After a quick nap, shower, and fresh clothing; I am feeling slightly rejuvenated from a fairly rough overnight bus from Athens to Saranda, Albania. I am writing to you from my hotel overlooking the Ionian Sea in the coastal town of Saranda. I don’t think I slept more than an hour in total during the ride on the dreadful night bus, but I am more than happy  that I am here now, and I have high hopes for Albania. I will now recap the going ons of that fateful journey, and how to get it done yourself if need be. At the end of this article, I will give a condensed recap how to ride the Athens to Saranda bus.

The struggle to buy a ticket for the bus from Athens to Saranda

When I searched online for “bus Athens to Saranda” there was literally no relevant information out there. This proved worrisome yesterday because I was on a time crunch and had arrived late the night before after a long night train from Meteora to Athens. I had no accommodation booked for the night, I had an appointment at the India consulate that I would end up nearly missing (more on that later), and had to figure out how the heck to get to Albania all in the matter of a couple of hours. After no luck searching online, I realized I’d have to find out how to get the bus form Athens to Saranda the old fashion way; I had to hit the streets.

I was staying in my old neighbourhood of Kypseli, where I spent some time when I first arrived in Athens. It felt good to be back, even if only for a night. This day I had no time for reminiscence and reflection, I had a bus ticket from Athens to Saranda to find, and find it I did. I headed into a random travel agency and asked for “one ticket to Saranda please!” She looked at me like I was crazy and said they didn’t sell them. Luckily, she was in a generous mood and made some calls, printed a map, and showed me where I needed to go. I needed to get to Larissa Train station. Then, as I faced the station head down the street to my left and there I would find the all the busses to anywhere in Albania.

This information proved true and I found myself in a random office (see pic below) where, after a quick phone call, a meeting time of 7:15pm was set to get a minibus to main bus from Athens to Saranda.

bus Athens to Saranda, Albania

 The Athens India visa fiasco

I have been in Greece nearly 3 weeks now. My plan was 7 days but getting a visa to visit India while in Athens is an absolute nightmare. The forms are scrutinized and have to be done online a day in advance prior to submitting the same paperwork the following day. I had a made a couple of mistakes and had to return 2 days later, couple that with the embassy being closed on both Indian and Greek holidayw, 7 business days quickly turn into 15 actual days.

This however has been a blessing in disguise. Since I have been here I have eaten more Gyros then any man should eat and after attending a travel blogger conference I was invited to vist Meteroa, where I checked out some mind-blowing monasteries, and on the last day went on an incredible solo hike to an abandoned hermit’s home.

A far from comfortable bus ride from Athens to Saranda

Let’s talk about the actual bus ride itself. I have taken many a bus in my travels through some pretty intense terrain. This particular night bus from Athens to Saranda would definitely fall in the more painful category. This relic of a bus inflicted said pain both mentally and physically.

We took a minibus from out front of the travel agency and had a short ride to some dumpy bus yard in suburban Athens. The bus was to leave at 8pm but we left instead at 9pm as the driver was busy chilling and smoking cigarettes with his buddies. The bus itself was advertised to have wi-fi, but when I saw the sticker on the inside stating “voted best coach 1987” I figured the wi-fi would not be a reality.

The seats weren’t really comfortable and the leg room was non-existent for a tall man like myself. Something I really appreciated on the bus from Athens to Saranda was that the driver decided to play loud Albanian music the entire time, and let’s remember this bus ride is from 8pm to 7am. Sleeping isn’t an option.

To keep the tone of this story slightly more positive, let’s note that the bus was virtually empty. Also, the 1 hour rest stop between 12:30am and 1:30am had really delicious food. I recommend the sausages; they were beautifully seasoned.

Saranda, Albania

Arrival in Saranda

When we reached the centre of town around 7am I was tired, but not broken. The sun was just starting to rise and the air was fresh and smelled of the sea; it’s been a long time since I have seen the sea. I walked along the boardwalk beside the rocky beach on the way to my hotel. There were cabs waiting, but Saranda is small and it was a nice morning so foot was a better option. I now sit on my balcony at the hotel. My friend and I have decided to rent an apartment starting tomorrow tonight and really begin to explore the deep underbelly of Saranda starting tomorrow. Have a look at a couple of sunrise pics and below find a step by step guide to replicate this journey if need be.

Saranda, AlbaniaSaranda, Albania

Step by step how to get from Athens to Saranda by bus

Step 1: Head to Larissa train station (any cab should know where this is). When facing the station turn to your left and walk down the same street. Walk for about 5 minutes and you will be surround by companies that will offer a bus from Athens to Saranda.

Step 2: Hunt around for different prices and busses. I didn’t do this and ended up in a pretty run down bus. The price I paid was 25 euro, so maybe for a bit more you could get a better deal. The company I used in the picture above had me meet back out front at 7:15pm and the bus departure time was 8pm.

Step 3: Put up with the crappy bus ride. At about 5am you will cross the border. Have your passport ready to save time. After customs you will have another hour or so drive and then be dropped off in the center of Saranda.

Step 4: Enjoy Saranda! It’s truly a hidden gem.  Saranda, AlbaniaSaranda, Albania

Have you been to Saranda? Do you know any alternative ways to get from Athens to Saranda? Any question or comments? Write it down below!

12 Responses

  1. Akua Hinds

    Your blog is very informative, and your pictures are beautiful. I look forward to reading more about your adventures!

  2. Ana

    Thank you for taking the time and writing about your traveling experiences around the world! The dreamer in me lives through you and your friend Rob from SHABL. Although at times jealous of the fact that you have visited more Albanian soil than me, an Albanian native, I am humbled to see those places through your eyes.
    I am sorry for the discomfort you have experienced during this bus ride, but you are not alone. I too, for adventure’s sake, have taken the bus from Athens to Elbasan (a city almost 4hrs away from Saranda), and I too went through the same uncomfortable road trip; but it was all justified in the end when I had a bite and taste of the good ol’ “brinjë qingji në prush/paidhaqe” (lamb ribs ember cooked). I was told however, that not all buses were like that. I decided next time I get the opportunity I will give it another try. After all, it is more about creating memories.
    Having said that, may your journeys be always safe and light as clouds wherever you set foot!! 

    • Alex

      Hi Ana,

      Thanks for the message, Albania is an awesome place and I have sent a few people there since I have been. I would love to get back to explore more of it!

  3. Yoshinori Yamamoto

    Thank you for good information about the bus trip to Saranda. I make a plan to cross the border by bus but I give up my idea. I will go back to Tirane from Saranda by bus. I will go to Athens by airplane on June 20. You say that Albania is an awesome place. I have an itchy feet when I read your travelogue.
    Have a nice day!

    • Alex

      Thanks for the kind words! I had trouble finding info about this trip too thats why I made sure to post it! Hope you have a great time, Albania is awesome!

  4. Finn

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for the information about you’re bus ride. Do you happen to know if there are buses going the opposite direction? I want to take a night bus from Saranda to Athens.

    • Alex

      Hi Finn, this may be finding you a bit late, but Id assume if the bus goes there it has to go back! Happy travels

  5. Giovani

    Hi Alex, how are you? Thanks for all the info. I am planning on doing the same as you did: Athens to Sarande. Do you happen to know if there are daily buses? Or are there only the night ones? Thanks

    • Alex

      Im not sure to be honest! I think there was only night ones, but that could have changed by now

  6. Lynne I Rodd

    My husband and I are planning on going to Saranda from Athens Greece on around June 26 this summer and staying for almost 3 months. We appreciate your blog about the bus. Do you have any suggestions for a quiet hotel or apartment in that lovely city?