Albania has relaxed its visa procedures for Saudi tourists during the summer period, from May 25 to Sept. 30, says the Albanian ambassador to the Kingdom.
“Saudi nationals do not need to take an entry visa from the Albanian Embassy prior to their visit to Albania during the summer months,” Sami Shiba, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Albania to Saudi Arabia (resident in Riyadh) and Oman, Bahrain and Yemen (non-resident), told Arab News in an interview.
In this context, he said: “I want to seize this opportunity to invite Saudi tourists to consider Albania as one of the best options when making their holiday plans.”
Q: Your Excellency, the 2015 tourism season will open soon. What can you tell us about the values and tourist resources of Albania?
A: The month of May marks the beginning of the tourist season in Albania.
I would like to underline that one of the priorities of our activity is to introduce the Saudi people to the values, the touristic and cultural resources of Albania.
In this context, I want to emphasize that the tourist potential of the coast and mountain areas of Albania is exceptional.
The natural beauty, its geographical position and its mild climate make Albania a special place in Europe. Albania has been developing very well in tourism.
These factors have contributed to the increase in the number of foreign visitors to Albania during 2014 to over 4 million. It is not Paris or London, but Albania leads the list of 16 incredible places in Europe, according to the latest estimates.
Q: What are the attractive features of seashore tourism in Albania?
A: Albania has a virgin natural environment and a very enjoyable Mediterranean climate making it a top tourist destination during the entire year.
Albanian tourism has been growing because of its offer of packages like sun and sea tourism, history and culture tourism, and mountain tourism.
Albania, with its 450 km coastline, is promoting seashore tourism, which is becoming a major attraction for tourists.
Albania has a considerable number of beaches with fine sand and pines as well as rocky shores along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, where within minutes tourists can experience the mountain climate of Llogara and warmth of the coast of Dhermi, thanks to the country’s impressive natural features.
Its mountainous areas have been developed for tourist and are now a big attraction.
The Albanian Alps to the north and the Kruje, Berat and Elbasan mountains along the Ionian Sea have been attracting tourists during the year, including during winter when it has mild climate.
Albania offers very traditional housing in its mountainous regions allowing for an interesting experience of rich culture.
Mostly, you will stay in old traditional stone houses called Kulas, where the local hosts spoil you with homemade bread, honey, cheese and delicious dishes, all prepared from their own domestic produce.
The accommodation units, which are both special and traditional, the rich cuisine, affordable prices, accompanied by the historic Albanian hospitality create a truly wonderful ambience, making Albania a very sought-after tourist destination.
The Western tourists visit us once and return frequently.
The peaks of the Balkans Trail region, which belongs to the Alpine border region of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, are now a destination of rising popularity on the maps of tourists around the world.
The transnational Peaks of the Balkans Trail leads the visitor on a unique experience through one of the most remote and wild mountainous regions of the Western Balkans.
Using shepherd paths and footways, the trail winds through high alpine mountains of up to 2,300 meters above sea level lead through wild mountainous scenery, with a diversity of breathtaking landscapes, varying from green valleys to crystal-clear mountain lakes, waterfalls, rivers and remote picturesque mountain villages, in which time seems to have stopped — a veritable hidden treasure for lovers of nature and hikers from around the globe. Growing interest and coverage around the world is already making the Peaks of the Balkans Trail a world famous destination.
In March 2013, an article was published in the New York Times praising its beauty and great potential.
This interest culminated this month when the Peaks of the Balkans was awarded first prize in the category of Destination Management (Destination Stewardship) by the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC), during the awards ceremony for tourism in Abu Dhabi on April 9-10, 2013.
Aside from its natural beauty, geographical position and mild climate, Albania is also set apart by the richness of its culture and history.
Albania, located at the crossroads of two ancient civilizations, the Greeks and the Romans, has a rich historical and cultural heritage recognized as part of the world’s cultural heritage that warrants special protection.
This Albanian historical and cultural heritage can be seen and felt in its natural parks, archaeological sites, art galleries, photographs and movie archives, citadels and castles, religious monuments and folk homes, in its old rock-paved streets, as well as in its museums.
Butrint, in Southern Albania, is one of these archaeological sites with an indisputable value, which has already been included in the project of the UNESCO for the protection of the world’s cultural patrimony.
Cities with a long and vast history, such as Berat and Gjirokastra — also under the protection of the UNESCO, not only bring a unique value to the world’s cultural heritage, but are also a beautiful experience for the visitor walking through them.
Also, Apollonia, Antigonea, Voskopoja are remnants of a past filled with culture and significance, and have a major archaeological potential. I am sure the rich history will leave any interested foreign visitors pleasantly surprised.
Q: How do the authorities Albania help the tourist sector?
A: In order to support the tourism industry, the Albanian authorities have continued to work heavily toward enforcing the legal frameworks governing tourism, foreign investment, tourist safety, etc.
The Albanian government is working with determination in the road infrastructure, in order to further improve a modern road network which would allow Albanian citizens, visitors, and foreign investors to easily and effortlessly experience the whole country.
In addition, I want to emphasize that special attention has been paid to the exposure of Albanian tourism through different fairs in many countries.
Q: Since it is always good for a traveler to know some words in the language of the country he/she visits, would you please teach us some usual expressions in your language like good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good bye, cheers, thank you?
A: Yes, in the order you mentioned them, these expressions in the Albanian language are: miremengjes, miredita, mirembrema, mirupafshim, gezuar, faleminderit.
Albanians are friendly and very open toward foreigners who visit their country.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to visit an Albanian’s home, you will get royal treatment.
The guest will always be shown the highest respect at every moment, even being offered a seat at the head of the table, usually reserved for the head of the household.
Albania is a safe country for visitors. Its tradition of hospitality affords great respect for foreigners; almost all Albanians will go out of their way to provide assistance when you are in need — whether you are lost or in trouble.
The Albanian monetary unit is called Lek. The currency floats freely but is quite stable; at the time of speaking, exchange is about 140 lek to the euro and about 128 lek to the dollar.
Q: How can a Saudi traveler come to Albania? Are there any specific requirements?
A: There are no specific requirements for Saudis to travel to Albania.
We have suggested and supported the removal of entry visa requirement for the Saudi travelers visiting our country during the summer period, from May 25 to Sept. 30.
This means Saudis can travel to Albania without having to obtain a visa at the Embassy of Albania. Travel can take place with a passport.
I want to seize this opportunity to invite Saudi tourists to take Albania into consideration as one of the best options when making their holiday plans.