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  • Writer's pictureJames

Riding the bus from Kotor, Montenegro to Shkodër, Albania

Busses in the Balkans can be fickle things. Most of the time one has to pay in cash; often there is a small bag fee of 1-2 euro if something needs to be put in the cargo area. A fair percent of the time the bus does not pull into the bay that is on the ticket. I often joked that the bus agents in the balkans must learn their people skills from the same type of school DMV agents learn them in the U.S. Relative to some of my other experiences, the Kotor bus station is a model of efficiency. The lady selling tickets is relatively unhappy, but didn't try to kill me with a death stare, which could be considered a kind of pleasantness by certain standards. There is a man that will check your ticket and yell for you when your bus arrives. (this is 1st class service).

For this particular journey, we had tickets aboard a bus operated by Old Town Travel that provides daily service between Kotor and Tirana, with stops in Pogradica and Shkoder, along with a 15 min rest stop break at a truck stop shortly after crossing the the Montenegro - Albania border. There was, of course, no toilet on the bus.

We had walked to the bus station the day before, attempting to purchase tickets for the 10:30 departure, only to learn it didn't run on the day we were to leave. Our only other option was to take the 8am bus. We paid €17 per ticket. Our host Jelena was kind enough to drive us to the bus station and save us the 1.5 km walk with our heavy bags. We bid her an emotional farewell. Staying at her apartment had been akin to visiting long lost family. She had become especially attached to Samantha in spite of our inability to speak the same language. She gave Sam a kind lingering hug and we were off on the road, homeless vagabonds once more.

We paid the € .50 each to use the toilet in the station, and waited by what we hoped was the correct bay. When a bus labeled "Old Town Travel" pulled in the man screamed "Pogradica, Skadar, Tirana! (Skadar is Shkodër in Montenegrin, I would advise using this word to refer to that city in Montenegro). We were charged €2 each for our bags to be placed in the cargo hold. We bounded up the bus, chose seats together, and once more we would become denizens of the road. The bus crept up mountains winding for what seemed forever in the Montenegrin alps. The sky was mostly clear with thin wisps of clouds dotting the sky. Sam immediately fell asleep and I contented myself staring out the window, wondering what would be next for us. We pulled into Pogradica and ran off the bus in search of a toilet, only to find myself greeted with a Turkish affair complete with hose and bucket. We ran back to the bus quickly, the bus driver laughing as he closed the door behind us. I don't think it was a proper toilet stop, but we were not alone in running off the bus. We continued on until the Albanian border, which involved stopping to be stamped out of Montenegro, then once again to be "stamped in" to Albania, a country that does not use passport stamps, instead opting for some sort of electronic system.

Our first view of Albania while waiting to clear customs.

After customs we would stop at a rest area with free, clean toilets, a convenience store, a small café and an ATM. From the rest stop it was only a short drive through the foothills of the Albanian alps to Shkoder.

The "Bus Station" in Shkodër is simply busses parked in the general vicinity of the roundabout where the bus station is labeled on this map. If catching a bus from Shkodër, simply walk around this roundabout till you find a person screaming names of cities, he will point you to the correct bus. Welcome to Albania!

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