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Europe Trains Guide Forum  |  General discussion  |  Travel plans, routes and timetables  |  Albania - Macedonia - Greece
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warlord
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« on: January 04, 2018, 04:01:32 pm »

    Looking at another option for my 2 week trip in May this year, I was also looking at trying to do Tirana - Ohrid - Sarandë (for the beaches) - Corfu (maybe for a night or two) - Shkallnur (Gollum Beach) and back to Tirana.

  My big thing is how is transportation along this possible route with frequency and reliability and time travel times to get this in for 2 weeks?  Another option if flight prices allow it would maybe having Corfu - Sarandë - Ohrid - Shkallnur - Tirana or something if I can fly out of there with a good deal.

  Just was hearing more and more about Albania's coast and the fact many people seem to take a side trip to Macedonia well.  Other idea are also welcome as usual as I often will take those suggestions...
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tUt
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2018, 08:49:56 pm »

As you can probably guess by looking at the rail network map of the region, rail option is almost entirely unavailable in this case. Trains in Albania are very slow and with foreigners it's mainly for hardcore rail fans ))) However buses & minibuses (so-called "furgons") entirely make up for absence of the proper rail transport. On the major routes buses/furgons are frequent and relatively cheap, the later will depart without strict timetable, but during the day (morning/afternoon) you won't wait for long, especially since you will be traveling rather touristic routes

Tirana-Ohrid: personally done this trip using Tirana-Pogradec-Tushemisht-Sveti Naum-Ohrid route (from Pogradec to the border in Tushemisht it was taxi, while on the Macedonia side bus). Probably you can take a taxi all the way from Pogradec to Ohrid, but it will cost at least 30 euro vs. 5 with taxi+bus option). Heard that there is also a ferry line during the season, but it will make sense to check whether it's actually running closer to the start of the season. Totally alternative option is to use travel agency & shuttle bus (directly from Tirana)
Ohrid-Sarandë: probably the trickiest journey. Option a) would be to come back to Elbasan/Tirana and travel the usual way with bus/furgon, while option b) would be to go Pogradec-Korçë-Sarandë (it seems there are some buses available)
Sarandë-Corfu: not as cheap as transport elsewhere in Albania, however very easy & simple, e.g. see https://ionianseaways.com/timetable
Sarandë-Shkallnur: again, super easy journey using bus/furgon going to Durres (it would be 5 or so hours trip), but if you have time you can also take a train from Vlore

Another option if flight prices allow it would maybe having Corfu - Sarandë - Ohrid - Shkallnur - Tirana or something if I can fly out of there with a good deal.
Imho, not a much of a difference, so you can easily just book cheaper flight option and then simply reverse your journeys     
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warlord
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2018, 11:06:34 pm »

  Ok thanks, I am still waiting for flights to either do Serbia/Montenegro or as I asked last year before going to Ukraine/Moldova, being the Serbia-Slovenia.

  And yes I knew the train issue with this trip wouldn't be an option as compared to the Serbia/Montenegro (though would need buses there as well).

  With this trip I like to keep it as simple as possible, but I'm thinking the furgons would be very similar to the Marshrutka I took in Moldova correct?  Not the most comfortable at all, but if there is an option of a direct one that might work.  I'd rather not try to do what you did and do bus and taxi and then another bus as I want to keep it simple and not have to deal with getting ripped off by Taxi drivers when I don't know the language.  I will check on local buses via tourist agencies like you mentioned.

  At least the other parts of the trip seem decent enough with the bus or fugons.  The ferry is fine to Corfu I think in price if I'm to stay a day or two rather than just a day trip.  And as you said returning up the coast back to Tirana seems easy.

  I'll come back after I check the flight options with one of the trips and then get more details if I have questions.

Ideas for my upcoming trip (Arrive/Depart city - Arrive/Depart city)
Albania - Macedonia - Greece (Tirana or maybe Corfu)
Serbia - Montenegro (Belgrade - Podgorcia or Dubrovnik)
Serbia - Slovenia (Belgrade - Ljubliana) - As you already helped with and gave me the details on this alread


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warlord
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2018, 06:34:57 pm »

Here is my projected itinerary for Mid May.  Does it seem ok, since you are familiar with a lot of this route?


