Pilot Jan Janiurek was one of Drive Albania’s first clients – in fact when he travelled the company was still just a concept (not even a website) and we used a local agency to put the tour together. His Albania holiday review still gives a good idea of the overall Drive Albania experience, though. We’re amazed it’s so positive – it rained torrentially almost every day!
“The plan was to join up with an old (very old) friend from work to try to trace his father’s footsteps through Albania during WW2 as a member of the SOE (Special Operations Executive). As he lived on the other side of the world all arrangements were made by the magic of the internet with copious CCs from Ed Reeves. A grand tour was arranged although I could make little sense of it from Google Maps.
“The slick organisation ground to a halt as I arrived at the departure gate at Gatwick… with my son’s passport. The rest of the party boarded the BA flight to Tirana. I was in an awkward spot with BA suggesting that they could put me on the next available flight in two days’ time but I was unsure if the Albanian end would be able to meet me and get me to rejoin the group. So out with the phone and a couple of emails later Ed’s team had instantaneously reassured me that they could arrange a pick-up at the airport and I would be whisked off to Burrel to meet up with the party. They were very positive and I was suitably encouraged to book my flight.
“I was met at the airport and driven off into the sunset and then a happy reunion with the rest of the gang. The slick organisation continued! Our accommodation varied from beach huts (en suite) to a bijoux hotel in the centre of Tirana. All were spotlessly clean and very welcoming and invariably complete with the essential WiFi!
“The tour was a fantastic variety of scenery from pine forest to sleety mountains. We met some fascinating people and went to amazing places that few Albanians perhaps have ever visited. The incessant rain for a lot of the tour failed to dampen our spirits, which is more than could be said of the inevitable raki.
“Ed provided a bespoke service that was never found wanting. The experience and the warmth of our welcome in Albania’s remotest of places to strolling around safely taking the ‘xhiro‘ in Berat as the sun set will stay with me forever.
“How many tour companies can insure you to drive properly off-road in remote regions that see so few tourists? There were exciting moments when the less sanguine members of the party let the drivers clear obstacles alone, the drop or narrowness of the track being rather spectacular. Both vehicles behaved themselves over some very challenging roads and the advice proffered by Ed prevented any unfortunate incidents. Albanian roads are quite different from the UK. Road works, road surfaces and even signs are very random and vary from EU-improved billiard-table-smooth to cratered beyond repair. Maps are inaccurate and rapidly out of date with GPS not really being terribly helpful. There was no substitute for local knowledge to cater for navigation and driving habits of the locals.
“Independent travel in Albania is still in its infancy and I think you would miss a lot of the best of the country without a good guide. Having a specific purpose and theme to our trip made the whole experience much more vivid and interesting.
“The way all elements came together was just superb. I am slowly recovering from an overwhelming desire to own a Land Rover Discovery and I won’t miss the raki but if you want to ‘do’ Albania, Drive Albania are the boys.
“Gripes – please don’t suggest that you neck a glass of raki in a oner! And fix the weather next time please.”
Jan Janiurek, May 2014. You can check out photos from Jan’s tour at our Facebook page.