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4 Reasons This Cheap European Destination Is A Great Alternative To Italy

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Italy is a bucket list destination for many travelers, and it has so much to offer that it’s easy to see why.

Visitors flock to Italy for its history and heritage sites, delicious food, and diverse nature that includes both beach and mountain regions.

Italy depends on this tourism.  But the hoards of travelers cramming into its cities and onto its beaches have made it an uncomfortable and expensive destination to visit this year.

American travelers still love Italy, with 6.1 million Americans visiting Italy in 2019. The country is expecting to beat that record this year.

But Albania is a great alternative destination instead right now. Here’s why:

Beach in Albania in Vlore

A Growing Tourism Industry

Albania is currently enjoying its most successful year for tourism ever. During the first half of the year 3.4 million foreign travelers visited the country. More than 1 million of those travelers arrived in June alone.

Albania tourism is growing, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find the same crowds as in Italy. The beaches are open with plenty of space for visitors.

The tourist attractions are quiet enough that visitors can explore them at their own pace.

Empty Ksamil Beach - Butrint National Park, Sarande, Southern Albania, Europe

Albania has the same Mediterranean climate as Italy, which means hot dry summers and cooler wet winters. This means that, like Italy, it is a good year-round destination for travelers looking for beaches in the summer and culture in the cooler winter months.

Even the Italian Prime Minister has chosen to spend her summer vacation in Albania this week relaxing on the quiet beaches with her family in a way that would definitely not be easy in her home country.

Sea And Do

Beach lovers won’t be disappointed in Albania. Its coastline stretches 296 miles, and its position is on the Adriatic and Ionian seas inside the Mediterranean Sea.

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Pulebardha Beach between Ksamil and Saranda in Albania

This forms the iconic Albanian Riviera, which is known for its beautiful vistas and crystal clear waters.

For culture vultures, there are 4 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list in Albania and another 4 currently on the list for consideration.

Albanian architecture and history were influenced by both ancient Rome and Greece. This means that you’ll find some of the same styles of temples, statues, and amphitheaters in Albania as you would expect to find in Rome.

Ancient theater in the ruins of Butrint in southern Albania

But Albania also boasts its own unique Eastern influences. The capital of Tirana is packed full of Ottoman influences and is a great place to explore if you’re looking to discover a distinctly Eastern European destination.

Safe And Secure

Albania has a difficult and turbulent history that many people remember, and means some are still reluctant to visit. It was the final Eastern Bloc country with a communist government until 1992.

In its more recent history, Albania is known for organized crime and a drug trafficking industry, driven by the high rates of poverty in the country.

Souvenir stands at bazaar in center of Kruja, Albania

But this difficult past has had very little impact on the growing tourism sector in the country, and crime rates impacting tourists are very low.

The U.S. Government’s travel advisory level for Albania is currently Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. This is due to the minor street crimes you can expect to find in many tourist destinations, such as pickpocketing.

For comparison, this is the same risk level that the U.S. Government has given to Italy.

Friendly Looking Old Albanian Gentlemen Playing A Card Game On The Street, Unspecified Location In Albania, Eastern Europe

Albanians are very welcoming and hospitable to foreign visitors and because the Albanian government is trying to grow their tourism industry significantly you are likely to find that people, including the local police forces, will go out of their way to make sure you have a good experience.

This means that travelers can feel safe and secure when they visit Albania.

Easy And Affordable

For travelers on a budget, a week in Albania is considerably more affordable than a week in Italy. Prices in Italy are at an all-time high driven by crowds, demand, and overtourism.

As a result, budget travelers have flocked to Albania this year.

colorful fishing boats saranda albania

If you visit the culture-rich capital city of Tirana you can expect to pay $42 for a two-course meal for 2 including wine, $2.60 for a beer and $66 for a night in a 3-star hotel.

In the beautiful coastal city of Sarande you will pay $47 for a two-course meal for two including wine, $2.70 for a beer and $67 for a night in a 3-star hotel.

The cheapest place to visit in Albania for those looking to get the best possible deal is the fascinating Medieval city of Berat, where a two-course meal for two will cost £34, a beer will cost just $1 and a night in a 3-star hotel will set you back $39.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Stella

Friday 25th of August 2023

Also, the influx of Albanians fleeing their country and going to Italy is pretty indicative.

Stella

Friday 25th of August 2023

As an Italian I definitely would not reccomend visiting Albania alone. It can be very dangerous and the crime rate is exponential. I would opt for Croatia, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Bavaria, Malta and Corsica are much safer options.

Eduardo

Saturday 23rd of September 2023

@Stella,

Fatfish

Friday 8th of September 2023

@Stella, actually you are wrong. Albania, N.Macedonia and Kosovo are way safer and way less chance of getting pickpockets than most of the places you mentioned except for Sweden. Actually, Budapest seams to have way more pickpocket cases compared to Tirana. Although I always travel September, October and November to avoid others.

Ilir sinani

Tuesday 5th of September 2023

@Stella, I’m sorry that you feel that way, and Albania has a lot to improve on offering better services and better experience, as you can see we are in the process of growing, but in my opinion the security in Albania is as fair as in any European country. You may not believe me, but I felt more in risk of pocket picking in Piazza del Duomo in Milan than in Tirana Square. Albanians will get out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome. Don’t forget, it’s only the last few years that Albania is in the map of tourist destination , and Italy has been there for ever. You want the best Albanian experience in my opinion, May , September and October are the best months, not over crowded, because still Albanian infrastructure is overwhelmed during the hot summer months of July and August. Greetings and I hope that your next visit in Albania would be a more enjoyable experience.

Katy

Monday 21st of August 2023

I agree with Vada. I went to a Albania last year on a National Geographic trip. There is much to like about the country. The history and food, the people,5 national parks, ancient sites, but beaches sadly not great. The overbuilding is out of control. Lots of really ugly communist era buildings, crowded beaches. LOTS of trash everywhere.

K H

Saturday 19th of August 2023

There is no pick pocketing in Albania. That is nonsense. Years living here and never once heard of anybody having anything stolen

Lisa

Wednesday 23rd of August 2023

@K H, I agree with you!! As an American who has visited Albania 7 times since 2021 (with #8 scheduled in October), I feel much safer in Albania than where I live in the States or in other European countries!

Vada

Friday 18th of August 2023

I followed your advice, I went to Albania with my family, to be exact I visited the capital Tirana and then the beach town Ksamil. As you mention in your article: "Our favorite, Ksamil, is an undisturbed patch of rocky sand bounded by the translucent waters of the Mediterranean, lined with a few restaurants and guesthouses"

I was there a week ago and I got very disappointed . Yes, the waters are beautiful but not pristine. Ksamil is awfully packed 90% of the beaches which are very tiny are private , meaning you have to pay 30 to 40 euros for a pair of sun beds and a umbrella. There is not space for your towel anywhere. Also, the beaches are dirty. The people who goes there don't make the effort to pick up their trash. The beaches are full of water taxis and jet skies that contaminates the waters - so sad- in our last day me and my two kids decided to clean the beach, it was so dirty. As you mention: "Lined with few restaurants and guesthouses" hahaha a total joke. There is so much uneven construction,modern hotels and plenty of restaurants which takes a away the character of the town. Also there is not transit signals for pedestrians. Is a total mess. Very unfortunate Ksamil is in the way to become a cheap version of Cancun. Go to Ksamil during summer and then share your thoughts. ***My comments are about "Ksamil only". Tirana, the capital is a modern city with a great coffee culture that has grown nicely. The north and the mountains side of the country are also pretty.