Statue of Skėnderbeg, Tiranė, Albania.  Easy to reach by train!

The statue of Skėnderbeg, Albania's national hero, in Skėnderbeg Square in Tiranė

Visiting Albania...

Albania, which Albanians call Shqipėria or Land of the Eagles, was once the most mysterious country in Europe.  It became a Stalinist dictatorship in 1946, and was almost completely shut off from the rest of the world for decades.  However, the Communist regime was overturned in 1991 and in spite of well-publicised troubles in 1992 & 1997, most of Albania is now safe to visit - you can check at www.fco.gov.uk.  Albania is easy to reach from western Europe, either by train to Italy then ferry across the Adriatic, or overland by train to Montenegro then by bus or taxi across the border into Albania.  EU citizens don't even need a visa and it's a fascinating country that will challenge your pre-conceptions of things Albanian.  There are some photographs of what you might see in Albania at the bottom of this page.

COVID-19 update:  Trains are running between the UK & continental Europe.  Eurostar is running a much-reduced service.  Beyond Paris & Brussels, there are some service reductions, but train service is much closer to normal.  See COVID-19 travel information.

Train times, fares, tickets & information...

small bullet point  London & Paris to Tiranė via ferry from Italy

small bullet point  London & Paris to Tiranė overland via Belgrade

small bullet point  Train times & fares within Albania

small bullet point  Travel between Albania & neighbouring countries

small bullet point  Things to see in Albania

small bullet point  Hotels in Albania

small bullet point  General European train travel information

small bullet point  Luggage   Taking bikes   Taking dogs


large bullet pointUseful country information...

Train operator in Albania:

HSH (Hekurudhė ė Shqipėrisė), http://hsh.com.al.

Ferries to Albania:

Check all ferry operator sailing times & prices here.  GNV:  www.gnv.it, Ventouris Ferries www.ventouris.gr sail Bari-Durrės daily, also try www.agoudimos-lines.com who sail 3-5 sailings a week, www.adriaferries.com.

Time zone:

 

GMT+1 (GMT+2 last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).

Dialling code:

 

+355

Currency:

 

£1 = approx 180 Lek.   Currency converter

Visas:

UK citizens no longer need a visa to visit Albania, and there's no longer any entry tax to pay.

Tourist information:

Tripadvisor Albania pageHotels in Albania

Travel advice:

Most visits to Albania are now trouble-free.  Tiranė and Durrės are quite safe, but check with the Foreign Office's travel advice website,  www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice, before visiting some parts of Albania, particularly the border regions in the North-East of the country.

Page last updated:

25 November 2021.  Train times valid 12 Dec 2021 to 10 Dec 2022.


large bullet pointLondon to Tiranė

There are no international passenger trains between Albania and the rest of Europe, and travel in some of the border regions is inadvisable (see www.fco.gov.uk), so the fastest, easiest and most comfortable way to reach Albania is to take a train to Bari in Italy and sail overnight to Durrės on the daily Ventouris Ferries ship.  The journey from London to Albania is quite straightforward and can all be booked from the UK.  If you'd rather travel overland by train to Montenegro then by taxi or bus, see the next section.

COVID-19 update:  Trains are running between the UK & Austria. Eurostar is running a significantly reduced service, check times online.  See COVID-19 travel information.

London ► Tiranė

Tiranė ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

  Intercity, Albania-style:  The 09:30 to Durrės waits to leave Tiranė

The 09:30 train to Durrės at Tiranė.

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to cross Paris by metro or taxi.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

Lunch in Paris at the Train Bleu restaurant?

The trains to Italy leave from the magnificent Gare de Lyon in central Paris.  Why not have lunch (or at least a drink in the bar) at the fabulous Train Bleu Restaurant inside the Gare de Lyon (pictured above right) before catching the train to Turin or Milan?  Paris Gare de Lyon station guide.

