Transport in Albania

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Highway network in Albania

Transport in Albania has undergone significant changes in the past two decades, vastly modernizing the country's infrastructure. Improvements to the road infrastructure, urban transport, and air travel have all led to a vast improvement in transportation. These upgrades have played a key role in supporting Albania's economy, which in the past decade has come to rely heavily on the construction industry.


Via Egnatia linking Dyrrachium with Byzantium

Since antiquity, the area of modern Albania served as a crossroad of important caravan routes such as the Roman Via Egnatia linking the Adriatic with Byzantium (later Constantinople). The total length of Albania's roads more than doubled in the first three decades after World War II, and by the 1980s almost all of the country's remote mountain areas were connected, either by dirt or paved roads, with the capital city of Tirana, and ports on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea.

After 1947, a significant infrastructure undertaking was the construction of the country's rail network as Albania was considered as the only state in Europe not to have standard rail service.[1] By 1987, 677 km of railway were constructed in total linking the main urban and industrial centers for the first time since the end of World War II. Train transport was the main public transportation method until 1990. After the collapse of Communism, the network fell into disregard, operating with second-hand carriages in a constant precarious state.


Central government funding of local road maintenance effectively ended in 1991, and the breakdown of repair vehicles because of a lack of spare parts threatened to close access to some remote areas. A group of Greek construction companies signed a protocol with the Albanian government in July 1990 to build a 200 kilometer road across the southern part of the country, extending from the Albanian-Greek border to Durrës. The project was scheduled to last four years and cost US$500 million.[citation needed] Despite the poor quality of Albania's roads, most of the country's freight was conveyed over them in a fleet of about 15,000 trucks. According to official figures, in 1987 Albania's roadways carried about 66 percent of the country's total freight tonnage.

Mercedes Benz vehicles on the main boulevard in Tirana, Albania

Up until 1991, the total number of cars in Albania was between 5000 and 7000. In 1991, the Albanian government lifted the decades-old ban on private-vehicle ownership. As a result, car imports numbered about 1,500 per month. Traffic in the capital remained light, but traffic lights and other control devices were urgently needed to deal with the multiplying number of privately owned cars. Albanian entrepreneurs also imported used Greek buses and started carrying passengers on intercity routes that did not exist or had been poorly serviced during the communist era.

The population is known for owning a large fleet of German cars. In particular, Mercedes Benz vehicles are widely preferred not only for their status symbol, but also for their durability on rural roads where half of the population resides, and the cheap price for buying used ones. Mercedes Benz cars were owned by Enver Hoxha and reportedly favored by his officials, giving the brand a foothold even before private ownership of cars was legalized. Air pollution has become a pressing concern as the number of cars has increased to over 300,000 in the capital Tirana.[2] These are mostly 1990s and early 2000s diesel cars,[3] while it is widely believed that the fuel used in Albania contains larger amounts of sulfur and lead than in the European Union. Albania is probably one of the few countries in Europe where vehicles imported from the United States, and from left hand traffic jurisdictions (for example the United Kingdom) can be found on the streets without any modifications brought from expats living abroad.


Albania's only international airport, Tirana International Airport

Tirana International Airport is the only international airport in Albania. In 2005, TIA was given to an American-German consortium for a 20-year concession period. Despite the considerable modernization of the airport, prices are among the highest in Europe as per the monopoly over Albanian airspace, and limited carrier choices. As a result, low cost carriers are discouraged from entering the Albanian market, while neighboring countries offer much lower prices from their primary and secondary airports.[4]

A number of regional airports have been renovated but are not operational. In 2014, it was announced that a new airport would be built in Southern Albania in the future. Kukës Airport was opened in 2008, making this the second civilian airport in Albania. A local news paper announced on March 16, 2007 that the Italian government would help rebuild the airport in Gjirokastër. The airport would be dual functional, both a civilian and military airport. Currently there are two feasibility studies being conducted for airports in Vlora and Korça. The plan for Saranda Airport was completed however there is no known investor willing to put in money at the time.

