Transport in Albania

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State roads experiencing upgrades since the 2000s in Albania

Transport in Albania had been rather undeveloped during the Communist period (between 1945 and 1990), after which the country has had to make significant investment into transport infrastructure.


A nearly car-free road in the 1990s usually dotted with Mercedes-Benz W123 and Italian imports

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
IFA truck on Albanian rural roads

Up until 1991, the total number of cars in Albania was between 5000 to 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.

Since the beginning of the transition, foreign donors have funded no less than ten urban transport plans and studies for Tirana, prepared mainly by foreign consultants (in some cases invited by the City, in others hired directly by the donor organization). In most cases, the principal recommendation of these studies was to strengthen the public transport sector.[4][5]

Highways, Expressways or Freeways[edit]

Main article: Highways in Albania

State Roads (SH) in Albania
A1 Nation's Highway in Northern Albania.
SH3 along Shkumbin River Valley
SH3 along Krraba Pass made defunct by the new Tirana-Elbasan Highway
SH3 Lin - Pogradec along Ohrid Lake
  • Total: 18,000 km
    • Paved: 12,920 km
    • Unpaved: 5,080 km (2002 est.) [6]

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 Durres. Since the 2000s, main roadways have drastically improved, though lacking standards in design and road safety.[7][8]

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 [1].

Road system[edit]

All roads are property of Albanian Road Authority (Autoriteti Rrugor Shqiptar, former Drejtoria e Përgjithshme e Rrugëve) [2] 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]

  • State roads:
    • SH1-AL.svg SH1 Road (Tiranë–ShkodërHani i Hotit MNE)
    • SH2-AL.svg SH2 Road (Tiranë–Durrës)
    • SH3-AL.svg Tiranë–Elbasan–Pogradec–Korçë–Kapshticë GR
    • SH4-AL.svg Durrës–Fier–Gjirokastër–Kakavijë GR
    • SH5-AL.svg Shkodër–Pukë–Kukës–Morinë RKS
    • SH6-AL.svg Milot–Bulqizë–Peshkopi
    • SH7-AL.svg Rrogozhinë–Elbasan
    • SH8-AL.svg Fier–Vlorë–Sarandë
    • SH9-AL.svg Qafë Thanë/Kjafasan MK - SH3
    • SH52-AL.svg Vorë–Fushë Krujë
    • SH75-AL.svg Korçë-Ersekë-Përmet-Këlcyrë-Tepelenë

Public Transport and Driving in Albania[edit]

Inter-city buses in Albania
Horse-drawn cart on the road between Tirana and Shkoder
Furgon stop in Albania

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.


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:


Lake Koman Ferry

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. 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.

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 [3] (seasonal)


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.

Ports and Harbors[edit]

Ferry approaching Durres Port
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.


In 1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece, opening the country's first air links with non-communist Europe. As a result, Olympic Airways was the first non-communist airline to fly into Albania. By 1991 Tirana had air links with many major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Zürich, Vienna, and Budapest. Tirana was served by a small airport, Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza, located twenty-eight kilometers from the capital at the village of Rinas. Albania had no regular domestic air service. A Franco-Albanian joint venture launched Albania's first private airline, Ada Air, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days each week between Tirana and Bari, Italy, and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.

As of 2007 Albania has only one international airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. It has seen a dramatic rise in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990s. In December 2007 it served over 1 million passengers and had 43 landings and takeoffs per day.


Albania's only international hub, Tirana International Airport
  • Total: 8 (2008)

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.[9]

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.

Total paved runways[edit]



  • RWY 16 APPR 151°/RWY 34 APPR 331° Length 2800 m x 60 m
  • RWY 17 APPR 167°/RWY 35 APPR 347° Length 2200 m x 25 m


  • RWY 14 APPR 134°/RWY 32 APPR 314° Length 2840 m x 65 m


  • RWY 19 APPR 192°/RWY 01 APPR 012° Length 1800 m x 45 m


  • RWY 18 APPR 176°/RWY 36 APPR 356° Length 2750 m x 45 m

Total unpaved runways[edit]

    • total: 5 (2008)
    • over 3,047 m: 1
    • 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
    • 914 to 1,523 m: 1
    • under 914 m: 1


  • Total: 1 (2007)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]



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