Balkan Region Travel Excursion: Capital Cities and What to Expect

The Balkan Peninsula is getting popular among backpackers and travelers like me who want to see other countries and yet need to save some money while traveling. This time, I got to visit only a few Balkan countries like Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, and Montenegro.  Throughout all of them, we travelled by public transportation that was cheap, adventurous, and unfortunately in some ways, totally horrible. Lol. Keep reading to find out more.

If you never heard about the Balkans, you definitely need to read this blog post in order to feel prepared for what to expect:

We started our travel from Skopje, Macedonia. Since we didn't have too many days to see these beautiful countries, we decided that we need to explore capitals at a minimum. Skopje was surprisingly clean, safe and inexpensive. We got to check out the Stone Bridge that leads you to the old part of the city; shopped in the old bazaar and hunted for souvenirs; visited the Kale Fortress, which opens to a view over the city; stopped at the Mother Teresa Memorial House; took a day trip to Matka Lake and its colorful caves, which was absolutely great to escape the hot weather in the city; and tried some traditional cuisine that was quite good!









 



After discovering Skopje, we took a bus to Pristina - the capital of Kosovo. Our bus ride to Pristina was quite terrible, though adventurous. First, our driver was weird and shady. Second, he drove like a total maniac with a death wish. Third, he had constant mechanical problems with his minivan. Forth, the conditioner didn't work on a sweltering hot day. I felt like I was going to die from dehydration and heat or we would get into a car accident. Luckily, we all arrived to Pristina alive. I didn't find so much information for what can you see and do in Kosovo. Since we got a chance to talk to some locals, everyone advised that we should stop next time in Prizren. But even so, we got to walk around Pristina to see a few things that we truly enjoyed. Make sure to check out their bazaar; visit the Imperial Mosque; get on the top of the Mother Teresa Tower; check out the National Library; take a picture of the Newborn monument.







Because Pristina was enough for a day trip, we decided to continue our journey to Tirana, the capital of Albania. The bus was way bigger than the one that we took from Skopje to Pristina. It was very comfortable, the air conditioner worked, and we had several stops to use the restroom. Our second driver kept bringing us free snacks like candies and coca cola. The ride from Pristina to Tirana cost only 10 euro + small fee. I truly enjoyed my ride. After arriving to Tirana, we needed to figure out how to get to the hotel where we stayed. The only problem was that we didn't have the local currency. A big challenge traveling in the Balkans is that not every country uses the Euro. Many have their own types of currency. The taxi driver agreed to drive us to the bank and then drop us off at the hotel. We got to explore the city by seeing the BunkArt2 museum, Et'them Bey Mosque (which was under renovation, but we climbed to the top of the clock tower), Skanderbeg square, and took a day trip to the beach city of Durres. I will share more later.








Our bus ride from Tirana was actually quite horrible because of traffic and the long border check. We arrived quite late to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. At that point, I am so happy that I convinced my husband to rent a car and drive to explore the West Coast of the country. We got to see a few towns like Kotor, Cetinje, Budva, Virpazar, Sveti Stefan, Tivat and Perast. My favorites were Budva and Kotor. Since we did so much in Montenegro compared to other Balkan countries, I wrote a separate blog post about Montenegro, click here.







What to expect in the Balkans:

-Different currency;
-Long border checks;
-Most people don't speak English;
-Friendly people (even they don't look like that);
-Unique history & architecture;
-Not so many Asian tourists. Be ready for people to stare at you if you are Asian;
-Really slow restaurant service;
-Pay by cash;
-Very safe, even for solo travelers;
-Some places don't sell alcohol;
-Cheap to travel by public transportation between and within countries.

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