Fly into Skopje - for a few days
 - Day trip to Prizen via SAS (www.sas.com.mk)
 - See either Matka Gorge, Vodno climb or Kamnik winery


Take a bus to Ohrid - 2 or so days
(using SAS again I hope, or Galeb if they are operating there in May)
 - I would consider actually staying over night in Prizen and then taking a bus to Ohrid as well if it's possible


Ohrid to Tirana - 1 night if even that
Getting a taxi from the hotel to Struga (since it's easier to get the hotel to order a taxi so I don't get ripped off)
 - Taking Drumo Tours Bus to Tirana (which I think drops me off at Zogu i Zi roundabout) - They told me they operate all year
 - Getting a ticket at TISA Tours near Sheshi Shqiponja for Saranda and take the bus (may have to be the next morning)  to Saranda (not sure if using Albatrans or Gjirafa is better though)


Saranda - 4 or more nights
 - Ferry to Corfu for the day
 - Bus or Furgon to Ksamil for the day
 - Maybe Gjirokaster for the day


Back to Tirana
 - Probably using the Ioannina to Tirana bus (or the same one I came on)

Then in Tirana I can go to Durres for a day and then fly out a few days later.

 
  So does that look like a doable trip then with transit.  That's my biggest thing is getting the right buses as Galeb contacted me saying they didn't operate any buses to a lot of places until the summer.  Just wanted to avoid using furgons for the longer trips.  Any other suggestions or corrections with this?






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tUt
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2018, 08:18:07 pm »

Sorry for delay with the reply, it's not always easy to do so on the road :)

Fly into Skopje - for a few days
Macedonia is a nice country, however Skopje aren't it's most interesting place, thus my advice - don't plan more than 2 days for it. It's convenient as transport hub, but one day should be totally enough to see everything around, imho.
Day trip to Prizen via SAS (www.sas.com.mk)
SAS is just an abbreviation of Skopje bus station, while the actual carriers are various bus companies (e.g. Galeb as one of the biggest players on the market)
(using SAS again I hope, or Galeb if they are operating there in May)
Skopje-Ohrid is one of the popular domestic routes, so you wouldn't have to wait for more than an hour for the next bus, Galeb buses will definitely be there, but you can just take the nearest one and don't wait for this specific company ;) Also pay attention to the fact that in Macedonia r/t bus tickets are considerably cheaper than two one-way tickets. With Skopje-Ohrid it won't matter, since you will be going one-way only, but for Skoje-Prizren-Skopje it can save you a bit
I would consider actually staying over night in Prizen and then taking a bus to Ohrid as well if it's possible
Hmm... Kosovo is a bit black forest in terms of transport info, Tetovo & Gostivar areas are very Albanian populated, so one would expect some international connection there from Prizren, but haven't found any direct one to Ohrid. Maybe it can be Prizren-Tetovo and then Tetovo-Ohrid, though not necessarily it will be cheaper/faster then going via Skopje

Getting a taxi from the hotel to Struga (since it's easier to get the hotel to order a taxi so I don't get ripped off)
Good idea, but still check rough prices beforehand, since there is no guarantees that hotel desk don't have their own "pocket" overpriced taxis
Saranda - 4 or more nights
 - Ferry to Corfu for the day
 - Bus or Furgon to Ksamil for the day
 - Maybe Gjirokaster for the day
Good choice, plus flexibility of "4 or more nights" gives you an opportunity to change the plans a bit in case you get bored (adding some nearby destination) or not feeling like going anywhere
Back to Tirana
 - Probably using the Ioannina to Tirana bus (or the same one I came on)
You want to visit the mainland Greece (Ioannina) as well?

