Why did I go to Albania? (Tirana in photos)

“Why do you want to go to Albania for?”

An Italian friend sneered after I told him of my backpacking plans across the Balkan Peninsula, where the plan was to start from Albania and finish in Turkey (in 2009). Travelling time: however long it takes.

“You want to see Albanians? Just go to Italy…so many of them. Dangerous people. Thieves, some of them.”

The plan came to fruition when Tim, an English friend, proposed of a slow journey across the isolated fringes of Eastern Europe, when he knew that I was about to finish one of my ship contracts. I didn’t know anything about the country till then but I jumped on the invitation right away. The less I know, the better. Far-flung countries with strange names compel me most. How am I supposed to know how dangerous the place is if I haven’t experienced it myself? Besides, British Airways had a special deal going for less than £100 one-way from London to the capital city of Albania, Tirana. It sounded just like the perfect place to explore and to kick off the trip.

“If you don’t hear from me on Facebook, then call 911,” I told my skeptical Italian friend.

The verdict? Check out the pictures of Tirana here.

Despite the country’s hard and complex history, the locals had demonstrated incredible hospitality and warmth. Still a little on the wild side and the city not yet choked with Chinese tourists and car fumes, the country is safe enough for anyone to travel independently but with enough edge to thrill you.

Accommodation and food are relatively cheap and but if you are a cheap ass backpacker like me, you can buy fresh food from the market and make sandwiches. Alternatively, you can spend the money saved on sipping cocktails at one of the hip bars.

Just be wary of the menu. Goats’ brains have a way of sneaking up to your platter.

And remember, shaking your head sideways means ‘Yes’ and nodding your head up and down means ‘No’.

*Lonely Planet had listed Albania as one of the top 10 countries to visit for 2011. All the more why you should visit!








shaking hands

twin towers















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Ying Tey
Ying Tey Reinhardt (Piccola Ying) is a Malaysian writer and copywriter based in Germany.

In her vagabonding heydays, she's backpacked to many countries, lived in a few, funded her wanderlust by teaching English to sailors on Italian cruise ships and making coffees in hipster cafes.

Her work has appeared in Marie Claire, Roads & Kingdoms, Bootsnall and OffAssignment.

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  • Tyśka 05/01/2014   Reply →

    I love Tiny Wanderer – she has the BIGGEST joy-spreader in SE Asia!!

    • Piccola Ying 05/01/2014   Reply →

      You’re pretty infectious yourself! Keep on putting smiles on everyone’s face, Tyśka!

  • Wei Qi 05/01/2014   Reply →


  • Jimmz 05/01/2014   Reply →

    Tiny Wanderer: Making a whole big world, closer. Really 🙂

  • mandir 14/01/2014   Reply →

    Dear Piccola you have been only in Tirana or in northeast or southwest of albania.If you have possibility to travel again go there in summer and you and everyone will be facineted

    • Piccola Ying 14/01/2014   Reply →

      Hello! I have been to Tirana and Berat. And yes, I’ve found Albania fascinating. I’d return if I could.

  • b012345100 31/01/2014   Reply →

    I am sorry , but do you say this is NEW YORK , and then present photos from its ghetos … ! Come on !

    You try to make albania like a 3rd world country , just so to make your journey a bit dangerous to your readers , full with stereotypes etc.etc. Say to that italian friend of yours that there are more than 10.000 Italians working in Tirana nowdays , btw .

    Please dont come back … thank you !

    • Piccola Ying 01/02/2014   Reply →

      Wow. I’m sorry but I didn’t mean to make Albania like a 3rd world country at all. Infact, if anything, I love Albania. I mean, people who’ve never been to Tirana have harboured stereotypes but I’m not sure how did those photos are of slums? Is the opera a slum? Geez. And it’s true. I’ve been to Berat and it’s amazing. But so is Tirana. But if you’re a local, I’m sure you’re not selling your country too well.

      • b012345100 05/02/2014   Reply →

        Maybe my reaction was a bit insulting . Apologies for that , however your article is biased , and the photos as well . My guess is that you did go there loaded with some cliches , and that formed your article as well .

