One of the reasons we write these articles is how woefully wrong information on the internet can be when it comes to traveling by bus in the Balkans.
The Balkans are changing rapidly: new highways constantly being developed that shorten driving times, new bus lines and shuttle services being added, and basically more tourism demand creating more helpful connections between cities that may have been difficult to get to previously.
Just take this ridiculously off screenshot from Rome2Rio (normally one of my favorite travel resources!) suggesting the different ways to get from Tirana to Prishtina.
Oh, let me count the ways in which this is flawed. One – there’s no way you’re paying 140 euros for a bus anywhere in the Balkans… unless you are chartering it solo like you’re a freaking band on tour or something. Two – even in that case, there’s no way you’d need to cross through Macedonia… as Albania and Kosovo share a (very friendly) land border. Three – with a suggested journey of over 8 hours, this is wrong by about half. My bus from Tirana to Prishtina took just about 4.5 hours, including a 20 minute rest stop before the border.
Anyway, rants aside, that’s the reason why we continue to publish these bus guides. We’ve done it for several common Balkan connections (Sofia to Skopje, Sofia to Belgrade, Sofia to Plovdiv, Skopje to Ohrid, Ohrid to Tirana, and beyond) so you can piece the information together to have a solid trip. This is especially useful in the southern Balkans, where bus times can be a little more loosy-goosy. Up in Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, and parts of Serbia, buses are a lot more well-scheduled and easy to work out. But in places like Albania, it helps to have boots on the ground.
One resource I’ve found that’s useful in Albania is Gjirafa. It’s an Albanian website that is basically like the Albanian Google slash Amazon, but it also has bus times. Of course… it’s also in Albanian. But it’s easy enough to navigate when all you have to do is enter in city names and look at the departure times. Here is the Tirana to Prishtina bus times here. Note that it uses Albanian spellings: Tiranë not Tirana, Prishtinë not Pristina or Prishtina.
Where Do You Get the Bus from Tirana to Prishtina?
Ah, the perennial question of traveling in Albania… where is the damn bus station? Luckily, for international departures, that’s gotten a bit easier as there’s a makeshift international bus station / depot of sorts close to Zogu I Zi Square, a bit north of the main city center.
It’s a 25 minute walk to Skanderbeg Square and a 45 minute walk to Blloku. You’re likely going to want to take a cab; I paid 500 lek / $4.50 USD to get there from Blloku. Probably more than a local would pay, but I’ve given up on fighting these battles. I was feeling really nauseous as something I ate in Tirana hadn’t quite settled right in my stomach and I just wanted to get out of there.
Anyway – the bus station actually even on Google Maps! I know this seems basic, but when I traveled Albania in 2016, this would have been like… big news. So excuse my excitement. It’s just “Tirana International Bus Station” located near Pallati Sportit Asllan Rusi. Your taxi driver should understand either one of those instructions.
The station is basically all outdoors as it’s more of a bus depot than a proper station. There are a series of stalls where they sell tickets between Albania and other international destinations. Pro tip, some of them will let you log onto their WiFi!
Anyway, once you get there, ignore the cardinal rule of bus stations everywhere and actually listen for the people directing you – when you hear someone say “Prishtina”, follow them to the place where you can buy your bus ticket. I paid just over 10 euro, 1300 lek, for my ticket. Bring cash – no cards accepted.
The timetables on Gjirafa were correct and I only had to wait until noon for my bus to leave. If you have to wait a while, there’s actually a fair amount of restaurants and snack shops and the like in the area, including this puzzling Greek-German-Albanian-Italian restaurant next to an “English pub”.
Needless to say, I passed on that and just stuck with my beloved bus snacks; pizza bake rolls and my new drink of choice, Schweppe’s bitter lemon soda. SERIOUSLY GUYS, I know what’s up when it comes to bus snacks.
The company I used was KEI-REISEN which operates the noon bus to Prishtina. It was an OK bus, but it smelled kind of moldy, so perhaps there are better, newer buses out there. I’d tend to recommend Metropol or Arditi, which look to have nice big busses.
I’d suggest skipping Arbeni, which is in a small mini bus which looks like the windows don’t open and doesn’t have A/C (I had a bus like this going from Prishtina to Skopje later and it was miserable on a warm day, though I think it’d be fine in cold weather).
Some of the bus times are 6 AM, 7 AM, 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, 2:30 PM, 3 PM, 3:30 PM, 4 PM, 5 PM, 5:30 PM, 6 PM, and 8 PM. All seem to cost the same, 10 euro or around 1300 lek, but are run by different companies. I transcribed this from Gjirafa’s timetable for a random weekday in summer of 2019 so it may not be fully up to date; you can check here for more specific departure information.
What is the Tirana to Prishtina Bus Like?
The bus itself is pretty standard in terms of comfort, smaller than most buses but not quite a minibus. It did, however, have a pretty pervasive smell of mold that wasn’t my fave, especially since I was already battling a feeling of nausea that started the morning of my bus ride.
However, the bus ride itself is quite pleasant, with some really beautiful views once you get out of Prishtina. Funny enough, I did a portion of this ride once when I was going from Shkodra to Prizren via hitchhiking so it was sort of funny to trace my steps, but from a bus this time.
I mean, look at where we stopped for a bathroom break. Insane.
The drive between Milot and Kukës (near the border) is one of the most spectacular in Albania, so keep your eyes peeled.
However, I will note that it is quite winding, so be sure to take your anti-nausea pills beforehand if you are prone to motion sickness like I am!