Road Transport[edit]

Main article: Highways in Albania
The A1 Motorway in Northern Albania near Kalimash to Kosovo
Scene on A1 Rreshen to Kalimash
Construction works on A3
SH3 Lin to Pogradec along the Ohrid Lake
  • Total: 18,000 km
    • Paved: 12,920 km
    • Unpaved: 5,080 km (2002 est.) [5]

country comparison to the world: 118

In recent years, a major road construction spree took place on the main state roads of Albania, involving the construction of new roadways, putting of contemporary signs, planting of trees, and related greening projects. Works on most highways are completed, though they remained unfinished between 2011 and 2013 as per lack of funds.

After the fall of communism in 1991, Albania began to revamp its primitive road infrastructure by building the first highway in Albania, SH2 connecting Tirane with Durrës. Since the 2000s, main roadways have drastically improved, though lacking standards in design and road safety.[6][7]

At present, major cities are linked with either new single/dual carriageways or well maintained roads. There is a dual carriageway connecting the port city of Durrës with Tirana, Vlorë, and partially Kukës. There are three official motorway segments in Albania: Thumanë-Milot-Rrëshen-Kalimash (A1), Levan-Vlorë (A2), and partly Tirane-Elbasan (A3). Most rural segments continue to remain in bad conditions as their reconstruction has only begun in the late 2000s by the Albanian Development Fund.[8]

Road system[edit]

All roads are property of Albanian Road Authority (Autoriteti Rrugor Shqiptar, former Drejtoria e Përgjithshme e Rrugëve) and maintained by Ndërmarrja Shtetërore Rruga-Ura. The government plans to create some toll highways in the near future. Albanian bitumen from Selenicë in Southern Albania is well known for its quality as it has been used on some European motorways.

Major roads[edit]

Rail Transport[edit]

HSH train along the Durrës-Tiranë line

Total: 447 km

country comparison to the world: 120

Standard gauge: 447 km 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge (2006)

Railway links with neighbouring countries:

Water Transport[edit]

Albania's main seaports are Durrës, Vlorë, Sarandë, and Shëngjin. By 1983 there was regular ferry, freight, and passenger services from Durrës to Trieste, Italy.

The very advantageous geographical location of Durrës makes the port to the biggest port of Albania and among the largest in the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

In 1988 ferry service was established between Sarandë and the Greek island of Corfu. A regular lake ferry linked the Macedonian town of Ohrid with Pogradec. The estimated total displacement of Albania's merchant fleet was 56,000 tons in 1986. The limited capacity of the wharves at Durrës caused severe bottlenecks in the distribution of foreign food aid in 1991. As of 2011, the Port of Durrës is undergoing major renovations.

The Star Breeze Cruise ship in the Port of Sarandë

Ferry services within Albania:

  • Lake Komani Ferry operates between Koman and Fierza in Northern Albania
  • Butrint Cable Ferry crosses the Vivari Channel at Butrint in Southern Albania
  • Karaburun Ferry operates since 2014 between Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island along the Albanian Riviera in southern Albania (seasonal)[9]
Albanian ports and marinas
County Coordinates
Port of Durrës (under expansion as of 2012) Durrës County 41°18′35″N 19°27′26″E / 41.30972°N 19.45722°E / 41.30972; 19.45722
Port of Sarandë (under expansion as of 2012) Vlorë County 39°52′15″N 20°0′11″E / 39.87083°N 20.00306°E / 39.87083; 20.00306
Port of Shëngjin (under expansion as of 2012) Lezhë County 41°48′20″N 19°35′35″E / 41.80556°N 19.59306°E / 41.80556; 19.59306
Port of Vlorë (under expansion as of 2013) Vlorë County 40°27′1″N 19°29′0″E / 40.45028°N 19.48333°E / 40.45028; 19.48333
Orikum Marina Vlorë County 40°20′25″N 19°28′20″E / 40.34028°N 19.47222°E / 40.34028; 19.47222
Himara Harbour (domestic only) Vlorë County 40°5′52″N 19°45′10″E / 40.09778°N 19.75278°E / 40.09778; 19.75278

Merchant Marine[edit]

  • Total: 24

country comparison to the world: 91

Statistics for the shipping industry of Albania
Total: 7 ships (1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over)
Totalling: 13,423 GRT/20,837 metric tons deadweight (DWT)
Cargo ships
Cargo ship 7
Passenger ships
Source: This article contains material from the CIA World Factbook which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.

