Tirana is city which is definitely off the beaten path for most travelers. However, if you desire to visit, it is reachable via buses departing from Macedonia and Kosovo. Tirana is a very affordable city, and I was able to rent a magnificent 2 bedroom apartment for the week that my friend and I spent there. I knew Tirana was not going to be like most other cities, when a waiter in a restaurant asked if I wanted some cocaine to go along with my cappuccino, and then was surprised when I told him that I only wanted coffee. Clearly the business of this particular establishment was not limited to the culinary arts. However, that cappuccino may very well been the best I have ever tasted.
While I would recommend visiting, Tirana is not place where I would choose to setup shop for an extended length of time. Although Americans can enter the country visa free and stay for an entire year at a time.
For a city of its size, Tirana amazingly has no central bus station. Thus you should leave yourself plenty of time prior to departure for finding where in the city center that your bus is parked. I had a 4 AM departure time, and was followed by a pack of around 10 wild dogs as I walked the empty dark streets alone towards where I expected the bus would arrive. Lucking, I found the bus and the dogs went their separate way. However, the thought of having to fight off 10 dogs alone had made my heart beat faster.
While there are many decent nightlife establishments located within the city, its the nightlife culture which contributes to the city’s low ranking. The venues are setup with people mostly keeping to their separate tables, as is common in many other Balkan countries. However on top of this, the local men are very aggressive when they see other men talking to women, regardless if they even know the women or not. Simply approaching a group of girls, who invited you to join their table nonetheless, can result in you being reprimanded by either the venue’s staff or random male onlookers. This happened to me and my friend on three different occasions after simply saying hello to another table.
While the local women were always friendly and receptive, the men could be incredibly overprotective. I went on a date with a girl who told me a story about how her first and only ex boyfriend stabbed another man out of jealously because he was simply talking to her. I proceeded to spend the rest of the date looking back over my shoulder. I could tell that in general the women were always very afraid of being judged. I prefer not having to navigate such an intense cultural dynamic during nights out when I simply want to meet new people.
However, outside of man to women romantic relationships, I found the locals to be very friendly and helpful.
A la Sante
One of the best restaurants in the city, serves Italian, Mediterranean, Albanian and other unique food. The prices are very good for the quality of the dishes. Their diverse menu can match the tastes of all the members of your party.
A restaurant that servers great hamburgers and steaks. Has New York City type of cosmopolitan menu. Great homemade bread and great prices.
A restaurant with good pasta and other affordable dishes.
A uniquely decorated bar which has a relaxed atmosphere. The bar has cheap prices, and is located in an area where it is surrounded by many other nightlife options.
A place with a large outdoor patio area, which is ideal when there is good weather.by