Paris Gare de Lyon, from where the TGV trains to Barcelona leave   The Train Bleu restaurant at Paris Gare de Lyon

2. Paris to Milan by TGV...

SNCF (French Railways) operates three daily 186 mph TGV trains from Paris to Milan.  Previously operated by Artesia, a consortium of Trenitalia & SNCF, they are now operated entirely by SNCF, officially via a new Italian subsidiary, Societą Viaggiatori Italia.  On leaving Paris they sprint over the high-speed line at up to 186 mph (300 km/h) as far as Lyon St Exupéry, but they then slow right down to meander through the scenic Alpine foothills on conventional lines via Chambéry, crossing into Italy at Modane and heading through Turin to Milan.  These TGVs have 1st & 2nd class seats and are fully air-conditioned, with new interiors designed by Christian Lacroix.  There are power sockets for laptops and mobiles at every seat and there are baby-changing facilities and designated spaces for passengers in wheelchairs.  There's a cafe-bar serving drinks, snacks & light meals, or feel free to bring your own food & wine along for the journey.  In first class you can order a 3-course meal with wine, served at your seat.  You can now buy Paris metro tickets from the bar car, too.  1st class TGV passengers can use the Grand Voyageurs 1st class lounge at Paris Gare de Lyon.  Incidentally, SNCF's experienced in-house designer still hasn't forgiven Christian Lacroix for breaking the unwritten rule and using warm colours in 2nd class, cooler colours in 1st class, so see what you think!

TGV train from Paris to Milan about to leave Paris Gare de Lyon

The afternoon TGV to Milan at Paris Gare de Lyon.  There's no check-in, just be on board at departure time...

TGV bar car   Food on board the TGV from Milan to Paris

The cafe-bar, serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, hot & cold snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  Larger photo.

 

The cheese platter bought from the cafe-bar as the mountains swept by...

TGV interior by Christian Lacroix, second class   TGV 1st class by Christian Lacroix

2nd class with a mix or unidirectional seats & tables for 4.  Seats are 2+2 across car width.  360 degree photo.

 

1st class with a mix of unidirectional seats, solo seats, tables for 2 & for 4.  Seats 2+1 across car width.  360 degree photo.

The fields of rural France from the train to Italy   Rural France

The TGV leaves Paris behind & speeds across rural France at up to 186 mph, past fields, woods, pretty villages...

Mountains from the TGV train to Italy

...it calls at Lyon St Exupery then slows right down through the Alpine foothills.

2nd class on the TGV from Paris to Milan   TGV from Milan to Paris

The TGV crosses the Alps via Chambéry and Modane, passing through the 13.6 km (8.5 mile) long Fréjus Rail Tunnel, also known less accurately as the Mont Cénis tunnel.  The tunnel transit takes just 7 minutes, during which the train enters Italy.  Opened in 1871, this the oldest of the large tunnels through the Alps, and was the longest tunnel in the world from 1871 until 1882 when the Gotthard tunnel opened on the Zurich-Milan route.

Moresnow-capped mountains from the TGV train to Italy

The train runs along a river   Hill-top castle seen from the train

More mountains...

Now we're in Italy, leaving the Alps behind...

Scenery from the train between Oulx and Turin   Scenery from the train between Oulx and Turin

Scenery between Oulx and Turin...  Photos courtesy of DiscoverbyRail.com.

The TGV arrived at Milan Porta Garibaldi   Milan Porta Garibaldi station

Arrival at Milan's modern Porta Garibaldi station, a 10-minute €6 taxi ride or 25 minute walk from Milan's main Centrale station.

3. Milan to Bari by train...

Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca & Intercity trains are used on this route, depending which departure you choose.

Frecciabianca train to Venice, seen at Milan Centrale   2nd class seats on a Frecciabianca

A Frecciabianca train at Milan Centrale...  Frecciabiancas link Milan with Ancona, Bari & Brindisi...

 

2nd class seat, most with power socket.  There's a small bar & refreshment trolley.  Larger photo.

1st class seats on a Frecciabianca   Frecciabianca at Milan Centrale

1st class.  All seats have power sockets & there's a complimentary coffee from the trolley.  Larger photo.

 

A Frecciabianca at Milan.  A strange train - two modern power cars sandwich former intercity carriages.  This shows the new colour scheme.