So does that look like a doable trip then with transit.
Yep, looks very reasonable and totally doable ;) 
That's my biggest thing is getting the right buses as Galeb contacted me saying they didn't operate any buses to a lot of places until the summer.  Just wanted to avoid using furgons for the longer trips.
Weird, maybe there was some misunderstanding. Just checking the bus station website for tomorrow and it clearly shows plenty of buses almost every hour -

For the FYR context Ohrid is a pretty big place, so shortage of bus connection with the capital is very unlikely. Maybe Galeb ment summer time international routes, but not year round domestic? Been there twice during the off-season and never had any trouble catching nearest bus
« Last Edit: January 29, 2018, 08:39:47 pm by tUt » Logged
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warlord
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2018, 06:12:01 pm »

Thanks for the comments.  I did some more research and yes there isn't any direct buses from Prizen to Ohrid and the only thing I saw was transferring in Tetovo.  The other issue is that the buses from Skopje to Prizen (all 2 of them) both get there in the afternoon or evening, so that really doesn't make it possible for a day trip and I would end up having to spend the night.  Prizen to Tirana looks like they have direct buses though, but that would mean skipping Ohrid for Prizen. 

  The only other option would be to just take a day trip to Pristina as they have many buses throughout the day or do the thing I hate the most and take an organized tour which does both cities from Skopje.

  And thanks for clarifying SAS being the Skopje bus station and not an individual bus service.

  Ioannina would be good and I looked into actually flying out of there, but without any luck.  I think adding that might be too much as it's a few hours bus ride each way, so I'll probably just have to stick to Corfu for the day and leave it like that. 

  Would be nice to get flights out near Sarande, but looking like Skopje & Tirana are the only cheap options that I'm seeing.

  And yes, Galeb was referring to Ohrid to Tirana bus route that is only in the summer, not Skopje to Ohrid which is every day they said all year round.


  Update:
  I just looked this all over again and found maybe this trip might be a little jammed with trying to do Kosovo as well.  Flights into Pristina are good and maybe it might be better to just do my 2 weeks in Kosovo (Pristina, Prizen), Macedonia (Skopje so I can do some hiking and any other day trips, Ohrid, Bitol maybe or somewhere else in the country) and then flying out of Thessaloniki, Greece instead (found a great airfare)?

  That would leave me with another trip next year to do Montenegro/Albania and Greece or Serbia/Montenegro to make it less hectic and letting me stay in hotels longer rather than bounce around so much with all that I was thinking I could accomplish this time.

  Any other suggestions in Macedonia for towns/cities I should stay or see if I do that?

« Last Edit: January 30, 2018, 07:50:06 pm by warlord » Logged
tUt
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2018, 03:14:03 am »

The other issue is that the buses from Skopje to Prizen (all 2 of them) both get there in the afternoon or evening, so that really doesn't make it possible for a day trip and I would end up having to spend the night.  Prizen to Tirana looks like they have direct buses though, but that would mean skipping Ohrid for Prizen. The only other option would be to just take a day trip to Pristina as they have many buses throughout the day or do the thing I hate the most and take an organized tour which does both cities from Skopje.
What about option Skopje-Pristina-Prizren with the early morning bus from Skopje? Making change in Pristina isn't super convenient, but it will still give you a decent half a day in Prizren. Another approach here is to get off the same Skopje-Pristina bus in Kacanik or Ferizaj (Uroshevac) and change there, meaning don't do the unnecessary deroute to Pristina at all. However here it makes sense to research local Kacanik/Ferizaj connections to Prizren.
Would be nice to get flights out near Sarande, but looking like Skopje & Tirana are the only cheap options that I'm seeing.
Hmm... did you consider option of simply flying out directly from Corfu with some low-cost airline? With something like Ryanair you should be able to catch Corfu-major mainland airport flight for the price of the ferry & domestic Albanian bus to Tirana. Meaning you just get your flight back with the start in Budapest, Rome, Frankfurt, etc. instead of Skopje or Tirana.