Public Transportation[edit]

Public transport in Albania is mainly characterized by the use of furgons, the equivalent of minibuses, vans or shuttles identifiable by yellow plates. They are convenient but do not follow fixed schedules, depart when are full, and are not usually equipped with A/C. Prices might be negotiated with the driver before departing. Bus transport is also available. Tirana, the capital city does not have yet a central bus station. Minibuses and buses drop off and pick up passengers from various fixed places around the city and on route.

Despite the perceived negative connotation to driving in Albania, most vehicles manage not to get into accidents by simply exercising common sense, and following their own way through the chaotic traffic. The law of the strongest fully applies on the Albanian roads. In cities, traffic is slow thus more secure than in rural areas. Expect reckless driving such as hair-raising overtaking even on turns, driving on the wrong side of the road, stopping on highways by the road side, uncontrolled crossing of cars, horse-drawn carts and pedestrians, and complete ignoring of stop signs and right of way at intersections. Albanian drivers are prone to using visual and acoustic aids regularly such as honking, headlight flashing, or high beams at night. Daytime running lamps must be activated outside urban areas. It is strongly recommended to have an up-to-date GPS, as many new roads have been recently added to the Albanian road network. In case the GPS does not work, its good to have an alternative paper or internet-based map. Street names on the ground do not always coincide with maps, as the current address system has only recently been introduced. In the mountains, some roads can be narrow and windy with hairpins/serpentines and some missing guardrails. Drivers are encouraged to check engine liquid levels to avoid overheating in the summer months. Some roads still have few road signs or misleading ones. Its strongly advised to always keep a spare tire.

As vehicles more than doubled in recent years, traffic fatalities have increased especially in a country where private car ownership was banned until the early 1990s. Some experts also attribute the increase to the above road structural problems, lack of buckling up, the use of alcohol, excessive speed, and unaccustomed drivers such as expats returning home. In an effort to curb such a phenomenon, mobile police patrols have been deployed, road signage improved, and speed radars installed on major roadways and city intersections.

Road vehicles[edit]

Registered road vehicles as of 2013:

Vehicle Number
Cars 341,691
Buses 5,676
Motor Homes 37
Trucks 65,260
Tractors 543
Motorcycles 26,664
Trailers 60,081
Total 445,952


Crude oil 207 km (129 mi); natural gas 229 km (142 mi) (2008)

The construction of 1.2 billion dollar AMBO pipeline was planned to begin in 2007. This would connect the port of Burgas in Bulgaria with the port of Vlora in Albania. It is expected to ship 750,000 barrels (119,000 m3) to 1,000,000 barrels (160,000 m3) of crude oil each day. However, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline seems more likely to get started.

The map of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline is a pipeline project to transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea, starting from Greece via Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy and further to Western Europe.

TAP’s route through Albania is approximately 215 kilometres onshore and 37 km offshore in the Albanian section of the Adriatic sea. It starts at Bilisht Qendër in the Korça region at the Albanian border with Greece, and arrives at the Adriatic coast 17 km north-west of Fier, 400 metres inland from the shoreline. A compressor station will be built near Fier, and an additional compressor is planned near Bilisht should capacity be expanded to 20 billion cubic metres (bcm). Eight block valve stations and one landfall station will be built along its route.[10]

In the mountainous areas, approximately 51 km of new access roads will be constructed while 41 km of existing roads will be upgraded, 42 bridges refurbished and three new bridges built. In the summer of 2015, TAP started the construction and rehabilitation of access roads and bridges along the pipeline’s route in Albania. The work is expected to be completed during 2016.[11]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]



 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2006 edition".