I wasn’t sure what “on a budget” in Albania would mean exactly. Would my daily lunches consist of a raw cucumber from the market? Would I be forced to skip the bus fee in order to save a few bucks? Would I be sleeping in dirty dungeons, sharing bathrooms with 10 other people?
None of that was the case, especially not the latter. I stayed in a few memorable and great value spots in Albania that I’ve been recommending to fellow travellers. So why not share them on this platform too?!
Cabin in the woods: Rilindja, Valbona
One of the important contributors of my mind blowing stay in the Albanian Alps was definitely the Rilinja guesthouse. I was sold the minute I laid eyes on the quaint chalet in the woods.
What’s so awesome about it: your own balconied room in a chalet amidst the glorious forest trees, offering views over the mountains and a fast streaming river. Or the crackling fire warming up the reception/restaurant welcoming you after a strenuous hike. The restaurant, located right beneath your room boasting a menu full of delicious Northern Albanian specialities -I happened to have tried almost everything on the menu and I can say with confidence, all the dishes are very tasty.
– the most beautiful hiking trails start near the guesthouse- maps can be provided
– they serve an excellent home brewed red, which comes in very copious amounts
– the restaurant/reception is a fantastic place to meet and socialise with other travellers.
Extra info: keep in mind that the rooms are small and their walls are paper thin. But in such a beautiful environment, you’ll be out and about all day, using your room only to crash exhaustedly at night.
Rates start at €30 for a double including a huge breakfast. Share the room with a travel mate and you’ve got yourself a great budget deal! Prices are lower during the winter. Camping spots are available for €2. Do make a reservation through their website, especially during the weekend as the place can get packed with local tourists.
A home amongst the orchards: Florian’s guesthouse, Shkodër
On your way to Valbona, you’ll probably have to make an overnight stop in Shkodër, that is if you’re taking the scenic route there. It’s a small town that has a few charms and can be wandered around in a day, two at the most. But it was Florian’s guesthouse that made Shkodër memorable to me.
What’s so awesome about it: the guesthouse is out of town so you will get a bicycle (for free) to ride to the centre. That 5-6 minute ride on the Albanian streets in itself, is an adventure you will not forget. You’ll be eating organic, with produce coming right out of the back yard, straight onto your plate. You can even pick some of the veggies yourself, if you like. It’s the place to be for an authentic Albanian family experience: having “family” dinners with the hosts and other guests while surrounded by orchards and countryside peace. You’ll drink home made wine and rakia while sharing travel tales and have the opportunity to learn about Albania’s past and present through the fascinating stories of your host.
– fun loving, warm and welcoming host Florian
– free use of bicycles
– full board option for €4 extra. Home made wine included!
Extra info: the dorm is nothing to write home about, but it’s the cosy atmosphere and that pureness of rural Albania that will make your stay unforgettable.
Rates start at €11 per person including breakfast. Add €4 and you get lunch, dinner and wine. How’s that for good value?!
Historical house of relaxation: Berat Backpackers, Berat
I loved Berat’s charm so much, it brought tears to my eyes. Spending hours breaking a sweat going up and down the cobbled streets, I was happy to end the day in relaxed atmosphere with a cool beer and friendly conversation at the Berat Backpackers hostel.
What’s so awesome about it: a gorgeously renewed Berat style historical house. You won’t just be visiting Berat, but really living in it. A relaxed atmosphere lending itself perfectly for socialising with guests and staff in the hip communal living room or sitting quietly in the courtyard reading a book while plump pomegranates fall from the trees as they ripen.
– right in the middle of one of the historical centres
– option to have a communal dinner in the hostel
– come at the right time and you might be able to help turn the grape/fruit harvest into wine/jams… the traditional way.
Extra info: I stayed at the hostel during low season so it was very quiet. During the summertime however, it’s very animated. Note that Berat Backpackers is closed during the winter (December 1st 2014- March 15th 2015). Rates start at €6 for camping, €10 for a dorm bed in low season (€12 in high season) and € 12 per person for a private double.
All three of these guesthouses added that extra magic to my Albania travel. If you happen to travel that way, I strongly recommend you checking them out.
Which one would have your fancy? What kind of accommodation do you prefer? Hotels or guesthouses/hostels?