The frugal traveler Matt Gross is on his way around the world while writing about his experiences for The New York Times. After traveling via Portugal, Spain, Italy, Croatia, and Montenegro, he reaches Albania (see our previous article: Bargains found in Zadar, Croatia). His article is well written and especially interesting since there is not yet that much written about Albania as a destination.
Albania has gone through a long era of isolation during its past communist dictator Hoxha. During those days Albania was about as cheerful a place as North Korea is still today. But Albania has been slower than its neighbors to adjust to an open society and economy. In stark contrast to nearby Croatia, Albania has so far failed to attract any significant amounts of tourists. This lead the frugal traveler to hope that his money perhaps would allow him more luxurious accommodations in Tirana than in his previous destinations. But that was not the case. The lack of hotels was keeping the prices high. But everything else was cheap. And he found Tirana to feel much safer than the turmoil of corruption and crime that he had been warned about. People were open and friendly, but he encountered surreal street scenes and found Albania to be a country of contradictions to the extent that he calls it a deeply weird place.
From Tirana he takes a bus to the southern town of Gjirokastra which has an enormous 19th century castle. Here he finally finds a great hotel deal. Again he also finds good cheap food and warm people that he befriends.
Click here to read our previous article about Albania, Europes Last Secret Place: Albania.