        However you are at least 5 years late . You dont have to apologize , i mean if you dont like it , you dont . It is not your fault , however my objection is to the photos , because they dont represent Tirana ,or at least they give only the bad and dull side of it … ! But maybe that was your genuine exerience

        P.S i dont need to sell anything , as you said albania has been nominated by multiple credible sources as a worldwide travel destination .

        I will make you understand why , just write Albania top beaches , or albania beach party , or albanian riviera and it will make sense to you , why 4.2 milion tourists visited Albania in 2013 an increase of 500 % in 5 years .

        • Piccola Ying 05/02/2014   Reply →

          Well, first of all, it’s a blog. I didn’t claim to be Lonely Planet. Second of all, I’m not sure why you think I’ve painted a negative picture on Albania because I didn’t. It was a piece meant to be, yes, people told me it was like this and like that, and I went there and was pleasantly surprised to have the stereotypes debunked. Perhaps the pictures didn’t paint an amazing picture but hey, I’m no National Geographic photographer. I’m a backpacker who stays in crummy hostels. This was my experience and it wasn’t even negative so I’m not sure why you are being so defensive. Besides, if you claim they look like ghettos, then well, it’s still part of Albania. It’s reality. My blog isn’t Conde Nast Traveller. I’m sure tourists will gladly buy expensive glossy travel mags and head to the riviera and have a wonderful holiday. I like a bit of adventure here. I like what’s real. The beautiful parts of Albania are real, and so are the back alley ways. If someone comes to my country and take only the pretty pictures of it, then I’d think this person surely hasn’t really seen much of the country. They’re only restricted to touristy areas which isn’t even real. Nobody lives in the Petronas Towers for instance. And oh, who cares what I write? These are my adventures, not yours.

      • b012345100 05/02/2014   Reply →

        Ok i did see the photos again, and i did read the article again , and it seems that you were in Tirana in 2009 , and not now . Sorry , but i thought you were speaking for the year 2013 . 4 years is a long time for a country that is changing rapidly , and especially its capital ( not that now it is Paris or Rome , far from that ) . As such the photos with the now situation of Tirana did not make any sense to me .

        So please do delete my comments . Regards , and i wish you all the best

        • Piccola Ying 05/02/2014   Reply →

          Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s squeaky clean, full of towering skyscrapers and have even more glistening monuments now. That would be make an interesting story if I revisit. No worries. I didn’t mind your comments. I just didn’t get why you were so frustrated. Most of all, I still think Albania is awesome and I’m glad I visited it, even back in 2009. Hope you’ll have a nice day yourself!

  • b012345100 31/01/2014   Reply →

    *Lonely Planet had listed Albania as one of the top 10 countries to visit for 2011. Go figure.*

    Not only that sad pathetic person , but it was nominated as number 2 for 2012 also by 4 different agencies and BBC , and number 4 for 2014 by New york times .

    You know why … because of the Albanian riviera with some of the best beaches in europe and beyong , and the more than 50 different archeological sides , the national park of thethi , the Komani lake etc.

    But i see you go in Tirana , and take photos from its slums , why should i expect that that tiny brain of yours can see something beyond that .

    As i said , please NEVER COME BACK TO TIRANA . You and that other italian pipino of yours .

  • matteo rezza 23/02/2014   Reply →

    Hi! I Did a road trip in albany two years ago. I arrived in Vlore then we go to saranda in the south of cocountry near greece.. there are an ancient compless call butrint i hope you can see it.. the best part is the car trip because you cross the mountains and find a lot of little hidden place ( we go on a restaurant put on a waterfall) and in their language albany means something like the eagle’s country

    • Piccola Ying 23/02/2014   Reply →

      Yeah! I think roadtrips will be amazing across the Balkans. Unfortunately, I had only busses to rely on. 🙁

  • Hasrul 09/11/2016   Reply →

    Albania lookalike weird country but your photos amazing and has describe everything about Albania.

  • Brahim 12/04/2019   Reply →

    I’ve been to Albania a dozen times, and I wish I could capture beautiful photos of the people like you did. Bravo!

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