Albania Country Facts

shqipëria
Capital city Tyranë
Surface 28,748 km²
Population 2,877,000
Road network length 18,000 km
Length of highway network 164 km
First highway 2009
Motorway name Highwayautoudhë
Traffic drives Right
License plate code ALREADY

Albania (Shqipëria) is a small country in southeastern Europe. The Balkan country has 2.9 million inhabitants on an area of ​​28,748 km², a third smaller than the Netherlands. The capital is Tiranë (Tirana), centrally located in the country.

Geography

Albania is located in the Western Balkans, with a long coastline on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The country further borders Montenegro and Kosovo to the north, North Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south.. The country measures a maximum of 340 kilometers from north to south and 135 kilometers from west to north. Albania is a mountainous country, which makes it relatively isolated. The highest point is the Korab at 2764 meters. The entire interior and the south of the country is strongly mountainous, only the northern and central coastal strip is flatter. The country has no major rivers, but it does have a number of lakes. In addition to the reservoirs in the mountains, there are also three large lakes in the border area, namely Lake Shkodër on the border with Montenegro, Lake Ohrid on the border with North Macedonia and Lake Prespa on the borders with North Macedonia and Greece.

Demographics

Albania is one of the few countries with a shrinking population. The country reached a maximum of 3.2 million inhabitants in 1990, but then shrank due to emigration and a very low birth rate. Since 2005, the population has stabilized at approximately 2.9 million.  The capital Tiranë (Tirana) is by far the largest city in Albania with over 400,000 inhabitants. The port city of Durrës has more than 100,000 inhabitants and is the only other city with more than 100,000 inhabitants. In total there are 20 places with more than 10,000 inhabitants, the largest part of which is located in the west of the country.

Albanian is spoken in the country, an isolated Indo-European language with no direct relatives. In Albania almost everyone speaks Albanian, Greek is spoken in the south, as well as Macedonian in the east, but these are very small minority languages. Italian has traditionally been spoken as a second language and English is on the rise.

Economy

Albania was a socialist planned economy for much of the 20th century. It had few relations with foreign countries, not even with socialist states such as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. After the fall of communism in 1990, many Albanians migrated abroad, especially to Greece. Albania was considered one of the poorest countries in Europe in the 1990s, and was considerably less developed than the former Yugoslavia. The transition from a planned economy to a market economy took place during the 1990s and since 2000 the country has had a steadily growing economy. Traditionally, Albania was fairly self-sufficient with food, so agriculture played an important role, but its importance has greatly diminished. As in communist planned economies, Albania has obsolete heavy industry such as mining. The industrial sector later became more diverse, with textiles, electronics and the oil and gas industry. The country is emerging as a tourist destination due to improved infrastructure.

History

Albania was a communist state from 1946 to 1992. In 1960, the country broke with the Soviet Union, after which it formed an alliance with Chinacontracted. That ended in 1978, after which the country became increasingly isolated. Its leader, Enver Hoxha, died in 1985. From 1990 citizens were given more freedoms, after which the dictatorship ended in 1991. The 1990s were economically difficult years, with a tough transition from a planned economy to a free market economy, with instability in the region until 1995 detracting from economic growth. In 1997 there was great unrest in the country. Albania has been doing better since 2000, the region is becoming somewhat calmer, although there were still after-effects of the Kosovo war and a short guerrilla war in neighboring North Macedonia. In 2009 Albania became a member of NATO. The Albanian economy grew during the economic crisis of 2009 as one of the few countries in Europe. Infrastructural problems such as electricity and water supplies are still obstacles.

Road Network

The main road network of Albania with motorways in green.

The A1 through the mountains.

Until the 1990s, there were in fact no roads in Albania. Private ownership of a car was not allowed under Hoxha. As a result, Albania had the least developed road network in Europe, with only a handful of paved roads, often in poor condition. Outside the most important main routes one could only drive with jeeps. Gasoline was barely available. This improved considerably after 2000, especially from 2005 when large-scale roads were built and the important roads were renovated. An expressway exists between the capital Tiranë and the coastal city of Durrës. Most through roads are in good condition, with relatively high design standards for major roads, often with narrow hard shoulder and modern alignment. In 2009, Albania’s first highway opened, part of a 170-kilometer-long highway under construction from Durrës to Morinë on the border with Kosovo. In 2012 the second highway, the A2 opened. Several highways are still planned, for example the Adriatic-Ionian corridor from the border with Montenegro to Greece and a highway to North Macedonia. The express road from Tiranë to Durrës will also be modernized and widened to 2×3 lanes. Car ownership in Albania is increasing rapidly, but in comparison it lags behind countries such as Montenegro or Croatia.

One of the biggest projects since 2010 was the construction of ‘Rruga e Arbrit’, a new mountain road from Tiranë to Dars, which forms a much shorter route to North Macedonia. This 74-kilometer road was opened to traffic on November 29, 2021.

Signage

The signage is clearly a copy of that in Italy, which makes sense given the long historical relations between the two countries. This means that the Italian imperfections are also found in Albania. Signage on highways is green, on normal roads blue. Capital letters are used. Outside the main roads and in the cities, signage is very sparse.

Road numbering

Roads in Albania have the prefix “SH”, which is derived from the Albanian name of the country; shqiperia. Motorways have an A number, with the A1 (Autostradë 1) being the highway from Tiranë to Durrës and Han I Hotit on the border with Montenegro. The A2 runs from Durrës to Gjirokastër on the border with Greece. The A3 runs from Rrogozhinë to the border with North Macedonia at Kafasan.

Toll

Since 2018, a toll has been levied on the A1, Albania’s first toll road.

Maximum speed

In Albania, an unusual speed limit of 40 km/h within built-up areas applies for Europe. This is different from the 50 km/h elsewhere in Europe and the 60 km/h in the past in Eastern Europe. The speed limit on motorways is also relatively low, Albania is one of the few countries with such a speed limit on motorways. However, most highway kilometers in Albania are in mountainous terrain. The 114 kilometer long motorway from Milot to Fier will be the first motorway in the country with a maximum speed of 130 km/h.

 

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