Tirana is often described as one of the quirkiest and most different capital cities, so any foreigners looking for somewhere unusual to start a new life may find it to be right up their street. Tirana is the financial center of Albania and free market reforms have opened the country up to foreign investment, with rapid development in the transport and energy infrastructure of the nation as a result.
Albanian national roads SH1, SH2, and SH3 meet in Tirana and lots of work is being done to improve the city's road network, including the creation of a new outer ring highway. The coming years will also see the completion of a transportation hub, which will be near Kashar. The road network is not yet extensive despite the progress being made, so longer journeys may sometimes require a coach ride.
Most locals travel either by bus or taxi, with an extensive bus network making it easy for expats living in Tirana to reach most parts of the city center with the minimum of fuss. Official taxis have yellow plates with red text and there is also a taxi toll free national phone number: 0800 55 55. Typically for a modern capital city in the 21st century, there is also a mobile phone app that provides details of Tirana's public transport links.
The city is served by Tirana International Airport Mother Teresa, which is located to the north-west of the city center and is sometimes known as Rinas Airport. Having been reconstructed in the late 2000s, it is now one of the largest airports in this part of Europe and acts as a regional hub.
Passenger services via rail are available to Durrës and Librazhd, via Elbasan, but many services have been disrupted as a result of the relocation of the Tirana Railway Station, which is being moved from north of Skanderbeg Square to a site in Vore.
Durrës, roughly 30 kilometers west of Tirana, is the country’s second largest city and a busy port from which expats can travel on to many European locations such as Trieste, Ancona, Bari, Dubrovnik, Koper, Bar, and Corfu.
Tirana feels like a Mediterranean capital city in a lot of ways, with cafes lining the street and a nightlife that is becoming increasingly vibrant as Albania embraces its growing tourist reputation. Food and drink is of good quality in Albania, as well as being particularly good value.
Among Tirana's most important cultural sites are the National Arts Gallery, the National Theater, and the National Theater of Opera and Ballet of Albania, all of which are well worth a visit for any expats moving to Tirana who want to soak up the local culture. Tirana Fashion Week is one of the most important events of the year in Albania, while the city is also home to celebrations for the Tirana Biennial, with further major events including the Tirana Jazz Festival.
The historical core of the capital is based at Tirana Castle, a remnant from the Byzantine-era that dates back to the 1200s. Other important sites in Tirana include the Clock Tower of Tirana, Skanderbeg Square, and Dajti Mountain, which is accessible via cable car and offers one of the best days out in the city for expats living in Tirana.
There are two major sports stadiums in Tirana — the Qemal Stafa Stadium and the Selman Stërmasi stadium. Foreign investment is resulting in a lot of progress being made in Tirana's sports infrastructure, too. The city is home to football teams such as KF Tirana, Partizani, and Dinamo and between them the three clubs usually dominate the national league.
Albania's reputation as a dangerous place for foreigners is now extremely outdated, and Tirana is a very safe European capital city to live in. Street crime and pickpocketing is very rare compared to most other capitals in the region. Improvements to law enforcement and security infrastructure have overhauled safety in Tirana, even if corruption and bribery continue to be a problem.
Local people are typically welcoming of foreigners and there is little race-related crime in Albania. There is underground illegal weapons and drug trade, but it does not tend to have an impact on the international community. Expatriates should however be aware that, well away from Tirana in the south of Albania, the area of Lazarat in Gjirokaster District was effectively a no-go area controlled by armed gangs until 2014, when police forces moved in.
Street lighting can be haphazard and is sometimes affected by power cuts, so care ought to be taken when walking alone at night, although this is the same as in any other big city. The police emergency number in Tirana is 129.
The quickly growing population of the city is causing some air pollution problems, while waste management and noise pollution are also causing issues as more and more people move to Tirana.