I just looked this all over again and found maybe this trip might be a little jammed with trying to do Kosovo as well.  Flights into Pristina are good and maybe it might be better to just do my 2 weeks in Kosovo (Pristina, Prizen), Macedonia (Skopje so I can do some hiking and any other day trips, Ohrid, Bitol maybe or somewhere else in the country) and then flying out of Thessaloniki, Greece instead (found a great airfare)?
Well, to me Albania seem to be more worthy than Macedonia, so I would probably do it like Kosovo-Albania-maybe quick trip to Ohrid from Albania and then finish with Corfu and mainland Greece

Any other suggestions in Macedonia for towns/cities I should stay or see if I do that?
To be honest, didn't travel much in Macedonia (only Skopje, Ohrid, Kicevo and the whole route along the Vardar river to Greece), never went to Bitola, Prilep or western part of the country. Just decided to spend more time in Albania & Greece instead, maybe it was a mistake, but at least then search for places to visit in Macedonia wasn't very impressive.
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warlord
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2018, 06:20:01 pm »

You know, I just checked another option actually which will allow me to split up this entire trip idea into 2 separate trips (the other for next year).  Based on your experience and such and checked the prices and it's very doable.
 
  So I would be flying into Athens and staying a few days of course, taking Aegean Airlines to Corfu, then the ferry to Saranda which then will avoid all the confusing buses with lacks of schedules in Tirana (and many have contacted me saying in May if they don't get enough people, they won't run, etc).  This way I can base Albania in Saranda and take day trips to Ksamil, Gjirokaster and even possibly Berat (though that might be a little far on bus for a day trip, though maybe it's doable.  This way if said buses aren't running or don't have enough people, I still will have my hotel there and can just do other trips as I see when I'm there or whatever.  Seems a lot less stressful with these Albanian buses.

  Then I can just go back to Corfu, stay a night or two and then either fly or take a bus to Thessaloniki via Green Buses or fly back to Athens.  Both options are in my price range and flights are only about 50€-65€ and the Green Buses is only around 40€. 

  This way I can do Albania/Greece in one trip and Macedonia and Kosovo in the other (maybe people have said that Bitola is also worth a visit there).

  Just seems a lot less stress free and less chances of being stranded with hotel bookings if a bus doesn't run, etc, plus is more straight forward that I'm not dealing with many connections transiting and spending a night here or there just to take another bus the next day for a connection.

  So I think I'll take your suggestion and just stick to Greece and Albania then this time.  You're a great help as usual (7 years in a row, minus the one year I went to Korea and China and wasn't on here)...
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tUt
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2018, 03:37:59 am »

This way if said buses aren't running or don't have enough people, I still will have my hotel there and can just do other trips as I see when I'm there or whatever.  Seems a lot less stressful with these Albanian buses.
Reasonable ;) Imho, it will just make sense to "feel the local spirit" ))) And then decide on whether (and where) to go on a day trip
Then I can just go back to Corfu, stay a night or two and then either fly or take a bus to Thessaloniki via Green Buses or fly back to Athens.  Both options are in my price range and flights are only about 50€-65€ and the Green Buses is only around 40€.
Well, with the overland option it might be possible to fit Ioannina as well or make a small cruise => go back to Athens via Patras/Peloponnese region. Anyhow, it's already more like secondary question that can be solved based on the deal you get on the overseas flight

Just seems a lot less stress free and less chances of being stranded with hotel bookings if a bus doesn't run, etc, plus is more straight forward that I'm not dealing with many connections transiting and spending a night here or there just to take another bus the next day for a connection.
Maybe it's a bit easier when travelling out of EU, but usually in such cases I just go with the option of reserving without paying. It might be slightly more expensive compared to the deals where guest needs to pay the full booking right away, but at the same time it gives certain flexibility (cancel/change without losing money). If it's not a high season, it's usually possible to book a decent room even a day or two in advance, so "sold out" isn't an issue either.

So I think I'll take your suggestion and just stick to Greece and Albania then this time.  You're a great help as usual (7 years in a row, minus the one year I went to Korea and China and wasn't on here)...
Thanks :) Maybe not always reply right away, but always try to suggest something to consider & think about )))
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warlord
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2018, 06:17:35 pm »

I've been on a trip this past week so haven't been able to respond.  I always book my hotels in advance as I like to research them and stuff before hand.  I'm not as much of a nomad as I once was (growing up sucks), so that just gives me less to worry about and less time to try and find a place.  But I have enough information then that I can easily do either of the 3 trips this year and then have the information for the next few years too :).  ..
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