At first impression, the owner of the hotel, Andre Gjika, a large seemingly fun loving Greek man, seems like a welcoming honest hotel owner. He spoke perfect english, which was a plus. Later I found out he pretended not to understand at times to try and get over on people. He took us under his wing, gave us sight seeing advice, invited us to sit down for meals with his family upstairs, and overall it came across as a humble family owned hotel business.
Until one night when he offered to take me to a discoteche in the castle. I was traveling with my mother, and she did not want to go to clubs, so I was left with little to do at nights as I didn't want to go out on the town by myself. Andre stepped up and acted like a fatherly figure who wanted to take me around town, watch out for me, and just do a genuinely nice thing.
We left the hotel, and the taxi who picked us up did not even take us to the club. We went straight to a bar, where I found out he was good friends with Andre. I was ready to go back, disappointed by not going to the actual discotech, and instead of taking me straight to the hotel, which was up in the mountain, he dropped us off on the side of the road near the water front. Ahead of us were twisting narrow little paths, like a maze, which for anyone who has visited Sarande knows this is easy to get lost in especially at night.
Andre and I began walking back toward the hotel. I was beginning to feel extremely uneasy. He suddenly reached over and grabbed me. He told me he had another friend that owned a hotel, and we could go there. He kept asking me how much money I would accept to sleep with him. I was appalled by this behavior, and I kept thinking about his wife and children I had met earlier that day. I told him he was a disgrace of a husband, and he told me he did not even have a wife.
I talked my way out of this situation and made it back to the hotel with my mother. I was frightened, because I think this man is capable of rape judging by how aggressive he got with me. He was pushing and pulling me in different directions and then pretended not to understand any english. I am writing this review to inform others, because I would hate this to happen to anyone else. I strongly do not recommend this hotel for young women, especially teenagers under 20, like I was at the time.
Watch out for the clans of children and teenagers along the promenade by the waterfront. They will leap infront of you from behind bushes and surprise you. There is also a man missing an arm and he will especially use this tatic and try to swing his stub infront of your face.
In 2009, left to the road coming from Gjirokaster, almost at the entrance into Saranda, my attention was drawn by this dilapidated unfinished building. There was too much traffic and road works and I could not stop for a photo and while driving, I shot without aiming … and unexpectedly, I got it fine! What happened to this building ? Had there been an earthquake, it would have destroyed other houses. A badly processed concrete is not very likely. I later saw a few other building destroyed in the same way and learned that they were illegally built buildings that had been partly destroyed by the legal authorities. They put down one or two of the basement pillars, enough to allow the whole structure to collapse partly. I suppose that they will remain partly put down in order to remind to others that the law is the law!
Car parking in Saranda at night can be really bad and you can get stuck in traffic just trying to get into Saranda so make sure you leave plenty of time and best to get there in the afternoon to get parking then stay into the evening.
It's not a major problem, but keep an eye on the kids following you around with their hands held out asking for money. I ignored one of them, (a 13-14 year-old?)and he thought it would be OK to grab my breast.
The road conditions are sooo bad that there are no buses running in the evenings / nights. From Sarande the buses leave between 5am and noon only. So don't plan to spend a night on the way to Tirana (15h)... anyway you couldn't sleep in those prehistoric buses, so...
It may be slightly daunting when you first arrive in Albania to be followed everywhere you go. Just keep an eye on your belongings, there will also be guards to accompany you on your trip. even though they may look younger than the kids who follow you!
This is the police boat that greeted us at the entrance to the harbour and circled us until we landed.The police were armed and looked as if they stood no messing. Don't take anything into or out of Albania that you shouldn't as who knows what may happen.
In 1997 the situation was very unstable as with the colapse of the pyramid money schemes the population broke into armed depos and took a considerable number of weapons. However since then, the Government in cooperation with the international community has made great efforts and has collected back many of the weapons. The law is being applied strongly everyday and order has been completely restored. Saranda being one of the most prosperous regions of Albania has a very low crime rate. In fact this summer it celebrated two years without a single major crime, which is quite impressive for any European town. Furthermore this year the government has allocated a much greater number of police force in all tourist areas to make them as safe, inviting and enjoyable as possible.
However if you are the worrying type and want to be more cautios, listen carefully to all the things your local guides, hotel hosts or local tour operators advise you to do during your stay and you will be fine but most importantly will have a great time.
As the situation in Albania is unstable at the moment, it is doubtful wether the Corfu to Sarande day trip is still operational at this time .
it's not a real danger , but every now and then somebody would be taking their livestock across the roads so it is necassary to drive carefully.