Tirana Bus Tips
Taking public transportation in a new city can be very intimidating. Especially when you don’t speak the language. Another level of difficulty is added when there aren’t any official bus schedules. But have no fear, Tirana Ime is here. The app that saved my life in Tirana.
Step 1: Download the app Tirana Ime. (Android playstore & iOS App Store )
Step 2: Realize that the app isn’t in English but has enough cognates to figure it out.
Step 3: Find your destination and the closest bus stop.
Step 4: Be prepared to speak to a local to confirm that you have the right bus.
Step 5: Hop on the bus and pay after you get on
Step 6: Keep your eye on the map to know when to get off
Tirana is a wonderful city to experience but there are no bus schedules for public transportation. It’s slowly developing but there are still bus stops designated only by a group of people standing on the side of a road. Tirana Ime allows you to find all of the bus routes and the exact path that they follow. The buses are not punctual, but a bus will pass by every 10-15 minutes on average. If you’re waiting more than 20 minutes for a bus then something might be wrong.
Keep in mind that when you take the bus you must also pay in cash. There is no form of electronic payment available. A man with a badge and usually a hand full of money will walk through the bus and collect your lek and hand you a ticket. So you guessed it, even if the bus is packed and it has passed its capacity, this man will still squeeze through all the people to collect everyone’s money.
Try to pay with coins if you are not familiar with the money and keep in mind that pennies are not accepted! The one cent coins basically have no value and he won’t take them from you if you try to hand them to him. Once you get your ticket, keep it in reach because a conductor might come around to inspect and see if you have paid. As of January 2020 the price of a ticket in Tirana is 40 lek.
There are two malls in Tirana called TEG and QTU. When taking the Vore bus to QTU be careful and mention your destination to the person collecting your money because the bus has two destinations with two different prices. Tell him you’re going to QTU so that you pay 40 lek instead of 50 lek to head all the way to Vore. I find it rather hard to pronounce QTU and the “ticket man” doesn’t understand English nor my Albanian, so instead I say “Vodaofone” which is on the way to QTU and allows me to pay the same price.
Albanians show a lot of respect to older people. I was so impressed at how younger people would give up their seat for someone older or pregnant. Even older people would give up their seats for people older than them. So if you’re young and healthy be prepared to stand up for an entire bus ride.
Be smart. Stop putting your wallet in your back pocket where it can be easily taken and don’t put your phone in your bag on the outside pocket. If you have something valuable, keep it near you. Most Albanians don’t steal from each other, but keep in mind that if you’re a foreigner, you’re a target. Although the country is rather safe, it’s better to be cautious than naive.
Taking the bus in Tirana is almost never an enjoyable experience when they are packed. In the summer time the buses are super hot from the weather and the body heat that circulates inside the bus. You might also catch a busdriver on the phone while driving and smoking a cigarette, but don’t worry, his window will be open. Sometimes the buses will stop if there are protests and you will be forced to walk to the rest of your destination. All I’m saying is to be prepared and not to get flustered when things don’t go as planned. Leave room for error.
All of the buses come from other countries in Europe like Germany, France and Holland. It’s like these countries have given their left over buses to Albania to use. There are two buses that go to TEG and one of them is a Dutch bus. You can recognize the country of origin by looking at the advertisements on the bus or by reading what is written above the emergency exits.
Since these buses are used, don’t expect them to work properly. All buses have those red buttons with the word “stop” written on them. Typically you push them and it notifies the bus driver not to skip the next stop. It doesn’t work like that in Albania. The bus stops at every single stop and the buttons don’t work at all.
Don’t be alarmed if:
–The bus driver pulls off while the door is still opened.
-People on the bus stare at you.
-The bus seems overcrowded and the door won’t close. It will.
-It looks like the bus driver is going to hit a pedestrian. He knows what he’s doing.
Before embarking on your mission use the app Tirana Ime and compare it to Google Maps so that you know where everything is and where the bus stops are. Keep in mind that things change very quickly in this country and the bus stop might change based on construction work, a protest or other.
Albanians are very kind people with huge hearts and if you ask them for help, you will receive a lot of it. Don’t be surprised if someone takes the bus with you and takes you to your location safely. For an inexperienced traveler it may seem intimidating to take the bus in Tirana, but after a few days it will become normal. The one thing they are known for is being hospitable and friendly to foreigners. I have yet to see another country that has welcomed me with open arms and I have not met another group of people that are so interested in other cultures. So sit down, kick back and enjoy the ride.