Motorways in Albania / Highways, tolls and vignettes

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Motorways in Albania are the country’s main transport network. Together with expressways, they also constitute the basic axis of communication of this country. Unfortunately, the side roads and those less frequented, for example in the eastern part of the country, leave much to be desired. In Albania there are still no bypasses of major cities, and some roads do not have asphalt at all. Despite this, it is getting better every year, because Albania has decided not only to build new roads, but also to attract as many tourists who want to spend a successful holiday in Albania as possible.

The condition of the country’s land is certainly influencing the condition of roads and highways in Albania. It is next to Switzerland the highest European country. Therefore, a large part of the routes lead through the high parts of the mountains.

The roads there are extremely winding and dotted with serpentines. Therefore, the time it takes to get through them is significantly longer. It is also worth remembering that driving at night on Albanian roads may be not very safe and difficult, because some of them are simply unlit.

Just like some of the cars that the locals drive!

Highways in Albania / Source: Wikipedia
Highways in Albania / Source: Wikipedia

Highways in Albania

The highways and main roads in Albania have a really good quality surface, there are also surprisingly densely dotted with gas stations. A roadside trade of all kinds of goods on the emergency lane is also a normal view. Carriages also go through it, pedestrians and various farm animals walk on it, and sometimes there is also an exit directly from the private property.

Motorways are the main roads in Albania, which have at least two carriageways in one direction and an additional emergency lane. They are marked with a large letter A and a number in white and placed on a green background. Their network may not be impressive, but plans are to cover almost the entire country with a highway network. Road modernization and new construction began in Albania just after the fall of communism in 1991. Currently, three motorway sections have been commissioned here, two of which are still unfinished.

A1 – is the longest section of the highway in Albania, with a length of 177 kilometers, connecting this country with Kosovo. It leads from the port city of Durrës to Morinë, which is located on the Albanian-Kosovo border. This section of the motorway is also part of the European route E851, and will also be part of Pan-European Transport Corridor No. X and the Adriatic-Ionian Highway.

A2 – in turn, is the shortest section of the highway in Albania, which currently only measures less than 25 kilometers. Ultimately, it is to be 46.5 kilometers long and connect Fier with the popular Wlora. It is also to be part of the Adriatic-Ionian Highway.

A3 – is a highway that currently measures only 31.17 kilometers, and ultimately is to be 110 kilometers long and connect the capital in Tirana with the city of Tepelenë. This route will also be part of Pan-European Transport Corridor VIII.

Unfortunately, there are no highways in Albania leading along the entire coast yet. If we travel here on vacation, then we are forced to drive on the inferior roads. However, it is comforting that ultimately modern sections of fast highways are to be built here.

Albanian highways
Albanian highways

Expressways in Albania

Expressways in Albania are marked with large white letters SH and the corresponding number, placed on a blue background. Usually two-lane routes, without an emergency lane. A large part of them coincide with European routes. And so in Albania we have the following express roads:

SH1 – expressway connecting Durrës, Lezhë, Shkoder with the capital in Tirana. The total length of this route is 125 kilometers. It is currently part of the European roads E762 and E851. In the future, it is to be part of the Adriatic-Ionian Highway.

SH2 – is a 33 km fast route that leads from Durrës to Tirana. It was the first renewed road after the fall of communism in Albania. Currently, it is also a section of the European road E762.

SH3 – is a section of the express road, leading from Elbasan, through Korcza to Tirana. It is 151 kilometers long and is part of the European route E86 and E852.

SH4 – in turn, is a fast route connecting Durrës, Fier, Gjirokastër and the capital of Albania. The whole is 215 kilometers long. Currently it is a fragment of the European road E853, which destination is to be a section of the Adriatic-Ionian Highway.

SH7- is a section of the expressway over 40 kilometers long that leads from Elbasan to Tirana. It also forms part of the pan-European transport corridor no. VIII.

SH8 – is the route leading along the Alabean Riviera, from Maista Fier to Vlorë. It is 148 kilometers long and was founded in 1920.

SH9 – in turn, is the shortest expressway with a length of barely 3.2 kilometers. Leads from Elbasan to the Qafe Thane border crossing with Macedonia. It is also part of the European route E852.

Vignettes in Albania

Highways and expressways in Albania are practically free so far (see below). Therefore, there are no valid vignettes to buy.

Vignettes in Albania / Prices and where to buy?
Vignettes in Albania / Prices and where to buy?Vignettes in Albania / Prices and where to buy?

Road tolls in Albania

All national roads in the country belong to the Albanian company – Autoriteti Rrugor Shqiptar whose management is subordinate to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure based in Tirana.

    Currently, driving on highways and expressways is free in Albania.

However, from March 2018, a fee of 5 euro must be paid for the A1 motorway section. There are also plans to extend the fees to other sections of the Albanian motorways (A2 and A3). However, they are still under construction so you don’t have to pay to use them.

Interestingly, the imposition of the first tolls for highways in Albania met with strong opposition from local residents. To the extent that they destroyed and burned booths to collect payment for the route traveled. Until these points were rebuilt, the A1 motorway was free again.

In contrast, the residents themselves won a discount in fees, which for them is currently 100 lek.

What else is worth knowing about highways and roads in Albania?

To legally travel by car through Albania you need:

  1.     driving license
  2.     a document confirming your identity (passport or ID card, valid for at least 3 months from the planned date of departure from Albania)
  3.     registration document, together with a valid technical review
  4.     Green Card liability insurance
  5.     if we are not the owner of a driven vehicle, then also an authorization – written consent of the owner of this car, drawn up in English and notarized

Regarding the speed limit with which you can travel on the roads in Albania:

  •     on highways the speed limit is 110 km / hour, and 80 km / hour for passenger cars and cars with a trailer
  •     on expressways, driving is up to 90 km / hour
  •     in built-up areas speed cannot exceed 40 km / hour
  •     while on ordinary roads, outside built-up areas, you cannot drive faster than 80km / hour, and if you are pulling a trailer or driving a truck, it is only 70km / hour

We must have a first aid kit and a safety triangle on our car’s equipment. However, a fire extinguisher, tow rope or additional set of bulbs for lights are no longer mandatory.

It is absolutely necessary to drive in a fastened seat belt and with the dipped beam headlights on – at night, in tunnels and during bad weather conditions affecting visibility.

When it comes to the possibility of drinking alcohol, you cannot have more than 0.01 per mille in your blood. Driving under the influence of alcohol in Albania is punishable by a fine of between 10,000 and 40,000 lek and witholding the driving license for a period of 6 to 12 months. In turn, when it comes to talking on the phone while driving, you can only use the speakerphone. Children up to 12 years old must be transported in special child seats or appropriately selected seats.

Important telephone numbers in Albania

129 – police

128 – fire brigade

127 – ambulance

126 – traffic police

+355 66 40 01 222 – roadside assistance (Automobile Club Albania)

You should also be aware of the informal laws on roads in Albania. The drivers here tend to drive in a rather peculiar style. For example, on a roundabout, the first to push first has priority. Drivers often pass on a red light, moreover like pedestrians whose traffic lights or lanes do not limit at all. Albanians behind the wheel very often use the horn, which signal all possible maneuvers, with turning or overtaking combined. It is not uncommon to find a lack of any lighting in the car, which does not prevent them from driving after dark. Virtually everyone parks where they want, it is also standard to stop on highways, where all kinds of goods are often traded in Albania. There are also not many authorized service centers here, so if you need to have your car repaired at a small local garage. However, along the roads in Albania there are no shortages of gas stations (although not those of network ones), nor car washes.

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