The following is a guide explaining how to get from Tirana, Albania to Pristina or Prizren, Kosovo. I’m writing it for all the poor saps who are in Tirana right now and can’t work out how to leave the place. I feel you guys. I’ll help you out.
The first thing you need to know is that Tirana has no central bus station. If they did, I wouldn’t be writing this. What they do have is 50,000 bus stops in random places with no signage of any kind. I would like to politely and delicately point out that that system is fucking stupid.
The second thing you need to know about Tirana is that the 50,000 bus stops move randomly, like a city-wide game of whack-a-mole.
So even if you happen to know that a bus to the Moon leaves from Road Street, you might get there and find buses leaving for the Sun. This is because buses to the Moon only leave from Road Street on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, but only before 4:17pm; at 4:18pm onwards, and on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and on nights where Mercury is aligned with Venus, they leave from Street Road, two miles and one headache away.
Okay, but how do you even find out where a bus to Kosovo leaves from? You talk to travel agency/tour operator stores. Fortunately, there’s quite a few of those, mostly on Bulevard Zogu I, north of Skanderberg Square. Unfortunately, the people in them don’t speak that much English. It might take a bit of persistence and voice raising and wild gesticulating but eventually someone’s face will brighten when you say Prizren/Pristina (depending on your desired destination in Kosovo — I highly recommend at least a night in Prizren). They’ll sell you a bus ticket after taking unreasonably long putting info into a computer; what info is there even? My name, my destination and the fact that I’ve paid? Do you need my resume too? Want to know about that time in 6th grade I got an A on my Geography test?
Naturally you then want to ask where the bus leaves from. The travel agency person will shrug and say “that way” and point down the street. “How far that way?” you will ask. “5 minutes” they will say. “Thank you,” you will say. You walk 5 minutes down the street and see no sign of any potential bus stop, so you walk 2 minutes more, then 4 minutes back, and so on until you’ve exhausted all reasonable points that “5 minutes away” might be. Then you resolve to just come early for the bus and figure it out then, which leaves at 6am and only 6am. If you miss it, you have to wait until the next day. No pressure then.
Next day your alarm buzzes in your pitch-black hostel dorm at 5am. 7 people, including you, all moan and toss and turn and hope the bad noise goes away. It does, but it’s replaced by the sound of you pulling on clothes and quickly shoving all your stuff in your backpack hoping you’re not forgetting anything. Ordinarily those would be quiet activities, but in this 5am world, in this hostel dorm, every sound is like a shotgun blast to the head, and not the good kind.
You rush outside by 5:15am and are panicking about time, even though the bus is at 6 and it’s only a 20-minute walk. You walk quickly, backpack jumping on your back, head down, across crosswalks with barely a glance around. You pause for just a second so your brain can register the fact that all those articles you read about people getting murdered on the street generally happen in the hours before dawn at, say…5am. Then you walk even faster.
Out of breath and sweaty, you get to where you think the bus is. You happen to glance down the closest side street and see a storefront with the name of the bus company on it and see two other people, with suitcases no less, sitting on the steps outside. You wonder how in the hell you didn’t notice this yesterday. Oh. Well. That was easy. And as you sit down and wait quietly for the bus, you realize that maybe this wasn’t really much of an adventure after all so maybe you don’t need to write that 900 word blog post about it.
P.S. Here are the exact steps to getting out of Tirana to Kosovo:
- Find Bulevard Zogu I (north of Skanderberg Square).
- Look for the Tirana International Hotel.
- Behind the hotel on Rruga Urani Pano is the office of the bus company, whose name I forget.
- Buy a ticket to Kosovo.
- At 6am go back to Rruga Urani Pano but on the other side of Bulevard Zogu I. You should be behind the National Museum. That’s where the bus stop is.
P.P.S. In researching this, I’ve discovered that Google Maps actually lists the bus station to Kosovo. It’s right here. Could’ve told me that earlier Google, jeez.