Thursday, June 4, 2009

How To Ride a Furgon

A "Furgon" is the name for the Albanian minibuses used to travel around the country. But bear in mind that when I say minibus, it's more like a 15ish passenger van (that frequently turn into 20 passengers, depending on the day). Anyhow, riding a furgon is no easy process - it involves a complex step-by-step, carefully planned technique, and it's best to remember the following when attempting to do so:

1. Okay though various guide lists have attempted to provide tourists/foreigners in Albania with a furgon schedule, no such thing actually exists. Furgons leave when they are full, simple as that.

2. Going along with number 1, ALWAYS get on the furgon with the most people because that's the one that will leave first. There will more than likely be several drivers trying to get you to take their furgon but be warned, if choose one because it's pretty but turns out it's empty, you could end up waiting for 45 minutes while various others pull off. And then you'll be wishing that you didn't care so much about colors...(speaking from experience)

3. Furgons never have a straight ride. You must stop and pick up people along the way, drop people off in villages, pull over to allow carsick people to handle their business (hey it happens a lot here), and also once you're in the destination, drop people off all over the city - just tell the driver where you want to go!

4. If somone's selling cherries or fish on the side of the road, just holler at the driver, he'll let you stop!

5. If you're sitting near an older lady she's going to make you eat whatever she has, even if they are old biscuits (cookies) that she insists will help with the motion sickness (though in actuality probably make you worse), she just wants to ensure that you are okay.

6. If there are only two girls traveling and the rest are men, many times the men will insist that the two girls HAVE to sit together - it would be inappropriate otherwise

7. No furgon ride is complete without a soundtrack of traditional Albanian music blasting from the speakers

8. I have met some of the most interesting people of my life on a furgon, I find that people always have stories to share while they are riding. This being said, if you're a foreigner and can communicate in Albanian (and people know it), don't be prepared to sleep.

9. In fact sleeping is not always the best thing especially if you have to be dropped off somewhere along the way or in a particular location because you might sleep right through Pogradec and end up in Korce because no one woke you up (no jokes...)

10. Oftentimes people who ride never have ANYTHING with them, no bag, no change of clothes, no book, nothing. This always bewilders me because I ALWAYS have these ridiculously large bags full of all kinds of stuff, even if it's just for 3 days. But I constantly see people going places for several days without a thing - I bet life is much easier this way

11. Furgons are amazing because I can literally go cross-country for 9 dollars - can we get one from New York to L.A. with these same prices???

12. Lastly, and then thing I can't seem to understand - the drivers ONLY collect the fare, the fees, at the end, when you're getting off the furgon. I guess this is just their system, but I always think to myself, what if we get there and I actually don't have any money?


  1. Mrekullueshme! How's about a guide to regular buses and/or trains? I loved watching the sunflowers roll by on the train (with no windows) back in the day...Can't wait for our visit to olde Shqiperia soon!

  2. Excellent guide - I hope I get to use it soon.

  3. A vazhdojne te pijne duhan ne furgon njerezia?

  4. Very real. I have been many times in furgons, but never thought of all the detalis. Shofer mbaje pak ketu! Arrita! :)

  5. Maaaan, I wish Seth and I'd figured out how to get a furgon from Skopje. I wanted to have this experience!

  6. This is a great description! You hit all the important points.

  7. Very helpful. I look forward to using these tips to explore Shqiperia next year with The Peace Corps.

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