Bari Centrale station

Bari Centrale.  The ferry terminal is 25 minutes walk away, through the old town.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

4. Bari to Durres in Albania by ferry...

The GNV ferry from Bari to Albania

The GNV ferry Azzurra, one of the ships which operate the Bari-Durres service.  Courtesy of Gwylan Williams

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Gwylan Williams sailed from Bari to Durres with GNV in 2019:  "The ferry was very good, and we had a smooth crossing. There were a lot of staff available to help with luggage etc, all in crisp, clean, uniforms. The bunk beds were nice and wide, comfortable and clean, we both slept very well. The en suite shower room was good too, with a decent shower and plenty of hot water. Although the sailing was late at night, there was freshly cooked food available, they seemed geared up to cater for the lorry drivers. Good breakfast too. We couldn't change money for Leks on board but they told us where to go once we landed at Durres and we had a perfectly good exchange rate there."

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large bullet pointLondon to Tiranė overland

You can also travel overland to Albania, by train from London & Paris to Belgrade, then the spectacular railway from Belgrade to Podgorica or Bar in Montenegro, then by bus or taxi to the border and on to Shkodėr, for the daily Albanian train to Tiranė.  There may be security concerns in some border areas of Albania, so check the latest Foreign Office travel advice at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.  The overland option generally takes a day or two longer than the more straightforward train & ferry option via Italy, but you can stop off and see some remarkable parts of the Balkans on the way, such as Belgrade and Montenegro.  Why not go out by ferry and back overland, or vice versa?  Here's how to travel overland:

London ► Tiranė

Tiranė ► London

Feedback from travellers using this route would be very welcome.

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large bullet pointTravelling by train in Albania

  View from the train to Pogradec

The view from the train from Durrės & Tiranė to Pogradec.  Photo courtesy of Gabriel Chew

Travelling by train in Albania is an experience not to be missed.  Second hand coaches from Italy, Austria or Germany hauled by Czech-built diesels clickety-clack across the countryside at about 35 mph (or less!).  Don't be surprised by torn seats or broken windows, but then, what do you expect for 50p?  You may be able to check these train times at www.hsh.com.al, but please also double-check locally.  All trains are one class only.

Latest situation:  Below is the latest timetable operating from 12 September 2021.  Feedback appreciated!

 Durrės ► Tiranė  

 Durrės  

depart  

16:00

 Kashar

arrive

16:45

 Tiranė

arrive

-

 

 Tiranė ► Durrės  

 Tiranė  

depart  

-

 Kashar  

depart  

06:55

 Durrės  

arrive

07:40

Kashar station is 7.6 km from central Tiranė, local city buses available Map showing Kashar station.

In 2015 a new service started between Durres & Kashar, 7.6 km from Tiranė.  The old station in Tiranė was closed in September 2013 and since then there have been no trains at all between Durrės & Tiranė.  But from 26 May 2015 a service resumed between Durres and a station on the outskirts of Tiranė called Kashar, details shown here.  In the longer term a new Tiranė station is allegedly being built, allegedly near the Hygeia Hospital, see this map.  If you have any more details, please email me. There were previously 7 or more daily trains in each direction between Durres and Tiranė, the service shown here follows the fuel shortages and reduction in service.  On a good day you can find the latest timetable at http://hsh.com.al.

 Tiranė & Durrės ► Shkodėr  

 

 Shkodėr  ► Durrės & Tiranė   

 Tiranė

depart  

-

-

 Shkodėr  

depart

-

-

 Durrės

depart

-

-

 Milot

depart

-

-

 Vorė

arrive

-

-

 Vorė

arrive

-

-

 Vorė

depart

-

-

 Vorė

depart 

-

-

 Milot

arrive

-

-

 Durrės

arrive

-

-

 Shkodėr 

arrive

-

-

 Tiranė

arrive

-

-

 Tiranė & Durrės ► Vlorė & Elbasan

 Elbasan & Vlorė ► Durrės & Tiranė

 Durrės

depart

13:55

 Vlorė

depart

-

 Rrogozhinė  

arrive

??:??