We stopped just before leaving Kukës and making our way to the border at a restaurant slash gas station where we had about 20 minutes to get a cup of coffee, use the bathroom, buy water, etc. It was pretty much exactly the halfway point in our trip and the perfect time for a bathroom stop. You can pay in lek or euro at this border station as it serves both people traveling from Albania to Kosovo as well as people coming from Kosovo to Albania.
The ride took 4.5 hours inclusive of stops, border crossings, and everything. We left right at noon and arrived just around 4:30 PM.
Crossing the Border Between Albania and Kosovo
This was a pretty easy border crossing, as Albania and Kosovo share pretty friendly relations. The border guard boarded the bus each time, took our passports, stamped them, and brought them back to us before we repeated it on the Kosovo side.
All in all, pretty standard and took about 20 or 30 minutes to go through the border crossing formalities, even with a pretty full bus.
Arriving in Prishtina
Arriving at the Prishtina bus station was kind of a nightmare. I didn’t have any euros on me, so I walked to the bus station (we got dropped off curbside about a block away) to get some out at the ATM… before realizing there was no ATM.
OK, I figured, I’ll just get my taxi driver to stop off at an ATM (side note, the word “bankomat” always comes in handy in Balkan countries) and then get some cash out.
I found a driver who’d take me, who definitely fleeced me at 5 euros for a taxi but again, too tired and nauseated to complain over a few euros (I’d later pay 3 euro to do the route in reverse from central Prishtina to the bus station, so haggle people down to at least 3 euro if you’re feeling righteous and want to make sure you don’t get overcharged).
We stopped at a bankomat and here is where things got quite weird: he wanted me to leave my phone with him in the car (ostensibly so he could enter in the address I gave him into his Google Maps)… which is a no-go for me, not in Kosovo, not in the US, not anywhere: sorry, if I am traveling alone, you do not get to keep my phone (which is basically my camera, my safety device, and my connection to the outside world all in one device) in the car with you while I’m not there. He kept insisting I leave the car to go to the ATM, and I kept refusing, thinking that this situation was getting really, really weird.
He finally got exasperated with me, took the keys out of the ignition, and looked at me again as if I was being some crazy bitch… but he still wouldn’t give my phone back. I made it clear I still wasn’t leaving the car until my phone was in my hand, and he finally gave it back. I got my money out, got back in the cab, and all seemed well for a few minutes. I felt bad for offending him… but obviously I didn’t offend him too harshly, as pretty soon the dreaded questions came. “How old are you?” “You’re traveling alone?” etc.
I answered politely but briefly… and then he started asking me out for coffee, continuing even after I explained I had a boyfriend and wasn’t interested. Then the reason why he really wanted my phone while I was out of the car clicked – he was probably going to get my number or add his number in or do something sneaky with it. We arrived and, of course, he didn’t have change for a 20 euro note, which blows my mind because how hard is it to carry 15 euros on you when you work an all-cash job?
Finally, we found someone who’d give us change. Upon leaving, he tried to offer me his hand and said “first step” while staring at me.
Yeah. I didn’t take his hand.
Is It Safe to Travel from Tirana to Prishtina Alone?
Definitely! While this guy was definitely a scumbag with some serious boundary confusions, I didn’t feel like I was in any real danger. However, I’m a pretty veteran traveler (although stuff like this always bothers me, especially since I was fresh off of an attempted break-in in Ohrid and on high alert).
So, what did I learn? Try to have your hotel or Airbnb organize a cab for your arrival at the bus station, or at the very least have some euros on hand so you can avoid awkward situations like this one I described.
Please don’t let this story talk you out of going to Kosovo! Creeps are everywhere, and I found 99% of the people I met in Kosovo to be kind, lovely, and honest. But the whole point of these travelogues are where I can share my experience, to help equip you for tips of your own, and with that comes sharing the weird stories that arise on the road.
I’ve spent two weeks in Kosovo now, always traveling solo, and I feel like I can vouch that it’s a safe country with so much to see. Just don’t let weirdos have your phone, and you definitely don’t have to give them your hand upon exiting the cab.
More Prishtina Travel Resources
We also have some Kosovo travel inspiration here: check out the best places to visit in Kosovo!
Where to Stay in Prishtina
Budget: If you want a hostel with an awesome location, book a bunk at Hostel Han. The center of Pristina is fairly walkable, and here you’ll be able to take advantage and get out an explore the city center. Rooms are bright and clean, and the bunks have individual privacy curtains to give you some space when you get back to the dorm. Check rates and availability here. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book online, as Hostel Han is popular and tends to get booked up.
If you’re looking for a budget hotel room in Pristina (read: not a hostel), I stayed at the Hotel Sara for almost a week. My room was clean and comfortable, and the staff was very friendly. Located a bit away from the center (about half a kilometer), I was still able to walk easily to and from the city center to get wherever I wanted to go (even in the middle of a blistering heat wave). Check rates and availability here
Mid-range: Located near the beautiful Gërmia Park, Hotel La Familia Residence is a four-star hotel that has a swimming pool, fitness center, and massage chairs onsite. While it’s outside of the city center (about twenty-five minutes on foot), it’s got awesome views of the city to enjoy. It’s a great bargain, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Luxury: For a luxurious Pristina stay, check into the Hotel International Pristina & Spa. You can enjoy the hotel’s wide array of amenities, including the sun terrace, hot tub, sauna, pool, hotel bar, and onsite restaurant. Rooms are up-to-date, with modern furnishings and relaxing ensuites. You’ll absolutely love the skyline Pristina views. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Finally, Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance!
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a great idea for Kosovo and for travel in general! This is especially true when you’re talking about traveling in a city where tourists can be targeted for petty theft. In addition, while the political situation in Kosovo is generally stable, the occasional flare up means you’ll be happy to know you have insurance to cover you if something goes awry.
Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Kosovo is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.