The Albanian rail website would probably be sued for false advertising in any other country. Its main page depicts a super fast French TGV speeding through the countryside in a blur. I think they may have lifted the picture wholesale from the SNCF site, because there's nothing remotely resembling a TGV on the grassy tracks of Albania's limited railway system.
The train station is Durres is the hub of the Albanian rail network. Rusty Green diesels from the Czech Republic chug into the small station pulling ancient Italian and Austrian carriages with broken windows and torn seats. They clack along the dilapidated rails at such slow speeds it takes over an hour to cover the 18 miles between Durres and Tirana.
But I loved them. They are an experience and they are cheap. The return ticket from Tirana cost me less than a euro. It costs me more than that to travel on the U-Bahn in Frankfurt for two minutes.
Buses and minibuses.
The bus station is right by the railway station. There are buses to a lot of places, as well minibuses as fullsize buses. You pay to the conductor on the bus, and the price is very low. A trip to Shkoder costs 400 Leke (less than 3 Euro) as of May 2014. It takes 2,5 - 3 hours on quite good roads. Better roads than in Sweden anyway despite our high taxes...
Cheap train travels.
Durres is the train hub in Albania instead of Tirana, which one would have expected. The trains are slow but very cheap. The rolling stock doesn't seem to be that new, and the tracks look quite uneven, but apart from that it might be nice to try a ride.
The first picture shows the timtable which stands outside the station. "Nisje" means departure, "mbritje" is arrival.
When I asked the girl in the reception at Hotel Nais if it would be better to take the bus ot train to Shkoder (since I had read there would be a train departing at 13.00) she wasn't sure about that train "because they change the times so often". But there should be a train at "eight o'clock" (morning or evening she didn't say and now the time was about 10 - 10.30), that she was "very sure about" to use her own words. Well, as you can see there is no train in any direction to/from any destination at "eight o'clock"....
Transport in Durres is concentrated in one place. You've got a cavernous train station next to a collection of buses, furgons and taxis, and just up the road is the port where you can sail over to Bari.
Buses leave from outside Tirana train station very frequently for Durres, dropping you off by the train station there too. You pay on board, it costs a hundred and something lek, and takes just under an hour.
Alternatively you could take a train. Albanian trains are very very very slow, and my journey up to Shkoder was is enough to put you off trains for life...however, Durres is close enough to Tirana to make taking the train an attractive option. There aren't many trains a day though, four or five only. A one-way ticket is a hell of a lot cheaper than taking the bus, although the journey time is considerably longer.
What amused me was the fact that the train was pretty much empty, yet there were dozens of railway staff in smart uniforms barking orders at all the passengers. Look out for the colourful "rustic" intermediate stations...blink and you will miss them! The train itself was fairly rundown, with all the windows smashed in...I realised why when we neared Tirana, as groups of kids in the suburbs like to pelt the train with rocks.
Train from Tirane
The Albanian trains are one of my favourite memories, Tirane to Durres is 50 leke per person (50 US cents), the train has no windows, everyone is cheerful and you get many vendors. It's great fun and very safe!
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