 Fier

depart

-

 Rrogozhinė  

depart

??:??

 Lushnjė 

depart

-

 Elbasan

arrive

16:38

 Pogradec*

depart 

-

 Librazhd

arrive

-

 Librazhd

depart 

-

 Pogradec*

arrive

-

 Elbasan

depart

06:30

 Lushnjė 

arrive

-

 Rrogozhinė  

arrive

??:??

 Fier

arrive

-

 Rrogozhinė  

depart

??:??

 Vlorė

arrive

-

 Durrės

arrive

09:12

* = There have been no trains to or from Pogradec since 2012.

??:?? = check exact time locally.

Fares & how to buy tickets...

Fares are incredibly cheap.  Durrės to Kashar one-way costs 70 Lek, or about 50p, with the city bus between Kashar and central Tiranė costing an extra 30 Lek.  Durrės to Shkodėr is 160 Lek, about £1.  Tickets are not sold in advance, only for the next train.

What are Albanian trains like?

Albanian train

Trains offer one class only.  Most are composed of second-hand German suburban carriages like these.  Photos courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

Seats on an Albanian train   Albanian Railways poster

The cars are grubby but perfectly comfortable.  Above right, an Albanian Railways poster at Shkodėr, showing a British Rail InterCity 125...

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large bullet pointInternational links from Albania...

There are no international trains to or from Albania, but here's how to travel to or from neighbouring countries by bus, taxi or ferry...

Travelling from Tiranė to Bar (Montenegro), Podgorica (Montenegro) & Belgrade (Serbia)

Ferries from Albania to Bari or Ancona (Italy)

Buses from Tiranė to Athens & Thessaloniki (Greece)

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large bullet pointThings to see in Albania...

Statue of Skėnderbeg, Tiranė, Albania     National History Museum, Tiranė, Albania

Statue of Skėnderbeg (above left), Albania's national hero, in Skėnderbeg Square in the centre of Tiranė.  George Kastrioti (1405-1468) was an Albanian who at a very young age was handed over to the Turks as a hostage.  The Turks converted him to Islam and gave him a military education in Edirne in Turkey, where he became known as 'Alexander' ('Iskėnder') after Alexander the Great.  He was made a lord ('bey') by the Turks before he turned against them, driving them out of Albania.  'Iskėnder' + 'bey' = 'Skėnderbeg'.  Above right, the communist mural on the front of the National History Museum on Skėnderbeg Square.

The former residence of Enver Hoxha in Tirana   The former Enver Hoxha Museum, Tirana

Above left, the former residence of Enver Hoxha (pronounced 'Hodja') in Tiranė.  Enver Hoxha was Albania's president and dictator from 1946 until his death in 1985.  Above right, the former Enver Hoxha museum, now home to several cafes.  Albania aligned itself with the USSR from 1944 until 1960, when the two countries fell out over Khruschev's demands for a Soviet submarine base at Vlorė.  In 1961, Albania broke off diplomatic relations with the USSR and re-aligned itself with the Peoples Republic of China.

Mosque of Ethem Bey, Tiranė, Albania    Concrete bunkers, seen from the train...

The mosque of Ethem Bey, dating from 1793, on Skėnderbeg Square in Tiranė.  The clock tower next to it dates from 1830.

Bunkers... There are some 750,000 of these small concrete bunkers all over the Albanian countryside.  They were built on the orders of Enver Hoxha after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Roman amphitheatre, Durrės, Albania   Historic town and castle of Kruja

The Roman amphitheatre in Durrės, dating from the 2nd century AD and first excavated in around 1960.

The historic town of Kruja, 38km from Tiranė, about an hour away by minibus-taxi.  Skėnderbeg made Kruja his capital from 1443 to 1468.

A train from Tirana to Durres calls at Vore...     Statue in Durres, Albania

The 14:15 train from Tiranė to Durrės calls at Vora.

"They went that-a-way..." A statue in Durrės.

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large bullet pointEuropean Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or for £9.67 at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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large bullet pointHotels in Albania

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.


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