Max, at his overnight spot near the town of Žiri, Slovenia..
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Near Žiri, Slovenia.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Croatia.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Arrived in Albania... country #41 for us!

When we left you off in yesterday's blog post we had arrived in Doha, Qatar for a two and a half hour layover.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about our luggage. We are traveling with a small backpack each, and a carry on size suitcase each. When we checked in for our original flight in Dar es Salaam, they told us they were marking our checked bags to include the flight to Tirana on a different carrier. I didn't think that was possible, and that we would have to pick them up in Rome, but they insisted it would work.

Also, I hadn't yet paid the extra for the checked bags for our flight from Rome to Tirana. When I had booked the flight, I knew we had too much for carry on, but they told me at the time I could include the checked bags payment when I checked in for the Rome to Tirana flight with Alitalia airline. But I couldn't check in online because the system wanted me to fill our a Covid Declaration Form, but the questions on the form were geared to someone arriving in Italy, not departing. And there were all kinds of warnings about being thrown in jail if you lie on the form!

So I was a little worried about what would happen to our luggage when we arrived in Rome.

Gluten free meal. Rice cakes, veggies, chicken, potatoes, salad, fruit.
Nice red wine from Chile.

Arriving in Qatar at 5:15am Monday morning.

DOH airport in Qatar is a busy middle east hub where almost every Qatar Airways flight connects.

This is the exterior view from the tail!

The entertainment system on the Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900 is amazing. It has exterior camera views from a few different angles! Very cool.

Flying over some mountains in Italy.

Arriving at FCO Rome, Italy at 12:00 noon.

Beautiful day in Rome. Sunny, and a high of about 14C (58F).

We had a connecting international flight, so we followed the signs that led us through an EU border entry point. They scanned our passports, but didn't stamp them and we were quickly on our way. We saw a transfer information station for Alitalia airlines and went to speak with them about our luggage situation. And the fact that we had not yet checked in online. 

The girl said she didn't think our bags would automatically make it through, but then Ruth showed her our luggage receipts from DAR that said they were transferring to Tirana and she double checked things and changed her tune saying that yes, they should be fine. Then I told her we hadn't paid for the extra, and she checked a few things on her computer and printed out our boarding passes. No charge for the extra luggage, she said with a smile. Nice! Thank you Alitalia airlines!

With all of that sorted out, we headed for the Premium Lounge to take advantage of the free passes we received with our Scotiabank Passport Visa credit card.

Hardly anybody there!

We had a couple of glasses of nice Italian red wine, and a gluten free lasagna and a nice salad and a meat and cheese plate. I have to admit that the Premium Lounge is a nice way to waste your time during an airport connection!

I am more tired than I look in this photo!

But the couple of hours we were in there passed too quickly and it was soon time to make our way to the boarding gate. Our flight to Tirana was on time, departing at 4:45pm. I had been in communication with both our car rental guy and our Airbnb guy in Tirana, and they were ready for us.

Departing Rome. In the air, at 4:51pm.



Arriving in Tirana just as the sun was setting.

All three of our flights were exactly on time. Overall, it was a good (but long!) voyage!

We went through immigration into Albania and it was a pleasure. Just like whenever we arrive in Mexico. Very fast, very few questions, the border officer was smiling and happy and he welcomed us to Albania. I'll say it again... I don't understand why the U.S. and sometimes even the Canadian border people are so unwelcoming and intimidating.

Our luggage came out no problem at all! We think that technology and computers have changed the checked baggage situation a lot. It's way more efficient than it used to be, and it hardly takes any time to come out.

Our car rental guy was standing there with a sign with my name on it. Super nice guy. We had no local cash yet, and he offered to buy us a hot drink and drove us to a nearby cafe where we sat and did the paperwork and transaction. He gave us some tips on the area, and even said he would meet us for lunch some day if we wanted more information. I had read several very positive reviews about the Go Rent Albania car rental company, and so far they are all totally true!

I don't enjoy driving at night, so making our way to the middle of a strange city wasn't fun for me. Our Airbnb host had given me directions to a nearby parking area, and despite the fact that we made a couple of wrong turns trying to follow the map.me program, we made it there. I normally use Google Maps for driving directions, but didn't have a local SIM card yet and hadn't downloaded the maps.

Anyway, we made it to the Airbnb and had no problems getting in. It's right downtown, and in an older building. So you're going up the stairs and the exterior of the building is a little ratty looking... but the apartment itself is gorgeous.

The stairway leading up our apartment.

Living room and kitchen.

Bedroom.

Bathroom.

Very modern apartment. We kind of splurged, but we are only here for two nights, at 2,950 lek ($35.75 CAD, $28.60) per night. It's so nice though, we may splurge again at the end of our trip and come back here!

The place we originally wanted was booked for these two nights, but I booked it for a full week starting Wednesday. It's on the outskirts of the city, and quite a bit cheaper.

We arrived at the apartment after 8pm, and there is a full curfew in Albania between 8pm and 6am right now so we couldn't even buy any groceries.

Slept like a rock, and got a solid 8 hours of sleep! We've already been out this morning to pick up a few things for breakfast, and first impressions of Albania are that we are really going to like it here! It was very refreshing to see a good selection of foods that are more to our liking!

We are right in the center of the city, so we are leaving the car parked for the day. Lots of walking and exploring to do. They are calling for a pleasant high of 14C (58F) with occasional sunshine, and very little wind. After the heat of Tanzania, this feels great!!

