Earlier this year in July, I attended Debconf in Kosovo. After the event, I came back to Tirana(capital of Albania) with my friends who also went to attend the event. Some of us had plan to visit Shkodër while others stayed in Tirana. We were all going to Shkodër in a bus and after that we would split into groups as different groups had different plans. We went to domestic bus stand in Tirana in the morning and boarded a bus for Shkodër.
The bus was full and my friend got a seat and I didn’t. Another friend of mine was sitting next to a woman(she was from Germany). The woman made some space so that I can sit, so that we were sitting three people on a seat of two. It was a kind gesture. It was a very hot day and the air conditioner of the bus wasn’t working, which made the situation worse. I remember it took around 2 hours to reach Shkodër from Tirana. While getting down from the bus, we were already tired and the weather was hot too.
Me and my friend had an Airbnb booking and the location marked in the Airbnb website was around 1 km from where we deboarded the bus. Even this 1 km distance seemed hard to cover as we had a lot of luggage in the sweltering heat. (I just checked the weather of Shkodër on that day and it was 100 Fahrenheit(37-38 degree Celsius). ) We reached the location provided by the Airbnb and we informed the owner of the house by chat. The replies we were getting from her were not in English. We tried using translation software to translate her replies, but the translation didn’t make any sense. We were not getting what she was saying. I thought we should ask some locals who know English on what the home owner was saying. The road we were on was empty and rarely were there any person passing by. A boy on a bicycle was passing and we tried asking for help. He did the best to help us but he didn’t know English so well and couldn’t convey to us what the Airbnb person was saying.
I left my friend with luggage to find help. I found some people at a car garage and asked if any of them knew English. One of them agreed to help, so I gave a phone call to house owner and he talked to them. The person told me that the location of the house is 2 km from the place and he offered me lift in his car. I wanted to consult my friend too, so I told him that I will be back with my friend and luggage. I went back to my friend. In the meanwhile, a girl was passing by where my friend was standing with luggage. I asked for help and she agreed. We phoned the home owner and the girl talked to her. This time we really got a good clue– that the owner wants us to come to Hotel Rozafa. That place was just where the bus dropped us but we didn’t know yet. We understood at this point that the location on the website was incorrect. Heading towards Hotel Rozafa, we reached the car garage where earlier a person offered us lift, but now he was gone.
We didn’t know how far the location of Airbnb was. We ran out of water supply, sun was sucking energy out of us and we had a lot of luggage. As we were passing that car garage, we asked if they had water. The person gave us tap water which was looking awful. He also gave us some grapes which were useful in getting some energy to continue. We were asking directions to Hotel Rozafa from the locals. The locals didn’t know English (most of the time) and we didn’t know Albanian, so this was an issue as well.
On the way, we stopped and bought some bottled water from a shop. The person at the shop guessed we were from Afghanistan. This was a constant theme for us while travelling across Albania that people guessed we are from Afghanistan. After drinking water, we did get some energy to continue walking towards Hotel Rozafa. We continued and when we reached a shop named Neptune, which was near Hotel Rozafa, we told the Airbnb owner that we are at Neptune. A minute later, the husband of the woman came to pick us up as, I guess, he was waiting for us there for some time. A sigh of relief as we got into the car and got to the correct location of our booking. The Airbnb owner didn’t understand English, so every time she used to call her sister in Italy for translation.
So, the combination of
language problem + not having the correct location + hot weather + luggage + uncomfortable bus journey
made this a very bad experience.
In more than one ocassion in Albania, I have found that their location of booking was incorrectly marked on Airbnb. Not knowing the Albanian language makes the situation worse. So, to avoid such issues, try to have a friend or someone else, like people at tourist information center or airport, who knows the local language as well as English, talk to your point of contact at the place of booking in advance. Obviously, this option is not always available or helpful, but was possible in our case as we were coming from DebConf where we could have asked an Albanian speaker to help us get the location by phoning in advance.
I would like to end by saying that Albanians tried to help where ever possible during the whole trip and I got very impressed.