Albania offers visa-free entry to attract GCC tourists

A scenic view of Berat city, which welcomes foreign tourists throughout the year.
Updated 01 May 2018
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Albania offers visa-free entry to attract GCC tourists

  • Albania has a rich historical and cultural heritage recognized as part of the world’s cultural heritage that warrants special protection
  • Hospitality is an old Albanian tradition and foreigners are always treated with special respect

JEDDAH: Its natural beauty, geographical position and enjoyable Mediterranean climate make Albania an attractive European destination the whole year around.

These factors increased the number of foreign tourists visiting the country in 2017 to more than 5.2 million. 

Recently, Albanian tourism has grown, resulting in the offer of travel packages that allow its most precious traits to shine, such as “sun and sea tourism,” “history and culture tourism,” “mountain tourism,” and other growing fields.

According to Albanian Ambassador Sami Shiba, “The citizens of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar can enter Albania without a visa from April 1 to Oct. 31, 2018.” 

Albania has a considerable coastline, 450 km long, which extends along the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea, where within minutes tourists can experience the mountain climate of Llogara and the warmth of the coast of Dhermi.  Besides the beaches, the Adriatic coast is rich with lagoons and natural ecosystems. The Ionian coastline is known for its fascinating beaches with deep and very clean waters. One of the most exciting tourist areas of the country is the Albanian Riviera, where the sun stretches across the deep sea, the splendid configurations of rocky and isolated small beaches, the mountains and hillsides covered in Mediterranean vegetation. This is the warmest region of Albania, and is blessed with 300 days of sun. The city of Saranda is the most populous city on the Riviera and is a big tourist destination, especially preferred by newly married couples on their honeymoon. The city is positioned well upon the coast in that it is only 9 km from the island of Corfu.

Albania is rich in natural water sources: Rivers, lakes, and a long maritime coastline. Two of the most significant ecosystems are the lakes of Shkodra and Ohrid, recognized by the RAMSAR Convention and UNESCO. Albania is also rich in springs and streams. Four springs remarkable for their natural beauty are the Blue Eye in Saranda, Cold Water in Tepelena, Viroi in Gjirokastra, and Syri i Sheganit at Lake Shkodra.

Albania has important resources for the development of tourism in its mountainous areas. The Albanian Alps to the North, the mountains along the Ionian Sea, the Kruje, Berat and Elbasan mountains offer great opportunities for tourists during the year, including the winter, which has a mild climate. Albania offers very traditional housing in its mountainous regions, allowing for cultural immersion. Mostly you will stay in old traditional stone houses called “Kulas,” where the local hosts spoil you with home-cooked bread, honey, cheese and delicious homemade dishes, all made from their own domestic produce.

The Peaks of the Balkans Trail region, which belongs to the Alpine border region between Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, is a destination rising in popularity with tourists around the world.

Albania has a rich historical and cultural heritage recognized as part of the world’s cultural heritage that warrants special protection.

Butrint, in the south of Albania, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and is considered as one of the most wondrous places on earth. Two other Albanian cities on the UNESCO World Heritage List, renowned for their specific architectural style, are Berat and Gjirokastra. The rich history will leave any interested foreign visitors pleasantly surprised. 

Albania is a safe country for tourists. The people are very open toward foreign visitors. Hospitality is an old Albanian tradition and foreigners are always treated with special respect.

Beside the hospitality that has been highly regarded by travelers for centuries, Albania is rich with traditions and folklore. During your visit through ethnographic museums and artistic folkloric activities, you will be able to enjoy this wealth inherited over the centuries that still blossoms nowadays.

For Saudi travelers who want to come to Albania there aren’t any specific requirements. During the summer period, from April 1 to Oct. 31, 2018, Saudi citizens can travel to Albania without visas. 

All that is needed is a valid passport.


Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

The Finnish Capital, Helsinki, shot from above. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

  • The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air
  • The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki

DUBAI: Access to Helsinki has just become easier for Gulf travelers thanks to the introduction of a new route from the UAE to the Finnish capital. Last month, budget carrier flydubai launched its Dubai-to-Helsinki flights, offering the best connection from Saudi Arabia as well.
Our first port of call after the six-hour trip was the utterly enchanting Hotel Kämp, arguably the best-known hotel in Helsinki — after all, it has been around for over 130 years. The classy, comfortable five-star property is known as a place to see and be seen.
While there, do check out Kämp Spa, where saunas are, of course, available. (There are almost as many saunas as there are people in Finland.) Kämp Spa offers two options: the eucalyptus-fragrance grotto steam sauna and a traditional Finnish one.
The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air. The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki. You can take in the glorious architecture of Helsinki Cathedral, while also viewing the Government Palace, the main building of Helsinki University, and Sederholm House, Helsinki’s oldest building, dating back to 1757.

For shoppers, Helsinki is home to one of the world’s most exciting and influential design scenes, and a treasure trove for unique pieces. Try TRE, which stocks over 300 brands of well-known classics as well as mostly homegrown products — including fashion, jewelry and furniture — from new designers.
Be warned, though: Helsinki is expensive. Very expensive. So you’re probably better off investing in a cool design piece for the home rather than the usual gifts and gadgets. You’ll leave with something memorable that’s high-quality and, of course, unique.
For something on the quirkier (and cheaper) side, second-hand clothes store UFF has chains across the city, where you’ll find some gems that are as good as new.
Dining out in the city also doesn’t come cheap, but it is an experience to savor. For casual snacking, The Old Market Hall sells cheese, beautifully fresh fish (we’d recommend the salmon), fruit and veg, and has cute little cafés.

For dinner, it’s worth treating yourself. Garden by Olo is an official ‘spin-off’ of the Michelin starred Olo and serves Nordic ingredients fused with Asian elements.
One of the newer eateries on the block is Restaurant Andrea at the newly opened Hotel St. George. Here, Nordic and Anatolian kitchens come together to offer a variety of sharing plates, inspired by both cuisines.
If you fancy taking in some of Finland’s stunning scenery, head to one of the national forests close to Helsinki. Nuuksio National Park — forests and lakes spread over Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Vihti — is easy to get to by public transport, and features eight marked trails for hiking in the freshest of air.

If you are visiting for more than a couple of days, then it is well worth exploring Lapland, the official home of Santa Claus. You’ll need to take a one-hour flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.
If time is tight, try a reindeer sleigh and husky sled experience, where you can interact with the animals on farms and enjoy rides through the snowy forests.
There’s so much more to see and do than is mentioned here, of course. We’re sure we’ll return to Finland one day, it’s definitely a trip worth making. Just don’t forget to pack your thermals.