Albania is an incredibly beautiful country that makes you want to go on a road trip. And you should definitely do it because you can go to authentic remote villages, enjoy amazing lakes, and walk among the mountains without crowds of tourists only if you travel by car. However, you can’t drive a rental car on some roads and in some locations in this country.
You can drive a rental car only on paved roads.
Driving unequipped cars on bumpy unpaved roads in the mountains is very dangerous for both passengers and cars.
It is prohibited to drive rental cars:
- On the routes: “Berat - Përmet” on the road through the Osumi Canyon and on the SH74 motorway, “Tirana - Qafë-Shtamë Nature Park” through Lake Bovilla, “Thethi - Valbona” through the mountains, “Memaliaj - Berat” through Martallozi, “Krujë - Burreli” through Qafë-Shtamë Nature Park;
- On the unpaved exits to the beaches;
- In the regions: Tomorri Mountain National Park, Lura National Park, Lake Koman, Korab Mountain, Qafë-Shtamë Nature Park.
Those are the most popular locations with unpaved roads in Albania. There are many more other unpaved minor roads in the country. Please do not rely solely on the above list of routes, keep an eye on the road ahead. If it is unpaved, don’t drive there.
Google Maps is not 100% accurate in Albania. Sometimes it can build your route via impassable roads.
In this article, we’ll tell you why rentals don’t allow you to drive on some roads and what to do if you really want to go there.
Table of contents:
Local rental companies restrict where their cars can go because:
Most rental cars are equipped with GPS trackers. If you drive on forbidden roads, the rental company may block the car.
In Albania, the main roads are generally well maintained: they are paved and have signs and markings. However, the remote and mountainous areas may have narrow and winding unpaved roads that require caution, a lot of driving experience, and a specially equipped car.
If you are planning a trip from Berat to Përmet, please note that the Google Maps app offers several route options, two of which are strictly prohibited for rental cars.
You can't drive on the road through the Osumi Canyon.
This is a very challenging route intended only for experienced drivers of four-wheel drive SUVs with high ground clearance. This is an unpaved road with potholes, protruding stones, and large puddles. There is no insurance cover here.
This is what the road through the canyon looks like:
Don't trust the locals who assure you that you can drive an ordinary car there without any problems. This is how they make a living. First, they send travellers down a challenging path and then offer to pull the car out of the mud for a “small” fee of 200-300 euros.
The “Berat - Përmet” route along the SH74 motorway is also prohibited.
It is a narrow unpaved mountain road covered with small stones. With sharp turns, ups and downs. Insurance policies are not applicable here.
You can get from Berat to Përmet through Levan (on Google Maps).
The local panoramic views are beautiful indeed but this road is very treacherous. Part of the route is a challenging unpaved serpentine, the roadside disappears into a precipice in some places, and rockslides happen here from time to time.
It is strictly prohibited to drive on the road from Tirana to Qafë-Shtamë Nature Park through Lake Bovilla.
It is very dangerous to drive here if your car is not specially equipped for such terrain. Needless to say, insurance is not valid, and it will be challenging to evacuate or promptly get the necessary help.
In some sources you can find information that you can get from Thethi to Valbona directly through the mountains of the national park. This is true but only if you either go on foot or drive a specially equipped off-road vehicle.
It is prohibited to drive rental cars on the mountain road from Thethi to Valbona.
It is true that nature is pristine here: no paved roads, just a mixture of stones of different sizes, and rockslides from time to time.
You can get from Thethi to Valbona through Shkodër (on Google Maps).
When planning a trip from Memaliaj to Berat, mke sure to check the options offered by your navigator.
The road through Martallozi is unpaved, and it is prohibited to drive on this route.
This route goes through the mountains, there is no road infrastructure, and no insurance is applicable here.
A good road goes through Levan (on Google Maps).
You should also be very careful when planning a tip from Krujë to Burreli. Google Maps offers two route options, one of which goes through Qafë-Shtamë Nature Park.
It is prohibited to drive on the “Krujë - Burreli” route through Qafë-Shtamë Nature Park.
Don’t be guided by such information as “travelling time is 2 hours” and “cool road”. For the most part, this route is in a terrible state of disrepair. There is no insurance cover for such areas, and it will be very difficult to get emergency help in time in case of need.
Plan your “Krujë - Burreli” route through Milot (on Google Maps).
There are many beaches in Albania but not all of them can be accessed by a regular rental car.
The exits from the main motorways to some locations are unpaved roads. It is prohibited to drive on them.
Don’t take chances. Hoping that nothing will happen along mere 500 metres can cause serious damage to the rental car. And no insurance is applicable on these roads.
Below is the list of the main areas where tourists are most likely to lose their vigilance and break the rental terms.
There are many beaches along the SH8 highway but almost all the exits are unpaved at the section from Shpella e Pëllumbave to the Pigeons Cave.
If you like some place in the area, don’t drive up right to it. It is best to leave your rental car in the car park.
The roads from the nearby hotel village to the Mirror Beach, Edon-Bina Beach, and other nearby beaches in this area are mostly unpaved. It is prohibited to drive rental cars on them.
In Albania, there are many protected areas and nature reserves that have no good roads. It is not safe to drive regular rental cars in these regions, and no insurance is applicable here.
The Tomorri Mountains are beautiful and authentic, but difficult to access. You can’t travel here by a rental car.
The roads leading to the park are in poor condition. If you really want to get here, it’s best to ask a local driver with a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle.
The most popular places of Lura National Park are 12 glacial lakes nestled among the mountains. The local natural attractions are incredible, wild, and... inaccessible to most cars.
A broken dirt road leads to the lakes. It is very dangerous to drive here without a specially equipped four-wheel drive off-road vehicle.
It is prohibited to travel by a regular car to Lake Coman. To visit the lake, you can only drive a 4x4 car with prior consent of the rental company.
You will also need the rental company’s approval before you take their car on a ferry.
The ferry does not operate in winter.
The Korab Nature Park is also a prohibited area.
The roads in the park are unpaved, insurance is not appliable here, and full responsibility lies with the renter.
In the Qafë-Shtamë Nature Park, you can enjoy the authentic spirit of Albania. It offers beautiful views, delicious natural food, and fresh mountain air.
But... you will need the rental company’s approval to travel here by their car. The park can be accessed by a steep serpentine paved road that instantly becomes very slippery in bad weather. Not every car can safely make that climb up.
You can travel abroad by most rental cars in Albania. To book a suitable car, select the “Crossborder fee” filter and make sure to add the relevant option to your booking.
When you pick up your car, the rental agent will note it in your rental agreement.
When crossing borders, you have to buy “Green Card” international insurance at your own expense.
You will need the rental company’s approval and special insurance to take their car on a ferry.
Please note that the “Saranda - Corfu” route involves crossing the Greek border and using the ferry, so make sure to check up front if you are allowed to do that with your rental car.
Some rental companies offer cars that are suitable for travelling on unpaved roads.
To select a suitable car and get the required approval, please contact Localrent's customer support.
You can contact us via messengers listed on our website or via email: [email protected]. In some cases, this service is offered for a fee.
Fill up with plenty of fuel before travelling to the mountains. Fuel consumption increases on serpentines, and petrol stations are scarce in remote areas.
Albania has many stunning places where you can travel by car. And to have a fun and safe trip, you should take into account the local road conditions and rent the right car. Have a nice trip!