There was only a two hour time change, so that doesn't affect us much. Given the daylight savings time change in the eastern North America time zone we are now only five hours ahead of Ontario.

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The popular "Guess in 10" family games are all on sale today!

And in Canada...



32 comments:

  1. Glad you had a safe and pleasant journey. Really looking forward to your adventures in Albania! It’s really great to read about your adventures during lockdown. So looking forward to being ‘set free’ soon and to travelling again. Stay safe and have a great time.

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    1. We are too, other than our stressful bit at the Dar es Salaam airport when they insisted that we had to have an outgoing ticket from Albania and Kevin had to buy tickets on the spot without his normal of research.

      We are really looking forward to exploring Albania and then showing our readers what there is to see and do here. I don't think we are going to have a problem staying busy during our time here.

      Yes, it will be nice to see the world get back to something that resembles "normal" again, hopefully that will be sooner than later!

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  2. I love the cameras on the plane. Very good idea to keep some folks like us entertained.

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    1. We loved that feature too! They didn't have that on the entertainment system when we arrived via Qatar into Tanzania back in January, so it must be quite new.

      Delete
  3. I read that 40% of the people speak English. Italian and Greek and Albanian are the other languages!

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    1. We had also read that, and we actually read that Italian was the second most spoken language here, with Albanian being the first but English is rapidly growing especially among the younger generation. I highly doubt that we will have many language issues in the cities themselves but out in the country it may be more difficult finding people that speak English, I guess we will find out soon enough.

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  4. The cameras on the plane look wonderful!

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  5. See there no covid requirements coming in to Albania?

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    1. Nope, no COVID requirement to enter into Albania but once here there is a mandatory mask law, so masks must be worn anytime you are out of your house and there is a curfew between 8pm and 6am, so all stores/shops and restaurants must be closed but restaurants are allowed to do deliveries, other than that everything is open and people are living a more or less normal life.

      Delete
  6. Glad your long trip went so smoothly. Looking forward to Albania.

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    1. We are glad it went smoothly too but boy we sure were tired by the time we reached Albania.

      I think we are going to have a lot to show you, here in Albania! :-)

      Delete
  7. Glad you both arrived safe. Enjoy your stay while the rest of us have to watch your adventures while we are in lockdown. Hope this ends soon.

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    1. Us too! :-)

      I don't think we are going to have any problems enjoying our time here in Albania is our first day was any indication of this.

      We hope it ends soon too, as well as most people.

      Delete
  8. I hate that US customs and immigration are such jerks (not all, fortunately) even if you're a citizen.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. And you're right, it's not all of them. But it's a lot of them, and I simply don't get why they can't do their job and do it well, but be at least pleasant while they're doing it.

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  9. The US is working hard to become the most rude and hateful country on the planet. They pay those jerks well be jerks. In fact, some are paid to be super jerks! The hope of getting problems solved in the US left office when Ronald Reagan left office.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. We think the feeling of power goes to some of these border guards' heads, having said that we have also had some that have been very pleasant while still doing there jobs. These are the ones that should be instructing the others!

      Delete
  10. Wow, great pics from the aircraft cameras! Another country to pin on your map. The apartment is a real deal, looks super nice. Enjoy your stay and keep an eye out for those bunkers :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I wonder how long it will be before other airlines start doing this as well?

      The apartment is very nice and it is in a great location we are almost wishing and we booked one more night here but we know that we can always return here at the end of our trip.

      No worries Chris, I am sure we will see quite a few of these bunkers around. :-)

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  11. I imagine it has been a long trip. Congrats for reaching in Albania safe and sound.
    Miss u Lucy.

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    1. It certainly was a long trip, thankfully we don't have to do trips like that too often. :-)

      Delete
  12. Glad you made it Safely to your next destination.
    Never seen Cameras mounted on the outside of planes before.
    Enjoy your stay.

    It's about time.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. We are happy to have arrived here in Albania safe and sound too. :-)

      We had not seen cameras mounted outside of the plane either. Even when we flew into Tanzania back in mid January on a Qatar flight, they didn't have them, so this must be a new thing. We really enjoyed watching the views from the cameras on our backseat entertainment screens. It also made taking pictures outside of the plane more interesting because we got views that we never got before.

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  13. Cool cameras on the plane and a cool lounge! Glad you were too tired and got a solid night's sleep after that long travel day. I think it's smart for Albania to have the nightly curfew...that helps with containing the spread of any virus! So looking forward to your stories there!

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    1. The camera views were great. I wondered how long it will be before other airlines follow suit?!

      We don't really think the nightly curfew helps at all. There were still lots of people out on the streets well into the night, we could see and hear them from our window.

      Delete
  14. Love your apartment, and by US standards, that is an amazing price! When we were traveling around the US before our RV days, we sometimes had to pay over $100 a night for a pretty basic hotel room without even a kitchen. Glad you made it safely and looking forward to following your adventures in Albania!

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    1. We loved the location of the apartment, it was great! We were walking distance to just about everything we needed and it was very quiet at night. Considering that we were in the downtown area of a capital city, the price really was pretty decent. It is a really, really rare occurrence for us to stay in a hotel anymore. We really love Airbnbs. :-)

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    2. We do too! We always chose Airbnbs for longer stays, but for 1-2 nights as we were moving from one place to another typically chose hotels. But we do love Airbnbs and are actually in a long-term one right now in North Carolina. :)

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    3. Yep, we think Airbnbs are the best way to go and normally the cheapest. :-)

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