. Yet we drove a long way, because it could just be that the unpaved road would turn into a paved road.
In addition, we also did not want to turn around because that would mean a detour of about 6 to 7 hours. And that for a route that now takes less than 1,5 hours, according to Maps. After less than 20 minutes of toil the inevitable waited, we don't get up one of the very slippery hills, slide backwards through the mud to get stuck with the tow bar against the rock wall. Fortunately you can say, because on the other side was a ravine without a guardrail. After Lisa has got out, fortunately we manage to maneuver the bus free again, after which we continue the journey on foot.
Unfortunately, the roads are only getting worse and steeper, so we have no choice but to find a place where we can turn around. Which is easier said than done on such a narrow mountain road in these conditions. 20 minutes later we finally find a place where we can turn and for the first time in almost 2 hours we meet someone in a 4×4. Glad that we finally meet people, we chat and they appear to be 'also' on their way to Permët. Not for the thermal baths, but to sacrifice the cute sheep in the trunk… “It's a good thing you've turned around. This first part is still doable, but it only gets worse from here. This is one of the most dangerous roads in Albania.” oops…
Fortunately it ended well, but a wise lesson for us to do some homework first and to accept that some areas of Albania can really only be discovered with a 4×4. Lesson learned: when in doubt, get out and explore the road on foot before you find yourself on a road where you can no longer turn.
Tip: are you in albania in summer and it hasn't rained? Then you might consider moving to our turning point at the Wild Camp spot driving with your camper van. This is an amazing place in the heart of nature by a small river and probably easily accessible in good weather. Enjoy!
Do you want to be well prepared for a trip to Albania? All our tips and experiences for a carefree holiday Albania read in our blog on Reisstel.nl.
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